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Amoris Laetitia and Lumen Gentium: ‘Partial’ Marriage, ‘Partial’ Church

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared at Whispers of Restoration. It is reprinted and adapted here with the author’s permission. 

Faithful Catholics have something to be edified and encouraged by in the “Filial Correction” of Pope Francis just made public, originating from 62 clerics and lay signatories, with more cosignatories each day. The 25-page document makes for clear reading, insightful in addressing some of the more egregious errors being propagated during the current papacy. I was particularly struck by the section denouncing the errors of Martin Luther, some of which have been endorsed (if not espoused) by Francis during his reign – a scandal that will undoubtedly deepen during this month’s “commemorations” (are we celebrating this?) of Luther’s rebellion.

Understandably, the document spends a great deal of time on Amoris Laetitia, and thus on issues connected to marriage and family life. The document also comes close to making an observation I have yet to find noted elsewhere but that I hope to make explicit here.

Upon my first reading of Amoris, I was struck by how oddly familiar some of Pope Francis’s phrasing sounded, as if I had read it before, years ago. It was only after a more careful rereading (particularly the statements on “graduality,” “values,” etc.) that I recognized: here, in fact, was the framework for a pastoral praxis that was the natural fruit of Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

It seems clear to me now that Francis (and many bishops following suit) are simply applying in the “pastoral concrete” what Vatican II once described in the abstract: this time moving from the sacramentum hoc magnum of Christ’s love for the Church to its image and reflection in Christian marriage.

Writ small, my observation is essentially this: if the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church exists only as a set of divisible elements or amassable quantities – a “sacred sum of pious parts” – then why should not the Sacrament of Marriage be regarded similarly?

First, a little background.
“Subsistit In” = Partial Church?

It is widely maintained that one of the greatest theological disasters following the Second Vatican Council occurred in the realm of ecclesiology: the theology of the Church. For centuries, the Church’s self-understanding had been clear and evident in her liturgy, the work and writings of her saints, and all her magisterial pronouncements: Christ had set up one Church on Earth, founding it upon Saint Peter as a visible society enlivened by His spirit and governed by his authority enduring in the successors of Peter (the pope) and the apostles (the bishops), and this Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, necessary for the salvation of all people and comprising members on Earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven.

It’s worth noting from the outset that it is truly a matter of eternal life (and death) to get this question right: what is the Church? This because it is necessary to enter this Church in order to be saved; one cannot live the life of Christ without belonging to His Body. This singular conviction, constantly energizing apostles and martyrs, continued to find ever fresh echoes in the shepherds of the Church throughout the centuries. It was heard again on the eve of the First Vatican Council, when Blessed Pius IX extended the invitation to Protestants and Orthodox:

Wherefore, let all those who do not hold to the unity and truth of the Catholic Church avail themselves of the opportunity of this Council, whereby the Catholic Church, of which their forefathers were members, displays a fresh proof of her perfect unity and her unconquerable vitality; and let them, in obedience to the longings of their own hearts, be in haste to rescue themselves from a state in which they cannot be assured of their own salvation. And let them not cease to offer most fervent prayers to the God of Mercy, that he may break down the wall of separation, that he may scatter the mists of error, and that he may lead them back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church, where their fathers found the wholesome pastures of life, and in which alone the doctrine of Jesus Christ is preserved and handed down entire, and the mysteries of heavenly grace dispensed. (Pope Bl. Pius IX, Iam Vos Omnes [1868])

Note how the heartfelt invitation of the pope begins from the constant teaching that those who do not hold to the unity and truth of the Catholic Church are behind a wall of separation, which must be overcome by man’s free cooperation with grace in order to attain salvation. Since entrance into this Church is a matter of eternal life and death for all people, a correct understanding of the Church is essential. One must know where the wall is.

