World Religions are Not Complementary to Revelation

VATICAN CITY, SEP 5, 2000 (VIS) - The document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, «Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church,» was presented this morning in the Holy See Press Office.

Taking part in the press conference were Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., Msgr. Fernando Ocariz and Fr. Angelo Amato S.D.B., respectively prefect, secretary and consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Ratzinger stated that «a number of more moderate theologians profess that Christ is true God and true man but hold that, due to the limits of Jesus' human nature, the revelation of God in Him cannot be held to be complete and definitive; rather, it must always be considered in the light of other possible revelations of God, expressed through the religious geniuses of humanity and the founders of the world's religions. Thus, objectively speaking, the erroneous idea is introduced that the world's religions are complementary to Christian revelation.»

Speaking of relativism and its consequences, Cardinal Ratzinger said that the fact that it is presented as «the true philosophy of humanity, capable of guaranteeing tolerance and democracy, leads to the further marginalization of those who are determined to defend Christian identity and its claim to spread the universal and salvific truth of the revelation of Jesus Christ.»

He continued, affirming that today the «principle of tolerance and respect for liberty is manipulated and unduly exceeded when it extends to an appreciation of contents, almost as if all the contents of the various religions as well as of non-religious concepts of life, could be placed on the same level; and as if universal and objective truth no longer existed since God or the Absolute would reveal Himself under numerous names, and all the names would be true. This false idea of tolerance is connected with the loss and rejection of the problem of the truth that, indeed, is felt to be irrelevant or of secondary importance by many people today.»

Cardinal Ratzinger then recalled John Paul II's teaching in the encyclical «'Redemptoris Missio:' What the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel.» On this subject, he highlighted that «'preparation for the Gospel' must be considered not as what is to be found in religions but only 'what the Spirit brings about' therein. From this, a most important consequence arises: the path to salvation is the good present in religions - as the work of Christ's Spirit - it is not the religions in themselves.»

«Esteem and respect towards the world's religions, and towards cultures that have objectively enriched the promotion of human dignity and the development of civilization, does not diminish the originality and unicity of Jesus Christ's revelation nor does it in any way limit the Church's missionary task.»

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone then explained the nature of the document. The term «declaration» indicates that the document «does not teach new doctrines ... rather, it reaffirms and summarizes the doctrine of Catholic faith defined and taught in earlier documents on the Church's Magisterium; and it indicates the correct interpretation thereof in the face of doctrinal errors and ambiguities that have become widespread in modern theological and ecclesial circles.»

The archbishop continued: «Given that this is a doctrinal document of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, expressly approved by the Supreme Pontiff, it has the status of universal Magisterium.» The ratification formula that appears at the end of the document «is of exceptional and elevated authority: 'certa scienta et apostolica Sua auctoritate.' This reflects the importance and essentiality of the doctrine presented in the declaration: What it contains are truths of divine and Catholic faith or truths of Catholic doctrine that must be firmly held. ... Consequently, the assent required from the faithful is definitive and irrevocable.»

The secretary of the congregation highlighted that, «if a doctrine is taught as definitive, and consequently unchangeable, this presupposes that it is taught by the Magisterium with an infallible act, though of a particular type.»

Fr. Angelo Amato commented on the distinctions the declaration makes between «theological faith and belief.» The former, he said, is a «theological virtue that implies free and personal assent to all the truths revealed by God.» Belief, on the other hand, exists «without assent to God who reveals.»

On the subject of the unity of the salvific economy of the Word, the document considers three erroneous theses: The first of these «regards Jesus of Nazareth as one of many historic-salvific incarnations of the eternal Word. ... In opposition to this idea, the unity between the eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth is highlighted.» The second erroneous idea «supposes a double salvific economy, that of the eternal Word as distinct from that of the Incarnate Word. ... The declaration rejects this distinction and reaffirms the Church's faith in the unicity of the salvific economy willed by the One and Triune God.» The third erroneous idea «separates the economy of the Holy Spirit from that of the Incarnate Word. ... The declaration also rejects this hypothesis as being contrary the Catholic faith.»

Msgr. Fernando Ocariz spoke of the ecclesiological consequences of the doctrine contained in the first three chapters.

«Only in the Catholic Church,» he affirmed, «does Christ's Church subsist in all her fullness. Nonetheless, outside the Catholic Church 'elements of truth and sanctification' exist that are of the Church. ... Consequently, there exists only one Church (which subsists in the Catholic Church) and at the same time there exist true particular Churches that are non-Catholic.»

«We must believe that all salvation - even of non-Christians - comes from Christ through the Church, but we do not know how this comes about in the case of non-Christians.»

«'Dominus Iesus',» he concluded, «rejects an interpretation that today is very widespread - but contrary to the Catholic faith - according to which all religions, in as much as they are religions, of themselves are ways to salvation together with Christianity.» He recalled that «other religions 'offer religious elements which come from God, and which are part of what the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions'.»

At the end of the press conference, a journalist asked if the document did not constitute an impediment to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. Fr. Angelo Amato replied that, as regards ecumenism, the document does not say anything new but recalls and reiterates Vatican Council II's opinion on the matter. As for inter-religious dialogue, the document proposes a path towards harmony, peace and respect and in no way constitutes an interruption in that dialogue.

Another journalist asked if, in preparing the document, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had consulted Asian bishops, as the text makes reference to the influence of Oriental religions on the salvific nature of the Church. Archbishop Bertone replied that the declaration had been drawn up in consultation with Asian episcopal conferences and that there had been various meetings with Indian bishops.

Vatican Information Service

av Webmaster publisert 07.09.2000, sist endret 07.09.2000 - 15:27