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Pope aside, religion is personal

July 21, 2007|By JOHNATHAN R. BURRS

More than ever, the hidden agendas of a religious figure were revealed when Pope Benedict XVI reasserted that other Christian communities were either defective or not true churches.

The document, signed by the pope, said Orthodox churches were indeed "churches" because they have apostolic succession and that they enjoyed "many elements of sanctification and of truth." But it said they lack something because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope - a defect, or a "wound" that harmed them, it said.

Despite the harsh tone of the documents, they stressed that Benedict remains committed to ecumenical dialogue.

So what exactly is "ecumenical" dialogue and "primacy of the pope"? In short, ecumenical dialogue is discussion regarding global unity between Christian churches and communities with similar beliefs and mutual issues, while primacy of the pope refers to the belief of Catholics that the office of pope is the highest rank and final authority on religious matters.

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The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed and released by Pope Benedict, can be summed up by saying the Vatican believes Catholicism is the Christian church of the world and the office of pope is the supreme authority of the world church community. While the pope claims to be open to ecumenical dialogue, these proclamations are inconsistent with the language within the doctrine!

This "vision" or claim of absolute authority over religious matters is better described as a delusion, particularly considering the world in which we live today.

Aside from being inconsistent with Biblical facts, would the pope actually expect any Christian denomination to grant the Catholic Church authority over its religious matters, considering the numerous sex scandals involving Catholic priests and underage boys? Furthermore, the day will never come when all Christian denominations recognize the primacy of the pope, so to suggest otherwise is more of a delusional dream as opposed to an absolute fact!

Furthermore, the assertion by the pope that other Christian denominations were not true churches but merely communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation" is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ, as presented in the book of John.

In the book of John, Christ teaches that the way to salvation is by believing in the begotten Son of God and at no point suggests that salvation can be achieved through any other means! With this contrary information, the argument could be made that by making claims and teaching information that is inconsistent with the teachings of Christ, the pope is making claims and teaching information that is against what Christ taught!

In a recent experience, I found a political belief of my own being challenged by a pastor in the church I attend. About a year ago or so, I received an e-mail from a retired pastor saying that he was contacting me because of a letter to the editor I had written expressing my opinion that conservative Christians were playing on words when debating the differences between supporting civil unions over gay marriage.

The pastor alleged that my beliefs were biblically flawed. And because of that, he had planned on writing a rebuttal letter that would serve to set the record straight regarding how Christians should view the controversial issue of same-sex unions.

I quickly responded and informed the pastor what the biblical prophecies were regarding what the Christian Bible teaches about last-day events and suggested that I, too, would write a rebuttal to his rebuttal explaining that regardless of how lawmakers attempt to legislate morality by officially defining the word marriage to mean a union between a man and a woman, biblical prophecies would still come true. Needless to say, the pastor never wrote his rebuttal.

In my opinion, religious and spiritual matters are personal issues. For believers in Christ, most realize and accept the fact that each person must stand in judgment for his or her own actions during their lifetime.

Neither the pastor who challenged my beliefs nor the pope who claims I cannot claim salvation until I recognize his "primacy," can stand in judgment of me, nor can I stand in judgment of them. It is also my belief that great claims such as those made by the pope should serve to warn Catholics that they need to study and research these issues for themselves. They just might find a few historical and biblical facts that render such great claims as null and void!

Jonathan R. Burrs

Hagerstown

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