Wednesday, July 11, 2007

St. Benedict and Benedict XVI: Two Flexible But Uncompromising Writers

Pope BenedictJust as it was no coincidence yesterday when my daughter, Therese, disappointed her dad couldn't watch her big summer swim meet because he was teaching outdoor tennis that night, pulled a "St. Scholastica" as her prayer not only brought rain and cancelled her father's job (allowing me to see her set three personal best swim records), it is also no coincidence that Pope Benedict is being criticized by the news media on St. Benedict's feast day merely for stating the truth. For if my daughter and St. Benedict's sister share some common method about getting things done, the two Benedicts are two peas in a spiritual pod as well.

When Pope Benedict approved a document released by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith yesterday which reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church and stated that Catholicism provides the only sure means for salvation, he was saying nothing new. Not only did the document quote key passages from "Dominus Iesus," a 2000 document written by Pope Benedict himself, but confirmed Christian teachings from the earliest days of the Church which stated Christian communities without valid sacraments or apostolic succession are defective and/or incomplete. Similarly, St. Benedict's (480-550) monastic rule, which could be summed up in four words (Pray, Read, and Work) borrowed heavily from the rules of St. Basil, St. John Cassian, and even St. Augustine, but it synthesized those ideas so successfully it became THE monastic rule for the next 1000 years. Still, the Benedicts couldn't make everyone happy; for St. Benedict it was the reformers, Pope Benedict, the reporters.

"It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity ... and the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogue with the reformed family," stated the release from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (and quoted by The Associated Press) while WBBM AM radio quoted a spokesman for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod as saying, "Documents like this demonstrate why the Missouri Synod regards the office of the pope as that of the Antichrist."

When St. Benedict set up his monastery he wrote it would be "neither a penitentiary nor a school of ascetic mountaineering, but a family, a home of those seeking God." But although his monks free the majority of the day for private prayer, reading and manual work, the "family" centered around the divine office and the liturgy. Similarly, Benedict is saying those beliefs that we share with other denominations, such as belief in the Trinity and the physical death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, doctrines which have ALWAYS been "Catholic," are definitely beneficial to the salvation of the members of other Christian denominations too. But to not accept the sacramental priesthood and not believe in and receive of the real Body and Blood of Jesus makes one's road to salvation much more difficult, while to embrace the teachings of some "Christian" denominations which make abortion and gay marriage okay leaves one's salvation in a dubious state indeed. Without the Catholic interpretation of Papal Authority, Christian morality finds itself on a slippery slope that's getting slipperier every day. But at lease the Lutheran Church's Missouri Synod representative (if not the radio station, which mysteriously took the quote off its website after receiving objections) had the guts to state the real question. IF the Catholic Church's authority to interpret scripture doesn't come from God, the Pope surely MUST be the Antichrist. But if their authority does come from God, then the other denominations' objections disintegrate into dust, and, like the Prodigal Son, its members must return home to Rome to be truly part of the family and receive all of the Father's benefits. Only then they will see it is not Christianity's "Benedict Arnolds" (Luther and Calvin) but its Saint and Pope Benedicts who got His story straight.

1 comment :

Pristinus Sapienter said...

Though you do well, Thomas, in placing the two Benedicts on the same stage, I feel totally unqualified to comment on either of these two magnificent servants of God - one gone on to be the inimitable servant of the servants of God . . .

What glory, in His servants, does our Lord give to us. How unworthy, even as blessed, are we.

Thank you, my Lord Savior and King. Thank you, Thomas.