POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Is the Pope Catholic?

Is the Pope Catholic?

It is somewhat of a colloquial phrase used to emphasize the certainty of ones a claim. A friend of mine recently used this in a message of was giving and then paused for a moment as if he was thinking...He restated his thought in the following manner...Is the Pope Catholic? Well, this one certainly is. 

The current Pope certainly is Catholic. Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, before ascending headed up the Catholic order known as the congregation for the defense of the faith.   If I were Catholic, it would be a group I think I would like.  It is sort of their apologetics and theological clarification ecclesiastical SWAT team. 

This week there has been bit of a stir about a recent and brief doctrinal clarification posted by the congregation and affirmed for release by Pope Benedict.  The document is entitled: RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH.

It has caused some "offense" among Protestants as it indicates that such congregations are not truly Christian churches.  The offense has come mainly from those who do not think doctrine to be that important, who just think everyone who says the five letter word "J-E-S-U-S" is singing the same song. I offer the statement made by the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a case in point. It seems his feelings have been hurt but he is not deterred in moving forward.

For more on the story see the following:

Catholics who hold to the long held dictum - There is no salvation outside of the Church (meaning the Catholic Church) see the document as reflecting nothing other than long standing Roman Catholicism.  See Fr. Ray Ryland's article at Catholic answers for this view.

A survey of Catholic documents bears this out historically. Here are some historical remarks from various Popes:

Pope Innocent III: "There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved." (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

Pope Boniface VIII: "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Unam Sanctam, 1302.)

Pope Eugene IV: "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church." (Cantate Domino, 1441.)

Additionally, the catechism of the Catholic Church says the following in its article on the church. Article 9 - I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

Note: thanks to A Catholic Life for the excellent summary of these documents.  

Additionally, Vatican II's article Lumen Gentium also makes this clear in point 14:

Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved...

So when we read this "new" statement from the Congregation on the Defense of the Faith is it surprising when it says of Protestants that they are no church?  Here are some of the final lines in the document:

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.

So if you are following this, the church's position, is the same as it has always been.  Protestants are no church and there is no salvation outside of the church.  So Protestants' souls are in danger.  Is this offensive to Protestants?  Perhaps to those who do not reflect on doctrine, theology, and the teaching of holy Scripture.  Perhaps to those who do not understand or do any reading in historical theology.  But to those who know these matters, the recent proclamation is neither shocking nor offensive, yet we do realize what is at stake on both sides of the table. 

This Pope is Catholic and I actually appreciate him for it - he is wrestling with theology not sentiment.  He is honest and open about the churches position and has a backbone.  I kind of like the guy to be honest.  He even thinks Jesus is the Son of God - See Newsweek on this shocker.

Protestant theology however places salvation in the completed work of atonement on the cross by Jesus Christ for sinners which is applied to people through faith and repentance by the Spirit of God. His substitutionary death "for us", his resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:25) and his continued intercession are the foundations of our salvation. Those truly in Christ, by grace through faith in him are saved. Those who are trusting their own good works - either moral or ecclesiastical - are not trusting in the gospel.  For us, there is simply no salvation without the gospel, the gospel is what places us in the church.

Whether Pope or Cardinal will accept us, blessed Peter would say to us "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved"

We stand on the confessions of Peter and the apostles in Holy Scripture, we can do no other.