Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The Vatican issued a document Tuesday restating its belief that the
Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ.
The 16-page document was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, a doctrinal watchdog that Pope Benedict used to head.
Formulated as five questions and answers, the document is titled
"Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine
on the Church."
It says although Orthodox churches are true churches, they are
defective because they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.
"It follows that these separated churches and communities, though we
believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance
nor importance in the mystery of salvation," it said.
The document adds that Protestant denominations — called Christian
Communities born out of the Reformation — are not true churches, but
"These ecclesial communities which, specifically because of the
absence of the sacramental priesthood … cannot, according to Catholic
doctrine, be called 'churches' in the proper sense," it said.
The document is similar to one written in 2000 by the Pope — who was
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the time — that sparked an angry reaction
from Protestant groups.
"I suspect there will be some reactions that are rather passionate,"
said Raphaela Schmid, director of the Becket Institute, a group that
advocates religious freedom. "I hope they will not be angry because we
all try to understand about each other."
The document is issued by Benedict's successor in doctrinal matters,
Cardinal William Levada, and endorsed by the Pope, said Reuters.
The decree comes days after liberal Catholic and Jewish groups spoke
out against the Pope's move to authorize the wider use of a
traditional Latin mass.
The Tridentine mass includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews. Its
use was restricted following the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to
Pope Benedict issued a decree last week authorizing its broader use in
an effort to reconcile with followers of an ultratraditional
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League in New York called it a "body blow
to Catholic-Jewish relations."