I have a friend who is pretty much a fundamentalist. She wraps it in intellectual garb but he is a fundamentalist and he knows it. She pretty much believes that the earth is only about 6000 years old. A couple years ago she had a son. She named him John Paul.
It was a bit of a surprise. More of a surprise, for instance, than if I had named my son Bjorn Armando Kuo. Everyone wanted to know why. “Because,” she said, “he is my pope and I love him.”
It didn’t matter to her that he was Catholic, that he venerated the Holy Mother, that he believed in transubstantiation, that he prayed to saints. He was her pope. He was mine too. So too for scores of millions of protestants.
That is what makes Pope Benedict’s decree today so hard to take. In saying that Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations are not true churches, the lover has been replaced by the enforcer. It is just so sad.
Does Pope Benedict have every right to clarify church law? Of course. He is the pope. It is his responsibility to clarify mistakes he identifies in his church.
Has he said anything that is fundamentally different from things that have been stated before? No.
My friend Rod Dreher is right – this is not a theological stunner.
It may be worse.
At a time when the Christian church faces extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary peril, it appears the pope has decided to fiddle in matters of minutia.
Why is it necessary to slap protestant demoninations across the face? Why is it necessary to belittle their churches and their history and their love for Christ?
This feels like the equivalent of President Bush commuting v. pardoning Scooter Libby. If the president really believed he was innocent he should have pardoned him. If not, let him serve the sentence justice has delivered.
If the early articles about the decree are accurate – and I have not yet had a chance to read the full text of the decree [I am on a tight deadline and must rely on print reports that I have access to] – it sounds as if the pope believes all non-Catholics are going to hell. If that is true, say so explicitly Make the case that we are bound for the eternal fires. If not, why get bogged down in theological details over something that will simply divide Christians? Why send the world the message that we are more interested in fighting with each other over theological details rather than saving a lost world?
Theology matters of course. Theology matters a lot. But sometimes it matters far less than other times. This, I would suggest, is one of those times. A time when love and grace and mercy and kindness would have been much more powerful than an iron fist. Then again, I’ve been spoiled by John Paul, my first and maybe my only pope.