The One True Church. So There.

Pope Benedict says that the only true church is the Roman Catholic Church and all the rest are… well, something else.

Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.

Not that it really matters to me personally since I’m a Quaker and as far as I’m concerned, churches and rites and sacraments are all just an excuse for people to dress up in costumes and inflict a load of guilt while extorting money out of their followers, but this is the sort of crap that starts wars.



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47 responses to “The One True Church. So There.

  1. larkohio

    Well, the Pope is kinda full of it, he is even more conservative than John Paul II. I expect this kind of talk, but we all know it is nonsense. True, the Catholic Church has been around in some form for many, many years, but I do not think they have the corner on telling others how they should worship.

    I am a Catholic, but not happy at all with many of the positions of the church. They are way too conservative. I wish we would have another John the 23rd. He was progressive.

    Eventually the church is going to have to change, but it will not be under Benedict. Not going to happen.

  2. JoAsakura

    Not to get snarky, but Albigensian Crusades anyone? How about the Reformation? Lots of uncomfortable internecine fighting times there.

    of course, protestant-ish fundies have long crowed that THEY were the only true xtians.


  3. Holly in cincinnati

    Don’t many Christian denominations think if not say this?

  4. I’m an atheist (raised Catholic) with an extra-special loathing for the current pope, but I don’t have a problem with this, because it’s pretty much Catholicism 101. You can say it’s possible that people of other faiths aren’t going to hell, you can say dialogue with other faiths is worthwhile, you can even say Protestants probably love Jesus for real. But you can’t say anyone but the Catholic Church has got it right. Average Catholics aren’t even supposed to entertain that notion (though many do), and the pope simply can’t. The whole premise is that this is the church Jesus left for us. Period.

    That’s an entirely separate issue from whether the Catholic church perverts the message of Jesus in a hundred ways, is irreparably corrupt and indeed chock full o’ sin, and is cruising toward obsolescence. (Yes, yes, and yes, in my personal opinion.) Regardless of all that, there’s nothing really wrong with calling it The One True Church; that’s a matter of opinion, obviously, but it’s always been the official position of the Catholic Church that you can’t have it both ways. It is or it isn’t. Of all the “official” positions Ratzinger has bastardized or made up out of whole cloth, there’s at least a legitimate historical precedent (going back to day one) for that one.

  5. Don’t many Christian denominations think if not say this?

    Yes, Holly, they do. Hence my point about this sort of crap starting wars, as in Ireland, England, and France. And then when you get into other religions, let’s not forget India, Pakistan, and some other part of the world that slips my mind at the moment…Oh yeah; the Middle East.

  6. Betsy

    Yeah, I don’t really know why they really felt the need to issue a press release. This is news? The Catholic Church has always asserted that it’s the One True Church. No surprises there. The only thing I see that’s worth getting worked up over (since most religions/sects required a belief that theirs is the Way To Go) is that by making such a big deal over it, he’s unnecessarily stirring the pot and getting people angry and offended.

  7. NonyNony

    Actually, I see this as a good thing given the political situation these days and the current political realities of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholic moves towards ecumenicalism really started in the 60’s when the church leadership was a bit more progressive and more interested in doing things to influence problems in the world, especially with regards to fighting poverty. Doctrinal issues were causing the Church to not be as effective in using their influence because they were often fighting with other Christian denominations in the countries they were trying to influence — it’s hard to make alliances with people when you’re telling them that they’re going to Hell if they don’t convert to your religion.

    Nowadays, the Church is far, far more conservative. And they’ve been harping on doctrinal issues more and more amongst their own members (little things like how communion distribution should be handled by an individual church became big deals a few years ago, for example). So it doesn’t surprise me at all that this is coming up now. And it’s probably a good thing — this will drive a wedge between the RCC and other Christian Churches, especially in the US and South America, and put another obstacle in place to them being a monolithic political force. This should hopefully put some distance between the RCC and the Evangelical Fundamentalist Right here in the USA, which would make me very, very happy.

  8. oddjob

    I wonder how many new priestly boy fuckings he’s covered up lately?

    Picking that vile man was a huge, huge, huge mistake.

