his response to its publication, Superior General of the
Society of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, conceded
that Pope John Paul II's declaration, Dominus Jesus (Aug.
6, 2000), was a forceful reminder
of traditional Catholic doctrine on the unicity and salvific
universality of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.
At the same
time, he said that these truths of Faith are "strongly
moderated" by principles that have Vatican II
as their only source (SiSiNoNo,
#40, in The Angelus, March 2001). These
principles concern the relations of the Catholic Church
with other religions, both Christian and non-Christian,
which introduce another theological tradition that
is clearly divergent from the one known in the Catholic
Church up until Vatican II.
of SiSiNoNo gives expanded treatment
on how Dominus Jesus breaks with Tradition
by its fundamental thesis and incoherences while also
explaining its effect on the Protestant sects.
JESUS: A DECLARATION THAT IS
“PERFECTLY IN LINE WITH VATICAN II”
On August 6, 2000,
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public
the declaration Dominus Jesus on the unicity and
salvific universality of Jesus Christ and His Church. This
Declaration provoked opposition from "ecumenical"
Catholics and was enthusiastically welcomed by certain Catholics
who desire to be, and to remain, simply Catholic. It seems
to us, however, that both those who oppose the Declaration
and those who welcomed it either have not read it in its
totality, or have not read it with due attention. In fact,
this document is "perfectly in line with Vatican II"
(Bishop d'Ornellas, auxiliary bishop of Paris) and accords
with the aims of the "moderate" modernists who
want neither a return to Tradition nor the headlong flight
of the avant-garde (cf. Cardinal Ratzinger in The
Ratzinger Report). To that extent, contrary to
the superficial and hasty observations in the press, with
the publication of this document "nothing has changed"
(Bishop Ennio Antonelli, Secretary of the Italian Episcopal
Conference). In fact, as we shall see, there are certain
"innovations" in this document which make it ecumenically
even more pointed than Vatican II.
In order to set forth
“the fundamental contents of the profession of the Christian
Faith,” the introduction to the Declaration Dominus Jesus
uses the Creed of Constantinople (Dz. 150), which lacks
the Filioque. The Filioque was legitimately
added to the Creed "because of those heretics who are
going about saying that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of
the Father alone" (Synod of Friuli 796; on the Filioque,
cf. Courrier de Rome, March 1998: "Stupidité
oecuménique: Le 'Filioque’: Une question de dogme et non
une simple formule”)
Why does Dominus
Jesus quote from the Creed lacking the Filioque?
Clearly, it does so for ecumenical reasons, in order
to gain the goodwill of the Orthodox, who made this addition
a pretext for schism. By doing this, however, the document
obscures the Catholic Faith, offers a grave offense to the
Catholic Church, and confirms the Orthodox in their conviction
that the Filioque was “a diabolical invention” and
“a perverse dogma,” as said Photius about the Roman Church.
A further omission
is the absence of any reference to the dogma “Extra Ecclesiam
nulla salus" ("Outside the Church there
is no salvation") in a Declaration which deals primarily
with inter-religious dialogue, i.e., dialogue with
religions which are not even "Christian" in name,
a dialogue which today, the document says, "does not
replace, but rather accompanies" the Church's missionary
These are important
omissions. In reality, as we shall see, despite the apparent
firmness of certain affirmations which are intended to put
a brake on avant-garde, Dominus Jesus, vitiated as
it is by the “ecumenical” goal, alternates truths of faith
with things that are in irreconcilable contradiction with
Catholic dogma. This too is in perfect accord with the "spirit"
and the texts of Vatican II, and with the documents which
The declared intention
of the Declaration Dominus Jesus is to "set
forth again the doctrine of the Catholic faith" with
regard to "the unicity and salvific universality of
the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church" (§3) against
"specific positions that are erroneous or ambiguous"
The fundamental thesis
of the whole Declaration is given in §5, where it is said:
In fact, it must
be firmly believed that, in the mystery of Jesus
Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is "the way,
the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6), the full revelation
of divine truth is given: "No one knows the Son except
the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to who the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt.
11:27); "No one has ever seen God; God the only Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed him"
(Jn. 1:18); "For in Christ the whole fullness of
divinity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9-10)....
Thus, the Encyclical
Redemptoris Missio [much cited in the document-Ed.]
calls the Church once again to the task of announcing
the Gospel as the fullness of truth: "In this definitive
Word of his revelation, God has made himself known in
the fullest possible way. He has revealed to mankind who
he is. This definitive self-revelation of God is the fundamental
reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature.
She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is,
the fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to
know about himself [Redemptor Missio, §5]. Only
the revelation of Jesus Christ therefore, "introduces
into our history a universal and ultimate truth which
stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort" [Fides
et Ratio, §14].
The fundamental thesis,
therefore, is that in Christ we have a fullness of revelation
not only vis-à-vis the Old Testament (which is true),
but also vis-à-vis the false religions (which
is false)—for this implies that the divine revelation is
simply given less fully in the latter.
In other words, the
whole universe of religions (pagan religions, but also the
sects) could be in some way related "to the mystery
of Christ"; the difference is that in the Catholic
Church the revelation is found in its fullness, whereas,
in the other religious "belief," it is not full,
but more or less incomplete. In pagan religions, therefore,
this whole universe of religions
as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood
in reference to Christ, the Word who took flesh by the
power of the Spirit, 'so that as perfectly human he would
save all human beings and sum up all things'" [Redemptor
missio, §29] (§12).
So Christ recapitulates
all religions, i.e., the true religion and the false
religions! Having made this obligatory link with Christ
(and His Church), which actually usurps the dogma "Extra
Ecclesiam nulla salus" the Declaration thinks it
has protected the "unicity and salvific universality
of the mystery of Christ and the Church"!
As regards pagan
religions, the perspective is mistaken at the outset because
of an erroneous view of their belief:
If faith is the
acceptance in grace of revealed truth, which "makes
it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows
us to understand it coherently" [Fides et Ratio,
§§31,32], then belief, in the other religions, is
that sum of experience and thought that constitutes the
human treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration, which
man in his search for truth has conceived and acted upon
in his relationship to God and the Absolute (§7).
This would suggest
that man, down the centuries, has done nothing other than
search for the truth, given that in virtue of his natural
disposition he is orientated towards the absolute and the
divine; whereas, on the contrary, the history of religions
shows us man's apostasy, right from the earliest revelation.
We see a gradual falling-away, in all peoples, from the
Two things that are not mentioned in the document—as in
the most emphatic naturalism-are the work of the devil (who
is never spoken about) and the consequences of original
The "human treasury
of wisdom and religious aspiration" recalls a certain
Wednesday catechism audience at the Vatican when we were
the different religions
arise from man's primordial openness to the notion of
God. Not infrequently we find that their founders, with
the aid of the Holy Spirit, underwent a most profound
According to this
naturalist and immanentist perspective (which we have already
refuted on other occasions2
and which is not directly the subject of this study), the
false religions—which are a fruit, not of man's "openness,"
but of his primordial closed-ness towards God and of
the human perversion which it entailed—must be treated "
with sincere respect" by the Church.
If the Church's highest
authorities were to examine these religious beliefs in the
light of Holy Scripture and Tradition, they would deny them
all respect, as the Church has always done. They would see
"the human treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration"-or
the few swamped and distorted truths which it contains-for
what it really is: either a fruit of the natural light of
reason, or the remains of the primitive revelation made
by God to Adam and the Patriarchs, or else borrowings [i.e.,
theft], down the centuries, from the definitive revelation
of Jesus Christ.3.
That is why
the Church has never acknowledged that any religion whatsoever
has a single truth to call its own.
