pope is not a catholic, claims writer - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
February 9, 2005

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Pope is not a Catholic, claims writer -9/02/05

It is a standard rhetorical device for claiming absolute veracity: "Is what Iím saying correct? Well... is the Pope a Catholic?" But now a newspaper columnist has raised a startling question about whether this most incontrovertible of assertions is, in fact, indisputably true. Writing from the UK in yesterdayís Guardian, Harry Bingham says: "Pope John Paul II... is by no means the only Pope. The title, deriving from the Greek pappas , or father, is widely used in the broader Christian church. The head of the Egyptian Coptic church is a pope. So too are many bishops in the eastern Orthodox churches. Statistically speaking therefore, based on the number and religious affiliation of existing popes, the Pope is unlikely to be a Catholic." He continues: "If, of course, the question seeks to ask whether the Pope is a (small-c) catholic, then the answer is simple. The word 'catholic' means universal or all-encompassing. Though all Christian churches, including Protestant ones, claim to be catholic, it's fairly evident that all of them maintain points of difference from other denominations. Thus, though all popes claim to be catholic, none of them is anything of the sort." An ecclesiastical historian told Ekklesia today: "This is a nice try. But it wonít work. Statistical probability alone is not the key factor, and in this case the statistical analysis has the added problem of being based on mistaken assumptions that it would take far too long to go into. Nothing but God is absolutely certain in this world, and none of us can claim absolute access to Godís certainty, so that doesnít tie things up neatly either. But as a matter of both overwhelming custom as well as Canon law, the Pope is, indisputably, a Catholic." As sighs of relief were heard from the direction of the Vatican, she added that there were other inexactitudes in Mr Binghamís entertaining thesis, but suggested that the patience of readers would be strained by rehearsing them. The Roman Pontiff himself clearly maintains that the church, properly The Church, is not only catholic. It is also Catholic, and one day will come to the full realisation that it is. Other Christian traditions are not so sure. Due to ill health the Holy Father was unable to confirm this directly, but Ekklesiaís theological sources are quite confident of the matter. Regarding Mr Binghamís assertion that "all Christian churches, including Protestant ones, claim to be catholic", Ekklesia was unable to locate a single member of the Exclusive Brethren who would concur with this, short of the possibility of defining 'catholicism' as a universality confined to one group. But everyone consulted clearly agreed that the conceptual framework of ecumenical conversation was extremely complicated and obscure. And, in all seriousness, they said they would prefer to pray for the present Pope right now, rather than to question his status. The issue of the bathroom habits of bears in the vicinity of woods, the other Great Undisputed Rhetorical Confirmer of Facts, has not yet been questioned in detail. But you will hear about it first on Ekklesia if it is.

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