One of Archbishop Vigano’s most pointed criticisms in his condemnation of Vatican II (see previous post) was about ecumenism. The liberal-left and dissident factions of the Council hammered the (alleged) need for the Church to become more ‘ecumenical and pastoral’ in its orientation. In his criticism, the archbishop focused on one of the most controversial sentences in all of the Council documents: ‘Ecclesia Christi subsistit in Ecclesia Catholica‘ – the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.
I have been rather cavalier in presenting my view on this sentence. I understood it to mean (uncontroversially, I thought) that ‘the Church of Christ’ referred to the Church in its pristine purity (the substance) and the Catholic Church to include the fallibility of the human person (the accidents). And if elements of the pristine Church were to be found in other churches, then they were at a stage on the way to the one true Church. Missionary work was required to bring those with a deficient understanding to the full faith.
For example, Dr Taylor Marshall (see previous posts) started out as a fervent baptist. Reflection on his faith brought him to the Episcopal Church in which he became an episcopal priest. The journey of faith continued until he saw the full faith in the Catholic Church. He is now in full missionary mode as a philosopher and theologian. I strongly recommend his youtube videos.
Archbishop Vigano points out how the Second Vatican Council’s documents on ecumenism led to the opposite of this process of conversion. Indeed, conversion was now deemed no longer necessary. One of the (German) bishops at the recent Amazonia Synod was heard to boast that he had not converted anyone in fifty years. Archbishop Vigano:
Together with numerous Council Fathers, we thought of ecumenism as a process, an invitation that calls dissidents to the one Church of Christ, idolaters and pagans to the one True God, and the Jewish people to the promised Messiah. But from the moment it was theorized in the conciliar commissions, ecumenism was configured in a way that was in direct opposition to the doctrine previously expressed by the Magisterium…
Numerous practicing Catholics, and perhaps also a majority of Catholic clergy, are today convinced that the Catholic Faith is no longer necessary for eternal salvation; they believe that the One and Triune God revealed to our fathers is the same as the god of Mohammed…
Thus “Ecclesia Christi subsistit in Ecclesia Catholica” does not specify the identity of the two, but the subsistence of one in the other and, for consistency, also in other churches: here is the opening to interconfessional celebrations, ecumenical prayers, and the inevitable end of any need for the Church in the order of salvation, in her unicity, and in her missionary nature.
What does the Gospels say? The Gospel for Trinity Sunday (2 weeks ago) has the crucial passage:
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the world. Matt: 28, 18-20
This is one of those scriptural passages that could hardly be clearer. It renders those promoting an interpretation of ecumenism based on the so-called ‘spirit’ rank heretics.
The Catholic Church is prescriptively a missionary Church.