Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pope was right to explain, defend Catholic teaching and put down other religions
It's Benedict XVI's job to teach Catholicism, not make nice, and better to know where others stand
By Rod Dreher

Is the pope Catholic? I ask because the recent foofarah over Benedict XVI's statement that the Roman Catholic Church is the only Christian ecclesial body that possesses the fullness of truth scandalized quite a few folks -- even some Catholics.

Well, what did they expect? It's the pope's job to explain and defend Catholic teaching, which makes unique and exclusive truth claims. It would be logically inconsistent for the pope to affirm Catholic teaching while asserting that churches proclaiming contradictory things are equally correct.

Benedict said nothing new. He reaffirmed the Catholic position that Christ's saving work can occur among non-Catholic Christians, despite rejecting Roman orthodoxy. What caused the most consternation was the pontiff's point that Protestant churches aren't proper churches at all.

Undiplomatic? Sure. But Benedict was clarifying an important point of Catholic theology: that you cannot have a real church without a valid Eucharist. You can't have a valid Eucharist without a sacramentally legitimate priesthood. And you can't have that in ecclesial bodies that have severed the line of apostolic succession, as Protestant communions have.

You don't have to agree, but this is what Catholicism teaches. And this is why Metropolitan Kirill, leader of the ecumenical office of the Russian Orthodox Church -- which Catholicism theologically qualifies as a church, though "defective" inasmuch as it is not in full communion with Rome -- welcomed Benedict's directive as an "honest statement." Better to know where we really stand with one another, Kirill rightly said, than to gloss over fundamental theological differences for the sake of making nice.

The angry reaction, especially from some Catholics, shows why Benedict's statement was necessary. When I endeavored to convert to Catholicism as a young man, the priest and the nun leading our class spent week after week encouraging us to talk about our feelings and nothing but.

Sick of this cotton-candy catechism, I went to a crusty old Irish priest in an inner-city parish. "When I get t'roo wit' ye, lad, ye might not want to be a Catlick," Father Moloney said. "But ye'll know what a Catlick is!"

That good priest respected me and the Catholic faith enough to give me the straight dope. Later, when I was received into the Roman church, I knew what was expected of me and why it mattered.

Years later, after a prolonged spiritual crisis, I lost my Catholic faith and am now a communicant of the Orthodox Church. Rather than be offended that Benedict considers my church to be theologically defective -- as Orthodoxy in turn regards Catholicism -- I rejoice that the Bishop of Rome is far too serious a man to sugarcoat important truths.

Good relations among believers must be built, but only on a foundation of honesty. It does not follow that acknowledging theological differences -- particularly the exclusive correctness of one church or religion -- therefore requires a program enacting political or social superiority. In fact, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed that religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Acknowledging that people have a right to be wrong about God is a moral breakthrough for humanity, an idea that should be spread.

It's wrong and dangerous, though, to expect a religious believer to affirm that all beliefs about God could be equally true -- which is what Benedict's critics really demand. To do so would be to empty religion of its deepest meaning, to turn it into something that's merely socially or personally useful.

That's where American religion is headed, however. Several years ago, researchers with the University of North Carolina's National Study of Youth and Religion polled American teenagers and found that faith was important to them. But it's faith not in established religion but rather in what the study's social scientists termed "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, as researchers explain, teaches that a vaguely defined God exists, cares about us and wants us to be good, nice and fair. You don't need to get too involved with God, absent a problem or crisis. The point of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. Good people go to heaven.

Whatever that relativist mush is, it has little to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or any traditional religion. Researchers concluded that either American youths don't know their traditions' teaching or don't much care. Strikingly, they found that many teenagers interviewed had never discussed theology with an adult. The theological content of our faiths is quickly eroding because of the lazy indifference of older generations to whom the traditions were delivered.

Benedict knows how critical this is. Count me on the side of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who aren't afraid to say -- respectfully -- that I'm wrong about God. At least they understand what's at stake.

Rod Dreher is an editorial columnist at the Dallas Morning News. Reach him at

Friday, July 27, 2007

Personal Friend of Pope to Answer Criticism of Pontiff's Controversial Statements on Latin Mass, Protestants
Contact: Terry Barber, 626-331-3549 Ext. 419,

WEST COVINA, Calif., July 26 /Christian Newswire/ -- On July 28, a personal friend of Pope Benedict XVI will publicly defend the Pope's recent controversial remarks in support of the traditional Mass in Latin and calling non-Catholic communities "defective" and not truly churches.

The friend, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., wrote his dissertation under then-Cardinal Ratzinger at the University of Regensburg in 1975, and for decades was the exclusive publisher of his books in English. He will make his remarks at the annual Catholic Family Conference in Anaheim, California.

According to Terry Barber, President of the Catholic Resource Center and the sponsor of the Conference, "Fr. Fessio will give us a clear, insight-filled explanation of what the Pope's historic Apostolic Letter authorizing wider use of the traditional Mass means for the Catholic faithful. He'll detail how it will affect them, their parishes, and the Catholic Church in the US."

"What's more," said Barber, "Fr. Fessio will reveal what the Holy Father meant when he said Protestant communities can't be called churches 'in the proper sense,' the Orthodox church was 'defective,' and the Roman Catholic Church was the 'one true Church of Christ.' He'll also reveal why the Pope said those things, why non-Catholics shouldn't take offense at them, and what they mean for interfaith relations."

Fr. Fessio will speak from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 28, at the Catholic Family Conference in the Anaheim Convention Center.

