What about the new ecumenical justification by faith decree?


I thought for one to receive salvation one has to receive the sacraments of the church? Yet I have been reading this QA book called Catholic Replies by James Drummy and he says Vatican 2 changed that. He says that the Vatican now says, anyone who expresses faith in Jesus and has some similar beliefs like our Catholic church are justified by faith, according to some agreement that was drawn up between our church and the Lutheran church.(decree of ecumenism) Is this true? If this is so, then why tell people that we have the fullness of the faith and that we urge Protestants to come home to the Catholic church?


I suspect Drummy is referring to the 1998 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ).


I believe that JDDJ is a positive Ecumenical step. But it of course does not, nor does it claim to resolve the many issues that divide. It mainly seeks to establish “common ground” - the success of which is highly debatable, particularly when the semantics of the theological vocabulary is considered.

Regarding the necessity of the sacraments for salvation, we should perhaps consider the following:

  1. The Catholic Church recognizes as valid the Baptism of many separated denominations (even Seventh Day Adventist). While Protestants do not recognize all 7 sacraments, they do recognize Baptism and the “Lord’s Supper” (although according to their own interpretations). Generally speaking, any Baptism done with the Trinitarian formula is valid.

  2. The Church recognizes that God in his Soveriegnty can work “outside of” the sacraments. So while the Church maintains that the sacraments are God’s “ordinary means” for salvation, God is free to use “extraordinary means”. This is spelled out nicely in CCC 1257 [emphasis theirs]:

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

Sadly there are those within the Catholic Church who have come to interpret these developments in such a way as to reduce the Church to just another denomination. While it is certainly charitable to not be overly judgemental of our separated bretheren, we should never marginalize the “fulness of the faith”. It is that “fulness” to which we earnestly entreat our separated bretheren to return.

I am personally on that journey even now, counting down the days to Easter Vigil…


I thought for one to receive salvation one has to receive the sacraments of the church?

You thought wrong. God created the sacraments for our salvation. But God is not limited by his creation.

The Council of Trent confirmed that baptism, OR ITS DESIRE, remits all sin. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that invincible ignorance removes the voluntary nature of an act, and as such, a material sin committed due to this kind of ignorance cannot be a formal sin. Moreover, vincible ignorance may diminish the voluntary character, but does not remove it, and as such, sins due to vincible ignorance can be formal sins. Yet, to be a mortal sin, full advertence and perfect consent of will is necessary, according to St. Pius X, which sins of vincible ignorance necessarily lack. St. Pius X taught that people that live in “good faith,” although objectively heretical, may be “on the way of salvation” (in a way known only to God.) St. Pius X called these separated in body from the Catholic Church, but united in soul. Vatican II didn’t change this, but it did reaffirm it.

The Joint Declaration on Justification affirms that condemnations of the Council of Trent remain in effect. What some Protestants mean when they affirm justification by faith alone seems to indicate that they affirm that justifying faith includes hope and charity. Thus, some versions of faith alone can be reconciled with Catholic theology, if “faith alone” is effectively understood to mean “justification by faith, hope, and charity.”

You can read a discussion regarding the Joint Declaration on Justification here: Are we justified by faith alone?


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