TOC Previous Next A+A-Print


Chapter 3: Charity, the Eucharist, and Church Membership

Question D: How Should One Foster the Church’s Unity, Peace, and Vitality?

Volume four will treat the special responsibilities of the Church’s various sorts of members toward one another. Since individuals have different gifts (see Rom 12.4–8, 1 Cor 12.4–26), each member can build up the Church mainly by fulfilling his or her special responsibilities. The present treatment deals with only a few common responsibilities concerned with building up the Church by fostering her unity, peace, and vitality.

In considering these responsibilities, the various aspects of the Church’s complex reality should be kept in mind. She is a communion of love among divine and human persons, and so must not be reduced to the measure of a merely human political society. She is a community of human persons with their human Lord Jesus and one another, and so responsible participation in the Church is just as demanding as membership in any human society. She is the sacrament of the kingdom for which Christians hope, and so should neither be simply identified with the kingdom nor regarded merely as an optional means to it. She is the herald of the gospel, sent by Jesus to the whole world, and so is never static, but always developing to embrace people of diverse cultures. She is the servant of all humankind, because she is the means of human cooperation in God’s saving work, whose progress in the world is truly in humankind’s interests and whose completion in heaven is humankind’s only hope.

1. Catholics Should Keep in Mind What Truly Builds up the Church

To know how to build up a particular community, people must consider the sort of community it is and its purposes.

The Church is a uniquely intimate community: a communion of human persons with God, brought about by Jesus in the Holy Spirit.63 The Church makes visible this communion with God, which he creates in and among human persons by revealing his truth and love in Jesus and offering sinful men and women the grace to repent and become members of the divine family. The Church, however, not only manifests divine-human communion, but is God’s means of bringing it about. This she does chiefly by preaching the gospel, incorporating by baptism those who believe, and celebrating the Eucharist, which realizes Jesus’ covenantal communion of God with his people. So, the Church can be called a sacrament of communion with God (see LG 1).

Being both divine-human communion and the sacrament of that communion, the Church is in many ways quite unlike a voluntary human association of free and independent individuals. She is far more like one body, a body with many members, each needing the others to form a living whole, and all utterly depending on their head (see LG 7). This image, the one body, is far more than a metaphor, since baptism really unites Christians with Jesus, and the Eucharist really enlivens them with his resurrection life.

Since God wills that everyone come to know his saving truth (see 1 Tm 2.3–6), the Church’s communion potentially embraces the whole human family, restored to peace by being reconciled to God in Jesus and made part of God’s family by the gift of the Spirit (see GS 92).

a) One builds up the Church by seeing Jesus in her. By laying down his life for the Church, Jesus shows his members how they should love her. He lives in the Church; he teaches, governs, and sanctifies through her pastors; he manifests himself also in every member’s need for the others’ loving care. As Jesus loved his sinful disciples and by the gift of the Spirit made them into a holy body for himself, so one should love the Church, including her human dimension, with the same love with which one loves Jesus himself.64

b) Promoting and protecting the Church’s unity build her up. The Church’s oneness ultimately is rooted in that of the Blessed Trinity, her one Lord, but it also involves unity of the hope of heavenly communion, to which the Trinity call humankind; of baptism, by which believers enter the Church; and of faith, which is the baptismal commitment (see Eph 4.4–6; cf. Jn 17.20–21, 1 Cor 12.4–7, Col 3.14).65 Catholics will build up the Church if they “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4.3) by doing everything possible to protect and promote the Church’s unity in faith and solidarity in hope, as well as striving to heal the Church’s unity when it is injured.

c) Democratic practices generally can build up a political society. A political society organizes a group of people into a limited community for limited purposes. In many respects, members’ interests are not common but potentially conflicting. Private interests also tend to distort public policies at the expense of the public interest. Moreover, every contemporary democratic society includes radical disagreements about the ultimate meaning of life, with the result that each such society’s public policies reflect, not a single, sound world view, but a more or less unstable consensus; and, while common experience and reason contribute to that consensus, so do common passions and sophistry.

Thus, upright members of a political society often can build it up by practices characteristic of democratic politics: electing public officials and/or otherwise helping to determine important matters of public policy, striving to protect their own interests against public encroachment and the interests of others, dissenting from and even struggling against official policies which seem unwise or unjust, and, above all, defending religious liberty against official attempts to decide ultimate questions.

d) The Church is very unlike a political society. As a uniquely intimate communion, established by God’s grace, uniting human persons with God in Jesus, and in this way bonding them to one another, the Church is quite unlike any other community.66 And to the limited extent she resembles other communities, the Church is more like the family than she is like political society.67 The family is an intimate community involving its members in their whole being; they share a common life and should love one another in such a way that each one’s interests are the interests of all the others. Even in the intimacy of familial communion, however, no member depends so totally on others as each and every Christian depends on the Lord Jesus.

Unfortunately, pervasive and longstanding clericalism, by reducing the laity to passivity and treating as normative forms of spirituality proper to priests and religious, has given Catholics a misleading experience of the Church. All too often the faithful feel themselves to be, not brothers and sisters joined in intimate communion and full cooperators in carrying out the Church’s mission, but citizens in a rather weak monarchic or aristocratic political society, whose government lacks necessary checks and balances, and whose inefficient clerical and lay bureaucracy often is impervious to advice and criticism. Still, Catholics should not allow their experience of clericalism to obscure the Church’s nature as intimate communion.

e) Democracy in the Church is contrary to submission to the Lord. Appropriately, some practices in the Church are similar to those of a democratic political society: inasmuch as the bishops united with the pope share authority with him, leadership is collegial (see LG 22); the faithful should contribute to each pastor’s use of authority by making their needs and desires known, and appropriately expressing their opinions (see LG 37); and elective processes sometimes are used in the Church, and could be used more widely, as they sometimes have been in the past.

Still, authority in the Church has a different basis and function from authority in a democratic political society. Jesus is Lord, and pastors govern in his name.68 Their pastoral authority is a service entirely subordinate to the gifts of grace which God’s people have received (see LG 18–19, DV 10).69 By contrast, in a democratic political society, leaders govern in the name of the people.

Deliberation in the Church seeks to discern God’s will through authoritative interpretation of revelation, consideration of the signs of the times in the light of faith, and so on. Deliberation in political society seeks to implement the people’s common interests and to resolve their conflicts of interest fairly.

Plainly, therefore, just as the Church’s government should not be a monarchy or an aristocracy, neither should it be a democracy. Democracy is appropriate in the rule of a community of equals, but not for leading God’s people in their communion with their one Lord and with one another.70

f) Pursuing special interests is at odds with unity of hope. Since the Church’s members have, and should use, diverse gifts, they also have diverse concerns and the right to pursue them (see LG 12–13). It does not follow, however, that they build up the Church by striving to pursue their individual or group concerns in competition with other segments of the Church, especially if in doing so they treat the Church’s leaders as merely another interest group.

Unlike any political society, the Church has one common interest, the hope of heaven, which wholly embraces, yet transcends, all the other authentic concerns of her members. So, the true interest of each member and part of the Church is to build up the whole by putting particular gifts at the service of other members and parts (see 1 Cor 12–14, 1 Pt 4.10–11). John XXIII teaches in respect to Jesus’ peace: “Those who adhere to this peace must be ready to renounce their own interests and advantages for the sake of truth and justice, according to the words: ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice’ (Mt 6.33).”71

g) Dissent leads to polarization and destroys the Church’s peace. In a democratic society, it can be constructive to dissent from official policies and even to resist them, for they are grounded only in a human consensus, which may well be mistaken and at odds with the common good. But in the Church, whose policies are grounded on faith and directed toward salvation, these tactics are merely divisive. The Church does leave some matters open to controversy, and discussing them can be constructive if it helps determine the truth about some doubtful matter or the best solution to some problem. But dissent from constant and most firm teaching attacks truth, which is the principle of the Church’s communion and common life:

 The Church “is like a sacrament, a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (LG 1). Consequently, to pursue concord and communion is to enhance the force of her witness and credibility. To succumb to the temptation of dissent, on the other hand, is to allow the “leaven of infidelity to the Holy Spirit” to start to work [note omitted].72
Such dissent also quickly leads to polarization. For those who do not accept the dissenting view must resist it for the sake of the authentic peace of the Church, a peace which, as John XXIII teaches,

is not completely untroubled and serene; it is active, not calm and motionless. In short, this is a peace that is ever at war. It wars with every sort of error, including that which falsely wears the face of truth; it struggles against the enticements of vice, against those enemies of the soul, of whatever description, who can weaken, blemish, or destroy our innocence or Catholic faith.73
Contending over issues which bear on salvation itself, the opposed groups often disagree not merely about means, but about the Church’s very purpose. Thus, the Church’s peace is disturbed and her unity harmed.

h) Pluralism about ultimates destroys unity of faith. A legitimate pluriformity does exist in the Church and is to be maintained, for example, the diverse rites and spiritualities, and the many sound theologies reflecting on the one faith. Pluralism about ultimates is an entirely different matter. Even in political society, pluralism which leaves room for diverse world views can be dangerous insofar as it occasions relativism; yet it also is good insofar as it allows persons to seek and find the truth, especially religious truth, and freely commit themselves to it (see DH 2–3).74 But in the Church such pluralism is entirely out of place, because only one world view is based on Jesus’ gospel, which, as the Council of Trent definitively teaches, is the source of all saving truth and all sound moral teaching (see DS 1501/783; cf. DV 7). The Church hears this gospel with reverence and proclaims it with faith (see DV 1, DH 1), knowing well, as John XXIII teaches, “that there is no other truth than the one truth she treasures; that there can be no ‘truths’ in contradiction of it.”75 Therefore, pluralism about ultimates does not build up the Church: “The pluralism of fundamentally opposed positions instead leads to dissolution, destruction and the loss of identity.”76

2. The Faithful Should Obey the Church’s Pastoral Leaders

Because the Church, like any other society, has a definite structure, Church membership entails certain rights and duties.77 All Catholics should obey the Church’s pastoral leaders, the pope and their own bishops, for the same reasons loyal members of any society submit to their leaders’ authority. Unlike other societies, however, the Church has a divinely given mission and structure (see CMP, 11.G), and these lead to special responsibilities with respect to obedience. The Church’s unity, peace, and vitality are fostered by accepting and fulfilling these responsibilities.

a) Faith and love ground the duty to obey Church authority. The duty of obedience to Church authority has special grounds, over and above the moral basis for any genuine authority-obedience relationship. People enter into the Church’s life by the baptismal commitment of faith, and it is this commitment, nothing less, which grounds their duty to obey the Church’s precepts (see DS 1621/864). Even when those precepts might well be otherwise, they are to be treated reverently. Moreover, there is a special sense in which the Church’s pastoral authority comes from God. The Father gives divine authority to Jesus, and he, to complete his saving mission, authorizes the apostles and their successors to exercise authority in his name (see Mt 16.19, 18.18, 28.19–20). As he obeyed the Father, so the faithful ought to obey the Church’s pastoral leaders (see LG 37), out of love for Jesus and in order to build up his covenantal communion.78

b) Church authority extends to inner acts but is not totalitarian. Generally, a society’s common good requires only cooperation in outward behavior. But, the Church’s common good consists primarily in divine-human communion, which depends on interior acts of mind and will, and so her authority extends to her members’ whole persons, including their interior acts.

Even so, the Church’s pastoral authority is not totalitarian. For it is subordinate to faith and love, which redeem and perfect human persons, rather than subjecting them to some ideology, with its deceptive promises. Moreover, although pastoral authority sometimes is abused, when properly exercised it appeals solely to conscience, without the support of coercion, for the obedience of the faithful.79

c) The Church’s leaders should exercise their authority reasonably. In the Church, as in any other society, the use of authority must safeguard the equal personal dignity of her members: “In virtue of their rebirth in Christ there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality with regard to dignity and the activity whereby all cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ in accord with each one’s own condition and function.”80 That the Church is a communion of faith and love does not mean popes and other bishops may ignore the conditions necessary for the just use of authority in any human community. (On these conditions, see 7.E.3–4, below.)

Like any community’s leaders, for instance, the Church’s pastoral leaders can make wise decisions only if they deliberate well. The other members of the community should contribute to their deliberation by responsibly expressing their opinions on matters concerning the Church’s good:

 The Christian faithful are free to make known their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires to the pastors of the Church.
 In accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence which they possess, they have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard for the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.81

d) The responsibility to obey Church authorities has limits. Beginning with a presumption in favor of obedience to pastors, one always should obey unless, after considering everything (including the grounds of that presumption), one judges it more probable that it would be wrong to obey or morally certain that obedience is not required. If the choice lies between obeying the Church’s pastors and political authorities, the presumption in favor of the Church’s authority should be maintained, since the Church should be loved more than one’s country.

Yet a Catholic’s responsibility to obey Church authorities is limited in four ways.

First, Church law and the precepts of Church authorities are hardly likely to require anything immoral; but if they did, one’s responsibility to God—to avoid immorality—would prevail over the duty to obey.

Second, since the Church’s pastors exercise authority for the sake of her proper mission, their decisions call for obedience only insofar as they direct members of the Church to act in ways relevant to that mission.

Third, conflicts of duties can demand that an individual not obey some precept otherwise calling for obedience.

Fourth, within the narrow limits of its legitimate use, epikeia applies to Church law (see CMP, 11.G.6).

e) Schism is disobedience in its most extreme and radical form. A schismatic intentionally rebels against hierarchical authority which he or she knows to be legitimately exercised. Instead of acting obediently as parts of the one body, schismatic individuals and groups act as if they were autonomous wholes, independent of the whole which is the Catholic Church; they commit the sin of schism by carrying disobedience so far that they purposely separate themselves from the Church’s unity, which is realized by the submission of Jesus’ members to him and by their communion with one another.

Since the pope is Jesus’ vicar, Catholics who separate themselves from him divide themselves from Jesus and thus divide the Church. Schismatics refuse to be subject to the pope, either directly or by rejecting communion with those loyal to him. Thus: “Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”82

Those who simply disobey a precept or law, while acknowledging its authority, are not schismatic. Neither are those who refuse to submit to a particular ecclesiastical precept or law they believe to be illegitimate. Nor are religious who refuse to submit to their superiors but do submit to the pope and their own bishop. At the time of the Reformation, faithful Catholics who sided with the pope against their unfaithful bishops were not schismatic. While schismatics often are also heretics, it is possible to be in schism over matters of law and policy without rejecting any truth of faith.83

f) Disobedience to Church authority often is a grave matter. Because of its special grounds in faith and love, the responsibility to obey the decisions of Church authority is especially serious. Although this duty has the usual limits of all obedience, and although the sin of disobedience to Church authority admits of parvity of matter, in itself such disobedience is a grave matter. Plainly, there can be no parvity of matter in a regular practice of ignoring the decisions of Church authority or conforming to them only insofar as necessary to avoid sanctions or other unwanted consequences. Insubordination—refusal to recognize and accept the proper authority of ecclesiastical superiors—is a very grave matter, for it verges on schism and is opposed to the act of faith, insofar as that act is a human commitment to the Church as a covenantal communion.84 Schism itself is an even graver sin for it is directly contrary to the Church’s communion of love, which is her greatest good (see S.t., 2–2, q. 39, a. 2, ad 3).

g) Contestation tends to schism and is a grave matter. In the years after Vatican II, Paul VI frequently deplored the widespread contestation which began with the Council and has continued since.85 By “contestation” he meant active, public insubordination. A notable example is the radical theological dissent from the Church’s constant and most firm moral teaching. This dissent not only denies the truth of the teaching but challenges the hierarchy’s pastoral authority by proposing dissenting opinions as norms which may be followed in practice (see CMP, 36.Int).

Often the challenge employs the methods of protest movements in political society, for example, using the communications media to foster dissatisfaction with existing laws and policies, forcing change by anticipating it, and pressuring leaders by conducting or threatening public demonstrations, withholding contributions, and so on. Those who engage in contestation lead others to refuse to accept hierarchical, especially papal, authority even to the point of rejecting it entirely, leaving the Church, and so ending in schism. Thus, contestation always is a grave matter, though not all who engage in it know what they are doing.

3. Catholics Should Support the Church and Her Life in Many Ways

The whole life of the Church is centered in the Eucharist, which calls every Catholic to active participation. Those who celebrate the Eucharist together are the People of God, the Church, and each of them should contribute to the Church’s life and support her.

Chapter two included a treatment of common responsibilities with respect to the Church’s mission. But all her members also have responsibilities with regard to her inner life. Some are common to all or almost all Catholics, and only these are treated here. Many others, including those of the Church’s pastoral leaders, must be taken into account to provide balance to the responsibilities discussed here; they will be treated in volume four.

a) Everyone should pray for the Church. The Church is a creature of God’s mercy. Depending totally on God for her salvific work, she has as her first need divine light and power. These necessary gifts cannot be taken for granted, as if they were the Church’s permanent possessions. Rather, she receives them at each moment by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and so they are obtained only by united and persistent prayer. Thus, one should support the Church primarily by praying for her: that her pastors will fulfill their ministry, that her members will discern and accept the vocations to which God calls them, and so on.86

b) Christians should help one another follow Jesus faithfully. As members of a good family rally to the aid of any member whose life is in danger, so faithful Christians rally to the aid of any fellow disciple of Jesus whose spiritual life is in danger, for instance, they aid unwed mothers so that they are less tempted to have abortions and are better able to deal with their problems.

Speaking of the mutual help Christians owe one another in struggling against sin, Paul says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6.2). This law is, primarily, the love given by the Holy Spirit, which makes Christians one body in Jesus. If members of the Church bear one another’s burdens in struggling against sin, they fulfill this law in two ways: they put into action their fellowship as members of Jesus, and they overcome grave sin which alone drives out charity.

Societies generally stand by members whose welfare is gravely threatened in respect to commonly recognized values, but the less sympathetic a society is to Christian faith, the more it ignores many values essential to Christian life, fails to help protect them, and even attacks them. Thus, the special responsibility of Christians to give one another mutual support in avoiding and overcoming sin becomes more exigent as the surrounding culture becomes less sympathetic to faith.

An important but often neglected way to help others avoid and overcome sin is to admonish those who seem to be sinning. Every members’ sins wound the Church, but she is harmed in a special way when pastors and other leading members of the Church seriously neglect their responsibilities, abuse their power, or commit shameful sins. Hence, every Catholic has a special responsibility to admonish such apparent sinners. To be successful and beneficial, admonition must be a work of Christian love, carried out with prudence (see 4.E.1.e, h).

c) Every Catholic should contribute services when possible. Dioceses and parishes depend heavily for their vitality on the contributed services of their members. Moreover, every service to the Church is a service to Jesus in his members. So, people asked by their bishops or parish priests to serve in some way should readily respond, unless prevented by other responsibilities. Canon law expressly states this responsibility in one specific matter: pastors are to use the services of clerics, religious, and lay faithful (especially, but not only, catechists) in the essential work of catechesis; “all of these are not to refuse to furnish their services willingly unless they are legitimately impeded.”87 If the bishop or pastor asks for assistance one cannot give, one should offer one’s excuse and, if possible, help identify someone who can supply the needed service.

d) If one can, one should help meet the Church’s material needs. The Old Testament precept of tithing does not bind Christians (see S.t., 2–2, q. 87, a. 1), but the underlying moral responsibility to support religious activities remains. The Church needs material means for divine worship, apostolic and charitable works, and the support of her ministers. In accord with their ability, all who can should contribute goods or money to help meet these needs.

Still, those who can contribute nothing are fully entitled to the Church’s services, and should neither hesitate to ask for them nor be denied them.88 On the other hand, the right of ministers to support (see Mt 10.9–10, 1 Cor 9.11–14) and the Church’s other needs justly require larger contributions from the wealthy. Even if they belong to wealthy parishes and dioceses, their contributions should be substantial, because there also are very poor dioceses and parishes, whose needs make a claim on the wealthier ones, all being joined in the Catholic Church’s communion of love (cf. 2 Cor 8–9).89

Moreover, the People of God need facilities which are truly adequate for divine worship: church buildings that are beautiful, well-equipped, and well-maintained. Wealthy Catholics sometimes refuse to contribute for this purpose on the ground that they prefer to support charitable works. But this excuse is not valid for anyone who can do both things without neglecting some other responsibility, and most wealthy people can do both by forgoing goods and services they have no obligation to obtain and enjoy.

e) One should prudently fulfill the responsibility to contribute. Someone might object that people cannot be expected to contribute services and funds every time the pastor or the bishop asks, and no matter how questionable the project or proposed use of the money. Indeed, prudent judgments are required; time, energy, and resources should not be given to questionable purposes. But one need not support anything questionable; there are virtually unlimited opportunities to fulfill these responsibilities, because the Church has many unquestionable needs, not only in one’s own parish, diocese, or nation but in the whole world.

Only when the Church’s law or a precept of one’s bishop so specifies is there a strictly defined duty to contribute services and money, and usually there is none. So, while those served by a parish should contribute their fair share to its support, other available resources can be used where one judges them to be most needed. Someone doing this will be fully justified in refusing requests which he or she judges to be less reasonable.

f) Everyone should protect the Church’s honor. While avoiding triumphalism and being ready to acknowledge defects in the Church, Catholics should avoid slandering her and should be ready to defend her against lies and mistaken opinions. At all times they should bear in mind that their behavior is likely to be taken by outsiders as representative, and so should try not to do anything which would bring discredit to the household of faith. When the Church suffers from the shameful misdeeds of a leading member, no one should distance himself or herself from the shame by joining the company of scorners; rather, everyone should accept some share in the shame and work to heal the wound.

g) Everyone should foster vocations to the priesthood and diaconate. Since the ordained priesthood and diaconate provide the necessary ministries of the word and sacraments to the whole Church, every member shares a common duty to foster vocations to this service.90 Everyone also should pray for priests and deacons, since these ministries are a divine gift to the Church, by which the greater gifts of the word and the Eucharist are available.

Catholics also can foster vocations by properly appreciating the specific dignity of holy orders, a consecration to act as Jesus’ proxy, through whom he continues to teach, govern, and sanctify his Church. This is an entirely different matter from trying to encourage vocations to the diaconate and priesthood by appealing to inappropriate motives, for example, desire for status, for a role of service other than that proper to ordained ministry, or even for sanctity, regarded as reserved for an elite. Such appeals encourage the illusions of some who are not truly called to the diaconate or priesthood, while repelling others who are.

h) Everyone should foster and promote the religious state of life. The way of life of those consecrated by profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience has a special place in the life and holiness of the Church (see LG 43–44). All have a duty to promote this state of life.91

Encouraging vocations to religious life is one way to fulfill this responsibility. Another is by financial support, especially of those religious institutes whose needs are great because their apostolates are not self-sustaining or the number of gainfully employed members is inadequate to care for the growing number of elderly members, who gave years of service to the Church. Still another way is by constantly showing respect and Christian appreciation for those committed to religious life, while firmly rejecting anything which ridicules or belittles the three evangelical counsels or those committed to them.

i) Everyone should contribute appropriately to missionary work. By her very nature, the whole Church is missionary: Jesus sends her to carry on the mission given him by the Father (see AG 2, 35).92 The most characteristic expression of the Church’s missionary nature is her ongoing effort to implant herself among the peoples and groups where the faith has not yet taken root. Every member of the Church shares responsibility for this task. Everyone can and should offer prayers and do works of penance for this purpose, contribute materially to it as much as possible, encourage those called to give their whole lives to it, and be prepared to cooperate in other ways if the occasion offers (see AG 36).93

To be sure, God wills all to be saved, and draws toward himself even those who through no fault of their own do not know Jesus and his gospel (see LG 16, GS 22). But only those who do know Jesus and his gospel can be moved by the hope of heaven to live consistently in accord with moral truth despite the costs of doing so in this fallen world. Moreover, salvation—sharing in God’s kingdom—is a truly personal relationship with God in Jesus, and with one’s fellows in the human communion of the new covenant, Jesus’ Church. People of whom it can only be said that they somehow belong to the Church despite never having heard the gospel can hardly play their full part in her life and are deprived of the benefits of conscious membership, especially the hope and joy of sharing in the Eucharist, and also the other helps to salvation available only in the Church. Thus, love impels every Christian to do his or her part in making Jesus and his gospel known to all who are still unaware of them (see LG 17).

Some today reject or disdain missionary work on a more profound basis. They claim that non-Christian religions offer equally valid, parallel ways of salvation for those who follow them faithfully. But this is not so. Not all the great religions can be equally valid, for they contradict one another on important matters, such as the significance of bodily life and death, the cause of human misery, and the way of being saved from it. Although non-Christian religions do include important truths and elements of real value, they also include important errors and defects. They do not have the whole truth about God as a communion of three divine persons, about human persons created in his image, about human freedom and sin, about the redemptive Incarnation and the sacraments, or about the heavenly kingdom for which everyone on earth should hope. False beliefs about these matters have bad consequences: moral errors and humanly destructive religious and social practices, which result in great miseries and hopelessness.94

j) Everyone should reveal impediments to sacred commitments. The commitments to marriage and the ordained priesthood are sacramentally consecrated; they establish sacred bonds between those who make them and Jesus present in his Church. On the reality of these bonds and the fulfillment of the attendant responsibilities, important spiritual effects depend: the genuineness of sacraments administered by a priest and the sanctification of marriage and family life. So, only those truly suited to be ordained or married should receive these sacraments.

The Church specifies certain conditions called “impediments” under which someone cannot or should not be married or ordained. A person who thinks there may be some impediment to a pending ordination or marriage should inform the pastor or local ordinary, who will apply the Church’s law to determine whether or not there is an impediment.95

k) Every group should maintain its solidarity with the Church. Faithful Catholics often establish voluntary associations to promote common religious, charitable, and apostolic ends. Such groups should give primacy to helping their members respond to the universal call to holiness, and their purposes, organization, methods, and activities should be in accord with Catholic faith, moral teaching, and Church order. If they are, their members think and act with the Church, without imagining that only they fully grasp the gospel’s truth and know how to put it into practice. These groups should bear witness to the faith, adapt themselves to the Church’s apostolic goals, and work to further them. They also should maintain sincere and harmonious relationships with the Church’s pastors. Communion with the pope and the local bishop should be shown by ready acceptance of their teachings and pastoral initiatives. Moreover, without the authorization of the competent ecclesiastical authority, no group may use Catholic in its name.96

l) Failure to support the Church can be a grave matter. The Church does not tax her members as all political societies do. Nevertheless, supporting the Church in all the preceding ways—in particular, materially and by services when they are needed—is not something optional, up to each person’s good will. Contributing support proportionate to one’s ability to do so is a matter of strict justice, while not doing one’s share takes advantage of other Catholics and impedes the Church from fulfilling her mission. The matter is grave, but subject to parvity.

Members of the Church should think carefully about this responsibility and make honest judgments about what they owe. While no general rule can say what that is, it is plain that one falls short gravely if one could contribute something but never contributes anything at all, if one’s resources are growing steadily but one continues to make the same small contribution, and if one could easily contribute useful services but regularly avoids doing so.

In judging the material support owed the Church, one’s means should be assessed by considering accumulated wealth or disposable income after paying taxes and meeting basic needs. Then one should contribute in proportion to one’s means, taxing oneself, as it were, at progressively higher rates as one grows wealthier. In judging the supporting services due the Church, those who have more strength, ability, and leisure owe more than those weaker, less gifted, and more fully occupied with other responsibilities.

4. Catholics Should Help to Promote Unity among All Christians

Jesus’ Church is the communion of the new covenant, ratified by his self- sacrifice. In the Eucharist, Catholics renew that sacrifice in order to share in it, and so to realize, experience, and nurture toward fulfillment in heaven the communion it establishes. As Jesus is the sole mediator between God and humankind, so there will be only one heavenly communion, and there is now but one new covenant communion present in the world. This unique Church of Jesus subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the pope and the other bishops who are in communion with him.97

But Jesus’ one Church is divided in the sense that many who are united with her insofar as they are properly baptized nevertheless are not in full communion (see UR 3, 22). Most form diverse churches or ecclesial communities, which the Holy Spirit uses as means for their salvation. Members of these Christian churches and communities enjoy many things which come from Jesus and lead back to him: the life of grace, other gifts of the Spirit, Scripture, and certain other elements. But all these things, which build up and enliven the Church, belong by right to the Catholic Church, and the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained only in her (see UR 3). Therefore, the perfect unity of Jesus’ Church requires the full communion of all Christians in the Catholic Church.98

a) There are several reasons for promoting unity among Christians. The basic reason is that God wills it: the perfect communion with God and one another which human persons are called to enjoy in Jesus is the purpose of the whole divine plan of creation, redemption, and sanctification (see UR 2). But the present divisions are incompatible with this communion. They impede the sharing of goods among Christians: the Catholic Church is not built up, as she might be, by the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on separated brothers and sisters, while the latter lack some essential truths of Christian faith and morality and are deprived of some means of salvation available in the Catholic Church (see UR 2–3).

The divisions also impede apostolate. Divided Christians cannot hand on God’s truth and love to others as effectively as they could if they were in full communion. In addition, divisions weaken the defense of the faith against militant secularism.99 Finally, since divisions arise through human failings while unity is a fruit of grace, the attainment of Christian unity would splendidly manifest the Spirit’s power to overcome sin and give peace, and this would be a powerful incentive for the whole of humankind, imperiled by so many and such great divisions, to accept the gospel and seek salvation in Jesus.

b) Catholics should foster unity by their own personal conversion. Since the unity of Christians depends on their unity with God in Jesus, only more profound communion with the divine persons will unite Christians with one another (see UR 7, 24). Thus, there can be no true ecumenism without true conversion: turning from selfish attitudes and sin toward the Lord and his holy will. The first duty of Catholics toward ecumenical work is to renew the Catholic Church, beginning with themselves. For Jesus’ radiance will shine more brightly on the Church’s face in the eyes of other Christians and the whole world if each Catholic aims at perfection, attends to the whole of revealed truth, uses every means of grace the Church offers, and faithfully fulfills his or her personal vocation (see UR 4).

c) Catholics should pray for the unity of all Christians. Since unity is a grace, it is necessary to ask God for it: “The actual effecting of this unity will not be brought about by human effort, but only by the goodness of that God who ‘is not a respecter of persons’ (Acts 10.34) and who ‘puts no difference between us and them’ (Acts 15.9).”100 Catholics are encouraged to pray with other Christians for common concerns such as peace and justice, but above all for the unity of all Christians (see UR 8).

Prayer is especially suitable during the week of prayer for Church unity (18–25 January), when many Christians pray for this intention, and during the time from Ascension to Pentecost, when the members of the incipient Church begged the Spirit to confirm them in unity and in their mission. Any reading, prayer, or hymn expressing the faith and spiritual life common to all Christians may be used in such common prayer.101

d) Catholics should foster unity by friendliness and collaboration. Putting away past animosity, Catholics should avoid any word, judgment, or act unfair to other Christians, while recognizing and rejoicing in separated brothers’ and sisters’ graces and good works (see UR 4). One should respect Protestants proselytizing among Catholics, and not dismiss them contemptuously as “fundamentalists.” Collaboration among divided Christians which puts Christian love into practice in service to others also nurtures love and so contributes to unity (see UR 12, GS 92). (Collaboration also is required in the conduct of ecumenical dialogue, but its norms will be treated in volume four, for they concern only one segment of the Church.)102

e) Catholics should foster unity by remaining faithful. Insofar as the Church is made up of sinners, she suffers from defects and always needs to be reformed (see UR 6). But neither the Church’s defects nor the ecumenical movement, nor both together, should be used as an excuse for replacing elements of the Catholic Church’s teaching, sacramental life, and essential structure with elements borrowed from other Christian churches. Far from fostering Church unity, such unfaithfulness would further wound it, for Christian unity must be in the truth. It will never be reached by tolerating differences on essentials or papering them over with compromises. The unity which, it might be supposed, could be reached quickly and easily by setting aside the question of truth would not be the genuine unity of Christians, which God wills. Authentic Christian unity must be in the truth—in Jesus who is the truth (see Jn 14.6), in the Spirit who teaches all truth (see Jn 16.13), and in the Father whose word is truth (see Jn 17.17).103

f) Catholics should not invite others to receive Communion. Eucharistic sharing is not an apt means for promoting unity among Christians, because the Eucharist presupposes and expresses the unity to be sought. Indiscriminate eucharistic sharing could bring about an apparent unity, but would only impede true unity by leading to indifferentism.104 So, just as care should be exercised about sharing in worship with others (see C.3, above), others should not be invited to receive Communion in the Catholic Church.105

Only in a few cases may Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church receive Holy Communion. The exceptions, made case by case, are not based on the prospect of eventual Church unity, but on the spiritual need of the individual who asks to receive and on that person’s already-existing, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. That communion must include faith in the Eucharist: not just acceptance of the real presence in some sense, but acceptance of the Catholic Church’s doctrine about it.106

g) Thwarting authentic ecumenism is a grave matter. Not only is the Catholic Church firmly committed to the pursuit of unity among all Christians, but God wills that unity, and it is needed for the Church’s more effective fulfillment of her mission. So, it is a grave matter to thwart authentic ecumenism either by deliberately failing to make one’s proper contribution to it or by intentionally behaving in ways which impede true Christian unity. How? Since all can and should pray for Christian unity, anyone who refused to do so plainly would sin in this matter. Likewise, because false appearances of unity will impede the attainment of true unity, those who engage in forbidden eucharistic sharing and cultivate spurious consensus by false irenicism also sin.107

63. John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 18–20, AAS 81 (1989) 421–27, OR, 6 Feb. 1989, 6, beautifully articulates the reality of the Church as communion, which was taught by Vatican II and emphasized again by the 1985 extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops. Also see Bruno Forte, The Church, Icon of the Trinity: A Brief Study (Boston: St. Paul Books, 1991), especially chapter three, “The Church as a Communion.”

64. Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, 16, AAS 68 (1976) 16, Flannery, 2:718: Some “declare that they are willing to love Christ but not the church. The absurdity of this distinction appears clearly from those words of the gospel: ‘He who rejects you rejects me’ (Lk 10.16 [and references to Sts. Cyprian, Augustine, and John Chrysostom]). How can anyone claim to love Christ without loving his church in face of that most striking testimony given by St. Paul: ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Eph 5.25).” Also see Pius XII, Mystici corporis Christi, AAS 35 (1943) 238–39, PE, 225.92–95.

65. On Eph 4.3–6, see Markus Barth, Ephesians: Translation and Commentary on Chapters 4–6, Anchor Bible, 34a (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974), 457–72. A relevant magisterial exposition of Eph 4.3–16: Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, ASS 28 (1895–96) 720–23, PE, 138.9.

66. See Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Church in the New Testament (New York: Herder and Herder, 1965), 22–35 and 118–40.

67. Pius XII, Address to Members of the Tribunal of the Sacred Rota (2 Oct. 1945), AAS 37 (1945) 256–62, Papal Teachings: The Church, ed. Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, trans. E. O’Gorman, R.S.C.J. (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1962), 597–602, provides a lucid explanation of the difference between the Church and a democratic polity. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Essays in Ecclesiology (New York: Crossroad, 1988), 191–203, explains the difference between political freedom and Christian freedom: the latter is full membership in God’s household; the Christian’s basic right is to the full faith.

68. John Paul II, Address to Bishops of Brazil, 6, AAS 82 (1990) 913, OR, 26 Feb. 1990, 2, explains that episcopal authority is not delegated by the people: “Being of sacramental origin, this authority is exclusively of divine origin, and remains such; it has no need, therefore, of ratification by anyone else.” Politicizing the Church is not proper: “In that case the People of God would be placed on the same level as ‘people’ in a secular sense. That would in some way run the risk of subordinating the episcopal ministry to choices, even at the level of faith and Christian life, made on a human scale. We would have in that case a reversal of terms and values: instead of the People of God, God of the People.”

69. See “The Priestly Ministry (1970),” 4–6, in International Theological Commission, Texts and Documents: 1969–1985, ed. Michael Sharkey (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 23–66.

70. Even Jesus’ teaching is not his own, and the Spirit does not speak on his own (see Jn 7.16, 16.13). Everything comes from the Father (see Jas 1.17–18). Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, 39, AAS 82 (1990) 1568, OR, 2 July 1990, 4, teaches: “The Church, which has her origin in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (LG 4), is a mystery of communion. In accordance with the will of her founder, she is organized around a hierarchy established for the service of the Gospel and the People of God who live by it. After the pattern of the members of the first community, all the baptized with their own proper charisms are to strive with sincere hearts for a harmonious unity in doctrine, life, and worship (cf. Acts 2.42). This is a rule which flows from the very being of the Church. For this reason, standards of conduct, appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy, cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church. Even less can relationships within the Church be inspired by the mentality of the world around it (cf. Rom 12.2). Polling public opinion to determine the proper thing to think or do, opposing the Magisterium by exerting the pressure of public opinion, making the excuse of a ‘consensus’ among theologians, maintaining that the theologian is the prophetical spokesman of a ‘base’ or autonomous community which would be the source of all truth, all this indicates a grave loss of the sense of truth and of the sense of the Church.”

71. John XXIII, Ad Petri cathedram, AAS 51 (1959) 518, PE, 263.95. Pursuit of partisan agendas against the program of the Church’s pastors leads to excessive criticism. Of such criticism, John Paul II, Redemptor hominis, 4, AAS 71 (1979) 263, PE, 278.8, teaches: “Criticism too should have its just limits. Otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth, love and thankfulness for the grace in which we become sharers principally and fully in and through the Church. Furthermore such criticism does not express an attitude of service but rather a wish to direct the opinion of others in accordance with one’s own, which is at times spread abroad in too thoughtless a manner.”

72. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, 40, AAS 82 (1990) 1568, OR, 2 July 1990, 4.

73. John XXIII, Ad Petri cathedram, AAS 51 (1959) 517, PE, 263.93.

74. For a further explanation of the expression “world view” used here, see New Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Weltanschauung.”

75. John XXIII, Ad Petri cathedram, AAS 51 (1959) 513, PE, 263.70.

76. Synod of Bishops, Second Extraordinary Assembly (1985), Final “Relatio”, 2.C.2, EV 9 (1983–85) 1764–65, OR, 16 Dec. 1985, 7.

