Christians cannot agree with one another

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

 

Remarks
to the document of the ARCIC-II
"Salvation and the Church"

 

Preliminary remark

The following remarks constitute an official doctrinal judgment for the members of the commission with a view to the continuation of the dialogue. They were edited by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in consultation with the Secretariat for Christian Unity.

1. General judgment

Although it is not a complete teaching on the question and contains many unclear formulations, the document of the Second International Anglican Catholic Commission (ARCIC-II) entitled "Salvation and the Church" can in its entirety be described as conforming to the Catholic faith . It contains many satisfactory elements, especially on traditionally controversial points.

The judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is therefore essentially positive. However, this does not apply to the extent that the final statement could be ratified (No. 32), according to which the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion “agree on the essential aspects of the doctrine of salvation and on the task of the Church in this regard”.

2. Main remarks

a) The document is mostly symbolic language formulated, which makes a clear interpretation difficult, but which is necessary where one would like to come to a final explanation of the agreement.

b) To the chapter "Salvation and Faith":

- The importance of the general problem of “sola fides” in the discussion with Protestants would make a broader development of this controversial point desirable.

- It would be good to clarify the relationship between grace and faith as “initium salutis” (cf. No. 9).

- The relationship “fides quae - fides qua” and the difference between “assurance” and “certainty” or “certainty” should be better worked out.

c) To the chapter "Salvation and good works":

- It would be good to work out the doctrine of grace and merit in relation to the distinction between justification and sanctification better.

- If one wants to keep the formula “simul iustus et peccator”, it would have to be clarified further so that any misunderstanding is avoided.

In general, the sacramental economy of grace ought to be better emphasized in the recovery of freedom that has been ransomed from sin (e.g. nos. 21 and 22).

d) To the chapter "Church and Salvation":

- The task of the Church with regard to salvation is not only to bear witness to it, but also and above all to be an effective tool of justification and sanctification, especially through the seven sacraments: this essential point should be better worked out, starting above all of Lumen gentium.

It is particularly important to make a clearer distinction between the holiness of the Church, insofar as it is a universal sacrament of salvation, and its members, some of whom are still falling into sin (cf. No. 29).

3. Conclusion

The divergences which, in the light of this document, persist between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion concern above all certain aspects of ecclesiology and the doctrine of the sacraments.

The view of the church as a sacrament of salvation and the actually sacramental dimension of justification and sanctification remain too vague and weak to be able to say that ARCIC-II has reached a substantial agreement.

Commentary on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's remarks on the ARCIC-II document

Nature of the remarks and purpose of this document

The publication of Salvation and the Church (“Salvation and the Church”), the (first) document of the second International Anglican Catholic Commission (ARCIC-II) last year, was accompanied by a preliminary remark which explained its importance. Among other things, it was made clear: "This is not an official statement on the part of the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, which in due course will examine the document with a view to making an appropriate statement." For their part, the authors stated that " the commission was glad to have received observations and remarks made in a constructive and fraternal spirit.

It is in this context that today's publication of the text of the observations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the ARCIC-II document, approved by the Pope, fits. The purpose of the comment on the observations offered here is to facilitate understanding of the document and the observations themselves and thus to encourage the members of the Commission, especially the Catholic ones, to continue the dialogue that began in 1982.

An aspect well highlighted in the document

In the introduction, the authors draft a kind of typology of the respective positions and believe that they can identify an important reason for the separation in the various explanations of the relationship between divine grace and human response. Leaving aside the inevitable simplifications of this draft, one can immediately concentrate on one aspect that is well emphasized in the document: the transformation of the inner man through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

According to the document, salvation is namely a “gift of grace” (No. 9), the “gift and pledge of the Holy Spirit for every believer” (No. 10), which realizes in him his “firm presence and effectiveness” (No. . 12). Exactly speaking, this “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” (No. 9) is what constitutes the presence of God who, through the gift of a righteousness “which is his and becomes ours” (No. 15), justifies and in us that “Deliverance from evil”, the “removal of condemnation” (No. 13) works. It is not a question of a title or a purely external attribution, but a gift that makes part of the divine nature and transforms man inwardly (cf. Lumen gentium, No. 40).

