So now we come to Vatican II’s consideration of “Separated Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the West,” subheading II of Chapter III. First another brief history lesson:
In the great upheaval which began in the West toward the end of the Middle Ages, and in later times too, Churches and ecclesial Communities came to be separated from the Apostolic See of Rome. Yet they have retained a particularly close affinity with the Catholic Church as a result of the long centuries in which all Christendom lived together in ecclesiastical communion.
Note the language: those traditions of the West separated from Rome include both Churches and “ecclesial Communities.”
However, since these Churches and ecclesial Communities, on account of their different origins, and different teachings in matters of doctrine on the spiritual life, vary considerably not only with us, but also among themselves, the task of describing them at all adequately is extremely difficult; and we have no intention of making such an attempt here.
That complexity must be a source of dismay. I’ve often wondered how the East views the splintering away from Rome. Catholics often look down upon the lack of centralization and order in the East, relative to Rome. But there’s no question that Rome was deeply at fault for its role in the divisions in the West. The council bishops concede they cannot address the whole situation as deeply as they could speak of the East.
Although the ecumenical movement and the desire for peace with the Catholic Church have not yet taken hold everywhere, it is our hope that ecumenical feeling and mutual esteem may gradually increase among all (people).
It must however be admitted that in these Churches and ecclesial Communities there exist important differences from the Catholic Church, not only of an historical, sociological, psychological and cultural character, but especially in the interpretation of revealed truth. To make easier the ecumenical dialogue in spite of these differences, we wish to set down some considerations which can, and indeed should, serve as a basis and encouragement for such dialogue.