If it isn't Catholic, then it's not a proper church, says Pope
THE Vatican has described the Protestant and Orthodox faiths as "not proper Churches" in a document issued with the full authority of the Pope.
Anglican leaders reacted with dismay, accusing the Roman Catholic Church of paradoxical behaviour. They said that the new 16-page document outlining the "defects" of non-Catholic churches constituted a major obstacle to ecumenism.
The document said that the Orthodox church suffered from a "wound" because it did not recognise the primacy of the Pope. The wound was "still more profound" in Protestant denominations, it added.
It was "difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them", said the statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Roman Catholicism was "the one true Church of Christ".
The language echoes earlier statements by the same body, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger until he became Pope. The statement appears to be at odds with attempts to soften Pope Benedict's image as a doctrinal hardliner and to present him as a more human figure reaching out to other faiths. And it risks undermining his own efforts for Christian unity.
Protestants at the extreme evangelical end of the Anglican spectrum accused Rome of a "lust for power" while welcoming the honesty of the document.
Vatican sources said that the document was an attempt to resolve "confusion" caused by the apparent conflict between the Pope's assertion on his election two years ago that Christian unity was a priority and his insistence in 'Dominus Iesus', issued in 2000 when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, that Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox Christians did not belong to "proper" churches.