Continuing our series regarding Jewish salvation and the liceity of the extraordinary form Good Friday prayer for Jewish conversion, here is part II of the statement of Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller (see part I here and Dr Thomas Pink's Introduction to it here and here).
The Church's Confession of Christ in Jewish-Christian Dialogue - Part II
By Bishop Dr Gerhard Ludwig Müller
Translated by Dr Thomas Pink
God's grace and human action
We must distinguish between, on the one hand, any reduction either of Judaism or of Christianity, both of which know themselves to derive from a divinely given covenant, to ethics as a humanly self-sufficient way to God - indeed almost to a claim on salvation - and on the other hand recognition of the fundamental human right to religious freedom (Vatican II Dignitatis Humanae §2). In this sense the Second Vatican Council teaches that each person has the right and duty to follow their own conscience in matters of religious conviction and moral action and in this way to fulfil the rule of truth and goodness (Dignitatis Humanae §3).
Hence those people can be saved and attain final communion with God who through no fault of their own lack belief in Jesus Christ, indeed under certain circumstances even lack belief in the existence of a personal God as creator and consummator, but not – and this is decisive – without the grace of Christ working invisibly within them.
Since from a Christian viewpoint nothing can be said of God apart from Jesus the Christ, the incarnate Word, and apart from the Holy Spirit eschatologically poured out 'upon all flesh' (Acts 2, 17), the salvation that comes from God is always through Jesus Christ and through the inner working of the Holy Spirit (Vatican II Gaudium et Spes §22).
'Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of all men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.' (Vatican II Nostra Aetate §4)
The explicit confession of Christ and the making concrete of that confession in membership of the Church, a life based on the sacraments and on following after Christ - these are therefore necessary as means to salvation for all who recognize Jesus as the Christ.
Mutual respect without qualification of one's own belief.
Walter Cardinal Kasper stressed that if one 'is convinced, with Scripture, of the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ' one cannot speak of two ways to salvation, one for Jews and one for Christians. Rather in the relationship of the Scriptures of the Mosaic covenant and of the New Testament there is revealed a common salvation history, within which 'the Jewish people remains God's chosen people', a people whose covenant is confirmed, surpassed and universalized by Jesus Christ (Walter Kasper, Where the Heart of Faith Beats: the Experience of My Life, Freiburg 2008, pp294f).
Differences between religions have their origin not in mutually independent revelations, covenants and saving actions on God's part - a God who directs himself to each one of a variety of targeted groups and who would thereby split up humanity rather than unite it. This would contradict the singleness of God: 'God our Saviour, desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.' 1 Timothy 2, 4-5
From here flow both the being and mission of the Church as sacrament of the world's salvation in Christ, in whom the Church is 'a sign and instrument both of an intimate union with God and of the unity (!) of the whole human race'. Lumen Gentium §1
Credal differences result from the diverse reactions of men following their own conscientious conceptions of the truth in relation to God's self-revelation.
People of differing faiths can therefore live together in complete mutual respect with people of other religions and work together in friendship for the construction of a single society based on ethical principles founded on religion or natural law.
But they can also bear their differences without attributing to each other false or evil intentions. A qualification of each party's own binding creed would, on the other hand, make any dialogue superfluous. Such dialogue is however both sensible and mutually beneficial since particularly between Jews and Christians the fact of an historical self-revelation of God is not in dispute, even if there remain diverse convictions about the scope of that revelation, that is about its culmination in the person and mission of Jesus Christ.
Hence it would be a reduction of Catholic teaching about the realization of the universal salvific will of God in Jesus Christ and about Christ's sole mediation of salvation and about the consequent necessity to salvation of the Church and of baptism, as well as about the possibility of salvation of those who, through no fault of their own, lack belief in Christ, if alongside and independent of these conditions there were also a way to salvation 'even apart from recognition of Jesus Christ and apart from the sacrament of baptism' (ZdK Declaration p5) as something confirmed by God himself.
Previous parts of the series:
Confessing the Messiah: The Church's Confession of Christ in Jewish-Christian Dialogue - Introduction Pt. I
Confessing the Messiah: The Church's Confession of Christ in Jewish-Christian Dialogue - Introduction Pt. II
Confessing the Messiah: The Church's Confession of Christ in Jewish-Christian Dialogue - Bishop Müller's Statement Pt. I
Subsequent parts of the series:
Confessing the Messiah: The Church's Confession of Christ in Jewish-Christian Dialogue - Bishop Müller's Statement Pt. III
Confessing the Messiah: The Church's Confession of Christ in Jewish-Christian Dialogue - Bishop Müller's Statement Pt. IV