A Summary of
The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church solemnly promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964
Chapter I – The Mystery of the Church
1. Christ is the light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathers together in the Holy Spirit and eagerly desires to bring the light of Christ to all. Since the Church as Christ like a sacrament, or as a sign and instrument, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its inner nature and universal mission with urgency.
2. The eternal father created the whole world to raise man to a participation of the divine life. God the Father offers to help us aim unto salvation. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people for the Israel and by means of the Old Covenant, but in the present time the Church was constituted, and by the outpouring of the Spirit it was made manifest, and at the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion and will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church.
3. By His obedience, Jesus brought about redemption. And so as often as the sacrifice of the cross which Christ our Passover was sacrificed is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on. All men are called to this union in Christ.
4. The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as a temple and in them He prays on their behalf and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons. The Church, He both equips and directs and leads to perfect union with its Spouse.
5. The mystery of the holy Church is manifest in its very foundation. When Jesus had risen, He appeared as the One, Christ and eternal Priest, and poured out His Spirit. From this source, the Church receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples, the kingdom of Christ and of God, and to be the initial budding forth of that kingdom toward its perfection and completion.
6. In the Old Testament the revelation of the kingdom is conveyed by means of metaphors. The Church is a sheepfold, a piece of land to be cultivated, and is also called “our mother”.
7. Jesus Christ, by overcoming death, and in His resurrection communicates His Spirit, called together all nations into His own mystical Body. In that body the life of Christ is poured into the believers, and through baptism are formed into the likeness of Christ. By partaking in the Eucharist we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. Just as the parts of the human body are numerous but forum one body, so are the faithful in Christ. If one member endures, all endure. The Head of this Body is Christ, the image of the invisible God. In this body His power is working throughout the world through the Spirit within the believers.
8. Christ, the one Mediator, established a visible Church on earth. This visible Church does not have two realities but is one. This is the one Church of Christ in the creed which we profess as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, on which the pillar of truth is erected. This Church carries out the work of Christ until the end of time
Chapter II – On the People of God
9. At all times God has chosen to raise His people up as one body in order to prepare away for the messiah which is Christ. In Christ all the people of the world are called to live in this family by baptism. This family is brought together to live a communal life of charity and truth to be an instrument for God. Through the strength of Christ, His Bride will be perpetually renewed.
10. All those who are baptized by water and spirit join Christ in a royal priesthood, who present themselves in service to God it as a daily sacrifices. Participating in this priesthood of Christ are both the ministerial and hierarchical priests as well as the common priesthood of all believers.
11. Through the sacraments and a virtuous life this priestly community has brought together through their baptism reborn as sons of God. Those who were perfectly bound to the Church, are done so by the sacrament of Confirmation, and by partaking in the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Penance, are more perfectly enabled to carry out the commands of Christ. Other sacraments such as the anointing of sick, holy matrimony, and holy orders each help us to attain holiness in Christ.
12. The body of Christ as a whole and entire faithful, cannot err in matters of belief. This protection is provided by the spirit of truth which is exercised in the Church via the Magisterium.
13. All men are called to participate and belonged to the unified and perpetual people of God. And though there are many nations in our earthly world, there are no boundaries, borders, or separation of any kind that disables the togetherness of the people of God. Again, all men are called to participate in this catholicity.
14. With Christ as the one mediator, and us who make up his Body, the necessities of baptism and the Church, are the narrow ingredients by which salvation is a obtained; a teaching that is based upon the word of God which is Scripture and Tradition.
15. The church is a body made up of all of them those who are deemed Christian, and this includes also those which were not in communion with the successor of Peter, not professing the Christian faith in its entirety.
16. There are also those who have not yet received the gospel who in some way related to the people of God. Some of these individuals may receive salvation who through no fault of their own do not know Christ.
17. The Church is compelled to fulfill the last instructions given by Jesus Christ himself to baptize, preach, and teach. The Church will labor endlessly in order to see that all peoples brought into the family of Christ.
Chapter III – On the Hierarchical Structure of the Church and in Particular on the Episcopate
18. In order to grow the Church more perfectly, Jesus instituted many ministries and hierarchical positions in order to form a visible Church, consisting of priests, deacons and bishops.
19. The Lord Jesus gathered to himself his chosen leaders and sent them with the mission of evangelizing the whole world.
20. This perpetual mission of announcing the gospel is logically not to be completed in one generation. And so as these apostles had died they had to initiate successors to their episcopate. These successors carry with them the teachings of the apostles, and unbroken chain of truth from the lips of Jesus.
