It concerns a Vatican release of a Q&A hoping to clarify an earlier document, and that has been (mis?)interpreted by various news sources, editorial writers, and bloggers as asserting that the Pope has stated that the only true church is the Catholic Church and that Salvation can only be found there.
Note that I am not arguing this point of view; I’m merely moving that sub-discussion here.
I pick up where this left off…
Just ruminating a bit here, but when I read (present-tense) the "responsa ad dubia" or the uncommented original (here ) – and from a one-time relatively informed Catholic point of view – I can very easily see how it would (not just “could”) be misinterpreted in the way it has been and still is. Since this was supposed to be a clarifying response to an earlier formal document – it even takes the form of a Q&A, hardly a formal pedagogic document – it really should have been written far more clearly and unambiguously and with a partially lay audience in mind. As it stands, it’s ambiguous as hell. Perhaps it’s not to sophisticated Catholic theologians, but even then I have my doubts. I believe it can easily be (mis-?)construed as claiming that the Roman Catholic Church is the one, true Church and all others are “defective”, which, considering all the ambiguity arising from the extremely pedantic prose in the minds of the average reader, can easily be marshaled for the argument that it amounts to little more than window-dressing to mask the assertion that only Catholics can achieve salvation.
Now, I’m not claiming that the Pope actually did or intended to assert that salvation is closed to non-Catholics. I’m just saying he supplied some official-looking ammunition to those who are trying to argue exactly that.
I think that that is a fair assessment. He is used to speaking in the rarified atmosphere of highly technical theological discussions and he does not have a good PR assistant to help him see where the thought needs to be expressed in more accessible language. So when one of his protégés back in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, (suffering the same disability regarding popular speech), issues a statement, the pope, focusing on the nuances of the theology, does not catch the implications of popular speech.
Still, as I quoted from the Wikipedia article in the other thread, the offending document does pretty clearly say (bolding mine):
In addition, Pope Benedict has never issued any statement that contradicts the passages currently expressed in the Catechism from sections 836 through 856 that assert the primacy of the RCC, but go on to describe the other belief systems of the world as genuine (if flawed from the RCC perspective) responses to God, making no claim that anyone participating in them is damned.
So, while I would agree that his technical, theological language presents itself in a way that is rather clunky to those outside the community that speaks that jargon and that such statements can be used as “ammunition” by those who are predisposed to see the pope as trying to lead the RCC into the nineteenth (or sixteenth) century, I see no evidence that he has actually said the damning things of which he is accused.
My ADD is acting up so I couldn’t make sense of all that. Are you guys saying that Pope Simon Bar Sinister says Dubia is going to Hell? I suppose Benny’s got better connections than I and Dubya, being a Protestant, is probably going to roast, but who can be so sure about God’s decisions before He makes them? Hmmm, but God exists outside of time so “before” has no real meaning for Him. I’m confused.
The issue raised in another thread was that several people have recently interpreted some statements by Pope Benedict to mean that he has claimed that only Catholics can be saved.
The discussion point was whether any of his statements support that interpretation.
My position is that the interpretation is just so much bullshit, (fed partly by Catholic bashers and partly by overzealous Catholics–each of whom desperately hope it is true, if for different reasons). However, while I think the interpretation is wrong, I would agree that some of the arcane and esoteric language used in several of his declarationsor or the documents published by his underlings makes it easier for those who are unfamiliar with the jargon to come to arrive at the misinterpretation.