The Legacy of Vatican II

The legacy of Vatican II is one that can bring up mixed emotions.  Many see the council as something that was needed, but the implementation was flawed.  Others go as far to say that the Church broke from its sacred duty with the council.  No matter what view one may take, the council’s influence is still felt within the Church, and within the world.

The world was changing in the twentieth century, and the Church needed speak of its relevance in a culture in the face of a modernist society.  The tone of the council is one that is vastly different than it 19th century counterpart Vatican I.  Vatican I addressed the issue of Papal primacy and infallibility, and at time did so in a triumphalist tone. The Vatican II council fathers, addressed issues, but did so in a tone that seemed to me for inclusive.  This inclusion did not change doctrine or tradition.

The tone was one of a Church seeking dialogue and was welcoming.  Regarding this Christopher McMahon writes, “Furthermore, the tone of the Church is far less trimphalistic than seen in the controversies surrounding the battles between the Church and secularism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McMahon 90).  This paper will look at the legacy of the Vatican II documents concerning ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom.

 

 

ECUMENISM

As previously stated, the council father of Vatican II used a different tone than was used in previous councils.  Gone were the words, but still agreed upon by Pope Pius IX, “We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation” (EWTN).  Though this is the consistent teaching of the Church, it is something that is seen as a negative by other Christian groups.  The Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio, or decree on Ecumenism, lays a foundation that helps to foster further communication among Christians of all kinds.

The document lays out the case that it is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that all Christians be unified.  We see this in his high priestly prayer in John 17.  Our Lord states in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (RSV).  The thousands of denominations that are in Christendom provide an obstacle to missionary work.  In paragraph one of the Decree on Ecumenism the council fathers state, “Certainly, such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the gospel to every creature” (UR, para 1).

The council’s legacy on Ecumenism goes further that stating the obvious about the divisions in Christianity.  In regards to Protestants previous councils, such as the Council of Trent, openly anathematized those who were not part of the Church.  Vatican II, while still saying that are not in full communion, call our Protestant brothers and sisters separated brethren.  This can be seen in para four on the decree on Ecumenism, “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren” (UR, para 4).

This language of the Church continues today, and Catholics are encouraged to be in dialogue for the good of the whole Christian community.  It is not a Catholic versus Protestant mentality, as this is not the will of the Lord.  By virtue of their Trinitarian baptisms our Protestant friends are worthy of the title of Christian.  The call of Vatican II was also seen in the 1996 encyclical by Pope Saint John Paul the II titled Ut Unum Sint.  In the opening paragraphs the document lays out the intentions of the Holy Father.  In it he writes, “The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, gives new vigor to the Council’s call and reminds us of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation “(Ut Unum Sint para 1).  As a result, the legacy of Vatican II regarding Ecumenism is once again shown in our time.  The Church is committed to the cause as Christian unity is something that we should all strive for the sake of the gospel.

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

To Catholics today the decrees of Vatican II may seem to be from that of a bygone era, but they are a vital moment in the history of the Church (McMahon 75).  In the previous paragraphs we see the legacy it left with ecumenism.  The legacy is great in the area of interreligious dialogue.  In fact, it can be said that without the Church’s commitment to ecumenism that its strides in religious dialogue would not have made the strides it has.

This commitment can be seen in the Church’s communication with leaders of the Eastern church’s.  The Eastern Orthodox churches have valid orders, apostolic succession, and valid sacraments.  However, the issues of the Great Schism (such as Papal Primacy and the Filioque), are still prevalent.  The council fathers drafted Orientalium Ecclesiarum, or the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches.  Of special consideration here is the emphasis on those eastern churches that are not in communion with Rome.  The council fathers write in paragraph 25, “Nothing more should be demanded of separated Christians who come to catholic unity under the influence of the grace of the holy spirit” (OE 25).

As a convert this section was very telling as it is applicable to converts that make the Catholic profession every Easter vigil.  The Church sees baptism done in the trinitarian formula as valid, no matter the denomination.  Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have received valid sacraments, and the church has the door wide open for them.  The same can be said with the Anglican, as several Anglican ordinariates have popped up across the world.  Vatican II left a legacy of teaching the faithful to find common ground with all religions to further the cause of humanity, and also as a means to evangelize.  To this end Pope Francis at the plenary assembly for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue states,

It is for this reason that interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive, but nourish each other. We do not impose anything, we do not use any underhanded strategy to attract the faithful, but witness with joy and simplicity to what we believe and who we are (pciinterreligious.org).

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

 

The thirteenth document of the Council was the Declaration on Religious Liberty, or Dignitatis Humanae.  This document is controversial because some think that it breaks with earlier magisterial writings which describe the governmental role of suppressing religious error.  One document that is often cited is an encyclical by Pope Gregory XVI titled Mirari Vos.  Paragraph thirteen of that document states, “This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained” (MV para 13).

            The irony is that this encyclical, and the Vatican II document on religious liberty are not in conflict.  The Council fathers address this very quickly in the document and say that the Catholic Church is the “true religion and one church of Christ” (DH para 1).  The document lays out the case that it is a matter of human dignity that one should not be made to act contrary to one’s conscience.  As such there should be no government coercion, and people should not be made to feel less than human if they adhere to a different religious creed.

This concept of religious liberty is one that we see engrained in American culture, and in other denominations.  Our Baptist friends as an example were founded on the very concept of religious freedom, and advocate that for all as well.  Religious freedom has become a hallmark of our society, and that is part of the legacy that the council leaves behind.  While advocating for the rights of the individual, the church maintains its traditional stance towards the faith and still advocates for the proclamation of the gospel message.

Image result for vatican ii

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the second Vatican council left a legacy that has left the Church in a better place to evangelize the world.  Though the implementation of the council was less than desirable that is not the fault of the council itself.  The church continues to demonstrate its commitment to ecumenical dialogue, with the end goal being Christian unity in the face of a world that desperately needs it.  More than ever before Church leadership is speaking more with leaders of other faiths and denominations.  And lastly, the Church is embracing its motherly role in advocating for the protection of those who practice another religion altogether.  The combination of these three allows all members of the Church to evangelize more effectively.  Though the council is without controversy, its legacy lives on and its effects are still felt today.

  WORKS CITED

Donovan, Colin.  “No Salvation Outside of the Church”.  EWTN.COM.  Accessed September 4, 2017.

Flannery, Austin ed.  The Basic Sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II.  Northport, NY:  Costello Publishing, 2007.  Print.

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

Pope Francis.  “To Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue”.  PCIINTERRELIGIOUS.ORG. November 28, 2013. Web.

Pope Gregory XVI.  Mirari Vos On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism.  Vatican: Holy See.  Rome.  August 15, 1832

Pope John Paul II.  “On Commitment to Ecumenism-UT Unum Sint”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  May 25, 1995.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Ecumenism-Unitatis Redintegratio”.  Vatican:  Holy See. Rome.  November 21, 1964.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Religious Liberty-Dignitatis Humanae”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  December 7, 1965

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches-Orientalium Ecclesiarum”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  November 21, 1965.

Advertisements

Book Review: All The Pope’s Men

All The Pope’s Men was an interesting book.  When I started reading it I was expecting more of a theological expose of how the Vatican works, but to my surprise this was not the case.  This was not a bad thing, but a very good thing.  It allowed me to step back and see the church in a whole new light.  As Catholics we see the Vatican as this holy place, which it is, but it is so much more.  It is literally a country of its own, and it has diplomatic relations with other countries.  I think that is one of the reasons for the book’s popularity.  It gives detailed insight into the different aspects and offices that comprise the Vatican.  I found it particularly fascinating that the various offices of the Vatican are totally autonomous from each other.  They each have their own separate leadership.  In the pages about the Roman Curia Allen wrote about how one office was comprised of two people who spoke two different languages.  This was done so they would not develop a favoritism toward each other.

Another reason for the book’s popularity is that it is not a theological treatise or a church history book about the importance of the Vatican.  Allen strives and succeeds in my opinion, between the roll of the Holy See and its relationship with the rest of the world.  A third reason for the books popularity is that it acts as a myth buster about popular conspiracy theories about the Vatican.  I recommended this book to a non-Catholic friend for those pages alone.  They are filled with sources that can be easily obtained.  Allen’s views on the American and Vatican perspectives is also interesting, and if you look closely you can see them play out pretty regularly.  In America we want things done the way we want yesterday (immediately).  The Vatican doesn’t work that way.  It is a 2,000 year old Institution that moves slowly.  It isn’t because it doesn’t care, but because it is concerned with Catholics worldwide not just in Los Angeles, CA.  Because of that there are times where relations between the two seem strained, but overall relations are good.  Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

You can check the book out here.

