Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What’s Wrong with the “Joint Declaration on Justification”? (Part 1)

I’ve been in touch with some of the folks who are doing “street evangelization” in Philadelphia, in conjunction with “Pope Francis”’s visit there. In response to a “church history” document they are handing out, one of the individuals received this response:

Thanks very much for sharing your handout outside the convention center this morning. I read it with great interest.

I'd like to share with you some additional information on the Catholic Church teaching on justification/salvation which you can find at the Vatican website:

I believe that we are fully aligned! I hope that this has resolved any doubt. Many blessings.

Of course, no one is “fully aligned”. In the first place, the “Joint Declaration” document is not “Catholic Church Teaching”. It is there for information purposes only.

Second, it has been heavily qualified. That is, the final draft was submitted, and THEN the Vatican rejected it and THEN added its own qualifications. I cited the Roman apologist Richard John Neuhaus here:

Rome did officially “receive” JD in the sense that it affirmed that very significant progress had been made in removing past misunderstandings, and in moving toward full agreement on what it means to say that the sinner is justified by faith. However, many of the Catholics and Lutherans involved in producing JD are saying—mainly off the record, for the present—that the Roman response is, in the most important respects, a rejection of the declaration. JD proposed that, with the new understandings achieved by the dialogue, the mutual condemnations of the sixteenth century no longer apply, and remaining differences over the doctrine of justification are not church-dividing. The Roman statement does not accept that proposal.

It would be an understatement to say that the theologians involved in the dialogue, both Lutheran and Catholic, were taken aback by the Roman response. During the process, Rome had indicated problems with aspects of the declaration and, almost up to the last minute, revisions were made to take those concerns into account. The participants in the dialogue thought they had been assured that JD would be approved by Rome. Certainly that was the understanding that informed the LWF's approval of the declaration. In the immediate aftermath of the statement by CDF and CCU, the mood among dialogue participants was bitter and despondent. One Lutheran pioneer of the dialogue declared that the theologians, both Lutheran and Catholic, had been “betrayed” by Rome. For decades to come, he predicted, it would be impossible to reestablish confidence in any theological dialogue with the Catholic Church.

The happy-go-lucky Roman Catholic interlocutor has got his facts wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment