Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Pope Hates Me?

Before I could read the newspaper, turn on the radio, or tune in to CNN, the news had reached me from not one, not two, but from THREE emails. Yes, it is true, the Pope, John Ratzinger, AKA Benedict XVI, hates me.

Yes, I am talking about the Pope’s somewhat recent document entitled, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” with its peculiar wording. Newspapers and Blogs alike were quick to react negatively to Ratzinger’s sharp pen. The document, just like most papal documents and Councils, does not bring anything new to the table; rather, it reaffirms what the Church has always believed. A great example is the council of Trent. Faced with dissention, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed doctrine questioned by Luther. This council affirmed its fuller canon of scripture for one, unlike the protestant supposition that books were “added.”

Ratzinger used the term “defect” in this doctrine. Basically, he affirmed the pre-Vatican II tenet that the RCC is the True church, and that all others outside of it are errant. He never said Protestants are going to hell in a hand basket—in fact, he has stated he is in full compliance with Vatican II, particularly Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio, which states:

The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.

Even the “liberal” Vatican II thinks of Protestants as separated brethren who are missing out on the fullness of the Catholic Church. The missing pieces and/or additions means they are not complete…they have, uhhh, DEFECTS! Doesn't every denomination feel at best they are closest to the Biblical picture of Christianity, and that others, while well intentioned, have defects?

Having just lost one of the greatest Popes of all time, and having enjoyed the person I met in Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger, I am not ready to dismiss the Holy See just yet. And it would be wrong for me to. As a protestant, most of my life I was taught that the Catholic Church was more than defective—in fact, I believed that Catholics, while submitting to the papacy were not capable of salvation. At the evangelical Bible college I attended I took a class on modern cults. Yep, my professor lumped the RCC into this bunch, likening the pope to David Koresh. And that professor is mad about the use of “defects” in the document. I don’t want point out the RCC splinter in their eye as I affectionately caress the log in mine!

Second, I need the pope. Without him, how can I be a “protestant?” How can I enjoy rock and roll worship, media presentations in church, and emergent pastors who answer to no governing body besides theologically feeble, loose, and morally complacent associations? Dr. Steven Long sums it up best (read it! written like a proof). The Protestant reaction to the document made me grin, having just enjoyed Dr. Long’s insight. We really needed the pope to stir up some controversy!

Anyway, I applaud the document for its transparency and agree with the Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (Russian Orthodox) who states, “It is an honest statement. It is much better than the so-called 'church diplomacy.’ For an honest theological dialogue to happen, one should have a clear view of the position of the other side…”


Greg said...

Hey - thanks for the comment on my blog! I ws looking for an "about" page on yours and didn't see one. How are you connected with the Catholic tradition?

Nate Watson said...

Thanks for pointing out that my "about" page disappeared! I fixed it. I'm not Catholic, though I have come to respect the tradition a great deal. Shoot me an email, so I can go more in depth. Thanks Greg!