He's a leading figure in the Catholic Church in the US and serves as Theologian in Residence at the new Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. He is also the founder and former President of Ignatius Press, a leading publisher of Catholic books, the St. Ignatius Institute of the University of San Francisco, and Campion College. He holds degrees from universities in America and Europe.
Pope's secretary warns of Europe's Islamisation

Friday July 27, 04:52 PM

London, July 27 (ANI): Pope Benedict XVI's private secretary has warned of the 'Islamisation' of Europe and demanded that the Continent's Christian roots not to be ignored.

"Attempts to Islamise the west cannot be denied," Monsignor Georg Gaenswein was quoted as saying in a copy of the weekly Sueddeutsche Magazine published today.

"The danger for the identity of Europe that is connected with it should not be ignored out of a wrongly understood respectfulness," the magazine quoted him as saying.

Gaenswein also defended Pope Benedict's Regensburg (Germany) speech delivered last year, which linked Islam and violence, saying it was an attempt to "act against a certain naivety."
Gaenswein also confirmed that the Pope wrote his own speeches and that the remarks had not been edited.

Asked if the idea of a serious dialogue with Islam that exists in the real world was naive, given that it was a religion where human rights were trampled under foot, he said: "Attempts to Islamize the West cannot be denied.

Muslims around the world protested against Benedict's speech, with churches set ablaze in the West Bank and a hard-line Iranian cleric saying the Pope was united with US President George W. Bush to "repeat the Crusades".

Gaenswein said: "We first learnt of the harsh reactions at the Rome airport after we had returned from Bavaria. It was a big surprise, also to the Pope, he said. (ANI)

Thursday, July 26, 2007


July 26, 2007 -- Pope Benedict XVI says the theory of evolution is backed by strong scientific proof - but the theory does not answer life's "great philosophical question."

Benedict told 400 priests at a two-hour event that he's puzzled by the current debate in the United States and his native Germany over creationism and evolution.

Debaters wrongly present the two sides "as if they were alternatives that are exclusive - whoever believes in the creator could not believe in evolution, and whoever asserts belief in evolution would have to disbelieve in God," the pontiff said.

"This contrast is an absurdity, because there are many scientific tests in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and enriches our understanding of life and being.
"But the doctrine of evolution does not answer all questions, and it does not answer above all the great philosophical question: From where does everything come?"

A transcript of the Tuesday event was posted in Italian yesterday on the Vatican's Web site.
The speech came at the end of a three-week vacation in the mountains of northern Italy near the Austrian border, where people are worried that global warming will change their way of life.
"We all see that today man can destroy the foundation of his existence, his Earth," Benedict said.
"We cannot simply do what we want with this Earth of ours, with what has been entrusted to us." With Post Wire Services

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I have GOT to read more Russell Shaw

The ‘Timidity’ of Pope Benedict

By Russell Shaw
Herald Columnist
(From the issue of 7/26/07)

Pope Benedict XVI's critics say he's timid, overly cautious, slow to make decisions. Against that background, and without suggesting the criticism has no basis in fact, it's enlightening to observe that, in recent days, Benedict has taken the following steps: reversed important policy decisions of two of his predecessors, taken a big gamble aimed at healing a dangerous schism, reminded the world's bishops that he's boss, risked offending ecumenical dialogue partners — and then headed off cheerfully on vacation.

If this is timidity, one might reasonably ask, what must boldness look like?

The matters involved in these recent papal moves are well known. First, on June 26 the Vatican released a document from Benedict that makes a potentially crucial change in the procedure for electing a pope.

Back in 1996, in a departure from long tradition, Pope John Paul II decreed that after a conclave had spent 13 days trying unsuccessfully to elect someone by a two-thirds majority vote, the cardinals could switch to election by a simple majority if they wished. Many people felt this was a bad idea, since potentially it allowed a determined group composed of just half the electors plus one to stand pat on its candidate and resist compromise until the time arrived when it could get what it wanted. That's no way to choose a pope, it was privately said.

Evidently, one of those who shared that view was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now, Pope Benedict XVI. His new rule for the conclave insists that, come what may, a pope must have the votes of two-thirds of the cardinals. That also involves potential difficulties, but at least it guarantees that whoever gets elected will be a true consensus choice.

Benedict followed up on July 7 with a second document in effect restoring the old form of the Mass to a position of virtual parity with the new form. In doing so, he was for practical purposes reversing Pope Paul VI's decision back in 1970 which virtually banned celebration of Mass in the old form.
Not only that — Paul VI had allowed for continued celebration of Mass the old way by elderly priests, but only if they got special permission. John Paul II expanded authorization of the old form in 1984 and 1988, while also insisting on the local bishop's permission. Not any more. Under Benedict XVI's regulations, starting Sept. 14 any priest who wants to celebrate Mass in the old form can do so, with no further permission required.

Pope Benedict's intention is clear. "Internal reconciliation" in the Church, he calls it — in other words, reconciliation with traditionalists who yearn for Mass in the old form and, especially, with the 600,000 members of the Society of St. Pius X, the schismatic group of followers of the late, breakaway Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Will it work? Hard to say. Unhappiness with the new form of Mass isn't the Lefebvrists' only complaint. They also have problems with things like ecumenism and religious liberty.

Significantly, the Vatican on July 10 issued a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirming the salvific uniqueness of the Catholic Church — a principle traditionalists believe has been obscured by ecumenical excesses.

