In this comprehensive volume in the Dogmatic Theology series, the late Bavarian theologian Johann Auer (1910-1989) takes up the challenge of presenting an understanding of the nature of the Church that is relevant for our time. Central to his discussion is the Vatican II concept of the Catholic Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Auer argues that as such, the Church is a sacrament not only for those who are already known as members of the church, but for all human beings of all times and all places, to saint and sinner alike. Firmly grounding his commentary in scripture and in the history of doctrine, Auer clearly outlines the meaning of the Church's sacramental nature. Emphasizing that the Church cannot be understood as a mere social phenomenon, Auer then further examines the sacramental nature of the Church as it is expressed in its life and activity. Here he discusses the beginning of the Church (its founding, basis and genesis); its unique inner constitution, the orders and organization of the Church in which this hidden structure is manifested, and the origins of the Church's important offices such as those of the pope or the bishops. He also addresses the problems of apostolic succession and the infallibility of the pope. Lastly, Auer considers the Church's tasks in the modern world and it relationship to those important elements in our society - the state, the economy, art, science - that impinge upon our everyday lives.