Thursday, April 24, 2008

More on the Pope, and on the Papacy

We've been discussing, below, the matter of whether it's worthwhile to spend time commending the Pope when there's something commendable about him, or whether on the other hand one ought to take every opportunity to remind the world of his errors.

I believe the former is the proper tack; to review the discussion, click here.

The Papacy, according to the Lutheran Confessions, is the Antichrist, because it exalts itself and claims priority over the word of God; the passage in Thessalonions describes "the man of sin" as "the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (II Thess 2:3-4).

Here's the thing: I haven't heard this Pope insist on any of those things.

Oh, you may say, but his office does.

True, it still does. But I think there's a big difference in the case of someone whose office has historical baggage, yet who personally shows some integrity.

Incidentally, the Pope was Julius II when Luther first penned his declaration that the Papacy was the Antichrist. Julius was coronated during a great, garish parade in Rome during which it was clearly and loudly proclaimed, quite literally, that he was God.

There is a world of difference between a Papacy bent the corruption rampant then and a Papacy now that takes steps toward reform. Of course there's a long way to go, but we ought not make matters more difficult than they already are, in my opinion.

And I believe that my take is akin to that of St. Paul, who wrote that as much as it depends on us, we should live at peace with all men.


Jeff said...

How about this as a point.

The pope has discussed dropping the title "patriarch of the West." I don't care about that title much- but look at the titles he keeps "vicar of Jesus Christ" and "supreme pontiff of the universal church"

Those are scary titles. You can't separate the man from his office...

Only one person on Earth can claim those titles- and that is Jesus alone (the first one needs some modification ofc).

The Pope can do all sorts of nice things- He can live in integrity as you said BUT he still is Catholicism Incarnate (to coin a phrase).

To be Pope, you have to confess to all Catholic doctrine which includes the Council of Trent which declare us (who believe in salvation by faith alone) anathema.

I'm not saying we shouldn't live in peace with all men... however look at Paul's condemnation of the Judiazers in Galatians. This wasn't 'peace' as you seem to be asking for- he publicly wished they'd go castrate themselves!

Quite arguably, Rome's insistence on works saving you (which the current Pope believes and teaches) is much worse than a demand that you be circumcised.

Jude 12-13 describes quite un-peacefully anyone who would promote false doctrine- and Rome has trampled underfoot, time and again, Justification by faith alone (correctly called by our confessions the chief doctrine of the faith- to obscure it is to call Christ a liar and spit upon His atoning death!)

I'm not trying to have a knee-jerk reaction here. I am, however, viewing the Papacy in light of what's come before- and unless things drastically change (which I doubt they will, since Rome never compromises)- what will come after.

I'm not saying we can't appreciate the good things the Pope does... but it always needs to be in the lens of the 'throne' he sits upon. Even the points of agreement need to be closely analyzed- the way he talks, and terms he uses, are very different than our own.

Maybe I am being too close-minded... but the way some protestant (not saying this is you) fawn over the Pope worries me.

Now I'm off to wait for my six copies of Gottesdienst...

Father Hollywood said...


There are parts of the Lutheran confessions that, though they have not become untrue in any sense, are no longer germane. For example, when they complain that the Roman Church will not permit the Mass in the vernacular, that particular abuse has since been corrected (and many other medieval abuses, such as simony and the sale of indulgences).

Many of Luther's reforms didn't make their way into the Roman Church until Vatican II.

If you read the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise, you will find very specific reasons for identifying the papacy as the seat of antichrist - such as the three-tiered tiara and the requirement that all should be forced to bend the knee in the presence of the pope (these have since been abolished, as well as the pope's command of a worldly army and use of force against dissenters).

Fr. Eckhart is absolutely right that a lot has changed since the 16th century. We are no longer being burned at the stake. We are considered Christians. Our baptisms are recognized. A panel of theologians unanimously recommended the acceptance of the validity of our ordinations and Masses. Benedict himself has urged the acceptance of the Augsburg Confession as a "catholic document." There were even instances during the cold war of Roman Catholics and Lutherans sharing church buildings.

