Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Cardinal Eijk: Dominus Iesus revisited

Mark de Vries is a 34-year-old lay Catholic from the Netherlands who converted at the start of Easter of 2007. He has a most interesting Blog “In Caelo et in Terra”, see: http://incaelo.wordpress.com/

Recently Mark has been recording and commenting on a brouhaha which has erupted over recent comments of Cardinal Eijk on the Council of Trent. Dutc Protestants, seemingy, are incensed at a Catholic Church prelate, a Cardinal no less, speaking the truth AS CATHOLICS SEE IT; well, at least faithful Catholics. This has reminded me of our own little local difficulty when the CDF released Dominus Iesus in 2000. And so I copy below an unpublished article I wrote at that time regarding misinterpretations and misrepresentations (lies, you might say and you might not be so very wrong) published in both The Times and The (Glasgow) Herald.

Dominus Iesus
by Hugh McLoughlin

Magnus Linklater in The Times (7 September, 2000) stated that in his opinion Dominus Iesus might well have been intended as “the first stirrings of a papal campaign”, that it “sets out the official position on church unity” and “will dismay many ordinary Catholics.”

In short: it wasn’t, it didn’t, and it shouldn’t have.

And Linklater would have known this had he even bothered to read as far as paragraph 2 of the document wherein it is written: “In considering the values which these religions witness to and offer humanity, with an open and positive approach, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions states: ‘The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men’.”

Linklater also went on to state that: “Superficially Dominus Jesus (sic) adds little new to Catholic doctrine.”

Nonsense! It added absolutely NOTHING new to Catholic doctrine.

As Archbishop, now Cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone, the then Secretary of the Supreme Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made clear at the press conference held to launch Dominus Iesus, it was simply a “Declaration” and as such it was “not teaching new doctrine, but rather reaffirming and summarising the doctrine of the Catholic faith defined or taught in previous documents of the Church’s magisterium, indicating its correct interpretation, in face of doctrinal errors or ambiguities diffused in today's theological and ecclesial ambience.”

In the Scottish press, The (Glasgow) Herald columnist Ron Ferguson (sometime Church of Scotland minister) noted that in a recent radio interview Fr Danny McLoughlin (no relation), then of the Scottish Catholic Press Office, had stated that he regretted if “members of non-Christian churches” had been offended. Ferguson then went on to snidely remark that he presumed that this was “a simple mistake, and not a Freudian slip” on Fr Danny’s part.

It was neither.

Another gem from the Linklater pen: “It goes on to examine other Churches including the Church of England.” Oh no it didn’t! And barely mentioned them, except in passing.

Tarcisio Bertone’s boss, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, stated quite clearly at the press conference that it was written not with the ongoing discussions between the Catholic Church and the Protestant and Anglican churches in mind, but rather the affairs of the Catholic Church in relation to the non-Christian (and, indeed, non-Jewish) churches. As the Document puts it the concern was with and in: “the practice of dialogue between the Christian faith and other religious traditions” (Introduction, paragraph 3).

Neither the Church of England, nor the Church of Scotland (nor, indeed, any other Protestant church) is anywhere mentioned in the Document, but section IV on Unicity and Unity of the Church does, indeed, apply to them. However, if the document is read carefully there is nothing therein that will surprise anyone, Catholic, or Protestant, or Anglican.

(The Vatican always distinguishes between Protestant and Anglican. In part this goes back to Pio nono, Pope Pius IX, and his anxious desire that Blessed Dominic Barberi’s crusade to convert England should go well. There was great rejoicing in the Papal household when word reached Rome that this saintly Passionist had received John Henry Newman into Holy Mother Church.)

Paragraphs 16 and 17 in that section are simply a re-statement of Catholic Church teaching from Vatican II onwards: absolutely nothing new, controversial, frightening or offensive for anyone already involved in ecumenical dialogue. And that is a lot more than can be said for the uninformed offerings of the various pundits supposedly in the know which were inflicted on us at the time of the document’s publication.

Essentially the text here simply restates what we Catholics have held, hold now, and always will hold to be the case: that the Church of Rome is the one, true, Catholic and Apostolic Church and that the Orthodox Churches can claim ─ despite the Schism, which arguably in any case might not really have been a true Schism since neither side at the time authoritatively excommunicated or anathematised the other (at least as far as I am aware) ─ direct apostolic succession and are, therefore, most close to our Catholic hearts.

So how then could Linklater talk of the “ecumenical movement” being “saddened” or even “horrified”? (Whatever the “ecumenical movement” actually is or was meant by him to be.) Presumably he thought that it consisted entirely of people like him who had not taken the time to read the Document, never mind attempted to understand it within its proper context.

Ah, context!

Although formally addressed to the “bishops, theologians, and all the Catholic faithful”, Dominus Iesus was primarily aimed at Catholic theologians working as either missionaries or as “native” priests, or in some other way involved with both of these categories. Most especially, Dominus Iesus was meant as a cautionary restatement of authentic Church teaching for the benefit of those working in the Indian sub-continent, parts of Africa, and South East Asia.

The late Archbishop Marcello Zago, then Secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization, and himself a former missionary priest in Laos, tried to put the document into its proper context in an interview with the Vatican News Agency, FIDES.


He said in part: “Too many theologians question the need for evangelization, and refrain from suggesting conversion from another religion.” (ie from a non-Christian religion!) He went onto say: “… the Church’s claim to offer the unique and complete means to salvation has prompted sharp opposition from some Asian religions ― particularly Hindus in India and Muslims in Indonesia and elsewhere. Some Christian missionaries respond by watering down the content of the Catholic faith and this is a mistake.”