This understanding endured, clear and consistent in the teaching of tradition, up to the eve of the Second Vatican Council. Papal statements just decades before that Council evidence this constant teaching, at pains to exclude any notion of a divisible or strictly spiritual, invisible, interior Church:

The true Church of Jesus Christ was established by divine authority, and is known by a fourfold mark, which we assert in the Creed must be believed; and each one of these marks so clings to the others that it cannot be separated from them; hence it happens that that Church which truly is, and is called Catholic should at the same time shine with the prerogatives of unity, sanctity, and apostolic succession. Therefore, the Catholic Church alone is conspicuous and perfect in the unity of the whole world and of all nations, particularly in that unity whose beginning, root, and unfailing origin are that supreme authority and “higher principality’’ of blessed PETER, the prince of the Apostles, and of his successors in the Roman Chair. No other Church is Catholic except the one which, founded on the one PETER, grows into one “body compacted and fitly joined together” in the unity of faith and charity. (Pope Bl. Pius IX, Letter to the Bishops of England, DZ n. 1686)

If we consider the chief end of His Church and the proximate efficient causes of salvation, it is undoubtedly spiritual; but in regard to those who constitute it, and to the things which lead to these spiritual gifts, it is external and necessarily visible[.] … For this reason the Church is so often called in Holy Writ a body, and even the body of Christ – “Now you are the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27) – and precisely because it is a body is the Church visible[.] … From this it follows that those who arbitrarily conjure up and picture to themselves a hidden and invisible Church are in grievous and pernicious error[.] … Jesus Christ did not, in point of fact, institute a Church to embrace several communities similar in nature, but in themselves distinct, and lacking those bonds which render the Church unique and indivisible[.] … For this reason Christ, speaking of the mystical edifice, mentions only one Church, which he calls His own – “I will build my church”; any other Church except this one, since it has not been founded by Christ, cannot be the true Church... The Church of Christ, therefore, is one and the same for ever; those who leave it depart from the will and command of Christ, the Lord – leaving the path of salvation they enter on that of perdition. (Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum n. 3-5)

If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ – which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church – we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression “the Mystical Body of Christ” – an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. That the Church is a body is frequently asserted in the Sacred Scriptures. “Christ,” says the Apostle, “is the Head of the Body of the Church.” If the Church is a body, it must be an unbroken unity, according to those words of Paul: “Though many we are one body in Christ.” But it is not enough that the Body of the Church should be an unbroken unity; it must also be something definite and perceptible to the senses[.] … Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a merely spiritual entity as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by an invisible bond. (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis n. 13-14)

Some say they are not bound by the doctrine, explained in Our Encyclical Letter of a few years ago, and based on the Sources of Revelation, which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing. Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation. Others finally belittle the reasonable character of the credibility of Christian faith. These and like errors, it is clear, have crept in among certain of Our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science. To them We are compelled with grief to repeat once again truths already well known, and to point out with solicitude clear errors and dangers of error. (Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis n. 27-28)

Sadly, those “dangers of error” warned against by Pope Pius XII just twelve years before Vatican II grew exponentially after the penning of what may be the single most contentious sentence in all the approved texts of that Council. It is found in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, in paragraph 8, wherein a definition of the Church is offered, which reads in part:

[T]he one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth.” This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.

Now, vats of ink have been spilt both in attack on and defense of this phrasing, which, it must be noted, was employed without magisterial precedent. To say the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church – rather than saying it is identical to the Catholic Church – was a novel framing of the teaching, and one without any traditional pedigree.

Thus, regardless as to whether or not the phrasing was well chosen, it can be readily understood why “clarifications” began issuing from the Vatican in ensuing years on this very point. Many were interpreting Lumen Gentium as a kind of “broadening” of the nature of the Church until a kind of “redefinition by expansion” had taken place, leading to an essentially Protestant concept: the “Church of Christ” had become an abstracted, amorphous, primarily invisible, interior, and spiritual entity that could be more or less present in any number of Christian communities and denominations (perhaps even in other religions), depending on which or how many “elements of sanctification and truth” they might possess.

The “Church of Christ” had suddenly become a quantitative assembly of parts, which admittedly could be fully present only in the Catholic Church but could nonetheless be “partially present” elsewhere. Such a “Church of Christ” could therefore have a considerably broader expanse than that of the Catholic Church – a proposition eminently contrary to that found in Sacred Tradition, and one still awaiting a clear condemnation from the Vatican. Instead, a number of statements immediately following Lumen Gentium gave rise to further confusion.


