NOTIFICATION ON THE BOOK 'TOWARD A CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY OF RELIGIOUS PLURALISM'
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
 

Preface

After a preliminary study of the book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis Book: Maryknoll, New York, 1997) by Father Jacques Dupuis, S.J., the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided to proceed to a comprehensive examination of the text by means of its ordinary procedure, in accordance with Chapter 3 of the Regulations for Doctrinal Examination.

It must be emphasized that this text is an introductory reflection on a Christian theology of religious pluralism. It is not simply a theology of religions, but a theology of religious pluralism, which seeks to investigate, in the light of Christian faith, the significance of the plurality of religious traditions in God's plan for humanity. Aware of the potential problems in this approach, the author does not conceal the possibility that his hypothesis may raise as many questions as it seeks to answer.

Following the doctrinal examination of the book and the outcome of the dialogue with the author, the Bishop and Cardinal Members of the Congregation, in the Ordinary Session of June 30, 1999, evaluated the analysis and the opinions of the Congregation's Consultors regarding the author's Responses. The Members of the Congregation recognized the author's attempt to remain within the limits of orthodoxy in his study of questions hitherto largely unexplored. At the same time, while noting the author's willingness to provide the necessary clarifications, as evident in his Responses, as well as his desire to remain faithful to the doctrine of the Church and the teaching of the Magisterium, they found that his book contained notable ambiguities and difficulties on important doctrinal points, which could lead a reader to erroneous or harmful opinions. These points concerned the interpretation of the sole and universal salvific mediation of Christ, the unicity and completeness of Christ's revelation, the universal salvific action of the Holy Spirit, the orientation of all people to the Church, and the value and significance of the salvific function of other religions.

At the conclusion of the ordinary procedure of examination, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided to draft a Notification,1 intended to safeguard the doctrine of the Catholic faith from errors, ambiguities or harmful interpretations. This Notification, approved by the Holy Father in the Audience of November 24, 2000, was presented to Father Jacques Dupuis and was accepted by him. By signing the text, the author committed himself to assent to the stated theses and, in his future theological activity and publications, to hold the doctrinal contents indicated in the Notification, the text of which must be included in any reprinting or further editions of his book, as well as in all translations.

The present Notification is not meant as a judgment on the author's subjective thought, but rather as a statement of the Church's teaching on certain aspects of the above-mentioned doctrinal truths, and as a refutation of erroneous or harmful opinions, which, prescinding from the author's intentions, could be derived from reading the ambiguous statements and insufficient explanations found in certain sections of the text. In this way, Catholic readers will be given solid criteria for judgment, consistent with the doctrine of the Church, in order to avoid the serious confusion and misunderstanding which could result from reading this book.

I. On the sole and universal salvific mediation of Jesus Christ

1. It must be firmly believed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, crucified and risen, is the sole and universal mediator of salvation for all humanity.2

2. It must also be firmly believed that Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary and only Saviour of the world, is the Son and Word of the Father.3 For the unity of the divine plan of salvation centred in Jesus Christ, it must also be held that the salvific action of the Word is accomplished in and through Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of the Father, as mediator of salvation for all humanity.4 It is therefore contrary to the Catholic faith not only to posit a separation between the Word and Jesus, or between the Word's salvific activity and that of Jesus, but also to maintain that there is a salvific activity of the Word as such in his divinity, independent of the humanity of the Incarnate Word.5

II. On the unicity and completeness of revelation of Jesus Christ

3. It must be firmly believed that Jesus Christ is the mediator, the fulfilment and the completeness of revelation.6 It is therefore contrary to the Catholic faith to maintain that revelation in Jesus Christ (or the revelation of Jesus Christ) is limited, incomplete or imperfect. Moreover, although full knowledge of divine revelation will be had only on the day of the Lord's coming in glory, the historical revelation of Jesus Christ offers everything necessary for man's salvation and has no need of completion by other religions.7

