[This is a follow-up to my post entitled, "Jesus doesn't save - the Pope does"]
After I wrote the post I went through and read the comments you all suggested. One of you (Justin II) went ahead and sent me an official “Q and A” released by the Vatican in response to the backlash that resulted from Pope Benedict’s decision that Catholicism is the true church of God/Jesus.
I went ahead and read the document. I was happy to see that some of my questions were asked and that the Vatican was making an effort to answer some of the issues caused by the Pope’s religious assertions. I’ll admit that I came off kind of harsh in my last post, and the document sent to me helped me approach the issue with more of a level head.
However, despite the helpful PR handout that “Justin II” gave to me, I still found myself shaking my head (with a hint of disgust) at the actions of the Vatican. I took the liberty of pulling out a few areas that I found concern with. If you want the full document, please email me via the Contact section.
So let’s begin.
In the intro of the PR document (as I will call it from this point forward), it says the following
“Given the universality of Catholic doctrine on the Church, the Congregation wishes to respond to these questions by clarifying the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate.”
I can agree to an extent about the “universality” of the Catholic doctrine on the Church [I interpret "Church" as believers in Christ]. Still, what is meant by “universality”? If they are referring to various rituals like the Eucharist, then they are only half right as many churches don’t view this the same way despite going through the same routines. For example, Catholics believe in transubstantiation while others believe it is a ritual based on symbolism. In fact, many sects emerged because of beliefs behind the Eucharist alone.
Moving on from the introduction, I was particularly interested in the answer to question two. The question was the following:
Second Question: What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?
The response to this question was quite lengthy, so I am only going to pull out certain parts. Here is the first part I want to address:
Response: Christ “established here on earth” only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community,” that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. “This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic . This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.”
Now when I read this, the part that stuck out the most was the reference to Christ establishing one Church being a “visible and spiritual community”. I agree 100%! The church is spiritual (all of those in Christ) and it is a obviously a community (i.e. Christians). The problem emerges because the Catholic church is asserting that their religious institution is the “one Church”. However, I strongly contend that Jesus was not about establishing religions, He came to abolish it; to free humankind from its oppression. Hierarchies within any denominations involve politics, a human invention.
I should also note that all the numbers in the brackets reference a decision made at a Vatican council. It looked like this:
SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen gentium,” 8.2.
This was disappointing because when I saw the numbers, I thought they would reference actual Biblical passages for support.
In the effort to further answer the second question, the following answer was included:
“It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe… in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church.“
Again, for one to accept this argument, they must accept that the Vatican Councils are divinely inspired, that is, the hand of God. If one does, then concluding that the Catholic church is the “one” Church would be quite easy. I still contend that the “one” church still exists, but as those spiritual in Christ (and note that not all who profess Jesus are of His Church…as He quite clearly lays on in the Gospels).
Last, I want to look at question five. The question and part of the answer are below:
Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?
Response: “According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense.“
What bothers me the most is that the Catholic Church is claiming that other sects “have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery”. Again, this goes back to what I said in response to the first question I analyzed. It makes me wonder what they meant by the “universality” of Catholicism, because this statement excludes those who do not believe in transubstantiation.
To put it simply, the Catholic Church is saying that the way you view the Eucharist (eating bread and drinking wine) dictates whether you are part of the true body [Church] of Christ. Very sad reasoning indeed.
Like I said, I am happy to have gotten this document from “Justin II”. It did clarify some things that I may have misunderstood, and it allowed me see the Catholic side of the story.
So perhaps I have not lost “all” respect for the Pope…maybe just a “great deal” of respect.
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