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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: The New CDF Document on the Doctrine of the Church 
10th-Jul-2007 10:12 am
Vatican/St. Peter's
Oi. I woke up this morning to find that there was a new document that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had issued regarding the Second Vatican Council's statement that the Church of Christ "subsists in" the Catholic Church. Nicole Winfield, one of the regular AP reporters I read covering the Vatican, has a story out on it that naturally puts things in their bleakest and harshest terms, with a headline – hers or her editor's – that the Pope says (not the CDF, note) that other Christians' communities are "not true churches." Naturally, this language is rather like pissing gasoline into the fire, but I suppose it makes the story more "newsworthy."

The question is of particular interest to me because it is Francis Sullivan's – my dissertation subject – work, although he is not mentioned by name, that is in many respects going to be at the center of this question. In 2000, the CDF – then under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict – issued a document entitled Dominus Iesus that said, among other things, something along these lines. The CDF issued Dominus Iesus without consulting the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the members of which promptly had collective strokes at the clumsy declarations about the nature of other Christian churches. The CDF could issue such a statement without consulting even the Vatican's official group responsible for that area because the CDF has jurisdiction over all doctrinal matters. Naturally, the problem with that formulation is that everything done by each body within the Roman Curia – the papal administration – has something to do with doctrine. This makes for situations where the CDF seems to get really clumsy and oversay things because "doctrine" is too broad a field for total competence without wide consultation. After all, that is part of the reason why we are a church, a community, rather than individual people out trying to be spiritual. It is the CDF's responsibility to be a restraining force regarding teaching in the Church, and it is an important and necessary function. It should be noted, though, in Church politics, that the CDF putting something out, even though the Pope signs off on their doing so, is in itself considered of less weight than a more explicitly papal teaching as in the form of an encyclical.

Sullivan issued a few articles that dealt with the meaning of these two words, that the Church of Christ "subsists in" the Roman Catholic Church – a phrase that was understood after the Council, by the Council Fathers – to indicate that there was a legitimacy to other forms of Christianity. This is a different question than whether or not the Catholic Church might preserve a "fullness" of the way of being the Church of Christ that other churches lack, like having the ministry of the papacy, which provides a kind of unity and leadership lacking in other forms of Christianity. These are fairly delicate and technical questions about the nature of the Church and are probably best handled among the church leadership and theologians of the various churches. News stories like this, unfortunately, tend to reduce asking these technical questions to something more to street-level pissing contests. I'll be curious here to see if Sullivan's careful correction of misunderstandings within Dominus Iesus is taken into account here, or if this is recycling the same confusions: I've not yet read the document, which I include below. The question is made even more interesting (for me and for my dissertation) because Ratzinger's replacement as the head of the CDF is Cardinal Levada, who happens to be a doctoral student of Sullivan's. Professor Fahey wrote to me that Sullivan had sent off a response to Levada this morning, and I've already cheekily asked Sullivan if I could read his mail.

I include below the AP story on the issue, inflammatory as it may be; Sandro Magister's introduction article; the text of the CDF document itself; the commentary on the text, issued by the CDF; and then another, unrelated and much lighter little AP story about Benedict's summer vacation plans.... Now, to actually get to it!


Pope: Other Christians Not True Churches
Jul 10, 8:49 AM (ET)

By NICOLE WINFIELD

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.

Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.

On Saturday, Benedict revisited another key aspect of Vatican II by reviving the old Latin Mass. Traditional Catholics cheered the move, but more liberal ones called it a step back from Vatican II.

Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers the erroneous interpretation of the council by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.

In the latest document - formulated as five questions and answers - the Vatican seeks to set the record straight on Vatican II's ecumenical intent, saying some contemporary theological interpretation had been "erroneous or ambiguous" and had prompted confusion and doubt.

It restates key sections of a 2000 document the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, "Dominus Iesus," which set off a firestorm of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation."

