By Avery Robert Cardinal Dulles

Booklet through Dulles, Avery Robert Cardinal

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Extra resources for Church Membership As a Catholic and Ecumenical Problem (Pere Marquette Technology Lectures)

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This third relationship would be the least perfect of the three, because the fundamental interior disposition of faith would be lacking. Perfect membership in the Church, according to this theological tradition, requires the interior dispositions of both faith and charity. Full incorporation, consequently, is efficaciously signified not by baptism, the sacrament of faith, but rather by the Eucharist, the sacrament of mutual union and charity. Corresponding to the various grades of integration into the Church are various degrees of exclusion.

We shall here be concerned with a theological understanding. According to Christian faith, the Church is a mystery of divine-human communion deriving from Jesus Christ and having decisive significance for eternal salvation. Notwithstanding the crucial im- Page 7 portance attributed to the Church, there is no theological consensus as to what is necessary to make one a part of it. The basic positions may conveniently be reduced to four, which I shall call the mystical-organic, the juridical-dogmatic, the psycho-sociological, and the personal-communal.

As doctrinal deviance and behavioral nonconformity become more widespread in the Catholic community, new questions arise regarding the relationships between Roman Catholicism and other Churches or denominations. Some non-Catholic Christians are more respectful toward the Holy See and the hierarchy than some Catholics are; their beliefs are as well aligned with the declarations of Page 4 popes and councils, and in some cases they feel thoroughly at home in Catholic liturgical services. Can some of them be considered de facto members of the Catholic Church even without any formal transfer of ecclesiastical allegiance?

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