The Four Marks: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

The study of Ecclesiology is interesting in that it raises a dichotomy that ripples through the very fabric of Christianity.  Ecclesiology is the branch of theology that deals with the study of the Church.  What is the Church?  What are its functions?  Is it visible, invisible, or both?  These are questions that are often discussed in the field, but the root of Ecclesiology is the Greek word ekklesia.  When this word is translated into our own language we get the word “church” (McMahon 1).

The Church proclaims the Gospel of Christ, and spreads his message across the world to all peoples.  The Church is tasked to be a beacon of hope, and all who enter through her doors are taught the ways of salvation.  Just how the Church does this is the subject of debate.  The Church finds its foundation from Christ in Matthew 16:18 when our savior says, “And I say unto thee:  That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Douay-Rheims).  Saint Paul calls the Church the bulwark and pillar of truth in 1 Timothy 3:15.   The Church is categorized by the four marks of being One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  These four marks, along with why the church is more Marian than Petrine in her nature will be elaborated on in this article.

THE CHURCH IS ONE

The first mark of the Church is that it is one.  One is more than a number, but conveys unity.  This unity comes from her source which is the eternal Godhead itself.  This is seen clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states, “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (Catechism 233).  This does not mean that disagreements do not exist, but it does mean that doctrinally we have a united front.

Within the Church there are many gifts and charisms that people have.  That is the beauty of unity.  One person may be good at administration, another in teaching, and yet another may be able to seak in tongues.  In this way the Church has a valuable lesson for society.  Every gift that a person posesses is useful in the building up of the Church.  This is another way that the Church is one.  The individuals in the Church come together to build each other up and proclaim the faith that was proclaimed by the apostles.  The Vatican II document titled Lumen Gentium states in paragraph four, “He leads the church in all truth, and he makes it one fellowship and ministry, instructing and directing it through a diversity of gifts both hierarchical and charismatic, and He adorns it with His fruits” (Norman Tanner 108).

THE CHURCH IS HOLY

            The second mark of the Church is that it is holy.  The Church is holy based on Jesus Christ who is its founder.  This can be seen in the salutation of Saint Paul to the Corinthians where he writes, “to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians, 1:2, RSV).  The Church is sanctified, or made holy, by its call and mission.  The Church is made up of sinners, who by the grace of God, carry out the great commission of teaching and baptizing.

The Church is the bride of Christ, and just as a husband and wife are one flesh, so is the Church holy because of the bridegroom.  This is seen in paragraph 824 of the catechism which states, “United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying” (Catechism 237).  The Church acknowledges that the people within are not perfect, but need God’s saving grace.  Like a loving mother, the Church holds those souls closely and provides them the means of which to be saved.  The Church, through its liturgy and sacraments, provides the means of grace which Christ instituted fully and perfectly.

THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC

            The third mark of the Church is that it is catholic, but this means so much more than the name of the Roman Catholic Church.  The word first came into use by St. Ignatius of Antioch in the second century.  Saint Ignatius writes in his epistle to the Smyrneans, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Alexander Roberts 701).

In using this word, St. Ignatius tells his readers that the Church is universal.  It is a Church not just for the Jews or gentiles, but for all people.  It is for the rich, the poor, slave, or free because we are all children of God, and his message is to be taught to everyone.  The Church is also Catholic because the full deposit of faith, which consist of sacred scripture and sacred tradition, have been given to her.  Through these deposits she can fulfill the final command of Christ laid out in Matthew 28:19-20.

How does this relate to other ecclesial communities?  The Church is also Catholic because of its structure of bishops, priests, and deacons.  Of course, the pope, the bishop of Rome, has authority.  This is a big hurdle for some Protestants.  However, this does not mean that they are not Christians and are not part of the universal Church.  They are just not in full communion with the Church that was established by Christ.

THE CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC

            The Church is apostolic because the apostles were given the authority from Christ to establish it.  The catechism in Paragraph 857 states, “the Church was built on the foundation of the Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by Christ through their successors” (Catechism 247).  As previously stated, the Catholic Church is made up of bishops along with the Pope.  This group of men have the great honor of carrying on the teaching of the apostles.  This is known as the teaching office of the Magisterium.  Contrary to what some think, scripture is not self-interpreting and interpretation can change based on one’s presupposition.  The Church is apostolic because the teaching office of the Church, the Magisterium, was given the divine task to interpret scripture (Hitchcock 79).

The apostolicity of the Church is seen clearly in sacred scripture.  Acts 1:24-25 which states, ““And they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place” (New American Bible).  Since the apostles replaced Judas it is only natural that this was meant to continue.  History shows that the apostles appointed men who would take over their ministry (LG 20).

MARIAN AND PETRINE INFLUENCE

            In the four marks, we see the Church’s mission, structure, and its establishment in scripture and tradition.  In addition to the four marks, the Church also has Marian and Petrine charisms.  In the Petrine charism, we see the church linked with the apostles.  As an example Pope Francis is Saint Peter’s successor, and thus the Church today has the historical link to the apostles.  Each bishop can trace their ecclesial heritage to one of the twelve apostles, and history shows that there was an early understanding of papal primacy.  This fact is often disputed with our Protestant brethren.

The marian charism is no doubt a very significant area of disagreement with other Christian churches.  As Mary was a mother to Christ, the Church is a mother to the faithful.  Regarding Mary and the Church, the catechism states, “The faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness.  And so, they turn their eyes to Mary:  In her the Church is already all-holy” (Catechism 829).  There are many sources in sacred scripture that allude to the Marian influence.  One such passage is John 19:26-27 “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (NRSV).  Our Lord was giving his mother to his John, and in the same way he gave us Mary to be our spiritual mother.  By teaching and administering the sacraments the Church acts in this motherly role for her children.  Thought the Marian and Petrine charism have their place, the Marian has a larger significance.

Image result for four marks

CONCLUSION

            In Ecclesiology, we study the Church and its doctrines.  The four marks of the church make up the theological foundation that differentiate it from other religions.  In John 17 Christ prayed for unity, and in Christianity this is hardly the case.  We have the promise of Christ that the powers of evil will not overcome what he has established.  We should take great joy and courage that we participate with the Church in its mission to the world.  The Catholic Church can trace its lineage and doctrine to the very foundations of Christendom.  As a result, the Church is not only the body of believers as Protestants believe, but is a visible entity in which the faithful can go for comfort and guidance.

 

WORKS CITED

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

 

Hitchcock, James. History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. San Francisco:    Ignatius Press, 2012. Print.

 

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

 

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

 

Tanner, Norman ed.  Vatican II:  The Essential Texts.  New York:  Image Books, 20012.  Print.

Legacy of Vatican II

The legacy of Vatican II is one that can bring up mixed emotions.  Many see the council as something that was needed, but the implementation was flawed.  Others go as far to say that the Church broke from its sacred duty with the council.  No matter what view one may take, the council’s influence is still felt within the Church, and within the world.

The world was changing in the twentieth century, and the Church needed speak of its relevance in a culture in the face of a modernist society.  The tone of the council is one that is vastly different than it 19th century counterpart Vatican I.  Vatican I addressed the issue of Papal primacy and infallibility, and at time did so in a triumphalist tone. The Vatican II council fathers, addressed issues, but did so in a tone that seemed to me for inclusive.  This inclusion did not change doctrine or tradition.

The tone was one of a Church seeking dialogue and was welcoming.  Regarding this Christopher McMahon writes, “Furthermore, the tone of the Church is far less trimphalistic than seen in the controversies surrounding the battles between the Church and secularism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McMahon 90).  This paper will look at the legacy of the Vatican II documents concerning ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom.

 

 

ECUMENISM

As previously stated, the council father of Vatican II used a different tone than was used in previous councils.  Gone were the words, but still agreed upon by Pope Pius IX, “We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation” (EWTN).  Though this is the consistent teaching of the Church, it is something that is seen as a negative by other Christian groups.  The Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio, or decree on Ecumenism, lays a foundation that helps to foster further communication among Christians of all kinds.

The document lays out the case that it is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that all Christians be unified.  We see this in his high priestly prayer in John 17.  Our Lord states in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (RSV).  The thousands of denominations that are in Christendom provide an obstacle to missionary work.  In paragraph one of the Decree on Ecumenism the council fathers state, “Certainly, such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the gospel to every creature” (UR, para 1).

The council’s legacy on Ecumenism goes further that stating the obvious about the divisions in Christianity.  In regards to Protestants previous councils, such as the Council of Trent, openly anathematized those who were not part of the Church.  Vatican II, while still saying that are not in full communion, call our Protestant brothers and sisters separated brethren.  This can be seen in para four on the decree on Ecumenism, “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren” (UR, para 4).

