It's Official -- Religions Other than RCC "Defective" : LUSENET : Catholicism -- Uncensored : One Thread

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican Tuesday rejected the concept that other religions could be equal to Roman Catholicism and ordered its theologians not to manipulate what it called the truth of the faith.

The Vatican's restatement of its position was outlined in a complex theological document, the English title of which was ''Declaration The Lord Jesus -- On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church.''

The document repeated Church teachings that non-Christians were in a ``gravely deficient situation'' regarding salvation and that other Christian churches had ``defects,'' partly because they did not recognize the primacy of the Pope.

The 36-page document, which was bound to spark fresh debate, was prepared by the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul.

It said the clarification and restatement of the official Catholic position was necessary to contest ``relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism'' as a principle rather than a de facto practice.


It said only the revelation of Jesus Christ was ``definitive and complete.'' Asserting that Christian revelation could be complementary to that found in other religions was ``contrary to the Church's faith.''

The document was addressed primarily to Catholic theologians but it appeared destined to spark dialogue on all levels with other Christian Churches and with non-Christians.

At a news conference to present the document, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's doctrinal head, said some theologians were ``manipulating and going beyond the limits'' of tolerance when they put all religions on the same plane.

Ratzinger said this did not reflect what he called ``an objective and universal truth.''

Walking a theological tightrope, the document said the ''Church of Christ'' was present and operative in other Christian Churches today.

But, in the Vatican's view, it subsists fully in the Roman Catholic Church because the Pope is the successor to St Peter, whom Christ named as his first vicar on Earth. Papal primacy was divinely willed, it said.

``Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him,'' it said.


Some other Christian churches, while not in ``perfect union,'' remained united to Catholics by close bonds, it said.

``The Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the primacy, which, according to the will of God, (the Pope) objectively has and exercises over the entire Church,'' it said.

While other Christian churches ``suffer from defects,'' the document said they had not been deprived of what it called ''significance and importance in the mystery of salvation.''

But it was the Catholic Church which possessed and had been entrusted with ``the fullness of grace and truth.''

It said because Christ was the Son of God, non-Christians were at a disadvantage regarding salvation.

``The truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out...a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one religion is as good as another','' it said.

``If it is true that followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.''

-- (, September 06, 2000


This news report from the LA Times gives some perspective from other religions on the Vatican's "bullying" stance.

ican Declares Catholicism Sole Path to Salvation


VATICAN CITY--Censuring what it called the spread of "religious relativism," the Vatican on Tuesday instructed Roman Catholics to uphold the dogma that their church is the sole path to spiritual salvation for all humanity. "This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect that the [Catholic] Church has for the religions of the world," it said. "But it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism [that] leads to the belief that one religion is as good as another." The bluntly worded declaration by the Vatican office that oversees Catholic doctrine said that followers of non-Christian faiths have "gravely deficient" chances for salvation and that other Christian churches have "defects," partly because they do not recognize the authority of the pope. The statement broke no new theological ground, but its categorical assertion of Catholic primacy offended some non-Catholic clerics. Critics said it seemed to contradict Pope John Paul II's frequent appeals to non-Christian religious leaders to find common ground in one divinity. Aimed mainly at Catholic theologians, the 36-page document was the latest parry by Vatican conservatives in a test of strength with liberals in John Paul's deeply divided flock. The 80-year-old pope has shown symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease, and as he weakens with age, such battles over doctrine are read as part of the jockeying to choose a successor after his death or retirement. A similar fundamentalist position prevailed in June when the Vatican ordered bishops to avoid references to "sister churches" and instead remember that "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is not sister but 'mother' of all the particular [Christian] churches." Msgr. Tarcisio Bertone, who signed Tuesday's document as secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said it had John Paul's explicit approval. But the document, titled "Dominus Iesus," or "Lord Jesus," underlined a contradiction of John Paul's 22-year-old reign: No other pope has worked harder to mend rifts between Christian churches and promote understanding with non-Christian religions, yet he has rigidly upheld church dogma and traditions that antagonize other faiths. As a result of John Paul's efforts and those of his papal predecessors since the mid-1960s, the Vatican has been involved in sensitive talks with Eastern Orthodox Christians and Protestants, along with Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians, about issues ranging from religious tolerance and human rights to the bridging of arcane doctrinal differences.

