The "Joint Declaration of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the Doctrine of Justification" represents a significant progress in mutual understanding and in the coming together in dialogue of the parties concerned; it shows that there are many points of convergence between the Catholic position and the Lutheran position on a question that has been for centuries so controversial. It can definitely be affirmed that a high degree of agreement has been reached, as regards both the approach to the question and the judgment it merits(Nellas 1987). It is truly stated that there is "a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification" (Hahn 1995, pp 20-36).
The Catholic Church is, nevertheless, of the opinion that we cannot however speak of a consensus such as would eliminate every difference between Catholics and Lutherans in the understanding of justification. The Joint Declaration itself refers to definite of these differences. On several points the positions are, in information (Hahn 1995, pp 2-6), still divergent. So, on the basis of the agreement by now reached on many aspects, the Catholic Church intends to contribute towards overcoming the divergences that still exist by suggesting, below, in order of importance, a list of points that constitute still an obstacle to agreement between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on all the fundamental truths concerning justification. The Catholic Church expects that the following indications may be an encouragement to continue study of these questions in the same fraternal spirit that, in recent times, has characterized the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (Jüngel, 2001).
The major difficulties avoiding an affirmation of total consensus between the parties on the theme of justification arise in paragraph 4.4 The Justified as Sinner (nn. 28-30). Even taking into account the differences, legitimate in themselves, that come from diverse theological approaches to the content of faith, from a Catholic point of view the title is already a cause of perplexity (Nellas 1987). According, in reality, to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in baptism everything that is really sin is taken away, and so, in those who are born anew there is nothing that is hateful to God. It follows that the concupiscence that remains in the baptized is not, correctly speaking, sin. For Catholics, as a result, the formula "at the same time righteous and sinner", as it is explained at the beginning of n. 29 ("Believers are totally virtuous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament.... Looking at themselves ... however, they distinguish that they remain also totally sinners. Sin still lives in them ") is not satisfactory. This statement does not, in fact, seem well-matched with the renewal and sanctification of the inner man of which the Council of Trent speaks. The expression "opposition to God" (Gottwidrigkeit) is that is used in nn. 28-30 is understood in a different way by Lutherans and by Catholics, and so becomes, in fact, equivocal. In this same sense, there can ...