Saturday, May 28, 2005

Newer is truer

In the continuing thread with Jason Cardona (see "Invincible ignorance," "The rise & fall of James White," "Extra ecclesiam," "Solus Christus?" both text and comments), I had said:
<< "It’s safer to be outside the church. The less you know the better. Ignorance is your best defense. By contrast, the most dangerous place in the world, spiritually speaking, is inside the Catholic church!">>

To which Jason said:
<< Please, don't misrepresent Catholic teaching. If you disagree with it, then disagree. But present it accurately.

"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation."

--"Dominus Iesus", 2000 Declaration of the Holy See, #22 >>

Among other things, I then pointed out that Jason had only quoted the first half of paragraph 22, the rest of which reads:

<< 22. However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged.” >>

So, according to DI, the advantageous status of Roman Catholics is offset by a correlative disadvantage to which the invincibly ignorant are not liable.

Jason responded by reiterating his quote of DI #22 and adding that:

<< The Church does not today understand her own teaching in this way.

Don't claim she has a new understanding today when she specifically denies this proposed understanding.

Steve, I had only one point since the beginning of this...It was simply your factual misrepresentation of the Catholic Church's understanding of its own teaching today. >>

Now, one of the odd things about Jason’s accusation is that I was quoting from the very same document as he was. So it is strange to suggest that his interpretation is more up-to-date than mine.

What is more, I was quoting from the very same paragraph. So it is hard to see how his compartmentalized interpretation is more accurate than my holistic interpretation.

But let us play along with his principle of contemporeity and ecclesial self-understanding. Shortly after DI was issued, in the very same year, to be exact, Cardinal Ratzinger offered his own commentary on the Declaration. Among other things, he said the following:


The document affirms, with the Council, that God gives light to everyone. Those who seek the truth find themselves objectively on the path that leads to Christ, and thus also on the path to the community in which he remains present in history, that is, to the Church. To seek the truth, to listen to one's conscience, to purify one's interior hearing, these are the conditions of salvation for all. They have a profound, objective connection with Christ and the Church.


So even though DI says that those outside church are, objectively speaking, in a gravely deficient situation compared with those inside the church, Ratzinger says that those outside the church can enjoy a “profound, objective connection with Christ and the Church.”

I take it, then, that this represents the latest version of the church’s self-understanding.

Admittedly, though, this may be seriously out-of-date, for it was issued fully five years ago, which is an alarmingly Jurassic lapse of time in the alacritous development of doctrine. At most, then, it is only the newest new understanding, which may actually make it the newest old understanding, or perhaps the next to newest old understanding, depending on what Cardinal Kasper has been up to since then.

It would certainly be inaccurate to date this declaration as “today’s" self-understanding, since it wasn’t issued today. Much less can it postdated as tomorrow’s self-understanding—although that would get to the point a whole lot quicker. So, at the very latest, it can only be postmarked as yesterday’s understanding, Rome time.

Thus, it may be altogether premature to say just what represents the church’s self-understanding until Benedict XVI issues his paleo-ante-neo-post-modern understanding of the erstwhile Cardinal Ratzinger’s understanding of Dominus Iesus’s understanding of Vatican II’s understanding of Pius IX’s understanding of Trent’s understanding of Florence’s understanding of Boniface VIII’s understanding of Lateran IV’s understanding of Gregory the Great’s understanding of Cyprian’s understanding of extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

Thankfully, though, we can see at a glance how much it simplifies matters to have a divine teaching office, compared with those poor clueless Lutherans who’ve been using the Formula of Concord for over 400 years, or the equally addled Presbyterians who’ve been using the Westminster Confession for over 350 years.


  1. Hey Steve-

    Been following your blog. You have a lot of excellent posts that I've been working through. Thank you.

    One thing I ask is to have a "previous post" "next post" "main" links in individual posts. I cannot navigate your page if I come in on a specific post, as is often the case when I click into you via livebookmark.

    Thanks again.

  2. Mikey,

    I've now referenced the essays I was alluding to in "New is truer." See beginning of essay.

    I agree with you that the blog would be more user-friendly if the threads and essays were hyperlinked as you say. However, when I began blogging I hadn't mastered the art of hyperlinking, and it's too late in the day for me to go back and hyperlink a year's worth of materials. So that's just a quaint, retro feature of the blog--at least the stuff I post. Ryan is more with it in these matters.