Why Vatican II’s Definition of Church Makes Sense

Crisis Magazine | 2/7/2019 | Casey Chalk
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One of the most common criticisms of the Second Vatican Council is that it changed the teaching regarding the relationship between the idea of the Church of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. Much of the debate among interpreters (and detractors) of Vatican II has centered around the phrase subsistit in, found in the conciliar document Lumen Gentium (LG), which declares: “This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church.” The confluence of history, theology, and Latin often leads many passersby to consider the debate over this phrase to be obscure and thus unnecessary for everyday Catholics to understand. The One Church of Christ: Understanding Vatican II, by Stephen A. Hipp, proves why this thinking is misguided. A proper understanding of Vatican II’s teaching on the identity of the Catholic Church and its relationship to other churches and ecclesial bodies is essential for ecumenism.

The most crucial question that Dr. Hipp, a professor of dogmatic theology at both St. Paul Seminary and the University of St. Thomas, aims to answer is whether or not “the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council represents a rupture with that of the previous magisterium.” Hipp’s answer, in short, is “no.” In order to reach this conclusion, he works his way through the three Latin ideas considered for use in LG, to formulate the relationship between Christ’s Church and the Catholic Church: est (translated “is,” which appeared in the original schema of the LG), the approved subsistit in (“subsists in”), and adest (“is present in”). In a detailed study of the Church’s Tradition regarding the Catholic Church’s identity (beginning with St. Ignatius of Antioch), he establishes the longstanding use of est. Christ’s Church can be, and should be, identified with the Catholic Church via the word “is.” They are...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Crisis Magazine
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