'Reassertion of What's Been Said in the Past' In October, for example, the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation signed a landmark joint declaration saying that they agreed on most major points of doctrine. Bishop Paul W. Egertson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said the Vatican statement had "a bullying kind of quality to it." "It's a reassertion of what's been said in the past, but we haven't heard that reasserted for a while," said Egertson, who leads his church's Southern California West Synod in Los Angeles. "We were hoping that . . . the need for that kind of domineering or magisterial kind of statement would have declined." The Geneva-based World Council of Churches, representing 337 church bodies, said it would be a "tragedy" if the Vatican's assertions about the relative authority of churches obscured 35 years of ecumenical dialogue. "There are other voices from the Vatican that are less strict and stern, but it's realistic to acknowledge that this is the official Catholic position and we cannot simply wish it away," said the Rev. Konrad Raiser, the council's general secretary. "Nevertheless, the dialogue will go on." Bertone, the monsignor, told a Vatican news conference Tuesday that the document was issued to correct the "errors and ambiguities" of unnamed moderate Catholic theologians that have become "widespread." Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the powerful German prefect of the doctrinal congregation and chief author of the document, said that those theologians were "manipulating and exceeding" the principle of religious tolerance by putting all religions on an equal level, "as if universal and objective truth no longer existed." The document acknowledged that individual non-Christians can achieve spiritual salvation--but not through their own religious rituals, which it said lack divine inspiration. "Objectively speaking," it said, "they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the [Catholic] Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation." Instead, it asserted, their salvation can result only from a divine grace that comes, in some mysterious way, from Jesus Christ. The document urged theologians to seek to understand how exactly this happens.

'The Sole Redeemer' Meanwhile, the document said, Catholic missionaries are obliged to preach to non-Christians that Jesus is "the sole redeemer." The inter-religious dialogue in which the Catholic Church has engaged other faiths, it said, is simply "part of her evangelizing mission." That assertion was expected to stir unease in Asia and other places where Catholics are a tiny minority. Some bishops told John Paul during his visit to India in November that exclusive language about salvation is offensive to Asia's dominant religions--Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam--and provokes violence against Catholic missionaries there. Marco Politi, a papal biographer who reports on the Vatican for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, said Tuesday's declaration was aimed at shutting off long-standing Catholic theological debate on such questions as whether sacred beliefs or texts of non-Christian religions are inspired by God. "There are signs that the Vatican is putting on the brakes," he said. "The document is a product of fear of the modern world on the part of Vatican traditionalists, who want the next pope to think more like them." Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, director of the Center for Christian- Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., said he has met five times with John Paul and doubted that Tuesday's statement reflects the pope's views. Of the statement's authors, he asked: "Who spoke directly to God to know who's deficient?" But the statement didn't faze a well-known Islamic leader in the U.S. "We knew all along this is the Catholic position," said Muzammil Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America. "Our position is the same thing--that the Catholic position is deficient." The Vatican document divided non-Catholic Christians into two categories, neither of which recognizes the primacy of the pope. One group, Orthodox Christians, shares with Catholics a similar Communion ritual and a linear succession of bishops dating from the early Christian communities.

Others Not 'Churches in the Proper Sense' Other Christian denominations, the document said, have not preserved these links with Catholicism and therefore are not "churches in the proper sense." But their members are, through baptism, "in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the [Catholic] Church." The Vatican said that although these "separated Churches . . . suffer from defects," they can be used as instruments of salvation by the "spirit of Christ" acting with "grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church." The Anglican Communion, which is closer to Rome than most Protestant denominations, said the statement ignored the fruits of the Vatican's own ongoing dialogue with other churches. "The idea that Anglican and other churches are not 'proper churches' seems to question the considerable ecumenical gains we have made," said the Most Rev. George L. Carey, the archbishop of Canterbury.

--- Boudreaux reported from Vatican City and Stammer from Los Angeles

-- Frederick (, September 06, 2000.

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