The task of the Roman Magisterium, be it directly the Pope’s or mediated by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, is to faithfully preserve the truth of Divine Revelation. It is instituted by Christ and works in the Holy Spirit so that the Catholic faithful are protected from all heresies that jeopardize salvation and from any confusion in matters of doctrine and moral life (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 18;23).
The dicastery’s answers to various questions from a Brazilian bishop (November 3, 2023) on the one hand remind us of generally known truths of faith, but on the other hand, they also open up to the misunderstanding that there is, after all, room for a coexistence of sin and grace in the Church of God.
he Son of God, our Redeemer and the Head of the Church, which is His Body, has instituted the Sacrament of Baptism so that all people can attain eternal life through faith in Christ and a life of imitating Him. The unconditional love of God frees people from the deadly dominance of sin, which plunges man into misfortune and separates him from God, the source of life. The universal salvific will of God (1 Tim 2:4f) does not say that we only need to confess Jesus as our Lord with our lips in order to enter the Kingdom of God, while at the same time excusing ourselves from the duty to fulfill God’s Holy and Sanctifying Will by referring to our human weakness (cf. Mt 7:21–23). The simple metaphor, “the Church is not a customs post,” which is intended to say that the Christian must not be measured bureaucratically by the letter of the law, finds its limit where we speak about the grace that leads us to a new life beyond sin and death.
The Apostle Paul says that we were all “slaves to sin” before we came to faith in Christ. But now, through baptism in the name of Christ, the Son of God and Anointed with the Holy Spirit, we “have become obedient from the heart to the teaching to which we have been delivered.” So we must not sin, because we are no longer subject to the law, but we are subject to grace. “Therefore sin shall not dominate your mortal body, and you shall no longer be subject to its desires … as men who have passed from death to life” (Rom 6:12f).
The oldest Church ordinance written in Rome (around 200 AD) names the criteria for the admission or rejection (or even deferral) [of a person] to the catechumenate and to the reception of baptism and demands that all dubious professions, illegal partnerships, and any immoral behavior that are contrary to the life of grace of baptism must be abandoned (Traditio Apostolica 15–16).
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