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I feel for the pope. I really do. On the one hand, whenever he travels, he’s expected to make nice with everyone in his host country. To that end, he meets with Protestants and Orthodox, Jews and Muslims. They exchange pleasantries and have photo shoots. But then he gets back to the Vatican, and he must feel compelled to remind the one billion Roman Catholics in the world that the one billion followers of Christ without a tradition of apostolic succession don’t go to “church” on Sunday, but to “ecclesial communities.”
Probably all of the above. But in this stance, the Roman Catholic magisterium seems increasingly out-of-step with the Catholics that I know. When I ask Catholic friends, in-laws, and even priests I know about my salvation, they assure me that I’m safe. (I know there are American Catholics who don’t agree, so don’t bother commenting just to prove that that’s not a unanimous opinion.) American and European Catholics tend to be just as committed to civil, respectful, religious pluralism as I am. In fact, they warmly welcome me to partake in the Eucharist when I visit their churches, a stance in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1997. But I had a Catholic priest there to lay hands on me, just in case they’re right about that apostolic succession thing.)
Tony Jones is the national coordinator for Emergent Village.