Real Ecumenism & Degrees of Communion


The Second Vatican Council distinguished between “Churches” and “Ecclesial Communities” separated from the Roman Apostolic See (Unitatis Redintegratio, chapter 3). What is the basis for this distinction? Why is it important? What implications do degrees of communion have for reception of the sacraments in the Catholic Church in union with the Apostolic See?
~Auctore Deo~

Introduction
Today Christianity resembles the one garment of the Lord torn between disputing parties. As much as anything else, this of itself forms a major obstacle for many to belief.

Without a proper ecclesiology; if we don't understand Church, what, or where the Church is, then the whole proclamation of the faith goes awry. Over emphasis on the wrong kind of ecumenism leads to a relativist ecclesiology which equates the One True Church of Jesus Christ to Protestant theologies which don’t even hold to the divinity of Our Lord. The sacraments are denigrated and lose their potency because they become meaningless. Catechesis is traded in for platitude in an effort not to offend. In this post I will attempt to examine the way in which the Second Vatican Council addressed these difficult issues in a way that promoted good relations with Christian communities outside of Catholicism, whilst retaining the doctrine professed in the Creed and held to throughout Christian history, that there is only one Church of Christ, the Catholic Church under the successor of Peter.

In the first instance: Lumen Gentium § 8.

Lumen Gentium states that the Church is a community of faith hope and charity established by Jesus Christ himself. This community has visible delineation; it must be seen to exist in a physical, not merely a spiritual communion. Also it must have Apostolic Succession. The appointment of successors is in fact implicit in the nature of the commission given to the Apostles by Jesus: The Gospel is to be proclaimed until the end of time, and yet no new channel of revelation was instituted. The faith deposited by Jesus Christ must then be contained, intact, in perpetuity.

This is a fundamental tenet of the Church founded by Jesus Christ then: it must be apostolic in terms of both its teaching and its origins:
"The Church of Christ knows that its teaching should be identical with the message announced by the apostles." — Schmaus, M., Dogma 4 The Church its Origin and Structure (London: Sheed & Ward, 1995), p. 138.
This means that apostolic succession is a matter of the purity of the Gospel and the preaching of an unabridged and undistorted message, identical with that preached by Christ two thousand years ago.

The visible Church, i.e. “the society structured with hierarchical organs” (LG 8) here on earth, and the Mystical Body of Christ are not two separate realities, but one, as Christ is both human and divine. The divine element nourishes the visible social structure, providing the necessary impetus to facilitate the building up of the body (Eph 4:16).

Still, elements of truth and sanctification are undoubtedly discernible outside the Catholic Church. Lumen Gentium asserts that these elements “are forces impelling toward catholic unity.” (LG 8). In other words, when elements of the truth of our existence are found outside the Church, they serve to guide people to the fullness of truth; Jesus Christ, which resides within the Catholic Church. This language speaks rather eloquently of the constant draw the truth has on all of us; the joy of knowing God’s will; the joy of being delivered, of knowing who we are, where we are going and what we must do. It also echoes the words of Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis which addresses non-members of “visible Body of the Catholic Church” asking them to 
“...correspond to the interior movements of grace...for even though they may be ordained toward the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unknowing desire and resolution, they still remain deprived of so many precious gifts and helps from heaven, which one can enjoy only in the Catholic Church.”—§ 103.
Pope Pius goes on to insist, however, that those who are not members of the Catholic Church can not be considered truly members of Christ’s Church. Pope John XXIII however, had a more ecumenical perspective, perhaps as a result of his experience in diplomatic posts in Bulgaria and Turkey prior to his elevation to the Papal See. During his allocution announcing the council in 1959, Pope John mentioned two general aims for the council; the edification of the whole Christian faithful and a
"...renewed cordial invitation to the faithful of the separated Churches to participate with us in this feast of grace and brotherhood [the upcoming council], for which so many souls long in all parts of the world."—As Quoted in Richard Galliardetz, The Making of the Church (New York: Paulist Press, 2006), p.70.
Indeed, Pope John created a Secretariat for Christian Unity in 1960 and this body was responsible for the invitation of non-Catholic observers to the council who even had access to the draft documents being considered. It was this Secretariat which was also responsible for reporting the feed back of these observers to the appropriate drafting committees.

