Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pope Asserts Primacy of Roman Catholic Church

I recently, on July 12th, read this article:

Pope Benedict XVI approved a document that says Roman Catholic Church as the only proper church and other Christian denominations as “defective” or not true churches on July 10. Other churches, including Protestant and Orthodox churches, immediately attacked the Pope’s remarks, Reuters and DPA reported.

The document states that “Christ ‘established here on Earth’ only one church,” and as for Orthodox churches, it pointed out that the fact that the churches did not recognize the authority of the pope. Regarding Protestant churches, Pope Benedict mentioned that they couldn’t be called “churches” in the proper sense because they lacked apostolic succession.

The foreign press pointed out that the substance of the document is similar to the one that the Pope made when he was secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Censure is coming from all around regarding his remarks. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches said, “We are wondering if Catholic churches really have intention to excommunicate other brother churches.” German Evangelical churches criticized that a chance for unity between denominations was “getting far away again.” Leaders of the Copt, a traditional Egyptian Protestant church, dismissed his remarks as a joke.

Benedict also announced on July 7 that he would revive the Latin mass, which caused a backlash from Jewish people since the Latin mass, known as the “Tridentine Mass,” contains a chant that calls for Jewish people to renounce their religion.

Some catholic churches have questioned the statement and consider it a step back from the reform of the Vatican Council II (1962-1965). The council decided that the language of the mass should be decided according to the church that the mass is held in.

Pope Benedict XVI created a controversy by describing Islam as a violent religion last year.

Now, I’m not Catholic but I’m a little concerned about this news. If you’re familiar with Vatican Council II then you might know that much of the vision behind the council was to somehow find a place for Protestants in their theology without rejecting them/us as Christians. If I understand the council and this article correctly it would seem that Pope Benedict XVI is taking a huge step backwards.

I often find myself defending Catholics in conversations with some Protestants. With Vatican council II it seemed that the Catholic Church was taking steps toward reconciling with us which made it easy to argue that we should do the same. But I worry now that it may be more difficult in the future to do this if Benedict keeps going in this direction. I’m afraid this may be a step in the wrong direction.

The revival of the Latin Mass also seems like a strange if not bad decision, but since I am not a Catholic I’m afraid I have little to say on the subject. I realize there is more to church than just how you do your services and what language you do them in.

Some other articles on the subject you might be interested in: Swiss Christians criticize Pope, Local clergy react to pope's proclamation, ‘Mass’ Confusion Over Papal Edict, and Pope simply restating church's teachings.

3 comments:

Val said...

I very much agree. I am a lay person for the Catholic Church and came back to the church I was raised in as a result of the studies I pursued which focused on the changes made by the Vatican II council. I am saddened to hear what Pope Benedict is doing. I have never had the belief that our brother faiths were "less right" than Catholics. I am getting married to my Baptist raised fiance in an Episcopalian church and am very happy to be doing so. He and I have found a way to respect the authenticity of our relationships with Christ in the expressions we were raised with and now have found a wonderful community at an Episcopalian church in New York City (I moved to the east coast from the southwest). The one true church, as I hope many know, is us-the believers in and disciples of Christ.

WES ELLIS said...

good, thoughts val.
Don't be too discouraged, I have a feeling that Benedict's decisions won't be too permanent.

Clavem Abyssi said...

I do not understand why this would sadden you as a Protestant. The document in question here clearly points out the areas in which Protestant (and Oriental) groups are lacking, which can be called "churches" and which cannot. Protestant groups do not meet many of the criteria that the document lists (the Eucharist, Apostolic Succession, &c...), and most Protestant do not care or even want to meet those criteria.

His message is essentially "Despite the rumours, nothing has changed". I don't see how reminding people that a spade is still a spade can be considered mean-spirited or rash.

As for there being a discrepancy between JP2's teaching and Benedict's, I have to disagree. Just because the shepherd guides his flock to the left sometimes, doesn't mean he won't eventually have to guide them back to the right. Leadership is essentially a balancing act. If the Holy Father is disagreeing with 40 years of Catholic history, he is still agreeing with 1900 years of it.

As for the Latin Mass, it's not being brought back. The restrictions on it are just being relaxed, and rightfully so. Why should the traditional rite of our church for over 500 years suddenly become illegal? His purpose was to allow a better liturgy to organically grow from exposure to both the old and the new.

How would Protestants like it if every hymn from prior to 1990 were suddenly banned?