It won’t be theologians who bring about unity among us. The Holy Spirit brings about unity. I join you as just another participant

‘The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power’. These are words of wisdom from the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae of Vatican Council II. And what is theology if not the search and explicitation of divine truth? Really, theological reflection revives faith, for the truth offered by Revelation surpasses the capacities of human knowledge, but does not oppose reason. A theology that is not founded on speculation and study is not theology. That is why the theologian’s vocation is inspired by the Holy Spirit and its goal is to achieve, in communion with the Magisterium, an increasingly profound comprehension of the Word of God contained in Scripture, inspired and transmitted by the living Tradition of the Church. Theologians may not present a theological reflection that contradicts these elements. Consequently, its discourse regarding the unity of Christians and of ecumenism should not be different from that which the Holy Church teaches, as we have already seen in other posts and will now recall. Even less so may the Pope, as visible head of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, be just ‘another participant’ among the pastors of protestant sects…

Francis

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I am convinced it won’t be theologians who bring about unity among us. Theologians help us, the science of the theologians will assist us, but if we hope that theologians will agree with one another, we will reach unity the day after Judgement Day. The Holy Spirit brings about unity. Theologians are helpful, but most helpful is the goodwill of us all who are on this journey with our hearts open to the Holy Spirit! In all humility, I join you as just another participant on this day of prayer, friendship, closeness and reflection. In the certainty that we have one Lord: Jesus is the Lord. In the certainty that this Lord is alive: Jesus is alive, the Lord lives in each one of us. In the certainty that He has sent the Spirit He promised us so that this ‘harmony’ among all His disciples might be realized. (From Rome, Francis prays with the Pentecostal Evangelical pastors for the Day of Christian Unity in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, May 25, 2015 Original Spanish from the Vatican network)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of contents

I – Theology is a natural consequence of the search for the truth
II – The unity of Christians is only possible within the only true Church of Christ
III – The Pope is not ‘just another participant’ among Evangelical Pentecostal Pastors


I – Theology is a natural consequence of the search for the truth


John Paul II
– There exists a moral obligation to seek the truth and to adhere to it

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– Faith professes truth, and reason investigates truth
– Only divine knowledge terminates the natural desire of humans for the ultimate end
– Theology, or sacred science, is a science of revelation
– Sacred doctrine is a science that is more speculative than practical – it is more concerned with divine things than with human acts
– Theology: a speculative science which derives its certitude from the light of divine knowledge

Pius X
– Among the many and varied subject matters offered to a spirit avid for the truth, Sacred theology has the first place

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
– Theology is something indispensable for the Church
– Theology is obedient to the impulse of truth, arises from love, and seeks to be communicated

Sacred Scriptures
– Faith comes from what is heard

John Paul II
– The theologian should reject those philosophical opinions which cannot be reconciled with the faith
– The effort of theologians must be inspired by the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom
– Theology is a service to the Church, and is actively involved in the prophetic mission of the Church
– Faith is in a sense an ‘exercise of thought’
– The Catholic theologian may not create a bridge between Scripture and the preoccupations of the present without the mediation of Tradition

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium, each in its own way, contribute effectively to the salvation of souls
– Theologians provide the nourishment of the Scriptures for the people of God
– The study of Sacred Scripture is the soul of sacred theology
– Theologians must seek for ways of communicating doctrine to the men of their times

Pius XII
– Theologians have the serious duty of protecting divine and human truth
– The sacred Magisterium is the proximate and universal norm of faith to any theologian
– Speculation, which neglects the deeper investigation of sacred deposit, becomes sterile

Paul VI
– The theologian should be attentive and docile to the light of the Holy Spirit

Benedict XVI
– We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
– The due freedom of theologians must always be limited by the Word of God as it is faithfully preserved and expounded in the Church

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)
– There must never be recession from understanding of the sacred dogmas of the Church under the specious name of a deeper understanding

Saint Athanasius
– Anyone who separates from faith of the Catholic Church is no longer a Christian either in fact or in name


II – The unity of Christians is only possible within the only true Church of Christ


Sacred Scriptures
– If anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed

Pius IX
– To pretend that men can gain eternal salvation in any religion, is to pretend agreement between Christ and Belial
– In their deceit they repeatedly declare Protestantism to be only another form of the same true religion of Christ, thereby just as pleasing to God
– Mutually disagreeing religious societies separated from the Catholic Church can in no way be said to be a members or part of the same Church
– Condemnation from the Syllabus
– A very grave error: to believe that men living in error and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity can attain eternal life

Pius XI
– Beneath the enticing words of pan-Christians lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed
– Many affirm they would willingly unite to the Church of Rome, but do not turn from false opinions whereby they stray from the one fold of Christ
– Impossible: union with those who retain their own opinions. Can those who follow contrary opinions belong to the same fold?
– So great a variety of opinions is an easy step to the neglect of religion
– The union of Christians is in the return to the true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it

Paul VI
– The Gospel message does not permit indifference, syncretism or accommodation
– The danger of a dialogue that weakens our attachment to our faith and makes vague compromises

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– The sacred mystery of the unity of the Church is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it
– Our separated brethren, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body
– In dialogue it is essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety
– There exist important differences between these ecclesial Communities and the Catholic Church, especially in the interpretation of revealed truth
– The unity in which Christ brings together the whole Church is in the teaching of the apostles
– The Church is necessary for salvation
– This one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
– The only true union is achieved by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ
– Do not imagine that Christ’s Church is nothing more than a collection of churches and ecclesial communities
– The unicity of the Church founded by Christ must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– The great richness of diversity of the Church’s members is not opposed to unity

John Paul II
– True ecumenical activity in no way means giving up the treasures of divine truth of the Church
– The universal activity of the Spirit is inseparable from the Church
– Proclaiming Christ and interreligious dialogue should not be confused or regarded as identical
– Other communities do not possess the fullness of the Catholic Church
– Ecumenical dialogue is a dialogue of conversion, absolutely avoiding all forms of facile ‘agreement’ without clear presentation of doctrine

Benedict XVI
– A type of dialogue totally foreign to the thinking of the Second Vatican Council: irenism and indifferentism
– The principle of unity, the Holy Spirit, is manifested in the bonds of the profession of the faith in its entirety

International Theological Commission
– The way of dialogue between religions cannot in any way pledge itself to syncretism

John Paul II
– Christians today feel lost, confused, perplexed and even disillusioned… Real heresies in dogmatic and moral fields have created doubts and confusions


III – The Pope is not ‘just another participant’ among Evangelical Pentecostal Pastors


Leo XIII
– Some men clearly occupy the foremost place

Council of Trent (Ecumenical XIX)
– All Christians indiscriminately are not endowed with an equal spiritual power …how much more the Pope

Boniface I
– The Council did not dare establish anything above the office of the Pope

Council of Florence (Ecumenical XVII)
– Full power was given to the Pope to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church

John Paul II
– From sincere humility, be conscious of the dignity of the Papacy

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– The Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power

Benedict XV
– Peter is the common teacher and rector of all


I – Theology is a natural consequence of the search for the truth


John Paul II

  • There exists a moral obligation to seek the truth and to adhere to it

Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known. (John Paul II. Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, no. 34, August 6, 1993)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth

This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society. This Vatican Council takes careful note of these desires in the minds of men. It proposes to declare them to be greatly in accord with truth and justice. To this end, it searches into the sacred tradition and doctrine of the Church-the treasury out of which the Church continually brings forth new things that are in harmony with the things that are old. First, the council professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men. Thus He spoke to the Apostles: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you’ (Mt 28:19-20). On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it. This Vatican Council likewise professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power. Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ. Over and above all this, the council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society. (Vatican Council II. Declaration Dignitatis humanae, no. 1, December 7, 1965)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • Faith professes truth, and reason investigates truth

For that which is above the human reason we believe only because God has revealed it. Nevertheless, there are certain likely arguments that should be brought forth in order to make divine truth known. […] We shall first seek to make known that truth which faith professes and reason investigates. This we shall do by bringing forward both demonstrative and probable arguments, some of which were drawn from the books of the philosophers and of the saints, through which truth is strengthened and its adversary overcome [Books I-III]. Then, in order to follow a development from the more manifest to the less manifest, we shall proceed to make known that truth which surpasses reason, answering the objections of its adversaries and setting forth the truth of faith by probable arguments and by authorities, to the best of our ability [Book IV]. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles I, ch. 9, no. 2.3)

  • Only divine knowledge terminates the natural desire of humans for the ultimate end

Moreover, for each effect that he knows, man naturally desires to know the cause. Now, the human intellect knows universal being. So, he naturally desires to know its cause, which is God alone, as we proved in Book Two. Now, a person has not attained his ultimate end until natural desire comes to rest. Therefore, for human happiness which is the ultimate end it is not enough to have merely any kind of intelligible knowledge; there must be divine knowledge, as an ultimate end, to terminate the natural desire. So, the ultimate end of man is the knowledge of God. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles III, Ch. 25, no. 12)

  • Theology, or sacred science, is a science of revelation

It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason: ‘The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee’ (Is 66:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that besides philosophical science built up by reason, there should be a sacred science learned through revelation. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, q.1, a.1)

  • Sacred doctrine is a science that is more speculative than practical – it is more concerned with divine things than with human acts

Sacred doctrine, being one, extends to things which belong to different philosophical sciences because it considers in each the same formal aspect, namely, so far as they can be known through divine revelation. Hence, although among the philosophical sciences one is speculative and another practical, nevertheless sacred doctrine includes both; as God, by one and the same science, knows both Himself and His works. Still, it is speculative rather than practical because it is more concerned with divine things than with human acts; though it does treat even of these latter, inasmuch as man is ordained by them to the perfect knowledge of God in which consists eternal bliss. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, q. 1, a. 4)

  • Theology: a speculative science which derives its certitude from the light of divine knowledge

Since this science is partly speculative and partly practical, it transcends all others speculative and practical. Now one speculative science is said to be nobler than another, either by reason of its greater certitude, or by reason of the higher worth of its subject-matter. In both these respects this science surpasses other speculative sciences; in point of greater certitude, because other sciences derive their certitude from the natural light of human reason, which can err; whereas this derives its certitude from the light of divine knowledge, which cannot be misled: in point of the higher worth of its subject-matter because this science treats chiefly of those things which by their sublimity transcend human reason; while other sciences consider only those things which are within reason’s grasp. Of the practical sciences, that one is nobler which is ordained to a further purpose, as political science is nobler than military science; for the good of the army is directed to the good of the State. But the purpose of this science, in so far as it is practical, is eternal bliss; to which as to an ultimate end the purposes of every practical science are directed. Hence it is clear that from every standpoint, it is nobler than other sciences. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, q. 1, a. 5)

Pius X

  • Among the many and varied subject matters offered to a spirit avid for the truth, Sacred theology has the first place

No one is unaware that among the many and varied subject matters offered to a spirit avid for the truth, Sacred theology has the first place. […] Work with intrepidity in the study of natural things, for, just as the ingenious inventions and the undertakings full of efficacy of today cause admiration, later on they will be objects of permanent approval and praise. But all this without any detriment to the sacred studies. (Pius X. Sacrorum antistitum, no. 1, September 1, 1910)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

  • Theology is something indispensable for the Church

In the Christian faith, knowledge and life, truth and existence are intrinsically connected. Assuredly, the truth given in God’s revelation exceeds the capacity of human knowledge, but it is not opposed to human reason. Revelation in fact penetrates human reason, elevates it, and calls it to give an account of itself (cf. 1Pet 3:15). For this reason, from the very beginning of the Church, the ‘standard of teaching’ (cf. Rom 6:17) has been linked with baptism to entrance into the mystery of Christ. The service of doctrine, implying as it does the believer’s search for an understanding of the faith, i.e., theology, is therefore something indispensable for the Church. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction Donum veritatis, no. 1, May 24, 1990)

  • Theology is obedient to the impulse of truth, arises from love, and seeks to be communicated

Theology therefore offers its contribution so that the faith might be communicated. Appealing to the understanding of those who do not yet know Christ, it helps them to seek and find faith. Obedient to the impulse of truth which seeks to be communicated, theology also arises from love and love’s dynamism. In the act of faith, man knows God’s goodness and begins to love Him. Love, however, is ever desirous of a better knowledge of the beloved. From this double origin of theology, inscribed upon the interior life of the People of God and its missionary vocation, derives the method with which it ought to be pursued in order to satisfy the requirements of its nature. Since the object of theology is the Truth which is the living God and His plan for salvation revealed in Jesus Christ, the theologian is called to deepen his own life of faith and continuously unite his scientific research with prayer. In this way, he will become more open to the ‘supernatural sense of faith’ upon which he depends, and it will appear to him as a sure rule for guiding his reflections and helping him assess the correctness of his conclusions. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction Donum veritatis, no. 7, May 24, 1990)

