Vatican Clarifies Declaration with Lutherans

Hope this isn’t too micro.

Anyone acquainted with “Response” and when it was written?

I’ve highlighted a few:


  1. In pursuing this study further, it will be necessary to treat also the sacrament of penance, which is mentioned in n. 30 of the Joint Declaration. According to the Council of Trent, in fact (7), through this sacrament the sinner can be justified anew ( rursus iustificari ): this implies the possibility, by means of this sacrament, as distinct from that of baptism, to recover lost justice (8). These aspects are not all sufficiently noted in the above-mentioned n. 30.
  1. These remarks are intended as a more precise explanation of the teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to the points on which complete agreement has not been reached; they are also meant to complete some of the paragraphs explaining Catholic doctrine, in order to bring out more clearly the degree of consensus that has been reached. The level of agreement is high, but it does not yet allow us to affirm that all the differences separating Catholics and Lutherans in the doctrine concerning justification are simply a question of emphasis or language. Some of these differences concern aspects of substance and are therefore not all mutually compatible, as affirmed on the contrary in n. 40.

If, moreover, it is true that in those truths on which a consensus has been reached the condemnations of the Council of Trent non longer apply, the divergencies on other points must, on the contrary, be overcome before we can affirm, as is done generically in n.41, that these points no longer incur the condemnations of the Council of Trent. That applies in the first place to the doctrine on “simul iustus et peccator” (cf. n. l, above ).

  1. We need finally to note, from the point of view of their representative quality, the different character of the two signataries of this Joint Declaration. The Catholic Church recognises the great effort made by the Lutheran World Federation in order to arrive, through consultation of the Synods, at a “magnus consensus”, and so to give a true ecclesial value to its signature; there remains, however, the question of the real authority of such a synodal consensus, today and also tomorrow, in the life and doctrine of the Lutheran community.

I don’t know the date, but it was not long after the JDDJ came out. It caused a good bit of angst and disappointment in some Lutheran quarters, as I recall.
OTOH, I see it as an honest response. I wish it had been the approach the Missouri Synod had taken; affirm and clarify.


According to the information stowed in the URL, it came out in 1998: rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_01081998 ]

Those points indicate areas of disagreement sufficiently strong that Catholics and Lutherans can’t be in the same communion; someone trying to practice as a Catholic while holding the Lutheran doctrine on these points would either be very confused or pushing away from the Catholic faith (and I suppose we would say something similar about a Lutheran with a Catholic understanding, here).

Unless we arrive at a shared understanding on these points, the Catholic Church says it would not be spiritually safe to try to practice one faith while believing another.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends!


I don’t quite understand the points in the Response as representing much difference between Lutheran and Catholic theology.

The Vatican didn’t reject the JDDJ so much as it took time after the Response you quoted to further clarify. An Annex to the JDDJ was written afterwards that clarified or emended certain points in order to make the rein the document into a product more clearly in line with Catholic teaching. The goal was that it be clear that the JDDJ in no way be read as a repudiation of any of the teachings of the Council of Trent or any other source of Catholic doctrine. Afterwards the Lutheran and Catholic parties were able to sign off on it and call it a day. You can read a less lazy explanation from Cardinal Cassidy here.

Many Lutherans rejected the JDDJ. The LCMS took a firm stand and issued their own analysis of why the JDDJ represented a clear break with the Lutheran theology of justification by faith alone and a concession to the points of Catholic doctrine that were the very reason for the Lutheran Reformation in the first place. You can read that here.

For those Lutherans who signed on, maybe the next order of business in Lutheran-Catholic dialogue could be a re-examination of that whole “the pope is the very Antichrist” thing that you still have in your confessions…

The point that the justified sinner is simul iustus et peccator from the Lutheran side should be absolutely paramount. Roman Catholicism teaches that justification is the process by which justice comes to inhere in a person. Lutheran and Reformed churches teach that justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to a sinful person’s account - hence he “at the same time just and sinful”.

This is true about righteousness (justice) growing gradually in the Christian, but I think there is largely agreement between Lutherans and Catholics that the initial event of justification (baptism) resul ts in the washing away of all sins, both personal and original.

Catholics understand imputation as an actual “deposit” into the account of the sinner, rather than just “doctoring the books” and declaring a person righteous who is not, the person is truly made righteous. He POURS grace into the person, resulting in the imputation reflecting an actual balance.

I think there is also agreement about the fact that baptism does not remove concupiscence, or the effects of original sin (the “old man”), such that, though a person is cleansed, they still have the tendency to sin.

I thnk we are all in agreement (even with the Calvanists) that the process of sanctification increases the character of God in us (righteousness), and that over time, the fruit of the Spirit in us confroms us continually to the mindset and behavior of God, and away from sin.

The problem here is that God’s standard is perfect righteousness and justice. In order to be acceptable in the sight of God - if God truly justifies only those in whom righteousness actually inheres - is that nobody would be found acceptable in God’s sight.

The biblical doctrine of simul iustus et peccator gives us hope, because it is full of truth that sinful men are accounted righteous though, in themselves, they are still sinners.

As for baptism, the Lutherans hold do the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I’m not sure how they square this with their baptismal doctrines. I’m fairly sure Melanchthon taught slightly different things than did Luther on these issues.

I don’t think this is a “problem”, since this is Catholic teaching. :thumbsup:

The CC teaches that there is no way we can “merit” the grace that saves us. It is also not taught that God “only justifice those in whom righteousness inheres” (not sure what that means) but rather, that the grace that justifies us is infused into us, by grace, through faith, and not of ourselves, lest any man should boast.

It sounds unbiblical to me, and connnected to the heresy that people can’t avoid sin.

The Aposltes taught that Jesus work on the Cross freed us from sin, and that we are no longer enslaved to it - that we can live holy and sanctified lives by the grace given to us in Christ. I am not sure where this “still sinners” piece fits in. Scripture is clear that those who walk by the Spirit do not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

The same way Catholics and Orthodox do? Baptism washes away sins by grace, through faith (not by anyone’s merit or works).

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