Friday, July 13, 2007

Consequences of schism

The document below is a balanced, nuanced document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), so I urge all Christians to carefully read it and the previous document thoroughly and openly. You may be surprised.

(I'll abbreviate this as "Responses to some questions." The author is Cardinal Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

(This document is an earlier, fuller treatment of these issues. The author is Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the CDF. I'll abbreviate this document as "On some aspects of the Church").

I just want to highlight one detail that I found in the "Responses to some questions." Under the Response to the Fourth Question, it says that:
On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.[18]
I found this statement provocative, so I investigated footnote 18, which leads to #17, paragraph 3 of "On some aspects of the Church":
Since, however, communion with the universal Church, represented by Peter's Successor, is not an external complement to the particular Church, but one of its internal constituents, the situation of those venerable Christian communities also means that their existence as particular Churches is wounded. The wound is even deeper in those ecclesial communities which have not retained the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist. This in turn also injures the Catholic Church, called by the Lord to become for all "one flock" with "one shepherd"(77), in that it hinders the complete fulfilment of its universality in history.

Thus, Christianity is wounded by these schisms:
  1. those churches not in union with Rome suffer because their authority is not ordered "to the whole" by union with Rome (in traditional Christianity, a local church is the union of a historically valid bishop with his people);
  2. other communities are wounded because they lack the historical, sacramental connection with the universal Church;
  3. the Catholic Church is wounded. The Catholic Church is hindered in fulfilling its charism of catholicity in history.
Schism means that the catholicity of Christianity is hampered, which prevents Christians from offering a clear, unified witness to the world in dialogue and in missionary proclamation.

* * * * *
For further study on these issues, I recommend part II of "The Theological Locus of Ecclesial Movements," by Joseph Ratzinger, which explores the connections between apostolicity and catholicity.
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