The point isn't that Pope Benedict has suddenly found the key to resolving all these difficulties. But — patient, methodical, fond of consultation as he is — he has the moxie to try. The critics need to let this man be pope his own way. He's going to do that anyway, after all, whether they like it or not.

Shaw is a freelance writer from Washington, D.C., and author of Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church (Requiem Press).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pope calls for peace to make "heaven" on earth
Sun Jul 22, 6:57 AM ET

Pope Benedict made an appeal for peace on Sunday, saying nations should halt bloody conflicts around the world to create a heaven on earth.

Addressing the faithful at his mountain retreat in the Italian Dolomites, the Pope said his summer holiday made him particularly sensitive to the suffering caused by war.

"In these days of rest ... I feel even more intensely the painful impact of the news I receive about bloody conflicts and violent events happening in so many parts of the world," he told worshippers gathered in the sunny mountain valley town.

"The beauty of nature reminds us that we were instructed by God to cultivate and keep this garden that is the earth. If men lived in peace with God and with each other, the earth really would look like a 'heaven'."

The Pontiff quoted Benedict XV, pope during World War I, who in 1917 called that global conflict a "pointless carnage."

"Those words, 'pointless carnage', have a wider, prophetic value and can be applied to many other conflicts which have cut short so many human lives." He did not refer explicitly to any current conflict.

The Pope prayed for peace and made a plea for people to "refuse with determination the race for arms and, more generally, to reject the temptation to deal with new situations with old systems."

The 80-year-old Pope is due to return to the Vatican at the end of this month after his spell in the mountains.

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited.

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?

© 2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pope Is Man of Heart, Says Cardinal Bertone
Vatican Secretary of State Speaks to Press

PIEVE DI CADORE, JULY 18, 2007 ( Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone says that the secret to Benedict XVI's popularity is his character, because he is a man of God who loves, and who speaks from the heart.
The Vatican secretary of state said this today when speaking with journalists in a press conference near Lorenzago di Cadore, the spot where the Pope is vacationing until July 27.Cardinal Bertone was recently sworn in as the chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church in a ceremony took place in the presence of Benedict XVI on July 7. The Pope had named him to the post April 4.
The cardinal told the press how the Holy Father is spending his days of vacation: "The Pope is playing the piano a lot but he is also working. He has a great capacity to write a lot. He is writing the second part of his book, 'Jesus of Nazareth,' and a new encyclical with a social theme -- I don't know when it will be published -- and other things.
"He is a volcano of creativity. He is working on things like the message for World Youth Day 2008 and other things 'in pectore.' And he is drawing out and elaborating further themes he has already written about.
"The extensive press conference included a variety of themes, including women working in the Roman Curia, reactions to three recent Vatican documents, the personality of Benedict XVI and the persecution of Christians.
Asked about women in the Roman Curia, Cardinal Bertone said, "We are designing new posts, and according to the possibilities, there will be posts that women could also take on."
3 documents
Journalists asked the cardinal about recent Vatican documents, which have brought much media attention.
Speaking of Benedict XVI's May 27 letter to the faithful in China, Cardinal Bertone hailed positive reactions among the Chinese people. He spoke of a bishop from that Asian country who had written to say that the papal letter is being meditated upon and studied. Cardinal Bertone expressed his hopes that the official and the underground Church in China would walk together toward unity.
"The Pope's letter has become an instrument of reflection, dialogue and comfort," he said.
Cardinal Bertone also commented on the July 7 apostolic letter "Summorum Pontificum," issued "motu proprio" (on one's own initiative). The cardinal affirmed that the Pope's expansion of the use of the 1962 missal reflects the Holy Father's desire to protect the heritage of the Church.
The Vatican secretary of state spoke of the June 29 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Catholic understanding of the Church. Cardinal Bertone said the document, in its honest presentation of Catholic teaching, shows how close Christians are in certain areas, and how far away in others.
"To have honest theological dialogue we must have a clear idea of the positions on the other side. This helps us understand the path we must take," he said. "This document is not a slap in the face, but an invitation" to more open dialogue.
Benedict XVI's patience
Cardinal Bertone also fielded questions regarding his experience as secretary of state and the personality of the Pope.
The 72-year-old cardinal characterized the Pontiff as a man of God and noted his cordiality and infinite patience. "I have never seen him perturbed in meetings in the Vatican, when he may have had reason to be. He is very kind," the cardinal added, noting that he meets with the Holy Father for about two hours, three times a week.
Cardinal Bertone further commented on Benedict XVI's capacity for listening and showing respect, even to the youngest or most inexperienced of his collaborators.
Papal worries
Journalists asked Cardinal Bertone about the phenomenon of pedophilia, especially after Sunday's announcement in Los Angeles, California, of the largest court settlement yet in cases of alleged sexual abuse of children by clergy.
The secretary of state affirmed that it is a concern of the Pope, but also highlighted that the percentage of priests that have been found guilty of abuse is very low. The crime of pedophilia is not something that happens just with Catholics, but among other institutions as well, he added.
Cardinal Bertone said the persecution of Christians is another of the Pope's concerns, citing countries like Iraq. The situation of peace in the Holy Land and European values are also among Benedict XVI's worries, the cardinal said.
The Vatican official also spoke of Catholic relations with Muslims."We have begun a serene conversation with the Muslim world, which is continuing," he said. "We are on the path of open dialogue with the Muslim world."

© Innovative Media, Inc.
Reprinting ZENIT's articles requires written permission from the editor.
Deseret Morning News, Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pope still a beacon of hope
Deseret Morning News editorial

The movie "Shoes of the Fisherman" showed how difficult it is for a pope to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter. But for Pope Benedict XVI, following in the footsteps of John Paul II has been a big task in itself. Few popes have been as media savvy as John Paul II. Trained as an actor, he had a knack with words and the public that was the envy of many world leaders.

Pope Benedict XVI was a scholar and theologian. And his tendency to voice principle at the expense of people's feelings has created tensions among Christians and non-Christians alike. His remarks about Islam being responsible for much of the evil in the world and his decree that the Catholic Church was the only authentic Christian faith left a few bruises that still smart.

Still, despite the ruffled feathers, Benedict has raised the torch of responsible behavior in the world and on balance has proven to be a force for moral strength. His recent book, "Jesus of Nazareth," is warm, insightful and accessible. He goes about doing good.

Now — taking a page from his predecessor — Benedict XVI is embarking on a world tour to share the "good news" of Christianity. The trips will include forays to the United Nations, Australia, Austria and the shrine in Lourdes, France. He has also been invited to Boston to help heal the wounds of the sexual abuse scandal there.

Each stop has been carefully chosen to bring energy to regions where Catholicism is struggling. And though the pope — being who he is — may very well step on a few more toes while speaking his mind on his journeys, his presence and vigor will bring some needed resolve and hope to people who need it.

Pope Benedict XVI may not create the buzz and excitement that his predecessor did, but his counsel and perspective have proven to be valuable and enlightening. He is who he is. And what he is, is a force for Christian behavior in a world in search of an identity. And despite his occasional public relations stumbles, the world is a better place for having Pope Benedict XVI in it.

© 2007 Deseret News Publishing Company

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

EDITORIAL from the National Catholic Reporter
Issue Date: July 20, 2007

Full participation before all else

Upon learning about Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter allowing greater use of the Tridentine Mass, no doubt quite a few NCR readers reacted liked Bishop Luca Brandolini, a member of the liturgy commission of the Italian bishops’ conference. “I can’t fight back the tears,” he told the Rome daily La Repubblica in an interview July 8.

“It’s a day of mourning, not just for me but for the many people who worked for the Second Vatican Council. A reform for which many people worked, with great sacrifice and only inspired by the desire to renew the church, has now been canceled.”

On the other hand, many traditionalists see this document as the culmination of a 40-year struggle to preserve an ancient tradition unjustly abandoned.

Our Vatican correspondent John Allen thinks the avalanche of commentary the Latin Mass issue has generated comes from small minorities with vested interests.

To those who would see this as another sign of a rollback on Vatican II, Allen suggests that if they look at Benedict’s full record as pope, they will find little to support the lurch to the right they feared at his election two years ago.

Furthermore, Allen finds scant evidence of a pent-up demand for the old Mass. Individual bishops have been granting permission for use of the 1962 Missal since 1984, and according to Allen, dioceses where it has been allowed report that the celebrations are often well attended, sometimes with a surprising number of younger Catholics, but there has been no widespread exodus from the new rite to the old.

“In the end,” Allen says, “the normal Sunday experience for the vast majority of Catholics will continue to be the new Mass celebrated in the vernacular.”

Allen’s argument, which echoes the opinions of quite a few bishops in the United States and Europe, is persuasive -- for now.

This does not mean that we do not have concerns.

Summorum Pontificum may well ease reconciliation with traditionalists and conservative groups, but what about others -- especially Catholic women -- who have felt deeply pained by the church? What outreach can they expect?

We join with Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and call on the pope to publicly repudiate language in the rite that calls for the conversion of the Jews and for God to lift the “veil from their hearts.”

We know that priests are already strapped for time and energy. That was confirmed by the Synod of the Eucharist convened in Rome last October. We are concerned that priests will be further burdened not just because they have to offer additional services, but because nearly all will need training in the old rites.

But we also have deeper concerns, as we find persuasive the argument that this is a small change that presages more substantive changes.

From the opening words of their first document, the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” the bishops at the Second Vatican Council proclaimed that the key to reforming the church was reform of the liturgy. And the goal of liturgical reform is enshrined in the core statement of the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” Paragraph 14:

Mother church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy. ... This full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else. For it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.
We fear that re-embracing the Latin Mass could undermine the liturgical reforms that undergird the spiritual and theological developments of the Second Vatican Council. Changes that will set off our alarms include:

Reconfiguring seminary curricula to focus time, resources and talent on training priests to offer Mass and other sacraments in Latin and away from training that would support celebrating the sacraments in the vernacular.

Cutting back on seminary training on pastoral duties, such as counseling and chaplaincies.
Restricting church design and architecture in favor of old forms not conducive to the guidelines in liturgical documents written in the last 20 years.

Discouraging efforts to use contemporary music and other artistic expressions in liturgy.
Increasing restrictions on liturgical ministries open to all laypeople, men and women.

Rembert Weakland, then archbishop of Milwaukee, wrote what must now be seen as a prophetic article in America magazine in 1999 that warned of a creeping rubricism and movement to reinterpret Vatican II to assure validity and orthodoxy. Like Weakland, we have to ask: “Can the two, the reform of the liturgy and the reform of the church, be separated?”

National Catholic Reporter, July 20, 2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A voice of reason. Thank you, God

Comments by the pope no shocker: He's Catholic
By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

When I mentioned to some people that I was going to try to write something about Pope Benedict's comments about the church, a few winced.

One said, ``Good luck. You'll need it.''

