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Reflections on Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church

Chuck Pilon

The Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, is widely regarded as the most significant document approved at Vatican II. The Council defines the Roman Catholic Church first of all as a mystery. It is not, first of all, an organization, nor a society, much less a perfect society as the Church had often said of itself!

Vatican II describes this mystery with a variety of terms. It speaks of a community which has a name: the People of God, the pilgrim People of God. Christians are a people baptized into the very body-person of Jesus Christ – into his priesthood (therefore, mediators of God’s grace); baptized into his prophetic ministry (and so, the proclaimers and teachers of God’s Revelation); and into his kingship (the servants of the world). This Body of Christ is a family. We are brothers and sisters.

Lumen Gentium clearly calls for a major, decisive break from the Roman Catholic institutional understanding of itself as Church. It must move from the triangle of pope with Roman curia, bishops and priests, all at the top of the triangle, exclusively in power, to an all inclusive circle that contains and embraces the entire pilgrim People of God.

Further, in 5 of its most important documents, this reforming Council of the 1960’s holds without reservation that the Roman Catholic Church no
longer claims to be the only means of salvation. And so, the human race is called to stand in unity but not in uniformity before the one God – thus, not necessarily in unity with or within the Roman Catholic Church. Religious pluralism therefore, is an essential, liberating feature of Catholic Identity, as affirmed over and over at the Second Vatican Council.

And so we, this Committee, propose that this Synod of the Baptized, in union with Vatican II, hold and proclaim an understanding of the Church,
first and foremost, as the People of God.

We humbly but firmly dare to assert our right and our responsibility, by virtue of our baptism, to shape and update this Church, birthed,
ultimately, by the one Jesus of Nazareth. We our take identity from this Jesus. We find it desperately urgent to do so.