Was is a Catholic Declaration?

There is a discussion about the definition of a Catholic declaration on another thread. Some proclaim that declarations are actually not official teaching or law. Anyone familiar with declarations by the Roman Catholic Church and what kind of authority papal or council declarations have on Catholics?

I thought gunophore did a good job explaining the impact of declarations such as the JDDJ on the other thread; good question though.


Readers beware, Evangel seems to want to believe that the Joint Declaration on Justification has the same authority as a papal or conciliar declaration.

This question is, therefore, somewhat disingenuous, since he is asking for a definition about a level of authority other than the one in question.

Your question is interesting. I was a cradle Catholic who left the church for over 30 years. during that time, to my eternal shame, I raised our 5 kids. All were baptized–I’m not sure why because I basically quit the church after V2 and have been back about 3 years now. So what about my kids? They were baptized Catholic but never raised in the faith. None of them consider themselves Catholic. Now this is a great sadness to me, but the simple fact is that the ones who married didn’t marry in the church and none of them go to Catholic churches. Sadly, I have concluded that they aren’t Catholic. I’m glad I at least had them baptized but, for instance my daughter goes to a Baptist church. She is NOT a Catholic, she’s a Baptist. A Catholic has to be someone who believes in the church teaching and at least tries to practice the faith. By the same rule if a person raised Catholic grows up and becomes Episcpalian then they aren’t Catholic anymore either. Being Catholic means you accept the doctrine and teachings of a church. It has nothing to do with somehow getting a magical “X” on their forehead by baptism or anything else. Conversely, you could be baptized Baptist, but if you believe in Catholic teaching—even if you haven’t actually converted yet, you are Catholic.

Can anyone vouch for the accuracy of this explanation of what constitutes a papal and/ or pontifical council declaration? Another poster provided this definition for a Catholic declaration. Is this correct?

Declaration (declamatio) - A declaration is a papal document that can take one of three forms: 1) a simple statement of the law interpreted according to existing Church law; 2) an authoritative declaration that requires no additional promulgation; or 3) an extensive declaration, which modifies the law and requires additional promulgation. Declarations are less common now as papal documents, but were resorted to several times by the Vatican II Council. An example is Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Liberty.

Declarations from pontifical councils may or may not have an explicit approval by the Pope after they are created. Some bodies do not necessarily imply the exercise of the power of jurisdiction that comes with the ordained ministry such as the pontifical councils.

Read in Pastor Bonus the definition of each type Pontifical Council. Each is competent in specific matters pertaining to the Apostolic See.

*] Pontifical Council for the Laity (arts. 131-134)
*]Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (arts. 135-138)
*]Pontifical Council for the Family (arts. 139-141)
*]Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (arts. 142-144)
*]Pontifical Council Cor unum (arts. 145-148)
*]Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (arts. 149-151)
*]Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers (arts. 152-153)
*]Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (arts. 154-158)
*]Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue (arts. 159-162)
*]Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers (arts. 163-165)
*]Pontifical Council for Culture (arts. 166-168)
*]Pontifical Council for Social Communications (arts. 169-170)


Thanks Vico for the reply and link. I am particularly interested in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and found this explanation helpful:

Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Art. 135 — It is the function of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to engage in ecumenical work through timely initiatives and activities, labouring to restore unity among Christians.

Art. 136 — § 1. It sees that the decrees of the Second Vatican Council pertaining to ecumenism are put into practice.

It deals with the correct interpretation of the principles of ecumenism and enjoins that they be carried out.

§ 2. It fosters, brings together, and coordinates national and international Catholic organizations promoting Christian unity, and supervises their undertakings.

§ 3. After prior consultation with the Supreme Pontiff, the Council maintains relations with Christians of Churches and ecclesial communities that do not yet have full communion with the Catholic Church, and especially organizes dialogue and meetings to promote unity with them, with the help of theological experts of sound doctrine. As often as may seem opportune, the Council deputes Catholic observers to Christian meetings, and it invites observers from other Churches and ecclesial communities to Catholic meetings.

Art. 137 — § 1. Since the Council often deals with matters which by their very nature touch on questions of faith, it must proceed in close connection with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, especially if declarations and public documents have to be issued.

