Us vs. Them

My Christ-loving, Catholic-haunted, non-Catholic sister-in-law, phoned me up on Tuesday and said, “So what’s this I hear about the pope saying all us non-Catholics are going to hell?”

To which I replied, “Well, is that news?”

“Well, they’re saying he’s reversing Vatican II,” said she.

“Unlikely,” said I.

Later I looked up info on the document she was referring to, and emailed her this follow-up:

Here and here are explanations of the supposedly controversial document you heard about.

The gist of it is that churches lacking apostolic succession are not churches in the true sense, because they lack the basic “constitutive element” — which is nothing new and not a reversal of anything proposed by Vatican II.

… while other Christian bodies can play a role in bringing people to salvation, it is in the Catholic Church that “the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.”

If anyone thinks Vatican II said anything other than that (or that this is in any way a reversal of Vatican II) well, they’re either idiots or they have their own agenda that goes way beyond Vatican II.

I’m not saying it’s not offensive. If I were a Lutheran or Episcopalian, I’d find it mighty offensive. It’s just that it’s not a reversion to some old offensiveness that Vatican II set aside. Nope.

See also, this from angelmeg at Transcendental Musings.

As a convert from a Lutheran and Episcopalian background, my take on this is that, no, non-Catholic ecclesial bodies are not “churches” in the full sense, but that they can and do participate in a real way in the life of the true Church (which subsists fully in the Roman Catholic Church, as Lumen Gentium puts it). In other words, anyone who believes in Christ and submits to grace is ipso facto a member of the Catholic Church whether they acknowledge it or not. And the Catholic Church as an institution, even though she is infused with the grandeur and glory of Christ, has fucked up so badly at various points in her history, that it’s no wonder folks have splintered off and have a hard time rejoining.


  1. angelmeg says

    well put.

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