Card. Kasper: “we did not mean that these others were somehow false churches”

This is an odd piece from Christian Today.

My emphases and comments.


Vatican Representative Plays Down ‘One True Church’ Statement
European Church leaders iron out concerns over the Vatican’s recent ‘one true church’ statement at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly currently taking place in Sibiu, Romania.
by Maria Mackay
Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2007, 10:51 (BST)

The Vatican’s President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has played down concerns among Europe’s Protestant Church leaders following the Vatican’s recent statement asserting that the Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ.

The 16-page July document, ratified by Pope Benedict XVI, stated that the Roman Catholic Church is “the one true Church of Christ”.

It also claimed that “communities emerging from the Reformation” – the Protestant and Anglican Churches – are “not Churches in the proper sense of the word”.

Cardinal Kasper attempted to qualify the assertion at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, currently taking place in Sibiu, Romania.

In reiterating that other communities “were not churches in the proper sense, we did not mean that these others were somehow false churches”, [?] he told reporters. “We meant that the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany) or the Church of England, for example, have a different understanding of what the church is.”  [ummm... different than...what?  Different than what the Catholic Church teaches a Church is?]

Bishop Wolfgang Huber, chair of the council of the EKD, said he regretted the negative phrasing of the Vatican’s statement in deeming some churches to be “not churches in the proper sense”. He added, however, that he was encouraged to hear Cardinal Kasper’s more positive description of communities having their own understanding of what it means to be the church.

“We continue on our journey together,” said Huber, “with the Holy Spirit leading us.”

The President of the Conference of European Churches, the Rev Jean-Arnold de Clermont, also dismissed fears over the Vatican statement.

While noting that the statement did not reflect a Protestant view of the church or of Protestantism, De Clermont said the Vatican’s assertions were “nothing new” and should not be given too much weight.

“Ecumenical life does not issue from the summit, but from the base of the church,” he said.  [!?!?]

Folks… if you are going to write a comment, write something useful.  Don’t just vent or spew.

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24 Responses to Card. Kasper: “we did not mean that these others were somehow false churches”

  1. peretti says:

    I do not find this as a big deal. Kasper is softsoaping it, but the document stands on its own, and says nothing new. I am glad to see Rabbi Seplowitz of New York praising Pope Benedict on his truthful and clear teaching. Rabbi Seplowitz may not agree, but he respects truth from other religious leaders, and would rather have it than warm misleading fuzzies.

  2. danphunter1 says:

    Christ said that the Church is built on Peter, not on anyone else.

  3. Joshua says:

    If the Catholic Church is the true Church and teaches with authority from God, then its understanding of what Church is is the correct one, which means that the EKD or the Anglicans (not all of whom do, in fact, hold a different understanding) are not Churches. If I understand human to be featherless biped and therefore call a kangaroo a human, I might be consistent, just as the EKD or the Anglicans might be consistent in calling themselves Churches. But if someone with some sense realises that human means rational animal, then he cannot agree with me that a kangaroo is a human. Likewise, the Church uses the term Church to denote an ecclesial community united under a hierarchy with apostolic succession and she cannot agree that any community not fitting with this use is a church.

    What Cardinal Kaper says if purely relativistic nonsense.

  4. Tom S. says:

    I don’t get it, he is obviously trying to soft pedal the statement here, but in the end what he really said is nothing at all, just rambling words. Of course, that may have been his intention.

  5. John Polhamus says:

    “What Cardinal Kaper [sic] says if purely relativistic nonsense.”

    A few ruminations. What Cardinal Kasper is NOT saying, is that the Anglicans, the Lutherans, the congregationalists, the Pentecostals, Fundamentalists etc., while not being “Churches” in the “ab initio” sense, ARE movements and groups already and still within a larger CHURCH, doctrinally deficient to be sure, incomplete and disobedient of Apostolic Authority, but not seperate from it, they are contained by it. Taking into account the longstanding doctrine of invincible ignorance, I think this is the implication contained in the Letter to the Chinese Catholics which urges those Catholics who find that out of “Grave Inconvenience” they are required to patronize the services of the state church, which is valid, but illicit; true, but outside the church in legal structure. This is a revolutionary doctrine in that it preserves the doctrine of “Ex corde ecclesia nulla est salvatio.” Of course there is no salvation outside the church, because nothing is outside it; the church has authority over all creation, though many are blind to that authority. The same accomodation of the left can also be applied to the right of the Latin church, to the Greek Orthodox, to the Russians, to the Calvinists, to the Anglicans, and on down the line. Benedict may have just healed the Great Schism, and no one has yet noticed it. To me, that is what the four momentous documents of Summer ’07, the restoration of the 2/3 majority for election, the Letter to the Chinese Catholics, the Motu Proprio, and the clarification on Subsistet point to: a Benedictine agenda with a VERY far sighted view.

