Non-Catholics apparently not Christians
Pope Benedict XVI has provoked controversy by approving a 10 July Church document that denounces all other Christian faiths as essentially illegitimate.
In doing so, Benedict has refuted the modernizations accomplished by the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. On 7 July Benedict approved Saturday Latin Masses.
While Saturday Masses in Latin are perfectly reasonable, the problem with the Pope's claim on the primacy of the Vatican is that he is essentially affirming what virtually every Christian denomination -- excepting, perhaps, the United Church and the Anglican Church (which was basically created by King Henry VIII to legalize divorce) -- already claims: a monopoly on the route to heaven, with all those who follow an alternate path damned to burn in hell for all salvation.
But this isn't even the worst of it.
What is really at the heart of all of this are conservative Catholics who are still pouting over the historically warm reception recieved by Martin Luther's 95 theses, and the amount of power that the Catholic Church has lost as a result. Once upon a time, the Vatican could -- and did -- release bloodthirsty Inquisitors upon the landscape to burn at the stake anyone with whom it disagreed. Today, the once-powerful Inquisition -- still in existence as the Registry -- has been reduced to releasing lists of banned books.
Pope Benedict is not defending the primacy of the Catholic faith -- that is already indisputed in the hearts and minds of Catholics everywhere. Pope Benedict is leading the ranks of those in the Catholic church who abhor any form of modernization. Historically, the rise of protestantism -- in all its forms -- was the first great modernization of Christianity, the world's oldest existing institution.
In refuting Prostetantism, Benedict isn't merely dragging Catholicism back into the Dark Ages (literally). He's trying to drag all of Christianity back in time with it. All of this at a time when the Church could do so much good by progressing and allowing AIDS-stricken Catholics in Africa to stop the spread of HIV by using condoms (which, as a form of birth control, the Vatican currently forbids).
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches was spot-on when it released a statement saying "[This] makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian Unity." The Pope's disavowment of the legitimacy of Protestant faiths doesn't merely polarize the Christian community -- it also encourages conflict; this has almost always been the case whenever one religion denounces another as "illegitimate".
"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 noted. True to point. The Pope clearly isn't interested in dialogue with other religions -- unless mass rioting is involved, as was the case following the Pope's controversial comments regarding Islam.
Pope Benedict rose to the Papacy amongst labelling as "ultra-conservative". Unfortunately, this has proven to be the case. But perhaps the Pope can put his money where the mouths of the last 265 Popes are. If His Holiness truly commands the ear of god, perhaps he can convince the almighty to rotate the Earth backwards for a few hundred years, so all the "terrible changes" he and his cohorts seem to detest can be righted.
Myself, Kevin Smith, George Carlin and Denis Leary will all be holding our breaths waiting for that one.