The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

Perhaps the most significant document to emerge from the Council was The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (In Latin, Lumen Gentium). While it was argued by the Fathers from the first day to its passage, it was widely supported, and set a new focus for the Church. It was approved on Nov. 21, 1964, by a vote of 2,151 to 5. Here are a few highlights:

  • The Church is a mystery, “a reality imbued with the hidden presence of God.” It is a sacrament: a visible, tangible, audible sign of the invisible, intangible, inaudible divinity. The universal Church appears as a people made one with the unity of the Trinity.
  • The Church’s primary mission is to announce and proclaim the Reign of God in our time.
  • The Church is the whole people of God, not just the hierarchy.
  • The people of God are called to ministry, community, holiness, and adulthood.
  • The Church is universal, but also complete in each parish.
  • The Church is more than Roman Catholics: it also includes all those who belong to Christ.
  • Authority is shared, and is rooted in the faith of the people.
  • The laity seeks God’s Reign by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering them according to God’s plan.
  • The Church is always understood in light of the mission of Jesus, which is to transform the world with love.
  • The Church is not identical with the Reign of God. If it were, it would never need change or renewal and everyone would have to belong to it in order to be “saved.”
  • The call to holiness is a call to everyone.
  • The consecrated life of religious is a particular gift to the Church.
  • The memory of Mary is to hold a place of reverence for all.