6 January 2015

CDF condemns Kasper's ecclesiology

Readers will remember that we are concerned with a theological debate between Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper about which comes logically first: the Universal Church or the local, i.e. particular, Churches. This may seem to Plain Men and Plain Women a sort of arid 'theological' debate like the (alleged) debate about Angels and Points of Needles, involving fancy word games and with little relevance to our plain everyday lives. But it is not. Followers of the Kasper line, in which the particular Church comes first, are now using that belief to justify their conviction that particular Churches, embedded in their different cultures, might adopt different doctrines and disciplines with regard to marriage and sexuality. That is what lies behind the interview (which Kasper later, mendaciously, denied had ever happened, until the journalists produced their tapes) in which Kasper talked sneeringly about African Catholics and said that "They should not tell us too much what we have to do". He admitted that "in the end there must be ... general criteria", but emphasised that "There must be space also for the local bishops' conferences to solve their problems".

The truth is that the the Universal Church comes first. It comes first in time because it begins as the One Apostolic Church gathered from all nations into one in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; it comes first theologically because it is the Mystical Body of Christ Himself, which must be ontologically [in the order of being] prior to the various gatherings of Christians (incorporated by Baptism into Him) which we call ecclesiae.

This has enormous practical consequences with regard to whether the German bishops, or others, can be allowed to go their own ways (unrestrained by the Universal Church) with regard to things like the treatment of remarried divorcees and of those living in genital homosexual relationships.

In 1992, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published, over Joseph Ratzinger's signature, a very fine document Communionis notio, approved by S John Paul II and ordered by him to be published. An extract follows.

" ... the particular Churches, insofar as they are 'part of the one Church of Christ,' have a special relationship of 'mutual interiority' with the whole, that is, with the universal Church, because in every particular Church 'the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active'. For this reason, 'the universal Church cannot be conceived as the sum of the particular Churches, or as a federation of particular Churches'. It is not the result of the communion of the Churches, but, in its essential mystery, it is a reality ontologically and temporally prior to every individual particular Church. Indeed, according to the Fathers, ontologically, the Church-mystery, the Church that is one and unique, precedes creation, and gives birth to the particular Churches as her daughters. She expresses herself in them; she is the mother and not the offspring of the particular Churches. Furthermore, the Church is manifested, temporally, on the day of Pentecost in the community of the one hundred and twenty gathered around Mary and the twelve apostles, the representatives of the one unique Church and founders-to-be of the local churches, who have a mission directed to the world. From the beginning the Church speaks all languages. 

"From the Church, which in its origins and its first manifestation is universal, have arisen the different local Churches, as particular expressions of the one unique Church of Jesus Christ. Arising within and out of the universal Church, they have their ecclesiality in her and from her. Hence the formula of the Second Vatican Council: The Church in and formed out of the Churches (Ecclesia in et ex Ecclesiis), is inseparable from this other formula: The Churches in and formed out of the Church (Ecclesiae in et ex Ecclesia*)."
*Translation based on the Libreria Editrice Vaticana translation. I have corrected two printers' errors in the last parenthesis. There are also two typographical errors in the references given in the appended footnotes.


Deacon Augustine said...

It is notable that Kasper, Forte et al. have been attempting to justify communion for "diverse relationships" based on the new "ecumenical ecclesiology" which focuses on "partial communion" already achieved. This is supposedly justified by those "elements of sanctification and truth" which may be found in other ecclesial communities.

This is all based on the erroneous notion of the priority of the particular over the universal.

His advocacy (and practice) of intercommunion with Lutherans springs from the same source as his advocacy for communion for those in sinful relationships. Neither position is Catholic.

Fr PJM said...

Maybe what is important for the Cardinal is not the marriage question after all, but revenge for and "correction" of *communionis notio*.

John H. Graney said...

Pardon my ignorance, but isn't the entire Latin Church throughout the world one single particular Church, just as the Melkite Church throughout the world is one single particular Church? Am
I mixing vocabulary, or is the question of the relationship between the local and universal churches completely irrelevant to a question of discipline in the _Latin_ church?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear John

Don't worry: a lot of people are ignorant ...

No; the Latin Church is not a particular Church. You will find several explanations of what that phrase means via the search engine on my blog, or by reading the full text of Communionis notio, available on-line.

Jonathan Cariveau said...

I'm not sure where the search engine is on your blog, Fr. Hunwicke, but speaking generally, whatever the Melkite Church is as an ecclesial body, the Latin Church must be. The language I use is "local Church" for the diocese, "particular Church" for Churches sui iuris (Latin, Melkite, Ukrainian, et al), and "universal Church" for the Body of Christ in her two elements (LG 8).

I understand that since the Council "particular Church" has been used to refer to dioceses, while the mid-level reality, Churches sui iuris, really had no equivalent phrase that I'm aware of. I think this is probably because in general Latin theology tends not to emphasize the "Church sui iuris," because the Latin Church is *one* Church sui iuris. In its time out of contact with Eastern Churches sui iuris, the West lost contact with that pluralistic mid-level that is neither diocesan nor universal.

So! In a nutshell: I understand that as far as Western debates are concerned, John Paul II's usage of "particular Church" is what concerns the conversation. But overall, I think that term is far better applied to Churches sui iuris, in which case, yes, the Latin Church is a particular Church alongside all the other Eastern Churches.

Whatever terms we agree to use, there must be equality of terms between Eastern Churches and the Latin Church so that they are truly "sister Churches," daughters of their Mother, the universal Church.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

I think that the difference between a diocese and a sui juris church is that a diocese (though not with that name, of course) like the Church universal, is of divine institution; the sui juris churches, like the patriarchates, are of ecclesiastical origin. (To re-employ a phrase used by some of the patrimonial Anglican writers, the diocese belongs to the esse of the Church; the patriarchate, or sui juris bodies, to the bene esse.)

St. Ignatius of Antioch writes "Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.", i.e., the diocese is a true church.

This is why the Orthodox churches are considered true particular churches; not because the Russian Orthodox Church, or the autocephalous Church of Romania is a true church, but because each diocese is a particular church, of laity and clergy in communion with a validly ordained bishop.