Home/Daniel Larison/Breaking News! Vatican Restates Established Doctrine!

Breaking News! Vatican Restates Established Doctrine!

The Vatican text, which restates the controversial document Dominus Iesus issued by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2000, says the Church wants to stress the point because some Catholic theologians continue to misunderstand it. ~ABC News (via Rod)

Leave it to the press to take something very simple and almost routine and turn it into a scandal.  I suppose the potential for conflict and controversy makes for a better headline than “Vatican Says Catholic Christianity Is True…Yet Again,” but there is no real potential for that, as there is nothing new being contested. 

Was Dominus Iesusreally all that “controversial”?  I have read it, and I found in it the same position towards other Christian confessions that the Catholic Church has stated quite explicitly since Vatican II, which is normally interpreted by otherwise unfriendly Vatican-watchers as a positive, “liberalising” interpretation.  This new document mostly reiterates some of the basic points and makes plain why confessions that lack apostolic succession are not, well, properly apostolic and therefore do not possess all of the proper marks that would make a church a church.  There is nothing in any of this that a non-Catholic should find at all shocking or disturbing.  If he didn’t already know that the Vatican does not believe him to be fully a part of the Church, he hasn’t been paying enough attention to care about it now.  If I did not have an interest in theology, I would say that it is almost a non-story. 

As an Orthodox Christian, I continue to be puzzled by an ecclesiology that says that the Orthodox Church at once has valid sacraments and apostolic succession, but lacks in the fullness of the truth.  This puzzlement is a case of sharply different understandings of catholicity and ecclesiology generally.  As noted here in the past, as I understand the Orthodox teaching, catholicity requires oneness of mind in doctrine, and unity requires unity of faith, bishop and Eucharist.  Catholics and Orthodox share none of these things.  How the Vatican understands the Orthodox to be in communion (but not full communion) with the Catholic Church at the present time will probably never make sense to me.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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