Text: Hubert Hecker
With “Joint Declaration” of Lund, Pope Francis has signed a protestant document on 31 October 2016. In this way he brought the Protestants an ecumenical gift for the Lutheran Jubilee which he put in place of essential dimensions of Catholic Church identity.
A guest contribution by Hubert Hecker.
October 31, 2016 is certainly considered the eve of the Protestant Reformation Jubilee. On that date Pope Francis traveled to the Swedish city of Lund. The Lutheran World Federation had been founded in 1947. There are 145 Lutheran communities with 70 million Protestants are members included in this umbrella organization. In Lund, Pope Francis signed a “Joint Declaration” for the Catholic Church and Munip Jounan for the Lutheran World Federation.
Two texts in contradiction
In the introduction,
That “we begin with the memorial of 500 years of Reformation.”
Furthermore, “we deplore before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church . …
Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist in a meal as a concrete expression of full unity . …
If we commit ourselves to move from conflict to fellowship, we do this as part of the one body of Christ , into which we have all been incorporated through baptism. … “
According to the Catholic catechism, believers are introduced into the Church through the sacrament of baptism as members of the body of Christ. According to the dogmatic Council document, Lumen Gentium No. 8 , the “Church” and “Body of Christ” are to be understood as follows: Jesus Christ wrote “His holy Church … here on earth as a visible structure, and bears it as such unceasingly. … The only complex reality – the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church … ” is the society equipped with hierarchical organs and the mysterious body of Christ, the visible assembly and spiritual community. This Church is realized in the Catholic Church, led by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. This does not exclude that there are various elements of sanctification and truth outside their structure. “This is particularly true of the separate sister churches of Orthodoxy and the ecclesial” communities” of Protestantism.
The Ecumenism decree also states that only the Catholic Church has the full abundance of the means of salvation which the Lord has entrusted to Peter and the apostleship to constitute the Church as “the one Christian body on earth, to which all are fully incorporated who are already in some way a part of the people of God” (Unitatis redintegratio, No. 3).
The Pope signed a Protestant statement
Already, on the first close reading of the two published document excerpts, the impression appeared that they were contradictory in essential points. More precisely, the Joint Declaration reflects the Protestant church image, which is contrary to the Catholic understanding of the Church in the Council. It is precisely in the understanding of the Church that the “most serious dogmatic contrast” exists between Lutherans and Catholics, according to Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller in his lecture at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The differences in questions concerning the Church, office, and sacraments should not be reduced to “striking formulas.”
This is exactly what the Joint Declaration of 31 October is. It seems to be the least common denominator in Church doctrine. However, a Lutheran-style church understanding has emerged. This means a weakening, if not a departure from the Catholic ecclesiology. Accordingly, the Pope has signed a Protestant statement. He brings an ecumenical guest gift to the Protestants at the Lutheran Jubilee, by displacing essential dimensions of the Catholic Church identity.
The EKD emphasizes the ecclesiastical identity of the Protestants …
The EKD [Evangelische Kirche Deutschland] President Heinrich Bedford-Strohm warned at his Vatican visit in early February: “There should be” no homogenization, which eats one’s own. We want to restrain Church dividing identity.” (FAZ 7. 2. 2017). The Protestants emphasize their ecclesiastical identity – in contrast to Catholic doctrine. In the Lunder Declaration they have introduced their self-understanding of church. This is not to blame them. But the Pope and his advisers are accused of not having anchored the Catholic, “Church dividing identity” in the Joint Declaration. In so far as the pope signs the Lutheran image of the Church as a common denominator, the pope has permitted the “character” of the Catholic Church to be swallowed down in the supposedly “common,” but actually Protestant decline.
… the Pope wants ecumenical dialogue at all costs – even his own identity.
This is shown in the individual statements of the Joint Declaration:
▪What is with the pope as the head of the Catholic Church commemorating the Reformation in the “We” modality? Luther wanted to replace the “devilish” Pope’s Church at least in the “German nation” by his new-believing church. The result was the division and separation of his community from the Church.
▪Luther wanted to abolish the Catholic Church “as a visible structure” and replace it with an invisible church of the faithful assembled. Luther’s contemporary, the humanist Gerhard Lorich from Hadamar, criticizes the reformer as a demolitionist of the Church. The complaint that “Lutherans and Catholics” had equally “wounded the visible unity of the Church” is wrong on both sides: Luther alone and his followers destroyed the visible church in their sphere of influence by separating themselves with their new ecclesial community. On the other hand, the Pope’s self-condemnation is absurd that Catholics have “wounded the visible unity of the Church”.
▪According to the doctrine of the Council, the Church founded by Jesus Christ is realized in the Catholic Church with Its sacramental hierarchical character. Luther and his followers did not want a Church in the classical sense but a non-sacramental, new-believing community. But there can be no second apart from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. That is why the 145 members of the Lutheran World Federation are called and are merely “ecclesial communities”.
The Joint Statement speaks of “members of our communities …”. Grammatically, the Catholic Church is also meant. As a signatory, the Pope thus demoted the Church into one of the many ecclesiastical communities and thereby denied this. If, however, only the Protestant communities which desire a common eucharistic meal are meant, the sentence is a twofold presumption. In the case of their rejection of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Consecration, and the Transubstantiation, the Lutherans want to receive Communion, and see it as an “expression of full unity.”
▪It is a doctrine particular to the Lutherans that all the baptized members of the Protestant communities belong to the Body of Christ. According to apostolic-Catholic doctrine, the baptized are part of the people of God. But they do not constitute the Church in its visible and invisible-spiritual form of the mystical body of Christ. They are outside the Church, into which they should be incorporated for their salvation – according to the Council Decree Unitatis redintegratio.
The Pope and his advisers have the sacred duty of studying the doctrine of the Catholic Church, to take it to heart, and to explain it. This would prevent them from signing questionable new doctrines of the Protestants.