I read with great interest, and some amusement, your recent answers to questions about the Doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am a Presbyterian, a church officer in fact. Our Sunday school class would visit other dominations including attending Catholic Mass, Jewish services and even orthodox services. Our teachers did this so we could learn why people believe what they do. We were not there to criticize; we were there to ask questions. This exercise assisted us in learning about the world, different faiths and how we need to treat them with respect. We may not agree but we have respect and understanding for those who differ from us. It was an invaluable lesson.
Which brings me to the curious document entitled CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH: RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTSOF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH which was recently released, with your blessing.
I don't care what Catholics believe really. It is their right to believe what they choose as long as they do not prevent me from practicing my faith. However, in this document, the respect is not shared and I answer now only because you minimize the belief system of those who are not Catholic. You speak of theological debate in the document that was released. So here are my responses to this curious document that was put together by an office you once headed. Since you approved of the publication of said document, I will respond as if you wrote it yourself.
"Christ “established here on earth” only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community” that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.
This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.”
The "church" is that spiritual entity which recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, our savior. Jesus asked Peter for his opinion on who he (Jesus) was and Peter responded you are the Son of God. He wasn't coached in his response. Jesus had not point blank told people this about himself. Peter got it and as such, Jesus said that Peter's faith would the rock upon which he would build his church on. There was no further mention about formal structure or organization and indeed absolutely no further evidence that Jesus ever said anything about a Pope, bishops and the rest of it. I think a detail like that would be spoken about since it is considered such an important point to you, Benedict. But Jesus didn't set up the "Church" in the way you contend. The fact is, people like yourself have made it up as you went along how the Church was to be structured. It wasn't sanctioned by Jesus. There is no biblical evidence of Jesus dictating, much less approving, the hierachial set up you describe.
"It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church."
You see, Benedict; it is not necessary for Christians to be in "communion" with you or an entity called The Catholic Church. The crux of our faith is to be in communion with the Holy Trinity. This is why I address you as "Sir" and not "Holy Father." There is only one Holy Father and you ain't it. You can believe you are the "only" Church until the cows come home but, again, there is no basis for that statement or belief.
You answered the following question:
Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?
According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense."
Again, you need to remember that, for example, the Protestant Church bases its beliefs on the Bible, particuarly the New Testament. The reason the Protestant Church came into being was because the Catholic Church of the middle ages was violating the principles of the Christian faith right and left. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. In order to save the faith on moral grounds, a group of priests tried to reform the Catholic Church and bring it back in line with the core Christian beliefs as set forth by Christ.
Where in the Bible is there any discussion about the importance of apostolic succession? No where, that's where. What is a Christian? This is one question that has one very simple answer: anyone who believes Jesus is his or her saviour, the Son of God. Where you get this apostolic succession nonsense is beyond me. Again, a man-decreed claim about what makes one a Christian. The Bible doesn't bear you out. Your priests are not holy men bestowed with some magical gifts to turn wine into the blood of Christ, turn bread into his flesh. They are mortal. Jesus repeatedly states through the New Testament that no one comes to the Lord but through him. He never mentions priests or any other figure.
At the last supper, Jesus showed his disciples how to remember him by breaking bread and drinking wine. No where is there any indication he meant that in a literal sense. He did cut his arm and bleed into a cup beseeching his disciples to drink of his blood. He did not have a disciple carve a piece of his flesh off and consume it as he would bread. He was demonstrating an act of great symbolic importance in the faith. And as people we would break bread and consume the wine together in memory of Jesus and his sacrifice. How you got all that you did out of that simple gesture I have no idea.
But the arrogance in your stance that you are it and the rest of it are just drifting along misguided and confused isn't anything we can even get really angry about. It's just amusing such holy people are obviously so ignorant of the Bible's basic teachings. Keep those pronouncements coming!!!!