Skip to comments.Letter from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to Anglicans opposed to gay bishop
Posted on 04/19/2005 10:39:05 AM PDT by churchillbuff
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I think it is more about the gesture than the substance of the letter.
As to the substance, the Pope was simply helping them identify with other pilgrims of faith that had to have the courage to make a stand based upon what they know to be doctrine.
It was also a subtle invitation to people essentially turned out of their homes.
Jews were never Catholics. From St Peter's time on they had a choice. Some jews chose Christianity, most didn't
Muslims were never folowers of Christ. That is made explicit in the Koran. There is one God Allah and he doesn't have any relatives. - tom
Even beyond that, there is a distinction between Protestants TODAY, and Protestant leaders of the 15th Century.
When we write something like: "Protestants are heretics from the Catholic point of view, because they originally were Catholics and decided they wanted to hold views contrary to Catholic teaching", this seems a pretty historically accurate and reasonable point of view.
But actually, it fails on analysis quite seriously.
Christianity is not a religion of groups. Groups of people do not have souls. Countries, nations and religions do not have souls. Only individuals have souls.
It is true that the ANCESTORS of modern Protestants were Catholics at one point (that is, if they lived in Europe at the time and were Christians), but that is almost 500 years ago now. The individual Protestant today is NOT "originally a Catholic who decided he wanted to hold views contrary to Catholic teaching".
He never was a Catholic, and never understood Catholic teaching in the first place. Neither was his minister.
Oh sure, there are a few converts from Catholicism to the various branches of Protestantism, but not very many. Most Protestants are Protestant from the cradle, or grew up without a religion at all and converted to Evangelical Protestantism. As individuals, hardly any of them ever passed through the intermediate step of having been Catholics. Indeed, most of them know as much about Catholicism as Jews do, and that from watching TV and reading the news.
The modern Protestant individual is not a heretic against the Catholic Church, because he never knew the Catholic Church. Indeed, the most dynamic branches of Protestantism: the Baptists and the various Evangelical movements did not break away from the Catholic Church even at their origins. The Baptists are Protestants who broke away from early forms of Protestantism, and, truth be told, while their organized religion is very individual and not very hierarchical, that has allowed their moral religion to return to very Catholic moral lines. Morally, orthodox Catholics and Southern Baptists are much more brethren than Catholics and American mainstream Episcopalians. The Baptist Church, properly seen, never went into heresy from the Catholic Church. Rather, it is a GRANDDAUGHTER of the Catholic Church that went into heresy against the Anglican and Methodist Churches, and morally made a beeline back towards orthodox Catholic values.
That's why we have to be careful.
The Reformation was so long ago that nobody alive today had anything to do with it. We're all heirs of what our grandparents did. Now, I happen to believe that the Catholic Church is the authentic article, founded by Jesus. But I also think that the Lutheran break is what prompted the Counter-Reformation that finally stopped the really horrible abuses of the Borgia Popes. Renaissance Catholicism resembled the American Bishops with their sex scandal coverups...except that in America courts have jurisdiction and there are media and the very-Protestanty people will not tolerate that sort of thing and make it hurt immediately. Back then, the Borgia popes used physical violence to literally kill their opponents. There was much less internal checks and balances on the Church, and were it not for Luther, it is not at all clear that the Catholic Church would have corrected itself as fully as it did at the Council of Trent.
That people today are Lutherans does not carry the taint of the sin of heresy. They're Lutherans because they were born that way, because their parents and great-great-great-great grandparents were born that way, und so weiter. Most Catholics are Catholic for the same reason.
Get to the level of theology, and there are differences, and I personally think that the Catholic Church has it all right. But hardly anyone, Catholic or Protestant, has gone through issue by issue and thought about those things.
Rather, folks are raised in a tradition, which most love.
