Sunday, July 15, 2007

Let's Play Five Questions

While I was away on retreat the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a brief document re-iterating some points of Catholic doctrine. To all appearances, the five questions and their answers appeared scandalous and new to those who don't take time to study what the Church actually teaches. The questions and answers are here on the Vatican website.
I am trying not to be or sound cynical, but I was amazed once again (and probably shouldn't be) at the inaccurate reporting by the media. I was also dismayed by the response from other folk in "ecclesial bodies" who really ought to know better. However, giving the latter the benefit of the doubt, if they only read the press reports, then their response to the document appears more understandable.

Two items in particular caught my attention. The first was the treatment of the Q and A by the Associated Press as it appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The article read in part:

The new document - formulated as five questions and answers - restates key sections of a 2000 text the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, "Dominus Iesus." The earlier text riled Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation."
The commentary repeated church teaching that says the Catholic Church "has the fullness of the means of salvation."

First, the article misquotes the predecessor document "Dominus Iesus." Winfield implies that somehow the Catholic Church believes and teaches that there are no elements of truth or graces to be found outside of the Roman Catholic Church.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The earlier document actually states the polar opposite regarding other Christian faith communities: they
"have by no means been 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."

This research and reporting error is made even more agregious by the fact that the recent Q and A also makes a similar assertion. This fact is also ignored by Nicole Winfield.

"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."

This makes me wonder whether Nicole Winfield even read the Q and A, much less the predecessor documents which it clarifies.

All of this discussion would be really low priority for me were it not for a letter printed in this morning's Pioneer Press. The letter illustrates the spiritual damage the publication of such quasi-theological tripe as fact can inflict.

The letter writer has taken obvious and justified umbrage at what he takes to be the Church's position:

"Praise to Pope Benedict XVI ... for reminding Protest-ants what it is that compelled us to protest Catholicism in the first place. Ever since Constantine married Christianity with paganism and made Catholicism the mandatory religion of the conquered world, the "church" of Rome has been a thorn in the side of the true message of the Gospel. To this day our dear pontiff asserts that salvation comes only through the Catholic "church." This is a glaring contrast to the doctrine of the great apostle Paul, who said, "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Therefore, the true Church comprises only those who are mediated to God through the sacrifice of his son, not through an institution and its sacraments.

Cottage Grove"

The false dichotomies in this letter are numerous. I won't go right now into detail on the danger inherent in opposing heirarchy to grace, or Christ as mediator with His Mystical Body, the Church. I've done that elsewhere.
Suffice it to say that Chris needs to read the source documents he's criticizing, and then pray long and hard over another couple of verses in 1 Timothy, 3:15-17. There the same writer (AKA the great apostle Paul) links the earthly Church (pillar and ground of the truth) with the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus.

That's the Church Jesus founded. It's the Church I joined in 1998, and this is the Church where Christ's incarnational presence subsists today... the Roman Catholic Church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So today I'll pray for all of those who read the article.... for all those in ecclesial bodies not united with the Church.... that we all may eventually be one in truth as in spirit as our Lord prayed in the Gospel of John.

No comments: