“The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved.” -Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD)
“We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” -Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam (1302 AD)
“The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her… No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” -Pope Eugene IV, ex cathedra, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino (1441 AD)
“The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that all who are outside of Her will not be saved.” -Pope Saint Gregory the Great (590-604)
“By heart we believe and by mouth confess the one Church, not of heretics but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church outside which we believe that no one is saved.” -Pope Innocent III, Eius exemplo, 18 December 1208 (DS 423)
“You see, dearly beloved sons and venerable brothers, how much vigilance is needed to keep the disease of this terrible evil from infecting and killing your flocks. Do not cease to diligently defend your people against these pernicious errors. Saturate them with the doctrine of Catholic truth more accurately each day. Teach them that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the community of His children.[Rom 1; Heb 11; Council of Trent, session 6, chap. 8.] There is only one true, holy, Catholic church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord,[St. Cyprian, epistle 43.] outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.[St. Cyprian,de unitat. Eccl.] Thus, there can be no greater crime, no more hideous stain than to stand up against Christ, than to divide the Church engendered and purchased by His blood, than to forget evangelical love and to combat with the furor of hostile discord the harmony of the people of God.[St. Cyprian, epistle 72.]” -Blessed Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem, #4, 17 March 1856
“Some say they are not bound by the doctrine which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing. Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation. Others finally belittle the reasonable character of the credibility of Christian Faith. These and like errors, it is clear, have crept in among certain of our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science.” -Venerable Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, #27, 12 August 1950
All the statements above are beautifully coherent. There is no contradiction in them. In them, the Church explains and teaches one Truth. The emphases are obviously mine.
Please read all these statements attentively. Then reflect on the following:
Cantate domino does not state that a man who does not want to be damned must make a conscious, voluntary, publicly communicated decision to leave his heresy and join the Only Church. The requirement to avoid hell is that he be joined with Her before Death.
God, who is Omnipotent, can certainly join anyone He wishes to save to the Only Church before death. He can do that either by giving the soul of the man the consciousness that he is wrong and the Church is right, and a desire to be part of Her, just before his death (and neither you or I need be informed about the fact), or by joining him with Her of His own decree because the man was particularly good and God has decreed that he has died in invincible ignorance and is, therefore, worthy of becoming part of the Church before his death.
Christ is the Bridegroom. The Church is the Bride. It follows that Christ will not admit to the presence of the Bridegroom those whom He has not decreed to be joined with the Bride.
This is all very linear, very logical, elegantly unavoidable from the premises of Truth.
Where the problems begin is when the “imprudent zeal for souls” leads people to talk nonsense for an apparently good, but ultimately childish desire to see everyone (or almost everyone) saved; a childish desire and wishful thinking which, in fact, contributes to the damnation of those the childish person is so desirous to see saved, and might well be dangerous for the salvation of this person himself.
We cannot say, with absolute certainty, that this or that just deceased Proddie, or Infidel, or Unbeliever has gone to hell. Every single one of them might, just might, have saved his ass to Purgatory in the end. Odds don’t count here. We can just not exclude it, no matter how little the odds.
But we also cannot say that one particular sperm will not manage to fecundate the ovule. We cannot say that, no matter how little the odds!
Good luck, you little sperm. I wish you well. I really do.
Allow me not to bet my pint on you, though…
Being humans, we can’t avoid asking ourselves: “how are the odds”?
The answer lies in the simple phrase extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Seen that the “being joined with Her before death” by Divine Decree must be an exceptional circumstance (otherwise, you will agree, it would not make much sense, and in the extreme it would not make any sense at all, to be a Catholic in the first place) the odds can’t be good at all; in fact they must be, in descending order, from bad to absolutely terrifying for Proddies, Infidels, and Unbelievers*. How many of them will, without any obvious decision to convert, be fished out from Christ from the very jaws of Hell? We don’t know, but as stated above, it can only be the exception. He who stakes his salvation on God making an exception for him is, it seems to me, a presumptuous idiot.
Another important element must be derived from these reflections: there can be no true saintliness outside of the Church. “No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”
There is nothing like a “Protestant Saint”. There is also nothing like “protestant saintliness”. Every Protestant is marching towards hell. His piety and love for the Lord, his Christian zeal – no matter how strong; and I am sure it is very strong in many of them – avail him nothing, until and unless he is joined with the Church before death. Let us not kid ourselves about this, lest our “imprudent zeal for souls” makes their path far more difficult, and encourages them to walk toward a cliff out of which only the merciful hand of the Lord can save the one or other of them when they have their feet almost in mid-air.