77. CIC, c. 96: “By baptism one is incorporated into the Church of Christ and is constituted a person in it with duties and rights which are proper to Christians, in keeping with their condition.” A good summary of the authority-obedience relationship within the Church, renewed in terms of the concept of dialogue: Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, AAS 56 (1964) 657–58, PE, 271.113–15.

78. The duty to obey the pope and one’s own bishop is analogous to the responsibility to give religious assent to their teachings which call for such assent. The two are linked in CIC, c. 212, §1: “The Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound by Christian obedience to follow what the sacred pastors, as representatives of Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or determine as leaders of the Church.” On the specific authority-obedience relationship which obtains in institutes of the consecrated life, see PC 14; Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, Evangelica testificatio, 23–28, AAS 63 (1971) 509–13, Flannery, 1:691–94; CIC, c. 601 and c. 618.

79. See Pius XII, Address to Members of the Tribunal of the Sacred Rota (2 Oct. 1945), AAS 37 (1945) 256–62, Papal Teachings: The Church, 597–602; Paul VI, Address to the Prelates, Auditors, and Officials of the Tribunal of the Sacred Roman Rota, AAS 62 (1970) 111–18, OR, 12 Feb. 1970, 6–7.

80. CIC, c. 208.

81. CIC, c. 212, §§2–3; cf. LG 37. For a fuller statement of the right and responsibility of all the faithful to contribute to public opinion in the Church: Pontifical Commission for the Instruments of Social Communication, Communio et progressio, 116–21, AAS 63 (1971) 634–36, Flannery, 1:330–32. This document very forcefully states both the right and the responsibility: “Catholics should be fully aware of the real freedom to speak their minds which stems from a ‘feeling for the faith’ and from love” (AAS 634, Flannery, 330); “This free dialogue within the Church does no injury to her unity and solidarity. It nurtures concord and the meeting of minds by permitting the free play of the variations of public opinion. But in order that this dialogue may go in the right direction it is essential that charity is in command even when there are differing views. Everyone in this dialogue should be animated by the desire to serve and to consolidate unity and cooperation. There should be a desire to build, not to destroy. There should be a deep love for the Church and a compelling desire for its unity. Christ made love the sign by which men can recognize his true Church and therefore his true followers (cf. Jn 17.21)” (AAS 635, Flannery, 331). Of course, such communications should be made through suitable channels and as one would make them to Jesus himself: “Let this [expression of opinion] be done, if the situation allows, through the institutions set up for the purpose by the Church, and always in truth, in courage, and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ” (LG 37).

82. CIC, c. 751; c. 1364, §1, provides that a schismatic incurs automatic excommunication.

83. Among those who recently have been or appeared to be in schism: the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, Marcel Lefebvre and his followers, the so-called Popular Church in Nicaragua, various groups (some reactionary and some revolutionary) which set themselves up as worshiping communities in defiance of their bishops, and the many families and individuals who reject papal authority and leave the Church. John Paul II, Letter to the Bishops of Nicaragua, AAS 74 (1982) 1108–13, OR, 6 Sept. 1982, 6–7, points out that the so-called Popular Church leads to the autonomy of the basic communities from the Church’s legitimate pastors and teachers.

84. Those who not only disobey ecclesiastical laws or precepts but engage in contestation or persist in disobedience after receiving a warning from the Holy See or their own bishop are insubordinate. The gravity of persistence in disobedience is indicated by the fact that it is subject to canonical punishment: CIC, c. 1371, §2. The gravity of opposing Church authority also is made clear by c. 1373: “One who publicly either stirs up hostilities or hatred among subjects against the Apostolic See or against an ordinary on account of some act of ecclesiastical power or ministry or incites subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or by other just penalties.”

85. See Paul VI, Homily at Holy Thursday Mass (3 Apr. 1969), AAS 61 (1969) 240–41, OR, 10 Apr. 1969, 4: “There is talk of renewal in the doctrine and in the conscience of the Church of God; but how can the living and true Church be authentic and persistent if the complex structure that forms it and defines it a spiritual and social ‘mystical body’, is today so often and so gravely corroded by dissent and challenge and by forgetfulness of its hierarchical structure, and is countered in its divine and indispensable constituent charism, its pastoral authority? How can it claim to be a Church, that is a united people, even though locally broken up and historically and legitimately diversified, when a practically schismatic ferment is dividing it, subdividing it and breaking it into groups which are more than anything else zealous for arbitrary and fundamentally egoistical autonomy, masked by Christian pluralism or liberty of conscience?” See also Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation calling for an end of contestation: Paterna cum benevolentia, AAS 67 (1975) 5–23, OR, 26 Dec. 1974, 1–4. Also: Synod of Bishops, First General Assembly (1967), Ratione habita, EV 2 (1963–67) 1382–83, Flannery, 2:664, noted an element of this contestation: “Truths of the Faith are falsely understood or explained, and in the developing process of understanding doctrine its essential continuity is neglected.” This document as a whole very straightforwardly and usefully faces the challenge of contestation in its doctrinal and theological aspects.

86. Paul VI, General Audience (2 Apr. 1969), AAS 61 (1969) 269–70, OR, 10 Apr. 1969, 3, asks for loyalty and prayer for the Church in her sufferings. United with Jesus, she shares in his sufferings, undergoing persecution, repression, and disloyalty, just as he did. Loyalty and prayer, not nervousness and discouragement, are needed in this situation.

87. CIC, c. 776.

88. CIC, c. 222, §1, and cc. 1260–63, spell out the general obligation of all the faithful to assist with the needs of the Church. C. 848 warns clerics not to deprive the poor of the sacraments; c. 1181 says that care is “to be taken in funeral rites against any favoritism toward persons and against depriving the poor of the funeral rites which are their due.”

89. Since those who contribute more are only doing their duty, they should not expect recognition or better treatment than those who lack means (see Jas 2.1–7).

90. See CIC, c. 233, §1.

91. See CIC, c. 574, §1. Religious state of life is used here in its broad sense, which includes the condition of members of secular institutes and societies of apostolic life.

92. See Manuel de Toya, O.P., “Visión misionera de la fe en el Nuevo Testamento,” La ciencia tomista 95 (1968): 605–43.

93. CIC, c. 781: “Since the entire Church is missionary by its nature and since the work of evangelization is to be viewed as a fundamental duty of the people of God, all the Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility in this area, are to assume their own role in missionary work.” For the specification of this role: Pius XII, Fidei donum, AAS 49 (1957) 238–44, PE, 257.48–67; John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, 77–82, AAS 83 (1991) 324–29, OR, 28 Jan. 1991, 16–17.

94. A reply to the objection considered here: John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, 4–11, AAS 83 (1991) 252–60, OR, 28 Jan. 1991, 5–6; John Paul emphasizes that Jesus is the only savior, through whom not only faithful Christians but all people of good will reach heaven.

95. CIC, c. 1043 (with respect to sacred orders) and c. 1069 (with respect to marriage) state the universal duty to reveal impediments to the pastor or ordinary. While the canons do not say so, the importance of this duty suggests that failure to fulfill it without a just cause would be a grave matter.

96. See CIC, c. 300; John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 30, AAS 81 (1989) 446–48, OR, 6 Feb. 1989, 9–10. Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, 58, AAS 68 (1976) 46–49, Flannery, 2:738–40, critically treats so-called base communities; his main criterion is whether members of a group oppose or operate in harmony with their pastors.

97. See LG 8, UR 4; on subsists in, see 1.C.5.i with the accompanying note.

98. Some will object to this way of putting the matter, for they “imagine that Christ’s Church is nothing more than a collection (divided, but still possessing a certain unity) of churches and ecclesial communities” or “that Christ’s Church nowhere really exists today and that it is to be considered only as an end which all churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach.” But these views are incompatible with Vatican II (see UR 2–4) and with the later teaching from which the quoted formulations are taken: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mysterium ecclesiae, AAS 65 (1973) 397–98, Flannery, 2:429. Also John XXIII, Ad Petri cathedram, AAS 51 (1959) 512–16, PE, 263.65–87, argues that the Catholic Church is marked by unity lacking in other Christian communities, and so invites and exhorts Christians separated from the Apostolic See to return home. John hoped that Vatican II would facilitate this unity, as he made clear shortly before the Council’s opening (Aeterna Dei sapientia, AAS 53 [1961] 799, PE, 268.62): “We are fully confident that this solemn assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy will not only reinforce that unity in faith, worship and discipline which is a distinguishing mark of Christ’s true Church (DS 3008–14/1789–94), but will also attract the gaze of the great majority of Christians of every denomination, and induce them to gather around ‘the great Pastor of the sheep’ (Heb 13.20) who entrusted his flock to the unfailing guardianship of Peter and his successors (cf. Jn 21.15–17).”

99. John XXIII, Aeterna Dei sapientia, AAS 53 (1961) 802, PE, 268.77, emphasized this point, expressing the desire “to see the whole company of the redeemed in Jesus Christ’s precious blood reunited around the single standard of the militant Church. Then let the battle commence in earnest, as we strive with might and main to resist the adversary’s assaults who in so many parts of the world is threatening to annihilate our Christian faith.”

100. Pius XI, Ecclesiam Dei, AAS 15 (1923) 580–81, PE, 195.22.

101. See Secretariat for Promoting the Unity of Christians, Ad totam ecclesiam, 22–24 and 32–37, AAS 59 (1967) 582–83 and 584–86, Flannery, 1:491–92 and 494–95.

102. Some people think seeking converts to the Catholic Church is at odds with ecumenism, but that is a mistake. For ecumenism concerns only relationships with fellow Christians who are properly baptized and living as devout members of some Christian communion. Catholics may and should seek converts elsewhere as vigorously as ever. Moreover, fulfilling responsibilities with respect to ecumenism as part of a truly apostolic life is a good—and probably the most effective—way of attracting devout members of other Christian communions to seek full communion with the Catholic Church.

103. John Paul II, Address to the German Bishops (Fulda), 4, AAS 73 (1981) 85, OR, 22 Dec. 1980, 9: “Unity, which comes from God, is given to us at the Cross. We must not want to avoid the cross, passing to rapid attempts at harmonizing differences, excluding the question of truth. But neither must we abandon one another, and go on our separate ways, because drawing closer calls for the patient and suffering love of Christ crucified. Let us not be diverted from the laborious way in order to remain where we are, or to choose ways that are apparently shorter and lead astray.” John Paul II, Reconciliatio et paenitentia, 9, AAS 77 (1985) 204, OR, 17 Dec. 1984, 4: “The Church promotes reconciliation in the truth, knowing well that neither reconciliation nor unity is possible outside or in opposition to the truth.” Paul VI, General Audience (20 Jan. 1971), Inseg. 9 (1971) 48–49, OR, 28 Jan. 1971, 1 and 12, explains that the faithfulness of Catholics is necessary for the ecumenical process, since unfaithfulness would separate them from Christ and so undermine true dialogue.

104. The argument against intercommunion is clearly stated by John Paul II, Address to Representatives of Various Christian Confessions, 6, Inseg. 8.1 (1985) 1327, OR, 3 June 1985, 8: “Is it truly to this sort of unity that the Lord invites us? Is it not a fact that—because faith is growing weaker—the world takes our differences less seriously regarding the sacramental nature of the Church, the minister and the Sacrament of the Eucharist itself? If these differences . . . were no longer taken seriously, would they for this reason be overcome? Wouldn’t this be equivalent to lessening the suffering rather than healing the disease of a division which exists contrary to the will of Christ?”

105. CIC, c. 844, makes it illicit for Catholic ministers to administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing to non-Catholics unless, among other things, they “ask on their own” (§3). If Catholics invite non-Catholics to receive Communion, the latter are not asking on their own. So, they should not be invited.

106. See CIC, c. 844, §§3–4. These sections distinguish between (i) members of Eastern churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church and of certain other churches in the same condition as the Eastern churches and (ii) all other non-Catholic Christians. For the latter, there must be danger of death or other grave necessity, as judged by the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, and inability to approach a minister of their own community. See also UR 8; Secretariat for Promoting the Unity of Christians, In quibus rerum circumstantiis, AAS 64 (1972) 518–25, Flannery, 1:554–59; further clarified in idem, Dopo la publicazione, AAS 65 (1973) 616–19, trans. as “Communication,” Documents on the Liturgy, 343–45. This last document makes it clear that, except for members of the Eastern Orthodox churches, whose faith in the Eucharist can be presumed, Christians not fully in communion with the Catholic Church should never be given the Eucharist unless they personally profess their faith in it in accord with Catholic doctrine.

107. On false irenicism, see UR 11. Paul VI, General Audience (20 Jan. 1965), AAS 57 (1965) 245, The Pope Speaks 10 (1964–65): 143, points to the temptation which arises in the minds of good people but leads “to an attitude that is neither good, nor effective in removing the most serious of all the difficulties [in achieving unity], the doctrinal ones. We mean the temptation to lay aside controversial points; to hide, or weaken, or modify, or empty of meaning, or even deny those teachings of the Catholic Church that are not accepted today by our separated brethren.”