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A Conversion?
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Atila Sinke Guimarães
Published in The Remnant, September 30, 2000

We are seeing a veritable chorus of newspapers and magazines intoning both praises and criticisms of the Declaration Dominus Jesus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was released September 5. But both the eulogies and reproaches unanimously consider Ratzinger as the great “lion of conservatism,” and directly or indirectly pay homage to the consistency of this document with the past of the Church. In other words, the chorus wants to “prove” that no one can doubt the “conservatism” of Ratzinger.

We saw a similar type of initiative take place, sometime ago, when the mass media tried to impose the disputable assertion that John Paul II was responsible for the fall of the “Iron Curtain” and the “Berlin Wall” that stood between the free West and communist European East. Then also, the liberal and the conservative media agreed with the fashionable “conservatism” of John Paul II.

I think - and I have good reasons for this - that the majority of the media is attuned to the boldest initiatives of the modern world. Their position regarding the ecclesiastic milieu is almost always to applaud that which destroys the Catholic Church, as for example, homosexual scandals, the clamor of women in the Church to become priests, the calls to do away with ecclesiastical celibacy, etc. With regard to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, in general what is emphasized are the attitudes that abdicate the oneness of the Catholic Religion and contribute to a pan-religion, the long-held revolutionary desire. That is to say, the mass media and the progressivist current normally are in perfect harmony.

Now, this curious choir appears acknowledging the “conservatism” of Cardinal Ratzinger who signed Dominus Jesus and, above him, the “conservatism” of John Paul II, who approved the document. This choir is affirming a point distasteful to modern man: the primacy of the Catholic Church in relation to the other religions. Even though it is referring to the primacy, the news reports imply that Ratzinger is defending the unicity of the Catholic Church. For my readers who do not have time to go to the dictionary, I ask that you not confuse unicity with unity. The unity of the Church is the fact that she is cohesive, does not have schisms; her unicity (or oneness) is the fact that she is the only true Church among so many false religions.

Does this general homage to the “conservatism” of Ratzinger mean that there has been a kind of conversion among those who control the greater part of the spoken and written press organs? It is always an agreeable hypothesis to consider. It is even more agreeable to consider that Cardinal Ratzinger would have abandoned his progressivist convictions to return to the perennial doctrine defended, among others, by Vatican Council I, putting aside Vatican II. This second council is opposed to the first precisely in the concept of the unicity of the Catholic Church. After a fleeting moment of reverie, during which I imagined with pleasure an immense conversion of the progressivist cupola of the Vatican together with the temporal power that finances and administrates the international press, I returned to reality.

I asked myself the reason for all this publicity and the reason for the “conservatism” of Ratzinger. After studying the document, I reached some conclusions that I present here, without pretension, as a contribution to the debate. Doing this, I respond to the invitation of the Benedictine scholar Fr. Angelo Amato, chosen by Ratzinger to officially present the document to the press with him. In fact, Amato closed the press conference with this phrase: “The theological debate remains open. Only the roads that were leading to blind alleys have been closed” (Holy See Internet Site, Curia, CDF, Dominus Jesus). If the theological debate is open, I think that, even as a layman, I can also place my cards on the table. Allow me to go on to analyze the document.

Two points are worthy of praise in the Declaration:

First, the fact that it combats the theories of certain Asian theologians who, on the pretext of exercising religious pluralism with the confessions of that Continent - Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, etc. - have reduced the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ to an allegory, and the Catholic Church to a position of complete equality in relation to these confessions. Any precedence for the Catholic Church is denied. Eternal salvation would be achieved indiscriminately by means of all the confessions. To combat this is good.

Second, with a certain frequency one is beginning to see the use by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of distinctions between principles that the Catholic faithful “are required to profess” with “obedience of Faith,” and those that should be “firmly believed,” and others that should be “firmly held” etc. It seems to be an effort to eliminate the confusion and, consequently, to clarify for the faithful that to which they are asked to give their adhesion. In the statement We Resist You to the Face (pp. 35-6), we criticized John Paul II for no longer making these traditional distinctions and, consequently, augmenting the chaos in his literary production. Since a critique was made there, it is just that I praise the document for this now.

Having shown the positive points of the Declaration Dominus Jesus, I will enter directly into the matter of its negative aspects.

First, the document establishes a clear distinction between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church (n. 16c). The Church of Christ would be broader than the Catholic Church, and would subsist in her, without being confused with her. This distinction does not agree with the perennial doctrine of the Catholic Magisterium. In the book Quo Vadis, Petre? (pp. 40-49), I presented papal documents teaching that there is only one true Church of Christ, and this is the Catholic Church. If it should be necessary, I will return to present those documents and yet many others.

Second, this supposed “Church of Christ” (which I will place between quotes) would be composed of all the Protestant and Greek Schismatic sects that accept some type of Baptism (n. 17). This incorporation of the heretics and the Schismatics into the “Church of Christ” is absolutely contrary to the whole doctrinal past of the Catholic Church. There are many documents that prove what I sustain here, which I will provide should the debate with the religious authority require it.

Third, in the document the heretical and schismatic sects receive the pompous title of “Churches,” a thing that until Vatican II the Catholic Magisterium never permitted. Before then, such assemblages were designated as sects, false religions, heretics, schismatics, etc. Ratzinger's document, however, affirms: “The Churches which .... remain united to her [the Catholic Church] by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches” (17a).

In other words, what he is saying is that these false religious confessions are agreeable to God and promote the salvation of souls. Which is, once again, contrary to Catholic Doctrine.

Fourth, even the more radical and repellent Protestant fragmentations, which do not accept any religious authority, are incorporated into the “Church of Christ”:
“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 baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church” (17b).
If the former statements were contrary to Catholic Doctrine, this affirmation is even more so. In passing, I point out that with this paragraph, Ratzinger intends to annul a certain conduct of the Magisterium in the past. In fact, since the second century, the Catholic Church has placed in doubt the validity of the Baptism in heretical sects; for this reason, until Vatican II, there was the practice of conditionally re-baptizing those who converted to the Catholic Church.

Moreover, I have before me, the Decree of the Holy Office of March 10, 1824, stating that those who are converted from sects that minister a minimum or invalid Baptism “shall be solemnly baptized,” which is equivalent to saying that the Baptism administered by them is not true. However, contradicting this prudential doctrinal past, Ratzinger unrestrictedly affirms that the non-Catholic Baptisms incorporate all those individuals to Christ.

Fifth, the document leads one to understand that the “Church of Christ” would be composed of concentric circles: in the center would be the Catholic Church, which would have the plenitude of grace and of truth. In the second circle there would be the “official” Protestant and Schismatic sects. After them would come the more spurious fragmentations of heresy and schism. It seems that a fourth circle could include the pagan false religious confessions. But the document is not clear on this point. The “terrible” errors of the Asian theologians would be either defending a promiscuous participation of all the “Churches” in the “Church of Christ” without acknowledging Ratzinger’s concentric distribution, or saying that this “Church of Christ” has no reality, it remains in the realm of the ideal.

Thus one reads in the document:
“The Christian faithful are therefore not permitted to imagine that the Church of Christ is nothing more than a collection .... of Churches and ecclesiastical communities; nor are they free to hold that today the Church of Christ nowhere really exists, and must be considered only a goal which all .... must strive to reach. In fact, the elements of this Church exist, joined together in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other communities. Therefore, these .... Churches and communities as such .... have by no means been 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” (17c).
This paragraph conflicts so sharply with Catholic Doctrine and all the past teaching of the Church that it does not seem necessary to compare it with the prior Magisterium. With this, we can see that we are facing two progressivist currents arguing with each other over the details of their desired pan-religion.

Sixth, the conclusion to be drawn is clear: I did not find anything in the document that defends the unicity of Catholic Church as the Popes and the Universal Magisterium have always taught. In it there is the defense of a certain priority of the Catholic Church which no longer excludes heretics and schismatics, but nothing more than this. When the document employs the word “unicity” (Chap. IV), it does so in a way to apply it not to the Catholic Church, but to this strange “Church of Christ.” Therefore, in its whole, the doctrine of the Declaration is a more subtle variant of the same religious indifferentism condemned by the prior papal Magisterium.

This is, in my judgment, the essence of the document Dominus Jesus.

After studying the Declaration of Ratzinger, the reason for the great hoopla being raised around it became clear. Under the banner of the “conservatism” of Ratzinger, his fight against the Asian theologians and his “defense of the unicity” of the Church, there is the desire to make faithful Catholics swallow this strange notion of “Church of Christ.” I do not have evidence to affirm with certainty whether this last hypothesis is true or not. However, it seems quite probable.

What does not seem probable is the hypothesis of the conversion of the progressivist cupola that directs the Catholic Church and of the international financial circles who command the press. However, for God nothing is impossible. Who knows what the future will bring…

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