    In any case, this was on the op-ed page in today’s Boston Globe.

  9. NonyNony

    oddjob –

    Thanks for that link – it confirms a lot of things I’ve been thinking about the Church since Benedict got the nod to be pope a few years back. If he can manage it, he’ll overturn all of the progress that was made during Vatican II and he’s really, really trying to do it. I hope he pushes harder and more radically — nothing will cause a schism here in the US faster than a push to go back to a Latin mass with the priest having his back to the congregation. Some of the priests may even lead the charge for schism if that happens. And then maybe I’ll have a church I can feel proud of belonging to again, instead of one that has a hierarchy that makes me angry more often than not.

    (Of course, what could people expect when you elevate the head of the Inquisition to the Papacy? I figured all of this was on the agenda from late in John Paul II’s reign, and it cemented for me when Ratzinger was selected.)

  10. Sigh. Reason #5879789 why I’m not a Catholic anymore (I’m a recovering Catholic, as they say). I guess I’m fortunate that I started to lose my faith at 15, before I realized I was a lesbian. I actually cried when they elected Ratzinger; even though I’d already adopted Wicca by that point. It was like a slap in the face.

  11. NameChanged

    I am not Catholic, and I am young enough to have never experienced a Latin Mass. That being said, I went to mass a few times with a friend and I found it difficult to follow in English.

    I feel that this is a reversal to making religion inaccessible to the underpriveledged. That has been the way that the “one true church” was able to injure so many over the years. If you don’t understand it, yet you want “salvation,” you must fear it.

    This is the opposite of “Catholicism WOW” that would get bigger numbers. 🙂

  12. Jewel

    H in C – my parents’ denomination (Christadelphian) absolutely claims to be the One and Only True Church, the only folks who have it right, The Truth, the special ones who know what Jesus really meant, etc.

    Some members of their church actually think the pope is the Antichrist. 😆

  13. Karmakin

    Hateful. That’s what it is. Hateful.

  14. I’m pretty much in the same place as Kate; in some respects this doesn’t bother me because it’s the standard belief and always has been.

    But under John XXIII and John Paul II especially there was a recognition that the Romans weren’t the only ones who could make such a claim. The Eastern Orthodox have their own version of what led to the Schism, and the Church itself is of course from the East, not the West. It seemed that the Romans were finally starting to realize that.

    I studied Ratzinger a little bit back in school, especially his ecclesiology, and this latest doesn’t surprise me. I remember thinking that I was glad he was getting older and would be replaced in his position before too long. Never did I imagine that he would need to be replaced because he’d been elevated to the papacy.

    I don’t have evidence for this, but I think Ratzinger pulled some shenanigans during the “election.” He’s bad news for the church, I just know it.

  15. It definitely cements the fact that the Catholic Church is swinging more conservative, what with the giving up of even the pretense towards ecumenism but with the allowing of the Latin Mass… well, it makes you wonder how long before all the reforms of Vacatin II are reversed.

  16. just stupid and arrogant is what it is.

    tho as to the latin mass. i was raised in it( survived catholic grade school even!)not catholic in the least for ages now.

    everyone knew what was said in the latin mass. we knew it off by heart in latin and the english meanings. same for the hymns.

    this man who is pope is frightening to me.

  17. Erin M

    Interesting. The Tridentine Mass described in that article sounds a lot like what has always been used in the Orthodox Church, in terms of hiding parts of the service from the people (for example, the blessing of the communion food is done behind a curtain).

    Guess you gotta have some mystery in the process if you want to make it look like magic.

  18. cyrki

    If you study church history, you find that the push for “one true church” is really about the consolidation of power. Many of the Catholic traditions have less to do with God and more to do with power (like priests not marrying–that one comes about because priests left their holdings to their sons and not the church, and since property equaled money equaled power, the decision was made that priests were to remain celebate.)

    The Protestant Reformation was about breaking the Catholic Church’s power over people’s lives, about finding the freedom in faith that is inherent in the scriptures. The Pope’s latest screed is about trying to re-assert his power, nothing more, nothing less. It’s sad to see the Catholics going backward. No wonder so many Europeans think religion is irrelevant.