The essential element of LG 8 is perhaps the result of these factors. Pope Pius XII’s plain assertion that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ was considered to no longer be tenable. The Church recognises as valid trinitarian water baptism in other Christian traditions and the effect of baptism is known to be communion with Christ.

It was thus agreed that one word would be changed from the draft document which would reflect a broader definition of the Body of Christ. The change was in the sentence which defines the Church of Christ
“...which our Saviour, after his resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd (Jn 21:17)...constituted and organised in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.”—LG 8, emphasis mine.
Many thought that this change meant that the council was willing to acknowledge that although the Church of Christ is the Roman Catholic Church, the Kingdom of God is wider than just this. As Schmaus has it; although the official Church is the very channel and instrument for the Holy Spirit’s work, the Holy Spirit is not bound Himself by the structure of the Church and blows where He will (cf. Jn 3:8).

Since the council, some theologians had developed the idea that the council had taught that “[the sole Church of Christ] may also be present in other Christian Churches”. Indeed it could be concluded that this position was almost universal among contemporary theologians. In 1985, the CDF clarified the position with a notification to Fr. Leonardo Boff regarding his book, which, it noted, was having “considerable influence...on the faithful” and so the notification would therefore be made public. The CDF makes explicit that the council did not teach this, but rather that 

"the council had chosen the word subsistit exactly in order to make clear that one sole “substance” of the true church exists, whereas outside her visible structure only elementa ecclesiae exist; these—being elements of the same church—tend and conduct toward the Catholic Church (Lumen Gentium, 8). The decree on ecumenism expresses the same doctrine (UR 3-4), and it was restated precisely in the declaration Mysterium Ecclasiae."—CDF Notification to Fr. Leonardo Boff, OFM on Church: Charism and Power, 11th March 1985
The CDF goes on to assert unequivocally, that Boff’s ideas amount to ecclesial relativism. However, according to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, it was not Boff’s ideas, but this CDF document that was met with stinging criticism then put aside.

Ratzinger explains clearly the flaw in Boff’s thinking; namely the idea that Jesus Christ could not have conceived of any Church, much less have founded one. Rather the early Church was born of a response to institutionalisation and pressure resulting from the loss of eschatological tension towards the immediate coming of the kingdom.

The resultant ecclesiology supposes that a universal Catholic Church could not therefore have existed, but rather individual local Churches, with different ministers, theologies and praxis. This idea has the wrong point of departure however, according to Ratzinger who places the unifying centre of the Church firmly within the sacrament of the Last Supper. It is through this sacrament that
"all who profess to be Christians can become one with him in a totally new way, so that Paul could designate this communion as being one body with Christ, as the unity of one body in the Spirit."—cf. Ratzinger, J., The Ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium.
The implications of this reality are a Church not conceived of and established by men, but created by the Holy Spirit and brought forth through the reality of Pentecost. This Church is manifest in the profession of faith, the sacraments and apostolic succession, thus the council intended not to introduce a form of ecclesiological relativism, but to acknowledge what a living miracle is the Church, spread across the four corners of the earth and present throughout history, always fragile (As Ratzinger puts it: “the Holy Spirit has continuously created her since Pentecost, in spite of being faced with every human failing, and sustains her in her essential identity.”) and yet always with us. The CDF returned to this question on 29th June 2007, when it published a document: Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church. Here it again clarified:
"In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth. 
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. Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church."
This document takes issue with the direction many theologians had been taking, and the accompanying commentary makes clear that the reason “subsists in” was used instead of “is” does not represent a break with earlier ecclesiology of ‘one true Church’, but rather signifies greater openness to the ecumenical desire to recognise the truly ecclesial characteristics and dimensions of other Christian communities who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. The council had recognised the scandal of disunity and its duty to restoring the unity of all Christians. It also expressed the truth about the one Church of Christ; the goal of ecumenism must be the “bringing about the complete unity of Christians in the Catholic Church” (McBrien, R., The Church (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), p. 179). Clearly, the challenge faced by all of us is in recognising the objective reality of the truth held in the Catholic Church, the fides quae revealed by God which is to be held and taught by His Church whilst holding in tension our desire to acknowledge what we recognise as being part of this deposit of faith in other Christian communities. These elements are what Lumen Gentium § 8 teaches are forces which serve to impel those outside the one true Church towards Catholic unity. 

