Cardinal Ratzinger Says «Dominus Iesus» Unjustly Criticized

In an Interview, He Responds to Criticism of Declaration

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2000 ( Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that the arguments elicited by the "Dominus Iesus" declaration are caused by those who have either not understood the document's meaning or have not read it.

The cardinal made these statements during a lengthy interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano today published extensive excerpts from the interview.

Because of the intensity of the arguments, many have lost the meaning of the declaration, said Cardinal Ratzinger, who oversees the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which produced the document.

He said that it is "a solemn recognition of Jesus Christ as Lord at the culmination of the Holy Year," thus focusing on what is essential this Jubilee, beyond the great meetings and external manifestations.

Moreover, the cardinal added, the Holy Father "followed moment by moment with great attention" the writing of the text.

This primary and central argument of the document, however, seems to have been forgotten, given the reactions that followed its publication Sept. 5.

Among other things, "Dominus Iesus" (The Lord Jesus) reiterated the Second Vatican Council's teaching that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation. Some critics said the document seemed insensitive, even arrogant.

The cardinal, however, said he was "bored" by some of these critics' reactions, which used words like "fundamentalism, Roman centralism, absolutism - which are never lacking." In fact, he said, it is a "predefined criticism" of everything published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, regardless of the topic.

Not all Protestants reacted this way to the declaration. Cardinal Ratzinger noted that the essence of the text was understood by figures such as Manfred Kock, president of the Council of German Evangelical Churches; theologian Eberhard Jungel; and Dr. George Carey, Anglican primate.

The newspaper interviewer said that Lutherans were offended over not being considered as part of the "Church" but, rather, as "an ecclesial community."

This is an absurd argument, the Bavarian cardinal insisted. "We do not offend anyone in saying that effective evangelical structures ... are not Church in the sense that the Catholic Church wants to be," he said. "They do not want to be this."

Evangelicals and Lutherans themselves reject such a concept of the Church, considering it too traditional or institutional, he added.

Therefore, Cardinal Ratzinger insisted, the question "is not if the existing churches are Church in the same sense, something which is obviously not so, but rather in what the Church does (or does not) consist."

He explained that Vatican II did not use Pius XII's expression, according to which "the Roman Catholic Church is the only Church of Jesus Christ."

Instead, it preferred the expression "The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church ruled by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him," because, he said, it wished to affirm "that the being of the Church as such is a larger identity than the Roman Catholic Church." But this does not mean that it is so in a partial or lesser way, the cardinal added.

Among the reasons which have made it difficult to understand the declaration, the cardinal mentioned especially to the "politicization" of doctrinal issues.

"The magisterium," he remarked, "is regarded as a power which must be countered by another power," namely, public opinion in which, according to this view, theologians play a decisive role.

Regarding the writing of the declaration, Cardinal Ratzinger replied to the criticisms of those who believe that it was written without consulting the pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

He confirmed that the most important members of that council "shared actively in the writing" and, if they were unable to attend sessions due to other commitments, "received all the documentation and expressed their observations in writing."

Cardinal Ratzinger refuted those who maintain the declaration is undiplomatic, saying: "the truth has always bothered people and is never comfortable."

He agreed with German Archbishop Walter Kasper, secretary of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who regards the debate that has arisen over the publication of "Dominus Iesus" as "a problem of communication," as it is not easy to conciliate theological language with that of newspapers.

"However, the text should then be translated, not rejected," he said.

Zenit - The World Seen From Rome

av Webmaster publisert 09.10.2000, sist endret 09.10.2000 - 10:27