Others correctly said to be prepared to get hammered from both sides -- those who like the pope and Catholics, and those who don't.

Finally, the obvious question is, ``Who is Pluto to have to say anything about the pope?''
Good question.

I'm just a sportswriter who has been writing about faith since 2001. And I'm not seminary-trained, just schooled from eight years of weekly jail ministry. So my opinion is just that -- my opinion.

My opinion begins with, ``The pope IS Roman Catholic.''

So it should not be a shock that the pope considers his church to be the one true church.
He is the head of the Catholic Church.

In the document called Dominus Iesus released Tuesday, the pope basically said the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church.

He called the Orthodox churches ``wounded,'' partly because they don't consider the pope to be the final authority.

As for other Christian churches, he wrote, ``Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress... it nevertheless is difficult to see how the title `church' could be (used).''
While adding that ``elements of truth'' are found in other churches, he referred to them as ``ecclesiac communities.''

It was reported that the pope seemed to be saying only Catholics could have salvation and go to heaven. Not true, as he wrote, ``The spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them (other churches) as instruments of salvation -- whose value derives from the fullness of grace and truth that comes from the Catholic Church.''

Once again, the Pope IS a Roman Catholic.

He is speaking to Catholics, and he's reaffirming his belief that the Catholic Church is at the center of Christianity. He wrote, ``they (Protestants) do not accept the theological notion of the church in the Catholic sense.''

In other words, he's saying that other churches that aren't Catholic are just that -- not Catholic.
This does not come as a shocking news bulletin.

Time for a story.

I recently vacationed in northern Michigan near a town of 1,800. In the two-stoplight hamlet, there are nine churches -- five of them Lutheran.

I've been to some Southern town about that size, and the breakdown was the same, only it was five Baptist churches out of the total of nine.

Battles over doctrine didn't just show up with the advent of the iPod.

Churches split, denominations splinter, people disagree.

What some people believe is church, others may consider ``ecclesiac communities,'' or something along those lines.

In some church settings, a sideways look can lead to a fracture causing six families to storm out the door and join another church -- or they may start their own.

Right now, you can be certain that some Catholics don't agree with everything the pope just said. They will continue to be good Catholics, and they'll also get along great with their friends in other churches.

Most Protestants who heard what the pope said really won't care when it comes to interacting with their Catholic friends. They know there's far more in common than what keeps us apart.
That's why I love faith in action such as food kitchens, helping the handicapped, jail ministry, rest home ministry, etc. There are no great theological debates because the problems in front of the volunteers are so pressing, there isn't time for them.

I've seen Catholics and Protestants and some major skeptics join hands for prayer, then get down to doing God's work -- helping those who are hurting.

That is the church in action, no matter what you may want to call it.

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry's free, weekly e-mail newsletter ``Direct from Pluto'' at

Thursday, July 12, 2007


The fallout from Benedict's reassertion of the Church being the one true Faith continues and in a most personal way. Today a friend came by and told me of his possible cancer diagnosis. Still many tests to pursue and I pray that he does not have cancer. In the course of the conversation, a radical turn was taken when he asked if I had heard about the Pope's most recent statement. As a Baptist Protestant, he was quite upset by it. I cautioned him that even though Benedict had approved the statement, it really takes a deep understanding of Christian history to fully understand the impact of his words. He also asked me about the doctrine of infallibility which of course is very misunderstood. I gave him the short explanation and then sent him a link that explains it more fully.

I also pointed out to him that since the Pope was speaking from the point of view of continuity of Christ's own teaching regarding His Church, we have to believe that with Martin Luther's break from the Church and the Protestant Reformation, that what the Pope was saying was true. We are talking history here.

Protestants, of course, regard the proliferation of the various Christian religions as man's effort to get back to the Truth. It is my understanding that they would consider the Roman Catholic Church as the first breaks from Christianity. Since we consider Peter our first Pope, we trace an unbreakable lineage to him. Others would disagree with that. And so it goes.

I expect that the fallout from this will be long and damaging. Not nearly as noisy as what happened with the Muslims but no doubt will have very far reaching consequences.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Benedict sure knows how to stir the pot. I admire his courage.
Pope Benedict XVI reasserts other Christian denominations are not true churches By Nicole Winfield

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy (AP) - Pope Benedict reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

The statement brought swift criticism from Protestant leaders. "It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a fellowship of 75 million Protestants in more than 100 countries.

"It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the reformed family and other families of the church," the group said in a letter charging that the document took ecumenical dialogue back to the era before the Second Vatican Council.
It was the second time in a week that Benedict has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-1965 meetings that modernized the church. On Saturday, Benedict revived the old Latin Mass - a move cheered by Catholic traditionalists but criticized by more liberal ones as a step backward from Vatican II.

Among the council's key developments were its ecumenical outreach and the development of the New Mass in the vernacular, which essentially replaced the old Latin Mass.

Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers its erroneous interpretation by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict headed before becoming Pope, said it was issuing the new document Tuesday because some contemporary theological interpretations of Vatican II's ecumenical intent had been "erroneous or ambiguous" and had prompted confusion and doubt.

The new document - formulated as five questions and answers - restates key sections of a 2000 text the Pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, "Dominus Iesus," which riled Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation."

The commentary repeated church teaching that says the Catholic Church "has the fullness of the means of salvation."

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," said the document released as the Pope vacations at a villa in Lorenzago di Cadore, in Italy's Dolomite mountains.

The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession - the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles - and therefore their priestly ordinations are not valid, it said.

