In July, the Pope endorsed a statement that ruffled some feathers in the Protestant aviary, and it turns out that the statement actually revealed that a number of Protestants aren’t all that Protestant anymore. They demonstrated this slide away from Reformation confidence by being upset by the revelation that Pope Benedict XVI still believes that his version of the Faith is true. He still actually thinks those things.
True. What a strange word these days. What the Pope said, in effect, was that the Roman Catholic Church is the one and only true Church, and that the others, um, aren’t. Aren’t, that is, “‘Churches’ in the proper sense.” (The Orthodox qualify as “separated” and “particular” Churches.) Protestant “ecclesial Communities,” the document said, “suffer from defects,” because they “do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders,” and this means that they cannot be considered to be Churches “in the proper sense.”
The reaction was immediate, sad, and kind of funny. For example, Clifton Kirkpatrick, the General Assembly stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued a letter that said that Benedict’s endorsement of the statement “mischaracterizes our faith,” and “reopens questions of Christian unity.”