The Pope recently used the term "defects" to describe every Christian denomination other than his own Roman Catholicism.
Unlike his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who devoted much of his time trying to unite various branches of Christianity, Pope Benedict XVI decided to reopen some old wounds — and pour some salt into them.
If you're a member of the numerous Protestant or Eastern Orthodox denominations around the world, consider yourself warned. The Pope thinks Orthodox churches are "defective" and that other Christian denominations are not true churches. Makes you want to stay home on Sunday, doesn't it? If the former Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger says you don't belong to a true church, what's the point of getting dressed up for Sunday services?
The heart of the problem is this infallibility business. The Pope is supposed to be "infallible." I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the only person who ever lived who should be considered "infallible" is Jesus Christ.
Two years ago, before he was elected pope, Cardinal Ratzinger wasn't infallible. Today he is. How does one become infallible overnight? And why did it take four ballots for Ratzinger to win the election for pope? And we won't even go into Joseph Ratzinger's past in Germany where he was a member of the Hitler Youth.
I don't have little white cap or the keys to the Pope-mobile, but I did some research and I think the Pope is a bit hazy in his church history.
It appears that it's the Roman Catholic Church that is an offshoot of the original Christian church. Shouldn't the Catholic Church be at the top of the pope's "defects" list.
For the benefit of Pope Benedict XVI, here's a little history that could help clear up his holiness' confusion about Christianity.
The Christian church came into existence on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. — 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the next 1,000 years, there was one Christian Church — the one that was persecuted by the Romans until the Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity, which eventually became the state religion.
As the Roman empire grew, the center of church authority began to splinter into rival factions, one centered in Constantinople (still the home base of the Orthodox Church) and the other based in Rome (eventually becoming Vatican City), where popes rule the Catholic Church.
The official split came in 1054 A.D. when the Patriarch of Rome (also known as the Pope of Rome) broke away from the Eastern church in what religious scholars refer to as the "Great Schism."
The major difference between the Catholic and the Orthodox Christian churches is the Catholic belief in the infallibility of the pope. The Eastern churches are autonomous, headed by senior bishops known as patriarchs, and do not recognize the authority or superiority of the pope.
His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, is the 270th successor of the 2,000 year-old Christian Church founded by St. Andrew. (In contrast, Pope Benedict XVI is the 265th reigning pope.)
Bartholomew is the "first among equals" of the Orthodox Primates, who govern their respective churches in Greece, Cyprus, Russia, eastern Europe, Africa and North and South America.
Since the Great Schism of 1054, the Roman Catholic Church has splintered into numerous other denominations:
- The Lutheran Church was founded by Martin Luther in 1522.
- The Anglican Church of England was founded by King Henry VIII in 1534.
- The Presbyterian Church was founded by John Knox of Scotland in 1580.
- The Congregational Church was founded by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.
- The Baptist Church was founded by John Smyth in Amsterdam in 1606.
- The Dutch Reformed Church was founded in New York in 1628 by Michelis Jones.
- The Protestant Episcopal Church is an offshoot on the Church of England and was founded by Samuel Seabury in the American Colonies in the 18th Century.
- The Methodist Church was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1774.
- The Unitarian Church was founded by Theophilus Lindley in London in 1774.
- The Mormon Church (Latter Day Saints) was founded by Joseph Smith in 1829.
- The Protestant churches also splintered into various branches: Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal Churches, Holiness Church, Assemblies of God Churches, and many Bible and Evangelical and non-denominational churches, as well as the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Shouldn't the Pope be a little more tolerant of other Christian sects? Shouldn't the Pope be more concerned about the rise of Islamic Fascism around the world than causing hard feelings among his fellow Christians? This concludes today's sermon.