In the new document and an accompanying commentary, which were released as the pope vacations here in Italy's Dolomite mountains, the Vatican repeated that position.

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," the document said. The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession - the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.

The Rev. Sara MacVane of the Anglican Centre in Rome, said there was nothing new in the document.

"I don't know what motivated it at this time," she said. "But it's important always to point out that there's the official position and there's the huge amount of friendship and fellowship and worshipping together that goes on at all levels, certainly between Anglican and Catholics and all the other groups and Catholics."

The document said Orthodox churches were indeed "churches" because they have apostolic succession and that they enjoyed "many elements of sanctification and of truth." But it said they lack something because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope - a defect, or a "wound" that harmed them, it said.

"This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of primacy which, according to the Catholic faith, is an 'internal constitutive principle' of the very existence of a particular church," the commentary said.

Despite the harsh tone of the document, it stresses that Benedict remains committed to ecumenical dialogue.

"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," the commentary said.

The document, signed by the congregation prefect, U.S. Cardinal William Levada, was approved by Benedict on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul - a major ecumenical feast day.

There was no indication about why the pope felt it necessary to release the document, particularly since his 2000 document summed up the same principles. Some analysts suggested it could be a question of internal church politics, or that it could simply be an indication of Benedict using his office as pope to again stress key doctrinal issues from his time at the congregation.



Summer Assignment: Restudy the Doctrine of the Church
This is what is prescribed by a new document from the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. The Orthodox and Protestants are cautioned: the Catholic Church is the only one in which subsist the "essential constitutive elements" of the Church intended by Christ. Turbulence in view, in ecumenical dialogue

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, July 10, 2007 – Benedict XVI departed yesterday for his vacation in the Alps, leaving an assignment for the congregation for the doctrine of the faith: the task of refreshing for the bishops, faithful, and above all the theologians, some of the controversial points of the doctrine on the Church, in order to avert “errors and ambiguities.”

The congregation carried out this assignment with the document published today, which is presented below in its entirety.

The document is formulated in five questions and answers. The first three restate that the Catholic Church “governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” is the only one that is fully identified with the Church instituted on earth by Jesus Christ.

The fourth and fifth answers explain to what extent the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Protestant “ecclesial communities” lack – the latter more so than the former – the “essential constitutive elements” of the Church intended by Christ.

Over the past few decades, “rivers of ink have flowed” over these topics touched upon by Vatican Council II. The congregation for the doctrine of the faith notes this in an article of commentary released together with today’s document.

But it is unlikely that the document will end the debate within and outside of the Church. It’s enough to remember the polemics that followed a previous document released by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith with the same intention of clarifying an essential point of Church teaching, the declaration “Dominus Iesus” in 2000.

The controversy will impact, above all, the ecumenical dialogue among Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. The congregation for the doctrine of the faith is aware of this, and says so in writing.

But it also writes – fully reflecting the thought of Benedict XVI – that “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.”

Here then, in their entirety, are the document from the congregation and the article of commentary:



Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

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 ecclesiolgy. 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 "ommunionis 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



First Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?

Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council (1). Paul VI affirmed it (2) and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution "Lumen gentium": "There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation" (3). The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention (4).


Second Question: What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?

Response: Christ "established here on earth" only one Church and instituted it as a "visible and spiritual community" (5), that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. (6) "This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him" (7).

In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church (8), in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. (9) Nevertheless, the word "subsists" can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the "one" Church); and this "one" Church subsists in the Catholic Church. (10)


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" (11).

"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" (12).


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" (13), they merit the title of "particular or local Churches" (14), and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches (15).

"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" (16). 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 (17).

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 realised in history (18).


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 (19) cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense (20).

