Unitatis Redintegratio

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One faith, one Lord, one Baptism.

Complete text of "Unitatis Redintegratio." Vatican II, 1962-1965.

Excerpts plus commentary in italics.
§ 1 "The restoration of unity [Latin: "unitatis redintegratio"] among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature."

"There increases from day to day the movement, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all Christians. This movement toward unity is called 'ecumenical.'"

§ 2 "The Church, then, is God's only flock; it is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it: for it serves all mankind through the Gospel of peace as it makes its pilgrim way in hope toward the goal of the fatherland above."
§ 3 "All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church. Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ."

"The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation."

"It follows that 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."

All Christian bodies are derived from the Catholic Church by preservation of some parts of the Tradition (dogmas, Scripture, sacraments, liturgy); each of these forms of Christianity are united to the one true Church by what they have kept from the tradition. They are separated from the Church by what they deny in the Tradition (dogmas, canon of the Scriptures, liturgy) or what they add to it (new books of Scripture, new dogmas, new sacraments).

"Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life--that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is 'the all-embracing means of salvation,' that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college [i.e., the bishops of the Church acting together] alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. This people of God, though still in its members liable to sin, is ever growing in Christ during its pilgrimage on earth, and is guided by God's gentle wisdom, according to His hidden designs, until it shall happily arrive at the fullness of eternal glory in the heavenly Jerusalem."

The Catholic Church is infallible in teaching about faith and morals--this is its essential expertise. But "infallible in teaching" does not mean "incapable of sinning" nor "filled with virtue." The recent publicity about the sins of priests and the sins and/or stupidity of bishops shows that the Church is indeed "in its members liable to sin."
§ 4 "The term 'ecumenical movement' indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity."

"For although the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace, yet its members fail to live by them with all the fervor that they should, so that the radiance of the Church's image is less clear in the eyes of our separated brethren and of the world at large, and the growth of God's kingdom is delayed."

Another admission that Catholics sin and that our sins scandalize our neighbor.

"On the other hand, Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren."

Non-Catholic Christians are not wrong in every respect. We agree with them to the extent that they accept elements of the Deposit of Faith; we disagree with them to the extent that they reject elements of the Tradition.
§ 6 "Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as she sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, in so far as she is an institution of men here on earth. Thus if, in various times and circumstances, there have been deficiencies in moral conduct or in church discipline, or even in the way that church teaching has been formulated--to be carefully distinguished from the deposit of faith itself--these can and should be set right at the opportune moment."
§ 7 "All the faithful should remember that the more effort they make to live holier lives according to the Gospel, the better will they further Christian unity and put it into practice. For the closer their union with the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, the more deeply and easily will they be able to grow in mutual brotherly love."
§ 8 "Yet worship in common [communicatio in sacris] is not to be considered as a means to be used indiscriminately for the restoration of Christian unity."
Catholics are forbidden to take communion with non-Catholic Christians; non-Catholic Christians are forbidden to take communion with Catholics. Whatever it is that keeps others from converting to Catholicism keeps them from being in communion with us. They are ex-communicated by their own choice not to accept the Church's teaching and discipline. All who wish to take Communion may do so after they accept the creed, code, and cult of the Roman Catholic Church.
§ 13 "The first divisions occurred in the East, when the dogmatic formulae of the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon were challenged, and later when ecclesiastical communion between the Eastern Patriarchates and the Roman See was dissolved."
  • Ephesus = 431 AD.
  • Chalcedon = 451 AD.
  • Great Schism between East and West = 1054 AD.

"Other divisions arose more than four centuries later in the West, stemming from the events which are usually referred to as 'The Reformation' [1517 AD]. As a result, many Communions, national or confessional, were separated from the Roman See. Among those in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place."

Eastern Orthodox
  • The Roman Catholic Church accepts the validity of all seven sacraments in the Eastern Orthodox churches; their bishops, like those of Rome, are successors of the apostles.
  • The Eastern Orthodox accept the validity of the first seven councils of the Church; there have been fourteen other councils in Roman Catholicism. The Orthodox reject the teachings of those subsequent councils, especially that of Vatican I that the pope can exercise the infallibility of the whole Church in teaching matters of faith and morals.
  • The Eastern Orthodox have two extra books in the Old Testament from the time of the Maccabees.
  • The Eastern Orthodox deny the primacy of the pope (the doctrine that the pope has the final say in matters of Church discipline).
§ 15 "These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common [communicatio in sacris], given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not only possible but to be encouraged."
§ 19
Protestant Christians
The only certain thing that can be said about the tens of thousands of varieties of Christianity derived from the Western schisms is that they are not Catholic. The Protestants disagree not only with Catholics but also with each other. For each denomination of Protestantism--including the myriad of "non-denominational" churches!--an individual assessment would have to be made to determine the extent to which that particular body has kept elements of the Deposit of Faith.

"Since these Churches and ecclesial Communities, on account of their different origins, and different teachings in matters of doctrine on the spiritual life, vary considerably not only with us, but also among themselves, the task of describing them at all adequately is extremely difficult; and we have no intention of making such an attempt here." Me, neither!

§ 22 "Whenever the Sacrament of Baptism is duly administered as Our Lord instituted it, and is received with the right dispositions, a person is truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life, as the Apostle says: 'You were buried together with Him in Baptism, and in Him also rose again--through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.' Baptism therefore establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it."