Pope: Protestants Cannot Have Churches
Joe Ratzinger continues to move the Roman Catholic Church away from the liberal ways of his predecessor.
Protestant churches yesterday reacted with dismay to a new declaration approved by Pope Benedict XVI insisting they were mere “ecclesial communities” and their ministers effectively phonies with no right to give communion.
Coming just four days after the reinstatement of the Latin mass, yesterday’s document left no doubt about the Pope’s eagerness to back traditional Roman Catholic practices and attitudes, even at the expense of causing offence.
The view that Protestants cannot have churches was first set out by Pope Benedict seven years ago when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he headed the Vatican “ministry” for doctrine. A commentary attached to the latest text acknowledged that his 2000 document, Dominus Iesus, had caused “no little distress”.
But it added: “It is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of ‘Church’ could possibly be attributed to [Protestant communities], given that they do not accept the theological notion of the Church in the Catholic sense and that they lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church.”
The Pope’s old department, which issued the document, said its aim was to correct “erroneous or ambiguous” interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965. Quoting a text approved by the Council, it said Protestant churches, “because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood”, had not “preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery”.
Now, that’s Old School. Given the high degree of intermarriage between Protestants and Catholics, this would seem to have some interesting implications for a great number of American Catholics. Then again, it would seem that Ratzinger has decided to write off the United States and simply concentrate on building up the church in the Third World. Moving to pre-Vatican II theology surely isn’t the way to bring wayward Catholics who think the church too doctrinaire and out of step with the modern world back into the fold.