Rev. Sara MacVane, of the Anglican Centre in Rome, said that although the document contains nothing new, "I don't know what motivated it at this time."

"But it's important always to point out that there's the official position and there's the huge amount of friendship and fellowship and worshipping together that goes on at all levels, certainly between Anglicans and Catholics and all the other groups and Catholics," she said.

The document said that Orthodox churches were indeed "churches" because they have apostolic succession and enjoyed "many elements of sanctification and of truth." But it said they do not recognize the primacy of the pope - a defect, or a "wound" that harmed them, it said.

"This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of primacy which, according to the Catholic faith, is an 'internal constitutive principle' of the very existence of a particular church," said a commentary from the congregation that accompanied the text.

Despite the harsh tone, the document stressed that Benedict remains committed to ecumenical dialogue.

"However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants, but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith," the commentary said.

The top Protestant cleric in Benedict's homeland, Germany, complained the Vatican apparently did not consider that "mutual respect for the church status" was required for any ecumenical progress.

In a statement titled "Lost Chance," Lutheran Bishop Wolfgang Huber argued that "it would also be completely sufficient if it were to be said that the reforming churches are 'not churches in the sense required here' or that they are 'churches of another type' - but none of these bridges is used" in the Vatican document.

The Vatican statement, signed by the congregation prefect, American William Cardinal Levada, was approved by Benedict on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul - a major ecumenical feast day.

There was no indication why the Pope felt it necessary to release it now, particularly since his 2000 document summed up the same principles.

Some analysts suggested it could be a question of internal church politics or that the congregation was sending a message to certain theologians it did not want to single out. Or, it could be an indication of Benedict using his office as pope to again stress key doctrinal issues from his time at the congregation.

In fact, the only theologian cited by name in the document for having spawned erroneous interpretations of ecumenism was Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian clergyman who left the priesthood and was a target of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's crackdown on liberation theology in the 1980s.

Copyright © 2007 Yahoo! Canada Co.

Monday, July 09, 2007

After reading this TIME article, I realized yet again that I am glad the Old Rite has been returned to us. I would not return to it 100% but I like having the option of enjoying a Mass as I remember it from my childhood. I think I was perhaps 13-14 years old when the altar was turned around and the Mass was said in English. It took some serious getting use to. If it was hard for me, how much harder it must have been for those so much older than I.
I like the knowledge that I can enjoy the meditation and holiness of the Tridentine Mass, a meditation that is harder to achieve in our post-Vatican II world. I love the mystery and unity of the old Mass.
Today's liturgy is not so cohesive and sometimes it goes overboard communally. Case in point: So many churches now get to the end of the Mass and before the priest gives the final blessing there is a pause as someone comes up and makes the announcements for the week. This break in the closing of the Mass disrupts the flow to the end of the celebration. Whatever happened to putting such things in the church bulletin and simply expecting parishioner to read the bulletin?
At Mass yesterday, Fr. Salvatore, our new and permanent pastor, closed the Mass and went directly to the final blessing. No interruptions. No announcements. It ended as it began, in holiness.

Why the Pope is Boosting Latin Mass
Saturday, Jul. 07, 2007 By JEFF ISRAELY/VATICAN CITY

After months of intense speculation, Pope Benedict XVI has eased restrictions on the Catholic Church's traditional Latin Mass — a move that could raise controversy both within the Church, and in its interfaith relations, given the fact that the old rites include a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews.

The decree, called a motu proprio, or personal initiative of the Pontiff, was made public Saturday along with an explanatory letter to the world's bishops acknowledging the recent "news reports" and "confusion" about the lifting of restrictions for access to the old rite. Known as the Tridentine rite — delivered in Latin with the priest usually facing the altar, his back to the congregation — the old Mass (though never banned) had effectively been replaced, following the mid-1960s reforms of the Second Vatican Council, by a liturgy recited in the vernacular. Some Vatican insiders caution that Benedict's new ruling will simply ease restrictions on access to the old liturgy, which has continued to be followed by a small minority of traditionalists. But others predict that the decree could turn into the most explosive internal Church policy of Benedict's papacy, bound to undercut decades of reform and sharpen divisions among the faithful. Here's why both may be true.

What changes
The old Tridentine rite was never actually abolished, but local bishops had to grant approval for a priest to say the Mass. Benedict's ruling authorizes parish priests to celebrate the Tridentine rite if a "stable group of faithful" requests it, without needing their bishop's permission. It also permits the old rite for weddings, funerals and other liturgical proceedings.

Why now
For more than a year, Vatican insiders knew Benedict was keen to ease restrictions on the Tridentine mass. Indeed, in the first months of his papacy, he'd met with leaders of the "schismatic" followers of the late ultratraditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who'd split with the Vatican over the introduction of the vernacular and other Vatican II reforms. In his explanatory letter, Benedict says this decree alone will not heal the rift, which is on "a deeper level." So the Pope seems to be showing the ultratraditionalists — who want to undo all the Vatican II reforms — that he will move, but only so far, to accommodate their concerns. Benedict also acknowledged the document required many months of "reflection, numerous consultations and prayer."

Bishops in the West, particularly in France, had shared their concerns that widening access to the old Mass would deepen the rifts and create splinter movements among their followers. The Pope also listened to concern about how this document could affect inter-faith affairs, given the inclusion of the Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of Jews. Though much less offensive than a reference to "perfidious Jews" that Pope John XXIII eliminated in 1962, some Jewish leaders are bound to ask why, after years of growing mutual respect, the Pope would not simply excise the conversion prayer.

