The Protestant responses to the “Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church” recently issued by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Office for the Doctrine of the Faith (ODF) have been mostly pained surprise, sometimes anger. Leaders in other world religions had a similar reaction. Even Catholics were taken aback by what seemed like a regressive document.
The declaration is a reaffirmation of the Catholic Church’s teaching that there is only One Mediator between God and humankind, Jesus Christ. The unique mediation of Christ continues in his body, the church that he founded, which “subsists” in the Catholic Church governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nothing ambiguous here. But why would the Vatican make such claims after three decades of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue? Here I do not give a critique, but attempt to explain why the Vatican issued such a document.
Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., is founder and president of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Collegeville, Minnesota, and cochair of the international dialogue between Roman Catholics and Pentecostals.