Seminary/School of Divinity


Fall 12-2016

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



Christian D. Washburn

Second Advisor

William B. Stevenson

Third Advisor

Kristin Towle


In its dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentium, Vatican II teaches, “This Church, constituted and ordered as a society in this world, subsists in the Catholic Church.” Within this statement, the council fathers affirmed what had always been taught in the tradition of the Church, namely, that the Church of Christ is fully identical with the Catholic Church. Yet, controversy was quick to arise from the statement, as the words subsistit in replaced the words of the more direct phrasing of the original draft, which asserted that the Church of Christ is [est] the Catholic Church. Indeed, for the past fifty years, the hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture has been particularly popular among theologians trying to interpret this article. That is, many approach this text with the understanding that the Church’s ecclesiology concerning her own identity was radically altered.

Other authoritative voices, however, have continuously defended and affirmed full identity as the true interpretation of the Second Vatican Council.

It is the intent of this study to demonstrate this understanding of full identity as the intended message of the council fathers, in keeping with centuries of Magisterial teaching and Revelation itself. More precisely, the following study aims to remove the possibility that subsistit in is a proof of discontinuity. Imbued with the fullness of all the means with which Christ entrusted her, the Church remains forever, exclusively, and immutably Catholic. That the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church is proof of exclusive identity. Since this has been the prevalent perspective of the Church throughout its history, surely this proposition removes subsistit in from the arguments for discontinuity.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.