Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI and ecumenism

The Vatican released a statement through the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith this week that reasserted a stance that Benedict XVI has made before regarding the primacy of the Roman Church. In what seems to be a clarification regarding Vatican II's position on ecumenism, the Pope is reiterating the necessity of a papacy for the church's structure and sufficiency. Would we expect him to do anything else? Would we expect a Pope to actually come out and say that churches without succesion to the papacy are just as legitimate in the Pope's eyes as those who have remained in full communion with the office since the time of Peter? That would be kind of like a vote of no-confidence in himself. A lot of Protestant church bodies have cried "foul" with this latest release, wondering whether Rome is genuinely engaged in ecumenical efforts. True, the document does sound a little harsh to non-Roman ears (no one likes to hear that their salvation is defective!), but perhaps Benedict is making this statement in order to clarify some issues and mete out some justice within his own house, so to speak. All in all, it is imperative that in these times of religious extremism we seek to point out our similarities and points of common ground rather than our differences. It would look good if our house could work together.

I can appreciate the Pope's need to address theological boundary issues on occasion. My own denomination is engaged in ongoing turmoil over matters of ajudication, authority, and protocol, especially when it comes to issues of sexuality. That being said, it would be nice for this Pope to also release some sort of document or make some overture in the near future that would somehow seek to amend the wounds that this recent one has apparently created. It just sets a bad tone, and it makes those in Protestant circles who lean toward Rome have to work all the harder to cast the Vatican's comments in a less harmful light.