"subsistit in" is actually stronger than "est"

Interesting two articles:


Especially given the statements by the CDF cited in the articles concerning erroneous interpretations of the phrase “subsistit in,” it seems the popular interpretation that the phrase was meant to say the Church could subsist in other ecclesial communities is way off base.

Subsists is more ambiguous. Saying, as Pius XII did, that the mystical body of Christ and the Catholic Church are one and the same is more clear than merely saying the mystical body of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church.

By saying the mystical body of Christ merely subsists in the Catholic Church implies exactly what Pius XII condemned - that the mystical body of Christ is larger than the Catholic Church.

The following are some quotes of interest:

Pope Pius XII: “Some say they are not bound by the doctrine, explained in Our Encyclical Letter of a few years ago, and based on the sources of revelation, which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation”. (Humani Generis, #27).

Cardinal Ratzinger: “Vatican II did not use Pius XII’s expression according to which ‘the Roman Catholic Church is the only Church of Christ.’ Instead it preferred the expression ‘The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church…’ because, it wished to affirm the being of the Church as such is a larger identity than the Roman Catholic Church.’” (2000 interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine).

Avery Cardinal Dulles: “The Church of Christ is not exclusively identical to the Roman Catholic Church. It does indeed subsist in Roman Catholicism but it is also present in varying modes and degrees in other Christian communities.”

That statement was explicitly condemned by Pius XII in the Humani Generis, quoted above.

Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx (one of the main drafters of the Vatican II documents: “It is difficult to say that the Catholic Church is still one, Catholic, apostolic, when one says that the others (other Christian communities) are equally one, Catholic and apostolic, albeit to a lesser degree. ---- at Vatican Council II, the Roman Catholic Church officially abandoned its monopoly over the Christian religion.”.

Not only is subsists ambiguous, but, according to the Cardinals quoted above, it was used expressly to deny that the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church are one and the same, as taught by Pope Pius XII less than 15 years earlier.

And some Catholics wonder why the Church is in the condition it is? What else should we expect when that which was explicitly condemned in the 50’s (and for 1900 years prior) was taught officially in the 60’s?

The first thing I thought when I saw the title of this thread: you mean the last President of the United States wasn’t the first person to get pedantic about the definition of the word “is?” Amazing!

Most fighting armies have partisans and other irregulars attached to them. Generals tend to dislike such people because the operate outside of normal military discipline. However no-one denies that they can often fight bravely.
As Jesus said when the apostles discovered men casting out devils in His name, “whoever is not against us is for us”.

Subsists is more ambiguous.

If by “more ambiguous” you mean less simplistic, more nuanced, and actually more precise…then yes. But that is a simplistic and ignorant way to look at it.

“Subsists in” means that the Catholic Church is the truly the institution in which the Church of Christ essentially and perfectly continued. But without excluding the obvious fact that there are valid sacraments in the Orthodox, and valid baptism in many Protestants.

It’s like a body that has lost limbs, let’s say. If the limbs falls off, they die, soon enough the life is no longer in them. And we would say that the body “subsists in” the living part, the part with the torso and head. But it would be less precise to say the torso and head “is” now the body, as there is not a perfect complete identity between the two concepts due to the damage. In a certain sense, the lost limbs “are” body too (because if they were reattached they would clearly be part of the life of the body), but the essence of body does not subsist in them like it does in the part that still has the heart, and brain, and soul.

Metaphysically it has a precise meaning.

First, you should realize that according to the metaphysical meaning, something can only SUBSIST IN** one** thing. Many things can theoretically “be” something. But in only one thing will it “subsist”. So the term still makes the Catholic Church unique. It was not intended to imply that it could then also subsist in other things, as that is metaphysical nonsense given the precise meaning of “subsist”… It was certainly not intended to convey something like, “The Catholic Church is A Church of Christ” as if to merely affirm that we were a valid Christian Church without excluding others. It was to affirm that we were THE valid Christian Church, without excluding the reality of valid Orders in the Orthodox and baptism among the protestants.