Benedict has favorably cited Luther in many instances. Benedict has written to a German Lutheran bishop, and while not recognizing the validity of Lutheran Masses, said that Jesus is present in them in some way. This is a long, long way from the 16th century polemics that ran in both directions.

These are mind-boggling developments in context of what *was* happening in the 16th century.

Even the anathemas of Trent have been softened by the JDDJ (and yes, I have studied the document, I know "we" didn't sign it, and I'm aware of its great weaknesses). But yet, in some cases, these anathemas have been removed (even as the excommunication of the Patriarch of Constantinople has been lifted).

The Reformation has been felt within the Roman Church. When you audibly hear the verba at a Roman Mass, thank the Lutheran reformers.

The papacy no longer commands an army, no longer invades and burns Lutheran lands, no longer destroys our churches, no longer prevents us from preaching the Gospel. In fact, Benedict XVI has never impeded my preaching of the Gospel, whereas certain people within the LCMS have!

Nor did Pope Benedict remove Issues, Etc.

Benedict's personal preacher, Fr. Cantalamessa, preached a sermon on grace and works that was so evangelical, I could have preached it word for word from my pulpit. Benedict did not gag him, order him to recant, or execute him.

Yet, there are serious impediments to communion. There are serious doctrinal issues that continue to divide us. We can in no way overlook the differences that still split the West into various communions.

Yet I think we do well to see that history moves along. Things that were a matter of fact true in the 16th century (and seemed hopelessly permanent) have ceased to be issues today. Joan of Arc was condemned as a heretic in 1431 and canonized in 1920.

It is not unreasonable that we will achieve communion with Rome once more - as was the goal of the Augsburg Confession - though I don't see it happening in my lifetime. Of course, any such arrangement must be without compromising the gospel.

I think we would also do well to tend the log in our own eye. We claim to abide by AC14, but it's not Rome that has laymen "consecrating" the elements. And it is not Rome that tolerates shot glasses and grape juice for Holy Communion. And I think we have our own battle with an imperious bureaucracy to deal with (the pope has no influence over us at all). While the Pope continues to press his flock for liturgical decorum and absolute truth, our leadership is pressing us toward the emerging church and postmodernism.

I'm not familiar with anything Benedict has written where he claims belief in "works saving you" as you write "which the current pope believes and teaches". Could you cite a page number on that? And I think we do need to be careful about the context, for works *do* save us (Christ's works), don't they? ;-)

As an aside, I'm always amazed at how many Lutheran preachers feel the need to rail against the pope in their sermons - as if even one person in the congregation needs to repent of seeing the Bishop of Rome as the Vicar of Christ (at least any more than any pastor) or the Supreme Pontiff (which wouldn't be so bad if it were true and recognized as being only de jure humano).

Unlike the first generation Lutherans, we don't need to preach against praying to saints and turning relics into idols. Rather, our people are swayed by Protestant "purpose driven" theology, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, and T.D. Jakes.

Of course, it's easier to preach against sins that one's parishioners don't have (and to appeal to their self-righteous sense of Lutheran triumphalism) than to address their real sins - as that would make them mad.

According to St. John, antichrist seems to be kind of complex. He seems to take different forms in history. One of the marks of antichrist according to 1 John 4:2-4 is a denial of the incarnation. Have any of the modern popes denied the incarnation or the divinity of our Lord? I know there are plenty of bishops and clerics within Christendom (even within the Lutheran tradition) who actually *do* deny the incarnation, but I don't think Pope Benedict is one of them. In fact, a lot of Lutherans recommend his book on the Eucharist because it is such a beautiful confession *of* the incarnation. (He also sent Dr. John Stephenson, the editor of the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series, a note commending his (Stephenson's) book on the Lord's Supper. I wonder how many Lutheran pastors have read it.

Antichrist may occupy another chair these days, especially where it comes to denying the incarnation of Jesus by promoting the sham of women "pastors" to make a mockery of our Lord's physical masculinity as well as the femininity of His bride.

I would rather attend a Papal Mass at St. John Lateran than a Lutheran Divine Service at Upsala Cathedral conducted by a female "bishop" amid an art display depicting our Blessed Lord and the apostles as homosexuals. The Lutheran confessions may not identify the latter as "antichrist," but I certainly would.

