Nicholas Lash: Churches, proper and otherwise

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On 10 July, L'Osservatore Romano published a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), entitled "Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church". I have no idea why the document has been produced, nor where these "questions" come from. It is, in fact, dated 29 June. Perhaps publication was delayed so that it could come out under the smokescreen created by the long-awaited appearance of the motu proprio by which the Pope, overriding the authority of the episcopate (although he denies that he is doing this) has given widespread permission for the use of the unreformed Missal of 1962.

The fifth and last of the questions addressed in the document runs as follows: "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?"

The answer given is that, "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". Accordingly, these ecclesial communities "cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches' in the proper sense". The authority for that final clause is given, correctly, as the highly contentious declaration Dominus Iesus, which the CDF issued, over the signature of Cardinal Ratzinger, in June 2000.

The expression does not, however, occur in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEcclesiology

3 Comments Posted July 22, 2007 at 7:48 pm

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