What a blessing it is, to be a Catholic! How easier it is for us to safely travel through the perilous sea of life from the security of the Barque! How many, who think themselves too good for it, will drown! The greatest blessing of my life was to be born a Catholic. The second, to be born with a strong faith. Yes, in this order.
There is no salvation outside of the Church. The one or other will save their backside by being fished in by Our Lord just at the very last moment. But no one can say that he thinks that they will be very many and believe in extra ecclesiam nulla salus at the same time.
* For these, of course, they might have received the grace of faith and being joined with the Church before dying. If they died in their atheism, the matter is settled already. But this is why the Church teaches us to pray for our relatives and loved ones who apparently died in their atheism.
“Harvesting the Fruits” has an excellent post about modern “evangelisation” thinking, with… added surprise
I suggest that you follow the link to enjoy the post and discover the surprise.
I will, as always in this case, only add a couple of further personal reflections:
1.The idea of “proximity and meakness” as non-existent “reconciliation” can only come from a mind that has grown so far away from even a basic concept of Catholicism that it confuses every vague feeling of devotion to the Blessed Virgin with the end of a state of obvious heresy. This Bishop clearly has no idea of what he is talking about, and the only question is whether he never had any whatsoever, or just forgot the basics in the course of the years.
2.The priest isn't much better. Instead of encouraging the woman to pray for good priest, he proceeds to be exactly the kind of bad priest that causes the scarcity of priests in the first place. More than meek, he seems effeminate to me. He arrives among his flock and the first two things he does is apologise and whine. I have never been a priest, but I can think of another option or two, both including the words “shut up” and “repent” to anyone who has left the Church.
These people stil think that you can gain souls for the Church by being a eunuch in black. Sheesh. Where have they been these last 50 years?
3. For this very confused bishop, “to pray” seems to be the only requirement, and it seems rather clear if one prays “he faces Lord Jesus”. With this reasoning Luther was a saintly man, Muslims face Lord Jesus, and one should be very optimistic for Wiccans, Sikh and Hindus too. You see, if prayer is the passepartout to heaven only the atheists are going to stay out; which, by definition, makes every religion equally good; which, by definition, makes Christianity superfluous; which, by definition, makes Christ's sacrifice useless.
Pray for this bishop, for his effeminate priest, and for all those like them.
Unless they change their mind, something tells me their punishment will be absolutely terrifying.
The sad news reached me yesterday via “Harvesting the Fruits” that Tony Palmer, the wannabe bishop friend of the Pope, has died in a motorbike accident during the weekend. Palmer is the one who was at lunch with Francis when the man, who if you ask me was rather tipsy, had the idea of making the infamous “brother bishop” video.
Just two reflections here, because time is a tyrant.
1. Pope Francis does not seem to bring much luck. He calls the heathen to pray for peace in the Vatican gardens, and the two camps opposing each other in Palestine start massacring each other (actually, Hamas only tries; but that’s par with how stupid they are) within just a few weeks. He calls a perfectly not ordained proddie “brother bishop” and the latter dies in a motorbike accident. We must not be superstitious, but it does not seem to me that God is exactly smiling on this Pope’s endeavours.
2. Poor Palmer might have saved his soul. We cannot know for certain that he is damned. He might have repented. He might have been seriously thinking of conversion in the weeks preceding the accident. Perhaps he had, just before the accident, resolved to convert. Perhaps he had realised the errors of his ways. We do not know the state of his soul when he died, and we can only hope and pray (yes, we pray for deceased Proddies; and wish them all the best with all our hearts) that he saved his soul in the end. Nothing is impossible to God, and I have always been taught that just before death the effort of Heaven is strongest. Despair is not the answer. We pray for all the deceased because we know this massive effort did take place.
What we also know, though, is that the man was a public heretic, and that it seems very strange to start invoking “invincible ignorance” for a man who must have had a rather precise knowledge of what the teaching of the Church is, and what extra ecclesiam nulla salus means. A man, also, who was in a way “nearer” to the Church than most Protestants, and there was nothing in him of that “whore of Babylon”-mentality which might lead one to think invincible ignorance was possibly at play. We must, therefore, drily acknowledge that this possibility of salvation is linked not to his public activity – which, the Church says, would clearly suffice to damn him, whatever Francis may think in each of his various stages of sobriety – but to a combination of circumstances in his internal forum: either the clearly improbable invincible ignorance, or an internal motus of the soul toward the Church before he died. This may appear difficult to us but, as already said, for the Lord nothing is impossible.
Does this mean that we must now run to proclaim that Mr (Mister; Herr; Monsieur; Signor) Palmer is probably saved, or even (heavens!) in Paradise, because he was “such a good chap”, and “a friend of Pope Francis”?
Of course not. This would be heretical. The thinking that
“Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ”
is condemned in the syllabus of errors, emphatically meaning that good hope is not to be entertained. Why? Because Mr (Mister; Herr; Monsieur; Signor) Palmer was, at the moment of death, outwardly not in the true Church of Christ. So it is, again very drily said, obviously more probable that he is in hell than in purgatory; which is what happens if one dies a Protestant (how some people think invincible ignorance or repentance may send a heretic straight to heaven is beyond me…).
That’s how it is. That’s how important it is to belong to the Only Church. That’s how vital it is that we – with due prudence, but without undue cowardice – make this very simple fact known to the people we love, to those in our circle of family and acquaintance who are, objectively speaking, in clear danger of damnation.
How, then, completely ignoring the issue will contribute to the salvation of one, like Francis, who seems to do his best to positively dissuade people from conversion, I leave to your own reflection.
The Bishop of Rome has just stated if Martians were to land on the Earth and ask for Baptism, he would not refuse. I am assuming he means “if they believe in God and want to be good Christians”; but I ain't sure, either.
My reflection is, though, another one.
If the Martians were to land on earth and say “we desire to be baptised because we believe all that the Church believes and profess all that the Church professes, and are therefore persuaded that outside of the Only Church there can be no salvation….”
Would Francis still want to baptise them?
“No one saves oneself. The community is essential”.
This is, alas, Francis tweeting.
The tweet is a good example of his papacy: senseless waffle, 100% Catholicism-free, that confuses the faithful and means either nothing or something very bad, but it certainly sounds cool among the uninstructed, the teens and the stupid.
Promptly, 5825 people with no clue retweet, and 5,290 put this sugary sounding rubbish among the “favourites”. I can imagine the excited girlie talk: “I have just favourited the Pope!”. “I have retweeted him! Isn't he sooo cool?”. “Yeah! totally wicked, totally!”.
So: what does this nonsense mean? One of three, I would say:
1. Nothing. It sounds good, though. “Community” sells. Can you feel the fluffy feeling? We are the world, we are the children…
2. We must help each other. When we help each other and the environment we will earn salvation because we have been so supportive of one another, and of the environment; and we know already from Francis that God always forgives, but Nature will frock you very hard if you displease her, and she will not forgive you at all. Cool tweet, then. So Pelagian.
3. We need the Church to be saved, because there is no salvation outside of the Church. But wait, let us not say “Church”. It's so controversial. Muslims and Jews could get angry and say I am not inclusive. I can't do that. Particularly now that I am getting “man of the year” awards like it's going out of fashion, and the Dalai Lama is green with envy. So, let me find an inclusive word instead; one that faithful of every religion and none will find acceptable. Oh, yes, “community” will do admirably. “The community is essential”. Ok, only God saves in the end, and there is no salvation outside of the Church. I know that, so it's all fine. Hey, I am a son of the Church, no? No problem then: “community” it is.
And so Francis tweets, or approves of, this nonsense. Hundreds of thousands, most of them clearly as Catholic as my cat, read in it the only thing it is possible to read: we, the brave community of the inclusive, help each other to salvation – whatever that means, and without excluding those for whom it doesn't mean anything – by being so inclusive, fighting against “H8”, and loving the Polar Bear Cub.
Nothing to do with Catholicism, of course. But then again so is most of what Francis says. Predictably, the heathenish crowds are extremely pleased. Archbishops – or archdioceses – start to retweet. Because it's so smart.
Mind, I do not say Pope should necessarily not tweet. But if they really want to tweet, and if they really care for the job description, Twitter could be a wonderful instrument to spread the Truth in a crystal clear manner.