For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church – whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church – do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion[.] … [But] the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church. (Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio n. 3)

Indeed, the elements of sanctification and truth present in the other Christian Communities, in a degree which varies from one to the other, constitute the objective basis of the communion, albeit imperfect, which exists between them and the Catholic Church. To the extent that these elements are found in other Christian Communities, the one Church of Christ is effectively present in them. (John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint n. 11)

The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honoured by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter. Among the non-Catholic Churches and Christian communities, there are indeed to be found many elements of the Church of Christ, which allow us, amid joy and hope, to acknowledge the existence of a certain communion, albeit imperfect. (CDF, Letter to the Bishops [May 28, 1992] n. 17)

One surmises that “partial church,” “semi-church,” “becoming church,” and “not yet realized church” sounded rather unseemly, so those terms never quite caught on in the postconciliar rush to explain exactly how heretics, schismatics, and idolaters could be incorporated into the new and ever expanding theological concept of the Church

But fullness…now, there’s a word for you.

“Fullness” quickly became the password for what is now the larger part of modern ecclesiology: the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth, the fullness of communion with Christ, the fullness of the means of salvation…but elsewhere there may be found all manner of “participations in,” “sharings in,” or “emerging realizations of” that one “fullness”…perhaps even in other religions.

Thus, we find that a great deal of contemporary ecclesiology has become, in a word, squishy. However, this article is not principally concerned with that issue, but rather what it portends for the future of “pastoral praxis” regarding marriage, for the two are innately linked.

Why Not Partial Marriage?

In speaking about marriage to the Ephesians, Saint Paul teaches on this sacramental union of wedded love in words denoting a “great mystery” or “great sacrament” (sacramentum hoc magnum), inasmuch as it signifies (and, through grace, participates in) the spousal union of Christ with his Holy Church. She is the true Bride.

But if the Bride of Christ is not fundamentally one, or if her union with Christ is not a chaste and monogamous unicity, then why should we not regard our sacramental marriages similarly, and begin affirming any host of “irregular situations”? For are there not, after all, many positive values to be found outside the “fully realized ideal” of Christian marriage – say, in other conjugal relationships of various shapes and sizes?

Pope Francis says yes.

Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society. Some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way. The Synod Fathers stated that the Church does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage. (Amoris Laetitia n. 292)

The theological conclusion here is staggering but obvious: if one does in fact allow for “partial and analogous realizations” of marriage (in concept only, since in reality such a concept is a non-thing; it cannot exist), then one must destroy the very concept of marriage as a singular and exclusive institution, a society with its own inherent nature and laws created by God, the violation of which is an intrinsically evil act.

Now reread that previous sentence – the same exact thing can be said with regard to the Church. (Seriously, just replace “marriage” with “the Church” in that sentence.) And yet this very error is a central tenet of modern ecclesiology, and the very marrow of the “ecumenical movement” for the last half-century and more. Such an error begins in the “affirmation of constructive elements” in those situations “not fully the Church” and eventually terminates in dispensing with the necessity of the Church altogether.

So why should marriage be at all different?

No Partial Marriage because No Partial Church

A simple theological remedy must be applied here, per the perennial teaching of the Church throughout the ages: there is no partial marriage because there is no partial Church.

This connection will likely prove an important reference this month, as Bishops around the globe gear up for various “commemorations” of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s rebellion against Holy Mother Church, the beginning of one of the greatest tragedies in our history. We should be in sackcloth and fasting, but we’ll doubtless be invited to rejoice in newfound understandings and our “shared heritage” with the heresiarch Luther, our “common tenets of Christian faith” held with his disciples, and certainly a great deal of talk about “partial communion,” whatever that might mean. Never mind the words of Pope St. Leo the Great:

Wherefore, since outside the Catholic Church there is nothing undefiled, the Apostle declaring that “all that is not of faith is sin,” we are in no way likened with those who are divided from the unity of the Body of Christ; we are joined in no communion. (Sermo 129)

…or Pope Benedict XV…

Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved. (Ad Beatissimi, n. 24)

…or the dogmatic pronouncements of the Council of Florence…

The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives; that the unity of this ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the Church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (DZ n. 714)

…or any authoritative voice in the Catholic tradition prior the 1960s.

Per the pressing pastoral question of how to fruitfully engage “them that are without” (1 Cor 5:12) – that is, outside the Church – with love and solicitude, we may do well to recall that we really do have a divine treasure to share: the very House of God and “sacrament of salvation,” as the Fathers referred to her. We ought to desire earnestly (as He does) that all men enter here, the Ark of salvation. We dare not keep such divine treasures to ourselves in a world grown hungry and desperate, or worse, full and complacent. Passing in silence over the necessity of membership in the Church does a grave disservice to the work of true evangelization, and to deny it is to deny Christ our Head, Who will not be separated from His Body.

We might consider instead the type of loving and earnest invitations made by our venerable predecessors in the Faith, convinced as they were of their mission and their gifts, conferred by Christ and maintained inviolate in the Church over centuries. Perhaps the words of Pope Pius XII, penned as an invitation to Protestants everywhere as recently as 1950, offer us an example of genuine truth in charity – one better than the balderdash we will likely be subjected to in coming days.

A little inoculation, then, by way of closing:

We have committed to the protection and guidance of heaven those who do not belong to the visible Body of the Catholic Church … and from a heart overflowing with love We ask each and every one of them to correspond to the interior movements of grace, and to seek to withdraw from that state in which they cannot be sure of their salvation. For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church. Therefore may they enter into Catholic unity and, joined with Us in the one, organic Body of Jesus Christ, may they together with us run on to the one Head in the Society of glorious love. Persevering in prayer to the Spirit of love and truth, We wait for them with open and outstretched arms to come not to a stranger’s house, but to their own, their father’s home. (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis n. 103)

33 thoughts on “Amoris Laetitia and Lumen Gentium: ‘Partial’ Marriage, ‘Partial’ Church”

  1. Or, approaching the question from a different direction: if I can get a divorce and a new wife, so can Jesus.

    Excellent and important article.

  2. Very good analysis. You have put into words what I have been saying less eloquently since the first Synod was announced after the Kasper consistory. I believe it was Bruno Forte who at the time expanded on the “Kasper proposal” and attempted to justify it by referring to the “advances in ecumenical theology” and the notion that just as there were “churches” in “imperfect communion” with the Catholic Church, so the same methodology should be applied to relationships which “fell short of the ideal of marriage.”

    In both cases the common defect is the introduction of a false “ideal”. In the case of the Church, the Catholic Church is the “ideal”, but there are also other “churches” which approximate to it by quantifiable degrees or grades. In the case of Marriage, Sacramental Marriage becomes the “ideal”, but there are aslo other relationships and states of life which approximate to it by quantifiable degrees or grades. Thus the sacramental and canonical REALITY of the Church and the sacramental and canonical REALITY of Marriage are sacrificed on the altar of “gradualism” and are henceforth presented as mere ideals towards which man may or may not strive as he/she chooses to or not.

    This is all carefully planned and prepared for in the structure of AL by the introduction of Marriage as an “ideal” as early as chapter 3. The damage is already done, repeatedly so, long before you reach chapter 8 where the knife is then inserted and twisted to destroy the Church’s doctrine on Marriage. As with all the endeavours of the Modernists, it is carefully crafted and planned so that most people miss it and they are hoodwinked into believing in good faith that nothing has been changed. There is no formal change in doctrine, there is no formal change in discipline, there is only a much-touted “pastoral conversion” which gives the impression of being nothing more than a more merciful application of the Church’s traditional doctrine and discipline. But just as at Vatican II, the Modernist timebombs have been laid in full view, ready to blow up in the faces of the faithful as soon as they deem that the time is right.

    This is probably the most dangerous and potentially damaging document which the Church has ever had to face – not least because most of the hierarchy, even those who have read it, can’t even see the problem.

  3. There is no “partial” or “imperfect” salvation. The cohort of final destinations is binary. At the Final Judgement there will be a definitive separation into sheep and goats……one on the right side, one on the left.

    Either we rejoice in the beatific vision in heaven or we burn in hell for all eternity.

    • Have you noticed how short the previous Popes’ encyclicals were in comparison with the endless ramblings of JP2 and Francis? They were typically well under 20 pages and yet managed to be clear and intelligently written.

      A major problem with modern papal writings is that hardly any sane person has the endurance to read them and thus feels unable to criticise them. Which, in the case of Francis, is plainly an objective of 200 pages of waffle with heresies buried at intervals.

  4. The SUBSISTS IN is a very difficult philosophical concept that trips up most people, including that author of this piece. It is actually the traditional position in a very squishy section in Vatican II. People need to see it as the position of the conservatives in a sea of modernism.

    I don’t have a good handle on SUBSISTS IN but I can see three flaws.

    1. LG is very specifically defining ‘Catholic Church’ to only mean the Institutional Church Militant of the present. Because it is not taking into account the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant, in no way shape or form can one say that the Church of Christ is [bounded by / synonymous with] the Catholic Church.

    2. While SUBSISTS IN is relatively novel, the concept is not. You will find the concept in documents discussing the relationship of the Eastern Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and even how the Catholic Church relates to the Particular Churches that comprise herself. Protestants are not churches, never have been called churches, and are not in LG referred to as Church. I get the feeling that the author thinks that LG thinks Protestants have Churches. That is now what LG says.

    3. LG clearly does not speak about “Partial Churches” at all. This is especially true when read in tandem with Unitatis redintegratio and Orientalium ecclesiarum. According to VII, the Orthdox have 100% Churches and Protestants have 0% Churches. The founding principle of all of this in LG is the individual´s baptism. It is a matter of Faith that baptism 100% makes an individual a member of the Catholic Church. That then is the starting for discussing how individuals and groups of individuals relate to the Catholic Church. What is being discussed is degrees of relating aka communion, not degrees of Church.

    So while AL is garbage, the author of this piece is not warranted in making the connections that they are making.

    • “Subsists in” is, as you say, a difficult but correct concept. LG was trying to say that i) the (One True) Church exists in the Catholic Church and nowhere else;
      and ii) if there are elements of sanctification (e.g Baptism, which we must agree is valid outside the Church) in the sects then these must belong to the True Church, else there are two baptisms which there sure as heck aren’t.

      LG, as you correctly point out, was not trying to say the non-Catholic Churches were part of the True Church, still less in regard to Protestant sects. Rather the “subsists in” was meant to emphasise the uniqueness of the Catholic Church, not to deemphasize it!! Note even Pope JPII said the One Church was “present in ” the sects insofar their baptism etc was vaild but the True Church does not subsist anywhere else!

      Getting back to the article, where the author goes wrong above, ISTM, is to base the argument on linguistics Just because there are verbal similarities between LG ant AL does not mean there is an ontological connection between the relation “non-Catholic Church True Church” and “adulterous union marriage”
      Unlike the real relation of a non-catholic Church via valid baptism etc to the True Church, the adulterous relation between a remarried man and his new woman has no relation, none whatsoever, with a true marriage. The wicked relation is a block to sanctifying grace, and shares none of the grace, none of the elements of sanctification present in marriage. (Note this is an error the GermChurch heretics like +Marx are fond of repeating, that pervert and adulterous unions have “value” and hence should be recognised).

      • Shouldn’t truth be clear and concise and understandable? Was Jesus difficult to understand? Not at all. Jesus was perfectly understood which is why the religious leaders of his day sought to kill him. And yet we have multiple Church documents reeking with ambiguity — it could be read this way (orthodox) or that way (heterodox). Go ahead, you decide. And if the clergy choose the “unorthodox view” and later get called out on it, we hear protests of “you just don’t understand” or “that isn’t what I meant” or “it’s a bad translation.” Ambiguity is the basis for plausible deniability. None of it represents Christ’s directness and clarity.

      • Let’s be clear. The Sacrament of Baptism does only 2 things. 1. Removes original sin. Claims you as a member of THE Church.

        It is up to each of us upon the age of reason to elect to remain in it. We must persevere in faith and action. Baptism alone will not reserve forever your seat in heaven.

        • Yes and a baptized Protestant under the age of reason is counted as a full member of the Church until the age of reason.
          But baptism does more than that. It imparts sanctifyibg grace, hope and charity to the soul. In the case of an adult baptized Protestant it won’t, because the Protestant does not hold divine and Catholic faith.

          • Could you -or anyone else – point me to a document which explains non-Catholic baptism and when it is and isn’t valid, please? Many thanks.

    • Yes, yes, yes to this comment! SO important to make these distinctions, especially when you delve into the relationship between the Particular Churches, (especially the Pentarchy) through the first 4 centuries of Christianity. Thank you Lurker 59!

    • I would like to agree with you but there is just one issue that’s tripping me up… in the book “Theological Highlights of Vatican II” by Cardinal Ratzinger, he specifically states that some Protestant sects should now be called Churches (Lutherans, Episcopalians and the like) specifically because of “subsists in.” Now, I understand that this book has no magisterial authority, but it was written by the Prefect of the CDF, a man who later became pope, and who was an important influence among the progressives at Vatican II. That means that his interpretation should not be taken lightly. It would be similar to arguing that AL can be read in perfect continuity with tradition despite what Pope Francis himself said (“There is no the other interpretation.”) Not identical, but it illustrates the point. It CAN be read in continuity, but it’s not being read that way… which I think is the point.

      • But then, didn’t he also say (later, I believe) that they should not be called “churches” but rather something like (correct me if I am wrong) “ecclesiastic communities”? Something like that…..someone else perhaps can clear this up. What a mess… council caused all this. Is this what John 23rd wanted when he opened the windows?

  5. The implications are wider than those applied to marriage and the church. The partial/fullness breakdown implies that any good in anything can be considered “on the way to fullness”. The problem is that, since evil simply is the privation of good and anything insofar as it has being at all is good, everything falls into this category. Hence, according to the Vatican II logic, any evil whatsoever can be regarded as, while not meeting the fullness of goodness, possessing a part of it and perhaps some “element of sanctification.” Metaphysically, it is either a meaningless analysis with no implications for morals or it covers (and in some sense excuses?) literally everything. E.g., rape may not be the fullness of conjugal union, but it expresses a part of the real desire for marital unity….. We already see this language applied to the divorced and remarried, but by the same logic it applies to any evil act you can think of.

    This is a major problem of Lumen Gentium that has to be rectified by a serious theological determination on the part of the church.

  6. Terrific article. Reaffirms our belief in what has always been taught, everywhere, to everyone. The Catholic Church is Jesus’ Church – there can be no change, no dilution, no substitution, nothing partial – it is One, it is Perfect – it’s is Christ’s Church – He founded it for everyone. Anything else is just empty charity, and false hope. Thanks very much for this clarity and truth.

    There IS truth. We cannot admit falsehood no matter how much we love our brothers and sisters outside the Faith. If we always base our beliefs on Truth we can’t go wrong.

    • Which reminds me on this: The Truth is always and only can be when it is for 100% the Truth.
      90% truth and 10% lie – can never be a Truth!
      Or any other percent of such a ‘mix’.
      The Truth is always and only can be when it is for 100% the Truth.

    • I can personally testify to this. And I have seen the good fruit, in my own family, from loving in the Truth.
      Not easy, I assure you and there are great risks involved, but love of the other, requires the love of Christ first.

  7. Thank you for exploring the subterranean link between Lumen Gentium and Amoris Laetitia.

    As a matter of historical fact, it does seem that Fr. Sebastian Tromp, who authored LG 8, intended a metaphysical precision by “subsistit in.” A subsistent entity is one that is altogether complete and independent. A man, for example, is a subsistent being, whereas the accidents of his body or soul — e.g., color, temperature, virtues, grace, relationship of paternity — are all non-subsistent: they exist in him and depend on him. Fr. Tromp and others were trying to say that if you find something good or true outside the Catholic Church, it does exist, but only in and through the Catholic Church, which exists in and of itself (i.e., subsists). This is the explanation given by Ratzinger and by the CDF.

    However, even if we assume the above aetiology, the historical fact is that LG 8 was quickly and universally interpreted as a move away from the simple identification (“est”) of the Mystical Body with the Catholic Church, and therefore fueled the flames of false ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and all sorts of other aberrations. And so ecclesiology became notable for its fuzziness or, as you like to say, squishiness. And this does create an atmosphere in which the even more outrageous squishiness of Amoris Laetitia can prosper.

    I can’t help wondering about where the Novus Ordo fits in with all of this. After all, the old Roman Mass, which developed slowly but remained in essential continuity with itself for millennia, represented the unity, unicity, stability, identity, and immutability of the Roman Catholic Church. The vote at Vatican II to do a major overhaul of the rite, and, a fortiori, the virtual dismemberment and creative reconstruction of Mass (and other sacraments) in subsequent years, seems like the most dramatic possible repudiation of traditional ecclesiology. In this regard, I do agree with Maximum Beans, who keeps saying that the EF and the OF are based on contradictory ecclesiologies.

  8. First, I completely agree with the background sentiment expressed in the article. Pope Francis et al attempting to identify salvific elements in “remarriages” and prolonged cohabitation situations is complete nonsense, directly contradicting the entire teaching Tradition of the Church.

    However, it is a massive stretch to say that such attempts are interwoven with the ecclesiology expressed in Lumen Gentium. Just as a thought experiment consider these two characters:

    1. A 21 year old committed Roman Catholic who loves Christ, frequents the Sacraments, gives full assent to everything the Church has always taught but who just 5 hours ago fell into mortal sin by having a few too many beers when out with friends one Friday evening. This person is currently passed out and unable to consider if they are contrite and willing to repent and seek the Sacrament of Penance. Chances are as soon as this person wakes up he will feel contrite and haul off to Confession ASAP

    2. The 2 month old daughter of a committed Lutheran couple who just 15 minutes ago was validly baptized by a Lutheran minister at their place of worship with the Trinitarian formula and with proper usage of water.

    Who is actually in true communion with Christ and His Church at that moment? The drunk, passed out committed Catholic or the innocent, baptized baby of Lutheran parents? Who goes to heaven for eternity if both die in those exact moments? The Catholic? The Lutheran baby? Both? Neither?

    I submit that the baby of Lutheran parents is in true communion with Christ and His Church. That baby is a real, 100% Catholic and will remain so for at least a few years up until the point that he or she is able to personally sin and/or fully reject communion with Christ and His Church.

    • By the church’s teaching you don’t just “fall into” mortal sin. You choose to reject the goodness of God and indulge in whatever thing it is. The baby, by virtue of baptism would go to heaven, Lutheran parents notwithstanding. The man who “fell into” mortal sin would not. That’s pretty clear isn’t it?

      • Yes, absolutely clear. My point, perhaps not clearly stated in my first comment, is that the life of grace is brought to this child in a visible manner through the Lutheran ecclesial community. That child is brought into actual communion with Christ and His True Church (the Catholic Church) through the action of a Lutheran minister working with Lutheran parents. Such an example is precisely the reason why Lumen Gentium is obliged to say that Christ has not ceased using these separated communities as a means of salvation. It doesn’t mean that the Church is fragmented but rather that it is wholly present in some, fleeting instances in these separated communities. Valid baptisms of infants is perhaps the most obvious example.

        In my mind, “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” and “unam sanctam catholicam apostolicam” and Lumen Gentium can all fit together quite nicely.

        • They can… but that isn’t what Lumen Gentium says on a plain reading… and that’s a problem. No other proclamations of an ecumenical council require so much maneuvering to understand what they are saying as Vatican II.

    • Er…I thought that in order to commit a mortal sin one needed to know it was a mortal sin and give one’s full consent to it? What exactly are you talking about – did he kill someone whilst not in control of himself? Was it his intention to commit a mortal sin whilst drunk?


