I really like Pope Benedict XVI as a person. I especially appreciate his intellectual honesty. Whereas most evangelicals and Roman Catholics minimize disagreements between their communities of faith, Benedict honestly acknowledges that the differences which exist are real and profound...a matter of life and death! Recently, he issued a statement affirming the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. Newsweek has this to say(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19692094/):
LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.
Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.
Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers the erroneous interpretation of the council by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.
In the latest document — formulated as five questions and answers — the Vatican seeks to set the record straight on Vatican II’s ecumenical intent, saying some contemporary theological interpretation had been “erroneous or ambiguous” and had prompted confusion and doubt.
It restates key sections of a 2000 document the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, “Dominus Iesus,” which set off a firestorm of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the “means of salvation.”
In the new document and an accompanying commentary, which were released as the pope vacations here in Italy’s Dolomite mountains, the Vatican repeated that position.
“Christ ‘established here on earth’ only one church,” the document said. The other communities “cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense” because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.
Obviously, he and I come down on different sides of these issues, but I believe he has correctly identified some key sticking points. For example, how is salvation obtained? Is Benedict correct that it is the RCC that has the "means of salvation"? Or are we correct when we argue that the sacraments do not bring about salvation but rather it is grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that brings about salvation?
Another example would be the question concerning the locus of authority. Wherein lies the authority for the believer? Is Benedict correct in arguing that it lies within the church and more specifically the papal office or is the Protestant correct in arguing that authority resides within Scripture?
These are crucial issues and until Roman Catholics and Protestants admit this, there is no hope for constructive dialogue. While the conclusions he reaches sadden me, I greatly appreciate Pope Benedict XVI's honesty.