It is worth noting that the debate continues to this day. In the March issue of Theological Studies (no. 71 March 2010, pp. 133ff. Francis Sullivan argues that the intention of the theological commission in proposing the change from “is” to “subsists in” was no longer to affirm full identity between the church of Christ and the Catholic Church purely because such full identity contradicted the tradition followed by the popes and Western councils of recognising the separated Eastern communities as churches. He supports his cases in this article with two quotations from Joseph Ratzinger, one made as a professor of theology, the other as cardinal prefect of the CDF. Francis Sullivan SJ, Quaestio Disputata: Further thought on the meaning of Subsistit in, Theological Studies 71 (2010).

Excursus

It is possible to find a practical example of this in the life of John Henry Newman. The Oxford Movement Newman was involved in was organised in protest at the theological liberalism and Erastianism of the Anglican Settlement. It soon assumed a wider agenda, and became involved in a reassertion of the essentially Catholic identity of the Church of England. These Anglo-Catholics depicted the English Church as a via media between what was styalised as the excesses of Romanism, and the relative poverty of Protestantism. Newman saw a clear distinction between episcopal and prophetic tradition, recognising the importance of Bishops which is how he understood Apostolic succession. Indeed, Newman considered the core of Christian tradition consisted of truths formally sealed and ‘committed and received from from Bishop to Bishop’.

He was impelled toward Roman Catholicism through the elements of the true faith retained in his community, which he loved and strove to renew and authenticate. His work to authenticate his position by studying the history of the early Church disclosed striking analogies which warned of the legitimacy of via media. For example, he had to recognise the Semi-Arians, who tried to find a via media between Arianism and Nicene orthodoxy were wrong. In the same way he found that the moderate Monophysites were unable to find a compromise between the heresy of Eutyches and the orthodoxy of Leo I, accepted by the Council of Chalcedon. cf. Dulles, A., John Henry Newman (London: Continuum, 2005), p. 6.

Ultimately, he converted after writing an essay on the development of doctrine, in which he answered his own objections to Roman doctrines, recognising that they were all organic and logical developments from the tradition of the early Church.

Defining the Elements

Schism signifies a split. The split is opposed to unity. The sign of schism is therefore that which is in itself directly opposed to unity. (ST 1-11, q39 a. 1.).

