Eucharissin’ Cousins

July 12th, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  4 Comments

There was a time, back when I was more interested in religion “working well,” that I responded positively to ecumenical sentiment when expressed in fuzzy terms. I didn’t have any grasp of any capital-e ecumenism … I just thought it wasn’t polite to tell people who had crosses and pictures of Jesus hanging up in their churches that they might go to hell, and I didn’t believe that was the case, anyhow.


Lately I don’t worry about that much because being told I might go to hell isn’t such a negative thing anymore. That’s less a comment on how seriously I take hell as it is how seriously I take people who threaten other people with it. So work that might discourage people from threatening each other with hell seems less like a useful thing that’ll make religion work better, and more like a harmful thing that’ll impede our ability to detect cretinism.

But I’m always interested in how the Christians are getting along:

New York Times: Pope, Restating 2000 Document, Cites ‘Defects’ of Other Faiths

“Pope Benedict XVI restated Tuesday what he said were the ‘defects’ of Christian faiths other than Roman Catholicism, prompting anger from Protestants who questioned the Vatican’s respect for other beliefs.

“‘It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity,’ the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which represents Protestants in more than 100 countries, said in a statement.

Being surprised and a little hurt that the Pope thinks he’s right and you’re wrong seems … I don’t know what.

We all know that the Catholics know that Benedict is the 265th Pope since Peter. They don’t keep track of that so lucky Pope Number 300 can get a door prize. And the whole “Vicar of Christ” thing isn’t like “assistant shift branch manager” down at Enterprise Rent-a-Car … There can be only one! They sorta gave it all away when the picked a name for their brand, too.

Anyhow, here’s the part that cheeses people off, which comes right after he lets all the Orthodox churches off the hook a little:

… the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church. Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.

Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.

You're kinda articulate for a Baptist.

I think that means the World Alliance of Reformed Churches is supposed to chill out about all this “defect” talk, because all its members are kinda Catholics whether they like it or not. I’m not sure, though, if the part about the spirit of Christ “using them as a means of salvation” means their members get to go to heaven, or just that being a Methodist isn’t a fast-track to hell, and might even eventually lead to the wayward soul wising up and converting and definitely getting to go to heaven.

Kinda gets catty here, though:

The lack of unity among Christians is certainly a wound for the Church; not in the sense that she is deprived of her unity, but “in that it hinders the complete fulfilment of her universality in history”.

So they’re all kinda Catholic whether they think they are or not, and they’re also a festering impediment to 100 percent market share.

I don’t see what all the upset is about.

Update: Timothy Noah has the virtue of actually being funny, even if his “hell” part is a little off.


  1. Brian Proffitt says:

    July 12th, 2007 at 7:22 pm (#)

    This seems to be the M.O. for Pope Benedict… last week he reversed the Vatican II reform that said the Tridentine Mass (which is performed in Latin) should be limited. Now, he says that if a parish wants the Latin, they should be able to get it.

    On the surface, this just seems like a PITA for priests who aren’t fluent in the language of the Roman Empire. But, apparently, the T. Mass also includes prayers for the Jews of the world to get right with Jesus. Naturally, Jews are a tad upset.

    I don’t pretend to understand Catholic doctrine, but I get the sense that these rollbacks are not welcome and will only serve to further alienate a Church from a world that is leaving It behind.


  2. David says:

    July 12th, 2007 at 10:28 pm (#)

    “Being surprised and a little hurt that the Pope thinks he’s right and you’re wrong seems … I don’t know what.”

    HAHAHAHA! Exactly! You know, I just re-listened to (most of) Angela’s Ashes, and it’s SO striking in that book that the Catholics (in Ireland, granted) consider the Protestants to be about as Evil and Evil gets. “There is NO SALVATION outside of the Catholic Church”. “Your useless father from the north, with his odd, Presbyterian manner!” and my personal favorite: “Croquet is a Protestant game. And I wonder, what’s the use of playing croquet if you’re doomed?” So, in the shadow of all that (and much much more) it’s remarkable that such mild commentary from The Pope a mere 60 years later makes other Christians feel hurt. I hope I’m not being optimistic in believing it’s because Christians realize they’ve got bigger challenges to their foundation than each other.

  3. pk says:

    July 13th, 2007 at 11:37 am (#)

    I get the sense that these rollbacks are not welcome and will only serve to further alienate a Church from a world that is leaving It behind.

    Psht–alienate away, deranged, unannointed sinners! What good is having your seat in eternal paradise already engraved with your name if you can’t lord it over everybody else?

    Give ’em Hell, Benny! I mean, getting along with everyone is nice, but God Damn It, here we are, FOLLOWING THE RULES, and I want to know FOR A FACT that I am going to get something NOBODY ELSE IS! “Special uniformed police will supervise admission!”

    Otherwise, I might as well go to a motel and hire a teenage boy to bring me some crank with his shirt off.

    This week’s sermon, advertised at a church I drive by every day: “Evolution: True Science Fiction.”

    Pope Benedict is as perfect a leader for his church in this epoch as George W. Bush is perfect for his country, but the World Alliance of Reformed Churches can suck it, too. I’m not familiar with their works, but plenty of Protestants make me question whether we are indeed praying together for Electric Voodoo-Billy unity.

    Sincerely, Poo-Flinging Monkey

  4. Jim Zoetewey says:

    July 13th, 2007 at 7:45 pm (#)

    Disclaimer: I’m a former seminarian/religion major who works for a local ecumenical organization (part time) in addition to my computer consulting. Also, I go to a church in a denomination that is a member of WARC (the World Alliance of Reformed Churches).

    Does this entitle me to special insight? I doubt it, but it doesn’t stop me from pretending to have some.

    My thoughts: The Ecumenical movement has been largely a movement of the left. It’s been inconsistently successful. By inconsistent, I mean that to a very great degree Christians are willing to accept that Christians from other denominations are also Christians.

    Mind you, every denomination still thinks that they’re more likely to be doctrinally correct, but nonetheless you’ll find that on the level of your average church attender that denomination doesn’t indicate who the “true Christians” are anymore.. Witness the vast number of non-denominational churches these days.

    Amusingly, there are now ecumenical organizations for both the left and the right–which oddly enough goes against the whole point of ecumenism in the first place.

    Interestingly though, the Catholic church is a member of the earlier organizations that happen to lean further left (the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches etc…).

    So then we’ve got the Pope (who is pushing the Catholic church doctrinally in a slightly more conservative direction with regards to Ecumenism) saying stuff that’s less ecumenical than previous recent Popes.

    As such, it’s not too surprising to find the rep for the WARC (World Alliance…) would make some sort of negative comment bearing in mind that Catholics have been pretty involved in ecumenical circles in the past.

    The WARC rep (and possibly the organization) is probably feeling like a lot of things that they’ve been working for may be heading straight down the toilet.

    Particularly interesting in this context is the praise for the Orthodox churches who have been relatively uninvolved (or even outright hostile) to ecumenical work in the past.

    I don’t know that this makes things any more comprehensible for anybody, but that’s what I see in the article.

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