B16, the Pope, has clarified my standing in the church. Well, not exactly me personally (B and I haven’t officially met but I am reading his latest book) but those of us who are not part of the Roman Catholic Church. ‘Twould seem we may be believers but we aren’t officially part of the official church, officially that is.
In B’s own words (faithfully transcribed, I’m sure):
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.
Dang, I knew I’d been missing something. ‘Twas the “constitutive element of the Church.” I’ve been missing the “absence of the sacramental priesthood.” My segment of the church family, stretching back to Luther, as it were, has “not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery.” Therefore, what ever part of this mystery called the Body of Christ that I’m part of, cannot be called Church…”in the proper sense”, of course.
Those of you who are part way across the Tiber (heading into the arms of B et al), might consider treading water for a while. It appears that a line has been drawn in the sand. (On the beach that you are swimming towards.) You may swim on to join the folk who have never repudiated the likes of Johann Tetzel and hold a tenuous and ahistoric claim to Peter as the first Papa – or remain with your brethern (and sistern, of course) who believe in the priesthood of all believers, believe that Jesus is the only mediator between man and God, believe that Jesus was the only infallible man who ever lived, and though we may struggle to understand Sola Scriptura – we follow it – rather than attempting to interpret it through the awkward traditions of fragile men.
For a more reasoned and serious look at this story, read Scot McKnight’s blog. (I borrowed the B16 quote from him.)
…from the Rev David Phillips, General Secretary of the Church Society: ‘The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as the inquisition) has issued a statement clarifying Roman Catholic understanding of themselves and other churches. Nothing new is said, but it does clarify the way in which the Vatican has torn apart Christianity because of its lust for power.
‘They remind us that in their view that to be a true church one has to accept the ludicrous idea that the Pope is in some special way the successor of the Apostle Peter and the supreme earthly leader of the Church. These claims cannot be justified, biblically, or historically, yet they have been used not only to divide Christians but to persecute them and put them to death.
‘The desire for papal power, all too evident in history, continues to rear its head today. Sadly, too many political leaders seek to court that power and encourage it. In the past the English, in common with other nations, struggled against corrupt papal power for centuries. We thank God that at the Reformation, England, and the Church of England, were set free from that power.
‘We are grateful that the Vatican has once again been honest in declaring their view that the Church of England is not a proper Church. Too much dialogue proceeds without such honesty. Therefore, we would wish to be equally open; unity will only be possible when the papacy renounces its errors and pretensions.’
UPDATE 2: John Stackhouse comments that B16 is calling the rest of us “churchy” in stating we are “Ecclesial Communities.” John graciously responds:
So, Brother Benedict, in the spirit of what many are failing to see as your generous acknowledgment of the genuine Christian elements in other denominations, I’m glad to extend the right hand of fellowship and say that you and your kind strike me as “churchy,” too.
(For those of you who are offended by the shot of John Cleese in popish garb, please accept my humble apologies. It is staying, however.)