4. It is consistent with Catholic doctrine to hold that the seeds of truth and goodness that exist in other religions are a certain participation in truths contained in the revelation of or in Jesus Christ.8 However, it is erroneous to hold that such elements of truth and goodness, or some of them, do not derive ultimately from the source-mediation of Jesus Christ.9

III. On the universal salvific action of the Holy Spirit

5. The Church's faith teaches that the Holy Spirit, working after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is always the Spirit of Christ sent by the Father, who works in a salvific way in Christians as well as non-Christians.10 It is therefore contrary to the Catholic faith to hold that the salvific action of the Holy Spirit extends beyond the one universal salvific economy of the Incarnate Word.11

IV. On the orientation of all human beings to the Church

6. It must be firmly believed that the Church is sign and instrument of salvation for all people.12 It is contrary to the Catholic faith to consider the different religions of the world as ways of salvation complementary to the Church.13

7. According to Catholic doctrine, the followers of other religions are oriented to the Church and are all called to become part of her.14

V. On the value and salvific function of the religious traditions

8. In accordance with Catholic doctrine, it must be held that "whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 16)".15 It is therefore legitimate to maintain that the Holy Spirit accomplishes salvation in non-Christians also through those elements of truth and goodness present in the various religions; however, to hold that these religions, considered as such, are ways of salvation, has no foundation in Catholic theology, also because they contain omissions, insufficiencies and errors16 regarding fundamental truths about God, man and the world.

Furthermore, the fact that the elements of truth and goodness present in the various world religions may prepare peoples and cultures to receive the salvific event of Jesus Christ does not imply that the sacred texts of these religions can be considered as complementary to the Old Testament, which is the immediate preparation for the Christ event.17

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience of 19 January 2001, in the light of the further developments, confirmed the present Notification, which had been adopted in Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 24 January 2001, the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect

Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
Secretary


Notes

1 Because of tendencies in some circles which have become increasingly evident in the thinking of the Christian faithful, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the Declaration "Dominus Iesus" on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church (AAS 92 [2000], 742-765) in order to protect essential truths of the Catholic faith. The Notification draws from the principles expressed in Dominus Iesus in its evaluation of Fr Dupuis' book.

2 Cf. Council of Trent, Decree De peccato originali, DS 1513; Decree De iustificatione, DS 1522, 1523, 1529, 1530; Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 10; Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, nn. 8, 14, 28, 49, 60; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 5: AAS 83 (1991), 249-340; Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, n. 14: AAS 92 (2000), 449-528; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, nn. 13-15.

3 Cf. First Council of Nicaea, DS 125; Council of Chalcedon, DS 301.

4 Cf. Council of Trent, Decree..De iustificatione, DS 1529, 1530; Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 5; Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 22.

5 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 6; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, n. 10.

6 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, nn. 2, 4; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, nn. 14-15, 92: AAS 91 (1999), 588; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, n. 5.

7 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, n. 6; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 65-66.

8 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, n. 17; Decree Ad gentes, n. 11; Declaration Nostra aetate, n. 2.

9 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, n. 16; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 10.

10 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 22; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, nn. 28-29.

11 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 5; Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, nn. 15-16; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, n. 12.

12 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, nn. 9, 14, 17, 48; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 11; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, n. 16.

13 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 36; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, nn. 21-22.

14 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, nn. 13, 16; Decree Ad gentes, n. 7; Declaration Dignitatis humanae, n. 1; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 10; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, nn. 20-22; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 845.

15 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 29.

16 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, n. 16; Declaration Nostra aetate, n. 2; Decree Ad gentes, n. 9; Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 53: AAS 68 (1976), 5.76; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, n. 55; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, n. 8.

17 Cf. Council of Trent, Decree De libris sacris et de traditionibus recipiendis, DS 1501; First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, n. 2, DS 3006; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, n. 8.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
14 March 2001, page 6

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