Saturday, July 14, 2007

Father Cantalamessa on Jesus

Father Cantalamessa on Jesus
"Between History and … History"

ROME, JULY 14, 2007 ( Here is a translation of a talk given in Rome by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on historical research concerning Jesus.

* * *

Talk given at a public debate held in Rome
12 May 2007

1. Jesus, between history and … history

It seems to me that, more basic than the alternative expressed in the title, "Jesus, between history and theology," is the alternative, "Jesus, between history and history." The notion of a rectilinear, univocal form of historical research concerning Jesus, leading progressively to a clear and complete picture of him is a myth which no serious historian of our day would claim to validate.

Leaving aside the diachronic variations -- that is to say, the historical reconstructions of Jesus that have come, one after the other, during the last two centuries -- let me look for a moment at the synchronic views, that is, those that have arisen simultaneously in one epoch, our own.

In the new introduction to her work: "From Jesus to Christ. The origins of the images of Jesus in the New Testament," Paula Fredriksen, Professor at Boston University, writes: "Paperbacks proliferate as the range of portraits of Jesus broadens. In recent scholarship, Jesus has been imagined and presented as a type of first-century shaman figure; as a Cynic-sort of wandering wise man; as a visionary radical and social reformer preaching egalitarian ethics to the destitute; as a Galilean regionalist alienated from the elitism of Judean religious conventions (like Temple and Torah); as a champion of national liberation and, on the contrary, as its opponent and critic -- on and on. All these figures are presented with rigorous academic argument and methodology; all are defended with appeals to the ancient data. Debate continues at a roiling pitch, and consensus -- even on issues so basic as what constitutes evidence and how to construe it -- seems a distant hope."[1]

Appeal is often made to recent discoveries that are supposed at last to have given historical research an advantage over the past, to wit the scrolls of Qumran, the library of Nag Hammadi, archaeological excavations, sociological research. Yet how variable the conclusions can be that are drawn from these new historical sources is clear from the fact that they have given rise to two images of Christ, one irreconcilably opposed to the other. On the one hand we have a Jesus "wholly and in all things Hebrew," and on the other, Jesus son of the hellenised Galilee of his time, imbued with a cynical philosophy.
Researches in sociology too tend to lead to diametrically opposed results, as E. P. Sanders, the great specialist on Jesus and Judaism has noted: For some, "Jesus' world faced a severe social and economic crisis, one that grew worse day by day. Palestine's small landholders were in a tightening noose of institutionalized injustices such as double taxation, heavy indebtedness, and loss of land. Peasant families fell ever more heavily into debt under the steady economic pressures of double taxation. The wealthy lent them money that they could not repay, charged very high rates of interest, and then foreclosed on the property… There was rising indebtedness and a declining peasantry, the social-economic infrastructure was in decline and poverty worsening." For others, on the contrary, "Galilee was urbanized, cosmopolitan and prosperous… in fact an epitome of Hellenistic culture… Jesus and his hearers spoke Greek."[2]
It is not surprising, then, that in the post-modern thinking a radical scepticism has developed. Here the alternative is no longer between history and theology, nor between one history and another, but between history and interpretation or literary criticism. The text is read without any regard for foregoing objective data; all turns upon the reader's direct confrontation with the text and the outcome is all subjective and relative.

The most recent, monumental (and in my view genuinely innovative) monograph on the historical Jesus, written by James Dunn of Durham University, England, ends off a review of the opinions with this assessment: "The loss of confidence in historical method in post-modern circles is thus complete. And so far as the quest of the historical Jesus is concerned, its results, particularly when the various Jesuses of the neo-Liberal quest are included, simply confirm the failure of traditional historical methodology. The simple and rather devastating fact has been that Gospels researchers and questers of the historical Jesus have failed to produce agreed results"[3].

What conclusion are we to draw from all this? That we might as well abandon research into the historical Jesus? Certainly not that. The author just quoted gives an example, devoting his monumental work to this very research. I believe that we can apply to historical research what the proverb says about God, that "he writes straight on crooked lines." It does in fact advance our knowledge of history, opening new horizons and formulating new hypotheses, some of which prove to be productive and enlightening. The very failure to find a commonly accepted alternative to the Gospel narrative is in itself an important historical acquisition.

The requisite in approaching research into the historical Jesus is above all a greater humility and an awareness of our own intrinsic limitations. Historical criticism has caused orthodox theology to be more humble and aware of the problematics, but historical criticism itself needs perhaps to accept its own limits, whether arising from the sources, or from the object of its investigations which -- hypothetically at least -- extends beyond the limits of history. The approach to the problematics, the pro and the con and the awareness of limits, is what in fact distinguishes the great scientific monographs on the Jesus of history from the works of writers in search of sensationalism whose works are triumphal processions marching to conclusions already obvious from the outset. Among the serious monographs, the most recent has been that of Gerd Theissen and Annette Metz, although it is questionable on many points.[4]

A mistaken methodology, against which the serious researchers are always on guard, is that of taking something "historically not demonstrable" simply "as historically false." Concerning many of the events related in the Gospels, history can only conclude that they cannot be supported on the basis of historical argument, yet this does not justify the conclusion that the narrative is therefore false.

It is particularly necessary to abandon the illusion that believers start with a preconceived idea when writing about Jesus, but unbelievers, unprejudiced, do not. John Meier, author of a major study on the historical Jesus, writes: "Whether we call it a bias, a tendenz, a worldview, or a faith stance, everyone who writes on the historical Jesus writes from some ideological vantage point; no critic is exempt. The solution to this dilemma is neither to pretend to an absolute objectivity that is not to be had nor to wallow in total relativism. The solution is to admit honestly one's own standpoint, to try to exclude its influence in making scholarly judgments by adhering to certain commonly held criteria, and to invite the correction of other scholars when one's vigilance inevitably slips."[5]

2. Jesus, Hebrew believer or cynic philosopher?

Speaking of the limits of historical research, I would like to highlight one that seems to me to be decisive. It concerns the possibility of an historical research on Jesus that not only prescinds from, but from the outset excludes any faith in God; in other words, the plausibility of what has at times been called "the Jesus of the atheists." I'm not now speaking of faith in Christ, in his divinity, but of faith in God, faith in the most commonly accepted sense of the term.

Far be from me the idea that non-believers have no right to concern themselves with Jesus. I am convinced that Jesus is "the patrimony of humankind" and that no one, and of course neither the Church, holds a monopoly on him. What I want to make clear are the consequences of keeping to that point of departure, and that the "preconceptions" of a researcher who does not believe have no less influence on research than those of one who does.

I am convinced that, if one prescinds from faith in God, one eliminates not only the divinity, that is the so-called Christ of faith, but also the historical Jesus "tout court"; nothing is left, not even Jesus the man. It is simply not possible to contest on historical grounds that the Jesus of the Gospels lived and worked relating to and aware of the heavenly Father, that he prayed and taught others to pray, that he based everything on faith in God. If this dimension is eliminated from the Jesus of the Gospels, his whole personality disintegrates and becomes incomprehensible.

But if we assume that God does not exist, Jesus is simply another one of the deluded many who prayed, adored, spoke with his own shadow or the projection of his own essence, to use Feuerbach's terms. And how would it be possible to explain the fact that this man's life, as they readily admit, "changed the world"? It would be tantamount to saying that truth or reason had nothing to do with the change in the world, but only illusion and irrationality. How then explain that this man continues, at a remove of two thousand years, to appeal to humankind as no other?

There is only one way out of this dilemma, and we need to recognise the consistency shown by those who in recent years have made it their own. The way out is the one mapped out in the ambit of the "Jesus Seminar" based in Berkeley, California. Jesus was not a Hebrew believer; he was basically a philosopher in the mode of the cynics[6]; he did not preach a kingdom of God, nor an approaching end of the world; all he did was pronounce words of profound wisdom in the style of a Zen master. His purpose was to reawaken in people a self-awareness, to convince them that they had no need of him or of any other god, because they themselves carried within themselves a spark of the divine[7]. Strange enough -- rather not surprising at all -- these are the things that New Age has been preaching for some decades!

How can this new image of Jesus be justified historically? Simply by taking as absolute the "Q" source (the collection of the sayings of Jesus based on the use Mark and Matthew made of them in their Gospels) and regarding it as the only document having any tenable link with a Jesus who really existed. But this is not good enough, because among the sayings of Jesus listed in that collection, there are some that are incompatible with that image of him. Thus the distinction is made between three successive layers in that document (itself hypothetical!), of which the oldest, called "Q3," alone authentic, could be taken as a nucleus of esoteric sayings approximating in kind those we find in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. I studied classical philology and textual criticism during my university years, and know that on such premises there is no possibility whatsoever of hitting the mark. That approach leaves the data open to endless manipulation.

