Catholics and Protestants still have doctrinal differences

ReligiousWarSignGifI know this is old news, but a reader sent along another recent story about Pope Benedict XVI saying that non-Roman Catholics are outside the true church. I know we covered this already, but the media treatment of this story has been so horrific that it merits another post. For this week’s installment, let’s look at Steve Maynard’s piece in the Tacoma News Tribune. First the subhead:

Puget Sound-area Protestants and Catholics reach out to each other after a message from the pope prompts shock and dismay.

Shock and dismay, eh? So it’s going to be that kind of story. A caption says “Catholic leaders are downplaying a recent Vatican declaration reaffirming Catholicism as the one true church.” Let’s see if they’re downplaying the Vatican declaration or the media treatment:

Faithful people from Tacoma to Tulsa to Tijuana took notice this month when the Vatican reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church as the only path to salvation. Pope Benedict XVI’s stance that other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches had the potential to divide.

Ugh. It’s amazing that this story comes so late in the news cycle and repeats errors from day one of the coverage. At least it’s good that the reporter has noticed the Vatican simply reaffirmed its teaching. The Vatican has said nothing new here. And given that, it is rather odd that reporters and others continue to be shocked that the Vatican teaches Catholic doctrine. But, most importantly, did the pope say that all non-Catholics are going to hell? Or did he say that Lutherans, Anglicans, Protestants, etc., are not the true church?

A quick note to complain at the unimaginative nature of all the coverage surrounding this Vatican reprint. It’s so easy to take the most obvious point-counterpoint approach. But why not flesh it out a bit more? This supposed shock and awe felt by others seems a bit manufactured (or at least prompted) by the media. I disagree with the document because Lutherans believe the Church is “the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.” But I’m not upset, shocked or even the least bit surprised at the Vatican’s document.

Is it really newsworthy that Catholics believe themselves to have the right teaching? If they didn’t, why would they retain their teachings? Isn’t everybody in the church body they’re in because they believe it to be right? If I were a reporter covering this and was required to interview people who were upset by this document, I would ask lots of questions about precisely why they were upset. So many mainstream reports just assumed that outrage was the natural response. Why? Is it news that Catholics have different doctrinal views than other Christians? Is it news that these different beliefs, you know, mean something to people who take them seriously? Apparently it is:

The Rev. Dave Brown of Immanuel Presbyterian Church decided it was time to talk with the Catholic priest two blocks away. . . .

“I was bothered by the pope’s statement and felt it was the catalyst to start developing a relationship with him,” Brown said.

Protestants are not the only ones shocked, dismayed and hurt by the Vatican’s statement, said the Rev. David Alger, executive director of Tacoma-based Associated Ministries.

“A lot of Catholics are deeply troubled and are struggling with what this all means,” said Alger, an ordained Presbyterian.

And, in fact, the reporter speaks with precisely one — that’s one (1) — lay Catholic who says he’s upset by the document. In setting up the quote, the reporter says the pope asserted that Catholicism “has a corner on salvation.” Which is not what the document said. The rest of the Catholics interviewed? They all explain how the media misinterpreted it. In fact, one specifically says:

“It’s not a question of saying only Catholics are being saved,” [the Rev. Michael McDermott, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Tacoma] said.

How the reporter could include this quote while saying the absolute opposite in the opening paragraph rather mystifies me. The priest goes on to explain that Catholics believe they are the only true church in part because of their seven sacraments and a lineage of bishops they believe can be traced back to Jesus’ apostles. But, he says, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Christ isn’t present and operative in other church groups. The fact that Catholic churches accept the baptisms of other Christians should be proof of this to any average religion reporter.

But the reporter seems confused that Catholics and Protestants could have a long history of working together on (non-sacramental) food banks and other social welfare programs while actually believing each other to teach doctrine incorrectly or administer the sacraments incorrectly.

With this much time out from the reissue of that document, I was hoping for more substantive coverage. One great angle, even for a local religion reporter, would be to look at the different views of apostolic succession among Catholics, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and Protestant churches. Particularly since different views and practices about same were a major point of the Vatican document.

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  • Rathje

    From what I’ve seen so far on the blogosphere, it seems that when you are talking to the committed religious, the Pope’s statements are not an issue at all. In fact, they tend to find it refreshing.

    “So the Pope believes his religion is superior to the others? Good, I’d be worried about him if he didn’t. I feel the same way about mine.”

    It’s only when you start talking to folks who don’t take their religion that seriously that the Pope’s assertions seem to be upsetting people. It’s like the Pope ruined the party for a lot of people who where trying mighty hard to pretend that religion is not, in fact, about the path to ultimate truth, but is more a sort-of “lifestyle choice” – like deciding on jazz or classical music.

    It’s like people are surprised that their neighbors actually still believe in this stuff. The death of objective truth was supposed to be a big “no-duh” and yet here we are. And it frightens or annoys the hell out of them.

  • George Conger

    One area I haven’t seen explored in the secular press has been the political ramifications of the document. In Northern Ireland, to take one case, the Vatican document has been a God-send to Ian Paisley.

    The Ulster Unionist leader has been under attack from conservatives within the Unionist movement for making a deal with Sinn Fein, and there was talk of mounting a leadership challenge. Now Paisley has seized upon the Vatican statement and is beating it for all its worth — back to the good old days of the whore of Babylon on the Tiber.

    One of the charges leveled against Benedict is that he has not done a good job in reforming the Vatican administrative machine — that the empire building that took place towards the end of JPII has not been more vigorously attacked. My belief is that the timing of the release of the document, and the language in which it was written, is an example of this.

    It appears the traditional dialogue partners were not informed this was coming … nor were the ecumenical people involved to the extent that they should be. The result has been the ecumenical people at the Vatican have been saying they no longer expect all other Christians merely to return to the true (Roman Catholic) Church, but then the Doctrinal boys say that Rome alone has “full identity” with the Church of Christ, and that all others are lacking.

    Not too smooth.

  • Frederick Jones

    If only so many reporters could read as well as write! The document which the Pope approved says exactly the same as the Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II, and the document ‘Dominus Jesus’ approved by the last Pope in 2000.Both of these are published in English and could be read by reporters, Protestant Pastors, and Catholic laity alike.

  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    A previous installment on indulgences brought this response:

    1) “It’s just a great example to use of how there are differences in the Christian church.”

    “The Christian church” is a Protestant concept – one great big invisible church with different groupings that give themselves different names (ie “denominations”). This is very different from how the Catholic Church and the Orthodox look at “church”. Also different from how a number of Protestant groups think of it, e.g.Church of England.

    At heart is the issue of which is greater–the Church or the Word. Those who call themselves “Catholic” believe the Bible came from the Church, hence Church Tradition and Scripture are equally valid. This is in every Catholic catechism which anyone can read. I have also read this in Catholic magazines written by priests–many often answering the question, “Why the separation between Catholics and Protestants and why Catholics don’t agree with Protestants on the concept of ‘Scripture alone’.”

    Protestants view the Word of God as all-powerful, as the means through which God works to create and strengthen faith. (The sacraments, in Lutheran circles those being baptism and Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, are also means through which God creates/strengthens faith.) In this way Protestants avow that true believers are found across denominational lines.

    In essence, that Catholic teaching is that the Bible came from the Church, therefore the Church is supreme. Protestants believe that the Church comes from the Word and thus the Word is supreme. This was the heart of the Reformation battle, and it still is the heart of the debates today.

    But having attended Lutheran seminary, the tuiton paid by working in the kitchen of a Catholic convent, I can understand these issues and the debate (which I have had many, both with clergy and laity; the secret is being respectful of the other person’s opinions). I doubt that the essence of the debate can be discovered by someone who studied journalism and does not have an idea, or even the desire to learn, about the seemingly trivial differences. What is the depth a reporter should go in digging up these differences, their historical context, etc.? Growing up Lutheran, I only heard one side of the debate. I could never understand how the other side felt or why they didn’t hold the Word in as high a regard. This I learned by being willing to give the other side a fair hearing, reading their material, discussing with people of the faith in a dialogue. Believe me, I have learned a lot and along the way been able to re-examine my faith and beliefs.

    From what I’ve seen so far on the blogosphere, it seems that when you are talking to the committed religious, the Pope’s statements are not an issue at all. In fact, they tend to find it refreshing.

    “So the Pope believes his religion is superior to the others? Good, I’d be worried about him if he didn’t. I feel the same way about mine.”

    I probably would be in that camp above. If I recall, the church at Laodicea (sp?) in Revelation was called to task for being “lukewarm.” One can rally behind one’s faith after diligent study and examination and hold that belief. It is also possible to do so without being militant.

    In my mind, though, isn’t the focal point of this stroy the fact that the last two popes seem more willing to hold out olive branches to non-Christian groups than they were to non-Catholic Christian groups?

  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    You know, both Catholics and Protestants make the claim that only in the church can one be saved. Catholics refer to a monolithic visible group; Protestants refer to an invisible group that transcends denominational lines. I wonder, if a Protestant pastor made such a statement, would that be news?

