The president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, said this week the new statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Questions on certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church,” “says nothing new, but rather expounds and explains in a synthetic way, the position which the Catholic Church has held up to now.”
In response to negative reactions by some Protestant leaders, Cardinal Kasper said the document is “an urgent invitation to continue in serene dialogue” and that “no new situation exists and therefore there is no objective reason to be resentful or to feel mistreated. All dialogue presupposes clarity about the different positions,” he said.
He noted that many Protestant leaders have recently called for ecumenical dialogue with clearly defined positions. “The present statement expounds and proclaims the Catholic position, that is, the issues that from a Catholic perspective unfortunately still divide us. This is not a limitation but rather it favors dialogue,” the cardinal said.
“A close reading of the texts clearly shows that the document does not say that Protestant churches are not churches, but rather that they are not churches in the proper sense, that is, they are not churches in the sense in which the Catholic Church understands the term church. This is totally obvious to anyone with a certain amount of ecumenical formation,” he added.
“When the statement Dominus Iesus came out, I said the Protestant churches are churches of another kind. This does not contradict the formulation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as some Evangelical reactions tried to show. On the contrary, I sought out an appropriate interpretation of which I am convinced even today, especially because Catholics today still speak of Protestant churches,” the cardinal continued.
“The declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does nothing more than show that we use the word Church, attributing to it a meaning that is not completely the same. Thus the declaration allows us to move towards greater clarity and consequently towards the process of dialogue,” he said.
“The declaration is not a step back regarding the ecumenical progress that has already been achieved, but rather it is an effort to resolve the ecumenical tasks that lie ahead,” Cardinal Kasper stated. “These differences should motivate us and not discourage us simply because we call things by their names. At the very least, the declaration is an urgent invitation to continue in serene dialogue.”