This language of the Church continues today, and Catholics are encouraged to be in dialogue for the good of the whole Christian community.  It is not a Catholic versus Protestant mentality, as this is not the will of the Lord.  By virtue of their Trinitarian baptisms our Protestant friends are worthy of the title of Christian.  The call of Vatican II was also seen in the 1996 encyclical by Pope Saint John Paul the II titled Ut Unum Sint.  In the opening paragraphs the document lays out the intentions of the Holy Father.  In it he writes, “The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, gives new vigor to the Council’s call and reminds us of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation “(Ut Unum Sint para 1).  As a result, the legacy of Vatican II regarding Ecumenism is once again shown in our time.  The Church is committed to the cause as Christian unity is something that we should all strive for the sake of the gospel.

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

To Catholics today the decrees of Vatican II may seem to be from that of a bygone era, but they are a vital moment in the history of the Church (McMahon 75).  In the previous paragraphs we see the legacy it left with ecumenism.  The legacy is great in the area of interreligious dialogue.  In fact, it can be said that without the Church’s commitment to ecumenism that its strides in religious dialogue would not have made the strides it has.

This commitment can be seen in the Church’s communication with leaders of the Eastern church’s.  The Eastern Orthodox churches have valid orders, apostolic succession, and valid sacraments.  However, the issues of the Great Schism (such as Papal Primacy and the Filioque), are still prevalent.  The council fathers drafted Orientalium Ecclesiarum, or the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches.  Of special consideration here is the emphasis on those eastern churches that are not in communion with Rome.  The council fathers write in paragraph 25, “Nothing more should be demanded of separated Christians who come to catholic unity under the influence of the grace of the holy spirit” (OE 25).

As a convert this section was very telling as it is applicable to converts that make the Catholic profession every Easter vigil.  The Church sees baptism done in the trinitarian formula as valid, no matter the denomination.  Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have received valid sacraments, and the church has the door wide open for them.  The same can be said with the Anglican, as several Anglican ordinariates have popped up across the world.  Vatican II left a legacy of teaching the faithful to find common ground with all religions to further the cause of humanity, and also as a means to evangelize.  To this end Pope Francis at the plenary assembly for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue states,

It is for this reason that interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive, but nourish each other. We do not impose anything, we do not use any underhanded strategy to attract the faithful, but witness with joy and simplicity to what we believe and who we are (pciinterreligious.org).

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

 

The thirteenth document of the Council was the Declaration on Religious Liberty, or Dignitatis Humanae.  This document is controversial because some think that it breaks with earlier magisterial writings which describe the governmental role of suppressing religious error.  One document that is often cited is an encyclical by Pope Gregory XVI titled Mirari Vos.  Paragraph thirteen of that document states, “This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained” (MV para 13).

            The irony is that this encyclical, and the Vatican II document on religious liberty are not in conflict.  The Council fathers address this very quickly in the document and say that the Catholic Church is the “true religion and one church of Christ” (DH para 1).  The document lays out the case that it is a matter of human dignity that one should not be made to act contrary to one’s conscience.  As such there should be no government coercion, and people should not be made to feel less than human if they adhere to a different religious creed.

This concept of religious liberty is one that we see engrained in American culture, and in other denominations.  Our Baptist friends as an example were founded on the very concept of religious freedom, and advocate that for all as well.  Religious freedom has become a hallmark of our society, and that is part of the legacy that the council leaves behind.  While advocating for the rights of the individual, the church maintains its traditional stance towards the faith and still advocates for the proclamation of the gospel message.

 Image result for vatican ii

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the second Vatican council left a legacy that has left the Church in a better place to evangelize the world.  Though the implementation of the council was less than desirable that is not the fault of the council itself.  The church continues to demonstrate its commitment to ecumenical dialogue, with the end goal being Christian unity in the face of a world that desperately needs it.  More than ever before Church leadership is speaking more with leaders of other faiths and denominations.  And lastly, the Church is embracing its motherly role in advocating for the protection of those who practice another religion altogether.  The combination of these three allows all members of the Church to evangelize more effectively.  Though the council is without controversy, its legacy lives on and its effects are still felt today.

  

 

WORKS CITED

Donovan, Colin.  “No Salvation Outside of the Church”.  EWTN.COM.  Accessed September 4, 2017.

Flannery, Austin ed.  The Basic Sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II.  Northport, NY:  Costello Publishing, 2007.  Print.

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

Pope Francis.  “To Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue”.  PCIINTERRELIGIOUS.ORG. November 28, 2013. Web.

Pope Gregory XVI.  Mirari Vos On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism.  Vatican: Holy See.  Rome.  August 15, 1832

Pope John Paul II.  “On Commitment to Ecumenism-UT Unum Sint”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  May 25, 1995.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Ecumenism-Unitatis Redintegratio”.  Vatican:  Holy See. Rome.  November 21, 1964.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Religious Liberty-Dignitatis Humanae”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  December 7, 1965

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches-Orientalium Ecclesiarum”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  November 21, 1965.

Called to Communion: An Intro to Communion Ecclesiology

Communion Ecclesiology

Within Christendom Ecclesiology is looked at in a variety of different ways.  Within Protestantism the church may be seen within a synod, a presbytery, or an autonomous unit.  Within Catholicism Ecclesiology revolves round the sacrament of the Eucharist and those who are in union with the Bishop.  This is what is known as communion ecclesiology.  In this paper, the development of communion ecclesiology will be seen from sacred scripture, the church fathers, and councils.

From its humble beginnings, the church has taught the centrality of the Eucharist.  There are those that say that this practice started later within the church’s history, but its roots can be found within the pages of sacred scripture.  Saint Matthew, Saint uke, and Saint Paul both write about the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper.  In Matthew 26:26 Matthew writes, “And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body (Douay-Rheims).”  Saint Luke’s account in Luke 22:19 we read very similar language, “And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me (Douay-Rheims).”  In koine Greek, the language of the New Testament these inspired writers use the word esti.  This one word is so significant because reiterates what we read in the english translations.  According to Strong’s concordance this word is translated into English as is, are, consists, and come.

In short, this word contains the whole of communion ecclesiology.  In the original language, our Lord said that the bread and wine are his body.  He did not say that they are like his body, or are symbolic of his body.  Saint Paul takes it a step further in 1 Corinthians to remove any doubt about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  In chapter eleven of 1 Corinthians he writes that he received the words from Christ himself.  The church at Corinth had been treating the Eucharist in a very irreverent manner.  People were feasting, and there were some who were unable to participate.  As if that were not bad enough, there was also a man who was having sexual relations with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  By acting in this manner this individual broke communion and was no longer in union with the church.

The theme of communion ecclesiology is continued in the ministry of the early church fathers.  The patristics have a lot to say about the centrality of the Eucharist and the authority of the bishop.  Saint Ignatius of Antioch paragraph twenty of his letter to the Ephesians writes, “Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.”  Also in his letter to the Philadelphians St. Ignatius states, “Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.”

St. Ignatius makes it clear that it is the Eucharist is of vital importance to the Christian faith.  The Eucharist can only be consecrated by someone who is ordained in Apostolic Succession.  He must be in communion with the bishop and hold that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In regard to this Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “This explains the lively concerns which finds authoritative expression in the work of the Councils and the Popes (Ecclesia de Eucharista, 9).”

Throughout history we can see the role that communion ecclesiology has played in fighting heresy.  In the second century, the Gnostics claimed to have secret teaching that they received directly from the apostles.  The Gnostics believed all matter to be evil, and since the eucharist consisted of matter they opted to abstain.  In his pivotal work, Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus outlined what became known as the rule of faith.  St. Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith (Roberts 486).”  To be validly part of the universal church, it was understood that one had to be under the authority of the bishops in apostolic succession.  He goes on to say that although language vary, the traditions and teachings of the church remain the same.

As if this were not enough to deduce that the Gnostics were not in communion he goes to the Eucharist.  Regarding the Eucharist St. Irenaeus writes, “But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit (ccel.org).”  These are only a sampling of Irenaeus’s treatises, but they establish that the church had an understanding of what it meant to be in communion.

Throughout history there have been those who challenged this communion.  As a result, they broke away and developed various ecclesiological systems that were vastly different from what has been passed down in the church.  We are rapidly approaching the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  This development caused a division in the church, and at the heart of this divide was authority.

As previously stated, one of the components of communion ecclesiology is the apostolic succession of the bishopric (CCC, para 1142).  The church is visible institution with validly ordained clergy who administered the sacraments for the faithful.  However, the concept of a visible church was one that did not sit well with the reformers.  In their eyes, the church was an invisible entity and made visible only by the work of its members.  In describing this concept Dr. Christopher McMahon writes, “Although Luther and Calvin, the two patriarchs of the Reformation, disagreed on many issues, including substantial ecclesiological issues, they both agreed with their predecessor, Jan Hus, on the theological emphasis on the primacy of an invisible church (McMahon, 63).