When we say, “the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ” it could be mistaken that, “Oh yeah, so is the Orthodox Church”. Like, “this is the headquarters of XCorp.” Well, they might have two headquarters, one in Europe or something. “Is” is a VERY ambiguous term.

It’s like telling a new person in town, “St. Gertrude’s is the Catholic Parish” or “Chicago is the Catholic Archdiocese”. But there can “be” OTHER Catholic parishes and Archdiocese in the world, and niether of these is essential to the Church. However Catholic “Parish-ness” SUBSISTS IN the Pope’s parish at St. John Lateran, and Catholic diocese-ness SUBSISTS IN the diocese of Rome, the essential “core” in which they subsist even if others can be united and thus be those things.

If by “more ambiguous” you mean less simplistic, more nuanced, and actually more precise…then yes. But that is a simplistic and ignorant way to look at it.

“Subsists in” means that the Catholic Church is the truly the institution in which the Church of Christ essentially and perfectly continued. But without excluding the obvious fact that there are valid sacraments in the Orthodox, and valid baptism in many Protestants.

Dear Batteddy:

How long have the Orthodox had valid sacraments? How long have (some) Protestants had a valid baptism? Did we just discover this at Vatican II? Was Pius XII aware of this fact?

I prefer to listen to Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis…he may be “simplistic” and “ignorant”, but he was a Pope:

  1. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.” [17] **As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. [18] And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church let him be considered – so the Lord commands – as a heathen and a publican. [19] It follows that those are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit. **
  1. Nor must one imagine that the Body of the Church, just because it bears the name of Christ, is made up during the days of its earthly pilgrimage only of members conspicuous for their holiness, or that it consists only of those whom God has predestined to eternal happiness. it is owing to the Savior’s infinite mercy that place is allowed in His Mystical Body here below for those whom, of old, He did not exclude from the banquet. [20] For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins.
  1. Let every one then abhor sin, which defiles the mystical members of our Redeemer; but if anyone unhappily falls and his obstinacy has not made him unworthy of communion with the faithful, let him be received with great love, and let eager charity see in him a weak member of Jesus Christ. For, as the Bishop of Hippo remarks, it is better “to be cured within the Church’s community than to be cut off from its body as incurable members.” [21] “As long as a member still forms part of the body there is no reason to despair of its cure; once it has been cut off, it can be neither cured nor healed.” [22]




I fail to see how a recognition of the fact that many Orthodox and Protestants who have valid sacraments and err in good faith with regards to material heresy belong to the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, although in an admittedly imperfect way, is denying the Catholic Church as alone the Mystical Body of Christ. But that’s what your post implies.

The schism and heresy spoken of by Pope Pius XII is formal heresy and schism, is it not? Many Orthodoxists and Protestants err in good faith and thus they are not severed from the Body of the Church. Their salvation comes from what unity they do have with the Church because they err in good faith.

NB: I realize I could be missing your point.



Only those who are invincibly ignorant of the Church’s authority are innocent of the sin of heresy or schism. When they adhere to the Orthodox schism and the Protestant heresy in the external forum they are deemed schismatics and heretics. Whether or not they are guilty of sin, their rejection of the Catholic rule of faith attests that, for all external purposes, they must be deemed as excommunicated heretics, not as Catholics.

Their adherence to these schismatic and heretical “churches” makes known externally that they reject the Catholic rule of Faith.

A baptised child who is raised in heresy is, at some point (14 yrs old in the 1917 code, I think), considered (canonically) a heretic. He or she may very well be invincibly ignorant of the Church’s authority…but still considered a heretic. This invincibly ignorant individual desperately needs the sacraments of the Catholic Church…his heretical Church gives him nothing. This novel teaching (elements of sanctification in heretical sects) keeps him in his nothingness…he need not convert.



Please return to the thread’s original topic, everyone. Thank you for your cooperation.

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