Another series of claims and responses this time defending Vatican II’s Decree on the Church’s missionary activity.
Claim: AGD#6 says “For although the Church possesses totally and fully the means of salvation, it neither always nor at once puts or can put them all into operation, but is subject to beginnings and stages in the activity by which it strives to bring God’s plan into effect. Indeed, at times, after a successful start and advance, it has to grieve at another reverse, or at least it halts in a certain state of semi-fulfillment and insufficiency.” This is wrong because outside the Church their is no salvation. The Church always has the power to save thanks to Christ. There are no stages.
Response: This one is a translation error. The translation by Austin Flannery, O.P. General editor of the Basic Sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II, uses the following sentence to translate the above underline sentence. “Although the Church possesses in itself the totality and fullness of the means of salvation, it does not always, in fact cannot, use every one of them immediately, but has to make beginnings and work by slow stages to give effect to God’s plan.” See also the Vatican Website Translation (Linked Here) Thus, understanding the sentence dealing with missionary activity it is easy to agree that the Church does not always have free access into hearts of state lands immediately to make the full means of salvation available. Saying this does not mean that the Church does not always contain, due to Christ, salvation. It is about availability for others to be saved not the ability of the Church to save.
Claim: ADG#10 says “For the Gospel message has not yet, or hardly yet, been heard by two million human beings (and their number is increasing daily), who are formed into large and distinct groups by permanent cultural ties, by ancient religious traditions, and by firm bonds of social necessity. Some of these men are followers of one of the great religions…” So Vatican II calls the other religions great. A series of Scripture quotes is then given to show how other religions are in darkness or error.
Response: Scripture also calls Babylon great, (Apocalypse (Revelations) 17:18, 18:2) but that does not mean it thinks Babylon is great in a sense morally or righteously superior to Jerusalem. Great can mean many different things. Great in size, great in people esteem, greet in virtue. Some tenants of Christian morality can be found in other religions like the Golden rule to name one of many. Thus, at least in some ways – in the aspects that these religions contain truth – there is a moral greatness to them.
Claim: AGD#29 Says, “In coordination with the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, let it search out ways and means for bringing about and directing fraternal cooperation as well as harmonious living with missionary undertaking of other Christian communities, that as far as possible the scandal of division may be removed.” Thus, Vatican II says we should work with Protestants in missionary activities and considers a conversion to Protestantism a true conversion. That would not be a true conversion to the correct faith.
Response: No where in the text, does ADG says that Protestantism is on an equal footing with Catholicism. Please refer to Lumen Gentium #8 on how Vatican II clearly said that the Catholic Church is one true Church established by Christ. All paragraph 29 is saying is that if Catholic and Protestant missionaries don’t work together but are divided and quarrelling people will be scandalized and not convert to either one. It is a practical issue that when Catholics can get along with others, which does not mean admitting that the Protestants are right, more people will be converted to Catholicism. Who wants to convert to become part of a Church that cries and complains about others all day and cannot even see the humanity in the eyes of those who they disagree with? In fact, not only will those of no Christian faith be converted to Catholicism but even the protestant missionaries themselves as they get to now the love and faith possessed by Catholics. This point can be true in many ways. In an election for example, how much better do those who hold Christian moral fare when both Catholics and Protestants vote together. In mission lands this cooperation may be key to building and sustaining important projects and changing a culture.