Too Much Assisi In Erfurt.
Personally, I am not enthusiastic about what I have been reading concerning Pope Benedict’s travel to Germany.
There is in this visit, it seems to me, too much accent on wrong ecumenism, and too little on right Catholicism.
Was it necessary to visit a former monastery now dedicated to a heretic, I wonder. And if it is really necessary to visit such a monastery, should not be the duty of a Catholic – even more so, of a Pope – to make clear to every non-Catholic that there is no salvation outside of the Church, and to explain to them that whilst one can be brought inside the Church in ways we cannot entirely fathom – how many have been saved by last-minute conversion, or perfect contrition before death, we will never know – the willed separation from the Only Church can easily lead to damnation? Isn’t the fight against error something that should be, in the mind of every sincere Christian – even more so, of a Pope – the paramount consideration, and come before every talk of “ecumenical dialogue”, every diplomatic consideration, every show of desire for a “unity” talked about as if it was a value in itself?
And what is the sense – I mean, the religious one; I fully understand the political motive – of traveling to a Protestant site and telling a congregation of assorted Lutherans that we should focus on what unites us? Has heresy been reduced to an aside, something you look at as if it were only a nasty stain on a beautiful painting, an annoying detail, something that should not be allowed to distract you from the main image? Isn’t it, in fact, exactly the contrary: that it is the very fact that we are all Christians that makes heresy so painful and such a wound in the body of Christianity, nay, in the body of Christ?
Isn’t it so, that the photos that will now be transmitted around the world – the Pope on the observer’s right; the head of the German heretics on the left; no obvious distinction in rank or dignity – create a powerful visual image of Catholicism and Heresy being two variants of the same Faith, with equal legitimacy? Isn’t it so, that the massive talk of ecumenical dialogue of the last days generates the impression that the “talks” between Catholics and Protestants be akin to the talks between, say, Israelis and Palestinians, that is: talks were two merely human political positions are opposed, instead of Divine Truth being opposed to Lie? Where does this lie comes from: from the father of lies, or from good-willed men of God happening to have a slight disagreement with Christ’s Church? Can you create a heretical movement and call yourself – or be treated by Catholics as if you were – a man of God? Luther made the work of the devil, full stop.
The photo you see above appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, with the caption: “The Pope takes place on the right, Nikolaus Schneider on the left”. The implied message is, dear reader, exactly the one you are thinking about.
With the usual acumen, Pope Benedict found the way of telling it rather straight about the matter of ecumenism and the wrong hopes it can engender. He is quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying:
“Ein selbstgemachter Glaube ist wertlos. Der Glaube ist nicht etwas, was wir ausdenken und aushandeln.“
I would translate as follows:
” A self-made Faith is valueless. Faith isn’t something that we make up and negotiate”
Beautiful, strong words, nicht wahr? What a pity, that he himself should weaken the very concept he has so beautifully expressed by traveling to Erfurt and giving millions of Germans the impression that Luther’s heresy has a dignity or legitimation in itself in the eyes of Catholicism. What a pity, that what can’t be negotiated in Catholicism be swept under the carpet, when the Pope himself says that Catholics and Lutherans should focus on the “great things they have in common”.
Last time I looked, having great things in common with Catholics wasn’t enough to avoid hell. Every pedophile has great things in common with normal people: would you tell him that he should not lose sight of all the great things he has in common with normal people, or would you rather suggest him that he, for the good of his soul, focuses on – cough – the big problem he has?
The comparison of a Protestant with a pedophile may seem strong, but if we look at the matter lucidly we must acknowledge that unless Truth has changed whilst we were in the bathroom, heresy is as big a threat to salvation now as it has always been. How many Protestant sanctuaries this or that Pope decides to visit will, I am afraid, not change an iota in the seriousness of the danger, but it will certainly play a role in how many people are exposed to that danger.
It seems to me that this visit has been – at least up to now – worse than a lost opportunity, rather a positive damage to Catholicism. I have lived in Germany many years and am painfully aware of the confusion reigning among common Catholics as to what is right, and of the unexpressed but palpable desire of wanting to consider Protestantism just another ice cream flavour, or the preference for a different shade of blue.
If you ask me, if this visit will have one effect it will be to reinforce this confusion.
Posted on September 24, 2011, in Catholicism and tagged Ecumenism, Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, Heresy, martin Luther, Pope Benedict visit to Germany 2011, Pope Benedict XVI. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.