Saturday, July 21, 2007


There was fear and trepidation among religious progressives both Catholic and others following the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger, a German theologian and former head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith for almost twenty five years. In 2005, he was elected Pope to replace the recently deceased John Paul II. He chose the title -- Benedict XVI.

Progressives worried that the new pope might oppose such movements as a married clergy, woman priests, granting more power to the bishops -- and to the laity.

This seems to be happening. One example is Benedict's allowance for the use of the old Latin mass on a somewhat, for now, limited basis.

His most disturbing statement other than irritating Muslims by bringing up the highly critical remarks towards Islam made by a Byzantine ruler a 1000 years ago, was followed by his unfortunate remarks in Brazil when he said that the native people should be grateful for the colonization of their continent by Portugal and Spain.

As alarming or more so is his declaration that the Catholic Church is the only true church as reported in the following news item of July 10th:

Pope Says Catholicism Only True Church

Benedict XVI Approves Document Saying Orthodox Churches Defective
LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy -- Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document that says Orthodox churches are defective and that other Christian denominations are not true churches.

The document, released Tuesday, restates key sections of a 2000 document that set off a firestorm of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations. It said they were not true churches but merely ecclesiastical communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation."

In the new document and an accompanying commentary it says "Christ 'established here on earth' only one church." It says the other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.

Not exactly an ecumenical statement. And a clear indication that the new Pope may be working on undoing the progressive ideas of Vatican II.

Many in Islam can understand such a statement because Islam, in general, believes that it is the "truly true" religion. And, in the case of the three monotheistic religions of the "West", those faiths sometimes referred to as the religions of the book -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam --- Islam considers itself the ending of revelation and God's final word on true religion.

Perhaps, Muslims believe the Pope is confused or mistaken in his idea of what the truth faith is.

It would seem as though we have returned to the days of the Crusades with each side considering the other --- infidels!

The Church seems to be going ahead by going backwards. With Benedict at the helm of the bark of Peter it won't be long before the Catholic Church sailing in reverse will go back in time past the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) which had attempted to move the Church into modern times without sacrificing the basics.

Pope John XXXIII who convened this council was only Pope from 1958 to 1963. In contrast to Benedict, John was a pastoral type figure, a man of simplicity and foresight. Too bad he did not live longer. However, the College of Cardinals chose him partly -- because of his age. They could not come to an agreement on the well-known figures amongst the College of Cardinals --- so they chose an old man who could not be expected to live long, and would allow them in a few years to come to agreement on a man more to their liking.

You can imagine the chagrin among the conservative princes (cardinals) of The Church, when John quickly moved to make possible some needed reformation within the The Church. Totally unexpected, I feel sure, was his audacity at calling a council of all the bishops of the church.
These councils have the potential of making meaningful changes.

One document that came out of Vatican II was Nostra Aetate. It starts by affirming that "all peoples comprise a single community, and have a single origin...One also is their final goal, God. His providence, his manifestation of goodness, and his saving designs extend to all people."

Also in this same document it states that all religions are struggling with the same mystery as Christians are struggling with. "The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions. She looks with sincere respect upon these ways of conduct and life, these rules and teaching which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of truth which enlightens all people.."

The statement although not perfect, IMHO, was moving in the right direction: forwards. And certainly not - backwards.

The following statement is much more to my personal liking:

Different People, Different Paths

As the different streams
Having their sources in different places
All mingle their water in the sea,
So, O Lord, the different paths which
people take,
Through various tendencies
Various though they appear
Crooked or straight,
All lead to thee.

-- Sanskrit Hymn