INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION
UNITY OF THE FAITH AND THEOLOGICAL PLURALISM*
THE DIMENSIONS OF THE PROBLEM
1. Unity and plurality in the expression of the Faith have their ultimate basis in the very mystery of Christ that, while being at the same time a mystery of universal fulfillment and reconciliation (Eph 2:11-22), goes beyond the possibilities of expression of any given age and thus eludes exhaustive systematization (Eph 3:8-10).
2. The unity-duality of the Old Testament and the New, as the fundamental historical expression of the Christian Faith, provides a concrete point of departure for the unity-plurality of this same Faith.
3. The dynamism of Christian faith, and its missionary character, requires an account of it in rational terms; faith is not a philosophy, but it does give a direction to man’s thinking.
4. The truth of the Faith is bound up with its onward movement through history, from Abraham on to Christ, and from Christ to the parousia. Consequently, orthodoxy is not consent to a system but a sharing in the onward movement of the Faith and so, in the Church’s own selfhood that subsists, identical, through all time, and the true subject of the Credo.
5. The fact that the truth of the Faith is lived in an onward movement involves its relation to the praxis and to the history of this Faith. Since Christian faith is founded on the incarnate Word, its historical and practical character distinguishes it in its essence from a form of historicity in which man alone would be the creator of his own direction.
6. The Church is the comprehensive subject giving unity both to New Testament theologies and to dogmas as they arise throughout history. It is founded on confession of faith in Jesus Christ dead and risen, which she proclaims and celebrates in the power of the Spirit.
7. The criterion that makes it possible to distinguish between true and false pluralism is the Faith of the Church expressed in the organic whole of her normative pronouncements: the fundamental criterion is Scripture as it relates to the confession of the believing and praying Church. Among dogmatic formulas, those of the earlier Councils have priority. The formulas that express a reflection of Christian thought are subordinate to those that express the facts of the Faith themselves.
8. Even if the present situation of the Church encourages pluralism, plurality discovers its limits in the fact that faith creates the communion of men in the truth, which has been made accessible in Christ. This makes inadmissible every conception of faith that would reduce it to a purely pragmatic cooperation, lacking any sense of community in the truth. This truth is not linked to any theological systematization, but it is expressed in the normative proclamations of the Faith. Faced with doctrinal statements that are gravely ambiguous, even perhaps incompatible with the Faith of the Church, the Church has the capacity to discern error and the duty to dispel it, even resorting to the formal rejection of heresy as the final remedy for safeguarding the Faith of the people of God.
9. Because the Christian Faith is universal and missionary, the events and words revealed by God must be each time rethought, reformulated, and lived anew within each human culture, if we wish them to inspire the prayer, the worship, and the daily life of the people of God. Thus, the Gospel of Christ leads each culture toward its. fullness and at the same time submits it to a creative criticism. Local Churches that, under the guidance of their shepherds, apply themselves to this difficult task of incarnating the Christian Faith must always maintain continuity and communion with the universal Church of the past and of the present. Thanks to their efforts they contribute as much to the deepening of the Christian life as to the progress of theological reflection in the universal Church, and guide the human race in all its diversity toward that unity wished by God.
PERMANENT NATURE OF DOCTRINAL FORMULATIONS
10. Dogmatic formulations must be considered as responses to precise questions, and it is in this sense that they remain always true. Their permanent interest depends on the lasting relevance of the questions with which they are concerned; at the same time it must not be forgotten that the successive questions that Christians ask themselves about the understanding of the divine word as well as already discovered solutions grow out of one another, so that today’s answers always presuppose in some way those of yesterday, although they cannot be reduced to them.
11. Dogmatic definitions ordinarily use a common language; while they may make use of apparently philosophical terminology, they do not thereby bind the Church to a particular philosophy but have in mind only the underlying realities of universal human experience, which the terms in question have enabled them to distinguish.
12. These definitions must never be considered apart from the particularly authentic expression of the divine word in the sacred Scriptures or separated from the entire Gospel message to each age. They also provide, for that message, norms for an ever more suitable interpretation of revelation. Yet this revelation remains always the same, not only in its substance but also in its fundamental statements.
PLURALISM AND UNITY IN MORALS
13. Pluralism in morals appears first of all in the application of general principles to concrete circumstances, and it is accentuated when contacts occur between cultures that were ignorant of one another or as a result of rapid changes in society.
A fundamental unity is manifested, however, in a common esteem for human dignity, carrying with it imperatives for the conduct of human life.
The conscience of every man expresses a certain number of fundamental demands (Rom 2:14), which have been recognized in our times by public expressions of the essential human rights.
14. The unity of Christian morality is based on unchanging principles, contained in the Scriptures, clarified by Tradition, presented to each generation by the Magisterium. Let us recall the principal emphases: the precepts and example of the Son of God revealing the heart of his Father; conformity to his death and his Resurrection; [and] life in the Spirit in the bosom of the Church, in faith, hope, and charity, so that we may be renewed according to the image of God.
15. The necessary unity of faith and communion does not hinder a diversity of vocations and of personal preferences in the manner of coming to terms with the mystery of Christ and of life.
Christian liberty (Gal 5:13), far from implying a limitless pluralism, demands a struggle toward totally objective truth no less than patience with less robust consciences (cf. Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8).
Respect for the autonomy of human values and legitimate responsibilities in this area carries with it the possibility of a variety of analyses and options on temporal matters for Christians. This variety is compatible with total obedience and love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 43).
* The text of the propositions approved by the plenary meeting held on 10-11 October 1972, the whole text was unanimously approved by all members present.