In Lumen Gentium § 15 and in Unitatis Redintegratio § 3, we find a positive expression of the work undertaken by the council with respect to genuine ecumenism. Contained therein is a list of areas of common unity which could be described as ‘elements’ of the one true Catholic Church which can be observed to some extent in other ecclesial realities. UR 3 acknowledges the bond between all Christians that exists through (proper, i.e. trinitarian) baptism, and expresses this bond as a degree of sharing in the Catholic Church; a degree of communion.
"For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." (UR 3)
This is also affirmed by CCC 782 which states that membership of the people of God becomes possible not by physical birth, but by being "born anew of water and the Spirit", i.e. faith in Jesus Christ and Baptism. It also acknowledges that blame exists on both sides for the dissension which exists between Christians, but honestly states that these differences in doctrine, discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church, constitute real and serious obstacles to full ecclesiastical communion. Despite this, the document maintains that “all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ”. (UR§3). Also, that the separated Churches and communities are not deprived of
"significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the catholic Church." (UR 3)
Some have argued that this section of Unitatis Redintegratio, read in conjunction with LG § 8, demonstrates that there is at least something of church beyond the limits of the Catholic Church.
Perhaps it does not need to be one thing or the other; perhaps it can be both? Vatican II held in tension the reality of both the unicity and universality of the Catholic Church. At one level, there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. At another level, salvation is not denied to those who do not profess to full communion with the Holy See, although this salvation derives its efficacy from the Catholic Church. It seems to me that this would necessarily mean that they must then be part of the Church—albeit imperfectly. UR § 3 expresses these efficacious elements as the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope & love; the interior gift of the Holy Spirit and visible elements. This is covered in more depth in LG 15, which lists Sacred Scripture; religious zeal; faith in God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit; baptism and other sacraments; episcopacy, Eucharist and Marian devotion; prayer; grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit and Martyrdom. Clearly, we can recognise that some Christian communities possess more of these ‘elements’ and some less. For this reason, UR § 14 and 15 singles out the special position of the Eastern Churches. UR recognises a special degree of communion by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist “whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy” (UR 15). This special bond allows the council to recommend that communicatio in sacris be encouraged (cf. UR§15).
This teaching of the council is reaffirmed in the CDF document Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion, (28th May 1992). 
"This communion exists especially with the Eastern orthodox Churches, which, though separated from the See of Peter, remain united to the Catholic Church by means of very close bonds, such as the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, and therefore merit the title of particular Churches. Indeed, "through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature", for in every valid celebration of the Eucharist the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church becomes truly present."
Here the CDF reiterates what the council teaches in UR § 14 & 15; that the Eastern Church is clearly a Church as they have Apostolic Succession and a valid Eucharist. We can understand then, that it is these elements which provide us with a key to understanding what constitutes a Church, as opposed to an ecclesial community.

Further evidence can be found in UR § 19-24 which reaches out to the Churches and ecclesial communities separated from the Catholic Church by the Reformation. Interestingly, nowhere does it define who these are, or which denomination constitutes a Church and which an ecclesial community. For example the Anglican Church seems to fall in-between the two categories as it would argue that it has apostolic succession, an episcopacy and many Anglicans believe in the real presence, however there is ambiguity and relativism in doctrine which means that there is an internal discontinuity. The Anglican community retains the visible signs of a Church, but one could argue it lacks the inner graces, having a democratic rather than theocratic foundation. The definitive answer can be found in the CDF declaration of 29th June 2007:
Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century? 
RESPONSE 
According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense.
Thus the importance of Apostolic succession is again re-iterated, but not in a way that suggests the handing on of a baton. Rather, it is in communion with the See of Peter that one can find orthodoxy: “UBI Petrus, IBI Ecclesia”. This is a further reiteration of the CDF document Dominus Jesus.

The Particular & The Universal

In the year 2000, the CDF published a document called Dominus Jesus ‘ On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church’. This document was a response to the prevalent desire to find common ground among the religions of the world. It is this attitude which has led to a relativising of the message of revelation and salvation preached by the Church. Specifically, it notes that the desire to find common ground with other Christian groups has led some Catholics to play down the claims of uniqueness of that Church body which is in peace and communion with the see of Peter, represented by the Bishop of Rome.

Of course, this does not mean that there is no truth outside the Church. Nostra aetate declared that inter-religious dialogue must be willing to acknowledge “whatever is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions” (NA 2) whilst we must start by acknowledging that dialogue is an internal accompaniment of mission, and not an alternative to it. In defining the unicity of the Church, Dominus Jesus stresses the importance of apostolic succession
"The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity — rooted in the apostolic succession — between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church."
This is important not least because the tried and tested hierarchical organisation of traditionalised religion emphasises the communal dimension to authentic religiosity individuals need communities, not least so as to be fully persons. Grounding oneself in this one, visible κοινωνία has always meant to distinguish yourself from the sects which had broken away from it. (cf. Dominus Iesus §16).