    «[…] Father Sebastian Tromp was the same famous Jesuit priest and theologian who suggested that the Second Vatican Council use “subsistit in” instead of another Latin verb, either “est” or “adest in” within one of the sentences defining the Church […]
    «In the 14 December 2005 English Weekly Edition of The Vatican newspaper, “L’Osservatore Romano”, at page 12, yet another Jesuit, the Reverend Father Karl Josef Becker, (now Cardinal), explained the emphatic rationale for “subsistit in” given by Father Sebastian Tromp during “the plenary meeting of the Theological Commission on 26 November” 1963. Father Becker then stated, referring to the explanation given by Sebastian Tromp: “In his opinion, therefore, the term ‘subsistit in’ expresses a property that is exclusive to the Catholic Church.”
    «Father Maximilian Heinrich Heim, O.Cist., in his comprehensive written work on “Lumen Gentium”, entitled “Joseph Ratzinger, Life in the Church and Living Theology”, describes this meeting of the Theological Commission and what occurred regarding this textual change:
    «”As Alexandra von Teuffenbach points out, it was Sebastian Tromp who resolved the dispute about the original verb ‘est’ [is] and the later expression ‘adest in’ [is present in] by introducing the definitive term ‘subsistit in’ during the decisive discussion of the Theological Commission about ‘Lumen gentium’ [n.] 8, on November 26, 1963. At that session, over which Cardinal Ottaviani presided, Gérard Philips was the discussion leader. As Teuffenbach demonstrates in her dissertation, there were no debates about the expression subsistit in, since ‘the whole *process* of including this word, which was so controversial later on, probably lasted less than a minute!’ […]”»


    • According to this, the French translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #816, reads thus:

      “L’unique Eglise du Christ, (…) est celle que notre Sauver, après sa Résurrection, remit à Pierre pour qu’il en soit le pasteur, qu’Il lui confia, à lui et aux autres apôtres, pour la répandre et la diriger (…). Cette Eglise comme société constituée et organisée dans le monde EST REALISEE DANS (‘subsistit in’) l’Eglise catholique gouvernée par le successeur de Pierre et les évêques qui sont en communion avec lui”.

  10. This is an excellent article. There is another article that describes a direct line between Amoris Laetitia and the novelties of Vatican II.

    In Amoris Laetitia, Francis’ model of conscience empowers Catholics by Michael Lawler and Todd Salzman published 9-7-2016 in the National Catholic Reported, explains and defends Pope Francis’ new subjectivist based moral system. The bottom line is that the authors offer as proof in support of Pope Francis that following statement:

    “….The essential point for conscience as object-orientation is the relevance of the objective norm from the perspective of the inquiring subject in light of the understanding of all the circumstances in a particular historical cultural context. The implications of this perspective on the relationship between conscience as object-orientation and objective norms is that conscience should be guided by those norms but the authority of conscience is not identified with whether or not it obeys the objective norm. Otherwise, Dignitatis Humanae could not advocate for religious freedom, where “every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true [objective] judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means.”

    If mere obedience to objective norms was the sole role of conscience, then conscience that leads people to follow religious traditions other than the Roman Catholic church could never be tolerated. That religious pluralism is recognized and affirmed in Dignitatis Humanae shifts authority from the objective norm to conscience as object-orientation, informed by objective norms, where the hermeneutical lens of the conscience as subject-orientation facilitates the process of understanding, judgment and decision of conscience.”…..

    Religious Liberty is the novel doctrine that the dignity of man is so great that he does not have to believe the truth that God has revealed or obey His commandments. It is a heresy and the evidence of its heresy is actually proved in this article by the overturning of all Catholic morality.

    Every schismatic and heretical cult has permitted divorce. It is because marriage is the metaphor that Jesus Christ uses to describe his relationship with His Church and with each of the faithful. Schismatics and heretics cannot abide the metaphor and always permit divorce. The Novus Ordo Church is following a predictable trajectory.

    Dogma is the proximate rule of faith and the only weapon that the faithful have against an abuse of authority. Vatican II, the “pastoral council,” has to be reexamined in light of the divine truth of Catholic dogma understood in its literal sense as the truth of divine revelation. This begins with the dogma that there is “no salvation outside the Catholic Church.” For A to “subsist in” B requires two distinct entities. What is manifest to all of the faithful is that it is a denial of identity. The identity of the Roman Catholic Church with the Mystical Body of Christ is taught by the “ordinary and universal” magisterium which is be definition infallible. Doctrine drives morality and those who deny Catholic dogmatic truth end up with the subjectivist morality of Pope Francis.

    One last point. In the last citation of Pope Pius XII from Mystici Corporis there is a corrupted translation that has been responsible for the misunderstanding what in fact was said. The sentence, “For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer…,” should be translated, not in the indicative mood, but in the subjunctive mood literally as, “they may be ordained towards thy Mystical Body of the Redeemer.” The correct translation has an entirely different meaning.



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