The Pope and the Catholic Church

 pope benedict

When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, I nurtured some reasonable hope that he would move the Catholic Church closer to the Biblical standard of truth, being an intelligent and theologically well-versed scholar. I had heard him, on a televised interview, dissect the cause of Christ just as any good evangelical would have. Moreover, his personal and extensive knowledge of Protestantism promised a solid and sound season of confrontation. However, as times goes by, he is revealing himself as an abject failure in just about any field he has addressed and an open embarrassment to many in the same Catholic church.

Indeed, he demonstrates two (at the very least) profound truths:

1) study and scholarship do not a man of God make

2) the Catholic Church remains unrecoverable

One truly remains stupefied at the gross Biblical ignorance practiced by the Catholic clergy and by the quite, resigned and naive acquiescence of their faithful. It seems the all are under a spell, and in a way, they are. As stated in other parts of this web site, I know that there are many, many Catholics which are saved. God knows the heart, and God knows how much light they received. I do differentiate between clergy and faithful, for the simple fact that the latter were until recent times ignorant of the Sacred Scriptures, at least in many countries, like Italy, were I grew up.

I was about to write a rebuttal to the pope’s latest outburst (about the Catholic Church being the only true church), just as I happened upon an article which amazingly said what I wanted to say, so I will post this whole article and my resounding Amen! to it. By the way, as the article writer, I also grew up in the Catholic Church and served Mass and was tops in catechism. Only nobody ever bothered to tell me about the New Birth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that He is willing and able to help anyone with a contrite heart who asks Him to. And He can do it right now and instantly, not in the bye and bye.

He is risen and very much alive and He’s got the whole world in His Hands …

Non-Catholics who are up in arms of the proclamation by Pope Benedict XVI that the only true church in the world is that of Catholicism shouldn’t even bother getting upset. Just chalk it up to an old man trying to get a little attention.

For him to even suggest that only the Catholic Church can provide true salvation to believers in Christ shows that he is wholly ignorant of the Scriptures that I have known all my life.

Sorry, let me take that back. I’ve really only known the Bible for the last 13 of my 38 years. That’s because those first 25 years were spent as a die-hard Catholic.

That’s right, I was born and raised in the Catholic Church. One of the first meetings to build the church I was raised in — Our Lady Star of the Sea in Houston — took place in my grandparents’ living room. Many of my Saturdays and Sundays were spent serving as an altar boy, Catholic Youth Organization leader, dedicated student of Catechism, and constantly reciting the Holy Rosary.

And the reality is that we were never really encouraged to study the Scriptures. The standard practice was for all of us to read the same pamphlets passed out by the church, recite the readings from the New and Old Testaments, listen to the Scripture chosen for us in the Gospel and hear a normally bland homily.

That isn’t always the case at some Catholic churches. If you visit St. Sabina in Chicago, Father Michael Pfleger will surely have your soul jumping with his strong sermons and willingness to engage the community to get involved in direct action.

Yet as I reflect on my years as a Catholic, it pretty much was a wasted experience, as there was more identification with the church, and not with Christ.

And that’s why Pope Benedict XVI is meaningless, along with his decision to re-state the primacy of the Catholic Church. This week, the pope released a document correcting interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, which some say modernized the church. But for hardliners like Pope Benedict XVI, the liberals went too far in some of their declarations.

But what ticked folks off was his assertion in the 16-page document by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the only denominations that can call themselves true churches are ones that can trace their roots back to Jesus Christ’s original apostles. He even suggested they suffer from defects.

This is nothing but a naked attempt by Pope Benedict XVI to “own” Jesus by virtue of the Catholic Church considering the apostle Peter as its leader. He refuses to acknowledge the reality that Jesus didn’t consider a church to be most important. What was? The Great Commission.

The Bible records in Matthew 28:16 that Jesus called his 11 disciples (the other, Judas, hanged himself after betraying Jesus) to Mount Galilee and decreed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (New International Version).

It doesn’t matter what Pope Benedict XVI has to say, or for that matter, any other religious leader. A Christian believes in Jesus Christ and what He had to say, not what a man of God has to say. This is not an attempt to completely dismiss religious leaders, but is further evidence of what happens when ego is more important than the work of Christ.

John 14:6 says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Nowhere does it say that Peter, Pope Benedict XVI or anyone else can supplant Jesus as the leader of the church.

It is these kinds of missives by Pope Benedict XVI that do nothing to support or build the community of faith. All it does is divide.

Protestant leaders: Don’t buy into the foolishness. Let Pope Benedict XVI keep running off at the mouth and making pointless declarations. If you keep bringing good news to the poor, setting the captives free and assisting those who seek to know Jesus, then you’ll make more headway in doing the work of Jesus than any 16-page document will.

By Roland S. Martin

CNN Contributor and a talk-show host for WVON-AM in Chicago

updated 5:04 p.m. EDT, Fri July 13, 2007

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