The Pope says he knows some wonder if the document calls into question the very heart of the Second Vatican Council. "This fear," Benedict declares, "is unfounded." As for the precise timing of the release of the document, one can wonder (with a wink) if it's more than coincidence that it came out just before Benedict zips out of Rome for a three-week mountain retreat.

Why it may not be as big a deal as it seems
In practical terms, the vast majority of Catholics — even among the most traditionalist — are unlikely to relinquish the vernacular Mass. The number of priests who have the language skills or liturgical training for the old Latin Mass is small, and likely to get smaller. Undoubtedly reflecting his own personal experience, the 80-year-old Pope cites Catholics for whom the Tridentine rite "had been familiar to them from childhood." As those generations pass there may be ever fewer faithful who are attached to the old Mass, and Benedict is simply providing a sort of bridge for the current over-50 crowd.

Why it may be an even bigger deal than it seems
The symbolic weight of this decision may actually be heavier than the practical effect. Church progressives, and indeed some conservatives, are asking why Benedict went out of his way to reopen a hot-button issue that, for the vast majority of Catholics, has long been settled. With traditionalists emboldened and progressives feeling under siege, the Church hierarchy and local bishops may wind up caught in the crossfire. Still, on a more substantive level, Benedict's real long-term objective may be a sort of "counter-reform" of the alternative practices of the new Mass rather than a widespread return to the old one. He says the Vatican II reform "was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear." This document is certainly a clear warning to those progressives who have their own ideas about reforming the Mass.

What it says about Pope Benedict
The Pope, in any case, does seem to have an affinity for the old Latin Mass, as he does generally for the Church's ancient traditions. His explanatory letter states: "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful." Still, even as he continues to show his traditionalist stripes, Benedict wants all corners of the Church to know that he is open to at least listen to their input. What remains to be seen is whether this latest decree is ultimately more about the future, or simply the past.

Pope Removes Restrictions On Use of Old Latin Mass
By Nicole WinfieldAssociated PressSunday, July 8, 2007

VATICAN CITY, July 7 -- Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday removed restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass, reviving a rite that was all but swept away by the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The decision, a victory for traditional, conservative Roman Catholics, came over the objections of liberal-minded Catholics and angered Jews because the Tridentine Mass contains a prayer for their conversion.

Benedict, who stressed that he was not negating Vatican II, issued a document authorizing parish priests to celebrate the Tridentine rite if a "stable group of faithful" requests it. Under Vatican II rules, the local bishop must approve such requests -- an obstacle that supporters of the rite said had greatly limited its availability.

"What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us, too," Benedict wrote.
The Tridentine rite contains a prayer on Good Friday calling for the conversion of Jews. The Anti-Defamation League called the move a "body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations," the Jewish news agency JTA reported.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Benedict to publicly point out that such phrases "are now entirely contrary to the teaching of the church."

In reviving the rite, Benedict was reaching out to the followers of an excommunicated ultratraditionalist, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who split with the Vatican over Vatican II, particularly the introduction of the new Mass celebrated in the vernacular.

The Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without Rome's consent. The bishops were excommunicated as well.

Benedict has been eager to reconcile with Lefebvre's group, the Society of St. Pius X, which has demanded freer use of the old Mass as a precondition for normalizing relations. The other precondition is the removal of the excommunication decrees. The Vatican did not address the excommunication issue Saturday, and there was no indication if or when it would.

The current head of the society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, welcomed Benedict's document in a statement. He said he hoped "the favorable climate established by the new dispositions of the Holy See" would eventually allow other doctrinal disputes that emerged from Vatican II to be discussed, including ecumenism, religious liberty and the sharing of power with bishops.
The old rite differs significantly from the new Mass. In addition to the Latin, the prayers and readings are different, and the priest faces the altar, to be seen as leading the faithful in prayer.
Benedict, a conservative theologian, has made no secret of his affinity for the Tridentine rite and has long said that Catholics should have greater access to it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pope to issue decree on Latin Mass
By NICOLE WINIFIELD, Associated Press Writer

Pope Benedict XVI is to issue a decree Saturday allowing greater use of the traditional Latin Mass, part of his efforts to reconcile with followers of an ultratraditional excommunicated bishop and bring them back into the Vatican's fold.

The document is expected to be accompanied by a letter from Benedict to bishops explaining his reasons for relaxing restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass, Vatican officials said Thursday.

Traditional Catholics have rejoiced over the pending release, but more liberal clergy have voiced concern that it represented a rollback of one of the key liberalizing reforms that emerged from the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council: the New Mass, celebrated in the language of the country.

Jewish groups have also expressed concern over a prayer in the Tridentine rite for the conversion of Jews. It is not clear how Benedict will address that issue in his document.
While the old Latin Mass was never abolished, its use became restricted after the New Mass was introduced. Local bishops had to authorize it, and many did not — either because they did not want to or thought there was not the demand, or because they did not have priests who knew how to celebrate it.

In 1969, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded a group, the Society of St. Pius X, that insisted on celebrating the old rite because he was opposed to the New Mass and other Vatican II reforms.

The Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without Rome's consent — a move that then-Pope John Paul II called a "schismatic act." The bishops were excommunicated as well.

Benedict has been eager to reconcile with the group, which has demanded freer use of the old Mass as a precondition for normalizing relations. The other precondition has been the removal of the excommunication orders.

