Dominus Iesus: Why This? Why Now?

By Leonard, Steven | Shofar, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview
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Dominus Iesus: Why This? Why Now?

Leonard, Steven, Shofar

Even for one not trained in the academic discipline of political science, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that Dominus Iesus is a political document by those within the Roman Catholic Church, specifically its conservatizing element the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Quotations from those both within and outside the Church support this conclusion. Therefore, this significant text must be understood as laying the groundwork for the incumbent pope's successor as evidence of political jockeying already hard at work.


I am not a political scientist, trained in that particular academic discipline. Nor am I a so-called "conspiracy-theorist" -- despite the enormous popularity of such programs as "The X-Files" ("The Truth is Out There"), or the successful movie starring Mel Gibson with the solo title "Conspiracy," though I have examined in considerable depth and written about the notorious and scurrilous antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in a forthcoming publication, the result of a successful collaboration with the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY. My training is as one committed to the practice of the Jewish religious faith, heritage, and tradition (rabbinic ordination or semicha) who, also, holds a doctorate in Biblical and Non-Canonical Literature with a dissertation on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and who teaches Judaic Studies in a secular state university. And yet, even after analyzing the text of Dominus Iesus, not only for what it says but what it does not say, in attempting to answer my own two questions -- "Why this document?" and "Why now?" -- I am forced into an escapable political conclusion: Given the advancing age and increasing physical infirmities of the incumbent Pope, John Paul II; the power of the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church in the person of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- "The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith," to use John L. Allen, Jr.'s biographical subtitle(1); and the painful confrontation of the Church in an increasingly pluralistic world of larger and larger numbers of both Hindus and Muslims, Dominus Iesus is an attempt by those in positions of power within the Church to reverse the seemingly more liberal progress made by the incumbent prior to the election of his successor, to undo, as it were, the perceived falsely relativistic position of the Church (i.e., "one among many"), and restore it to its pre-Vatican II/Nostre Aerate understanding of "No salvation outside the Church." And I am not alone, either in my thinking or in my understanding.

Other Voices Inside and Outside the Church

Fact: According to Walter Kirn in Time Magazine for March 26, 2001, "Most of the Cardinals under 80 and therefore eligible to vote are doctrinal conservatives. John Paul named 92% of them."(2) Thus, the decision for John Paul's successor will be made, regardless of age, by those whose own theological position is to the conservative right of center, and, while admittedly, the conservatives have historically been in positions of influence and power, alarms are being sounded both inside and outside the Church itself.

Father Michael A. Fahey, S.J., Emmett Doerr Distinguished Professor of Catholic Theology at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, and a former student of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, writes:

What many Catholics have been perceiving, and I believe quite justifiably, is that the Vatican is sending out mixed messages these days. While the pope is praying with non-Christians in Assisi, asking for forgiveness of the Jews at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and admitting the sinfulness at least of members of the church (if not the church itself), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is speaking in terms that sound as triumphalistic as pre-Vatican II, appealing to an ecclesiology closer to Pius XII's Mystici Corporis than to that of Vatican II's Lumen Gentium.

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Dominus Iesus: Why This? Why Now?


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