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The Integrity of Faith
Major Documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
in the Post-Conciliar Period

Cardinal William Levada
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

October 12, 2011


Introductory remarks

It is a joy for me to be able to come here to Torun to participate in the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Theological Faculty of the Nicolas Copernicus University. My remarks will focus on the work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which I am Prefect. Only in some small way, then, can I hope to contribute to the memory of that great native son of Torun, with his broad gifts of scientific, medical and legal expertise. I take this occasion as well to congratulate the Most Reverend Andrzej Suski, on the 25th anniversary of his Episcopal ordination which occurred just last week on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. I promise you, dear Bishop Suski, my continued remembrance in prayer for the blessings of Almighty God upon your long and fruitful years of ministry as bishop.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in his memorable discourse given at the beginning of his pontificate insisted upon appropriate theological hermeneutics in the reading of the doctrinal patrimony of the Second Vatican Council[1]. The Holy Father stressed that a necessary, just and prudent reform of the Church had to be undertaken, but always in full continuity with the perennial Tradition of the Church. Reform in and of the Church is to maintain the integrity of the faith, as it adheres to the Risen Lord, freeing that faith from accretions and social and historical entanglements that are foreign to it. Any interpretation of the Second Vatican Council that attributes discontinuity to it, whether of a progressive kind, hoping for even further changes in the light of the dubious so-called “spirit of the Council”, which in fact too often comes from the “spirit of the age,” or of a conservative kind, denying the Council’s validity and its right to undertake a process of purification, then should both be rejected. Both the Council and the life of the Church must always be considered in full continuity and fidelity with the divine project for the Church as given to her by the Risen Lord.

The present Holy Father as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, serving for 24 years (from November 1981 to April 2005) under Blessed John Paul II, accompanied the reforming pilgrimage of the Church in the spirit of continuity with her divinely given essence. It may be noted that, in this concern for the integrity of the faith, a young bishop, Albino Luciani, the future John Paul I, back in 1962 insisted that “The Church that will come from the Council is the same as the Church of yesterday, but renewed”, because what needs to come about “are not so much methods and structures, but a deeper and more extensive sanctity… It may happen – wrote Luciani - that the good and abundant fruits of a council will be visible only centuries later as they will mature overcoming with difficulty contrasting and averse situations”.[2]

The ministry of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the post-conciliar period, which was a time of great hope but also of difficulties, needs therefore to be interpreted as the practice of this “reform in continuity.” In the “Catholic” optic of fides et ratio (faith and reason), when dealing with new problems and questions that the ratio of Christians needed to confront, the Congregation focused on the fides of the Church that was to be maintained pure and intact as it reacted to these questions. The Congregation fulfilled its mission by issuing a number of doctrinal documents approved by the Holy Father[3] that “participate in the ordinary Magisterium of the successor of Peter”[4].

In this presentation, I would like therefore to present an overview of some of the most significant expressions of the doctrinal patrimony that were issued by the Congregation in these turbulent post-conciliar years. They were intended to maintain the purity of faith in the face of rising challenges and contrary ideologies. I hope this presentation will also be a tribute to the wise and prolific guidance of my predecessor as Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I have divided the presentation into the following sections, according to the focus of the various documents: 1) principles of theology; 2) Christology; 3) Ecclesiology; 4) theological anthropology; 5) liberation theology; 6) sacraments; 7) moral questions; 8) spirituality; and 9) disciplinary and procedural questions.


The principles of theology

The “Instruction on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian - Donum veritatis” published on May 24, 1990, is one of the key documents of this post-conciliar period. It gathered some basic principles concerning the task of the theologian. It viewed the work of theologians not in the abstract, but in the light of real difficulties that had appeared. The pervasive cultural presupposition that everything needs to be changed generated in some theologians an intellectual pride that failed to maintain the humility of the mind that is a mark of true faith as it adheres to the revealed truth. One of the difficult points that had to be dealt with was the question of the freedom of theological research, an issue about which many professional theologians were and are sensitive. If theology is really to be the fruit of fides and ratio, freedom of theological expression has to be located within the true Tradition of the Church. The Instruction therefore recalled that:

The freedom proper to theological research is exercised within the Church's faith. Thus while the theologian might often feel the urge to be daring in his work, this will not bear fruit or "edify” unless it is accompanied by that patience which permits maturation to occur. New proposals advanced for understanding the faith "are but an offering made to the whole Church. Many corrections and broadening of perspectives within the context of fraternal dialogue may be needed before the moment comes when the whole Church can accept them". Consequently, "this very disinterested service to the community of the faithful", which theology is, "entails in essence an objective discussion, a fraternal dialogue, an openness and willingness to modify one's own opinions".[5]

Moreover, the serious problem of theological dissent, which had appeared in some parts of the Church not only by individual theologians but also by organized groups, also is addressed by the Instruction (nos. 32-41). Thus it recalled that:

The freedom of the act of faith cannot justify a right to dissent. In fact this freedom does not indicate at all freedom with regard to the truth but signifies the free self-determination of the person in conformity with his moral obligation to accept the truth[6].

Truth is always the object of our intellectual endeavor; the mind is bound to acknowledge the truth, not to deny it, for human reason has a connatural affinity for the truth. The adherence of the mind of the believer to revealed truth is always a gain, because it leads it to life-giving salvation. Thus the theologian is respected in the Church not because he offers his own arbitrary and haphazard ideas, but because he facilitates the reception of the truth of God. If however the theologian engages in public dissent from the Church’s teaching, he places himself at odds with the profession of faith he has made as a Catholic theologian.

When necessary, Bishops, in their pastoral concern for the integrity of the faith of all Christians, must call attention to the true nature of dissent as disobedience of the human will to God’s revelation, and as a distortion of truth of Christian doctrine as guaranteed by the Holy Spirit to the Apostolic Tradition, handed on in the Church under the guidance of her Magisterium.


Since imprecise presentations of the Person of Jesus Christ were being circulated by some theologians, the Congregation has repeatedly striven to preserve the deposit of faith so that the Christological dogma that is the “gate of access” to the mystery of the Triune God would be maintained in its purity. Immediately after the Council, in July 24, 1966, the then Pro-Prefect Cardinal Ottaviani drew attention to the risk of employing “notions that only with difficulty can reconciled with the dogmatic definitions” and to the fact that

A certain Christological humanism is spreading, which reduces Christ to the simple condition of a man, who step by step acquired the consciousness of His divine sonship. His virginal conception, His miracles, even His resurrection are sometimes verbally conceded, but in reality they are reduced to a purely natural order.[7]

Following the principle of continuity in the expressions of faith and in response to some widespread errors the Congregation published, on February 21, 1972 the “Declaration for safeguarding the belief in the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Most Holy Trinity against some recent errors- Mysterium Filii Dei”. Without mentioning any names the Declaration alluded to some specific theological positions viewing them in the light of earlier Councils:

The opinions according to which it has not been revealed and made known to us that the Son of God subsists from all eternity in the mystery of the Godhead, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, are in open conflict with this belief; likewise the opinions according to which the notion is to be abandoned of the one person of Jesus Christ begotten in his divinity of the Father before all the ages and begotten in his humanity of the Virgin Mary in time; and lastly the assertion that the humanity of Christ existed not as being assumed into the eternal person of the Son of God but existed rather of itself as a person, and therefore that the mystery of Jesus Christ consists only in the fact that God, in revealing himself, was present in the highest degree in the human person Jesus[8].

The text continued:

Once the mystery of the divine and eternal person of Christ the Son of God is abandoned, the truth respecting the Most Holy Trinity is also undermined, and with it the truth regarding the Holy Spirit who proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, or from the Father through the Son[9].

The Congregation published its most important Christological and ecclesiological document, the “Declaration on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ in the Church - Dominus Jesus,” on August 6, 2000. This fundamental document came as a necessary clarification at a time when it seemed to some that, in view of inter-religious dialogue, the Church was entitled or even obliged to water down her faith in Christ. Blessed John Paul II summarized the importance of this Declaration saying:

With the Declaration Dominus Jesus - Jesus is Lord - approved by me in a special way at the height of the Jubilee Year, I wanted to invite all Christians to renew their fidelity to Him in the joy of faith and to bear unanimous witness that the Son, both today and tomorrow, is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14: 6). Our confession of Christ as the only Son, through whom we ourselves see the Father's face (cf. Jn 14: 8), is not arrogance that disdains other religions, but joyful gratitude that Christ has revealed himself to us without any merit on our part. At the same time, He has obliged us to continue giving what we have received and to communicate to others what we have been given, since the Truth and the Love which is God belong to all people[10].

