The Vatican said the other day that other Christian denominations were not "true churches" because they don't recognize the primacy of the Pope.
An AP story posted on forbes.com reported:
"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," the document said. 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.
According to the AP story, even the Eastern Orthodox church is "wounded" because it doesn't recognize the Pope as church leader, even though it has apostolic succession. But
Protestant churches are only "ecclesial communities" and can't provide salvation.
This isn't surprising. Pope Benedict is trying to undo all the work done by Pope John XXIII, who did his best to open up to other branches of Christianity. Benedict, who was a very right-wing cardinal before he became pope, is desperate to take the church back to the Middle Ages.
I don't expect much of the Roman Catholic Church these days, so I might have ignored this report except for a similar statement I heard on an NPR report the other day. A woman -- a Protestant Christian of conservative views -- was being interviewed about whether she would vote for Mitt Romney, a Mormon.
She wouldn't, she said, because neither Mormons nor Catholics were Christians.
Now apparently there is a debate within the Mormon Church about whether they are Christians -- they believe in Jesus Christ, but they also believe in the later teachings of the Book of Mormon -- so perhaps it is not inaccurate, or even insulting, to say that Mormons aren't Christians (though I'm sure the woman who said it meant it in a negative way).
But the woman threw in Roman Catholics without being asked. And her assertion is ridiculous -- of course Roman Catholics are Christians. Still, it seems that lots of Protestants would like to believe that they aren't, just as lots of Roman Catholics would like to believe that Protestants aren't either.
Given the chaos in the church of the first few centuries after Christ -- when even Jesus's disciples preached different interpretations of his teaching -- it is ridiculous for the Roman Catholics to assert that they are the only true church. It's equally ridiculous for Protestants -- who were formed because they "protested" the Roman Catholic Church -- to deny the Christianity of Roman Catholics.
I don't see Jesus having much sympathy with either side in this squabble.