Monday, August 11, 2008

Response to a Comment to the Post: "SCDF on Lumen Gentium (in particular)"

Bobby has left a new comment on your post "SCDF on Lumen Gentium (in particular)":

" I was stunned yesterday when I posed the question of how the Church views fallen Catholics to Karl Keating whom I'm sure you know. Karl wrote the book, Catholicism versus Fundamentalism and as founder of the Catholic Answers website influences millions of Catholics.Karl told me emphatically (EWTN on the air) that Catholics who leave the church and join another Christian faith ( Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc.) have no chance of being saved and obtaining Heaven, irrespective of their heart for Christ. Unfortunately this is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches pursuant to Paragraph 14 of its Constitution...Lumen Gentium (LG), "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." Nowhere in sacred Scripture can that statement be supported!That mindset is, pardon the expression, asinine to me. It not only is judgmental and presumes to know the mind of God in terms of judging men's hearts, but also illustrates a Pharisaical attitude. (Matthew chapter 23).As a born again, spirit filled, active cradle Catholic, I personally am on a mission to have Catholics and Protestants focus not on their differences but on their common beliefs. I believe this "ecumenism" is tremendously encouraged by the Holy Father as it was by Pope John Paul II. The ignorant, counter productive commentary coming from both sides is destroying any hope for Christians to give their most effective witness to non-believers worldwide."

Dear Bobby,

In a talk given to the bishops of the United States by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he opened with the proposal to John Henry Newman to make a toast to the pope. Newman responded that he would be glad to, but he that he would prefer to toast conscience first, and then the pope, because “without conscience there would not be a papacy.”
[1] Ratzinger quotes Newman: “Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into afterdinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing), I shall drink – to the Pope, if you please, - still, to conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.”[2] Ratzinger clarifies that “the dominance of the idea of conscience in Newman does not signify tha the, in the nineteenth century, and in contrast to ‘objectivistic’ neoscholasticism, espoused a philosophy or theology of subjectivity…. Conscience for Newman does not mean that the subject is the standard vis-a vis the claims of authority in a truthless world, a world which lives from the compromise between the claims of the subject and the claims of the social order. Much more than that, conscience signifies the perceptible and demanding presence of the voice of truth in the subject himself. It is the overcoming of mere subjectivity in the encounter of the interiority of man with the truth from God.” The grounding of that truth consists in “an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis [non-amnesia] of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”[3]

The large point that he makes here is that this “ontological tendency” is seeking a response from without, literally, from revelation. He says: “The anamnesis instilled in our being needs, one might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself. But this ‘from without’ is not something set in opposition to anamnesis but ordered to it. It has a maieutic function, imposes nothing foreign, but brings to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely its interior openness to the truth.”
[4] Hence, the teaching authority of the Pope is really to be an advocated of this Christian “memory” that we have instilled in us as created in the image of the divine Persons and seeking the revelation of the Second Divine Person in Jesus Christ. Hence, the whole teaching function of the Church is not to impose ideologies on conscience in order to coerce it to for the political purpose of boosting membership. Rather it is to increase the freedom of self-gift by imparting the truth of Jesus Christ (who is Jesus Christ Himself).

Now, the point you offer from Lumen Gentium #14 reads: “Fully incorporated into the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who… are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.’”

The text is talking about those who have made a free act of conscience in accepting the Church’s teaching and sacraments ruled by the hierarchy (‘holy origin’ via the imposition of hands in the sacrament of Order). In reality, they would be condemned not because they leave the visible Church of Christ, but because they sin against their own conscience which they themselves have freely determined in accepting the Catholic Church.

In this regard, it would be helpful to read the document on Religious Liberty (“Dignitatis Humanae”) from the same Council which contradicts your misunderstanding of Lumen Gentium #14. To wit: “The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor ia anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private of in public, alone or in association with others. The Council further declares that at the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.”

The large truths to hang onto are two: 1) There is no salvation outside of Christ because He alone is the God-man. 2) Jesus Christ is the God-man in history. The Church is the extension of His humanity possessing in itself all the elements of salvation. Consequently, the Church is necessary for salvation.

Lumen Gentium #13 says it this way: Therefore, “To this catholic unity of the people of God, therefore….all are called, and they belong to it or are ordered to it in various ways, whether they be Catholic faithful or others who believe in Christ of finally all people everywhere who by the grace of God are called to salvation.”

John Paul II’s “Redemptoris Missio” #10 says: “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. In enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.”

Notice that there is a primacy of the ontologically grounded conscience here that is always searching for the one true objective Christ via His one true objective Church. Also keep in mind that Scripture is not revelation. The Person of Christ is revelation. Scripture is the result of revelation and must be interpreted by the believing Church. (See Ratzinger’s “Milestones…” 108-109).

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas (1991) 22.
[2] Ibid 14.
[3] Ibid 20.
[4] Ibid 22
[5] Dignitatis Humanae #2.
[6] Lumen Gentium #13.

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