21. It is these Bishops primarily in whom Jesus placed His trust for the care of his flock. They participate most fully in the high priest of Jesus Christ, administering sacraments, carrying tradition, and sustaining the Church.
22. The apostolic college is made up of the successor of Peter in communion with the successors of the apostles. As it has since its foundation, this apostolic college is responsible for maintaining charity, unity, and peace with the assembled Church. The Roman Pontiff, Vicar of Christ, and successor of Peter, is the head of the Church, that Jesus Christ is the supreme cornerstone.
23. The makeup of this body is that the Pope is at the head and the Bishops are to remain in unity with each other for their particular Churches. The unity is only possible through the successor of Peter. This is the universal church. These churches are to work together in unity to promote the faith, harvest its spiritual and material needs, and to help each other. This is the spirit of the catholicity in an undivided Church.
24. The Bishops are then given the direct responsibility of proclaiming the gospel to every creature so that all may attain salvation. This is done with the help of the promised Holy Spirit.
25. As announcers of the Gospel, bishops must be great preachers and teachers of the faith, and must remain loyal and true to the Magisterium of the Church. This is seen perfectly by the participation in an Ecumenical Council. When a judgment is defined on truth and morals all are obliged to be in conformity with this revelation and to express it.
26. These bishops with their participation in Holy Orders are particularly oriented to the consecration and participation of the Eucharist. They are responsible for making sure that legitimate celebrations of the Eucharist are occurring within their episcopate. By the same obligation, they are required to administer baptism confirmation to new believers, sacred orders, and to the moderators of discipline.
27. The Churches entrusted to bishops are to be governed with their sacred power but are also called to be servants and to be the “least of these”. The Holy Spirit preserves this form of government and in that perseverance is to remain with its eyes affixed on the Good Shepherd, continuing his own and urging others to participate as missionaries.
28. Apostolic succession is visibly seen generation after generation in those who participate in Holy Orders including bishops. Under the bishop’s authority, all individual consecrated priests make up one priesthood which is obedient to their given bishop. And also as friend and co-missionaries.
29. A lower level in this hierarchy are the deacons. Those who were assigned to the diaconate are to administer baptism, be custodians of the Eucharist, to bless marriages, to read the scriptures, and administer to the dying and dead. It is for the individual patient to decide what ministries and boundaries these deacons participate. Married and older men, may, if allowed, also participate in this deaconate. It also may suit the pontiff well to require no deacons to remain celibate.
Chapter IV – The Laity
30. After having spoken on the Church in previous chapters it is time to speak of the laity, but what has been said in these previous chapters applies to the entire Church body. The laity form a special part of the body.
31. The term “laity” refers to those who are not included in holy orders or a special religious life approved by the Church. The laity are special because they live in the world and have a distinct ability to be an apostolate to the world, bringing forth light.
32. Though the laity occupy a distinct apostolate, they share a dignity and not inequality with other members of the Church, and their diversity bears witness to the wonderful unity of the body of Christ.
33. The laity are called in a special way to bring the Church into the circumstances, lives of the whole world, becoming a salt of the earth, a timeless instrument. Along with this the laity also serve alongside the apostolate of the Church’s Hierarchy.
34. The Lord Jesus Christ also bestows upon laity a share in the priestly nature of the body of Christ, of royal priesthood. With the sacrifices they make, the prayers they offer, their daily occupations, the hardships they endure, and the homes which they operate, are all is sacrificed given to the Lord.
35. The work of Christ and the coming of his kingdom are also brought forth through the laity, who preach the gospel attractively each day. So too then, the laity courageously join a profession of faith, and proclaimers of the gospel. Even among their own duties the laity it must perform a work of great value in the evangelization of the world, spreading to the growth of the kingdom.
36. The coming of the kingdom of Christ is spread throughout the world by use of the laity in a special way through holiness, grace, justice, love, and peace. The love of the Church permeates society primarily by the laity taking on a principle role in the fulfilment of this duty. The laity should set apart themselves from the world so that their lives stands as testimony to that mission of the Church, building a society and culture of truth, and religious liberty.
37. The laity, by the correct channels established for the Church, should receive in abundance and an openness the ability to communicate their needs and desires to their spiritual shepherds. Though also, the laity must, as all Christians must, accept with obedience and promptness, the decisions of the teachers and rulers of the Church, as Christ obeys the Father. And let these leaders and shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church.
