Protestant Churches Not Churches, Pope Says
I found this article in the L.A. Times on Saturday, and was deeply intrigued.
I mean, I grew up knowing that the Roman Catholic Church considered itself The One True Church. Although I'm not Catholic, I commend Pope Benedict XVI for being brave enough to adhere to traditional church doctrine. Once again, he has demonstrated a willingness to stand against the prevailing moral relativism that has emptied churches all over Europe and in America. And he does so at a time when taking absolutist stands are hugely unpopular.
That said, is it necessary to promote the supremacy of one's own church by demoting the legitimacy of Protestant believers? According to the Vatican's new statement, Protestant churches "cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'churches' in the proper sense."
The Vatican defines a true church as reliant upon apostolic succession, which of course, neatly eliminates everyone else (except possibly the Orthodox churches) from the playing field.
For me, this is a rather narrow definition of "church." Is "church" truly to limited to time and space and dependent upon human institutions & methods to maintain it's existence?
I admire the Catholic Church for many reasons. Their unwavering loyalty to the sanctity of life and the sacrament of marriage are a good example to more liberal Christian denominations. I also appreciate the Catholic emphasis of living a life of good works---something that I think many non-denominational & evangelical Christians have relegated to the margin of their Christian practice.
The Catholic Church has been criticized often and sometimes unfairly, especially by over-eager Protestants zealous to distinguish themselves from Rome.
What Protestants have brought to the table of Christian practice is a renewed emphasis on the preaching of Scripture and a personal relationship with Christ. The Pope surely sees the value of this, but why would he attribute it to "that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church"? Is the Catholic Church the sole proprietor of grace & truth?
As a Protestant, myself, I suppose I am guilty of being aligned with those who "protested" against the Catholic Church. I just wish Christians would spend less time delineating their differences and instead count their many similarities.
I would never presume to invalidate the Catholic Church's legitimacy, why would the Pope feel the need to belittle mine?