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John Frey concludes that 'this truth has not been unambiguously stated' that 'Christ has established one Church, and that Church is the Catholic Church' (November AD2000). He thinks that when Vatican II teaches that Christ's Church 'subsists in' the Catholic Church, this somehow is not equivalent to 'is' the Catholic Church. My Chambers dictionary gives the meaning of subsists as: 'to have existence; to remain, continue.'
Vatican II is clear: 'For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained' (Decree on Ecumenism, 3).
The Dogmatic Constitution On The Church (8) teaches that 'The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth His holy Church ... This is the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.'
Fr John Hardon SJ described this teaching as 'unequivocal' (= clearly defined), 'for the first time in conciliar history ... where this one Church of Christ can be found' (See The Catholic Catechism, 1975, Doubleday, p 213).
Further, the Declaration on Religious Liberty (1) teaches that 'this one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church'.
Thus Vatican II teaches that the Catholic Church is 'the one true religion'; 'is the sole Church of Christ'; 'it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone ... that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained.'
She acknowledges many truths in other ecclesial communities, but not seven sacraments, not a valid priesthood and no Eucharistic sacrifice therefore, and no Magisterium.
As John Frey admits, Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out that by using 'subsists in' the Council harmonised the fact that Christ's Church exists fully only in the Catholic Church while acknowledging that elements of sanctification and truth are found in the separated ecclesial communities.
For John Frey 'the Church of Christ seems to transcend the Catholic Church'. This would mean that Christ's Church 'exceeds' or 'surpasses' the Catholic Church. This does not do justice to the texts of Vatican II, whether on his part, or that of Hans Küng.
PETER D. HOWARD
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 20 No 11 (December 2007 - January 2008), p. 14
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