Before any of them, Nietzsche saw the dilemma clearly and resolved it in a way much more coherent than today's -- making of Jesus not a philosopher in the cast of Greek rationality, but its irreducible opposite.

3. Continuity or complete break? The "Jesus of Nazareth" of Benedict XVI

Let us move now to the alternative mentioned in the title of this paper, "Jesus of Nazareth between history and 'theology.'" After all of the immense effort that has been expended, from Reimarus to today, to free the historical Jesus from the Christ of ecclesiastical dogma, it will perhaps serve some purpose again to take into consideration the viewpoint of tradition and church dogma now that they have become more humble and more aware of their own limits, thanks precisely to historical criticism.

This, I believe, is what Pope Benedict XVI set out to do in his book "Jesus of Nazareth." Someone has accused him of bypassing in that way all the problems and doubts to which modern historical criticism has given rise. But I ask myself: what was the pope supposed to have done -- write yet another historical reconstruction in which to confront and discuss all objections? We heard, above, how long the list is of writers, believers and non-believers, who have done just that, and I cannot see how yet another such work, even if written by a pope, would have made any difference.

What the pope chose to do was to present in a positive light the figure and the teaching of Jesus as understood by the Church, starting from the conviction that the Christ of faith is also, rigorously, the Jesus of history. Since the pope has left everyone the liberty to criticise his book, I too permit myself a small reservation. I think that the continuity between the Christ of the kerygma and of dogma, for all that it is real, is not quite as rectilinear as is made to appear in the summary introduction to the book.

On this point, I think we can share the opinion of Theissen and Merz: "Christians, after Easter, spoke of Jesus more affirmatively (that is to say, they said greater and more important things) than the historical Jesus would have said about himself. This 'value plus' of post-Paschal Christology in respect of Jesus' pre-Paschal self-awareness, whether on the historical or on the objective level, is based on the actual event of Easter"[8].

Theissen and Merz saw that the two phases -- before Easter, and after -- relate to each other in the same way as implicit and explicit Christology do. Among the elements of implicit Christology that they find in the Gospels, not a few correspond with those on which Benedict XVI bases his argument in his book: the expression "Amen" in the particular way Jesus uses it; the self-confidence with which Jesus counterposes the authority of the Torah and of Moses with his "But I say to you …"; his particular way of relating to the Father and above all the distinction between "My Father" and "your father"; his forgiving sins; the superiority Jesus claims over the Baptist whom he defines as "the greatest of the prophets."[9]

It would be most ungenerous to fail to recognise the theological and spiritual richness of Benedict XVI's book on Jesus, and gauge it only against the measure of the historical Jesus. It is of course a book written by a believer for believers and for those who take an interest in knowing the Christ of tradition and of the Church. He himself declares that he does not want to enter into the debates that are proper to historico-critical research, but assuming them, to go beyond, seeking in wonderment a genuinely theological interpretation."[10]

The pope bases himself explicitly on canonical exegesis, that is, on that type of exegesis that presupposes the belief that God has not just one way of revealing himself to the world, the way of history; he has many other ways, among which the most important is biblical inspiration. This conviction allows not only the reading of "the fragment in the whole" (that is, a text within its context) as the moderns use to do, but also "the whole within the fragment" (that is, the entire Bible reflected within each of its parts) as the Fathers have done and on which the Church's spiritual reading of Scripture down through the ages is based. In a magisterial work, Henri de Lubac has demonstrated how coherent and fruitful this way of reading the Scripture has been[11].

It is very significant that the decision of the pope to keep to the Jesus of the Gospels is, on certain counts, confirmed in the monograph of James Dunn to which we referred above. In that work, after a lengthy and sharp analysis of the results of the research on the historical Jesus over the last three centuries, the writer comes to the conclusion that there has been no break between Jesus the preacher and the Jesus preached, and hence between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. The Jesus of faith was not born after Easter, but was there in the first encounters with the disciples, who became disciples precisely because they believed in the Rabbi of Nazareth.

The difficulty in making the link between the Jesus of the synoptic Gospels and the real Jesus arises for the most part from the failure to take into account the laws that govern the transmission of the founding traditions of a community still without a written culture, as happened when accounts of Jesus were first formulated and circulated among groups of people. The study of these laws (even now verifiable among peoples of pre-literate cultures) shows that an event or a teaching held to be important for the history and for the life of the community can be transmitted with acute accuracy as to its essential elements, though in the particulars showing variations in each narration, to meet the requirements of the moment.

Historical criticism ("Formgeschichte," or history of form) has tacitly projected on the epoch of the New Testament the process which leads today to the final edition of a book: successive revisions, layers as it were, based one upon the other, adding to or subtracting from it some part. This has given rise to the illusion that one can work back from a layer to the one before, eventually to arrive at a hypothetical, original nucleus -- which almost always turns out to be a close reflection of the point at which the scholar concerned aimed at the outset.

What do we actually discover by taking this approach? Not -- at least directly -- the "hidden interiority" of Christ, what he thought of himself, but the "Jesus as remembered"; "remembered" however -- and this is where the difference lies -- not at a distance in time, after Easter, by disciples and communities that re-interpreted the events and the teachings as extraneous interests moved them to do, but by those who straight away began to tell, in story form, of what they themselves experienced and heard.

Read in this way, the scholar says, "the synoptic Gospels are examples of a model and technique of oral transmission that have guaranteed a stability and continuity in the tradition of Jesus greater than any of those ever imagined in the past."

4. Easter -- a watershed

For many historians, Easter does not represent a qualitative leap in Christology, but an absolute beginning. But the more historical research stresses this new beginning, the greater the difficulties with it become. Once we abandon the thesis of Reimarus, that the resurrection of Christ was a conscious fraud of the disciples, how can we explain such an absolute beginning? All the subsequent development of faith in Christ it is said to be based on the Resurrection, but then, when closely examined, it appears to have no basis at all, because the Resurrection itself is a matter of faith, therefore something subjective, not real. Christianity appears to be a massive upside-down pyramid, its point resting on the void.

This is not the place to call for yet another in the unending series of debates on the resurrection. I'll confine myself to citing an affirmation made by the English scholar, Charles H. Dodd, with which I wholly agree: "The assumption that the whole great course of Christian history is a massive pyramid balanced upon the apex of some trivial occurrence, is surely a less probable one than that the whole event, the occurrence plus the meaning inherent in it, did actually occupy a place in history at least comparable with that which the New Testament assigns to it."[12]

The resurrection, some say, is a metaphor; that is true, but the meaning of the metaphor, as Paul Ricoeur has pointed out, is not to give expression to something other than reality, but to say, of reality itself, something that cannot be said in any other way. The resurrection in itself is something positioned at the limits, or more properly, outside the limits of time and space and hence too of history, yet there is something that took place within time and space and that the historian must therefore set out to explain.

Two facts are offered for the historian's consideration, and it is these that permit him to speak of the resurrection: the first is the unanticipated and inexplicable faith of the disciples, a faith so tenacious as to stand firm even against the test of martyrdom; and the second is the explanation of such faith that the disciples left of it. The observation made by Martin Dibelius will always remain pertinent: "When the decisive moment arrived, and Jesus was taken, scourged and sentenced, the disciples cherished no expectation of a resurrection. They fled, and considered the cause of Jesus over and done with. What was needed, therefore, was something that in a very short time would not only bring about a radical change in their state of mind, but would move them to an entirely new kind of activity and to founding the Church. This 'something' is the historical kernel of faith in the resurrection."[13] There has been an endless number of attempts to find alternative explanations for this "something," but so far none has lasted much longer than its author.