In trying to understand the different meanings of the word "dikaioun”, The document speaks of a“ divine declaration of absolution ”(No. 18); but previously it had emphasized that “God's grace also realizes what it explains: His creative word bestows what it takes into account. When God declares us righteous, He thus makes us righteous ”(No. 15). The following clarification is also attached: "Justification on the part of God, our Redeemer, is not only a declaration by a judgment made by him in favor of sinners, it is also given as a gift that makes it just" (No. 17). From a juridical point of view, justification represents the "verdict of absolution" for sinners, but on the ontological level it must be said that "the declaration of forgiveness and reconciliation on the part of God does not leave the repentant believers without transformation, but with them an inner and personal one Relationship "(No. 18).

Incidentally, we point out the ambiguity of the reference to the Lutheran expression "simul iustus et peccator" (No. 21), which, by the way, does not belong to the Anglican tradition. If one wishes to keep this formula, however, one must make it clear what exactly is meant: in the baptized not the remaining two states (that of grace and that of mortal sin), which contradict one another, but in the righteous, who has sanctifying grace , the possible presence of that "sin that does not lead to death" (1 Joh 5,17).

The problem of belief

As for baptism, the “unrepeatable sacrament of justification and implantation in Christ” (n. 16), the document has good reason to underline the importance of faith. The expression "sacramentum fidei“From St. Augustine, to whom reference is also made (No. 12), which is known to be taken up by the Council of Trent (Denzinger / Schönmetzer 1529). Baptism is really a sacrament of faith, as testified by the Scriptures and the Fathers. From the beginning, however, the document places a strong emphasis on the subjective dimension of faith (fides qua), which is interpreted primarily as "a truly human, personal answer" (No. 9) and as "an effort on the part of our will" (No. 10), but it only mentions in passing the "consent to the truth of the Gospel" (No. 10). Even if the "fiducial belief" is supplemented to a certain extent by the aspect of the "consent of the mind", there remains an imbalance between "fidesqua" and "fidesquae“Which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith draws attention to in its remarks.

That belief is necessary for justification is not questioned, but it must be understood in its precise sense. According to the Council of Trent “we are called justified by faith because faith is the beginning of salvation for man, the foundation and root of all justification, without it we cannot please God (Hebrew 11: 6), and through him we come to share in the lot of his children ”(Denzinger / Schönmetzer 1532).

It is only in this light that the statement: “and it is appropriated (salvation, the gift of grace) through faith” (No. 9), gains its full weight. If justification is above all the objective gift of God communicated by the sacraments as the main tools, then faith does not cease to play a decisive role here in reality, even if it is subordinate. For only faith can recognize this gift in its reality and prepare the spirit to receive it; only he ensures that inner participation in the sacraments which makes their implementation effective in the soul of the believer. At the same time, faith alone is incapable of justifying the sinner. In order to clarify this point better, it would also have been useful to consider the role of faith in the case of infant baptism.

To the inability of the Belief alone To take full account of man's justification, the distinction between “assurance” and “security” or “certainty” with regard to salvation should be better worked out. The real "assurance of salvation" (No. 10; cf. No. 11) that man has is based on the certainty of faith that God "will show mercy to all people" (Rom 11:32), and that in the sacraments he offered them the means of salvation. It cannot mean personal security about one's own salvation, nor one about one's current state of grace, insofar as the frailty and sin of man can always form an obstacle to the love of God.

The sacramental dimension of sanctification

The fear expressed in the document (cf.no.14) that in the Catholic view of sanctification the absolute undeservedness of salvation would be endangered, because one is well aware of the fact that the completely free communications of grace come from above (cf. . Joh 3,7).

It should be emphasized, on the other hand, that the document does not sufficiently bear in mind the sacramental dimension of grace and only makes brief references to the sacraments to be received after baptism, which are, after all, privileged ways of communicating grace. Apart from the Eucharist, which is only fleetingly alluded to without thorough doctrinal statements (cf. nos. 16 and 27), it would have been particularly necessary to emphasize the importance and necessity of the sacrament of penance, in which - according to Catholic doctrine - the "repentance" (No. 21) is only one aspect, albeit a fundamental one, which by the way cannot be reduced to "exercises of penance" (No. 22).

The statement of the document deserves further clarification: "Through daily repentance and faith we regain our freedom from sin" (No. 21). It is true that repentance (and belief as its presupposition) is at the core of conversion from sin, and that perfect pain of repentance reconciles with God! The Council of Trent adds the crucial clarification in this connection: “Although it occasionally happens that repentance is made perfect through love and reconciles man to God before the sacrament is effectively received, repentance must not be reconciled with repentance even without desire for the sacrament ("votum sacramenti") Which is included in it" (Denzinger / Schönmetzer 1677). Indeed, man is affected by the "sin that leads to death" (1 Joh 5:16), liberated through sacramental contact with the Savior, or at least through the desire to be healed through a sacramental grace that no one can give to oneself.