§ 2. In dealing with important matters concerning the separated Oriental Churches, the Council must first hear the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Art. 138 — Within the Council there exists a Commission to study and deal with matters concerning the Jews from a religious perspective, the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews; the president of the Council presides over the Commission.
vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_19880628_pastor-bonus_en.html#PONTIFICAL COUNCILS

Did you mean to post this on another thread?

Yes. And I notice the link Vico gave has a section for each of the others as well (although I admit I haven’t read them all).

It’s important not to get carried away wrt to Pontifical Council declarations. I mean sure, we Catholics are pretty centralized (one of the reasons that everyone loves us :slight_smile: :)) but there is no “A Pontifical Council has spoken, causa finite est”. On the other hand, neither do we want to make too little of them – they aren’t The Blue Army, Opus Dei, Catholic Answers, St. Joseph Media, K of C or what have you, they’re Pontifical Councils.

I’m glad for the clarification but can one provide citations specifying how declarations aren’t ‘causa finite est’ if they are on the Holy See website. I can’t find any information that changes the traditional definition of a Catholic declaration regarding the Joint Lutheran-Catholic Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and, it appears, most posters are confused over what a “declaration” constitutes. Can anyone point me to a book or website where I could find more information? Thanks


It is not possible to prove a negative, Evangel. You are making an erroneous conclusion, based on an erroneous premise, and asking us to prove it is not true. This is a logical fallacy.

You are assuming anything posted on the Vatican Website is a matter of official Catholic doctrine, and this is not true. The work of the Pontifical ecumenical councils are not doctrine, yet they are posted on the Vatican site.

There is no “change” Evangel. You want to believe this document is the same kind of declaration as a papal or counciliar declaration, but it is not. Perhaps one day it can be, but there is still much work to be done.

It is useless to repeat the same thing expecially when you provide no citations/ source of authority :shrug: How is that honest dialogue?

Why shouldn’t they be posted on the Holy See website?

EvangleCatholic, I noticed something you said, on the other thread! that seems key. Don’t recall the exact words, but essentially you object to one of the PCPCU’s declarations (the JDDJ) not being binding, right?

That’s seems to me pretty nearly the weirdest complaint that you could make, considering how little your denomination considers binding. :ehh:

Just saying (and emoticing).

Maybe I can try this another way. The teaching authority for Catholics is the Magesterium. The Bishops, in unity with the successor of Peter, have jurisdictional authority to protect the faith, and feed and care for the flock. We are obligated to be obedient to their direction in faith and morals.

You seem to want desperately to believe that the JDDJ and similiar ecumenical documents have this level of authority in the Church, but they do not. Look at it this way…if the Reformation never happened, these types of dialogue would never be taking place. The fact that there are wounds to unity that need to be healed does not at all impact the jurisdictional structure that was put in place by Christ. Neither are the efforts of those Pontifical Commissions binding upon the faithful.

The JDDJ is a statement (declaration) of the efforts that have been made to date to heal the wounds to unity. It is not a declaration from magesterial authority that is intended to feed and care for the flock through instruction in faith and morals for daily life.

One cannot give you a citation for an idea that came out of your head! It is your wish/desire that the JDDC be the same kind of “declaration” that proceeds from the Magesterium. It is not, and it clearly states otherwise within itself.

There is also not a statement on the Vatican Website that states not everything on it is considered a “teaching of the Church”, ,but that is also the case.

I was thinking the same thing! I can’t even count the number of times that Lutherans have criticized the Catholic practice of “binding the conscience” of believers with things that are not in Scripture (like the Assumption of Mary). Yet, here is a Lutheran who wants the consciences of Catholics to be “bound” to believe and obey an ecumenical work in progress that has not been promulgated by the Magesterium. :shrug:

Hi Peter, I am not familiar with the PCPCU discussion but you know all us Lutherans look alike [lots of warts] so I won’t blame you for getting me mixed up with someone else. :smiley:

Thanks guanophore; I appreciate the time you take to help me understand. It may seem exasperating but this thread is specifically on what is a “Catholic Declaration” even though I screwed up the title by using the word “was”:rolleyes:

I have used the definition of “declaration” provided by another poster and asked if that is correct per the Catholic Church. It appears it is so my next question is now important is a “Declaration” whether papal or council to Catholics?

The Holy See website provides a wealth of documentation so, with the help of another poster, I examined the process of what goes into “declarations and public documents”. This section clearly states the process when dealing with “questions of faith”. I believe we are talking about the Roman Curia; am I correct?

Since the Council often deals with matters which by their very nature touch on questions of faith, it must proceed in close connection with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, especially if declarations and public documents have to be issued.

On another thread I raised the question how Catholic “Law” differs from Catholic “teaching” in light of the explanation of a Catholic “Declaration” because the definition of a Catholic declaration speaks of promulgation of Law and identifies 3 ways a Declaration is to be understood.

Declaration (declamatio) - A declaration is a papal document that can take one of three forms: 1) a simple statement of the law interpreted according to existing Church law; 2) an authoritative declaration that requires no additional promulgation; or 3) an extensive declaration, which modifies the law and requires additional promulgation. Declarations are less common now as papal documents, but were resorted to several times by the Vatican II Council. An example is Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Liberty

I have had this discussion before and invariably the feedback I get is opinion not reliable, direct citations or authoritative sources. That is when I suspect some posters of reacting to JDDJ rather than honestly examining the Declaration. It appears some undermine and even confute what this particular Declaration is proclaiming. I enjoy the articles on the Rorate Caeli website and found that JDDJ is viewed with concern even to the extent of openly criticizing the Pope; evidently Benedict XVI upset these Catholics with his warm overtures to Lutherans after JDDJ was signed under John Paul II tenure.

Bottom line is one may not like ecumenical efforts to the point of feeling threatened by Vatican II and notice strongly worded opposition to what John XXIII introduced. But this Lutheran’s read of the Dialogue/ Declaration only reinforces the belief that unification with Catholics is likely and will start with eucharistic hospitality in our lifetimes.

So it seems strange that several Catholic posters continue to promote intense animosity toward Lutherans even to the point of disrespecting the Papal Office.

It is correct within the context from which it was taken, which is one of the levels of authorative instruction.

A papal or conciliar declaration is binding upon all Catholics.

:thumbsup: I commend you for your careful research.

Yes. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the modern version of the Inquisition. It’s job is to preserve the purity of doctrine, and to prevent Catholics from teaching and promulgating error.

The reason the CDF has to review ecumenical documents like the JDDJ before they are published is to ensure that there are no false or misleading contents so that they will accurately represent the faith.

The JDDJ, like all ecumenical works in progress, is a document for discussion and further development. These types of “declarations” are not the offcial teaching of the Church (you won’t find it published in the Catechism) but clarify points of difference and unity so that continued work can progress.

Catholic "law’ (canon law) is different within various rites of the Church, and applies to how the business of the Church will be conducted on a day to day basis. It can be changed and adapted. Catholic “teaching” is the Doctrine of the Faith - the teaching of the Apostles preserved infallibly in the Church by the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot add or subtract from this once for all divine deposit of faith.

Papal and conciliar declarations, unlike the JDDJ, are jurisdictional applications of the Once for all Divine deposit of faith. An example of a papal declaration is contained in ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS/I]

" I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful."

There is no source that can prove your assertion is without merit. The JDDJ is not a papal or conciliar declaration, and no amount of trying to squeeze it into the official definition of an authorative declaration will make it become one. The Document itself states it’s sources and purposes, contrary to a declaration binding on all the faithful. You just can’t seem to accept that declarations made as part of the ecumenical work toward unity are not part of the Magesterial teaching of the faithful. :shrug:

It is regrettable that some Catholics appear to be resistant to the work of the Church on unity, but your efforts to force the document into a category to which it does not belong will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it will only alienate those Catholics because you are losing your credibility.

May God grant that we quickly show the world the One unity of the One Faith so that the world may know Him.

Yes, there are always those who have difficulty accepting change, and the ultra traditionalists and Sede Vacantists are good examples. These folks, fortunately, are not given by God the authority to shepherd the Church.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.