38. All the laity are called to nourish the world with truth and proclamation of the Gospel.
Chapter V – The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church
39. The Church is believed to be indefectibly holy. Through Christ the Church is sanctified, and so everyone who belongs to the Church and who is cared for by the Church is called to a universal holiness.
40. It is clear that Jesus Christ taught His disciples to be holy in all factions of their life and condition. He sent the of Holy Spirit upon all men that he might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart, and their whole soul, with all their mind, and all their strength. Because we all sin and in many different ways, we require God’s mercy continually, and must ask God “Forgive us our debts”. Followers of Christ must use their strength, conform themselves, devote themselves to this call to holiness, and will surely grow an abundant harvest of good.
41. Holiness is one; it has no subjective qualification, and is the same for every man. Therefore every person must walk according to his own personal gifts and path of living in order to devote their lives to works of mercy and charity. Those who are called to the priesthood are expected to exercise this duty perfectly through the sacrament of Orders. Priests must follow the numerous examples laid before them in history. Deacons, though they are of a lesser rank, are likewise called to be holy, free from vice, and to be personifications of goodness and friends of God. Married couples, called to this unique vocation, are to follow the path of love, sustaining one another, imbuing their offspring with wisdom and love. Those who are widows or single, are also called to the path of love, and to give themselves in this unique vocation to better themselves in their labors. Those who are suffering poverty, infirmity, or sickness, are called in a very special way to serve God, and to serve with God, united in suffering for the salvation of the world.
42. Living a life of love is God’s will for us. In order to do this we must participate in the Eucharist, the sacred action of the Liturgy, prayer, self-abnegation, brotherly love, and the emanation of the virtues in our lives. The Church, above all actions of a man can perform, considers martyrdom to be the highest gift and fullest proof of love of. So few are presented the opportunity, and charity and to stand as Christ before men united with Him in suffering for the sake of the Gospel. One precious gift that one can also give in holiness to the Church is that of their virginity and the celibate state. Due to the undivided heart of these who are blessed by this gift, they are able to perform the works within the Church more freely. Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state.
Chapter VI – Religious
43. There are certain stable forms of living, referred to here as counsels, that promote poverty and obedience and in the example of the Lord, also commanded by the Apostles and Fathers of the Church. These religious families have branched out into various forms, giving their members the support for a firmly stable way of life and a proven doctrine of acquiring perfection. The Church considers these religious states between the clerical and lay.
44. These religious orders are joined by vows or sacred bonds. The consecration to Christ is made more firm when made to Christ and His Bride more firmly. These vows and bonds are to be undertaken to the extent of the individual’s capacity in keeping aligned with the proper type of their vocation. These do not belong to the hierarchical structure of the Church, but nevertheless undeniably belong to the life of holiness.
45. Therefore it is the duty of the Church hierarchy to regulate the practice of these religious orders. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church hierarchy accepts the rules provided by these religious followed by further adjustments. Any institute of perfection and its individual members may be removed from the jurisdiction of the local Ordinates by the Supreme Pontiff and subject to himself alone. Furthermore, the members of these religious ought to obey and accept the authority of their local bishop due to the pastoral authority of their church and the harmony of the apostolate. These religious orders are raised to a canonical status that they are consecrated to God.
46. Members of these religious should remember that they are present to the world of believers and non-believers in a striking manner as Christ. The though they do not mingle with contemporaries, in a more profound sense, these religious are united with the heart of Christ in interacting with the world.
47. Let each of the faithful called to the profession of the evangelical counsels persevere and ever grow in that vocation that God has given them, for the increased holiness of the Church.
Chapter VII – The Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church and Its Union with the Church in Heaven
48. The Church will attain its full perfection in the Glory of heaven when all things will be restored and at that same time the human race will be perfectly reestablished in Christ. Christ is fully active in the world and so the restoration as promised has begun already. However, until the perfection of Christ occurs, the pilgrim Church will endure the appearance of the world, and await the revelation of God. In the meantime we are urged to live more for Him, to strive for all perfect things, and since we do not know the day or the hour, we will be constantly vigilant and look forward to the marriage feast with Him and the time which we will reign with Christ in Glory.
49. Until the Lord reigns in majesty, all things are subject to Him, for those who are in Christ having His Spirit form a single Church and cleave in Him. Those who are in heaven are more closely united with Christ and are more firmly in holiness for they have been received into their heavenly home and are in the presence of the Lord, where, through Him and with Him and in Him they do not cease to intercede, through Jesus, for us.