Should the uniqueness of Christ be diluted by a religious relativism, the purity of faith in Christ that ensures salvation would be lost.


The “Declaration in Defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church Against Certain Errors of the Present Day - Mysterium Ecclesiae,” was issued in June, 1973. It explained at greater length the teaching contained in Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church – Lumen gentium” regarding the oneness of the Church of Christ, and the gift of infallibility given to her for the sake of guaranteeing the integrity of the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the People of God.

Another document that presented the ecclesiological teaching of Vatican II in a positive manner was the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church understood as Communion - Communionis notio” signed by Cardinal Ratzinger on May 28, 1992. The following quotation is representative of its teaching:

Since…communion with the universal Church, represented by Peter's Successor, is not an external complement to the particular Church, but one of its internal constituents, the situation of those venerable Christian communities [the Eastern Orthodox Churches, separated from the See of Peter] also means that their existence as particular Churches is wounded. The wound is even deeper in those ecclesial communities which have not retained the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist. This in turn also injures the Catholic Church, called by the Lord to become for all "one flock" with "one shepherd", in that it hinders the complete fulfillment of its universality in history.[11]

Two further ecclesiological statements of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the “Considerations on the Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the mystery of the Church” of October 31, 1998 and the “Note on the Expression Sister Churches” of June 30, 2000 had a primarily ecumenical focus. In particular the second statement insisted upon the use of an ecclesiologically correct terminology that expresses fully the mystery of faith in the Church of Christ.

Ecclesiological questions continued to reappear, and so further clarifications of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were needed. On June 29, 2007, I signed the “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church” and also the “Doctrinal Note on some Aspects of Evangelization” on December 3 of that same year. The five questions and their responses offer an interpretative key for certain basic aspects of the ecclesiological teaching of the Second Vatican Council, recalling in particular the important teaching of n. 8 of the Council’s Constitution Lumen gentium: “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.”

Theological anthropology

While the Second Vatican Council developed a precious theological anthropology presenting a profound reflection on the vocation of men and women, recently a new ideology appeared in some parts of the world that is in sharp contrast with the nature of the human person. This ideology proposes the idea of gender as distinct from the biological sexual differentiation of men and women. The last important document signed by Cardinal Ratzinger on May 31, 2004, when he was still the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election to the See of Peter, was the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world” dealing with theological anthropology. This Letter was not only conscious of the need for dialogue with modern thought but maintained that such dialogue must remain faithful to the deposit of the Word of God and to the light of the natural law written within human nature. This teaching needs to be studied, given the preoccupying developments among contemporary ideologies. Reflection on this theme in the light of faith presented a timely review and further application of the Council, as well as of the two Apostolic Letters, Mulieris dignitatem of August 15, 1988 on the dignity and vocation of the woman, and an analogous Letter Redemptoris custos of August 15, 1989, which reflected upon the vocation of men, of Blessed John Paul II.

Liberation theology

Complex social problems, particularly in Latin America, stimulated a type of theological reflection that unfortunately did not sufficiently differentiate between the realm of faith and concrete political programs. Some of this reflection allowed itself to be deeply marked by Marxist analysis. The intermingling of political hope with the theological hope of Christians generated a certain confusion, above all in Latin America. The social doctrine of the Church aims to form Christians so that they will recognise and respect the underlying ethical principles of the social, political and economic order, but at the same time it does not attribute a primacy to political action that would question the uniqueness and importance of salvation through faith in Christ.

Looking back on historical developments, the two documents issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on these questions can be seen to have been prophetic. The first was the “Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’ - Libertatis nuntius” of August 6, 1984; the second was the “Instruction on Christian freedom and liberation - Libertatis conscientia” of March 22, 1986. The first document intended to correct methodological errors and ideological deviations appearing in some currents of the theology of liberation. It taught that

Sin is the greatest evil, since it strikes man in the heart of his personality. The first liberation, to which all others must make reference, is that from sin. Unquestionably, it is to stress the radical character of the deliverance brought by Christ and offered to all, be they politically free or slaves, that the New Testament does not require some change in the political or social condition as a prerequisite for entrance into this freedom.[12]

The second document focused in a positive manner on the theme of liberty in full fidelity with Scripture, the continuous Tradition of the Church and her Magisterium.


Doctrinal statements and responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the post-conciliar period touched upon all the sacraments, with the exception maybe of the sacrament of confirmation, (about which Pope Paul VI offered a significant clarification in promulgating its revised ritual). I shall mention here only the responses to questions concerning three sacraments, Baptism, Eucharist, and Holy Orders.

The former Archbishop of Zagreb in Croatia, Cardinal Šeper, Cardinal Ratzinger’s predecessor as Prefect of the Congregation, signed the “Instruction on Infant Baptism - Pastoralis actio on October 20, 1980. On several subsequent occasions (in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2008) the Congregation responded to questions about the validity of Christian baptism when it was conferred outside the Catholic Church. In two of these responses, of June 5, 2001 and February 1, 2008, rites used by the Mormons, and those that replace the Trinitarian formula with other ideologically charged expressions (e.g. the substitution of other terms for the so-called “sexist” language of Father and Son), were declared invalid.

Concerning the Eucharist, the Congregation issued a “Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Questions Concerning the Minister of the Eucharist - Sacerdotium ministeriale” of August 6, 1983. Later, in response to pastoral questions following the teaching of Blessed John Paul II given in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio of November 22, 1981, the Congregation reiterated the constant teaching of the Church that prohibits the reception of the Eucharist by divorced and remarried persons (Cf. “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried members of the faithful - Annus Internationalis Familiae of September 14, 1994).

The question of the ordination of women was raised first by various non-Catholic ecclesial communities. It concerns not so much the dignity of woman, but the nature of Christ’s priesthood. The first extensive response to this issue was the “Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood - Inter insigniores” of October 15, 1976.

This teaching of the Church about the reservation of ordination to the priesthood to men was presented as definitive tenenda by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis of May 22, 1994. A year later, on October 28, 1995, in response to the express will of the Holy Father, the Congregation declared in its document “Concerning the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Teaching Contained in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” that this was infallible teaching that belongs to the deposit of faith. Since a wilful defiance of this doctrinal teaching appeared also among some Catholics, the Congregation issued its “Decree of Excommunication regarding the attempted priestly ordination of some Catholic women by a schismatic bishop” of August 5, 2002, followed by the “Decree on attempted ordination of some Catholic women” of December 21, 2002. Its “General Decree regarding the delict of attempted sacred ordination of a woman” of December 19, 2007, has now numbered this abuse of the sacrament of Holy Orders among the most serious crimes of the Church.

Moral questions

Rapid changes in social life conditioned by developments in all fields of science, technology, communication, medicine and economics are generating new moral challenges that require an honest search for the verum bonum—the “truly good”—in these new contexts. Furthermore since these new moral problems are reflected both in the legislation of states and in canon law, they generate heated debates in the public domain, in which reference to the natural law and even more to the law of the Gospel is often altogether lacking. When initiation into the life of grace is absent or weak, even the light of nature appears to be too demanding and, as a result, a nihilist, relativist approach to moral requirements prevails. Respecting and defending the truth and the dignity of the human person, the Catholic Church has had to respond to dramatic changes in the modern mentality, in order to defend the sacredness of life and the value of sexuality in an atmosphere of ethical relativism and legal positivism.

In this regard, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a number of important documents. On November 18, 1974 the “Declaration on procured abortion - Quaestio de abortu” appeared, followed by a “Declaration on euthanasia – Iura et bona” of May 8, 1980. The teaching contained in these statements was reiterated with greater force by Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium vitae of March 25, 1995, when he identified Catholic moral teaching in these two areas as part of the infallible teaching of the universal ordinary magisterium.

As developments in medical technology raised new bioethical questions, the Congregation responded with the “Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of procreation – Donum vitae”, signed by Cardinal Ratzinger on February 22, 1987. As new problems arose, this document was followed by the “Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions” that I signed some 20 years later on September 8, 2008. The Church assesses various biomedical practices in the light of two fundamental principles: first, the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception to the natural death; and second, procreation that is truly responsible for the future child is always to be the fruit of the marital act.

In dealing with sexual ethics the “Declaration on certain questions concerning sexual ethics – Persona humana” of December 29, 1975 recalled the traditional moral teaching about the immorality of masturbation, premarital sexual relations and homosexuality. This last issue was treated again in the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons – Homosexualitatis problema” of October 1, 1986, and once again in the “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons” of June 3, 2003.

The Church’s teaching on homosexuality is summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2357-2359), where we read:

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.[13]

Respect for the human dignity of persons having a homosexual tendency cannot lead to the approval of homosexual activity or to the legal recognition of homosexual unions. Such recognition would entail not only an approval of unnatural behavior but would also seriously endanger the union of marriage, thereby undercutting the fundamental values that pertain to the common patrimony of humanity.


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not failed to draw attention to numerous practices and studies in the field of spirituality. The “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian Meditation – Orationis formas” of October 15, 1989 is still quite relevant, in particular where the rich tradition of Christian prayer is intermingled with practices taken from Eastern religions. Christian prayer has its own identity and cannot replace the centrality of faith in the uniqueness of the Person of Jesus Christ, the source of salvation and teacher of prayer. In 2000 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also issued an “Instruction on prayers for healing – Ardens felicitas”.

The Congregation has issued several documents regarding the incompatibility of Freemasonry with the Catholic faith, the most recent in 1985.[14]

Disciplinary and procedural questions

The ecclesial mission of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith covers not only the examination of teachings about which there is doubt so as to ensure the correct teaching of faith and morals, but also it includes dealing with cases of dissolution of marriages in favor of faith and judging the gravest offences that are reserved to the Congregation.

With regard to the examination of theological writings that may depart from Catholic doctrine, the “Norms for doctrinal investigation – Ratio agendi” of January 15, 1971, were promulagated, assuring theologians and the faithful that the procedures to be followed in the investigation and judgment of such writings would guarantee a dialogical procedure. These norms were updated by the present “Regulations for doctrinal examination – Ratio agendi” of May 30, 1997. The Congregation is sometimes portrayed in the media as being an aggressive and unfair institution that is heir to the abuses of the Inquisition. In fact, the procedural norms that are followed in cases of erroneous teaching ensure the dignity of the questioned author, providing the opportunity for necessary clarifications. When however, it becomes clear that the questioned author persists in teaching what is contrary to the Catholic faith, it is the pastoral responsibility of the Church to warn the faithful about the errors involved.

When I was preparing for this talk, I reviewed the number of Notifications published in regard to various authors or persons over the past 44 years in the post-conciliar period since the former Congregation of the Holy Office received its new charter as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. There have been just over 20 persons about whom the Congregation has had to issue a public statement that their teachings are not in conformity with the teachings of the Church. Among the major names from this period one may recall Hans Küng, Edward Schillebeeckx OP, Leonardo Boff OFM, Charles Curran, André Guindon OMI, Tissa Balasuriya OMI, Anthony de Mello SJ, Jacques Dupuis SJ, Marciano Vidal CSsR, Roger Haight SJ, Jon Sobrino SJ.[15] Sometimes the impression is left that the Congregation is overactive in pursuit of error. But these statistics would not support such an impression.

It is true that some erroneous opinions are dealt with by Episcopal conferences, by local Bishops or religious Superiors, without recourse to the Congregation. It is also worth noting that many of the doctrinal examinations undertaken in accord with the ratio agendi have an outcome that does not become public: in such cases, the author may correct the errors cited, or may explain the meaning of ambiguous writings in a satisfactory way. The confidentiality of the procedures adopted by the Congregation guarantee a certain protection for the reputation of the person under investigation, until in cases such as those mentioned above, no satisfactory agreement can be reached, and the errors are judged to be so harmful and public that a declaration by the Congregation is the only way to protect the integrity of the faith of the People of God.

In the post-conciliar period the matrimonial office of the Congregation dealing with the privilege in favorem fidei followed procedures specified in the Instruction Ut notum est and the Normae procedurales pro conficiendo processu dissolutionis vinculi matrimonialis in favorem fidei of December 6, 1973. Since April 30, 2001, the Congregation is following the new Normae de conficiendo processu pro solutione vinculi matrimonialis in favorem fidei approved by Blessed John Paul II.

The final field of competence of the Congregation concerns the judging of most serious offences against the faith and the sacraments, known as delicta graviora, committed by members of the clergy. These are reserved to the Congregation so as to assure impartiality and consistency both in canonical procedure and in the penalties imposed. The motu proprio “Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,” promulgating the norms on the more serious offenses reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” was published on April 30, 2001. These norms have been modified and extended by the Holy Father Benedict XVI in May 21, 2010. They concern offences against the Most Holy Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Eucharist, against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance, and grave offences against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by clerics with minors below the age of 18.


As I said at the beginning, it is the integrity of the faith, centered in Christ and through which we are saved, that is the prime concern of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The pontificate of Blessed John Paul II will be remembered as a time when the profound insights of the Second Vatican Council were fully affirmed. At the same time, facile proposals of change springing not from the centre of the life of the Church that is the Paschal Mystery renewed in the sacrifice of the Eucharist, but from currents of thought that are external to the Church, were carefully identified and rejected. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith led by its Prefect Cardinal Josef Ratzinger played a decisive role in this.

Of course, the contribution of Bishops and theologians in guaranteeing the integrity of the faith that is transmitted from apostolic times to the present corresponds to the very identity and purpose of their offices in the Church. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is at the service, not only of the Holy Father in his ordinary magisterium, but also of the bishops and of theologians to work for the faithful preaching and teaching of the doctrine of the faith, in light of a hermeneutic of reform in continuity, rather than discontinuity, with the “faith of our fathers.” The examples of this faithful testimony to the Tradition of the Church, at the level of theological faculties and seminaries, of diocesan churches, and of episcopal conferences, are many and deserve our admiration and gratitude.

I would want to call attention to two other privileged instances of efforts to ensure a correct hermeneutical interpretation of the Second Vatican Council at the level of the universal Church. The first is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Blessed John Paul II in 1992, as “a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion” (Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, n. 3). The second are the general assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, whose recommendations have been incorporated into the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations by the post-conciliar Popes from Paul VI’s 1974 Evangelii nuntiandi to Benedict XVI’s recent Verbum Domini. These Synods and papal exhortations have offered a precious commentary – a true hermeneutic of continuity of the teachings of Vatican II – for the pastors, theologians and faithful during this past half-century.

It is my hope that these remarks about the work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and allusions to the Catechism and the Synod of Bishops, can help stimulate your reflection about seizing the moment of the imminent 50th anniversary of the opening the Council, and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism, to renew enthusiasm for preaching and teaching the Catholic faith in all its breadth and beauty.

Thank you for your welcome to Torun, and for your kind attention this morning.

William Cardinal Levada
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Torun, October 12, 2011

[1] “Discouse to the Roman Curia on the occasion of Christmas greetings” (December 22, 2005).

[2] Albino Luciani, “Note sul concilio (1962)”, Opera omnia, vol. II – Vittorio Veneto, 1959-1962, (Padova: Edizioni Messaggero, 1988), p. 440-441, 452-453.

[3] Cfr Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Documenta inde a Concilio Vaticano Secundo expleto edita (1966-2005), LEV, Città del Vaticano 2006.

[4] “Instruction Donum veritatis on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian”, (May 24, 1990), n. 18.

[5] Donum veritatis, n. 11.

[6] Donum veritatis, n. 36.

[7] Cum oecumenicum concilium (Epistula ad Venerabiles Praesules Conferentiarum Episcopalium et ad Superiores Religionum: De nonnullis sententiis et erroribus ex falsa interpretatione decretorum Concilii Vaticani II insurgentibus), n. 5; AAS 58 (1966) 659-661.

[8] N. 3.

[9] N. 4.

[10] Discorso per la preghiera dell’Angelus, October 1, 2000, par. 2.

[11] Litterae ad Catholicae Ecclesiae episcopos de aliquibus aspectibus Ecclesiae prout est communio, n. 17, AAS 85 (1993) 838-850.

[12] Nn. 12-13.

[13] CCC, n. 2357.

[14] “Irreconcilability between Christian Faith and Freemasonry – Reflections a Year After Declaration of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (March 11, 1985).

[15] All of these can be found in Documenta, cf. n. 3 above.