Freedom and merit

It is not without reason that the document seeks to approach the question of good works from a reflection on freedom; but the chosen approach remains inadequate from many points of view. The excellent gift of redeemed freedom is rightly emphasized: “By restoring us in his image, God gives freedom to fallen mankind.” But the following explanation can only confuse: “It is not a question of the natural freedom to choose between different things Alternatives, but about the freedom to do His will ”(No. 19). Such a juxtaposition between two forms of freedom could lead to a conception of human freedom that does not fully take into account its own creational consistency. According to Catholic doctrine, the loss of the righteousness of origin as a result of Adam's sin renders man unable to use his remaining powers to strive for the supernatural goal for which he was created. But the Council of Trent adds in this connection: Sin does not completely corrupt human nature; it wounds them without depriving them of their original ability to please God (cf. Denzinger / Schönmetzer 1555; 1557 etc.).

These conditions now permit the problem of merit to be dealt with. In order to rightly exclude the unacceptable meaning of a "on the basis of works", which would have to presuppose the possibility of man to achieve salvation with his own strength, the document refers to the Pauline expression "with regard to good works" (Eph 2.10; see also 2 Cor 9.8). The main chapter devoted to this subject (nos. 19 and following) seeks to convey the teachings of St. Paul (Gal 2.16) and St. James (Jak 2.17 ff.) To bring the works into agreement with one another. But if they had been dealt with more precisely within the respective contexts, that would have better understood the reference made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith here. St. James says that we are justified by works, not by faith alone (Jak 2.24), while St. Paul strongly emphasizes that the works that precede the faith are not meritorious, since he has no qualms about inviting the believer to "adorn themselves with good works" (1 Tim 2.10). This means that man cannot earn basic justification, i. H. he cannot go from the state of sin to the state of grace by virtue of his own merits, but he is called and enabled "to bear fruit in every kind of good works" (Col 1.10): Not by making them "out of themselves" (Joh 15: 4), but "by remaining in the love of Christ" (Joh 15: 9-10), a love "poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom 5,5).

In this context, saying that Christians “cannot make God their debtor” (n. 24) means restricting themselves to an overly external statement regarding the mystery of internal cooperation with grace, as the Church does in eminence Wise considered in the interaction of Mary with the work of salvation. Such cooperation is not a prerequisite for us to be pleasing in the eyes of God or to receive His forgiveness; Rather, it is a grace that Christ bestows freely and with absolute generosity. It is the fruit of "faith that works in love" (Gal 5,6).

The Church's role in salvation

The commission presents a rather vague conception of the church, which arguably underlies all of the difficulties that have been raised. Certainly one can only be pleased about the fact that the expressions "signs" (no.26), "tools" and "sacrament" (No. 29), which the Second Vatican Council presented (Lumen gentium, Number 1; 9; 48). The term “stewardship” (No. 27) also emphasizes its structural dimension. The church is not only a spiritual community, but also constitutively a "visible structure", a "society equipped with hierarchical organs" through which Christ "pours truth and grace on all" (Lumen gentium, No. 8).

This aspect, which the Commission needs to deepen - particularly in relation to the comments made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Final report from ARCIC-I (AAS LXXIV [1982], 1063-1074). - but only gains its real meaning because the church is also and above all a mystery of faith: "Ecclesiae sanctae mysterium“ (Lumen gentium, No. 5). This point is really crucial, and only it allows one to emerge from the dead ends of an ecclesiology that is above all functional and left at the disposal of the people.

It is only on this point that we can truly understand the fundamentals of the Church's internal relationship to salvation. This relationship is not lacking in the document, especially when the Holy Spirit is mentioned (n. 28) or the Eucharist is emphasized (n. 27). Here too, of course, some clarifications would be necessary.

From the Eucharist z. For example, it has been said that it “celebrates the atonement of Christ, accomplished once and for all and found and experienced in the life of the Church” (n. 27). Does the phrase really mean an acknowledgment of the “atonement” of the eucharistic sacrifice? (see. AAS l.c. 1066). Does the expression "realized" thus include a real making present of this sacrifice through the mediation of a consecrated service (cf. ibid.), which as such differs significantly from the general priesthood of the faithful (cf. Lumen gentium, No. 10)? One can easily appreciate the scope of these questions, for if one does not fully accept this doctrine, the Church's task in promoting salvation runs the risk of being exhausted in the witnessing of a truth which is effectively present, incapable of making it present, and which threatens to limit oneself to a subjective “experience” that does not in itself contain the guarantee of its redeeming power.

