Catholic Dictionary

Lumen Gentium

The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, issued November 21, 1964, as the third major document of the Second Vatican Council; as a dogmatic constitution, it is distinguished from Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. LG has as its declared purpose to explain the Church's nature as "a sign and instrument . . . of communion with God and of unity among all men" (n. 1), and to define the Church's universal mission as the sacrament of human salvation: "This is the sole Church of Christ which in the creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic. . . . This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him" (n. 8). The major points of the constitution are shown in its chapter headings: (1) The Mystery of the Church; (2) The People of God; (3) The Hierarchy; (4) The Laity; (5) The Call to Holiness; (6) Religious; (7) The Pilgrim Church; (8) Our Lady. Added to LG at the order of Pope Paul VI is the unique Explanatory Note, which clarifies the meaning of episcopal collegiality such that bishops individually or collegially have no authority without explicit dependence on and in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. In this regard, too, LG treats of papal infallibility by repeating the criteria of Pastor Aeternus of Vatican Council I and maintains that the papal Magisterium, even though not taught solemnly, or ex cathedra, deserves a "loyal submission of the will and intellect" (n. 25).

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