A Council That Will Never End: Lumen Gentium and the Church Today

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They do relate. The Council teaches that all belong pertinent or are related ordinantur : "the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God's grace to salvation. First, there are the Catholic faithful who are fully incorporated and "accept all the means of salvation given to the Church" and her entire organization: Faith, sacraments and ecclesiastical government. They are joined in the physical structure that is ruled by the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops.

Secondly, catechumens who desire in the Holy Spirit to be incorporated, and so are joined with her. A sixth category consists of those who "in shadows and images seek the unknown God"; God is not remote from them. And those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel or the Church, yet "seek God with a sincere heart" and try to do His will operibus adimplere. They too are enlightened that they may come to eternal life.

The Ecclesiology of the Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, 'Lumen Gentium'

The universal salvific will, as it was Christ's, is the Church's as she sends heralds of the Gospel to all men. This is the urging of the Holy Spirit within her: the desire to incorporate all men into Christ, "so that in love for Him they may grow to full maturity" usque ad plenitudinem crescant. And so, though all come to God by His grace and with the labor of an honest conscience, in ways unknown to us, "each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith to the best of his ability.

A variety of offices are constituted and their holders invested with a sacred power. These are the bishops who have Peter's successor as their head; in his sacred primacy and infallible teaching office unity is assured. And so "bishops, successors of the apostles. And impulse of extraordinary power began. It subsists like a unique living thing from generation to generation.

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The religion of the Gospel is not egalitarian, but apostolic; it is not a religion without intermediaries, but hierarchic. Again, in , Pius VI rejected as heretical the Gallican teaching of the pseudo-synod of Pistoia that the power of the Church was transferred immediately to the totality of the faithful, and from the Church to their pastors.

Lastly, in Ecclesiam Suam, Paul VI taught: The community of the faithful can be profoundly certain of its participation in the Mystical Body of Christ when it realizes that by Divine institution, the ministry of the Hierarchy of the Church is there to give it a beginning, to give it birth, to teach and sanctify and direct it. It is by means of this Divine instrumentality that Christ communicates to His mystical members the marvels of His truth, and of His grace. These shepherds He constituted in the "form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which He placed Peter.

It is necessary to recall Vatican II's teaching in Dei Verbum: "It is clear that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Both things then came in proper order Our Apostles knew that there would be contention over the bishops' office Here is a case of Apostolic succession, from the unique See of Peter which intervenes in the Church established by Paul thirty years before in Corinth.

It is not only apostolic succession, but unity of that succession's teaching--assured by Peter's See--which is necessary.

Like all Christians, the laity have the right …

Today we are witnessing a whole cloud of apocalyptic scholars and non-scholars who would raise up, within the one Church, a variety of models of the church and a plurality of teachings. The confusion would be insurmountable if it were not for the apostolic succession in the bishops who hold union with Rome. The Lumen Gentium of Vatican II states this unequivocally: "That Divine mission, which was committed by Christ to the Apostles, is destined to last until the end of the world.

Apostles were careful to appoint successors in this hierarchically constituted society. Irenaeus 2nd century to the fact that "the apostolic tradition is manifested and preserved in the whole world by those who were made bishops by the apostles and by their successors down to our own time. And this conferral is the office of sanctifying, teaching, ruling which can be exercised "only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college.

This was given by Christ to Peter; and in like manner is held by the Roman Pontiff. Consequently, no bishop nor the college of bishops has authority, "unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor," because he, "by his office as Vicar of Christ and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church. While bishops, in their own churches, are the visible source and foundation of unity and constituted as models of the universal church, they are obliged to enter into collaboration with one another and with Peter's successor.

One of the professors, in an extended treatment of the "character" of the encyclical, pointed out that the language was absolute and exclusionary; that contraception was labelled "intrinsically evil" and "always illicit"; that the individual conscience must be formed by Church teaching, since to give it an absolute finality would be to deny evil where the Church has authority to teach.

He further remarked that infallibility is not only from a solemn ex cathedra definition; but also from the ordinary teaching of the Church; and in the case of moral matters it is most usual to look to the constancy, longevity and serious witness of the indefectible Church. Finally, consensus of theologians is the lowest of theological notes; and the greatest of theologians, St.

Lumen Gentium - Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Thomas Aquinas wrote: "We must abide by the Pope's judgment rather than by the opinion of any of the theologians, however well-versed he may be in Divine scriptures. IX, A. The Council, especially in section 25 of the Lumen Gentium, reiterates this basic teaching of Papal infallibility: "When the Roman Pontiff, or the body of bishops together with him, define a doctrine, they make the definition in conformity with revelation itself, to which all are bound to adhere.

We, as members who share in the Word and in the Body and Blood of Christ are transformed into that which we receive. The Church must, by such constitution, be one, not pluralistic, in doctrine, one in the sacramental means of sanctification, and one in the rule that shepherds the sheepfold. God is One; His created bride must be one in Him. This conservation of oneness is the bishop's task, primarily for the whole Church and then for the particular Church assigned to him. This proposed that the whole Irish people of God would together address the many problems posed by all varieties of sexual abuse of children.

This proposal was never followed through.

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So the challenge posed by this problem in wider Irish society remains unmet by the largest denomination on the island. As a Lenten reflection it struck a welcome and conciliatory note of repentance. It included also a powerful appeal for the pooling of the resources and compassion of the whole church community to address the plight of all who have suffered abuse in Irish society. It would therefore be both uncharitable and unwise to dismiss the document on the grounds of incompleteness. Far better to place oneself in the same Lenten spirit of repentance and humility, and respond from there — with a view to informing whatever future documents lie in store.

In that spirit we all need to accept fully that the vast majority of those who have been abused on this island have not been abused by Catholic clergy or religious. The scale of the problem of abuse generally, and many of the most lurid media-reported instances, tell us emphatically that power over others is misused by a depressing proportion of all who exercise it — including parents, employers, work colleagues — and adults generally in relation to children.

It is regrettable, therefore, that this document does not repair the failure of all Catholic church pronouncements on this issue so far to state the most important facts about Catholic clerical child abuse. To put this more simply, the child or young person has typically been taught to see the priest as an unquestionable moral authority — as, indeed, the final authority on right and wrong.

It is vitally important that Catholic children are taught, for their own protection, that Catholic clergy must not be thought of, or represented to children as, incapable of abusing power and trust, and that all adults must observe the same boundaries in relation to children. As our most streetwise teenagers now know this anyway, it is foolish of our hierarchy to stop short of saying it. Surely they should explicitly advise that this practical wisdom be systematically taught in Catholic schools, and by parents to their children — in the context of separating due respect for clergy from the malady known as clericalism.

True repentance requires a full acknowledgement of error, and future documents on this issue must surely fully address this particular error — the error and sin of secrecy in the church.

It is difficult to see how the church leadership can do this without acknowledging the reason that lay Catholics must still typically look to the secular media, and to other secular institutions, for a full revelation of the abuse problem within the church. This is the absence of structures of accountability within the church itself, of personnel empowered and employed to represent solely the interests of those to whom clerical power will inevitably sometimes represent a danger — that is, the Catholic laity, and, especially, Catholic children.

Like all Christians, the laity have the right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the word of God and the sacraments from the pastors. To the latter the laity should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ.

By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have the laity are empowered-indeed sometimes obliged-to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church. If the occasion should arise this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who, by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ.


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There is another overpowering reason for making this point now. What is the scale of the problem of all kinds of abuse in every diocese? How are we to determine this? What resources are already available? What will be the implications of a continuing decline in numbers of ordained clergy in addressing the issue?

What new skills and aptitudes will be required? What educational resources will need to be deployed? How should this impact upon Catholic education and culture generally? Who is to co-ordinate all of this?

Like all Christians, the laity have the right …

These and many other questions now demand attention. The arguments for permanent diocesan and national synods or conferences are now more than compelling — they are irresistible. Hopefully, a new administration in Rome will take the opportunity to address this problem immediately. It would be another disaster if the document turned out to be nothing more than a diversionary stratagem, designed to blur and fudge the issues with which it deals, and to postpone addressing the issue of accountability within the church. Disillusionment over that too would be an even greater tragedy than everything that has happened so far.


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  7. At present it would be difficult to find conclusive evidence that our church leadership has not simply preferred to forget them. It is not reassuring either that Irish bishops still appear unable to discuss such issues freely with their people. For over a decade now no Irish bishop has felt able to come before a representative gathering of his flock to answer questions on these issues. A shepherd who is patently wary of his flock cannot inspire confidence and trust — and this inevitably impacts upon his authority also.