  6. EVERYONE: Do NOT write stupid or simply nasty things here.

    You make more work for me and you put this blog in danger.

  7. Thomas Pink says:

    Is the issue simply about how to use the word ‘church’ (and synonyms of it in other languages)? One might simply conclude, with Kasper, that the word ‘church’ is just being used by Catholics and Protestants in quite different ways, without a clear shared meaning. In which case differences about what counts as a proper church are surely verbal. It doesn’t seem a dogmatic issue how a particular word is to be used.

    But I suspect the issue is not verbal. For it does seem that there is at least this common meaning to the word ‘church’ as used by both Catholic and Protestant: namely that ‘church’ in the phrase ‘a church’ means a Christian group that is not simply an aggregate of individuals, but is instead a local Christian community which exemplifies the structure and form Christ intended for such. In which case disputes about what counts as a proper church are not merely verbal at all but reflect, in the context of this shared meaning, dogmatic differences on what form and structure that might be, on which the Catholic view – that a church requires a sacramental priesthood – is clearly de fide and infallible.

    Kasper’s approach neglects the possibility that there is this shared meaning; and that this shared meaning leaves the dispute between Catholic and Protestant about what counts as a proper church not merely verbal but of dogmatic substance. I can see why, as an ecumenical diplomat, he might choose to ignore this possibility. But his neglect, though in no way itself heterodox on a point of faith, is deeply evasive, and implausible at the level of intellectual common sense.

  8. Alex says:

    Mortalium Animos. That’s all I’ve got to say.

  9. Alex says:

    Mortalium Animos. That’s all I’ve got to say.

  10. Albertus says:

    Of course there is no salvation outside the church, because nothing is outside it;

    According to the Catechism of Trent, “Hence there are 3 classes of persons excluded from the Church’s pale: infidels, heretics, and schismatics.”

    Further, “the true Church is to be recognized from her origin which can be traced back…to the Apostles.” “That all might know which was the Catholic Church, the Fathers, guided by the Spirit of God, added to the Creed the word Apostolic. And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals…so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.”

  11. danphunter1 says:

    Father,
    No one has written anything “stupid or nasty”.
    So far every man posting has stated the truth in a clear and charitable manner.
    Are there blog police out there who can shut you down?

  12. dan: Yes… they have, and I have deleted them.

  13. danphunter1 says:

    Father,
    I apologize for any nastiness.
    I think it must be frustration, and that is understandable given the reinstitution of orthodoxy in the Church with His Holiness Motu Proprio followed by this, two steps backward.

  14. M Kr says:

    What is interesting about all this is that the most ecumenically-minded Protestant groups tend to be the ones with the least vitality – the old established bodies (not necessarily state churches) in wich liberal theology prevails and whose membership is rapidly aging and shrinking.

    I believe that it is misplaced concern to be anxious about furthering relations with such groups since they no longer represent the mainstream of Protestant religious vitality either in Europe or North America. This, rather belongs to the Evangelicals, who interestingly enough, among Hungarian Lutherans are dubbed “believers”(!) (this shows just how serious is the situation among mainstream Protestants in Europe). There is not much evidence to show that there will be a reversal in this decline and so in the future, there may not be many left to continue this dialogue on the Protestant side. So churchmen like Kasper are certainly out of touch if they are placing hope in such ecumenical endeavours.

  15. Rose says:

    The ecumenical community of Taize sings a creed that is word for word the same as the Apostles Creed except for this sentence: “We believe in the holy, catholic and universal church”- note the absence of the words “one” (perhaps the word universal is meant to substitute for it) and “apostolic”. Seems to me the ecumenical movement there self-identifies as church AND they do not believe that apostolic succession is a necessary attribute for being “church”. I actually would not have difficulty with Cardinal Kasper’s explanation that the other churches have a different self-understanding, but I do have difficulty with such the statement when it is combined with his other one: “we do not mean to say they are false churches.” Combining his two statements one gets the impression he means the Catholic Church does not mean that anyone’s self-definition of church can be false.
    Either the word ‘church” has doctrinal meaning (true vs. untrue) or we are into the realm of drawing relativistic lines.

  16. DoB says:

    It is necessary that a good doctor always calms the patient after administering “hard to take” medicine. Let’s all wait and see if the medicine works. That’s the prize.

  17. David M.O'Rourke says:

    I don’t believe that Cardinal Kaspar is outside the pale anymore than I believe that Pope Benedict was departing form the teaching of Vatican II (as many suggested he was doing) when this latest document from the CDF was issued.

