"Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church"


#1

Made public today was a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church.”

Introduction

"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 ecclesiology. 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

Link to document per Banned Topics Policy # 22.


#2

…Continued from above

"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.’

"‘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.’

"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,’ they merit the title of ‘particular or local Churches,’ and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.

‘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.’ 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 churches.

"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 realized in history.

"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 Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense.

Continued below…


#3

…Continued from above

“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.”

The Responses are accompanied by a commentary which explains: “In this document the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is responding to a number of questions concerning the overall vision of the Church which emerged from the dogmatic and ecumenical teachings of the Second Vatican Council. … The Council ‘of the Church on the Church’.”

“This new document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which essentially summarizes the teaching of the Council and the post-conciliar Magisterium, constitutes a clear reaffirmation of Catholic doctrine on the Church. Apart from dealing with certain unacceptable ideas which have unfortunately spread around the Catholic world, it offers valuable indications for the future of ecumenical dialogue. This dialogue remains one of the priorities of the Catholic Church. … However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith.”

“Catholic ecumenism might seem, at first sight, somewhat paradoxical. The Second Vatican Council II used the phrase ‘subsistit in’ in order to try to harmonize two doctrinal affirmations: on the one hand, that despite all the divisions between Christians the Church of Christ continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand that numerous elements of sanctification and truth do exist outwith the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church whether in the particular Churches or in the ecclesial Communities that are not fully in communion with the Catholic Church.”

“Although the Catholic Church has the fullness of the means of salvation, ‘nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from effecting the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her.’ The fullness of the Catholic Church, therefore, already exists, but still has to grow in the brethren who are not yet in full communion with it and also in its own members who are sinners.”


#4

:amen:


#5

This has stirred up quite a bit of controversy among our Protestant friends, who took it to be Pope Benedict XVI saying they’re not Christians. Very biased Associated Press accounts didn’t help.

Reading the whole thing, however, reveals it to be quite non-controversial.

Did anybody really think the Pope WASN’T Catholic?


#6

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