The Council of Trent set out to combat the teachings of the Reformation, and to address certain reforms within the church.  As previously stated, the reformers grew to distrust the established institutional structures of the church.  As a result, they said that the church was made up of believers who were truly converted.  By all accounts to council was successful in its aims, and reiterated the historic teaching of a visible institutional church (McMahon, 66).  One prominent figure during this era was Cardinal Bellarmine, and he addressed the topic of the visible church quite well.  He wrote in his treatise De Controversiis, “Our view is that the church is only one reality, not two, and that this single and true reality is the group linked by profession of the same faith and by communion in the same sacraments (McMahon, 66).”

This concept of communion ecclesiology has been carried on into our own time.  The second Vatican Council addressed this issue in a number of areas, and Saint Pope John Paul II addresses it at length in his great encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.  In that document, the Holy Father discusses how our baptism is renewed whenever we partake of the Eucharist.  By doing so we are entering into sacramental communion with each other (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, para 22).

In the second paragraph of the Council document titled, Unitatis Redintegration, the council fathers state, “In His Church He instituted the wonderful sacrament of the Eucharist by which the unity of the Church is both signified and brought about (Decree on Eucumenism, para 2).  This statement is strengthened by other council documents such as the decree on Ministry and Life of Priests.  In article six of that document the council fathers discuss how no Christian community can be built unless the Eucharist is at the center of it.

CONCLUSION

Communion ecclesiology, as Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI states, “is in its inmost nature a Eucharistic Ecclesiology (Ratzinger, Kindle location 1634).”  Throughout its history the church has rallied around the Eucharist as the pinnacle of Christian worship, and has taught that this same Eucharist can only be administered through those in communion with the Bishop.  The Bishop in this case is the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome.  Through this communion we can confidently know what has been taught by the apostles, and how to live the Christian life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

 

 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

 

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

 

Pope John Paul II. Encyclical on the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church Ecclesia de Eucharistia

 

Ratzinger, Joseph.  Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith:  The Church As Communion.  San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 2005.  Ebook.

 

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

 

Tanner, Norman ed.  Vatican II:  The Essential Texts.  New York:  Image Books, 2012.  Print.

 

The Four Marks

The Study of Ecclesiology is an interesting in that it raised a dichotomy that ripples through the very fabric of Christianity.  Ecclesiology is the branch of theology that deals with the study of the church.  What is the church?  What are its functions?  Is it visible, invisible, or both?  These are questions that are often discussed in the field, but the root of Ecclesiology is the Greek word ekklesia.  When this word is translated into our own language we get the word “church” (McMahon 1).

The church proclaims the Gospel of Christ, and spreads his message across the world to all peoples.  The church is tasked to be a beacon of hope, and all who enter through her doors are taught the ways of salvation.  Just how the church does this is the subject of debate.  The church finds its foundation from Christ in Matthew 16:18 when our savior says, “And I say unto thee:  That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Douay-Rheims).  Saint Paul calls the church the bulwark and pillar of truth in 1 Timothy 3:15.   The church is categorized by the four marks of being One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  These four marks, along with why the church is more Marian than Petrine in her nature will be elaborated on in this paper.

 

 

THE CHURCH IS ONE

The first mark of the church is that it is one.  One is more than a number, but conveys unity.  This unity comes from her source which is the eternal Godhead itself.  This is seen clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states, “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit (Catechism 233).”  This does not mean that disagreements do not exist, but it does mean that doctrinally we have a united front.

Within the church there are many gifts and charisms that people have.  That is the beauty of unity.  One person may be good at administration, another in teaching, and yet another may be able to speak in tongues.  In this way the church has a valuable lesson for society.  Every gift that a person possesses is useful in the building up of the church.  This is another way that the church is one.  The individuals in the church come together to build each other up and proclaim the faith that was proclaimed by the apostles.  The Vatican II document titled Lumen Gentium states in Paragraph four, “He leads the church in all truth, and he makes it one fellowship and ministry, instructing and directing it through a diversity of gifts both hierarchical and charismatic, and He adorns it with His fruits ((Norman Tanner 108).”

THE CHURCH IS HOLY

The second mark of the church is that it is holy.  The church is holy based on Jesus Christ who is its founder.  This can be seen in the salutation of Saint Paul to the Corinthians where he writes, “to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1 Corinthians, 1:2, RSV).”  The church is sanctified, or made holy, by virtue of its call and mission.  The church is made up of sinners, who by the grace of God, carry out the great commission of teaching and baptizing.

