Summorum Pontificum

The Rev. Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered some questions on the recent Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum..

The document did not alter the Vatican's commitment to ecumenical dialogue but was aimed at asserting Catholic identity in those talks. "It is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that the participants are clear about their own identity. That is, dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what you actually understand yourself to be." Not everyone agreed.

Bishop Wolfgang Huber, head of the Evangelical Church in Germany, a Protestant umbrella group, said the new Vatican document effectively downgraded Protestant churches and would make ecumenical relations more difficult. He said the new pronouncement repeated the "offensive statements" of the 2000 document.

Bishop C. Christopher Epting, in charge of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the U.S. Episcopal Church, said: "For us as Anglicans I don't believe it's any different. It's what they've said before. We've been in this dialogue for 40 years, but we continue to stay at the table and disagree with that position."

A statement from the French Protestant Federation said that while the document was an internal pronouncement of the Catholic Church, it would have "external repercussions."

Q: The last response repeats that the title of “Church” cannot be attributed to the Christian communities born from the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

A: This is a painful matter, I know, but as the Council affirms, these communities have not maintained apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, thus depriving themselves of an essential constitutive element of the Church’s being. Because of the lack of the ministerial priesthood, these communities have not preserved the genuine and complete substance of the Eucharistic mystery. For this reason, according to Catholic doctrine, they cannot be called “Churches” in the true sense.

Q: Is this also true of the Anglican communion?

A: Yes.

Q: Your Excellency, what is the value of these “responses”?

A: They have an authoritative theological character. Authoritative. They are a clarification, formulated by our Congregation and approved expressly by the Pope, of the Council’s meaning.

Q: These texts were published a few days after the “motu proprio” that liberalizes the so-called “Mass of Saint Pius V.” Some might think that this was not a coincidence, but a precise strategy . . .

A: This is no ecclesiastical or media strategy. Our documents are published when they are ready. And that’s all. Otherwise, if we had to pay attention to these kinds of problems that have nothing to do with us we would risk, for one reason or another, never publishing these texts awaited by the bishops and many of the faithful.