Please forgive my rambling. I have had too much coffee, and I'm not tired.

Father Eckardt said...

Bravo, Fr. Hollywood! Now that made my day.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fritz:

Even though I can never seem to spell your name right? Mea culpa...

Jeff said...

That was indeed a good response. I must ruminate. Assuming I find supportable objections, I shall return.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I have to agree mostly with Jeff. Much has changed, as Fr. Hollywood says, and those changes should be applauded. But too much is still the same. (Indulgences are still available, except now you earn them rather than buying them for cash.)

Where I disagree with Jeff is when he says Rome never compromises. She compromises all the time. It's strategic. It's syncretism to gather in as many souls as possible. But there's one thing (only) that she never compromises, and that is the body of doctrine surrounding the pope and the papal claims.

Don't be fooled because this pope has not yet openly asserted them. He certainly hasn't renounced them, either. THat's one of those things no pope is free to do.

It's a false dichotomy to see this dicussion as "whether it's worthwhile to spend time commending the Pope when there's something commendable about him, or whether on the other hand one ought to take every opportunity to remind the world of his errors" when nobody has advocated the latter.

I'll come close to it though, but noting this: at a time when many people are considering whether to leave the LC-MS, it would behoove LCMS pastors to remind the flock of the Roman errors. At least, so I should think. It's up to you, of course.

And I, too, am worried about how many non-Catholics tend to fawn over the pope(s). I can't understand it at all.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

P.S. Well, maybe I can understand it after all. I just posted something about that on my blog, as a matter of fact.

Past Elder said...

Soldiers often understand each other as soldiers, though they wear uniforms of different countries and may fight for different things -- including fight each other.

I feel a real kinship with those in other denominations who strive to maintain the integrity of that denomination's belief and practice against its version of the revisionism assaulting all denominations -- including our beloved synod -- even though I cannot agree with that belief and practice.

As a local example, the little group of Episcopalians down the street from where I live trying to maintain Episcopalianism and opposed by no-one more than the very church which once upheld it.

In that regard, there is much to commend about the current pope. He does seem intent on making the offical teaching and practice of the post-conciliar church he heads the actual teaching and practice of that church, and as such is indeed a kindred spirit, as we attempt to do the same in our church, with those attempting the same in many churches and indeed other faiths altogether.

Yet we remain soldiers in different armies.

When I was younger growing up in the pre-conciliar Roman church, as the new Roman church emerged there was a standing joke: we could have saved a lot of time, money and ink by just issuing three words, Luther Was Right, and going home. Many either left altogether or continue to exist marginalised by the Roman church (something in which the current pope was a key player as a curial official) for their struggle to remain true to what this church once taught and practiced.

The post-conciliar church maintains its claim to authenticity not on Luther Was Right, not on acknowledging the correctness of the faith revealed in Scripture and accurately taught in the Book of Concord, but on demonstrating its continuity and essential sameness with what came before.

According, the only recent document to top the Joint Declaration in utter mendacity is the current pope's Motu, which allows the former rite as now an extraordinary expression of the same rite as the novus ordo is the now ordinary expression, two versions of the same thing, the elder of which allowed on the condition of recognising the validity of the younger.

Precisely more of the strategic syncretism of which Anastasia speaks. Always "both/and" -- the Roman faith is always an ink blot in which one can see what one will and call it the same because it derives from the same ink blot. Absolutely predictable from a church which originates not in Christ and the Apostles but the state religion of the Roman Empire, which always allowed the worship of the local gods as long as the Roman ones were not clearly denied. Indeed much has changed since the 16th Century, circumstantially. In the vernacular, for example, even Trent found no core objection to it, but considered its association with heretics at the time would be a source of misunderstanding if adopted. It and the other things are cosmetic, not essential, and represent the next stage of syncretism rather than any reform. One age co-opts scholasticiam, another phenomenology; one Aristotle, the other Scheler. The change is only in what is co-opted, not in essence.

There is absolutely no difference between turning to post-conciliar Rome and attempting to fill in Lutheran content and turning to Willow Creek or Saddleback and attempting same -- either way, one turns one's back on the catholic reform of the BOC for "contemporary worship" and a mega-church numbers envy, and vestments and liturgy and a little Latin here and there no more prevents that than casual clothes and praise services and bands cause it.

Joel Osteen in a mitre. Rick Warren in a cassock. No difference whatsoever in essence, just in style. Doing what a Lutheran pastor is supposed to do is not welcome in either, and will not be welcome in our synod regardless of which of these two flavours of "Christianity" we accept to replace the faith of our symbols.

Bogus heretical charlatans, all of them, and none of them, including the so-called pope, need hear a word from us other than a call to repentance.

Father Eckardt said...

With this: "a church which originates not in Christ and the Apostles but the state religion of the Roman Empire" I must disagree.

The fact that Constantine decreed Christianity to be the state religion doesn't make Rome its origination. In the early centuries of church there were five great sees: Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Rome. Yet of these, Rome had a bit of a greater honor because it was thought to have been established by two apostles, viz., Peter and Paul.

Jeff said...

"Soldiers often understand each other as soldiers... Yet we remain soldiers in different armies."

That was well said. Thanks.

Past Elder said...

I don't mean to state or imply that Constantine's decree was the origin of Christianity or a Christian community in Rome, or to contest the historical fact of the five great sees.

As a Catholic, I used to see the emergence of the See of Peter in Rome as the HQ of the church from the Empire in Rome by whose authority Christ was crucified as a massive hint that Christianity was true, Christ was victorious over the world, and that the Roman Emperors are history but the Roman pope endures is a sign of that.

These days, it looks a little different. While not denying the presence of Christianity and a church in Rome from the earliest days, and not denying for that matter that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church can be found within the institution of the Roman church, I believe the character and nature of the Roman Catholic Church derives much more from the state religion of the Roman Empire than Christ and the Apostles -- IOW, Christianity did not replace the former state religion so much as the old state religion co-opted Christianity, the result being more derivative from pagan Roman religion than Christ.

Pr. H. R. said...

Here's one reason why I'm still keen on keeping up the, "That guy over there in the white cassock is the big AC, and I don't mean the Augustana. . ." routine.

This Pope supports Vatican II. He's said as much. And really, how can any pope not support a council which already has the imprimatur of one of his predecessors?

Well, just read Lumen Gentium. It is anti-Christian in its insistence that salvation can come to atheists, Muslims, Jews, etc., apart from an explicit confession of Jesus Christ.

Yes, much has changed. Big improvements have come about. But still Rome, in her 1994 Catechism, and especially in the Vatican II documents espouses unChristian teaching. Remember JP II kissing the Koran? BXVI doesn't seem that bad - it's true. But where is his condemnation of his predecessor? Where is his condemnation of Lumen Gentium?

Plus ├ža change. . .

That being said: I fully agree with Fr. Hollywood that our fight these days is mostly against the Neo-Evangelicals. My people are simply not tempted to go under the Roman obedience (unless they fall in love with one of the Popes subjects. . .). I've got other fish to fry than the fish-eaters.

So let us confess both. Lumen Gentium (and Pastor Aeternus, which BXVI also endorses, and many others we could name) is still the law of the Roman land and it is still anti-Christian. And our fight in this time and place is largely with the protestant sects.


Pr. H. R. said...

We need to respect the integrity of Fr. Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. Here are the statements of the last two councils of the Roman Church. I think by serving on the CDF and now as pope, we should give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he honestly believes, teaches, and confesses the following:

Lumen Gentium (Vatican II: 1964)
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.


Pastor Aeternus (Vatican I: 1870)
Chapter 1
6. Therefore, if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole Church militant; or that it was a primacy of honor only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ himself: let him be anathema.

Chapter 2
4. For this reason it has always been necessary for every Church--that is to say the faithful throughout the world--to be in agreement with the Roman Church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence of being joined, as members to head, with that see, from which the rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together into the structure of a single body [48].

5. Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.

Chapter 3
8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful [52], and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment [53]. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon [54]. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.

9. So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.

Chapter 4
9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.