Skip to comments.Responses to Some Questions Regarding the Doctrine of the Church
Posted on 07/10/2007 3:14:17 AM PDT by monkapotamus
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS
OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH
The Second Vatican Council, with its Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, and its Decrees on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio) and the Oriental Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum), has contributed in a decisive way to the renewal of Catholic ecclesiolgy. The Supreme Pontiffs have also contributed to this renewal by offering their own insights and orientations for praxis: Paul VI in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam suam (1964) and John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint (1995).
The consequent duty of theologians to expound with greater clarity the diverse aspects of ecclesiology has resulted in a flowering of writing in this field. In fact it has become evident that this theme is a most fruitful one which, however, has also at times required clarification by way of precise definition and correction, for instance in the declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), the Letter addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church
Communionis notio (1992), and the declaration Dominus Iesus (2000), all published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The vastness of the subject matter and the novelty of many of the themes involved continue to provoke theological reflection. Among the many new contributions to the field, some are not immune from erroneous interpretation which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt. A number of these interpretations have been referred to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Given the universality of Catholic doctrine on the Church, the Congregation wishes to respond to these questions by clarifying the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate.
RESPONSES TO THE QUESTIONS
First Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?
Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.
This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council1. Paul VI affirmed it2 and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: "There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation"3. The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention4.
Second Question: What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?
Response: Christ "established here on earth" only one Church and instituted it as a "visible and spiritual community"5, that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.6 "This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic [�]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him"7.
In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium �subsistence� means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church8, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.
It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.9 Nevertheless, the word "subsists" can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the "one" Church); and this "one" Church subsists in the Catholic Church.10
Third Question: Why was the expression "subsists in" adopted instead of the simple word "is"?
Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are "numerous elements of sanctification and of truth" which are found outside her structure, but which "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity"11.
"It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church"12.
Fourth Question: Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term "Church" in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?
Response: The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. "Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all � because of the apostolic succession � the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds"13, they merit the title of "particular or local Churches"14, and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches15.
"It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature"16. However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches17.
On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history18.
Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of "Church" with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?
Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery19
cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense20.
The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ratified and confirmed these Responses, adopted in the Plenary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 2007, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
William Cardinal Levada
+ Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
1 JOHN XXIII, Address of 11 October 1962: "�The Council�wishes to transmit Catholic doctrine, whole and entire, without alteration or deviation�But in the circumstances of our times it is necessary that Christian doctrine in its entirety, and with nothing taken away from it, is accepted with renewed enthusiasm, and serene and tranquil adherence� it is necessary that the very same doctrine be understood more widely and more profoundly as all those who sincerely adhere to the Christian, Catholic and Apostolic faith strongly desire �it is necessary that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which is owed the obedience of faith, be explored and expounded in the manner required by our times. The deposit of faith itself and the truths contained in our venerable doctrine are one thing, but the manner in which they are annunciated is another, provided that the same fundamental sense and meaning is maintained" : AAS 54  791-792.
2 Cf. PAUL VI, Address of 29 September 1963: AAS 55  847-852.
3 PAUL VI, Address of 21 November 1964: AAS 56  1009-1010.
4 The Council wished to express the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church. This is clear from the discussions on the decree Unitatis redintegratio. The Schema of the Decree was proposed on the floor of the Council on 23.9.1964 with a Relatio (Act Syn III/II 296-344). The Secretariat for the Unity of Christians responded on 10.11.1964 to the suggestions sent by Bishops in the months that followed (Act Syn III/VII 11-49). Herewith are quoted four texts from this Expensio modorum concerning this first response.
A) [In Nr. 1 (Prooemium) Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 296, 3-6]
"Pag. 5, lin. 3-6: Videtur etiam Ecclesiam catholicam inter illas Communiones comprehendi, quod falsum esset.
R(espondetur): Hic tantum factum, prout ab omnibus conspicitur, describendum est. Postea clare affirmatur solam Ecclesiam catholicam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi" (Act Syn III/VII 12).
B) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 297-301]
"4 - Expressius dicatur unam solam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi; hanc esse Catholicam Apostolicam Romanam; omnes debere inquirere, ut eam cognoscant et ingrediantur ad salutem obtinendam...
R(espondetur): In toto textu sufficienter effertur, quod postulatur. Ex altera parte non est tacendum etiam in aliis communitatibus christianis inveniri veritates revelatas et elementa ecclesialia"(Act Syn III/VII 15). Cf. also ibid pt. 5.
C) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 296s]
"5 - Clarius dicendum esset veram Ecclesiam esse solam Ecclesiam catholicam romanam...
R(espondetur): Textus supponit doctrinam in constitutione �De Ecclesia� expositam, ut pag. 5, lin. 24-25 affirmatur" (Act Syn III/VII 15). Thus the commission whose task it was to evaluate the responses to the Decree Unitatis redintegratio clearly expressed the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and its unicity, and understood this doctrine to be founded in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium.
D) [In Nr. 2 Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 297s]
"Pag. 6, lin. 1- 24: Clarius exprimatur unicitas Ecclesiae. Non sufficit inculcare, ut in textu fit, unitatem Ecclesiae.
R(espondetur): a) Ex toto textu clare apparet identificatio Ecclesiae Christi cum Ecclesia catholica, quamvis, ut oportet, efferantur elementa ecclesialia aliarum communitatum".
"Pag. 7, lin. 5: Ecclesia a successoribus Apostolorum cum Petri successore capite gubernata (cf. novum textum ad pag. 6, lin.33-34) explicite dicitur �unicus Dei grex� et lin. 13 �una et unica Dei Ecclesia� " (Act Syn III/VII).
The two expressions quoted are those of Unitatis redintegratio 2.5 e 3.1.
5 Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.1.
6 Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.2; 3.4; 3.5; 4.6.
7 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, 8.2.
8 Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1.1: AAS 65  397; Declaration
Dominus Iesus, 16.3: AAS 92 [2000-II] 757-758; Notification on the Book of Leonardo Boff, OFM, "Church: Charism and Power": AAS 77  758-759.
9 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11.3: AAS
87 [1995-II] 928.
10 Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.
11 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.
12 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.4.
13 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.3; cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17.2: AAS, 85 [1993-II] 848.
14 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1.
15 Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 56 f: AAS 87 [1995-II] 954 ff.
16 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.1.
17 Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17.3: AAS 85 [1993-II] 849.
19 Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 22.3.
20 Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration Dominus Iesus, 17.2: AAS 92 [2000-II] 758.
[01035-02.01] [Original text: Latin]
Correct title: Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church
You beat me to it!
The biggest thing I can say after having carefully read this document is that it goes to show how far away the “Spirit of VCII” is from the actual teachings of VCII.
But I do wish it was written in a more emphatic tone than the scholarly tone with which it was presented.
So now can we stop the silly handholding, usurping the “hands extended” orans position from the priest, the constant drone of “Light rock” music from the “Music minister” and football toss at “lift up your hearts”?
I don’t see any of that in there.
And BTW, kneel from the part where the priest says...”This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world....” until the tabernacle is closed. It’s Jesus for pity sake. He’s right there. If his Earthly body appeared on the Altar, most of us would be on our faces, so get on your knees!!!!
bumpus ad summum
Just when I was starting to like this pope, he goes and says something like this.
After 2000 years, his disciples are STILL quibbling about who is first among them!!! The Master will not be pleased.
“After 2000 years, his disciples are STILL quibbling about who is first among them!!!”
Sorry to be contradictory, but the Holy Father is doing no such thing.
Christ’s teaching of “removing the plank from your own eye, before helping your brother with the speck in his” seems very fitting.
I think you can still like the Pope. There are a lot of Catholic doctrines on which Protestism is built. Think about it, Luther was only a disillusioned and misled Catholic!
If you had a chance to talk with him today, I wonder if he would tell you that he was mistaken on many of his points.
“Christs teaching of removing the plank from your own eye, before helping your brother with the speck in his seems very fitting”
In no way.
It would do us all a lot of good to use just as much suspicion with MSM reports regarding religion as we do regarding MSM reports on any other subject.
The media misquote came from this sentence in the original document (response to Question #3):
"It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church" (emphasis mine)
Defect (in the original Latin, defectus) means: a lack of something necessary for completeness, adequacy, or perfection
Before spinning out of control on this, please consider the following: Of course, the Catholic Church will consider that all non-Catholic communities will have a lack of something necessary for completeness, adequacy, or perfection. I would imagine that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church would consider that Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Baptists would have a lack of something necessary for completeness, adequacy, or perfection, as well. And so on.
The other point of controversy spun out of control in the MSM was this (response to Question 4):
According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery19 cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense20.
That should be fairly self-explanatory. You may not like the response, but the rationale for that response is contained above.
If you're going to get ticked off at that, though, you should be ticked off about 1,900 years worth. The origin of this teaching comes from St. Ignatius of Antioch (died circa 110 AD). In his letter to the Ephesians, he said:
Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God.
And in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, he wrote:
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for you are worthy. You have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. You have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while you endure all things, you shall attain unto Him.
I recognize that this will not be pleasing to some, but it is what it is.
Thanks for the ping, and the thread.
"Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom "the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior." -- Encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore of Pope Pius IX, On Promotion of False Doctrines, 1863.
Wrong then. Still wrong now.
You are more than welcome. I know deep down inside there was a thank you for taking the effort to locate the actual document, for finding the original place in FR where it was posted several years ago (which I, Dr. E., hadn't had the opportunity to comment on previously), and for pinging me to that article). I know it's there because so many people have told me you're such a wonderful Christian lady, imbued with Christian Charity through every fiber of your being (no sarcasm, I've had a lot of people tell me this).
Now, onto the topic of your post.
You stated, in such an inestimably charitable fashion (as always):
The double-spoken pronouncements and errors of Rome are of no personal concern to me. But we are commanded to preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, and sometimes that means pointing out the impostors...
I agree fully with your desire to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And sometimes that requires one to point out the quotes taken out of context. You accurately quoted a small extract of Quanto Conficiamur Moerore when you posted the sentence, Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom "the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior."
But for some strange reason (perhaps it was an unintentional oversight on your part), you forgot to mention the words quoted just a little bit above that one: There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.
Perhaps it would be best to look at the entire context:
7. Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching. There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.
8. Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom "the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior." The words of Christ are clear enough: "If he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you a Gentile and a tax collector;" "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me;" "He who does not believe will be condemned;" "He who does not believe is already condemned;" "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." The Apostle Paul says that such persons are "perverted and self-condemned;" the Prince of the Apostles calls them "false teachers . . . who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master. . . bringing upon themselves swift destruction."
9. God forbid that the children of the Catholic Church should even in any way be unfriendly to those who are not at all united to us by the same bonds of faith and love. On the contrary, let them be eager always to attend to their needs with all the kind services of Christian charity, whether they are poor or sick or suffering any other kind of visitation. First of all, let them rescue them from the darkness of the errors into which they have unhappily fallen and strive to guide them back to Catholic truth and to their most loving Mother who is ever holding out her maternal arms to receive them lovingly back into her fold. Thus, firmly founded in faith, hope, and charity and fruitful in every good work, they will gain eternal salvation.
# 4. Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in its letter to Pope Leo.
# 5. Mt 15.17.
# 6. Lk 10.16.
# 7. Mk 16.16.
# 8. Jn 3.18.
# 9. Lk 11.23.
# 10. Ti 3.11.
# 11. 2 Pt 2.1.
Perhaps, on the other hand, it would be simpler to use the simple statement made by that venerable organization, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: Of course a
Roman Catholic Orthodox Presbyterian can be saved in spite of his church. Says the same thing, doesn't it?
May God's blessings be upon you richly this day.
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