Saturday, July 14, 2007

Heretic

No, I’m not offended really, to be considered less of a Christian by Pope Benedict XVI but I am amazed at the audacious ability of a man born Joey Ratzinger of Bavaria to lose sight of his own human-ness. Jesus Christ himself said He was for everyone, and I have yet to read anything of Him saying that His forgiveness was only to be given through what has become a very selfish lineage of men known as the Roman Catholic Church.

In a nutshell, the pope recently reaffirmed previous statements made when he was cardinal, stating that the Catholic church is the only true church and that the reformed church, due to it’s lack of ecclesiastical succession, cannot offer salvation. The statement kindly calls that shortcoming a “defect” in our theology and states that we might be considered part of the community but not part of the church.

The “Dominus Iesus,” which translates as “Jesus the Lord,” begins with a statement of faith and ecumenical desire, expressing them well. Shortly, however, it goes into a warning against other theologies even minutely different from theirs, and a proclamation that there is but one church. Further impoliteness follows. Sadly, as with some other derivatives of the faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the proclamation of faith in a loving God becomes one of exclusion that if taken too far, becomes one of war.

The ecclesiastical succession the pope refers to is the incoming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as told in Acts 2. The apostles were infused with the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and went on to build the church by spreading the word, performing miracles of healing along the way. The Roman Catholic Church believes that only from men who have had a direct succession of laying on of hands from those twelve might the power of God to forgive be continued in the world.

With incredible rising arrogance the Pope then goes on to call us “wounded” for not accepting him with primacy, or as the supreme leader of the Christian faith. Has a man of faith ever been more wrong in beating his own chest and saying “I am the way!” Sorry, Benny, but you could not be further from the Truth. Methinks you doth protesteth the heretics too much.

I read of this in today’s Los Angeles Times and two pages later found the “Religious Directory.” It is a half-page of very small type with listings of faithful gatherings. It’s a nice snapshot of the religious community, or at least those that feel the need to advertise in the Times with a small budget, and the variety of faiths, from mainstream to the far reaches, is enlightening.

I’d actually like to visit the Messianic Jewish congregation that has “proof who the Jewish Messiah is” but might pass on a non-denominational groups call that “Spiritworks is a Feeling!” To each their own. The mainstream groups, Christian and Jewish alike, give no indication to their respective differences in theology, mostly going with name, address and times of worship alone. You can tell which groups might be breaking new ground by the fact that they need to proclaim something there along with their name. They are still building the association of name and theology in the public mind.

It has been said that mankind was born with a God-sized hole in their souls and I’ve liked the sound of that phrase every time I come across it. Even those that deny any god at all, in so doing, speak or think of the possibility. For those that seek some fulfillment with God or a higher power as they individually understand it, their personal theology is as good as they can get it, as rational and as faith-driven as it needs to be, and as different from the next as the variety of plants on the planet. Who is to say that "What is written on their hearts" could be written by a creator that doesn't care about bringing them home? I'm left wondering if the pope has even read Romans 2, or if that would be too painful a reminder of the whole reformation brought about from within his church?

What part of “The Peace of our Lord” does the pope think we cannot have except by the touch of man? Communion? Was it not well before the coming of the Holy Spirit that the command “Do this in remembrance of me” was given? Was it not well before then that Jesus proclaimed, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed ... you (could move a mountain)?”

Surely the pope’s proclamation does nothing to further the love of God among those of His creation, surely nothing to open the ears of those that have yet to hear, surely only spite can come of it.

Does the pope think that God does not hear every prayer called out in His name? That He doesn’t respond but to those He chose and their selected followers? Does this then give the pope a better understanding of the Jewish view of Christ and His church?

That all said, I am not offended by these statements because they are but opinion of a man, a man that happens to be head of his church. Call him the Jerry Falwell of Rome if you like, I hold him in no higher esteem. For a church to have such a belief as part of their faith I can accept, if with my own reservations. For a church, however, to publish such a statement is the height of arrogance, of the foolishness of man, and can only be seen as intentionally and acerbically condescending. Those are, in a phrase, fighting words. Where is the love in them?

Would it not have been better to keep that paper within the church, knowing in their hearts that it defined their thinking, but holding back from using it as a slap in the face to every person they were trying to reach?

Whenever a man or group of men considers themselves the only conduit of God, one might immediately realize that they are not.

With apologies to any of the Catholic Church laity who may be offended, my sense is that you may be comfortable in your faith and I applaud that. I, too, am comfortable in mine. Can we move on please, working together in our communities, separately in our churches, and know that we have the love of Christ in common?

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