Now the document turns its attention to LG 8 leaving little doubt about the exact force of the expression subsistit in, explaining:
With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand, that “outside of her structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth”, that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that “they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”. (Dominus Jesus § 16).
This leaves little doubt that, despite the obvious wounds inflicted on the Church through Christian disunity, the Church remains one, holy catholic and apostolic, as the Creed professes. This echoes Mysterium Ecclesiae from 1973 which taught:
The Christian faithful are...not permitted to imagine that the Church of Christ is nothing more than a collection--divided, yet in some way one--of Churches and ecclesial communities; nor are they free to hold that today the Church of Christ nowhere really exists, and must be considered only as a goal which all Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach. (Mysterium Ecclesiae § 1, cited in Dominus Jesus § 16).
Moreover, it affirms the starting point for all Christian truth resides in the Catholic Church. Dominus Jesus goes on to acknowledge the especially close bond the Catholic Church holds with the separated eastern Churches, which it recognises as Churches, by means of the ‘elements’ of visible endowments it contains. This reiterates the strongly positive stance towards other Christian communities sought by Vatican II. In § 17, Dominus Jesus clarifies some of the ambiguities in the council documents, developing, deepening and more fully explaining it, firstly, by offering a definition of what constitutes a Church proper:
Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church. (Dominus Jesus § 17)
And then by defining what does not constitute a Church:
On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptised in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church. Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.
Here Dominus Jesus seems fairly unequivocal that Anglicans are not a Church, because they do not have apostolic succession and some do not accept the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic ministry (cf. UR § 22). This is consistent with Leo XIII, Apostolicae Curae (1896) which declared Anglican orders null and void.
36. Wherefore, strictly adhering, in this matter, to the decrees of the Pontiffs, Our Predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by Our authority, of Our own initiative and certain knowledge, We pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void.
Ultimately, this amounts to a lack of juridical union. The differences then, are that some Eastern Churches: The Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, Ukrainian Catholics and Greek Catholic Church, are in full communion with Rome. There are other Eastern Churches, i.e. the Orthodox, which are separated, yet Apostolic Churches; that is, they trace their foundation to an Apostle. The Council of Nicaea confirmed ancient traditions when it laid down the primacies of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch and defined them as the hinges of the universal communio. The warrant of these sees lies in the Petrine principle, as does the basis of Rome's apostolic responsibility to be the norm of unity. So the exchange of anathemas with the Orthodox was between two Apostolic sees, thus the Orthodox Church retains its Apostolic foundation, though it is in schism. However, the Church in England is a different thing altogether, because it was “born” of the Roman See; it fell under the 'apostle-ship' of Rome and broke away. Thus when the English Church broke away from the authority of Rome, it did not have any independent Apostolic foundation. The Anglican Church cannot call itself apostolic, therefore their orders are 'null and void'.

Degrees of Communion

The Eucharist is the sacrament of the unity of the Church, which results from the fact that many are one in Christ. (ST III, 82.2 ad 3.)

At this stage, it should be clear that the method the council used to distinguish between Churches and Ecclesial communities demonstrates degrees of communion.
“The fullness of the means of salvation, the entirety of revealed truth, the sacraments and the hierarchical ministry are found within the Catholic communion of the Church.”— (Catholic's Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland, One Bread One Body (Dublin: Veritas, 1998) § 20.
Francis Sullivan S.J. identifies three possible ways of looking at communion: juridical, pastoral, and theological. These degrees of communion are reliant on the elements of the one true Church evident in that community. The Church, “founded by Jesus Christ and for which he prayed is indefectibly one in faith, worship and the bond of hierarchical communion [LG 8, 18-23; UR 2].” (The Profession of Faith of Paul VI (1968); Neuner & Dupuis 39/13, emphasis mine).

Thus it is the degree to which one is in communion with the Catholic Church that directly affects one’s ability to receive the sacraments. In order for the outer sign to be efficacious, one must bear the inner grace, faith and understanding of what you are committing too. The Catholic faithful are in full communion; “fully incorporated into the Church’” (LG 14), others are in communion according to how much they share together in the mystery of salvation and the means of grace. This could be said to be juridical communion.

Pastoral communion is illustrated by Canon 844 §3 which states that a Catholic minister may give the sacraments to a member of an Eastern Church not in full communion. The inference must be that this would not then apply to a member of an ecclesial community. This is corroborated by CCC 1399-1400: inter-communion is not possible, although CCC 1401 states that sacraments can be provided, under grave circumstances, providing the person receiving gives assent to Catholic teaching regarding these sacraments. In the British Isles, “the bishops have given consent to the celebration of [mixed marriages] within the Mass”. In the instance of a sacramental marriage (i.e. between two baptised Christians) the ministers of the sacrament are the couple rather than the Church’s minister. As this is a one-off event in a person’s life, the bishops have stated that Eucharistic sharing is possible because, like Baptism, Marriage constitutes a juridical union, and places the couple “in a new relationship with the Catholic Church.” (One Bread, One Body, ibid, § 110. Despite this, the spouse who is not Catholic remains someone who is not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Ut Unum Sint was promulgated in 1995 by Pope John Paul II. § 64 speaks of Churches of the West; the Second Vatican Council did not attempt to give a "description" of post-Reformation Christianity, since "in origin, teaching and spiritual practice, these Churches and Ecclesial Communities differ not only from us but also among themselves to a considerable degree". (Ut Unum Sint § 66). This seems to say that there are Churches in the West as well as ecclesial communities, and does seem to make possible accepting another body as a Church. It is possible then, that this may have been aimed at the Anglican Communion (although the ordination of women to the Episcopacy would seem to negate this possibility).

Vatican II teaches that all Christians share the common bond of Baptism, above this various elements link Ecclesial bodies and Churches to the Catholic Church, providing differing degrees of communion.
This is the third degree of communion; theological communion. The Decree on Ecumenism’s recognition that the existing bonds of union constitute a high degree of theological union; even without juridical union. UR 14-18 especially mentions what we hold in common with the Eastern Church; the Eucharist, liturgical worship, Marian devotion, etc. The dialogue between faiths is undertaken through the search for common theological statements. For example, the ARCIC: and Lutheran/ Catholic declaration on justification by faith. The statements made in Unitatis Redintegratio constitute a striking change of church discipline, according to Sullivan, which is proof of the depth of theological communion which the Catholic Church recognises has persisted between itself and the eastern churches despite the thousand years of juridical separation they have endured.

Conclusion

In this post I have tried to show the way in which the Second Vatican Council addressed the issues of schism and dissension from Rome in a way that promoted good relations with Christian communities outside of Catholicism, whilst at the same time retaining the doctrine of unicity. I have shown how the Council held the idea of the unicity of the Roman Catholic Church in tension with the Universality of the Christian message by teaching that bodies not in juridical communion with the Petrine See reflect the life and worship of the Church in varying degrees. This has repercussions for Roman Catholics as well as non Catholics, because full, external and visible communion needs to be complemented by an interior disposition; an interior communion in the life of Grace. A Catholic who is not in a state of grace is not therefore, fully incorporated into the Church.

Bibliography

Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales, Ireland and Scotland, One Bread One Body, Dublin: Veritas, 1998.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, New York: Doubleday, 1995.

Dulles, A., John Henry Newman, London: Continuum, 2005. 

Evans, M. & Holden, M., Ecclesiology, Birmingham: Maryvale, 2009.

Flannery, A., Vatican Council II Vol. I, New York: Costello, 1998.

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Nichols, A., Criticising the Critics, Oxford: Family Publications, 2010.

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Ratzinger, J., Many Religions--One Covenant, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1998.

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Francis Sullivan SJ, Quaestio Disputata: Further thought on the meaning of Subsistit in, Theological Studies 71 (2010).



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