A recent statement released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church reasserted a somewhat conseravtive interpretation of Vatican II’s decree on the Church and ecumenism (Lumen Gentium and Unitatis redintegratio respectively). Essentially, the docment just released states the following five points:
- Vatican II did not “change” Catholic ecclesiology, “rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.”
- The phrase “the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic church” means that while the church of Christ can conceiveably be present in other “churches” (Eastern Orthodoxy) and “ecclesial communities: (Protestants), they are not themselves churches in the proper sense.
- The reason that the church teaches that the church of Christ subsists in rather than simply is the Catholic church is because 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”.
- The Catholic church calls the Eastern Orthodox churches “churches” because of the fact that they have apostolic succession, and specifically the priesthood and the Eucharist. As such they are churches, but they are marred by not standing in communion with the office of Peter.
- Protestant churches are called “ecclesial communities” rather than churches because they lack apostolic succession, the priesthood, and the authentic Sacraments, thus existing in a state “deprived of a constitutive element of the Church”.
Although these statements aren’t really much of a change from the offical posture taken by the Catholic church since Vatican II, I still find it a bit ecumenically discouraging. I would certainly admit that Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches are marred and lack the “fullness of communion” without standing in communion with the Roman Catholic church. However, the day I await is when the Catholic church is able to say that they are likewise marred for their lack of communion with Protestant and Orthodox Christians. We all need each other and no Christian tradition should claim ecclesiastical perfection and fullness. But that’s just one sectarian Protestant’s opinion, I guess.