“There is no salvation outside of the Church” is, say, a sentence wonderfully fit for tweeting and, in stark contrast to the tweet at the beginning of this post, actually Catholic. Many such brutally Catholic and brutally true messages could be sent through a medium like Twitter. The slanderous insults would have no end, giving another beautiful example of world hating the Truth. The number of those who follow the Pope because they are at least honest enough to know he will write uncomfortable things would probably also rise.
But you see: he wouldn't be popular. He would be hated and vilified. That's just not Francis, the ringmaster of Circus Bergoglio.
“Community” it is, then.
Ann Coulter's statement that if the Pope believes you don't need to be Catholic he may as well work as an anchor for some TV outlet is quite right.
Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Jesus will certainly admit, in the last moment before death, some unbaptised, and certainly a greater number of non Catholics into that Church outside of which there can be no salvation; but this is subject to very strict criteria, chief of which is Invincible Ignorance, and it certainly requires an uncommon amount of stupidity – or else, Jesuitism – to think this “escape hell” card is something one can confidently expect. Two thousand years of Catholic tradition, and the clear mandate of Jesus Himself, show this beyond doubt.
If, therefore, someone believes that belonging to the Only Church is some kind of nice, “joy bringing” accessory whose lack does not stay in the way of salvation provided one is a good chap of more or less humanitarian attitude, he has no business being the Pope.
Pope Pius IX had, among his many gifts, the one of expressing himself in a simple, crystal clear terms. His language and way of presenting the Church’s case are beautiful and instructive reading to this day.
“Not without sorrow we have learned that another error, no less destructive, has taken possession of some parts of the Catholic world, and has taken up its abode in the souls of many Catholics who think that one should have good hope of the eternal salvation of all those who have never lived in the true Church of Christ. Therefore, they are wont to ask very often what will be the lot and condition of those who have not submitted in any way to the Catholic faith, and, by bringing forward most vain reasons, they make a response favorable to their false opinion. Far be it from Us, Venerable Brethren, to presume on the limits of the divine mercy which is infinite; far from Us, to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsel and “judgements of God” which are “a great abyss” (Ps. 35.7) and cannot be penetrated by human thought. But, as is Our Apostolic Duty, we wish your episcopal solicitude and vigilance to be aroused, so that you will strive as much as you can to drive form the mind of men that impious and equally fatal opinion, namely, that the way of eternal salvation can be found in any religion whatsoever. May you demonstrate with skill and learning in which you excel, to the people entrusted to your care that the dogmas of the Catholic faith are in no wise opposed to divine mercy and justice.
“For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, will not be held guilty of this in the eyes of God. Now, in truth, who would arrogate so much to himself as to mark the limits of such an ignorance, because of the nature and variety of peoples, regions, innate dispositions, and of so many other things? For, in truth, when released from these corporeal chains ‘we shall see God as He is’ (1 John 3.2), we shall understand perfectly by how close and beautiful a bond divine mercy and justice are united; but as long as we are on earth, weighed down by this mortal mass which blunts the soul, let us hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is “one God, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4.5); it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry.
“But, just as the way of charity demands, let us pour forth continual prayers that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ; and let us be devoted to the common salvation of men in proportion to our strength, ‘for the hand of the Lord is not shortened’ (Isa. 9.1) and the gifts of heavenly grace will not be wanting to those who sincerely wish and ask to be refreshed by this light.”
This is one beautiful example of what I am tempted to call “Italian Catholicism” (there is no Italian Catholicism, of course), as the simple, common sense, practical way of seeing at things that to a Protestant (and if I am frank, to many North Europeans) appears not reconcilable or the fruit of hypocrisy.
The line between “in” and “out” of the Church is obviously not such that can be decided by men; but please observe how wisely this great Pope circumscribes the matter, and in just a short number of sentences pours on us many centuries of Catholic truth.
This is like bucatini cacio e pepe. So simple, and so right.
I am more and more persuaded that if one wants to read contemporary sources of undoubted Catholic orthodoxy, the SSPX is the place where to look.
For this reason, whenever you think or suspect that something is not orthodox enough, or might be “nuChurch” under the appearance of orthodoxy, it is never wasted time to look what the SSPX says on the matter. These are people willing to be excommunicated to remain faithful to Truth, and there is no way they are going to compromise.
Let us take, for example, the “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” question – so often misused by misinformed – or disingenuous – Protestants to shoot at the Church and criticise her alleged lack of common sense – and let us see what Archbishop Lefebvre had to say on the matter.
From the “Open Letter to Confused Catholics”, available online in English from the SSPX Asia, we read the following:
First, the late Archbishop sets the main points of the question:
The Church is the one ark of salvation, and we must not be afraid to affirm it. You have often heard it said, “Outside the Church there is no salvation”–a dictum which offends contemporary minds. It is easy to believe that this doctrine is no longer in effect, that it has been dropped. It seems excessively severe.
Yet nothing, in fact, has changed; nothing can be changed in this area. Our Lord did not found a number of churches: He founded only One. There is only one Cross by which we can be saved, and that Cross has been given to the Catholic Church. It has not been given to others. To His Church, His mystical bride, Christ has given all graces. No grace in the world, no grace in the history of humanity is distributed except through her.
Then, he proceeds to explain how proper Catholic doctrine is rightly interpreted:
Does that mean that no Protestant, no Muslim, no Buddhist or animist will be saved? No, it would be a second error to think that. Those who cry for intolerance in interpreting St. Cyprian’s formula, “Outside the Church there is no salvation,” also reject the Creed, “I confess one baptism for the remission of sins,” and are insufficiently instructed as to what baptism is. There are three ways of receiving it: the baptism of water; the baptism of blood (that of the martyrs who confessed the faith while still catechumens) and baptism of desire.
Baptism of desire can be explicit. Many times in Africa I heard one of our catechumens say to me, “Father, baptize me straightaway because if I die before you come again, I shall go to hell.” I told him “No, if you have no mortal sin on your conscience and if you desire baptism, then you already have the grace in you.”
The doctrine of the Church also recognizes implicit baptism of desire. This consists in doing the will of God. God knows all men and He knows that amongst Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists and in the whole of humanity there are men of good will. They receive the grace of baptism without knowing it, but in an effective way. In this way they become part of the Church.
The error consists in thinking that they are saved by their religion. They are saved in their religion but not by it. There is no Buddhist church in heaven, no Protestant church. This is perhaps hard to accept, but it is the truth. I did not found the Church, but rather Our Lord the Son of God. As priests we must state theTruth.
Finally, in case you should think there is a rather easy way to salvation outside the Church, he takes all illusions away from you:
But at the cost of what difficulties do people in those countries where Christianity has not penetrated come to receive baptism by desire! Error is an obstacle to the Holy Ghost. This explains why the Church has always sent missionaries into all countries of the world, why thousands of them have suffered martyrdom. If salvation can be found in any religion, why cross the seas, why subject oneself to unhealthy climates, to a harsh life, to sickness and an early death? From the martyrdom of St. Stephen onwards (the first to give his life for Christ, and for this reason his feast is the day after Christmas), the Apostles set out to spread the Good News throughout the Mediterranean countries.
Would they have done this if one could be saved by worshipping Cybele or by the mysteries of Eleusis? Why did Our Lord say to them, “Go and preach the Gospel to all nations?”
Finally, a concrete example of how the post V II Church could be terribly wrong, and suffer the Truth to be substituted with heresy or worse by the work of the bishops themselves:
It is amazing that nowadays certain people want to let everyone find his own way to God according to the beliefs prevailing in his own “cultural milieu.” A bishop once told a priest who wanted to convert the little Muslims, “No, teach them to be good Muslims; that will be much better than making Catholics of them.”
Now please observe this:
1) This is straightforward, well explained, full of common sense and easy-to-grasp wisdom. Personally, I found that whenever you look for authentic Catholic answers, this is what you find.
2) This comes from a man of such unflinching orthodoxy as to be able to suffer excommunication just a few years before death, for the sake of Truth. You can think for yourself how probable it is this is not a fair and accurate representation of infallible Magisterium.
I have very often found that the critics of the SSPX love to criticise them based on preconceptions they have heard of – probably by some tambourine priest – and uncritically accepted. These people are seriously good, infinitely better Catholics than those priests and bishops calling them “schismatics”, or worse.
Irrespective of the final outcome of the SSPX-Vatican talks, I would encourage everyone to inform themselves about the SSPX position on whatever matter, rather than indulging in criticism by hearsay.
You will discover they take their name very, very seriously.
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.