…is exactly the sort of misunderstanding I feared would take place, of the Vatican document. From a reader:
You write: “Today’s Vatican document is intended to clarify, especially for Catholics, the truth claim that continues to be made by Catholicism: that it constitutes the most faithful existing realization of what Christ intended when he founded a Church.” I completely agree with that analysis, but forgive me if, as a patriotic American, I rather doubt that Christ would have said a mass with Tariq Azziz, routinely as a matter of course condemn the United States of America and openly work for the subversion of her immigration and nationality laws. And, of course, I write from Portland, Oregon, where the local Real Church In Direct Communion With Christ is under that same country’s bankruptcy law’s protection due to its horrific mistreatment of children and its cover-up of the same . . .
This reader notes various crimes, sins, and other faults committed by Catholic officials in recent years, and obviously believes that they render ridiculous the truth claims of Catholicism. The problem is, there is no church that does not have a long record of offenses against law, truth, and morality. (A few years ago, to take an example at random, my own church—the PCUSA—passed a ridiculous resolution favoring divestment from Israel. I would no more look to the PCUSA leadership for guidance on Mideast policy than I would look to the Catholic Bishops for advice on the nuclear freeze; does this mean that Presbyterian claims on theology are to be automatically dismissed?) In today’s document, the Catholic Church is not claiming to be perfect—all it is asserting is the opinion that its ecclesiastical organization is closest to that envisioned by Christ. And—because, again, no church is perfect—that is not a claim that can be settled by referring to various offenses committed by Catholics.