  • Dennis Colby

    “Catholics refer to a monolithic visible group; Protestants refer to an invisible group that transcends denominational lines.”

    See the controversy over Leonard Feeney and “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”; official Catholic teaching is that people outside the visible Catholic Church are capable of salvation.

  • Chuck

    I agree the media coverage was the worst I have ever seen for shallow reporting. What everyone seems to miss is the olive branch out to the Orthhodox while being witheld from other denominations (mainly C of E, Episcopal, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists). The pope cannot come out and chastise these denominations publicly for their journeys into libralism. Yet he can castigate those denoms by praising another. By embracing the Eastern Rite as a true church, I think he may be sending a special message to the sacramentally based Protestant denominations. That being, “your actions including, but not limited to, gay marriage, gay ordination, female priests, etc. do not bring you into closer affiliation with the Catholic Church, but drives you farther away. Consider your actions.” I think the underlying tone of the document sent a message to Protestant pastors that B16 is not happy with them. Whether they got it or not is another story.

  • Martha

    So it was only *after* the “shock, horror!” announcement that the pastor decided it might be an idea to get to know the priest?

    Interesting, that. I wonder how many other places were the same?

    One thing that is not being mentioned is that this document is not primarily aimed at other Christian groups; it is meant first of all for the Catholics. Perhaps even for those who are on the fuzzier edges of ‘don’t we all believe the same thing, really? what’s the difference, when you get down to it? why shouldn’t we ordain women, the same as the Anglicans? what’s the big deal about receiving Communion in one another’s churches?’

    There is also the point that the Catholic Church too is suffering because of the disunion and schisms; no church is now the universal whole that it should be.

  • Martha

    Here’s a link to an interview on this very topic:

    VATICAN CITY, JULY 10, 2007 ( Some 30 years after the Second Vatican Council, the Holy See is reminding the faithful of an “essential” conciliar teaching.

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released today the document titled “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church.” The brief text clarifies what Vatican II meant when it said that the Church founded by Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church.”

    In this interview with Vatican Radio, Dominican Father Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary of the doctrinal congregation, discusses the major issues concerning this document.

    Q: Could you outline the major points that the document addresses?

    Father Di Noia: There really are two main points, and then some minor points.

    The main point is to address the question of whether the Second Vatican Council changed the Church’s teaching on the nature of the Church herself, and this document tries to clarify this point to say no — it was a development, a deepening, but definitely not a kind of change in the sense of altering the way in which we think of the Church.

    And the point is — the fundamental point — and this is the second thing, is how to interpret the expression of the Second Vatican Council, “Lumen Gentium,” paragraph 8: “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.” It’s this “subsists” that has caused a tremendous amount of questioning, and we’re trying to address this.

    Briefly, the point is, that instead of saying that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, the “subsists” is used to say the same thing [...] in order to make it clear that across the whole of history, and in the present, we are not in the state of having an imperfect Church that has yet to become the Church of Christ, but that the fullness of what Christ wanted the Church to be, he has established in the Catholic Church.

    Then, of course, the other points, in order to explain how other Churches and ecclesial communities relate to this; the Vatican council did not want to exclude the possibility that there were in fact elements of ecclesial life — valid sacraments or the means of grace. I mean, all of the Church/ecclesial communities that read the Scriptures, in that sense with faith, have a certain element of what Christ intended the Church to be.

    Q: Why was it decided to have this document come out at this time?

    Father Di Noia: That’s an important question.

    I suppose it has to do with the reaction to an earlier document, the famous ” Dominus Iesus” that came out, if you recall, in 2000.

    I remember that when I was working for the bishops’ conference in the United States, and we had received advanced copies of this document, and I was asked to prepare the bishops for ” Dominus Iesus,” I said well, there is absolutely nothing new here, so the bishops will be fine with it. But as you know, the reaction to ” Dominus Iesus” was extremely, let’s say, contestative. I mean, it was a very difficult document.

    What we saw was the people [...] didn’t understand that not simply we had to speak of Christ as being the universal savior, but that the Church was the principle means by which the grace of Christ would be communicated to the world, and that, if you recall, created most of the controversy, certainly ecumenically.

    So this was kind of a wake-up call. I’d say that “Dominus Iesus” was a wake-up call, that 30 years after Vatican II, people seemed to have forgotten something very essential that Vatican II taught. And so it was out of that moment that the cardinal members of the congregation — and also other people, bishops and so on, raising questions about this — the congregation decided to proceed with a clarification.