Finally, with regard to the doctrinal content, the Congregation notes a certain ambiguity in the nature of "Ecclesia mater”, Combined with the emphasis on the notion, which is not inherently wrong, that the Church“ is in constant need of repentance ”(n. 29),“ of renewal and purification ”(n. 30). It is true that the Council, while emphasizing the specific nature of the Church, wanted to correct a kind of ecclesiastical "monophysitism" - as one might call it - by discreetly warning against an excessive approximation of the Church to Christ. She is the Immaculate Bride who has cleansed the Lamb without blemish (Lumen gentium, No. 6), but it also consists of people, and for this reason "it is called by Christ to this constant reform, which it needs at all times, insofar as it is human and earthly institution" (Unitatis redintegratio, No. 6).

This thoroughly human aspect of the Church is real, but must not be isolated. In her innermost being, the Church is "holy and immaculate" (Eph 5.27), and for this very reason it is really the "universal sacrament of salvation" (Lumen gentium, No. 48; cf. No. 52), and their members are "saints" (1 cor 1,2; 2 Cor 1.1). When as a pilgrim she actually "embraces sinners in her own bosom" (Lumen gentium, No. 8) and is therefore "imperfect" (ibid., No. 48), this does not prevent them from being "already distinguished on earth by a true holiness" (ibid., No. 48) and to be "necessary for salvation" (ibid., No. 14). She carries out her salvific mission not only “through the proclamation of the gospel of salvation through her word and her gestures” (No. 31), but also, as a mystery that remains in human history, through the communication of divine life to human beings and through them the diffusion of the light that this divine life radiates into the whole world (cf. Gaudium et spes, No. 40).

Substantial match?

The preceding analysis has shown how many satisfactory elements the ARCIC-II document contains in a traditionally controversial subject. One can therefore only congratulate the members of the commission for attempting to emphasize the “balance and coherence of the constitutive elements” of the Christian doctrine of salvation (n. 32). The criticism made by no means denies the fact that they have partially succeeded. But it cannot be said that there has been full and substantial agreement on the essential aspects of this doctrine, principally because of the shortcomings in the Church's salvation mission. The anxious urge to achieve unity at such a central point would have been preferable to what St. Irenaeus could call the "patience of maturing".

In its comments on the final report of ARCIC-I, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned against ambiguities in common texts that allow the "possibility of a double interpretation" (ibid. 1064-1065). The same remark can be made today about Salvation and the Church. The related language is strongly symbolic, such as B. the picture of "stewardship" shows where the responsibility of the church should be presented. Thanks to its expressiveness, the document not only succeeded in strengthening the readers' lively search for unity in faith, but also happily insert it into the hermeneutic horizon of the biblical language, following in the footsteps of the Second Vatican Council and some more recent encyclicals of Pope John Paul II.

One must be clear, however, that the symbolic nature of language makes it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a really clear agreement where - as in this case - questions are at stake that are decisive from the dogmatic point of view and those that relate to the historical belong to the most controversial Articles of Faith. With clear doctrinal, if not necessarily scholastic formulations, one could better avoid the doubt that arises when one is always looking for a sharp confrontation of the respective positions in the dialogue, or when one sometimes finds oneself with an almost only verbal agreement as the fruit of mutual compromises contented.

Without diminishing anything about a method that has produced indisputable fruits, one wonders whether it would not be a good idea to improve the process by specifying the doctrinal content of the language used to express a common belief. Wouldn't it be a good idea, therefore, to possibly name in a separate protocol the elements on which dissenting opinions persist?

One would also like to see a little more space allowed for tradition, especially since the patristic, for the teaching office of the Catholic Church as for the official acts of the Anglican community, e.g. B. for the "Thirty-nine Articles of Religion".

These questions and thoughts raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have no other aim than to encourage members of ARCIC-II to continue on the path that began in 1982 when Pope John Paul II and the Anglican Primate Dr. Robert Runcie set up this second commission and gave it the special task of "examining the most important doctrinal differences that still separate us in the light of our judgments on the final report (ARCIC-I) in order to possibly come to a future solution". (AAS LXXIV [1982], 925).