Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Pope is Irrelevant to Non-Catholics

Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation. Wow! This guy is unbelievable. This is the second time in a week that Benedict has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-1965 meetings that modernized the church. On Saturday, Benedict revived the old Latin Mass - a move cheered by Catholic traditionalists but criticized by more liberal ones as a step backward from Vatican II.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict headed before becoming pope, said it was issuing the new document Tuesday because some contemporary theological interpretations of Vatican II's ecumenical intent had been "erroneous or ambiguous" and had prompted confusion and doubt. The new document - formulated as five questions and answers - restates key sections of a 2000 text the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, "Dominus Iesus," which riled Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation." The commentary repeated church teaching that says the Catholic Church "has the fullness of the means of salvation." "Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," said the document released as the pope vacations at a villa in Lorenzago di Cadore, in Italy's Dolomite mountains. The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession - the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles - and therefore their priestly ordinations are not valid, it said. The document said that Orthodox churches were indeed "churches" because they have apostolic succession and enjoyed "many elements of sanctification and of truth." But it said they do not recognize the primacy of the pope - a defect, or a "wound" that harmed them, it said.

Apostolic succession? Is he really talking about a sacred line connecting Jesus and his apostles to the pope? Are we talking about the same apostolic succession that produced Pope Alexander VI whose surname became a byword for the debased standards of the papacy during the renaissance? Pope Alexander VI who had seven illegitimate children as a cardinal, which he openly acknowledged. Pope Alexander who as the newly-elected 61 year-old pontiff, had an affair with the 19-year -old Giulia Farnese, who was herself a married woman? How about Pope Pius XI who ordered German Catholics to drop their hostility towards Hitler and backed Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia? Another instance that has often been cited to show the corruption of the Church is the Great Western Schism (1378- 1417). Although this was only a brief interlude in the long period that the Middle Ages span, and although it was certainly not the first time there had been two (or even more) popes in Western Christendom, this episode certainly did hurt the notion of apostolic succession, which by the way is the foundation for the current pope's claim. Upon the death of Gregory XI (1370-78), who had brought back the papacy from its time in Avignon, France to Rome (another instance which clearly illustrates the illegitimacy of the current popes claim of apostolic succession), the cardinals were divided into two factions, Italian and French. Under pressure from riotous crowds in Rome, Urban VI was elected, while many French cardinals were still at Avignon. The Italian Urban VI was not exactly a tactful personality, and insulted and threatened the French cardinals, who eventually decided that the election was made under pressure and was not valid. They elected another pope, Clement VII, who took up residency Avignon. Apostolic Succession?

It seems to me that the Bishop of Rome, as the head of the catholic church, ought to concentrate on the moral decline of his own flock while withholding comment on “defective” denominations which he considers to be illegitimate offshoot branches of Christianity. How about concentrating on the immorality of your clergy and the propensity of the church to cover up child abuse. I would rather bet my eternal soul on a penitent life, filled with love and humility and as a practicing Presbyterian, than follow the absurd pronouncements of an old man serving as the leader of a morally bankrupt and self serving institution. An institution that when faced with a developing chasm between the word of God and its own antiquated self interests, will truncate, embellish, edit or omit the word as to reconcile its actions with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In the end it is easy to understand how the Catholic church can continue to ignore its own untidy house while commenting on the houses of others. It is the church that decided which books would be included in the bible, as commanded by Pope Damasus at the Council of Rome in 382 AD. He commissioned Saint Jerome to produce a reliable and consistent book by interpreting and translating the original Greek and Hebrew text into Latin. This translation became known as the Latin Vulgate Bible and was declared by the Church to be the only authentic and official Bible. So how do you become the official bible? Well its is pretty simply really. All you have to do is pick the books that are favorable to the church, brand all other teachings as heresy, and when translating those books from ancient Hebrew and Greek into Latin, you selectively interpret their words to reinforce your church as the only true church of Jesus. At that point you become the official church with the official bible, and establish yourself as ground zero for all of Christendom.

Just connect the dots.

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