"By making the Latin Mass more available, the Holy Father is hoping to convince those disaffected Catholics that it is time for them to return to full union with the Catholic Church," wrote Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, after attending a meeting at the Vatican with the pope last week in which cardinals were briefed on the pending document.

However, even with Saturday's document, there was no indication reconciliation is near.
The society's current leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has said the situation "will be practically unchanged" unless the return to the old Mass is accompanied by an "in-depth discussion" with the Vatican on key doctrinal issues that also emerged from Vatican II.

"Ecumenism, religious liberty and collegiality remain the points of contention over which we will not budge," Fellay wrote earlier this year.

Fellay has said the current "crisis" in the Catholic Church — low Mass attendance, low vocations and other spiritually rooted problems — is largely due to what he calls the loss of Catholic tradition that the New Mass and Vatican II represented.

Currently, the society has six seminaries with 160 seminarians. It boasts four bishops and 463 priests.

Traditional Catholics who remain in good standing with Rome but simply prefer the Tridentine rite have long demanded freer access to it. And they have been rejoicing in recent weeks as Vatican officials confirmed the document was nearing completion and would soon be issued.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Pope calls for reconciliation of Chinese Catholics
By Elisabeth Rosenthal - International Herald Tribute

ROME: In an extraordinary open letter directed to Chinese Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI has acknowledged the suffering experienced by Catholics under Communist rule but concluded that it was time to forgive past wrongs and for the underground and state-sponsored Catholic churches in China to reconcile.

Hoping for a renewal of relations between China and the Vatican, which were suspended in the 1950s, Benedict reassured the Chinese government that the Vatican offered no political challenge to its authority, while urging the state-sponsored Catholic church to acknowledge the Vatican's control on religious matters.

"The misunderstanding and incomprehension weighs heavily, serving neither the Chinese authorities nor the Catholic Church in China," said the letter, which was released Saturday.
It was the pope's long-awaited first official and explicit statement on China's estimated 12 million Catholics, the majority of whom worship in underground churches to avoid having to register with the government and swear loyalty to it.

Months in preparation, the 28-page letter was issued in multiple languages, including Chinese, along with an unusual "Explanatory Note" to highlight main points.

The pope praised China for "the splendor of its ancient civilization" and noted with approval that it had greater religious freedoms and decisive movement toward socioeconomic progress. He underlined that the Roman Catholic Church "does not have a mission to change the structure or administration of the State."

Gerolamo Fazzini, editor of Mondo e Missione, a magazine for the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, said: "This is a step forward because it states the Vatican position clearly and holds out a hand to civil authorities. It says the church and authorities can be allied in dialogue - that you can be good Chinese citizens and Catholics at the same time."

But the pope's message to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the government body that oversees China's state churches, was that no Catholic church should operate independently of the Vatican, and he said Catholics should seek to worship with priests who accepted the guidance of Rome.

Benedict revoked instructions issued by his predecessor, John Paul II, in 1988. Those gave priests and bishops in China "emergency powers" that allowed them to operate without communication with the Vatican and to modify Catholic practices for their own protection, for example, saying a condensed Mass, according to Bernardo Cervellera, editor of Asia News, a Catholic missionary news service based in Rome.

The letter included a reaffirmation of the Vatican's right to appoint bishops, a point of deep contention between Rome and the Chinese Patriotic Church. In 2006, the Chinese church angered the Vatican by appointing three new bishops without consultation.
The Chinese government offered no immediate reaction, and the Patriotic Church Association had been meeting in the past few days, probably to discuss the contents of the letter, Fazzini said.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the bishop of Hong Kong and a passionate advocate for the underground church on the mainland, issued a statement Saturday night.

"The voice of our bishops and priests in China is often prevented from reaching our leaders; now that the letter of the pope is in the hands of our leaders, our bishops and priests can thus refer to it directly as a common starting point for dialogue," it said.

Beginning in the 1950s, China expelled missionaries, closed churches, confiscated church property and imprisoned almost all clerics. Persecution continued until the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, beginning in the late 1970s, allowed worship to resume slowly - although within limits set by the government. Underground churches held fast in their loyalty to the pope, but their secret meetings have been violently dispersed by the police, and practitioners have been arrested.

Still, over the last 10 years, the practices of the official state churches and underground churches have converged to some extent, depending in part upon the tolerance of the local authorities. It is not unusual to find official "Patriotic" churches where the pope is openly revered, and that hang pictures of him near the altar. An increasing number also get money from Catholic charities abroad to pay for church-building, schools and hospitals.

"The first and by far most important aspect is that for the pope, the church in China is one - definitely one," Cervellera, of Asia News, said of the letter. "He stresses it is time to consider the church one church. To reconcile the bishops from the two churches and the faithful as well."
Others remained skeptical that the overture would improve relations between the Vatican and the Chinese.

"I doubt that this will help overcome the impasse with the Chinese authorities, because the letter says that it's up to China to recognize that the church should operate in China as it does in 173 countries, even places like Cuba, which is Communist, or Japan, which has strong nationalism - in all of which the pope nominates bishops," said a priest from Hong Kong, who asked not to be identified.

He and others noted that the reaction to the papal letter could be complex among Catholics in China, and some could even feel betrayed by the pope's message.

"I think that this will have strong repercussions, within the church," Fazzini, the magazine editor, said. "Imagine a priest who spent 30 years in jail and now you are told that you have to dialogue with people that have been nominated by the authorities. Asking them to reread history with charitable eyes, that won't be easy."

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong