Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Who Are the Church?" Is More Important Than "What is Church?"

Earlier this afternoon, the 2008 Pere Marquette Lecture was held at Marquette University. The speaker this year was Rev. Joseph Komonchak, a professor of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He made reference to "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church" - the document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) last summer in which the CDF stated that only the Catholic Church may be properly called church (see prior post).

Komonchak stated that this CDF document was based on an inadequate interpretation of the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium 8, which states: "The Church of Christ... subsists in the Catholic Church." There are two complementary meanings in this phrase. The first is that the fullness of salvation is found in the Catholic Church as it is in no other church. Komonchak gave such examples as the unitive ministry of the pope, the sacraments, and the extra books found in the Catholic Bible to illustrate the greater variety of instruments available within the Catholic Church for salvation. The CDF document appears to pay attention to only this meaning of the Lumen Gentium 8.

The second meaning of "subsists in the Catholic Church," as the doctrinal commission explained to the Vatican II fathers who were voting on this document, is that "ecclesial elements of church can be found elsewhere" outside the confines of the Catholic Church. This is why Lumen Gentium 8 did not read "The Church of Christ... is the Catholic Church," but had been changed to "subsists in."

Komonchak finds the more important question to be: "In whom is the Church?" In whom is the faith, hope, charity of Christ most realized? In 1950 Alabama, that may not be the segregationist Catholic Church, but the integrated Reformed Church down the road. He cited similar statements regarding the greater importance of "Who are the Church?" from Ratzinger, Augustine, Aquinas, and Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II Decree on Ecuminism. It was very good lecture.

A Faithful Catholic


Terrence Berres said...

As I hope my Sunday School students remember, and contrary to what you say Father Komonchek asserted, the CDF document says "It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them."

mlv said...

I'm a current student of Komonchak at CUA. Does anyone have a copy of his lecture?