5. The veneration of Jesus Christ

Where then, and when, did what we call 'Christianity' begin? If by 'Christianity' we correctly intend the veneration of Jesus of Nazareth as Lord, and as Divine, it began at Easter and Pentecost. Larry W. Hurtado, professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at the university of Edinburgh, has taken up again the study of the origins of the cult of Jesus undertaken by W. Bousset at the beginning of the previous century, now on a new basis, in the light of what has come to be recognised as the Judaic, non-Hellenistic matrix of primitive Christianity. And the conclusion at which he arrives is that the veneration of Jesus as a divine figure burst out suddenly and unexpectedly, not little by little and later on, among circles of followers in the first century. More precisely, its origins are found among the circles of Jewish Christians of the very earliest years. It is only an idealistic way of thinking that continues to attribute the veneration of Jesus as a divine figure to the decisive influence of pagan religions and to the influx of gentile converts, holding it to have come about at a later stage and more gradually. The veneration of Jesus as 'Lord', that found adequate expression in cultic worship and in total obedience, was however widespread, not at all confined or attributable to particular circles, as for example the 'hellenists', or gentile Christians of a hypothetical 'Syriac Christ-cult'. Through all the diversity of primitive Christianity, faith in the divine condition of Jesus was incredibly widespread, common to all. Very nearly all of the 'heresies' of primitive Christianity postulated the idea of the divinity of Jesus. This was not in discussion. The problematical issue, rather, was whether there was room to consider him authentically human[14].

Clearly, if we compare the Jesus of the Gospels with the Christ of Nicea and Constantinople, the difference at first glance seems abyssal. So too, if we compare the scanned image of a human embryo in the womb with the child born and grown into adulthood, there seems to be an unbridgeable gap between the two, even though all that the grown man is, was seminally within the embryo. Didn't Jesus compare the kingdom he preached with the smallest of seeds, destined to grow and to become a great tree ? (Matthew 13:32).

According to the faith of the Church, this development, all the undeniable facts of history aside, is driven by one, inner and hidden force: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one factor notably absent from all the historical research concerning Jesus. On hearing even mention of the name, the historian does an about-turn, growling that that belongs in another genre; it would be doing theology. But is it possible for the researchers into the history of Jesus to ignore something to which Jesus himself, in texts of inarguable authenticity, attributes his own ability to drive out demons and perform miracles? It has become the custom, today, to speak of Jesus and the first disciples as "itinerant charismatics," but what remains of a charismatic if the experience of the Holy Spirit is left out of consideration?

Paul and the Acts of the Apostles show that after Easter the community again and again had the experience of being guided by the Holy Spirit. John gives explicit expression to this awareness, linking it back to a promise made by Jesus: "I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of things to come" (John 16:12-13). A 'prophecy' after the event, one might say; true, but even in this case the event still remains to be explained!

The Holy Spirit is outside of the field of history, but his effects are historical and so deserve to be taken into consideration. This could be one of the areas where history and theology ought to work together, each one in its own way. This is what James Dunn, author of "Christianity in the Making," has done in his work, "Jesus and the Spirit. A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament."[15]

6. One Christianity or many?

I still need to come to the issue raised by those who say that in the beginning there was not one Christianity, but many, that is to say, many different interpretations of Christ's message, gradually eliminated one by one by the growing weight of the orthodoxy imposed by the church of Rome. It is possible -- why not? -- to speak of different Christianities, but then of course we need to say the same of nearly every institution and of the great novelties of history. In that sense there was not one Jewish religion but many Jewish religions, nor one Renaissance but many Renaissances, nor one French Revolution but many French Revolutions, and so on, because each of these realities were the result of the processes of the interaction and refining of various factors and tendencies. Sociologists teach us that that is what usually comes about in a movement's development from its nascent status to the establishment that is its final result.

The idea put forward in some quarters, to begin again from the beginning, putting all of those possibilities into one bag -- that is, bringing all the old no-longer-held modalities into play again -- in order to bring to life a new, unedited form of Christianity, makes me think of the project to develop a new Esperanto, and of its demise.

We should rather accord to the orthodoxy of the origins the merit of having fought its battle with books and decrees, without having sent anyone, neither Marcion nor Valentinus nor Montanus, to the bonfire. Some will say orthodoxy didn't have the power to do that: true enough, but the fact remains that it was not done, and that at least in the early centuries of its history, orthodoxy did not impose its way by force and conquest but by argument and example of life. Its beginnings are clean; they are still worth examining, and they can still inspire us.

The notion of an orthodoxy that emerged victorious by eliminating its competitors under the powerful guidance of Rome is a pure legend. Orthodoxy was not established in its origins by way of a movement from the centre to the periphery, but on the contrary, by movement from the periphery towards the centre. The struggles against ebionite beliefs, docetism, and encratism did not move outwards from Rome, but all arrived in Rome from Antioch in Syria, from Asia Minor, from Alexandria in Egypt, from Carthage and from Lyon in France. Rome in the first two centuries and a half of Christian history was more the arbiter between the parties than a leading force in the struggles against heresy. Even in the Council of Nicea, the influence of Rome and of the West in general was minimal. Attributing to Rome the triumph of orthodoxy is, to a large extent, the consequence of a backward projection of later situations, if not of the present state of affairs!

It would be interesting to review the various forms of so-called alternative Christianities, in order to see which of them, if still in existence, would be accepted by those who lament their passing. Encratism surely not, because of its rejection of marriage and material possessions; certainly not Marcionism because of its radical anti-Jewish stance; nor I believe would the various forms of gnosticism or docetism find acceptance, rejecting as they do the material world and the real humanity of Jesus. As to the famous prophets and itinerant charismatics, so dear to modern researchers into the Jesus of history, we note a curious point: in our day a movement similar in many of its aspects has reappeared in spectacular fashion in Christian churches, yet there are students of the historical Jesus who look on this with irony and hold it to be nothing more than the fruit of fundamentalism, irrationality and religious enthusiasm. (I know something of this because, at times, I too am placed in this category!).

There is, it is true, a stream that finds favour today among many scholars, ebionism, that is, the form of Christianity that remains in practice within the matrix of Judaism, holding Jesus to be a man and keeping to the observances of the Torah. This is something of which we know very little, apart from the fact that they were isolated communities living in the east of the Jordan. There was no war against them, no bonfire of books. Paradoxically, orthodoxy has not suppressed their memory, as some say, but in fact preserved it. If it were not for the fact that certain of their writings are quoted by authors of orthodox Christianity, we would know nothing whatever about them. Concerned as they were with countering the much more belligerent Gnosticism, the orthodox writers gave them only passing attention.

Orthodoxy, however, did not content itself with fighting these alternative forms of Christianity, but made them its own after freeing them of any "sectarian" and heretical element. The instance of encratism survives in the Church in the life-states of virginity and monasticism; the instances of gnosis are taken up by the Alexandrines, Clement and Origen; the way of the itinerant prophets, after the initial crisis arising from Montanist excesses, was to emerge again in the Church in the mendicant movements of the Middle Ages.

7. Conclusion

I cannot end my analysis without drawing attention to a contradiction. All of the spasmodic research into the historical Jesus, when those who undertake it distance themselves from the Christ of the Church, becomes by definition a radical refutation of history itself. The history to which Jesus gave rise, that he created by his life, is not only not taken into consideration, but some make every effort to obliterate it in favour of a starting-point detached from it and in contrast to it.

In this there is no application of the hermeneutic principle of "the history of effects" ("Wirkungsgeschichte"), which takes into account not only the influences undergone but also the effects produced and the influences exercised. The interpreter, says H.-G. Gadamer, can not impose his own view on the tradition of the past that he is studying, but can begin to understand it adequately only thanks to that very tradition and to the extent that he shares in it. I don't believe this means that only those with an inward adherence to Christianity can understand anything about it, but it surely should put us on our guard against believing that only those who stand outside of it can say anything objective about it.

It is through the Church and by the Church that Jesus changed the world. Without "that error called Christianity," as someone has defined it[16], we would not be here to speak about him. Jesus would be, today, an obscure Galilean rabbi whose name we would find only if we were to read a note on the writings of Tacitus or Flavius Josephus. There would have been no Augustine, no Francis of Assisi, no Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Pascal; there would have been no Gothic cathedrals or Romanesque churches, no Dante, no paintings of the Renaissance schools, no Michelangelo or Sistine Chapel, Bach or his Passions, Mozart and his Masses. There would, above all, have been none of the innumerable crowds of men and women who, in the name of the Christ they knew through the Church, dedicated themselves utterly to the care of suffering humanity.

Can we be sure that our world would be a better place without all that? The history of Christianity has not been merely a matter of crusades, inquisitions and religious wars, even though, sadly, it has been that too.

--- --- ---

[1] P. Fredriksen, "From Jesus to Christ. The Origins of the New Testament images of Jesus," 2nd edition, Yale University Press, 2000.
[2] Cf. E. P. Sanders, "Jesus in Historical Context" []
[3] J. Dunn, "Christianity in the Making," I, Grand Rapids, Mich. 2003, p. 97.

[4] G. Theissen and A. Merz, "Der historische Jesus: ein Lehrbuch," Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1999.
[5] J. Meier, "A Marginal Jew. Rethinking the Historical Jesus," Doubleday, New York 1991, p. 5-6.
[6] On the theory of Jesus as cynic, cf. B. Griffin, "Was Jesus a philosophical Cynic?" [].

[7] Cf. Harold Bloom, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings…”, published in an appendix to the Marvin Meyer edition of the Coptic "The Gospel of Thomas. The Hidden Sayings of Jesus," Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco 1992.
[8] Op. cit. p. 624.
[9] Ib. pp. 636-646.

[10] Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict XVI, "Gesù di Nazaret," Rizzoli, Milano 2007, p. 409.
[11] Cf. H. de Lubac, "Exégèse médiévale. Les quatre sens de l’Ecriture," 4 voll., Aubier, Paris 1959-1964.
[12] C. H. Dodd, "History and Gospel," London 1952, p. 109.

[13] M. Dibelius, Iesus, Berlin 1966, p. 117.
[14] Cfr. L. Hurtado, "Lord Jesus Christ. Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity," Grand Rapids, Mich. 2003.
[15] J. Dunn, "Jesus and the Spirit. A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament," SCM Press, London 1975.
[16] P. Hollenbach, "The Historical Jesus Question," in BTB 19 (1989), p. 20.

Friday, July 13, 2007

UMI Books on Demand


Koninck, Charles de. Melanges a la memoire de Charles de Koninck. Quebec : Les Presses de l'Universite Laval, 1968. 523p. Price: $162.20 (paper version)BOD Order Number: WB1-2024629-038

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Euclid's Fifth Postulate and the nature of geometrical Augros, Michael Anthony. 9605385

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dmitry Cherniko, Was the Entire Universe Made for Man?

Was the Entire Universe Made for Man?
by Dmitry Chernikov

Denis Des Chene

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Review of his books:
DENNIS DES CHENE, Spirits and Clocks: Machine and Organism in ...
BOOK REVIEWS 308 The Philosophical Review , Vol. 111, No. 2 (April ...

Commentary on the Doctrinal Congregation Document

Commentary on the Doctrinal Congregation Document
"Dialogue Remains One of the Priorities of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 11, 2007 ( Here is the text of a commentary on the June 29 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The commentary, by the same dicastery, explains the intention of the document that clarifies the Second Vatican Council's teaching that the Church founded by Christ "subsists in the Catholic 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 theological. 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]

--- --- ---

[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) 228-229.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Interview With Father Augustine Di Noia

The Subsisting Church of Christ
Interview With Father Augustine Di Noia

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.

Q: 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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The CDF on subsistit, etc.




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 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.


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

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.

Creation of wealth

How can the amount of goods [and services?] be increased?

Increase in number of people [producers/laborers].
Increase in the "efficiency"/"helpfulness" of tools.
What else enhances productivity? What limits productivity, the capacity to produce or the amount that is actually produced? If no one consumes the [extra] goods/services, is there any point in generating them? What about the need for trade and foreign markets? Is this justifiable, in the name of wealth creation? But how much is enough?

Are there limits to consumption? (Perhaps there isn't a limit to possession.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

A "liberal" critique of the Austrian school

Austrian School of Economics
A collection of liberal essays critiquing the Austrian School of Economics.

But from the viewpoint that economics is a true, mathematicized science.

Wesley J. Smith, In Defense of Human Exceptionalism

In Defense of Human Exceptionalism
By Wesley J. Smith

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Two Orthodox blogs to keep an eye on

This is Life! Revolutions Around the Cruciform Axis
Cathedra Unitatis

The Devil, a tinkerer with life?

If the devil has a thorough understanding of life and development, would it not be possible for him to manipulate the parts of organism and thereby generate new forms of life? (Dinosaurs? Large insects? And so on?) Monsters? What for? Perhaps to mock God. Perhaps to wage war against other living things, or... could it be, even human beings? There is so much we do not know about what happened at the beginning, and the consequences of the rebellion of the demons on the material universe.

While the devil cannot create ex nihilo, if there is a natural mechanism by which new species/body types can be generated from pre-existing ones, then cannot the devil by his power to act upon bodies and move them cause the same effects?