Vatican II Inclusivism

How can Catholic theologians seemingly contradict the official teaching of the Catholic Church? Many commentators believe that, in a recent homily, Pope Francis did just that. While the Vatican has since “clarified” his remarks, the question remains for many other Catholic theologians, who seem to promote doctrinal views in sharp contrast to previous declarations of the Catholic Church. Many Catholics now affirm a view of salvation that is “inclusive,” that is, broad enough to include not only explicit Catholics, but also Muslims, Jews, agnostics, and atheists. Many critics cry foul, since this appears to be a blatant contradiction of traditional Catholic teaching.

In this episode, Camden Bucey leads a discussion that touches upon the changes in prolegomena that allow many Catholic theologians to affirm the church’s historic pronouncements while leaving room for new doctrinal formulations such as this contemporary inclusivism. The grand project of Vatican II was to update the Catholic church for a modern age, to open the windows and let in fresh air. To accomplish this overhaul, many theologians resorted to a Kantian-esque view of revelation and history. Listen as the panel discusses the workings of this type of “both-and” theologizing.

Participants: , ,

Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


5 years ago

Camden and guys,

Thanks so much for this discussion! I’ll be writing and interacting with some tenets of Catholicism in my own context soon, and this was very helpful in my understanding of how Rome deals with past official declarations of the Church that seem in tension with each other and with modern assertions.

Always kinda wondered about that, realizing that RC’s surely couldn’t be THAT blind to the apparent contradictions.

God bless!


5 years ago

Great episode. One thing that worried me was comments by Camden at the end about the ability of Kantian-inspired forms of Catholicisms (such as Rahner) to take account of, or insulate themselves from every seeming counter-example to their theology (everything from the apparent skepticism implicit in Kantian theologies to the diversity of Catholic opinions many of which reject such Kantian-inspired theologies). If one is convinced that such a Kantian theology is true, one might see this virtually irrefutably as a sign of the truth of that theology.

However, imagine one who holds to a Kantian theology (e.g. a Rahnerian) is listening to this episode and is doubting that theology, and wants to know how it is possible for her to figure out whether it is true. Isn’t she led solely to skepticism? An internal critique is impossible because any internal inconsistency can be reconciled by the resources of the Kantian theology. Any external critique is impossible insofar as they presuppose the falsity of the Kantian system (where God, it might be said, is the ground of both Being and intelligibility, facts which the external critique presupposes are false). So, how is it possible to be led to anything besides skepticism about the truth of her theology?

Camden Bucey

5 years ago

This is an excellent question. We would have to go down some Van Tilian roads to answer this one. Perhaps another episode on that very issue would be warranted.


5 years ago

That was very helpful. I have many nominal RC friends and many protestant friends that seem to be appealed by RC. 2 questions Camden.

Is this the book you referred to?
The Shape of the Church to Come
Karl Rahner

So when you assert that the church is the instantiation or application of the phenomenonal in the noumenal at the particular point in history. That made a lot of sense. I think I can see how they get there. I was wondering if perhaps one way the may RCC may substantiate it is by an open canon. I have heard good reformed folks say that God reveals himself differently throughout scriptural history – strange things like intrusion ethics and a like. I am not so sure I agree with them but it seems to me but obviously there is somewhat of a different application in in Redemptive History in Joshua than there is in Acts. And there are protestants who are differing in how they interpret that (although I’d say I think I am Covenantly Reformed). Anyway, seeing things are different in redemptive history is sorta similar between protestant and RCC. So I was wondering if what the RCC is saying in effect is that special revelation is not closed (councils and etc) whereas the protestant believes that the Canon is closed. In that way, they can justify how council X disagrees with council Y in a somewhat similar way that Darby or Scofield et al hermeneutic interprets an unchanging and sovereign God revealing himself differently in Acts which they see disagreeing with Exodus 20.

I know you said you see a connection with Kant (which is probably right b/c you are way more educated and smarter than me and it made sense too) but I was wondering if the difference between an RCC and a protestant still comes down to, foundationally, whether or not the canon is closed.

Thank you for your program.


Camden Bucey

5 years ago

There are certainly major differences between Reformed and RCC theology. The closed canon is right in that mix. Let me suggest Robert Strimple’s chapter in Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us for a thorough treatment of the major differences.


5 years ago

Thank you.

Benjamin L. Smith

5 years ago


As a Roman Catholic and someone who converted to catholicism for the reasons you stated you might be interested in my comments.

I think that you correctly identified the two primary problems of modern catholicism: anthropology and epistemology.

You are correct that much of catholic theology has lapsed impliclity (or explicitly) into a Kantian approach to dogma and doctrine. I call this the problem of dogmatic realism and it is a real current crisis. In my own confrontation with this problem I have found it very useful to frame the doctrine in Hegelian/ dialectical terms. Traditionally catholic dogma has been construed as infallible and immutable. Of course within the framework of traditionalism and the “development of doctrine” there has long been room for addition, but subtraction and contradiction were ruled out. The connection between infallibility and immutability (no subtraction or contradiction) is logical. If X is necessarily true, and truth is the correspondence of judment and being, then X can never contradicted, for it infallibly reflects the being signified by the judgment.

However, modern catholicism seems to have accepted the evolution of dogma and doctrine in a Hegelian sense. Actually I think the Kantian move is brought in to explain and justify the evolution. Because the noumenal reality cannot be captured we can evolve phenomenal presentations to suit the demands of the time. The problem is that if the past presenations were false, provisional, or practically reformable, then the same may be said of the present formulations. So you are left with no grounds of certainty for either past or present formulations. Why choose the present formulation rather than the past. There is no intellectual resolution to this question. Rather it is answered practically. The real infallible rule is the present teaching of the pope. The follow up question is obvious: how do you know? Because of the present teachig of the pope. Obviously this begs the question and collapses into subjectivism.

In the past there was a claim (rarely invoked in current discussions) of the tradition of the Church as an infallible rule. Under this approach the evolution of dogma was ruled out: once true and always true. So something has to give, either Hegel or loyalty to Catholic Tradition as an infallible rule.

Needless to say anthropology has been a complete disaster since Vatican II. This is a long story, but I will simply say that Pelagian and semi-Pelagian conceptions really are rampant both in the pews and in the Catholic academy. You are quite right that certain distortation of Saint Thomas’s doctrine regarding man’s ultimate end are partly to blame. One reason that Neo-Thomists resisted De Lubac, Cognar, etc., was that they wanted to ward of the notion that we could approach union with God through our natural powers. Unfortunately, they defended the necessity of grace by positing an autonomous human nature. According to Ratzinger/ Benedict XVI a progressive version of this view was suggested in Gaudium et Spes where it talks about human autonomy.

Here is the crux of the matter. If you combine the view that God is man’s ultimate end with the view of that nature is an autonomous and functioning principle of motion intrinsically ordered to God, then it would seem that we are going to achieve God on our own or that God must make grace available to all (the old Thomist distinction between efficacious and sufficient grace has been dropped).

I hope these comments were helpful.


Contact Info

Reformed Forum
P.O. Box 27422
Philadelphia, PA 19118

+1 440.973.6786

Copyright © 2018 Reformed Forum