  19. Constant Comment

    Some members of their church actually think the pope is the Antichrist.

    Now here’s a religious sentiment I can get behind!

  20. carol

    Ex-Catholic current United Methodist Sunday School teacher here:

    Guess what? The only “true” church is the one that actually tries to follow the rules Jesus laid down for us. That means if Baptist people are visiting people in jail, then they are part of the “true” church. If a Church of Christ women’s group is doing Meals on Wheels together, then they are acting in the “true” church. If Episcopailians are giving blankets to homeless people living under overpasses on the highway, they are part of the “true” church. And Muslims? And Buddhists? Sorry. God loves them too. It’s “true.”

    In other words, the only truth is try to live a good life and do good deeds. God is not impressed with your silly hat and sanctimonious diatribes.

  21. Jewel

    Constant Comment – yup. 😀

    Carol – amen.

  22. Two of my aunts became nuns in the wake of Vatican II, because there was such hope at the time that the church would continue moving progressively away from dogma and towards the world. I will be curious to hear their take on this – they are both very liberal and I don’t think they will be happy about this.

  23. Doktor Wankenstein

    Pope Benedict says that the only true church is the Roman Catholic Church…

    Funny… that’s exactly what the Baptists are saying.

    Well, one of ’em, anyway.


  24. TinaH

    In other words, the only truth is try to live a good life and do good deeds. God is not impressed with your silly hat and sanctimonious diatribes.

    Carol, Carol, Carol, with that kind of attitude, you’ll never make it to heaven because, as we all know, only stark raving madmen (gender chosen on purpose) fundamentalist whackos actually get to go there. Those Christians who are actually trying to follow the words of Christ and live by that example are, at best, silly and misguided. They simply don’t hate enough.


    Sorry – channeling my dad there. He cried when Ratziepoo was elected too, only they were tears of joy. Ugh.

    Recovering Catholics of the World! Unite!

  25. You know, I’ve personally always been confused by the term “progressive Catholic”. Catholicism is one of the birthplaces of strict dogma, isn’t it? Isn’t Protestantism the result of people wanting reform and Catholicism not bringing it?

    I think that being a Jew makes this more confusing for me. I am always a Jew. Am I Orthodox? No. Am I reform? No. Am I reconstructionist, Labovich, some generic Hassidic sect? No. I am a conservative Jew, embracing the whole “tradition and change” mantra. Every other Jew on Earth thinks I’m Jewish. OK, some of them think I’m wrong, but they still think I’m a Jew.

    To me, Christians are people who believe that Christ is the Messiah (even Jews for Jesus seem like Christians to me). Catholics are lumped in with all the rest of what I consider “sects” in my brain, from Baptists to Episcopalians and Lutherans. Sometimes when I mention this to Catholics, they look like they’re going to have an aneurysm.

    Perhaps this is all pointless pontificating. I do, after all, call myself The One True Tami.

  26. oddjob

    You know, I’ve personally always been confused by the term “progressive Catholic”. Catholicism is one of the birthplaces of strict dogma

    Quite true, but when the dogma windows were thrown open by Vatican II there was a lot of new dogmatic thought, particularly by those regarded as liberals. During Paul VI’s time as pope there was room to think liberally about Catholic theology. One of the first things John Paul II did was squash nearly all of that. Ratzinger has obviously decided to stamp out what’s left.

  27. Betsy

    God is not impressed with your silly hat

    God IS TOO impressed with my silly hat! He thinks it’s just fabulous. Ratzinger’s, though, He’s a little embarrassed by.

  28. oddjob

    But, but, but Ratzinger’s was designed by Gucci, or Prada!!

  29. Recovering Catholics of the World! Unite!

    Hey! what about us Adult Children of Recovery Catholics? Just because we suffer from Post Dramatic Catholicism, doesn’t mean we can’t be of service. Though, speaking in Latin is just another way of speaking in tongues.

  30. ProbablyFullOfIt

    I was raised and schooled in the wake of Vatican II. I do blame that church for my liberal tilt.

    But the church lost my father after Vatican II. He thought it too liberal because it sacrificed its mystique with masses anybody could understand. Then came John-Paul II’s right turn and the church lost me.