"Sacred" Books of Pagan Religions Are Also Inspired—Or,
In §7 the Declaration
rediscovers the distinction (which had been obliterated
for decades) between theological faith, "by which men
freely entrusts his entire self to God, 'offering the full
intellect and will
to God who reveals and freely assenting to the revelation
given by him,'" and "belief (human and erroneous)
in the other religions. We have already seen that this "belief
is presented in an absolutely positive light in the Declaration.
In the following section (§8) there is an attempt to bridge
this "gulf between human and divine revelation, between
fallen nature and what is supernatural.
By going directly
to speak of the hypothesis of the "inspired value of
the sacred writings of other religions," the Declaration
neglects the opportunity to repeat clearly that it is only
the sacred books of Christianity which are inspired. It
is merely said that "The Church's tradition...reserves
[sic] the designation of inspired texts"
to the Old and New Testaments, adding that:
who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and
to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation
and love, "does not fail to make himself present
in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire
peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their
religions are the main and essential expression even when
they contain "gaps, insufficiencies and errors"
[Redemptoris Missio, §55]. Therefore, the sacred
books of other religions, which in actual fact direct
and nourish the existence of their followers, receive
from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and
grace which they contain (§8).
Behind the diplomatic
circumlocutions there is clearly an attempt to recognize
the "sacred books" of the false religions as enjoying
some kind of inspiration, like that of Sacred Scripture,
even if "less intense" or inferior in degree.
This is because God is supposed to make himself "present"
in some unspecified way by means of these religions, and
their "sacred" books "receive from the mystery
of Christ the elements of goodness and grace" [sic]
which "direct and nourish the existence of their
followers." A little earlier we read that, by means
of these "elements... countless people throughout the
centuries have been and still are able today to nourish
and maintain [sic] their life-relationship
with God." In short, pagan beliefs constitute quasi-Christian
religions (as we shall see), and their "sacred"
texts, contrary to what was always said and should always
be said, are quasi-inspired.
This optimistic and
unrealistic view of pagan religions contradicts what
the Church, on the basis of Holy Scripture and Tradition,
has always taught, and what the Catechism of Saint Pius
X explains and summarizes, quite simply, in its Short
History of Religion: since man's end is supernatural,
one can understand...that
from the beginning, religion had to be revealed, that
is to say, taught by God to man.
In fact, God revealed
religion to Adam and to the first Patriarchs that followed
him...until the day when God formed to Himself a people
who conserved this primitive religion until the coming
of the Savior Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate.
Jesus did not destroy it, but rather He completed it,
perfected it, and confided its keeping to the Church for
The history of
religion, as it blends, so to speak, with the history
of mankind, proves [man's need of a religion revealed
directly by God]. It is clear, consequently, that all
that bears the name of religion besides the one true religion
revealed by God, are inventions of men and deviations
from the Truth, of which some contain certain fragments,
but united to many lies and absurdities.
If the Declaration
(§8) presents us with a Christ who bestows "elements
of goodness and grace" even upon the "sacred"
books of the pagans (Moslems, Hindus and others), it is
hard to see how (§9) it is possible to condemn those theological
reflections (which are merely "more advanced,"
but also, in their error, are more logical) which present
Christ as a historical figure "who reveals the divine
not in an exclusive way, but in a way complementary with
other revelatory and salvific figures."
It seems to us, in
fact, that the necessary consequence of the view taken by
§8 is precisely to include Christ among the "other
revelatory and salvific figures," even if they are
inferior to Him and dependent on Him (but not excluded from
Him, as § 14 clearly says—which we shall examine shortly).
This subordination can safeguard Christ's primacy (Christ
has no need of secondary roles) and the exhaustive character
of His work (Christ has no need of "complementary"
ways; but it cannot safeguard His "exclusivity"
and hence His "unicity"-if these words are to
The conclusion of
§10 also seems to involve contradiction: here it is urged
...the theory which
would attribute, after the incarnation as well, a salvific
activity to the Logos as such in his divinity,
exercised "in addition to" or "beyond"
the humanity of Christ, is not compatible with the Catholic
In fact, salvific
activity of the Logos "in addition to or beyond
the humanity of Christ, after the incarnation as well"
is affirmed by the same Declaration when it tells us that
"God does not fail to make himself present," not
only to each individual, but also to peoples "through"
their false religions—here again with the habitual, imprecise
reference to the "mystery of Christ." We see,
therefore, that this Declaration, from the highest Roman
Congregation, is profoundly contradictory at the very point
where it wanted to show greatest firmness.
As usual, the defense
of the "unicity and salvific universality of the mystery
of Jesus Christ and the Church" is in fact gravely
undermined by the desire to promote—even at the price of
truth—the "causa unionis" not only with
the denominations which call themselves Christian, but also
with all religious beliefs.
This ecumenical intention
is clearly expressed in §14:
Bearing in mind
this article of faith, theology today, in its reflection
on the existence of other religious experiences and on
their meaning in God's salvific plan, is invited to explore
if and in what way the historical figures and positive
elements of these religions may fall within the divine
plan of salvation. In this undertaking, theological research
has a vast field of work under the guidance of the Church's
magisterium. The Second Vatican Council, in fact, has
stated that: "the unique mediation of the Redeemer
does not exclude, but rather gives rise to a manifold
cooperation which is but a participation in this one source"
[Lumen Gentium, §62].
The content of this
participated mediation should be explored more deeply.
As we see, Vatican
II and the documents which followed in its wake have manufactured
a continuity between Christ and pagan belief, obliterating
the gulf which had been pointed out by the Magisterium hitherto.
Instead of being viewed as adversaries and enemies, the
false religions are placed, as at Assisi, alongside Christ
and in continuity with Him.
As a result, the
document does not wish to repeat, firmly and univocally,
that there is only one way of salvation, i.e., that
established by Christ in His Church. Instead it gives us
to understand, through its equivocations, that we
must admit that "historical figures and positive elements
of these [other] religions may fall within the divine plan
of salvation," and that, according to Vatican II, the
false religions can be seen to exercise "a manifold
cooperation" and even a "participated mediation"
in the one mediatorship of Christ. There is one reservation,
however: these "participated forms of mediation...cannot
be understood as parallel or complementary to his."
In fact, the concept of parallel [equal] complementarity
is very different from that of participated [subordinate]
This concept of participated,
subordinate mediation has always been intrinsic to the Catholic
religion. What is new in the Declaration, and what is unheard-of
in the Catholic religion, is that this participated mediation
is now no longer reserved to the Most Blessed Virgin, the
Saints and the members of the Mystical Body, but extended
to all the false religions (the sects and the pagan religions).
This is in harmony with the "new theology," which
no longer understands the Mystical Body to be coextensive
with the visible Church (plus the individual exceptions
in the case of souls united to the Church "in voto,"
by implicit and explicit desire), but broadens and expands
Christ's Mystical Body to embrace all humanity with all
its false religious beliefs.
The fundamental concept
of ecumenism can be reduced to this: "All religions
are orientated to salvation, which is one, and is of Christ.
These religions are ranked according to each one's degree
of participation in the fullness of truth and salvation
which is found in its highest degree in Christ and his Church."
This is the basis supporting the superstructure of the Declaration
Dominus Jesus, and we cannot see in what way it differs
from the thesis of Modernism, namely, that God reveals Himself
"in the life of all the religions, individually and
collectively, but most of all in the life of Christianity"
(George Tyrrell, Per la sincerità in Rinnovamento [For
Sincerity in the Renewal] July-Aug. 1907.
example, W. Schmidt, Manuale di Storia comparata delle
religioni: [Manual of religions] (Brescia, 1938), and,
R. Boccassino, La religione dei primitivi [Primitive
religion], in Storia delle Religioni [History
of religions] by Fr. Tacchi Ventura.
de Rome, January 2000, pp.4-6, "L'Esprit-Saint
à l’origine des...fausses religions."
de Rome, September 1997, pp.1ff
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)