Sacred Scriptures

  • Faith comes from what is heard

Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Rom 10:17)

John Paul II

  • The theologian should reject those philosophical opinions which cannot be reconciled with the faith

Thus, it becomes clear how important are the studies of those who investigate this mystery of Christ in accordance with the highest science. This is your mission, this is the importance of your presence within the Church! Theology, almost form the beginnings of the Church, developed along with pastoral care and has always had and continues to had great strength for this purpose, as well as for catechesis. However, this your work of investigation takes place in different directions: it is well-known that from ancient times there have always been many theological schools; and also in the present time different opinions and ways of thinking are recognized as legitimate, in such a way that one can speak of a healthy pluralism. However, one must always be careful that the ‘deposit of faith’ be maintained integral and that the theologian reject those philosophical opinions which cannot be reconciled with the faith. (John Paul II. Address to the members of the International Theological Commission, October 26, 1979)

  • The effort of theologians must be inspired by the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom

The work of many theologians who found support in the Council’s encouragement has already borne fruit in interesting and helpful reflections about the truths of faith to be believed and applied in life, reflections offered in a form better suited to the sensitivities and questions of our contemporaries. The Church, and particularly the Bishops, to whom Jesus Christ primarily entrusted the ministry of teaching, are deeply appreciative of this work, and encourage theologians to continue their efforts, inspired by that profound and authentic ‘fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom’ (cf. Prov 1:7). (John Paul II. Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, no. 29, August 6, 1993)

  • Theology is a service to the Church, and is actively involved in the prophetic mission of the Church

As the Instruction Donum Veritatis teaches: ‘Among the vocations awakened by the Spirit in the Church is that of the theologian. His role is to pursue in a particular way an ever deeper understanding of the word of God found in the inspired Scriptures and handed on by the living Tradition of the Church. He does this in communion with the Magisterium, which has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the deposit of faith. By its nature, faith appeals to reason because it reveals to man the truth of his destiny and the way to attain it. Revealed truth, to be sure, surpasses our telling. All our concepts fall short of its ultimately unfathomable grandeur (cf. Eph 3:19). Nonetheless, revealed truth beckons reason – God’s gift fashioned for the assimilation of truth – to enter into its light and thereby come to understand in a certain measure what it has believed. Theological science responds to the invitation of truth as it seeks to understand the faith. It thereby aids the People of God in fulfilling the Apostle’s command (cf. 1Pet 3:15) to give an accounting for their hope to those who ask it’ (Donum Veritatis, 6). It is fundamental for defining the very identity of theology, and consequently for theology to carry out its proper mission, to recognize its profound and vital connection with the Church, her mystery, her life and her mission: ‘Theology is an ecclesial science because it grows in the Church and works on the Church… It is a service to the Church and therefore ought to feel itself actively involved in the mission of the Church, particularly in its prophetic mission’. By its very nature and procedures, authentic theology can flourish and develop only through a committed and responsible participation in and ‘belonging’ to the Church as a ‘community of faith’. In turn, the fruits of theological research and deeper insight become a source of enrichment for the Church and her life of faith. (John Paul II. Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, no. 109, August 6, 1993)

  • Faith is in a sense an ‘exercise of thought’

Faith therefore has no fear of reason, but seeks it out and has trust in it. Just as grace builds on nature and brings it to fulfilment, so faith builds upon and perfects reason. Illumined by faith, reason is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God. Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness; indeed he was able to plumb the depths and explain the meaning of this reasonableness. Faith is in a sense an ‘exercise of thought’; and human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice. This is why the Church has been justified in consistently proposing Saint Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology. (John Paul II. Encyclical Fides et ratio, no. 43, September 14, 1998)

  • The Catholic theologian may not create a bridge between Scripture and the preoccupations of the present without the mediation of Tradition

The concentration on God and on his salvific work in benefit to humans signifies internal order of the theological truths. God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are in the center. The word of the Scripture, the Church and the Sacraments remain the great historic institutions of salvation of the world; but the ‘hierarchy of truths’ (Uni. Red. 11), required by Vatican Council II, does not mean a simple reduction of the all the Catholic Faith to some few basic truths, as some have thought. The more profound and radically the nucleus is grasped, the more clear and convincing result the lines that unite the divine nucleus with those truths that seem to be situated quite at the margin. The profundity of the concentration is manifested also in the amplitude of its irradiation to all of theology. […] A bridge between Scripture and the preoccupations of the present may not be made by the catholic theologian without the mediation of Tradition. This does not replace the Word of God in the Bible; but rather gives testimony of it, in the course of historic epochs, through new interpretations. Remain in constant dialogue with the living Tradition of the Church. Extract from it treasures often undiscovered. Make it clear to the men of the Church that you do not only rely on the ruins of the past, but rather our great inheritance, received from the Apostles hold within itself until our days a rich potential capable of giving a response to current problems. We are capable of transmitting better the Gospel of God when we pay attention to Sacred Scripture and to its echo in the living Tradition of the Church. We will thus become more perceptible and sensitive to the needs of our present time. This does not constitute the sole, or the last criteria of theological knowledge. (John Paul II. Allocution to the professors of Theology in the convent of the Capuchins of Altötting, no. 1-2, November 18, 1980)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium, each in its own way, contribute effectively to the salvation of souls

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her. […] It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum, no. 8.10, November 18, 1965)

  • Theologians provide the nourishment of the Scriptures for the people of God

Catholic exegetes then and other students of sacred theology, working diligently together and using appropriate means, should devote their energies, under the watchful care of the sacred teaching office of the Church, to an exploration and exposition of the divine writings. This should be so done that as many ministers of the divine word as possible will be able effectively to provide the nourishment of the Scriptures for the people of God, to enlighten their minds, strengthen their wills, and set men’s hearts on fire with the love of God. The sacred synod encourages the sons of the Church and Biblical scholars to continue energetically, following the mind of the Church, with the work they have so well begun, with a constant renewal of vigor. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum, no. 8.10, November 18, 1965)

  • The study of Sacred Scripture is the soul of sacred theology

Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition, as its primary and perpetual foundation. By scrutinizing in the light of faith all truth stored up in the mystery of Christ, theology is most powerfully strengthened and constantly rejuvenated by that word. For the Sacred Scriptures contain the word of God and since they are inspired, really are the word of God; and so the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology. By the same word of Scripture the ministry of the word also, that is, pastoral preaching, catechetics and all Christian instruction, in which the liturgical homily must hold the foremost place, is nourished in a healthy way and flourishes in a holy way. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum, no. 24, November 18, 1965)

  • Theologians must seek for ways of communicating doctrine to the men of their times

Although the Church has contributed much to the development of culture, experience shows that, for circumstantial reasons, it is sometimes difficult to harmonize culture with Christian teaching. These difficulties do not necessarily harm the life of faith, rather they can stimulate the mind to a deeper and more accurate understanding of the faith. The recent studies and findings of science, history and philosophy raise new questions which effect life and which demand new theological investigations. Furthermore, theologians, within the requirements and methods proper to theology, are invited to seek continually for more suitable ways of communicating doctrine to the men of their times; for the deposit of Faith or the truths are one thing and the manner in which they are enunciated, in the same meaning and understanding, is another. (Vatican Council II. Constitution Gaudium et spes, no. 62, December 7, 1965)

Pius XII

  • Theologians have the serious duty of protecting divine and human truth

Indeed, Catholic theologians and philosophers, upon whom falls the serious duty of protecting divine and human truth, and of inculcating these in the minds of men, may not ignore or neglect these opinions which more or less stray from the straight road. Moreover, they should thoroughly examine these opinions, because diseases cannot be cured unless they have been rightly diagnosed; also because sometimes in false fabrications something of truth lies hidden; finally, because such theories provoke the mind to scrutinize and weigh certain truths, philosophical or theological, more carefully. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3879. Pius XI, Encyclical Humani generis, no. 5, August 2, 1950)

  • The sacred Magisterium is the proximate and universal norm of faith to any theologian

And, although this sacred Magisterium, in matters of faith and morals, should be the proximate and universal norm of faith to any theologian, inasmuch as Christ the Lord entrusted the entire deposit of faith to it, namely, the Sacred Scriptures and divine ‘tradition’, to be guarded, and preserved, and interpreted. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3884. Pius XI, Encyclical Humani generis, no. 5, August 2, 1950)

  • Speculation, which neglects the deeper investigation of sacred deposit, becomes sterile

It is also true that theologians must always have recourse to the sources of divine revelation; for it is their duty to indicate how what is taught by the living magisterium is found, either explicitly or implicitly, in Sacred Scripture and in divine ‘tradition’. In addition, both sources of doctrine, divinely revealed, contain so many and such great treasures of truth that they are in fact never exhausted. Therefore, the sacred disciplines always remain vigorous by a study of the sacred sources, while, on the other hand, speculation, which neglects the deeper investigation of sacred deposit, as we know from experience, becomes sterile. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3886. Pius XI, Encyclical Humani generis, no. 21, August 2, 1950)

Paul VI

  • The theologian should be attentive and docile to the light of the Holy Spirit

Theology, in fact, by means of the human intelligence illuminated by the faith, and not without a certain light of the Holy Spirit, to which the theologian should be attentive and docile, has the task of knowing and penetrating more completely the contents of Revelation; to bring to the knowledge of the Christian community, and particularly of the Magisterium itself, the fruits of his research, so that, through the teaching of authority, it may become a light for the whole Christian people, and then to collaborate to spread, explain, justify and defend the truth taught with authority by the Magisterium. (Paul VI. Address to the participants of the International Theological Congress of Vatican Council II, October 1, 1966)

Benedict XVI

  • We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church

It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people. We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51). Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: ‘Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life’ (Jn 6:27). (Benedict XVI. Apostolic letter ‘motu proprio dataPorta fidei, no. 2-3, October 11.2011)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

  • The due freedom of theologians must always be limited by the Word of God as is faithfully preserved and expounded in the Church

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rejoices that theologians are by intense study exploring more and more the mystery of the Church. It recognizes also that in their work they touch on many questions which can only be clarified by complementary studies and by various efforts and conjectures. However, the due freedom of theologians must always be limited by the Word of God as it is faithfully preserved and expounded in the Church and taught and explained by the living Magisterium of the pastors and especially of the Pastor of the entire People of God. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, In defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church against certain errors of the present day, no. 6, June 24, 1973)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

  • There must never be recession from understanding of the sacred dogmas under the specious name of a deeper understanding

[The true progress of knowledge, both natural and revealed] .For, the doctrine of faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected, but has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding [can. 3]. ‘Therefore […] let the understanding, the knowledge, and wisdom of individuals as of all, of one man as of the whole Church, grow and progress strongly with the passage of the ages and the centuries; but let it be solely in its own genus, namely in the same dogma, with the same sense and the same understanding’. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3020. Vatican Council I, Constitution Dei Filius, Ch. 4, Session III, April 24, 1870)

Saint Athanasius

  • Anyone who separates from faith of the Catholic Church is no longer a Christian either in fact or in name

It profitable to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by Our Lord, proclaimed by the Apostles and preserved by the Fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to separate from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name. (Saint Athanasius. Epistle I ad Serapionem, 28: PG 26, 594-595)


II – The unity of Christians is only possible within the only true Church of Christ


Sacred Scripture

  • If anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed

(Not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach (to you) a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! (Gal 1:7-9)

Pius IX

  • To pretend that men can gain eternal salvation in any religion, is to pretend agreement between Christ and Belial

You already know well, venerable brothers, the other portentous errors and deceits by which the sons of this world try most bitterly to attack the Catholic religion […] Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial. (Pius IX. Encyclical Qui Pluribus, no. 9, November 9, 1846)

  • In their deceit they repeatedly declare Protestantism to be only another form of the same true religion of Christ, thereby just as pleasing to God

You are aware indeed, that the goal of this most iniquitous plot. […] This is why they try to draw the Italian people over to Protestantism, which in their deceit they repeatedly declare to be only another form of the same true religion of Christ, thereby just as pleasing to God. Meanwhile they know full well that the chief principle of the Protestant tenets, i.e., that the holy scriptures are to be understood by the personal judgment of the individual, will greatly assist their impious cause. (Pius IX. Encyclical Nostis et nobiscum, no. 4, December 8, 1849)

  • Mutually disagreeing religious societies separated from the Catholic Church can in no way be said to be part of the same Church

Now, however, on who carefully considers and reflects on the condition in which the diverse and mutually disagreeing religious societies that are separated from the Catholic Church find themselves […] should be able very easily to convince himself that no particular one of those societies or even all of them joined together in any way constitute and are that one and catholic Church that Christ the Lord established, constituted, and willed to exist, nor can they in any way be said to be a member or part of the same Church, because they are visibly separated from Catholic unity. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2998. Pius IX, Apostolic letter Iam Vos Omnes, September 13, 1864)

  • Condemnation from the Syllabus

[Errors related to the recognition of Protestantism as a true religion]
Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to continuous and indefinite progress, which corresponds to the progress of human reason. […]
Protestantism is nothing else than a different form of the same true Christian religion, in which it is possible to serve God as well as in the Catholic Church. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2905; 2918. Pius IX, Syllabus: a collection of errors proscribed in diverse documents, December 8, 1864)

  • A very grave error: to believe that men living in error and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity can attain eternal life

And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, We should mention again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life [see no. 1717]. Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2865. Pius IX, Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863)

Pius XI

  • Beneath the enticing words of pan-Christians lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed

But some are more easily deceived by the outward appearance of good when there is question of fostering unity among all Christians. Is it not right, it is often repeated, indeed, even consonant with duty, that all who invoke the name of Christ should abstain from mutual reproaches and at long last be united in mutual charity? Who would dare to say that he loved Christ, unless he worked with all his might to carry out the desires of Him, Who asked His Father that His disciples might be ‘one’ (Jn 17:21). And did not the same Christ will that His disciples should be marked out and distinguished from others by this characteristic, namely that they loved one another: ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another’ (Jn 13:35)? All Christians, they add, should be as ‘one’: for then they would be much more powerful in driving out the pest of irreligion, which like a serpent daily creeps further and becomes more widely spread, and prepares to rob the Gospel of its strength. These things and others that class of men who are known as pan-Christians continually repeat and amplify; and these men, so far from being quite few and scattered, have increased to the dimensions of an entire class, and have grouped themselves into widely spread societies, most of which are directed by non-Catholics, although they are imbued with varying doctrines concerning the things of faith. This undertaking is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the adhesion of a number of citizens, and it even takes possession of the minds of very many Catholics and allures them with the hope of bringing about such a union as would be agreeable to the desires of Holy Mother Church, who has indeed nothing more at heart than to recall her erring sons and to lead them back to her bosom. But in reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed. Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil; for We are confident that by the writings and words of each one of you the people will more easily get to know and understand those principles and arguments which We are about to set forth, and from which Catholics will learn how they are to think and act when there is question of those undertakings which have for their end the union in one body, whatsoever be the manner, of all who call themselves Christians. We were created by God, the Creator of the universe, in order that we might know Him and serve Him; our Author therefore has a perfect right to our service. God might, indeed, have prescribed for man’s government only the natural law, which, in His creation, He imprinted on his soul, and have regulated the progress of that same law by His ordinary providence; but He preferred rather to impose precepts, which we were to obey, and in the course of time, namely from the beginnings of the human race until the coming and preaching of Jesus Christ, He Himself taught man the duties which a rational creature owes to its Creator: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by his Son’ (Heb 1:1-2). From which it follows that there can be no true religion other than that which is founded on the revealed word of God: which revelation, begun from the beginning and continued under the Old Law, Christ Jesus Himself under the New Law perfected. Now, if God has spoken (and it is historically certain that He has truly spoken), all must see that it is man’s duty to believe absolutely God’s revelation and to obey implicitly His commands; that we might rightly do both, for the glory of God and our own salvation, the Only-begotten Son of God founded His Church on earth. Further, We believe that those who call themselves Christians can do no other than believe that a Church, and that Church one, was established by Christ; but if it is further inquired of what nature according to the will of its Author it must be, then all do not agree. A good number of them, for example, deny that the Church of Christ must be visible and apparent, at least to such a degree that it appears as one body of faithful, agreeing in one and the same doctrine under one teaching authority and government; but, on the contrary, they understand a visible Church as nothing else than a Federation, composed of various communities of Christians, even though they adhere to different doctrines, which may even be incompatible one with another. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 3-6, January 6, 1928)

  • Many affirm they would willingly unite to the Church of Rome, but do not turn from false opinions whereby they stray from the one fold of Christ

And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: ‘That they all may be one. […] And there shall be one fold and one shepherd’, with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment. For they are of the opinion that the unity of faith and government, which is a note of the one true Church of Christ, has hardly up to the present time existed, and does not to-day exist. They consider that this unity may indeed be desired and that it may even be one day attained through the instrumentality of wills directed to a common end, but that meanwhile it can only be regarded as mere ideal. They add that the Church in itself, or of its nature, is divided into sections; that is to say, that it is made up of several churches or distinct communities, which still remain separate, and although having certain articles of doctrine in common, nevertheless disagree concerning the remainder; that these all enjoy the same rights; and that the Church was one and unique from, at the most, the apostolic age until the first Ecumenical Councils. Controversies therefore, they say, and longstanding differences of opinion which keep asunder till the present day the members of the Christian family, must be entirely put aside, and from the remaining doctrines a common form of faith drawn up and proposed for belief, and in the profession of which all may not only know but feel that they are brothers. The manifold churches or communities, if united in some kind of universal federation, would then be in a position to oppose strongly and with success the progress of irreligion. This, Venerable Brethren, is what is commonly said. There are some, indeed, who recognize and affirm that Protestantism, as they call it, has rejected, with a great lack of consideration, certain articles of faith and some external ceremonies, which are, in fact, pleasing and useful, and which the Roman Church still retains. They soon, however, go on to say that that Church also has erred, and corrupted the original religion by adding and proposing for belief certain doctrines which are not only alien to the Gospel, but even repugnant to it. Among the chief of these they number that which concerns the primacy of jurisdiction, which was granted to Peter and to his successors in the See of Rome. Among them there indeed are some, though few, who grant to the Roman Pontiff a primacy of honor or even a certain jurisdiction or power, but this, however, they consider not to arise from the divine law but from the consent of the faithful. Others again, even go so far as to wish the Pontiff Himself to preside over their motley, so to say, assemblies. But, all the same, although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in His capacity as a teacher or as a governor. Meanwhile they affirm that they would willingly treat with the Church of Rome, but on equal terms, that is as equals with an equal: but even if they could so act. it does not seem open to doubt that any pact into which they might enter would not compel them to turn from those opinions which are still the reason why they err and stray from the one fold of Christ. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 7, January 6, 1928)

  • Impossible: union with those who retain their own opinions. Can those who follow contrary opinions belong to the same fold?

Who then can conceive a Christian Federation, the members of which retain each his own opinions and private judgment, even in matters which concern the object of faith, even though they be repugnant to the opinions of the rest? And in what manner, We ask, can men who follow contrary opinions, belong to one and the same Federation of the faithful? For example, those who affirm, and those who deny that sacred Tradition is a true fount of divine Revelation; those who hold that an ecclesiastical hierarchy, made up of bishops, priests and ministers, has been divinely constituted, and those who assert that it has been brought in little by little in accordance with the conditions of the time; those who adore Christ really present in the Most Holy Eucharist through that marvelous conversion of the bread and wine, which is called transubstantiation, and those who affirm that Christ is present only by faith or by the signification and virtue of the Sacrament; those who in the Eucharist recognize the nature both of a sacrament and of a sacrifice, and those who say that it is nothing more than the memorial or commemoration of the Lord’s Supper; those who believe it to be good and useful to invoke by prayer the Saints reigning with Christ, especially Mary the Mother of God, and to venerate their images, and those who urge that such a veneration is not to be made use of, for it is contrary to the honor due to Jesus Christ, ‘the one mediator of God and men’ (cf. 1Tim 2:15). (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 9, January 6, 1928)

  • So great a variety of opinions is an easy step to the neglect of religion

How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians. But We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it. Those, who are unhappily infected with these errors, hold that dogmatic truth is not absolute but relative, that is, it agrees with the varying necessities of time and place and with the varying tendencies of the mind, since it is not contained in immutable revelation, but is capable of being accommodated to human life. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 9, January 6, 1928)

  • The union of Christians is in the return to the true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it

The union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it. During the lapse of centuries, the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated, as Cyprian bears witness: ‘The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly’ (St. Cyprian, Ecclesiae unitate, 6). The same holy Martyr with good reason marveled exceedingly that anyone could believe that ‘this unity in the Church which arises from a divine foundation, and which is knit together by heavenly sacraments, could be rent and torn asunder by the force of contrary wills’ (St. Cyprian, Ecclesiae unitate). For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one, (1Cor 12:12) compacted and fitly joined together (Eph 4:16), it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head (Eph 5:30; 1, 22). (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 10, January 6, 1928)

Paul VI

  • The Gospel message does not permit indifference, syncretism or accommodation

Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God. It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 5, December 8, 1975)

  • The danger of a dialogue that weakens our attachment to our faith and makes vague compromises

But the danger remains. Indeed, the worker in the apostolate is under constant fire. The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth. Our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith. Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith both in theory and in practice. An immoderate desire to make peace and sink differences at all costs (irenism and syncretism) is ultimately nothing more than skepticism about the power and content of the Word of God which we desire to preach. The effective apostle is the man who is completely faithful to Christ’s teaching. He alone can remain unaffected by the errors of the world around him, the man who lives his Christian life to the full. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 88, August 6, 1964)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • The sacred mystery of the unity of the Church is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it

In order to establish this His holy Church everywhere in the world till the end of time, Christ entrusted to the College of the Twelve the task of teaching, ruling and sanctifying. Among their number He selected Peter, and after his confession of faith determined that on him He would build His Church. Also to Peter He promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and after His profession of love, entrusted all His sheep to him to be confirmed in faith and shepherded in perfect unity. Christ Jesus Himself was forever to remain the chief cornerstone and shepherd of our souls. Jesus Christ, then, willed that the apostles and their successors – the bishops with Peter’s successor at their head – should preach the Gospel faithfully, administer the sacraments, and rule the Church in love. It is thus, under the action of the Holy Spirit, that Christ wills His people to increase, and He perfects His people’s fellowship in unity: in their confessing the one faith, celebrating divine worship in common, and keeping the fraternal harmony of the family of God. The Church, then, is God’s only flock; it is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it: for it serves all mankind through the Gospel of peace as it makes its pilgrim way in hope toward the goal of the fatherland above. This is the sacred mystery of the unity of the Church, in Christ and through Christ, the Holy Spirit energizing its various functions. It is a mystery that finds its highest exemplar and source in the unity of the Persons of the Trinity: the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, one God. (Vatican Council II. Decree Unitatis redintegratio, no. 2, November 21, 1964)

  • Our separated brethren are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body

Even in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly condemned. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church – for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. […] Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life – that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is ‘the all-embracing means of salvation’, that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. (Vatican Council II. Decree Unitatis redintegratio, no. 3, November 21, 1964)

  • In dialogue it is essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety

The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded. At the same time, the Catholic faith must be explained more profoundly and precisely, in such a way and in such terms as our separated brethren can also really understand. Moreover, in ecumenical dialogue, Catholic theologians standing fast by the teaching of the Church and investigating the divine mysteries with the separated brethren must proceed with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility. When comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith. (Vatican Council II. Decree Unitatis redintegratio, no. 11, November 21, 1964)

  • There exist important differences between these ecclesial Communities and the Catholic Church, especially in the interpretation of revealed truth

It must however be admitted that in these churches and ecclesial Communities there exist important differences from the Catholic Church, not only of a historical, sociological, psychological and cultural character, but especially in the interpretation of revealed truth. (Vatican Council II. Decree Unitatis redintegratio, no. 19, November 21, 1964)

  • The unity in which Christ brings together the whole Church is in the teaching of the apostles

All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God’s will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one (cf. Jn 11:52). It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things (cf. Heb 1:2), that he might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of His Son as Lord and Life-giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the well-spring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers (cf. Acts 2:42). (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, no. 13, November 21, 1964)

  • The Catholic Church is necessary for salvation

This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (Cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, no. 14, November 21, 1964)

  • This one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church

First, the council professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men. Thus He spoke to the Apostles: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you’ (Mt 28:19-20). On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it. This Vatican Council likewise professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power. Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ. (Vatican Council II. Declaration Dignitatis humanae, no. 1, December 7, 1965)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

  • The only true union is achieved by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ

Therefore the whole and entire Catholic doctrine is to be presented and explained: by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth regarding the nature and way of justification, the constitution of the Church, the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, and the only true union by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ. It should be made clear to them that, in returning to the Church, they will lose nothing of that good which by the grace of God has hitherto been implanted in them, but that it will rather be supplemented and completed by their return. However, one should not speak of this in such a way that they will imagine that in returning to the Church they are bringing to it something substantial which it has hitherto lacked. It will be necessary to say these things clearly and openly, first because it is the truth that they themselves are seeking, and moreover because outside the truth no true union can ever be attained. (Congregation of the Holy Office. Instruction Ecclesia Catholica, no. II, December 20, 1949)

  • Do not imagine that Christ’s Church is nothing more than a collection of churches and ecclesial communities

But at the same time Catholics are bound to profess that through the gift of God’s mercy they belong to that Church which Christ founded and which is governed by the successors of Peter and the other Apostles, who are the depositories of the original Apostolic tradition, living and intact, which is the permanent heritage of doctrine and holiness of that same Church. The followers of Christ are therefore not permitted to imagine that Christ’s Church is nothing more than a collection (divided, but still possessing a certain unity) of Churches and ecclesial communities. Nor are they free to hold that Christ’s Church nowhere really exists today and that it is to be considered only as an end which all Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, no. 1, June 24, 1973)

  • The unicity of the Church founded by Christ must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith

The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff., Gal 3:28, Eph 4:15-16, Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27), which is his body (cf. 1Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18). And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single ‘whole Christ’. This same inseparability is also expressed in the New Testament by the analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. 2Cor 11:2, Eph 5:25-29, Rev 21:2,9). Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: ‘a single Catholic and apostolic Church’. Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18, 28:20) and that he would guide her by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity and the unity of the Church like everything that belongs to the Church’s integrity will never be lacking. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 16, August 6, 2000)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • The great richness of diversity of the Church’s members is not opposed to unity

From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church’s members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions, and ways of life. ‘Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions’ (LG 13). The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church’s unity. Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity. and so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4:3). What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’ (Col 3:14). But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:
profession of one faith received from the Apostles;
common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;
apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 814-815)

John Paul II

  • True ecumenical activity in no way means giving up the treasures of divine truth of the Church

True ecumenical activity means openness, drawing closer, availability for dialogue, and a shared investigation of the truth in the full evangelical and Christian sense; but in no way does it or can it mean giving up or in any way diminishing the treasures of divine truth that the Church has constantly confessed and taught. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, no. 6, March 4, 1979)

  • The universal activity of the Spirit is inseparable from the Church

Whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood in reference to Christ, the Word who took flesh by the power of the Spirit ‘so that as perfectly human he would save all human beings and sum up all things’. Moreover, the universal activity of the Spirit is not to be separated from his particular activity within the body of Christ, which is the Church. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, no. 29, December 7, 1990)

  • Proclaiming Christ and interreligious dialogue should not be confused or regarded as identical

In the light of the economy of salvation, the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious dialogue. Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were interchangeable. […] Dialogue should be conducted and implemented with the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation (cf. Vatican Council II, Unitatis Redintegratio, 3; Ad Gentes, 7). (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, no. 55, December 7, 1990)

  • Other communities do not possess the fullness of the Catholic Church

The elements of this already-given Church exist, found in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other Communities. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, no. 14, March 25, 1995)

  • Ecumenical dialogue is a dialogue of conversion, absolutely avoiding all forms of facile ‘agreement’ without clear presentation of doctrine

Here once again the Council proves helpful. It can be said that the entire Decree on Ecumenism is permeated by the spirit of conversion. In the Document, ecumenical dialogue takes on a specific characteristic; it becomes a ‘dialogue of conversion’, and thus, in the words of Pope Paul VI, an authentic ‘dialogue of salvation’. Dialogue cannot take place merely on a horizontal level, being restricted to meetings, exchanges of points of view or even the sharing of gifts proper to each Community. It has also a primarily vertical thrust, directed towards the One who, as the Redeemer of the world and the Lord of history, is himself our Reconciliation. This vertical aspect of dialogue lies in our acknowledgment, jointly and to each other, that we are men and women who have sinned. It is precisely this acknowledgment which creates in brothers and sisters living in Communities not in full communion with one another that interior space where Christ, the source of the Church’s unity, can effectively act, with all the power of his Spirit, the Paraclete. […] With regard to the study of areas of disagreement, the Council requires that the whole body of doctrine be clearly presented. At the same time, it asks that the manner and method of expounding the Catholic faith should not be a hindrance to dialogue with our brothers and sisters. Certainly it is possible to profess one’s faith and to explain its teaching in a way that is correct, fair and understandable, and which at the same time takes into account both the way of thinking and the actual historical experiences of the other party. Full communion of course will have to come about through the acceptance of the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ’s disciples. Hence all forms of reductionism or facile ‘agreement’ must be absolutely avoided. Serious questions must be resolved, for if not, they will reappear at another time, either in the same terms or in a different guise. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, no. 35-36, March 25, 1995)

Benedict XVI

  • A type of dialogue totally foreign to the thinking of the Second Vatican Council: irenism and indifferentism

The coherence of the ecumenical endeavour with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and with the entire Tradition, has been one of the areas to which the Congregation has always paid attention, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Today we can note the many good fruit yielded by ecumenical dialogue. However, we must also recognize that the risk of a false irenism and of indifferentism totally foreign to the thinking of the Second Vatican Council demands our vigilance. This indifferentism is caused by the increasingly widespread opinion that truth is not accessible to man; hence it is necessary to limit oneself to finding rules for a praxis that can better the world. And like this, faith becomes substituted by a moralism without deep foundations. The centre of true ecumenism is, on the contrary, the faith in which the human being finds the truth which is revealed in the Word of God. Without faith the entire ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of ‘social contract’ to which to adhere out of common interest, a ‘praxeology’, in order to create a better world. The logic of the Second Vatican Council is quite different: the sincere search for the full unity of all Christians is a dynamic inspired by the Word of God, by the divine Truth who speaks to us in this word. The crucial problem which marks ecumenical dialogue transversally is therefore the question of the structure of revelation the relationship between Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition in Holy Church and the Ministry of the Successors of the Apostles as a witness of true faith. And in this case the problem of ecclesiology which is part of this problem is implicit: how God’s truth reaches us. Fundamental here is the discernment between Tradition with a capital ‘T’ and traditions. (Benedict XVI. Address to participants in the plenary meeting of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, January 27, 2012)

  • The principle of unity, the Holy Spirit, is manifested in the bonds of the profession of the faith in its entirety

It is the Holy Spirit, the principle of unity, which establishes the Church as a communion. He is the principle of the unity of the faithful in the teaching of the Apostles, in the breaking of the bread and in prayer. The Church, however, analogous to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, is not only an invisible spiritual communion, but is also visible; in fact, ‘the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality formed from a two-fold element, human and divine’ (Lumen gentium, 8). The communion of the baptized in the teaching of the Apostles and in the breaking of the eucharistic bread is visibly manifested in the bonds of the profession of the faith in its entirety, of the celebration of all of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and of the governance of the College of Bishops united with its head, the Roman Pontiff. (Benedict XVI. Apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, November 4, 2009)

International Theological Commission

  • The way of dialogue between religions cannot in any way pledge itself to syncretism

We cannot, however, forget the transcendence of the Gospel in relation to all human cultures in which the Christian faith has the vocation to root itself and come to fruition according to all its potentialities. However great the respect should be for what is true and holy in the cultural heritage of a people, this attitude does not demand that one should lend an absolute character to this cultural heritage. No one can forget that, from the beginning, the Gospel was a ‘scandal for the Jews and foolishness for the pagans’ (1Cor 1:23). Inculturation which borrows the way of dialogue between religions cannot in any way pledge itself to syncretism. (International Theological Commission. The faith and inculturation, no. 14, December 14, 1987)

John Paul II

  • Christians today feel lost, confused, perplexed and even disillusioned… Real heresies in dogmatic and moral fields have created doubts and confusions

Today, for an efficacious work in the field of preaching, it is necessary to understand the spiritual and psychological reality of Christians living in modern society. It is essential to realistically admit, with deep and pained sentiment, that in part, Christians today feel lost, confused, perplexed and even disillusioned; ideas conflicting with the revealed and consistently taught truth have been widely spread; real heresies in dogmatic and moral fields have been promoted, creating doubts, confusions, rebellions, even the Liturgy has been manipulated; immersed in the intellectual and moral ‘relativism’, and consequently permissiveness, Christians are tempted toward atheism, agnosticism, vaguely moralistic illuminism, and a sociological Christianity, without defined dogmas and without objective morality. (John Paul II. Address to participants of the Italian National Congress on the theme of ‘Popular Missions during the 80s’, no. 2, February 6, 1981)


III – The Pope is not ‘just another participant’ among Evangelical Pentecostal Pastors


Leo XIII

  • Some men clearly occupy the foremost place

Some there must be who devote themselves to the work of the commonwealth, who make the laws or administer justice, or whose advice and authority govern the nation in times of peace, and defend it in war. Such men clearly occupy the foremost place in the State, and should be held in highest estimation, for their work concerns most nearly and effectively the general interests of the community. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 25, May 15, 1891)

Council of Trent (Ecumenical XIX)

  • All Christians indiscriminately are not endowed with an equal spiritual power …how much more the Pope

And if any one affirm, that all Christians indiscriminately are priests of the New Testament, or that they are all mutually endowed with an equal spiritual power, he clearly does nothing but confound the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is as an army set in array; as if, contrary to the doctrine of blessed Paul, all were apostles, all prophets, all evangelists, all pastors, all doctors. (Council of Trent. Session XXIII, Ch. 4, Doctrine on the Ecclesiastical hierarchy and Holy Orders, July 15, 1563)

Boniface I

  • The Council did not dare establish anything above the office of the Pope

The institution of the universal Church that sprang forth took her origin from the dignified office of blessed Peter, in which her government and preeminence rest. In fact, from this source flowed the ecclesiastical discipline for all the Churches while the cultivation of religion was already growing. The decrees of the Council of Nicaea bear witness to nothing else: so much so that (the council) did not dare establish anything above (this office), since it saw that nothing could take place above its proper right, and, finally, it knew that everything had been granted to it by the word of the Lord. Therefore, it is certain that this (Roman Church) is, as it were, like the head of its members for the Churches spread throughout the whole world. (Denzinger-Hünermann 233. Boniface I, Letter Institutio to the Bishops of Thessalonica, March 11, 422)

Council of Florence (Ecumenical XVII)

  • Full power was given to the Pope to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church

We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See, and the Roman Pontiff, hold the primacy throughout the entire world; and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and that he is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him in blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church; just as is contained in the acts of the ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1307. Eugene IV, Council of Florence (Ecumenical VII), Bull Laetentur coeli, Decree for the Greeks, July 6, 1439)

John Paul II

  • From sincere humility, be conscious of the dignity of the Papacy

‘Servus servorum Dei’: it is known that this title, chosen by him [Saint Gregory the Great] ever since he was a deacon – and used not a few of his letters – gradually became a traditional title and almost a definition of the person of the Bishop of Rome. It is also certain, that from sincere humility, he made it the motto of his ministry and that, precisely because of his universal function in the Church of Christ, he always considered and showed himself to be the maximum and primary servant – the servant of the servants of God – servant of all, following the example of Christ himself, who had explicitly affirmed that he ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mt 20:28). Most profound was, therefore, his consciousness of the dignity [of the Papacy], which he accepted with great trepidation after having unsuccessfully tried to remain hidden in an attempt to avoid it; but, at the same time, possessing a clear awareness of his duty to serve, convinced himself and attempting to instill in the others the conviction that all authority, above all within the Church, is essentially service. The awareness of his own pontifical office and, proportionally, of all pastoral ministry, is condensed in the word ‘responsibility’: he who exercises an ecclesiastical ministry should respond for what he does, not only to men, not only to the souls that were confided to him, but also and in the first place to God and to his Son, in whose name he acts each time he distributes the supernatural treasures of grace, announces the truths of the Gospel and undertakes activities of legislation and of government. (John Paul II. Letter Plurimum significans, on the XVI Centenary of the Pontificate of Saint Gregory the Great, June 29, 1990)

Vatican Council II (XXI Ecumenical)

  • The Vicar of Christ has full, supreme and universal power

Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, Saint Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together. […]But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. […] The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, no. 22-23, November 21, 1964)

Benedict XV

  • Peter is the common teacher and rector of all

To Peter the Prince of the Apostles, the divine Founder of the Church allotted the gifts of inerrancy in matters of faith and of union with God. This relationship is similar to that of a ‘Choir Director of the Choir of the Apostles’. He is the common teacher and rector of all, so that he might feed the flock of Him who established His Church on the authority of Peter himself and his successors. And on this mystical rock the foundation of the entire ecclesiastical structure stands firm as on a hinge. From it rises the unity of Christian charity as well as our Christian faith. (Benedict XV. Encyclical Principi Apostolorum Petro, October 5, 1920)


Discover another innovation:

What is family for the Church? Any type of Union?