The Protestant and Orthodox worlds responded rabidly to the seeming red meat thrown our way this week by the Bishop of Rome. In essence, the statement really said nothing new, i.e. there is one church, the Roman Catholic church, and that the rest of us are Christians but not churches because we lack apostolic succession and other permanent elements of the one Church. It’s just a restatement of Catholic doctrine by the Catholic Church…big deal.
The Catholic Catechism tells us that “All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church” and that’s all I need to know.
I love Pope Benedict and I believe that the Church is one. Whether you realize it or not, ALL the baptized are in one body. That means Benedict is your Bishop and mine, and so are all other rightfully ordained Bishops. It’s not “their problem” because we are all one. There are barriers to this oneness, but they will be worked out over time by the Holy Spirit. I am fine with being considered a separated brother by Catholics, we have much in common.
Turning to Pope Benedict, here is a look at his endorsement of the Latin Mass from First Things. I love the Latin Mass. I’ve only been part of it once, but it was very moving. Kudos to him for allowing the ancient practice of the church to flourish. And look at this interesting statement that he made at the start of his Papacy about the Magisterium of the Church and the infallibility of the Pope:
This power of teaching frightens many people in and outside the Church. They wonder whether freedom of conscience is threatened or whether it is a presumption opposed to freedom of thought. It is not like this. The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.
Benedict sees his role as binding himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word – period. That’s a pretty cool statement, almost Protestant in emphasis. Of course we disagree about what God’s Word says, but I probably disagree more with Baptists than with him, and it will get worked out. I don’t want to hear about idolatry from people who put the flag of our secular Empire proudly on the stage of their church and don’t think twice about it.
I’m glad that the Catholic Church is standing up with clarity for what it believes, on abortion, homosexuality, women’s ordination, the Trinity, and so much more. Praise God for honesty in the Church.