    The document is called “Responses to [Some] Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church.” It is a very narrow point, it’s a relatively short document, as you know, and the commentary attached, so it’s a very precise set of responses to questions that have arisen.

    Q: How does this new document relate to previous documents speaking about the nature of the Church and ecumenism that have been released?

    Father Di Noia: The response, the responses really, because there are a couple, do not add anything to the preceding teaching of the magisterium, but really are meant to recall and make more precise the authentic significance of the various doctrinal expressions used to speak about the Church in past magisterium.

    See it’s a very important point that — experientially — that when you go into a Catholic Church, essentially this document is reaffirming this point, this very fundamental point, that when you go into a Catholic Church and become a participant in the community there, with the round of Mass, and the sacrament of penance, and baptism, and confirmation, and everything else that goes on there, you will find everything that Christ intended the Church to be.

    And even though there are divisions in Christianity, that does not mean that the Church does not exist perfectly. You see it’s not that we have to repair or heal the divisions, we do have to seek the unity among all the different Christian communities that Christ willed, but the fact that not all Churches are in communion with the Sea of Peter does not mean that the Church is wounded to the effect that it no longer exists in its integrity.

    : How can this document help in ecumenical dialogue?

    Father Di Noia: The commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenical dialogue is as Benedict XVI himself has said, and certainly Pope John Paul II said frequently as well, “irrenunciable.”

    That is to say, the Church is not backtracking on its ecumenical commitment. As you know, it is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that the participants are clear about their own identity, that is, dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what you actually understand yourself to be in order to achieve a sort of false sense of consensus.

    It is a fundamental condition of dialogue really, that the participants are clear about what their self-identity is so that in a sense they are being truthful; they are coming to the table with a clear expression of what they understand themselves to be.

    So in that sense it is never a backtracking of dialogue to be clear about what you are, but it’s an essential condition for it, otherwise the results that you achieve, they’re easily undermined by the truth about it.”

  • Martha

    And here is the full thing itself; it’s really quite short, the footnotes are nearly as long as the entire document:




    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 ecclesiology. 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 Communionis 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.



    Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?


    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]


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


    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]


    Why was the expression “subsists in” adopted instead of the simple word “is”?


    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].


    Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term “Church” in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?


    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]


    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?


    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

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


    [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.”

    So it all comes down to your particular interpretation of what exactly constitutes a church: me and my Bible (and maybe one or two like-minded others)? the Church of Scientology? Reverend Moon and his revelations?

  • liberty

    “A lot of Catholics are deeply troubled and are struggling with what this all means,” said Alger, an ordained Presbyterian.

    Why would the reporter go to an ordained Presbyterian to find out how ‘a lot of Catholics’ feel about this issue?

    It seems that the Presbyterian minister would be more properly quoted about what the Presbyterian (or mainline Protestant) response is… and leave the Catholic response to actual Catholics.

  • Chris Duckworth

    Whoa, folks. Links are just fine – not sure we need to quote entire articles or Vatican statements. But anyway . . .

    Another interesting angle not covered here is the absolute, exclusive nature of the Vatican’s statement. In our postmodern world of cafeteria-style religion and do-it-yourself spirituality, who has absolute beliefs today? And even if folks have absolute beliefs, who boldly proclaims them in this way?

    Many Christians, particularly liberal protestants, claim to be “a church,” not “The Church.” Or, to use different terms, they claim to teach and preach “a truth,” but not necessarily the “The Truth.”

    Mollie wrote:

    Isn’t everybody in the church body they’re in because they believe it to be right?

    Yes, but I think there is a difference between the way, say, ELCA Lutherans or United Methodists think they are right and the way that Roman Catholics think they are right – there is more of an absolute, exclusive nature to the truth claim made by the Roman Catholic Church. And this is the interesting part for me – the absolute nature of the Roman Catholic claim to be “The Church,” versus the belief of many protestants that they are part of a broad “Christian Church” (see John Hoh’s comment, #4, above) that includes many different Christian denominations and traditions.

    Thus, a good angle on this story would be to examine exclusive or absolute truth claims vs. more pluralist truth claims in religious communities today. Who believes in an absolute truth today?

  • Hans

    I believe in absolute truth, Chris. But that’s just the way I see things:-)

  • Stephen A.

    While this is being painted as a shocking “wake-up call” to Protestants, it’s probably a wake-up call to many Catholics, too (especially Americans) who had little notion that theirs was an “exclusive” faith, and that’s sad.

    That said, the fact that reporters try to gin up controversy is not a surprise, nor is the slant reporters are putting on the story.

    The fact that the issue seems to be portrayed as the mean ‘ol Catholic Pope is being “intolerant” of other Christian groups in these stories shows a shocking lack of understanding of this Faith and how it relates to others.

    The story, as usual, lacked depth, contrasting opinions and counter-quotes. Of course, if the reporter (or his editor) has an agenda to push and that would interfere with the “point” that is being made. It seems stupid and trite to say, but in a perfect world (or even one simply working towards be less biased) we should never be able to determine the beliefs of a reporter writing the story. Never.

  • dodi

    Thank you, Mollie, for this article. A fine piece truly in the spirit of GetReligion that I have come to admire greatly.

  • don

    Yes, but I think there is a difference between the way, say, ELCA Lutherans or United Methodists think they are right and the way that Roman Catholics think they are right – there is more of an absolute, exclusive nature to the truth claim made by the Roman Catholic Church.

    Yes, Chris. But not all that absolute either. The RC Catechism says, “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to to his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

    In other words, not only is it possible for non-Catholics to be saved. It’s possible for non-Christians to be saved!

    And this is the narrow-minded, authoritarian church?

  • Chuck

    A good article for someone to write would be the difference between Catholics and Protestants in what is meant by the word “church.” Catholics see it as a physical institution while Protestants see it as a broad term for the coming together of the Body of Christ. For Catholics the “Church” is a place-an organization instituted by Christ where Christ resides in the Real Presence,in the priests and bishops who trace their ordination from the original apostles, and in the sacraments that give grace to the faithful. Protestants see church as any place where two or three are gathered to worship our Lord and to nourish each other in the Word and Prayer. Catholics and Protestants both see church as places to be norished, uplifted and to worship, but in different ways. Protestants, after 1-2 hours of worship where the presence of the Holy Spirit was especially strong, might exclaim, “Man, did we have ‘church’ today.” A Catholic would not understand such a phrase. A Catholic might say, “I’m going to church to be alone with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.” A Protestant would not understand such a phrase. In one the nourishment and sustenance flows from Christ through His Church who provide the Word and sacramental food to the faithful. In the other the nourishment flows from Christ through the Word of God and the faithful become the Church sustaining and nourishing each other. There is a difference.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    As usual, when it comes to a difficult religious topic, the MSM is at a total loss. And we go into voting booths making important decisions based on the same type incompetent political garbage we are fed.
    As don pointed out, the Catholic Church teaches that even non-Christians who love God and seek His ways can be saved.
    This is a long way from the Evangelical Protestant preacher I saw on TV that said he thought Mother Teresa was in Hell because he had never heard that she had accepted Jesus as her “personal saviour.”
    Unfortunately, so many Mainstream Protestant churches’ teachings have become such relativist mush of the type the MSM loves that it comes as a shock to both the MSM and the Protestant mainstream that there are people–including the pope–who actually believe strongly in something–in particular, the Truths proclaimed by the Bible and Tradition within the Catholic Church. And yet those certain and sure doctrines are NOT as narrow-minded or condemnatory of others as the relativist mind would have it.

  • Julia

    I’m the one John Hoh is quoting at #4 about “church”.

    What a great conversation developed!

    I’ll have to read this blog more often – I’m actually learning stuff.

  • Colm

    It’s interesting that so much of the reporting done on this document seemed to miss the obvious fact, raised by many in this discussion, that it was written and delivered to Catholics first, and everyone else second. That so many Protestant leaders have been shocked by it says a lot about how much political, moral and even social sway the Pope carries with non-Catholic Christians, a far cry from the days of ridiculing the pronouncements of ‘the man with the pointy hat in Rome’.

  • mattk

    “…Vatican reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church as the only path to salvation”

    Did the reporer even read the document?

  • Shocked

    Here’s a take on the subject from the Paulist Fathers;

    If only reporters would just do a little bit of Web search.

  • Steve Hayes

    Not only do the media not “get” religion; it seems that religious people don’t “get” the media.

    We should all know by now that the media don’t just report the news, they manufacture it.

  • JLFuller

    Not being a follower of the discussion between Catholics and non-Catholics, I truely don’t know what the latest points of consensus are. But, as I understand it, there has been somewhat of a peaceful coexistance up until this latest flare up. The press seems to have fostered it. If the authority to act in God’s name is the issue, as I think it is, I have not read about it in the media. In this sense, the lack of complete information and analysis is the root cause of the dust up rathen than the obvious differences in theololgy the Pope is re-iterating. From my vantage point, there is nothing new in the theologial debate. The damage is being done by those reporting on it.