    It must be a ‘II’ thing.

  31. I am not, nor have I ever been, Catholic, so as far as discussions of liturgical and dogmatic positions go, I cannot comment.

    Speaking on a linguistic level, however – and getting back to the subject of the post – doesn’t the word “catholic” mean universal?

  32. tomeck

    Speaking as a liberal Catholic, Ratzinger wouldn’t recognize a “true” church if it kicked him in his mitre. Look for another reformation somewhere in the next 20-30 years.

  33. yes catholic means universal.

    and i have 2 or 3 fabulous hats! ; )

  34. oddjob

    Yes, it does. That’s yet another feature of the contentions between the Vatican and those who disagree with it.

  35. Constant Comment

    catholic with a lower case “c” means universal; Roman Catholic with a capital “C”–not so much.

  36. akshelby

    Even though I have a M.A. in Theology from a very, very conservative Catholic University, I am no longer Catholic. I do have profound respect for progressive Catholics such as Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness and people involved in the Catholic Worker’s movement. I also love the three aged nuns who were arrested after pouring red paint over a missile silo and pounding it with hammers. There are good people trying to change the structure of the Catholic church. Unfortunately, Ratzinger and his people have the reins of power.

  37. Talking about funny hats and such reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

    A drag queen stumbles into St. Patrick’s on a Sunday morning and takes a seat near the back. The processional starts with the altar boys and crucifer in full regalia going by, followed by the priest in all his robed glory, complete with mitre and swinging an incense burner. The drag queen leans over and says to the priest, “Honey, I love your outfit, but your purse is on fire.”

  38. Kathy A

    I always liked Sondheim’s song “I Never Do Anything Twice”:

    And then there was the abbot
    Who worshipped at my feet
    And dressed me in a whimple and in veils

    He made a proposition
    Which I found rather sweet
    And handed me a hammer and some nails

    In time we lay contented
    And he began again
    By fingering the beads around my waist

    I whispered to him then
    “I’ll have to say Amen.
    For I have developed more
    Catholic tastes.”

    Once, yes, once for a lark
    Twice, though, loses the spark
    I said to the abbot,
    “I’ll get in the habit
    But not in the habit.
    Alleluh to you
    My highest regards
    Yes, I know that it’s hard
    Still, no matter the vice
    I never, never do anything twice.”

  39. You know, as an atheist, I have to say I don’t really really have a dog in this fight.

    But there is one thing nagging at me … I mean, in this whole christian religion thingy, isn’t your god supposed to be the only one that is perfect? The only ones that knows utterly what he wants and has planned? And since your god is then ultimately unknowable, and human beings are supposedly flawed and unable to know everything your god knows, then how the FUCK does Ratzinger “know” this?

    I mean, really? It seems to go against everything they’ve said previously. How the fuck does papa ratz really truly “know” what his deity wants and plans? Isn’t that kinda usurping his god’s place? A tad presumptuous, no?

    Wouldn’t a better position be to say “Well, we can’t really know god, but this is what we think to our best ability. Other sects might be right, we might be wrong, but this is our best shot”.

    That would be more in line with the rest of the belief system, wouldn’t it?

    Course, as a lesbian atheist (and liberal, and feminist! Tremble at my society destroying power! Rowr!) I make it a point in life to pretty much disregard anything of any faith as pretty much removed from reality. That said, I save a particular contempt for ratzinger and his bigoted bunch of hypocritical eunuchs. They’re becoming more and more irrelevant to contemporary life as time goes by.

  40. Halfmad

    I grew up being taught this in Catholic school in the 70s. And they actually drew a little diagram on the board, like a pyramid, with things like, “Well, Jews believe this,” and “Espiscopalians believe this,” with whether different religions believe in Jesus, or believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, etc. The Catholic church was, of course, at the top of the pyramid. Kind of boggles my mind that I was taught that.

  41. This is just basic Catholic ecclesiology, and it was not written by Benedict. The document was issued from the CDF – i.e., by Cardinal Levada – and consists mostly of quotes from the Second Vatican Council. Actual text:

    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”….