    At the same time, I don’t think Pope Benedict sent Cardinal Kaspar to Subia with instructions for him to read the Riot Act and blow up forty years of ecumenical efforts. It is the Cardinal’s job to take a nuanced approach which is faithful to the original document but which allows room for prayerful discussion with those of other Christian denominations. One needs to be careful quoting “fighting words” from The Council of Trent and Vatican I. These Councils took place in their own historical settings which are quite different from ours. For example, one cannot be “guilty” of the sins of heresy, schism or infidelity if one is acting in good faith. Mortal sin requires an awareness of the sinful nature of what one is doing and free consent to do it nonetheless. In the 16th cent. there was anger and bitterness on both sides. Don’t let’s assume that people who hold different religioius beliefs than our own are guilty of heresy etc. Indeed it is a rare Catholic indeed who is not at sometime, through ignorance, in heresy.

    The Church is Christ’s Church. We know He wants it to be one. Where there is prayer, conversion and good will on all sides He will bring about the Unity for which He prayed and in ways that may well surprise us. The last thing He needs is our often uncharitable and judgemental triumphlism.

    When I was a youngster I received a fist in the face because I attended a Catholic School. I was never a good fighter but I could pour on the verbal abuse. But those days when Christians hated one another are gone now and I say, “Good Riddance!!!!

  18. sean says:

    The protestant bodies self-validate by reference to the Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental so let them do the running. We should be looking beyond these bodies to the people in their pews. That is real ecumenism with protestants.

  19. Albertus says:

    Don’t let’s assume that people who hold different religioius beliefs than our own are guilty of heresy etc. Indeed it is a rare Catholic indeed who is not at sometime, through ignorance, in heresy.

    The second consideration is that he whose mind is strongly impressed with the truth taught in this Article, will easily escape the awful danger of heresy. For a person is not to be called a heretic as soon as he shall have offended in matters of faith; but he is a heretic who, having disregarded the authority of the Church, maintains impious opinions with pertinacity. Since, therefore, it is impossible that anyone be infected with the contagion of heresy, so long as he holds what this Article proposes to be believed.

  20. Albertus says:

    Don’t let’s assume that people who hold different religioius beliefs than our own are guilty of heresy etc.

    If you are suggesting I said that, you are quite incorrect. I quoted from an earlier post that stated that there is no such thing as “outside the Church” which is clearly contradictory to the teaching of the Catechism from the Council of Trent.

    The last thing He needs is our often uncharitable and judgemental triumphlism.

    What is unneeded is nuanced speech to those in danger of losing their eternal salvation. While it is certainly true that our “separated brethern” possess elements of the true faith it is also true they are also lacking elements of that same faith. By over-emphasising what we have in common and downplaying or worse ignoring our differences is a grave threat to them. For example, if we allowed a person to go lion hunting with a rifle but no cartridges we would be placing that person in mortal danger. Clearly we don’t need to run around telling non-Catholics they are going to Hell but they do need to be taught the truth

  21. John Paul says:

    I am often confused by this type of discussion. Someone already mentioned
    Mortalium Animos, from Pius XI. The language is very clear, and he stated
    that unity already did exist in the one Church that Christ founded. He wrote
    the encyclical specifically because the kind of thinking that gained the day
    during Vatican II was already brewing amongst Catholics. Now we are told that
    the Holy Ghost works through these other communities and Churches unto
    salvation. If that really is so, do we need to be Catholic? And doesn’t that
    kind of statement foster indifferentism?
    I certainly don’t feel any sense of “superiority.” But if all the pre-VII
    popes and saints and doctors were correct in their teaching, I certainly
    pray for the RETURN of our separated brethren to the one true Church.

  22. michael says:

    In this modern world people think they are many ways many truths and many lives therefore they are many so called churches but if truth be told and you look at life and believe that there is one way one truth and one life and that is one faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ and if he has one mystical body and that is the Roman Catholic Church then how can I even acknowledge that there is anything outside of that church as having anything to do with the truth would be like spiting in Our Lord Holy Face. Of course
    I am just a simple poor soul.

  23. michael says:

    In this modern world people think they are many ways many truths and many lives therefore they are many so called churches but if truth be told and you look at life and believe that there is one way one truth and one life and that is one faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ and if he has one mystical body and that is the Roman Catholic Church then how can I even acknowledge that there is anything outside of that church as having anything to do with the truth would be like spiting in Our Lord Holy Face. Of course
    I am just a simple poor soul.

  24. Bruce T. says:

    We need an unambiguous clear statement of what ecumenical dialogue “is” and what it “hopes to attain.”
    Until now it seems the goal of certain hierarchs has been to say nice things about Protestants, glossing over the essential differences. It also seems that Protestants have been unwilling to take Catholic theology on its own terms. How can anyone knowing the Church’s teaching on apostolic succession and the Holy Eucharist be surprised when those who deny such doctrines are not regarded as Churches in the proper sense of the term?