50. The Church has always believed that those who have died as martyrs are more closely united to Christ, and in that respect should be sought for spiritual aid by intercession. To these are also added the other faithful who have given an outstanding witness to the faith. Just as the Christian community brings us closer to Christ, so also companionship with the saints in heaven join us closer to Christ. Our union with the Church in heaven is put into effect with the sacred Liturgy through sacramental signs that those from every tribe, nation, and tongue will be gathered together into one Church.
51. This Sacred Council accepts the faith of its ancestors and proposes once again the Decrees of the Second Council of Nicaea, the council of Florence, and the Council of Trent. Also, if any abuses or excesses or defects occur, the faithful should do what is within their power to correct them and restore that to a fuller praise of Christ and of God.
Chapter VIII – The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, In the Mystery of Christ and the Church
52. In God’s supreme goodness to make effect the redemption of the world, He chose His Son to be born of a woman. The faithful, in the first place, must reverence the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
53. When Mary accepted and received the Word of God in her heart and body, she truly became the Mother of God, and the Mother of the Redeemer. Because of this sublime grace, Mary surpasses all creatures in heaven and earth, and at the same time is a sign of Adam and is one with all those who need to be saved. The Catholic Church honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.
54. This Holy Synod intends to describe the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body and the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God. It will not however communicate a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it intend to answer questions that theologians have not fully clarified.
II. The Role of the Blessed Mother in the Economy of Salvation
55. The Scriptures and Tradition of the Church shall Mary’s role in the economy of salvation in an ever clearer light. She is prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent in Genesis, and is said to conceive as a virgin and bear a son who will be called Emmanuel in Isaiah and Micah.
56. The Father willed that the incarnation would follow her acceptance of this duty, and just as sin enter the world with a woman, life would enter the world through a woman as well. The Church Fathers were right to call Mary the Mother of God, holy and free from all stain of sin. Her own conception bears a witness and radiance of an entirely unique holiness, just as the angel Gabriel told her she was “full of grace”. As she, freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience, consented to the divine Word, she became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator.
57. The union of the Mother with the Son is manifested when Mary and visits Elizabeth and is greeted as her baby leapt with joy in her womb, and also with the birth of our Lord which does not diminish His Mother’s virginal integrity, but sanctifies it. There are other instances in the scriptures were Mary is joined with her son.
58. In the public life of Jesus, Mary makes significant appearances. The first of which occurs at the feast of Cana when moved by pity, she brings by her intercession the miracles of Jesus. As Jesus is dying on the cross, Jesus commands the care taking of his mother to the Apostle John.
59. We also see that she is present on the day of Pentecost. Finally, she was assumed into heaven that she might more fully conform to her Son, the Lord of Lords.
III. On the Blessed and Virgin and the Church
60. There is but one Mediator as we know from the Apostle Paul. The maternal duty of Mary toward men, in no way obscures or diminishes as this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power.
61. The Blessed Virgin, as Mother of the Redeemer, is above all others as a generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord.
62. The maternity of Mary started with the Annunciation and will last until the eternal fulfillment of the elect. By her maternal charity she cares for the brethren of her Son until their lead to the true home, and for this is given the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. However, it is to be understood that neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator. For no creature can be counted as the quill with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. The Church does not hesitate to profess the subordinate role of Mary.
63. By her gift of divine maternity, Mary is also intimately united with the Church, for the Church is rightly called “mother” and “virgin”, and so merry stands out as an eminent example of virgin and mother.
64. So the Church, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes a mother to those who are born of into her by baptism in conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of God.
65. But while Mary has already reached perfection without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin, and so we turn our eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community as a model of the virtues.
VI. The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church
66. Mary uniquely participated in the mysteries of Christ and is honored in a special following within the Church since its earliest days. According to her own words, “all generations will call me blessed.” This following, as it has always existed, differs from that adoration that is offered to the Incarnate Word, as well as to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The various forms of piety toward Mary, within the limits that sound orthodox doctrine, bring honor to the Son.
67. This most Holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine, and that the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the following of the Blessed Virgin to be generously fostered. But at the same time, it strongly exhorts all theologians and preachers of the divine word to abstain zealously both from all gross exaggerations, as well as petty narrow-mindedness, in considering the singular dignity of Mary.
V. Mary, the Sign of Created Hope and Solace to the Wandering People of God
68. Just as the mother of Jesus is the beginning of the Church, so too does she shine forth on earth a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth.
69. It joys and comforts this Synod that even our separated brethren, especially the Orientals, join us in celebrating the honor given to the Mother of God. May the entire body of faithful continually pour forth supplications to Mary for intercession. 1