Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tradition: Ecclesia una est

(More Latin? Hopefully this is easy enough for you to translate.)

As promised, this is the first of a set of articles about the two recent documents coming from the Vatican: Summorum Pontificum, a motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, and Responsa ad Quaestiones from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), of which the Pope was the prefect when he was known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. I will treat both documents separately in their own articles, but I will also speak of them together in this article. They are intrinsically connected to one another, because they reaffirm the same timeless Truth: Ecclesia una est (Catechismum Catholica Ecclesiae, 813).

The Pope's motu proprio explains that the Mass of Paul VI (the "Vatican II Mass" or the Novus Ordo Missae) and the Mass of Blessed John XXIII (the "Tridentine Mass" or the Vetus Ordo Missae) are two expressions (or forms, or usus in Latin) of the one Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church (cf. Summorum Pontificum, art. 1). The Mass of Paul VI is the ordinary form of the Rite, whereas the Mass of Blessed John XXIII is the extraordinary form of the Rite.

The Pope goes on to liberalize the celebration of Mass using the older Missal: no longer must the faithful (whether clergy or laity) request permission from their Bishop (cf. ibid., art. 2, 4, 5§1). If the requests of the group of lay faithful (which is "continuously present" per Fr. Zuhlsdorf's translation -- the Latin reads continenter exsistit) are not met by their pastor, their Bishop is to be notified; he may, in turn, contact Ecclesia Dei, the commission set up by Pope John Paul II in 1988 to handle affairs regarding the celebration of Mass according to the older Missal (cf. ibid., art. 7, 8). The document goes into effect on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14, 2007.

The other document, which garnered a lot of negative press in the mainstream media (due to an apparent inability to read), answered five questions about Catholic doctrine: did Vatican II change the doctrine on the Church, why does Lumen Gentium say the Church of Christ "subsists in" the Catholic Church (two questions), and how does the Catholic Church use the word "Church" in reference to non-Catholic Christian communities (two questions). The document and the commentary that accompanies it respond to these five questions by quoting numerous documents from the Church, showing that nothing has changed in the teaching of the Church. The five responses have 736 words, and nearly 40% of them are explicit quotes from other documents. This isn't new teaching, folks.

So there you have it. The Church is one in its worship -- there is one Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, expressed in two forms -- and it is one in its essence -- Christ established one Church, and although various elements of this Church are found in various places of Christian worship, the only place all of them are retained in perpetuity is the Catholic Church.

More articles will follow. This is a busy week for me: the Perseids meteor shower late Sunday night, my New Testament final exam on Tuesday night, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Wednesday, and a Parish Pastoral Council meeting on Thursday night. Hopefully I'll get one more post up this week.


preacherman said...

Do does the Catholic church believe that other churches are christian?

japhy said...

Yes, preacherman. I suggest you read the document from the CDF that this blog post mentions, if only so that you can hear it from the Church yourself. But I'll answer as best I can:

The Catholic Church recognizes baptism in the Trinitarian formula -- that is, being baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:19) -- as a valid (and sacramental) baptism.

As Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Cor 12:13), namely, the Church, the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 14:12 and Eph 4:12). And again, to the Ephesians, "there is... one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:4-5). Baptism into Christ is "put[ting] on Christ" (Gal 3:27); God imparts the name of "Christian" upon he who is baptized.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines baptism as "the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ". The Catechism also quotes a document of the Second Vatican Council, Unitatis redintegratio ("The restoration of unity", the decree on ecumenism) in paragraph 1271. Here is the entirety paragraph 3 of UR, which is quoted in abbreviated form in the Catechism:

3. Even in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts, [Cf. 1 Cor 11:18-19; Gal 1:6-9; 1 Jn 2:18-19] which the Apostle strongly condemned [Cf. 1 Cor 1:11ff; 11:22.]. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church -- for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church -- whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church -- do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life-that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. This people of God, though still in its members liable to sin, is ever growing in Christ during its pilgrimage on earth, and is guided by God's gentle wisdom, according to His hidden designs, until it shall happily arrive at the fullness of eternal glory in the heavenly Jerusalem.

HOWEVER, according to the Catholic Church, a "[particular] church" is one that has retained Apostolic succession and (thereby) the Eucharist. Christian communities without these marks (which the Catholic Church believes are the marks of the one true Church established by Christ) are not "churches" proper, despite what common parlance might otherwise suggest.

(For those who take offense to this nomenclature, I know there are numerous Christian communities that refuse to accept the Catholic Church as a "church".)

I hope this answers your question. Too often the statements of the Catholic Church are twisted and falsified (sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident).

preacherman said...

I know we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. When I baptize I say, "I know baptize you in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit." Thank you though for put on your blog all the information. I appreciate it.

preacherman said...

I also added your blog to my favorite list on my computer.