Talk about bad news.
Insisting that interpretations since Vatican II (the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s) have become far too liberal, Benedict sought to clarify Jesus Christ's intentions in establishing one church on earth.
This is a dream of a semantic argument. The little "c" word "catholic" means "all-encompassing" or "all-inclusive." It's a good word for Jesus' church on this side of the grave. But do those definitions describe the big "C" Catholic Church?
Benedict likely would say, "Yes. Yes it does." (Or rather, "Si.") He stated this week that the Catholic Church is the only way to salvation, so that should mean this church has everything you need.
Che ti passa per la testa!? (Loosely, that's WTHTMWY in Italian.)
Immediately Protestant groups across the globe did what they do best: protest. It has taken decades for Christians to be in meaningful ecumenical dialog with one another, to say nothing of non-Christian faiths. Ecumenism is not about uniformity but unity.
Fights over apostolic succession are nothing new. Wars have been -- and continue to be -- fought over religious supremacy, across denominational lines. And really, this is the witness to which the Catholic Church has always, always been called: We are the One. This is not news. In many ways, what Benedict has said over the past week (Tuesday's declaration was actually the second recent harping on V-2) isn't scandalous or inflammatory at all. In fact, he already said this stuff in 2000 when he was prefect of Dominus Iesus. S.S.D.D., with that last "D" standing for either "declaration" or "day."
Yet in many other ways, this pendulum swing back to conservatism is as needle sharp as the schism of the Reformation itself and a slap in the face to millions and millions of faithful people who trust their salvation to God alone and not to any representative on earth. It's also detrimental to millions of Catholics who feel connected to their church but also seek relationship with and even affirm believers of other traditions and faiths.
I knew when this particular puff of white smoke came on the scene that I wasn't going to be very thrilled with him. I'm a little leery of any European trotting around and calling for a return to "traditional Christian values." That hasn't gone so well historically. But that's exactly what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent his theological career doing long before he ever became pope. This is a decades-long hangover from V-2, where he was indeed present but from which he's never fully recovered.
Whoa, Nelly. Hold on. I am NOT anti-papist. While Pope John Paul II wasn't any more of a perfect role model than the next human being, I have been scrapbooking almost everything he ever said on poverty, and I bought my son a little book about him. As popes go, I can be for one and against another without decrying the whole office.
I do profess that I believe in the holy catholic Church, and it's not just because I'm an editor that it is EXPRESSLY important to me which C-word gets capitalized. Benedict would say it's heresy (and my own bishop might raise an eyebrow), but we are the church. We -- different, factious, even oppositional -- are the church. The Catholic Church doesn't have any more corner market on this claim than Clowns for Christ does. (Not that there's anything wrong with it ...)
But that's what I think. What do you think about the pope's declaration that the Catholic faith is the only true path to salvation, that the Catholic Church is the only real church?