    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….

    The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity”.

    “It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church”.

    There is a tendency to view Vatican II as a progressive council. While it had progressive elements, most of the reforms were designed to recover older traditions that had fallen by the wayside. Bishops then were not any more progressive than they are now, and John XXIII looks like a progressive mainly in comparison to prior and subsequent popes.

  42. To me, Christians are people who believe that Christ is the Messiah (even Jews for Jesus seem like Christians to me). Catholics are lumped in with all the rest of what I consider “sects” in my brain, from Baptists to Episcopalians and Lutherans. Sometimes when I mention this to Catholics, they look like they’re going to have an aneurysm.

    Tami, by and large in the real world, most of the sects give one another title as Christian without argument, and that includes Catholics. But Catholics themselves don’t simply say they are Christian, they are Catholic. We’ve almost assigned a generic belief minimum for Christians that loosely encompasses the vast majority of Protestant beliefs, and then Catholics, Mormons and other sects encompass far more different beliefs outside of this ‘generic’ Protestant theology.

    IF you ignore the evangelical tone and Paul of Tarsus quotes in this essay,, it gives you an idea.

    And that’s where the fighting starts. Does belief in extra-generic Christian dogma or creed exclude one from being Christian by others? Catholics have the 2 millenia-old belief structure, Mormons have their belief in Christ in the New World, Unitarians deny the Trinity and Christ as the single divine human in existence . . and it just goes on as the theology moves further away from the bedrock standard of simply following Christ’s teachings. In that one declares him or herself a member, and there’s not an absolute automatic membership in the group*, there always seem to be people looking to exclude.

    I don’t know if there’s a fair comparison in Judaism.

    * I’m told that some Catholics refuse to consider family members who convert to other creeds or faiths as Not Catholic without an excommunication order.

  43. akshelby

    The Catholic church does not say that everyone else is definitely going to hell. In University, I was taught that it’s just “easier” to get to Heaven if you are a Catholic. They don’t formally declare that anyone is absolutely going to hell. They are just “more at risk” of going to hell. I was taught that they have never formally declared that anyone is definitely in hell. (Although, all the posthumous excommunications they did during the inquisitions make me question this particular teaching.) After spending six and a half years immersed in the stuff, I have the stupid urge to clarify what they officially say. But, whatever, to me it’s all a bunch of tripe anyway.

  44. amish451

    The message and teachings of Jesus the christ are simple, and he knew that we would totally screw it up … did all the other teachers before and after him ….

  45. Tami-although you are basically right that most Jews, myself included would just say you are Jewish and not worry about reform, conservative, orthodox or whatever, but it is also my understanding that most individuals who are Orthodox like Lubavitch or Hasidic would say that you are not a Jew because you are not following all of the 612 commandments and reading the Torah (bible) correctly just as it seems this declaration by Benedict is saying that non-Catholics are not true Christians.

    Idiosynchronic- there actually is the same thing within Orthodox Judaism as mentioned above where those who are not Orthodox are not true Jews. Also it is not uncommon for families of individuals who marry outside of the faith or even the Orthodoxy to sit Shiva, the prayers when a person dies (to put it simply), for the child thus saying that they no longer have that child and they are dead to that family. It is very sad that it happens but it does.

  46. but it is also my understanding that most individuals who are Orthodox like Lubavitch or Hasidic would say that you are not a Jew because you are not following all of the 612 commandments and reading the Torah (bible) correctly

    Not sure about that. I’m sure that they would say that I’m not *practicing* Judaism (as they see it), but I’m fairly certain that any of them would accept me as ba’al tshuva (sort of a born-again Jew) if I decided to take up their practices. I can, after all, document that I was born to a Jewish mother. Heck, I even had a bat mitzvah and a confirmation. I have a bachelor’s degree in Hebraic Studies, which is, of course, incredibly useful in my day-to-day life.

    Reading this I realize that Catholics will probably take anybody willing to take up their practices, too, so it’s a moot point, but it is true that I know Catholics who get downright offended when I call them “Christians”.

  47. Pingback: Pope Proclaims Primacy Of Roman Coatholic Church (Rook's Rant)

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