2. Knowing Who We Are Aids Dialogue
An interview with archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith
Q: But why then - and this is the topic of the third response - didn’t the Council affirm precisely that the Catholic Church “is” the Church of Christ, and instead used the term “subsists”?
A: This change of terms is not, and cannot be interpreted as, a rupture with the past. In Latin, “subsistit in” is a stronger form of “est.” The continuity of subsistence entails a substantial identity of essence between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church. With the expression “subsistit in,” the Council intended to express the singular and unrepeatable nature of the Church of Christ. The Church exists as a unique subject in historical reality. But at the same time, the phrase “subsistit in” also expresses the fact that outside of the structure of the Catholic Church there is not an absolute ecclesiastical void, but there can be found “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth . . . which as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards catholic unity.”
the "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" had interpreteted "subsists in" as meaning that the Catholic church no longer "is" the Church established by Christ; thus enabling one faction to reject the pre-conciliar church, and an opposing faction to reject the post-conciliar understanding. What I see being being said here is that this "rupture" is a false understanding, and that "subsists in" includes the "is" of the former understanding, thus not being a substantial change at all. In this the holder to tradition is correct to reject the false interpretation of the "discontinuist," but goes to far if in rejecting the error he also rejects that which has been interpreted erroneously.
A garland of flowers can mean many things, but upon Mary's head, they become fixed. In like manner, the understanding of the documents of Vatican II must be placed on the full stature of the body of Christ, one and undivided through the centuries, rather than floating detached and lost in the polluted stream of contemporary thought.
Rome has spoken.