Lutheranism is not the religion of Martin Luther. Not any more. It is a wing of the Church of Jesus Christ. Lutherans go to Heaven just like Catholics. They don't realize that the Lutheran Church is actually part of the Catholic Church, politically in dissension but nonetheless part of the disposition of Grace which God brings into the world through His Church, which is the Catholic Church.
And Catholics don't realize it either.
Probably the best solution to all of this is Rites. There are already 23 Rites in the Catholic Church, and Anglican and Lutheran uses. Expanding those uses and really focusing on the theological differences...or rather, the moral and theological similarities...should go a long way to making Catholics and Protestants of whatever stripe realize that few of them chose their religious tent. Most were born into it and cannot change flags in good conscience. But as long as the morality and theology are the same, the differences in practice really don't matter all that much.
And, truth be told, when you really pin down an orthodox Lutheran or Anglican, or a devout Evangelical, there is no divergence on matters of morality. The theological differences are spare indeed, and not held with any passion (or particular deep understanding) on any side.
The real difference is political, and has to do with powers of church governance. The Catholic Church is an absolute monarchy. The Protestant churches are, to greater or lesser extents, democracies. Even the Orthodox Churches have more of a democratic element in them.
What most Baptists or orthodox Anglicans will immediately cite when they object to the Church is papal infallibility.
Catholics will then fuss about Peter and all of that.
Nobody pays attention to the fact that the doctrine was only really used once, back in 1870 when it was promulgated.
This political difference is allowed to balloon into a great theological debate, but it isn't.
Truly, the Protestants already know that if someything is utterly intolerable, they can just LEAVE. Their ancestors did, from the Catholic Church, and then from the original Protestant Churches, and they're still doing it. The current division between orthodox Christians of whatever stripe is over political control of the Church.
Now, from my own point of view (and I straddle the Catholic/Protestant divide in my own family background and upbringing), there is an obvious solution: the orthodox Christians are assaulted in their morality from all sides. They need to stand together now more than ever. The Catholic Church needs to find out a way to put the papal flag over the orthodox faithful Protestants, and the orthodox Christian Protestants need to tolerate that flag being there, and remember that if the Catholic Church ever started to turn back into The Land of the Borgias, they can just bolt again.
Continued divisions over political structures among the orthodox defy Jesus' call for unity and wound the body of Christ on Earth. Part of humility is accepting leadership. That does not perforce mean accepting that you were wrong and your ancestors were always wrong. Generally, when Democrats come over and register Republican, they are not required to repudiate their entire belief system for their whole lives, nor to say that every decision they ever made in the past was foolish. It is enough to say that we understand the need to stand together NOW, in the face of terrible perils of our day, and leave the dead to fight their old battles.
Nobody alive had anything to do with the Reformation.
It is time for orthodox Christians to stop using ancient history as an excuse to remain divided. Jesus is not impressed with us when we do this, and there isn't a whit's difference in the private morality of Billy Graham and the Pope. To get the full benefit, for Christ, of the Church means accepting a degree of organization and leadership. That need not mean oppression by the one over the other.
Focus on the morals, and discuss the differences in praxis over time with the sense that we're all in the same tent.
You are definitely not paying attention to what I am saying. Of course, someone had to teach me that the Bible is God's word. I have taken the words of the Bible upon faith, without any evidence. That is why it is called faith.
My problem with the Catholic Church is because of its practices of elevating mortals to demigods. Hindus do that too, but they are pagans. I have no problem considering the Catholic Church to be a pagan church but the Catholic Church practices and rituals are sometimes in conflict with the Scripture which renders it pagan.
I am paying very close attention to what you are saying.
So close that I will quote you directly.
I am also paying very close attention to what you are not saying.
You say: "I have taken the words of the Bible upon faith, without any evidence. That is why it is called faith."
I do not disagree with you, friend. The Bible is indeed the Word of the Lord. We agree on this.
