Vatican II – Lumen Gentium
The primary statement of Lumen Gentium’s introduction is that it intends to proceed “following faithfully the teaching of previous councils.”(LG, 1)
Chapter 1 – The Mystery of the Church
The Church is endowed with the Holy Spirit and was constituted by Christ in the present era. This is seen by His establishment of the apostles with St. Peter as their head to whom He gave the keys of the kingdom to “bind and loose.” Union with Christ and His Church, is the purpose of each and every man, and so too is each man’s ultimate desire. The Holy Spirit, sent initially on Pentecost, “continually sanctif[ies] the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father.” (LG, 4) By “communicating His Spirit” Jesus Christ makes all baptized adopted children of God and they together form the mystical Body of Christ. He is the head of this body and no one is saved without Him for He is the one Mediator who established “and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation.”(LG, 8) The Church must proclaim the Truth of Christ to all nations until the He comes again.
Chapter 2 – On the People of God
Established by Christ, the People of God are “used by Him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.”(LG, 9) Of these, there exists the laity and priests. These two differ in essence not only in degree. Nonetheless, “each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ.”(LG, 10) Through the Sacraments, the People of God grow in faith, hope and charity, and it is only “by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism” that men are made children of God. The Holy Spirit works in the People of God through charisms which are “perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church.”(LG, 12) Extraordinary charisms are not too be sought after, but all should be tested by competent authorities so as to adhere to 1 Thes 5:12; 19-21.
The Church is necessary for salvation and is open to all nations. She must fulfill her mandate by Christ and preach His sacrificial love to all mankind throughout all times.
Chapter 3 – On the Hierarchical Structure of the Church and in Particular on the Episcopate
St. Peter was given the keys to the kingdom and sits in a primary position within the hierarchy of the Church. His seat, like all of the apostles, is passed down through the ages to our modern day bishops. The Bishops, as apostolic successors, are” teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing.” It is their duty to proclaim and safeguard the unity of faith and discipline common to the whole Church.
Chapter 4 – The Laity
The laity, while called to many of the same things as the religious and clergy, are specifically set aside by the secular nature of their vocation. Though both religious and clergy do impact and engage the secular society, it is the laity who is fully immersed in secular society. As such, “upon all the laity…rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land.” (LG, 33) And this work is to “consecrate the world itself to Christ.” (LG, 34).
Chapter 5 – The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church
All followers of Christ are called by God to become saints. This includes not only the religious and clergy, but also the laity who do so in their ordinary lives. Holiness can be summed up as living the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity. (LG, 40) Fulfilling this call, of course, cannot be done without God’s grace for indeed “each one of the faithful must willingly hear the Word of God and accept his will, and must complete by their own actions what God has begun, with the help of God’s grace.” (LG, 42). Further, holiness is found in the perfection of one’s proper state and, therefore, extrinsically looks different for a priest than it might a married. Still, this holiness finds unity Christ.
Chapter 6 – Religious
The evangelical counsels are based upon the word and example of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and are a gift from Him to His Church. (LG, 43) As such, the Church “authority has the duty, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of interpreting these evangelical counsels, of regulating their practice and finally to build on them stable forms of living.” (LG, 43) The religious state of life is not a halfway state between laity and clergy, but is available for both. Further, the evangelical counsels do not “detract from a genuine development of the human person, but rather by its very nature is most beneficial to that development.” (LG, 46)
Chapter 7 – The Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church and Its Union with the Church in Heaven
The Church will attain final perfection only in the glory of heaven (LG, 48) and is sustained by the Body and Blood of Christ. The restoration of man has begun in Christ and is carried on through Him in the Church. (LG, 48) All those saints who have gone before are part of the one Church and assist us here on earth. For our part, we are called to pray for those in purgatory as well as to build friendships with those already in the glory of heaven so that they might intercede on our behalf and we might learn from their holiness.
Chapter 8 – The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church
The Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer just as she, a creature like ourselves, is redeemed by “reason of the merits of her Son.” (LG, 53) Even so, she far surpasses all creatures and is our beloved mother as well as Christ’s. (LG, 53) She plays a role in the economy of salvation since “as a woman contributed to death, [God so willed that] also a woman should contribute to life.” (LG, 56) She is utterly free from all stain of sin and “all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure.” (LG, 60) From a singular grace, she is properly titled “Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix” (LG, 62) which does not take away or reduce the efficacy of Christ as our one Mediator. She is intimately united with the Church as well and true faith leads us to “know the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to a filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues.” (LG, 67)
I, in my summary, maintain that the Church teaches “it is only “by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism” that men are made children of God.” This is drawn from Lumen Gentium 11 where it says “From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the People of God through the centuries.” (LG, 11) The qualifier that I insert, only, makes a stark distinction between the baptized and the unbaptized. This can be inferred since the statement “who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God” could be reduced to the following – “children of God are made by baptism.” All I can say is that I wish Lumen Gentium had also used the word only.
Then, in paragraph 12, Lumen Gentium states, “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One (cf. Jn 2:20 27), cannot err in matters of belief.” (LG, 12) There are some difficulties with this that hinges on definitions. If one takes “the entire body of the faithful” to mean that those who “profess” they are Catholic cannot, through a democratic process, err in deciding what they “believe”, than that is a blatant heresy. But if one takes it to mean that the Church (which is the Mystical Body of Christ made up of the faithful) then it is true. However, earlier in the paragraph, the term People of God is used which again gives the impression that “we the people” are infallible. Within the broader context of the paragraph – though not without some difficulties – it is possible to interpret this as adhering to orthodox teachings. Unfortunately, it is – and has been – grossly abused by those who seek to “choose for themselves” what the Church should or shouldn’t believe and gives a “proof text” to those who believe that the “conscience” – misaligned or not – is the highest authority.
Lumen Gentium then goes on to clearly state that “the Church…is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation…Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”(LG, 14) This is solid, but the last line does add some confusion because it seems to imply that those who don’t know that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, can be saved without Her thereby negating what the first sentence said. So, which is it? Necessary or not? Plus, what does knowing mean? Does it mean that one fully understands it in their intellect? That they have simply heard it once before in their life? That it is something inherent to us through our human nature?
I’m not going to go too far into this, but later on the document states, “those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.”(LG, 16)
A couple other thoughts and then I’ll open the floor to your comments…paragraph 31 uses the terms “Creator and the Redeemer” which, while accurate and valid terms, make me wonder if such use in Vatican II was the initial drop of water that broke the dam and led parishes to baptize in the name of the “creator, redeemer, and sanctifier” which is, of course, heretical because these names only reveal an aspect of the Trinity, not that which He revealed Himself. The Holy Spirit is indeed a sanctifier, but not only so.
For further reading, Lumen Gentium 37 has wording that is clearly that which opened the floodgates to a complete seizure of some parishes by their laity; the parishes where the priest is nothing but someone on the payroll and has no say in the liturgy, education, or anything really for that matter.
I welcome your thoughts for mine are sorely lacking as always.
Immaculata, pray for us!