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Our readers asked:

My Protestant friend says that the Catholic Church has finally changed its teaching on justification to line up with Luther’s interpretation. True?

Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D. Answers:

No, not true. Even better than true. What your friend is referring to is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which was signed by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation on October 31, 1999. See: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html
The document represents the culmination of decades of ecumenical dialogue at the highest levels of our two traditions on the very doctrine that was the primary dispute which many say actually caused the Reformation in the first place. It’s important to read the document to appreciate the richness of the text, but in short, it says that our two traditions have reached a common theological agreement whereby the doctrine of justification is no longer a church dividing issue. For Catholics and Lutherans to finally agree on the doctrine of justification after 500 years is something worth celebrating.

 
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The Author : Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D.
The Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D., formerly the Interreligious Affairs specialist at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is now pastor of St. Benedict's Parish in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo Credit: Bob Roller, Catholic News Service (CNS).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • LutherCatholic

    I thank God for sending his Holy Spirit to work through church leaders to formulate the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. It seems to be one of our best kept secrets, but we should shout about it from the rooftops and steeples. I love both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches and long for the unity that God has called us to. Though I try to not get my hopes up, I pray that the Lord will unify our churches during the current dialogue about Holy Communion / The Eucharist. The late 1960′s dialogue revealed to us how we use semantics to talk past each other and falsely represent the other’s position instead of listening to each other. May we hear each other, (more importantly) hear God, and grow in unity.

  • Rosemary A

    Fr Leo: This is an editorial style comment: I think it would have been better to start off by saying “Definitely!” While the opening to this response is colloquial, the “No not true” sends the wrong message and people may not read beyond that. I know I was confused. And, I even knew the answer.
    And, I do agree that this IS a major unifying issue.

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