Guest essay: The Comments of Pope Benedict XVI
Note: This is the first piece we've ever published that wasn't written by Lee Gruenfeld. The writer is Roland S. Martin of Creators Syndicate. He is a CNN contributor and a talk-show host for WVON-AM in Chicago. The piece was originally posted on CNN.com here and is re-printed verbatim below.
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Commentary: Pope's comments irrelevant to non-Catholics
By Roland S. Martin
(CNN) -- Non-Catholics who are up in arms of the proclamation by Pope Benedict XVI that the only true church in the world is that of Catholicism shouldn't even bother getting upset. Just chalk it up to an old man trying to get a little attention.
For him to even suggest that only the Catholic Church can provide true salvation to believers in Christ shows that he is wholly ignorant of the Scriptures that I have known all my life.
Sorry, let me take that back. I've really only known the Bible for the last 13 of my 38 years. That's because those first 25 years were spent as a die-hard Catholic.
That's right, I was born and raised in the Catholic Church. One of the first meetings to build the church I was raised in -- Our Lady Star of the Sea in Houston -- took place in my grandparents' living room. Many of my Saturdays and Sundays were spent serving as an altar boy, Catholic Youth Organization leader, dedicated student of Catechism, and constantly reciting the Holy Rosary.
And the reality is that we were never really encouraged to study the Scriptures. The standard practice was for all of us to read the same pamphlets passed out by the church, recite the readings from the New and Old Testaments, listen to the Scripture chosen for us in the Gospel and hear a normally bland homily.
That isn't always the case at some Catholic churches. If you visit St. Sabina in Chicago, Father Michael Pfleger will surely have your soul jumping with his strong sermons and willingness to engage the community to get involved in direct action.
Yet as I reflect on my years as a Catholic, it pretty much was a wasted experience, as there was more identification with the church, and not with Christ.
And that's why Pope Benedict XVI is meaningless, along with his decision to re-state the primacy of the Catholic Church. This week, the pope released a document correcting interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, which some say modernized the church. But for hardliners like Pope Benedict XVI, the liberals went too far in some of their declarations.
But what ticked folks off was his assertion in the 16-page document by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the only denominations that can call themselves true churches are ones that can trace their roots back to Jesus Christ's original apostles. He even suggested they suffer from defects.
This is nothing but a naked attempt by Pope Benedict XVI to "own" Jesus by virtue of the Catholic Church considering the apostle Peter as its leader. He refuses to acknowledge the reality that Jesus didn't consider a church to be most important. What was? The Great Commission.
The Bible records in Matthew 28:16 that Jesus called his 11 disciples (the other, Judas, hanged himself after betraying Jesus) to Mount Galilee and decreed, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (New International Version).
It doesn't matter what Pope Benedict XVI has to say, or for that matter, any other religious leader. A Christian believes in Jesus Christ and what He had to say, not what a man of God has to say. This is not an attempt to completely dismiss religious leaders, but is further evidence of what happens when ego is more important than the work of Christ.
John 14:6 says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Nowhere does it say that Peter, Pope Benedict XVI or anyone else can supplant Jesus as the leader of the church.
It is these kinds of missives by Pope Benedict XVI that do nothing to support or build the community of faith. All it does is divide.
Protestant leaders: Don't buy into the foolishness. Let Pope Benedict XVI keep running off at the mouth and making pointless declarations. If you keep bringing good news to the poor, setting the captives free and assisting those who seek to know Jesus, then you'll make more headway in doing the work of Jesus than any 16-page document will.