The Pope and Other Churches
Recently, the Pope, under the guidance of Cardinal Levada (our former archbishop) published a reflection regarding other "ecclesial communities," a.k.a. the Protestant Churches. It caused quite a ruckus. I think it was sorely misunderstood. A friend of mine, Fr. Mike Walker of Shepherd of the Valley Catholic Church explained the situation quite well. So, let me just give you the statement he put on his web site in order to explain the whole thing:
What Did the Pope Say???
Some wonder what's going on with the Pope's latest letter about the Church and salvation. Well, the Pope did not say that only Catholics are going to Heaven or anything like that. I'll post an article below that will help, but the bottom line is that the Church's position on Salvation is the same as it has been since it was defined in Vatican II: Catholics have the fullness of truth, but other Christian churhes and other religions also have a share in many of the elements that make up that same (one) truth and (one) Church that Jesus founded.
The saying that fullness of truth "subsists" in the Catholic Church expresses the idea that although we feel we have the fullest expression (have all the elements) of the Church as Jesus started it, it is not mutually exclusive. Others share in this to the degree that they also possess the same elements. It is unfortunate that the English word "defects" was chose in reference to the Protestant Churches, but in this context it means that they are lacking some elements that Jesus instituded when he founded the Church. The main elements named were the sacraments (especially the Eucharist) and a historical presence going back to the beginning (Apostolic Succession).
The Pope is not saying that only Catholics have truth and salvation and if you are not Catholic you are out of luck. Only God knows who is saved or not, but all salvation does come through Jesus. People are responsible for what they know and are judged according to how well they have followed the truth that God has planted in their hearts. It is even possible for people who do not explicitly know Jesus to be saved if they are following the truth they know to the best of their ability. Common sense goes a long way here. If you read the original document, please understand that it is written in theological jargon. At least this overview might help you to sift through it. Anyway, if you still are wondering what the Pope said, here's the link:
If you want a more detailed theological explanation, this might be of help:
The Pope and The Pius X Communities
The Pope also made important gestures to re-include the communities who found themselves in schism after Archbishop Lafavre ordained other bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II. In order to help this along, Pope Benedict XVI made clear that some parishes will be allowed to use the 1962 Missal that we have come to know as the Tridentine Mass which follows the norms set out by the Council of Trent. This form of Mass is to be considered extraordinary and not replacing the current Novus Ordo or "New Order." Some folks have shared their fear that we are going backwards and away from the norms set out at Vatican II. I assure you that such is not the case. It is and will not become the norm. The good that will come from allowing this form is very important to the unifying of the Pius X group. We should all strive to be one under Christ, and as long as there are division amongst us, we have work to do.
Let;s make this also clear for those who prefer Latin at Mass. It is not Latin that give reverence to the Mass, rather it is the Mass that gives reverence to the Latin (or any language that is spoken for that matter.). In the early days, Latin was not the language spoken at the Sacred Liturgy. In fact, it was spoken in many different languages depending on the country and culture. Latin certainly created a uniformity when it was the only language allowed. However, few people understood Latin and so in the spirit of Vatican II's call for full, active, conscious participation, the vernacular language is to be allowed.
Bottom line, Pope Benedict is doing a lot to clarify and seek out true unity where it can be found. Let us pray for a continuing effort to unify all the ecclesial communities.
Fr. William Holtzinger