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.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 2007, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

William Cardinal Levada
Prefect

Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Titular Archbishop of Sila
Secretary

__________


(1) JOHN XXIII, Address of 11 October 1962: "…The Council…wishes to transmit Catholic doctrine, whole and entire, without alteration or deviation…But in the circumstances of our times it is necessary that Christian doctrine in its entirety, and with nothing taken away from it, is accepted with renewed enthusiasm, and serene and tranquil adherence… it is necessary that the very same doctrine be understood more widely and more profoundly as all those who sincerely adhere to the Christian, Catholic and Apostolic faith strongly desire …it is necessary that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which is owed the obedience of faith, be explored and expounded in the manner required by our times. The deposit of faith itself and the truths contained in our venerable doctrine are one thing, but the manner in which they are annunciated is another, provided that the same fundamental sense and meaning is maintained" : AAS 54 [1962] 791-792.

(2) Cf. PAUL VI, Address of 29 September 1963: AAS 55 [1963] 847-852.

(3) PAUL VI, Address of 21 November 1964: AAS 56 [1964] 1009-1010.

(4) The Council wished to express the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church. This is clear from the discussions on the decree Unitatis redintegratio. The Schema of the Decree was proposed on the floor of the Council on 23.9.1964 with a Relatio (Act Syn III/II 296-344). The Secretariat for the Unity of Christians responded on 10.11.1964 to the suggestions sent by Bishops in the months that followed (Act Syn III/VII 11-49). Herewith are quoted four texts from this Expensio modorum concerning this first response.

A) [In Nr. 1 (Prooemium) Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 296, 3-6]

"Pag. 5, lin. 3-6: Videtur etiam Ecclesiam catholicam inter illas Communiones comprehendi, quod falsum esset.

R(espondetur): Hic tantum factum, prout ab omnibus conspicitur, describendum est. Postea clare affirmatur solam Ecclesiam catholicam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi" (Act Syn III/VII 12).

B) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 297-301]

"4 - Expressius dicatur unam solam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi; hanc esse Catholicam Apostolicam Romanam; omnes debere inquirere, ut eam cognoscant et ingrediantur ad salutem obtinendam...

R(espondetur): In toto textu sufficienter effertur, quod postulatur. Ex altera parte non est tacendum etiam in aliis communitatibus christianis inveniri veritates revelatas et elementa ecclesialia"(Act Syn III/VII 15). Cf. also ibid pt. 5.

C) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 296s]

"5 - Clarius dicendum esset veram Ecclesiam esse solam Ecclesiam catholicam romanam...

R(espondetur): Textus supponit doctrinam in constitutione ‘De Ecclesia’ expositam, ut pag. 5, lin. 24-25 affirmatur" (Act Syn III/VII 15). Thus the commission whose task it was to evaluate the responses to the Decree Unitatis redintegratio clearly expressed the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and its unicity, and understood this doctrine to be founded in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium.

D) [In Nr. 2 Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 297s]

"Pag. 6, lin. 1- 24: Clarius exprimatur unicitas Ecclesiae. Non sufficit inculcare, ut in textu fit, unitatem Ecclesiae.

R(espondetur): a) Ex toto textu clare apparet identificatio Ecclesiae Christi cum Ecclesia catholica, quamvis, ut oportet, efferantur elementa ecclesialia aliarum communitatum".

"Pag. 7, lin. 5: Ecclesia a successoribus Apostolorum cum Petri successore capite gubernata (cf. novum textum ad pag. 6, lin.33-34) explicite dicitur ‘unicus Dei grex’ et lin. 13 ‘una et unica Dei Ecclesia’ " (Act Syn III/VII).

The two expressions quoted are those of Unitatis redintegratio 2.5 e 3.1.

(5) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.1.

(6) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.2; 3.4; 3.5; 4.6.

(7) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, 8.2.

(8) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1.1: AAS 65 [1973] 397; Declaration Dominus Iesus, 16.3: AAS 92 [2000-II] 757-758; Notification on the Book of Leonardo Boff, OFM, "Church: Charism and Power": AAS 77 [1985] 758-759.

(9) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11.3: AAS 87 [1995-II] 928.

(10) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.

(11) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.

(12) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.4.

(13) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.3; cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17.2: AAS, 85 [1993-II] 848.

(14) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1.

(15) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 56 f: AAS 87 [1995-II] 954 ff.

(16) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.1.

(17) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17.3: AAS 85 [1993-II] 849.

(18) Ibid.

(19) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 22.3.

(20) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration Dominus Iesus, 17.2: AAS 92 [2000-II] 758.



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

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. This Council ‘of the Church on the Church’ signalled, according to Paul VI, “a new era for the Church” in which “the true face of the Bride of Christ has been more fully examined and unveiled.”[1] Frequent reference is made to the principle documents of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II and to the interventions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, all of which were inspired by an ever deepening understanding of the Church herself, and many of which were aimed at clarifying the notable outpouring of post-conciliar theology – not all of which was immune from imprecision and error.

This present document is similarly inspired. Precisely because some contemporary theological research has been erroneous, or ambiguous, the Congregation’s intention is to clarify the authentic meaning of certain ecclesiological statements of the Magisterium. For this reason the Congregation has chosen to use the literary genre of Responsa ad quaestiones, which of its nature does not attempt to advance arguments to prove a particular doctrine but rather, by limiting itself to the previous teachings of the Magisterium, sets out only to give a sure and certain response to specific questions.


The first question asks if the Second Vatican Council changed the previously held doctrine on the Church.

The question concerns the significance of what Paul VI described in the above mentioned quotation as ‘the new face’ of the Church offered by Vatican II.

The response, based on the teaching of John XXIII and Paul VI, is very clear: the Second Vatican Council did not intend to change - and therefore has not changed - the previously held doctrine on the Church. It merely deepened this doctrine and articulated it in a more organic way. This is, in fact, what Paul VI said in his discourse promulgating the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium when he affirmed that the document had not changed traditional doctrine on the Church, but rather “that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation.”[2]

There is also a continuity between the doctrine taught by the Council and that of subsequent interventions of the Magisterium which have taken up and deepened this same doctrine, which itself constitutes a development. In this sense, for instance, the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Dominus Iesus merely reaffirmed the conciliar and post-conciliar teachings without adding or taking away anything.

In the post-conciliar period, however, and notwithstanding these clear affirmations, the doctrine of Vatican II has been, and continues to be, the object of erroneous interpretations at variance with traditional Catholic doctrine on the nature of the Church: either seeing in it a ‘Copernican revolution’ or else emphasising some aspects almost to the exclusion of others. In reality the profound intention of the Second Vatican Council was clearly to insert the discourse on the Church within and subordinate to the discourse on God, therefore proposing an ecclesiology which is truly theo-logical. The reception of the teaching of the Council has, however, often obscured this point, relativising it in favour of individual ecclesiological affirmations, and often emphasising specific words or phrases which encourage a partial and unbalanced understanding of this same conciliar doctrine.

Regarding the ecclesiology of Lumen gentium, certain key ideas do seem to have entered into ecclesial consciousness: the idea of the People of God, the collegiality of the bishops as a re-evaluation of the ministry of bishops together with the primacy of the Pope, a renewed understanding of the individual Churches within the universal Church, the ecumenical application of the concept of the Church and its openness to other religions; and finally the question of the specific nature of the Catholic Church which is expressed in the formula according to which the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church - of which the creed speaks - subsistit in Ecclesia catholica.

In the following questions this document examines some of these ideas, especially the specific nature of the Catholic Church together with what is implied ecumenically from this understanding.


The second question asks what is meant by the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.

When G. Philips wrote that the phrase “subsistit in” had caused ‘rivers of ink’[3] to be spilt, he would probably never have imagined that the discussion would continue for so long or with such intensity as to have provoked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to publish this present document.

This publication, based on the conciliar and postconciliar texts which it cites, reflects the concern of the Congregation to safeguard the unity and unicity of the Church, which would be compromised by the proposal that the Church founded by Christ could have more than one subsistence. If this were the case we would be forced, as the Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae puts it, to imagine “the Church of Christ as the sum total of the Churches or the ecclesial Communities – which are simultaneously differentiated and yet united”, or “to think that the Church of Christ no longer exists today concretely and therefore can only be the object of research for the Churches and the communities.”[4] If this were the case, the Church of Christ would not any longer exist in history, or would exist only in some ideal form emerging either through some future convergence or through the reunification of the diverse sister Churches, to be hoped for and achieved through dialogue.

The Notification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning a book of Leonardo Boff is even more explicit. In response to Boff’s assertion that the one Church of Christ “is able to subsist in other Christian Churches”, the Notification states that “the Council chose the word “subsistit” specifically to clarify that the true Church has only one “subsistence”, while outside her visible boundaries there are only “elementa Ecclesiae” which – being elements of the same Church – tend and lead to the Catholic Church.”[5]


The third question asks why the expression “subsistit in” was used rather than the verb “est”.

It is precisely this change of terminology in the description of the relationship between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church which has given rise to the most varied interpretations, above all in the field of ecumenism. In reality, the Council Fathers simply intended to do was to recognise the presence of ecclesial elements proper to the Church of Christ in the non-Catholic Christian communities. It does not follow that the identification of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church no longer holds, nor that outside the Catholic Church there is a complete absence of ecclesial elements, a “churchless void”. What it does mean is that if the expression “subsistit in” is considered in its true context, namely in reference to the Church of Christ “constituted and organised in this world as a society… governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”, then the change from est to subsistit in takes on no particular theological significance of discontinuity with previously held Catholic doctrine.

In fact, precisely because the Church willed by Christ actually continues to exist (subsistit in) in the Catholic Church, this continuity of subsistence implies an essential identity between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church. The Council wished to teach that we encounter the Church of Jesus Christ as a concrete historical subject in the Catholic Church. The idea, therefore, that subsistence can somehow be multiplied does not express what was intended by the choice of the term “subsistit”. In choosing the word “subsistit” the Council intended to express the singularity and non “multipliability” of the Church of Christ: the Church exists as a unique historical reality.

Contrary to many unfounded interpretations, therefore, the change from “est” to “subsistit” does not signify that the Catholic Church has ceased to regard herself as the one true Church of Christ. Rather it simply signifies a greater openness to the ecumenical desire to recognise truly ecclesial characteristics and dimensions in the Christian communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the “plura elementa sanctificationis et veritatis” present in them. Consequently, although there is only one Church which “subsists” in one unique historical subject there are true ecclesial realities which exist beyond its visible boundaries.


The fourth question asks why the Second Vatican Council used the word “Churches” to describe the oriental Churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Notwithstanding the explicit affirmation that the Church of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church, the recognition that even outside her visible boundaries “many elements of sanctification and of truth”[6] are to be found, implies the ecclesial character - albeit diversified – of the non-Catholic Churches or ecclesial Communities. Neither are these by any means “deprived of significance and importance” in the sense that “the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation.”[7]

The document considers above all the reality of the oriental Churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church and, making reference to various conciliar texts, gives them the title “particular or local Churches” and calls them sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches because they remain united to the Catholic Church through the apostolic succession and the valid celebration of the Eucharist “through which the Church of God is built up and grows in stature.”[8] The Declaration Dominus Iesus explicitly calls them “true particular Churches.”[9]

Despite this unequivocal recognition of their “being particular Churches” and of their salvific value, the document could not ignore the wound (defectus) which they suffer specifically in their being particular Churches. For it is because of their Eucharistic vision of the Church, which stresses the reality of the particular Church united in the name of Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist and under the guidance of a Bishop, that they consider themselves complete in their particularity.[10] Consequently, given the fundamental equality among all the particular Churches and among the Bishops which preside over them, they each claim a certain internal autonomy. This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of Primacy which, according to the Catholic faith, is an “internal constitutive principle” of the very existence of a particular Church.[11] It will, therefore, remain necessary to emphasise that the Primacy of the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, is not seen as something extraneous or merely concurrent with that of Bishops of particular Churches. Rather it must be exercised in service to the unity of the faith and of communion within the limits that proceed from divine law and from the divine and inviolable constitution of the Church contained in revelation.[12]


The fifth question asks why the ecclesial Communities originating from the Reformation are not recognised as ‘Churches’.

In response to this question the document recognises that “the wound is still more profound in those ecclesial communities which have not preserved the apostolic succession or the valid celebration of the eucharist”.[13] For this reason they are “not Churches in the proper sense of the word”[14] but rather, as is attested in conciliar and postconciliar teaching, they are “ecclesial Communities”.[15]

Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress in the communities concerned and even amongst some Catholics, it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of “Church” could possibly be attributed to them, given that they do not accept the theological notion of the Church in the Catholic sense and that they lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church.

In saying this, however, it must be remembered that these said ecclesial Communities, by virtue of the diverse elements of sanctification and truth really present in them, undoubtedly possess as such an ecclesial character and consequently a salvific significance.


This new document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which essentially summarises 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, as Benedict XVI confirmed in his first message to the Church on April 20, 2005 and on many other occasions, especially during his apostolic visit to Turkey (28.11.06-1.12.06). 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. Only in this way will it be able to lead towards the unity of all Christians in “one flock with one shepherd” (Jn 10, 16) and thus heal that wound which prevents the Catholic Church from fully realising her universality within history.

Catholic ecumenism might seem, at first sight, somewhat paradoxical. The Second Vatican Council used the phrase “subsistit in” in order to try to harmonise 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. For this reason, the same Decree of Vatican II on ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio introduced the term fullness (unitatis/catholicitatis) specifically to help better understand this somewhat paradoxical situation. 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.”[16] 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 “until it happily arrives at the fullness of eternal glory in the heavenly Jerusalem.”[17] This progress in fullness is rooted in the ongoing process of dynamic union with Christ: “Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians.”[18]

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[1] PAUL VI, Discourse (September 21, 1964): AAS 56 (1964) 1012.

[2] Ibid., 1010.

[3] G. PHILIPS, La Chiesa e il suo mistero nel Concilio Vaticano II, (Milano 1975), I, 111.

[4] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1: AAS 65 (1973) 398.

[5] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Notification on the book of Father Leonardo Boff: “The Church: charism and power”: AAS 77 (1985) 758-759. This passage of the Notification, although not formally quoted in the “Responsum”, is found fully cited in the Declaration Dominus Iesus, in note 56 of n. 16.

[6] SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Lumen gentium, 8.2.

[7] SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Unitatis Redintegratio, 3.4.

[8] Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Unitatis Redintegratio, 15.1..

[9] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITHI, Dominus Iesus, 17: AAS 92 (2000) 758.

[10] Cf. COMITATO MISTO CATTOLICO-ORTODOSSO IN FRANCIA, Il primato romano nella comunione delle Chiese, Conclusioni: in “Enchiridion oecumenicum” (1991), vol. IV, n. 956.

[11] Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Communionis notio, n.17: AAS 85 (1993) 849.

[12] Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Considerations on the Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church, n. 7 and n. 10, in: L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 18 November 1998, 5-6.

[13] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Communionis notio, 17: AAS 85 (1993) 849.

[14] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Dominus Iesus, 17: AAS 92 (2000) 758.

[15] Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Unitatis Redintegratio, 4; John Paul II, Novo millenio ineuente, 48: AAS 93 (2001) 301-302.

[16] SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Unitatis Redintegratio, 4.

[17] Ibid, 3.

[18 ]BENEDICT XVI, Deus caritas est, 14: AAS 98 (2006) 228-22.

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Pope to Write New Book While on Vacation
Jul 9, 3:40 PM (ET)

BY NICOLE WINFIELD

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he plans to use his nearly three-week-long vacation in the Italian mountains to write a new book and said he was also preparing a new encyclical.

Benedict spoke briefly to reporters as he arrived at a church-owned villa in Lorenzago di Cadore, in the mountains near Italy's border with Austria. He said he hopes to work on the second volume of the book "Jesus of Nazareth." The first volume was published earlier this year.

"It's in God's hands," he said. "I hope to write some pages here."

The first volume, Benedict's first book as pontiff, offers a personal meditation on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The second volume is expected to explore the birth of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection.

Benedict was asked if he would use his time in between hikes through the mountains to also prepare a new encyclical. He laughed in response but said, "Yes, eventually."

Encyclicals are the most authoritative documents popes can issue. Benedict has only written one to date: "God is Love," an exploration of love and charity that focused on the different types of love - erotic and unconditional - that Benedict says are joined in marriage between man and woman.

The vacation comes after a busy few weeks for the 80-year-old pontiff. Over the weekend, he issued his eagerly expected document liberalizing the old Latin Mass, and a week before that he issued a letter to the Catholic faithful in China, urging them to unite.

On his first full day of vacation, another important document will be issued as well, this one from his old office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

As he arrived during a break in thunderstorms, the pope was also asked if he was thinking of the Rev. Giancarlo Bossi, an Italian missionary kidnapped in the Philippines. Benedict said the priest, seized by gunmen in the southern Mindanao region on June 10, was in his daily prayers.

"We hope and pray that the Lord helps us," he said.

Pope John Paul II frequently visited the home in the Dolomite mountains, although in his later years he moved west, to the Alps close to Italy's border with France. Benedict spent his first two summers as pope at that retreat in Valle D'Aosta, but this year he chose to come to Lorenzago, which had not hosted a pope since 1998.

Benedict said he was glad to be in the mountains "far from the city and all the things that go on every day."

"I can rest, study and pray," he said.

He can also play the piano. The house where he is staying has been recently renovated - and it has been outfitted with a baby grand piano. Benedict is an accomplished pianist; his favorite composer is Mozart.

Benedict's vacation here continues until July 27, after which he moves to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome. While here, he will have two public appearances to recite his traditional Sunday noon blessings.
Comments 
10th-Jul-2007 06:40 pm (UTC)
I received the document in an email today and glanced over it just a few minutes ago. It really didn't open up any new ideas, more or less it seemed to reiterate things already stated in previous documents. Overall I found some of the things I read interesting but nothing stood out prominently. However, I do want to point out one thing:

This is a different question than whether or not the Roman Catholic Church might preserve a "fullness" of the way of being the Church of Christ that other churches lack...

This would exclude the sui iuris Oriental Catholic Churches such as the Maronite, Byzantine, Syrian, etc., which are "Orthodox" yet Catholic. Unless speaking of the Roman Catholic Church specifically, as in the Latin rite, one should use "Catholic Church" since that covers Catholics of all rites. It's not serious, I just thought I would mention it (Since it is so awfully common to encounter in news articles, conversations, or anywhere else really).
10th-Jul-2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
Oops! You're totally right: that was really careless of me – it's obviously not just the Latin rite that's meant here. I'll edit that. Thanks!
11th-Jul-2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
It's okay, pobodies nerfect. :)
12th-Jul-2007 05:32 pm (UTC)
"subsists in" the Roman Catholic Church – a phrase that was understood after the Council, by the Council Fathers – to indicate that there was a legitimacy to other forms of Christianity. This is a different question than whether or not the Catholic Church might preserve a "fullness" of the way of being the Church of Christ that other churches lack,

Seems to me that the CDF is saying both things. Certainly, they are addressing the "fullness" with this part:

and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. (6) .........This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him" (7).

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