IHT reports that Pope Benedict:
has restated what he said were the "defects" of Christian faiths other than Roman Catholicism, sparking anger from Protestants who questioned the Vatican's respect for other beliefs.
"It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which represents Protestants in more than 100 countries, said in a statement. The Vatican document repeated many of the contentious claims of a document issued in 2000 by the Vatican office on orthodoxy, which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed for more than two decades before being elected pope in 2005.
The document released Tuesday focused largely on the Vatican definition of what constitutes a church, which it defined as being traceable through its bishops to Christ's original apostles. Thus, it said, the world's Orthodox Christians make up a church because of shared history, if "separated" from the "proper" Catholic tradition; Protestants, who split from Catholicism during the Reformation, are considered only "Christian communities."
The document repeated church teaching that the Roman Catholic Church alone is the mediator of salvation, though other beliefs can be its "instrument."
"These separated churches and communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation," the document read. "In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church."
It was unclear why the Vatican issued the document now, especially since it largely restated earlier, if contentious, statements of church doctrine. The document from 2000, called "Dominus Iesus," prompted angry reactions from other faiths, which accused the Vatican, and Ratzinger specifically, of being unnecessarily divisive.
The stated purpose of the new document was as a "clarification" of doctrine amid much disagreement among Catholics about the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, a three-year conference that ended in 1965 and changed many church practices.
Last week, Benedict made a similar argument in liberalizing the use of the old Latin Mass, largely set aside since the council endorsed holding Mass in the local languages of the world's billion Catholics.
Critics said the decision could further divide Catholics and raised questions about Benedict's commitment to the changes made during the Second Vatican Council.
The Pharisees in Mark 2 were so sure that their adherence to the letter of the law guaranteed them righteousness. It turns out that they were wrong. People across faiths, cultures, and time have realized that the letter of the law is subordinate to the spirit of the law.
Many individual Roman Catholics lack the delusions of grandeur that the current Pope has. They live in the real world. They live with people who are not Roman Catholic, but who God dwells in nonetheless. Benedict and his Cardinals do not live in the real world.
Someday, God will send someone to the Cardinals to say, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath."