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CDF’s "Responses to Some Questions"

July 14, 2007

If you’re wondering why all the shouting about CDF’s “Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the Church” (official version: Ad catholicam profundius), all I can say is, I’m wondering too. I see nothing new in the document. Not that it hasn’t stirred up the usual hysterical reactions, particularly to Question Five. But so what else is new?

Maybe “complaint” would be too strong a word, but I was hoping that the CDF document would offer something more than any decent student of ecclesiology could have already told us. For example, the response to Question Three (why the expression subsistit in [subsists in] was used in Lumen gentium 8 rather than the verb est [is]) doesn’t really, it seems to me, answer the question posed. Maybe I missed it; wouldn’t be the first time.

For my money, the more interesting remarks occur not in the CDF document itself, but rather in an unsigned “Commentary” on the Responses (oddly, not linked on the Responses pages, and not posted in Latin). For example, the commentary on subsistit in Question Three seems to offer two different impressions: one, that the Council Fathers asserted no difference between subsistit and est (as in, the “rivers of ink” spilt on this matter have been much ado about nothing); and two, that “subsistence” can be seen as what “substance” –how to put this?– does or has. On which point, though, I would defer to my friends in philosophy.

Anyway, all I’m saying is, the canonist in me sees, so far at least, nothing new in the Responses. Lawyers should read them, and move on.

Notes: for a good set of posts and links on this matter in general, scroll through Carl Olson’s multiple posts at Insight Scoop; for some canons of the 1983 Code that quietly but clearly assume the distinction between “Churches” and “ecclesial communities” discussed in Question Five, see 1983 CIC 364 n. 6, 908, and 1183.3.

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