Friday, 9 November 2007

How the Catholic Church view non-Catholic denominations and non-Christian faiths

Dominus Iesus (taken from http://www.religioustolerance.org/rcc_othe4.htm )
Dominus Iesus was published internally on 06/08/2000 by Cardinal Ratzinger who was at the time the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was released to the public on 05/09/2000. The document had been ratified and confirmed by the Pope John Paul II on 16/06/2000 "with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority."

Cardinal Ratzinger quotes a variety of documents to reemphasize that:
- "The full revelation of divine truth is given" in the "mystery of Jesus Christ."
- The Church does not expect any additional, future, public revelation.
- Nothing needs to be taken from other religions and added to Jesus' message in order to make it complete.
- Only the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are without error.
- It is the Holy Spirit who has sown the "seeds of the word" in diverse customs, cultures and religions around the world, preparing them for future "full maturity in Christ."
- Jesus is the only savior of mankind.

He divides Christian denominations into three groups:
- The Roman Catholic Church, the only faith group established by Jesus Christ: "he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him...."
- Eastern Orthodox Churches which are united with the RCC by the:
- "Apostolic succession..." (Christ's disciples consecrated the first bishops of the Church, who subsequently consecrated other bishops down to the present day), and
- "a valid Eucharist" (a valid celebration of the Mass).
(These are "true particular Churches." The Church of Christ is "present and operative" in these churches even though they do not, at this time, accept the primacy of the pope.)
- The remaining Christian denominations which have not preserved the Apostolic succession. (They are not "churches in the proper sense." However, their members are "incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church." Members of the RCC are told to not look upon Christianity as a collection of Christian denominations. The Church of Christ does exist today in the form of the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches. It is not to be considered a some type of future goal to which all denominations "must strive to reach.")

Cardinal Ratzinger describes the status of non-Christian religions:
- The Church of Christ is the instrument by which all humans are saved.
- Salvation is accessible to some people who are not members of the "Church" i.e. not Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox Christians. It comes through grace which originates with Christ and "enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation."
- The prayers and rituals of other religions may help or hinder their believers. Some practices may prepare their membership to absorb the Gospel. However, those rituals which "depend on superstitions or other errors... constitute an obstacle to salvation."
- Members of other religions are "gravely deficient" relative to members of the Church of Christ who already have "the fullness of the means of salvation."

He discusses inter-religious dialog:
- Dialog with other branches of Christianity and with other religions is part of the RCC's mission of evangelizing the world.
- Dialog implies the equality of the dignity of the individuals taking part -- not the equality of their various beliefs and practices.

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