And like you, I agree that the New Testament has particular authority, and the Gospels central authority, because in them, God literally comes to Earth as a man and tells us exactly what he wants of us. With the Old Testament and the Epistles, there is still the filter of the prophet or apostle. With the Gospels, the words come straight from the lips of God. Therefore, while the rest of the Bible is sometimes confusing and difficult, there is a clear source of authority within the Bible: God Jesus, talking in the flesh. And he is clear as a bell. Therefore, whatever is obscure in the Bible and unclear, or contradictory, has to be held up to Jesus. He is the Rosetta Stone that makes the rest of it clear. God COULD have meant a lot of things by some Scriptures. But what He actually meant by all of them is what He SAID He meant by them, when he stood on terra firma on human feet.
Now, of course, an objection can be raised that Jesus' words come to us through the filter of the evangelists who wrote the Gospels. That is true. But God foresaw that argument and provided not one, nor even three (the number of witnesses to establish something beyond a doubt), but four separate accounts from very different pens, which all tell us the same basic things.
So, we agree that the New Testament is of the highest importance in the Bible. Perhaps you even agree that the Gospels are central.
Which is why I am asking you, based on those Gospels, why it is that you give such primacy to the Bible. Jesus does not ever talk of doing that. He says that he will be with His CHURCH. Jesus' foundation was of a CHURCH. He focuses relentlessly on the Church, how the Holy Spirit will be with the Church. He gives the Power of the Keys to Peter to head his Church. He gives the power to loose and to bind sin to his apostles. And in the Epistles and the Acts, it is full of building the Church, disciplining the Church, maintaining the traditions of the Church.
The New Testament doesn't refer to itself even once.
It refers to the Church.
You say you place your faith in the Bible, especially the New Testament. When I read the New Testament, carefully and at length, and especially when I read Jesus in the New Testament Gospels, I see the New Testament and Jesus guiding us to the Church. I see them telling us to follow the Church. I DON'T see them telling us to pick up a book and use it as though IT were the Church. Jesus speaks of the Church, not the Bible.
Precisely because I take the Bible so very seriously, as the Word of God, I take it at face value that when Jesus and the Acts and the Epistles refer to the Church, they mean: adhere to the Church. They don't REALLY mean, buried down in there, "Bible uber alles". The primacy of the Bible over the Church strikes me as a purely human tradition, which has the singular fault of not only not being in the Bible, but of being actually contrary to the Bible itself. The Bible says that the Church is what some folks say that the Bible is.
So there is a double tradition at work. First, there is the tradition that the Bible is the Word of God, with which we agree. But then there is an additional tradition that seems to assert that the Bible is ABOVE the Church. That is not IN the Bible. Actually, the Bible says the opposite of that. The Bible refers to the Church.
To me, this is important, because I think that the Catholic Church is purely Biblical, and do not recognize any Biblical authority for you to elevate the Bible above the Church, as you clearly do.
So I keep asking you, using the authority of the Bible we both agree is authoritative, show me the passages that let you do what you do and hold the Bible as superior to the Church.
I will show you passage after passage in which Jesus and the Apostles refer to the Church and the traditions of the Church and the authority of the Church. There is no passage in which any of them refers to the New Testament.
If I take the New Testament at its face value, at what it SAYS, I cannot be anything but a Catholic, because that is what it says to be. You say that it says something very different. I keep asking where. You keep saying I'm not listening to you.
But that is untrue. I have listened carefully.
And what I see is a circular logic loop.
You take the Bible as supreme on faith, even though the Bible says that the Church and the Apostles are supreme in the Church.
And then, after complaining that I am not listening to you, you repeat the tired canard about the Catholics creating demigods.
What demigods? Where?
Query: was Peter given the power to lead the Church, and the power of the keys? Did Peter have authority over the others? Yes or no.
Alright, did the apostles, according to the Bible, yes or no?
Alright then, when Paul speaks of creating bishops to preside, and describes doing it, was he creating, by laying on of hands, new men in authority in the Church who were NOT given the authority directly by Jesus, but by the apostles of Jesus? Yes or no?
Are you considering these men to be demigods, who were invested with power in the New Testament itself, by the apostles?
So what is the complaint, then?
Did Moses and Elijah continue to have great spiritual importance, as souls, after their death, or was that purely tradition?
I ask that, because God thought their souls were of such continued importance that those two souls of men came down from heaven and stood with Jesus at the mountaintop during the Transfiguration, for Peter and James to see. Was this just a light show, or was God showing the particular blessedness and importance of these men continuing on in the afterlife, for them to be standing there with the other three on the mountaintop?
You say that Catholic Church practices and rituals are in conflict with the Bible, which renders them pagan.
So I ask you: does your Church have bishops, bishops who are above ministers in authority, with the power to forgive sins? That is in the Bible. Read Timothy. Read the Gospels, in which Jesus bestows that power.
If you do not have bishops in your church, is not YOUR Church pagan, because it departs from the practices demanded by God right there in the Bible, and prefers its own human traditions?
Jesus clearly created a Church, and the apostles made a Church with ORDER in it, with hierarchy: bishops, deacons, presbyters, deaconesses, and other charismatics. Jesus called on the unity of his Church. Annias and Saphira died because they held something to themselves outside of the Church. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come wherever two or more were gathered in his name.
The belief that one can be a good Christian all by his lonesome, without a Church, is a sweet and pious belief, but it's about the opposite of what the Bible says.
So, if you're a Christian, a BIBLICAL Christian, you are part of a Church, and that Church has bishops in authority over deacons and presbyters and the flock. Which church would that be? There are plenty of freelance Christians who say they have no Church and need no Church. That's a wonderful tradition. St. Luke, St. Paul, St. James, St. Peter, and Jesus Christ beg to differ in the words of the Bible itself.
I've listened to you.
But have you listened to me?
I think we are arguing essentially political questions. If Peter was given the authority, then what you are saying is that Peter's Church must be the true Church. Now it comes down to how much the future generation can change the original faith. Your faith in the church will necessarily require trusting temporal authorities to amend church practices and articles of faith. I will be interested to see how many saints did Peter canonize. I am sure the Catholic Church started off as being the true church, but then it got caught up in institutional politics and responded more so keeping the institution in mind than the faith. That was exactly the objection of Luther. The movement back to the Gospels was inspired by Luther's objection that the Catholic Church has veered from the original faith. See for reference Against Catholicism. I would gladly accept that Church is the institution through which God operates and would even grant the Church to interpret the Bible, but my objection is that the Church inserted human inventions and doctrines that are purely based on politics of the institution. To accept that those resulting from pure machinations of the institution are actually divinely inspired...come on give me a break.
I have a great deal of difficulty seeing that which is in the New Testament in political terms.
I don't think Jesus was being political when he said to Peter 'You are the rock upon which I shall build my Church. What you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven, and what you loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.' I think that Jesus was speaking plainly and assigning specific authority, authority which Jesus reiterated after the Resurrection when Peter hauled the teeming net, and authority which Peter clearly exercised in the Acts of the Apostles. I take this literally.
I don't think Jesus was being political or rhetorical in the New Testament when he likewise commissioned the apostles, and gave them the power to loose and to bind, and to forgive sin. I take this literally.
I don't think that the Apostle Paul was being political or rhetorical in his letter to Timothy in which he described the qualifications and requirements for priests, bishops and deacons. Nor do I think he was being a bit political when he described in his letters the specific process by which he himself made new bishops and priests and deacons: by the laying on of hands. So, to be clear, Paul was making people who were not disciples of Christ when Christ was alive into shepherds of the Church. I take this literally.
I notice that indeed Jesus castigated the traditions of the Pharisees. But I also note that Paul admonished the churches he had founded to follow the traditions they had learned. Certainly they could not read any of that, nor the words of Jesus, in the New Testament at that time: none of it except a couple of Paul's letters had been written yet. I cannot read those two things and come to the blanket conclusion that traditions are bad just because they are traditions. Quite clearly, CHRISTIAN traditions are good and holy, according to the Apostle Paul right there in the Bible, who admonishes his flock to follow the traditions he has given them. I take this literally.
Now, you referenced Martin Luther. Shall I take it, then, that you are a Lutheran and agree with Luther's stances?
Do you agree with Luther about the Virgin Mary and the Saints?
Do you agree with what Luther wrote to Pope Leo X, after the terrible religious smash up, that he still recognized that the Church of Rome was the Holy Church?
Or were those aspects of Luther's theology and writings merely political, while the parts you are inclined to agree with accurate?
I return to my question of what specific Church you belong to. I do not see Jesus nor any apostle even hinting at the notion that Christians can operate freely and independently of the Church. Certainly the text of the Bible itself makes the unity of the Church, and its governance, strikingly clear. Now, I take those words seriously: this is the Inspired Word of God, after all.
Are you in a Church that has bishops? How do you get around the lack of Bishops? That is not political. It's Biblical, as was the laying on of hands to "impart the Holy Spirit" and create new clergy. Indeed, the laying on of hands had, and still has, a very important function: it completely prevents any Simon Magus from standing up and independently claiming authority as a bishop or priest or deacon. To become one of THOSE, you have to have hands laid on you by someone who can do it. The laying on of hands to impart clerical ordination was instituted by God to prevent just anybody from becoming part of the clergy.
Your broader comment, about future generations changing the Church, is interesting. What do you think has "changed" in the Catholic Church? We have a good historical record that takes us back to the First Century.
Catholics have always had holy communion as the very center of their mass. The Didache, from the first century, lays out a moral code that has not changed in any respect to this day.
What, then, has been amended?
By contrast, to which denomination do YOU belong?
Does it have bishops?
On what basis is that Biblical imperative disregarded?
Does it permit divorce?
On what basis is that divine ordinance, given by Jesus himself, overridden?
Does it have the eucharist as its main feast?
Does it anoint the sick with oil and travel to them and comfort them with prayer?
I press you on these things, because they are all Biblical.
You place absolute authority in the Bible.
Then why doesn't your denomination follow everything that's in the New Testament?
Where are your bishops? Or is that part of the New Testament OPTIONAL? (And what makes it optional?)
Pope Benedict XVI : German Shepherd- Faithful, Strong, Shepherd of his people
Don't believe that Rotweiller stuff.
Unity in the Church is via grace through adhering to the truth, not from belonging to a national Church, such as the Anglican communion.
As the Anglican Communion in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain has departed from the truth, the words are an invitation on the part of Catholic Anglicans to seek unity with the See and lands from which their faith and tutelage in the truth sprang up from, rather than attempting to adhere to a national Church now wracked by multiple errors.
A prayer that God's will may be done in this regard is a reference to the will of Christ "that all may be one".
Those who share Holy Baptism and a common faith - Catholicism - are brothers in Christ, even if their communion as brothers is rent by a schism between Anglia and Rome. Once we begin from this premise, much else is simpler to resolve.
Try Newman's Famous Tract 90, Section 8:
No, they are deified through theosis or the indwelling of grace if you prefer, being thus permanently united to God and thoroughly permeated by His Glory.
"By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature" (2 St. Peter 1.4)
"Jesus answered them: Is it not written in your law: I said, you are gods?" (St. John 10.34)
"I have said: You are gods and all of you the sons of the most High." (Psalm 81.6)
"Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God: and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is." (1 St. John 3.2)
The 39 articles are considered nothing more than historical documents by many in the Continuing Church movement. They were only relevant to the time they were written, but now are seen as outdated and unnecessary.
I know this as fact as I am fighting with clergy/bishops in my group over the disregard some are showing for Article XXIV.