Friday, July 20, 2007
Catholics clarify pope's statement

Last update: July 20, 2007 – 4:58 PM

It appears that in a statement the Vatican issued 10 days ago reasserting the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict never implied that other denominations do not offer the promise of salvation -- although news service reporters thought that's what he said.

The confusion started when the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith released parts of a document that was originally issued seven years ago, a time when Benedict oversaw that institution before he was pope. Two reporters based at the Vatican, one for Associated Press and the other for the Religion News Service, both interpreted the document as saying that other churches do not offer "the means of salvation."

That's not what the full document says or what Roman Catholic Church law holds, said the Rev. Paul La Fontaine from the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Minneapolis. On the contrary, he said, church doctrine affirms that "the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them."

When it realized the confusion the document was generating, the Vatican issued an explanation that it "neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine" and said that understandings to the contrary were caused by "erroneous interpretation."

And just in case there's still any confusion, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome, wrote an article reminding Christians "that there is more that unites us than divides us. Therefore we should not miss reading the positive statements of the declaration about the Protestant churches, namely that Jesus Christ is effectively present within them for the salvation of their members.

"That's a very clear and simple way of saying what we've been trying to say all along" -- that the document didn't change the church's stance, "it reaffirmed it," said the Rev. Lee Piche of All Saints Church in Lakeville, who heads the ecumenical outreach program for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Or, to put it in layman's terms: Can we all just get along now?

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