The church is the bride of Christ, and just as a husband and wife are one flesh, so is the church holy because of the bridegroom.  This is seen in paragraph 824 of the Catechism which states, “United with Christ, the church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying (Catechism 237).”  The church acknowledges that the people within are not perfect, but are in need of God’s saving grace.  Like a loving mother, the church holds those souls closely and provides them the means of which to be saved.  The church, through its liturgy and sacraments, provides the means of grace which Christ instituted fully and perfectly.

THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC

The third mark of the church is that it is catholic, but this means so much more than the name of the Roman Catholic Church.  The word first came into use by St. Ignatius of Antioch in the second century.  Saint Ignatius writes in his epistle to the Smyrneans, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Alexander Roberts 701).”

In using this word St. Ignatius tells his readers that the church is universal.  It is a church not just for the Jews or gentiles, but for all people.  It is for the rich, the poor, slave, or free because we are all children of God and his message is to be taught to everyone.  The church is also Catholic because the full deposit of faith, sacred scripture and sacred tradition, have been given to her.  Through these deposits she can fulfill the final command of Christ laid out in Matthew 28:19-20.

How does this relate to other ecclesial communities?  The church is also Catholic because of its structure of Bishops, Priests, and deacons.  Of course, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, has authority.  This, or course, is a big hurdle for some Protestants.  However, this does not mean that they are not Christians and are not part of the universal church.  They are just not I full communion with the church that was established by Christ.

THE CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC

The church is apostolic because the apostles were given the authority from Christ to establish it.  The Catechism in Paragraph 857 states, “the church was built on the foundation of the Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by Christ through their successors (Catholic Church 247)”.  As previously stated, the Catholic church is made up of bishops along with the Pope.  This group of men have the great honor of carrying on the teaching of the apostles.  This is known as the teaching office of the Magisterium.  Contrary to what some think, scripture is not self-interpreting and interpretation can change based on one’s presupposition.  The church is apostolic because the teaching office of the church, the Magisterium, was given the divine task to interpret scripture (Hitchcock 79).

The apostolicity of the church is seen clearly in sacred scripture.  In particular is Acts 1:24-25 which states, ““And they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place (New American Bible).”  Since the apostles replaced Judas it is only natural that this was meant to continue.  History shows that the apostles appointed men who would take over their ministry (LG 20).

MARIAN AND PETRINE INFLUENCE

In the four marks, we see the church’s mission, structure, and its establishment in scripture and tradition.  In addition to the four marks, the church also has Marian and Petrine charisms.  In the Petrine charism, we see the church linked with the apostles.  As a n example Pope Francis is Saint Peter’s successor, and thus the church today has the historical link to the apostles.  Each bishop can trace their ecclesial heritage to one of the twelve apostles, and history shows that there was an early understanding of Papal primacy.  This fact is often disputed with our Protestant brethren

The Marian charism is no doubt a very significant area of disagreement with other Christian churches.  As Mary was a mother to Christ, the church is a mother to the faithful.  Regarding Mary and the church the catechism states, “The faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness.  And so, they turn their eyes to Mary:  In her the Church is already all-holy (Catechism para 829).”  There are many sources in sacred scripture that allude to the Marian influence.  One such passage is John 19:26-27 “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home (NRSV).”  Our Lord was giving his mother to his John, and in the same way he gave us Mary to be our spiritual mother.  By teaching and administering the sacraments the church acts in this motherly role for her children.  Thought the Marian and Petrine charism have their place, the Marian has a larger significance.

CONCLUSION

In Ecclesiology, we study the church and its doctrines.  The four marks of the church make u the theological foundation that differentiate it from other religions.  In John 17 Christ prayed for unity, and in Christianity this is hardly the case.  We have the promise of Christ that the powers of evil will not overcome what he has established.  We should take great joy and courage in that as we participate with the church in its mission to the world.  The Catholic church can trace its lineage and doctrine to the very foundations of Christendom.  AS a result, the church is not only the body of believers as Protestants believe, but is a visible entity in which the faithful can go for comfort and guidance.

 

WORKS CITED

 

 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

 

Hitchcock, James. History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. San Francisco:    Ignatius Press, 2012. Print.

 

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

 

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

 

Tanner, Norman ed.  Vatican II:  The Essential Texts.  New York:  Image Books, 20012.  Print.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