Pope Benedict XVI, like those of his predecessors, lives,
works and speaks in an ambiance of inherited attributes
which would affect the life, labors and opinions of any
man – and that is exactly what he is; a man elected to
the highest office of one of the branches of the Christian
church by a majority vote of his peers.
Included in that atmosphere is a sense almost of
eternalness – if we assume that the Roman Catholic
church was always there from the moment when Jesus,
in Matthew 16:18 said that He would build His church
upon the principle of faith expressed by Peter, that He
was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And yet it was not until the 4th century, in AD 313 under
Emperor Constantine I, that the Catholic church was
formally established, and not until AD 380 under
Emperor Theodosius I, that the Catholic church was
made the official church of the Roman Empire.
So while not as old a religious entity as the Church
which Jesus said He would build, and which grew and
flourished during the first century, but a couple of
centuries older than the religion of Islam, which dates
from the 6th century, the Roman Catholic church’s
claim of age is only modestly impressive.
Then there is the distinctive concept of "papal
infallibility" – the power assigned to each Pope that
he is absolutely right, beyond any possibility of error
in issuing dogmatic teachings on subjects of faith
and morals. But this is a relatively recent aspect
of Papal authority, dating only from the Vatican
Council I, in 1870, and an authority which has only
been used once, in 1950.
So the effectiveness and authority of Papal views
are not particularly strengthened by these two
elements of the Roman Catholic position with
respect to the Christian faith. But just these two
instances provide a basis to evaluate the present
opinion of the leader of this branch of Christendom.
The present Pope – the 265th man to hold this
position – was elected to head the Roman Catholic
church in April 2005 on the third ballot by 115 of
his fellow Cardinals, each of which was himself a
potential candidate for the office, and together they
constituted the entire pool of voters. Upon election,
the new Pope changed his name from Joseph
Ratzinger to Benedict XVI.
This present pronouncement, issued by the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – which
the present Pope formerly headed – is essentially
a restatement of a similar edict issued by then
Cardinal Ratzinger in 2000, and titled "Dominus
Jesus," and carries the full authority of the Pope.
The document uses very clear language to make the
point that "churches" outside the Roman Catholic
church "are not churches in the proper sense of the
word," but are rather "ecclesiastical communities,"
and as such, do not have the "means of salvation"
and that only the Roman Catholic church "has the
fullness of the means of salvation." Concerning
other branches of Christendom the document
concludes, "it is nevertheless difficult to see how the
title of ‘Church’ could possibly be attributed to them."
This present statement of Roman Catholic doctrine
ventures into the theological concept of Ecclesiology,
the study of the Church. Without attempting to
confuse the issue, let it simply be said that according
to the Scriptures, which, as the revelation of God carry
far more weight than traditions of the church upon
which the Roman Catholic church relies so heavily,
the provision of salvation is the gift of God to man as
stated by Jesus in the very familiar John 3:16, and is
not the prerogative of any one church over another.
Thus this present document can best be considered
the opinion of one man, the head of one division of
the organized Christian church, and is clearly without
Scriptural authority. The Scripture verse referred to
above is in the Gospel of John, the Disciple who is
referred to always as the Disciple whom Jesus loved.
The message is very familiar, "For God so loved the
world – all mankind, not just the Roman Catholic
church – that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in Him – not just members of
a Roman Catholic church – should not perish but
have everlasting life." Those are the words of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, and not the opinion of one
man who was elected to his term in office by his
peers, and not on the first ballot, we might note.
Across this country and around the world,
there are literally millions of individuals (including
this writer) who have received salvation and eternal
life through their belief in Jesus Christ as offered
and promised and provided by God. The opinion of
Joseph Ratzinger or Benedict XVI can do nothing
to change those facts.
And the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, His
directive to all believers, instructs us to go into all
the world and preach this gospel to everyone.
The message of the first century church:
"And he fell down before Paul and Silas, and said,
Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said,
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt
be saved ..." (Acts 16:29-31)
Afterthoughts . . .
As evidence that you can’t believe everything
you read, Cindy Sheehan, who promised she was
stepping out of the anti-war spotlight, stepped right
back in, and is journeying across the country, with
scheduled arrival in Washington in 5 days or on July
23. If by that date House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has
not begun impeachment proceedings against President
Bush, Cindy will seek Nancy’s seat in the 2008 election.
Apparently Cindy took the adulation of the anti-war
crowd seriously, and thinks she has a constituency.
Is either threat to be taken seriously? Doubtful, but
one never knows what fanatics will do.
That Senate opening prayer by a Hindu. As
promised, a Hindu, Rajan Zed, sponsored by Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, opened the Senate with
prayer to some Hindu deity. The chamber was almost
empty, except for a few Senators, during the prayer
and Pledge of Allegiance. Thinking back to the early
days of the Congress, one can only imagine the strong
objections that such an affront to the then largely
Christian membership would have provoked.
Who needs intelligence services? Not Cabinet
Secretary Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security.
Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune editorial board last
week that he had a "gut feeling" about more terrorist
attacks on America this Summer. He stated that there
is an assessment, "not of a specific threat, but of
increased vulnerability." Recalling the failure of our
intelligence services prior to the Iraq war, one can only
hope that we are justified in placing more confidence
in Mr. Chertoff’s "gut feeling."
It may be "back to the drawing board" for Al
Gore’s plotters and planners who came up with the
idea of musical concerts all over the world to gain
support for Mr. Gore’s latest invention (after the
Internet) -- the theory of "Global Warming." The
ratings which have been made public are "not good"
which is a restrained description. Here in America,
on NBC it faired worse than usual programming
for that time period, which was normally re-runs
and NHL hockey, never a winner. The Gore special
finished in last place. In Great Britain, apparently
only 2 million watched, as opposed to 10 million
for the "Live 8" concerts. But remember that the
Hollywood Academy Award crowd loved his film!
Not that it really matters much, but the many
attacks on President Bush from members of the
Congress, House and Senate, are coming from an
organization for whom the public confidence rating
is 24%, and declining recently, whereas President
Bush’s approval rating remains steady at 33% – not
something to brag about, except by comparing it to
Congress. Even so, Senator Barbara Boxer (yes, from
California) declared last week that the present Bush
administration is the nearest we have ever come to a
dictatorship, and insists that impeachment must
remain on the table. And in charge of that table is
Nancy Pelosi (yes, also from California) who is being
similarly nudged by Cindy Sheehan (yes, she’s also
from California). Should be interesting.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
To Subscribe, at no subscription charge: