CHURCH WARS 2007
Times Wednesday July 11 2007
If it isn't Roman Catholic then it's not a proper Church,
Pope tells Christians
accuse Rome of lust for power
notes 'defects' of non-Catholic faiths
- Richard Owen and Ruth Gledhill .
has described the Protestant and Orthodox faiths as "not
proper Churches" in a document issued with the full authority
of the Pope.
leaders reacted with dismay, accusing the Roman Catholic Church
of paradoxical behaviour. They said that the new l6-page document
outlining the "defects" of non-Catholic churches constituted
a major obstacle to ecumenism.
said that the Orthodox Church suffered from a "wound"
because it did not recognise the primacy of the Pope. The wound
was "still more profound" in Protestant denominations,
It was "difficult
to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed
to them", said the statement from the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith. Roman Catholicism was "the one
true Church of Christ".
echoes earlier statements by the same body, headed by Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger until he became Pope. The statement appears
to be at odds with attempts to soften Pope Benedict's image
as a doctrinal hardliner and to present him as a more human
figure reaching out to other faiths. And it risks undermining
his own efforts for Christian unity. Protestants at the extreme
evangelical end of the Anglican spectrum accused Rome of a "lust
for power", while welcoming the honesty of the document.
Palace, the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan
Williams, was more diplomatic. A spokesman issued a statement
that lacked any formal welcome, describing the document as "significant".
sources said that the document was an attempt to resolve "confusion"
caused by the apparent conflict between the Pope's assertion
on his election two years ago that Christian unity was a priority
and his insistence in "Dominus lesus", issued in 2000
when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - that Anglican, Protestant
and Orthodox Christians did not belong to "proper"
Di Noia, a senior doctrinal official at the Vatican, insisted
that the Catholic Church was not "backtracking on ecumenical
commitment. But it is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that
the participants are clear about their own identity. That is,
dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what
you understand yourself to be."
officials insist that the Pope's attachment to bedrock traditional
values is compatible with dialogue with other Christians. Yesterday's
document said that such dialogue remained "one of the priorities
of the Catholic Church".
said that the Second Vatican Council's opening to other faiths
- including "ecclesial communities originating with the
Reformation" - had recognised there were "many elements
of sanctification and truth" in other Christian denominations,
but had also emphasised that only Catholicism was fully Christ's
said that other Christian faiths "lack elements considered
essential to the Catholic Church".
of the Anglicans was evident in the response of Canon Gregory
Cameron, Dr Williams's former chaplain in Wales and a leading
canonical lawyer and scholar who is now ecumenical officer of
the Anglican Communion.
said: "In the commentary of this document we are told that
'Catholic ecumenism' appears 'somewhat paradoxical'. It is paradoxical
for leaders of the Roman Catholic Church to indicate to its
ecumenical partners that it no longer expects all other Christians
merely to return to the true (Roman Catholic) Church, but then
for Rome to say that it alone has 'full identity' with the Church
of Christ, and that all others of us are lacking."
Anglican bishops had indicated in 1997 that such a position
constituted "a major ecumenical obstacle".
David Phillips, General Secretary of the Church Society, said:
"Nothing new is said, but it does clarify the way in which
the Vatican has torn apart Christianity because of its lust
for power. They remind us that in their view that to be a true
church one has to accept the ludicrous idea that the Pope is
in some special way the successor of the apostle Peter and the
supreme earthly leader of the Church.
claims cannot be justified, biblically, or historically, yet
they have been used not only to divide Christians but to persecute
them and put them to death.
are grateful that the Vatican has once again been honest in
declaring their view that the Church of England is not a proper
Church. Too much dialogue proceeds without such honesty. Therefore,
we would wish to be equally open; unity will only be possible
when the papacy renounces its errors and pretensions."