What About Discussing Christian Unity?
One of the things that I am really bothered by is Christians being unkind and disdainful of other Christians over non-essential points of doctrine. I believe that points of doctrine are very important. I also don’t believe we should compromise our doctrinal beliefs for the sake of greater unity.
At the very same time I do believe that Christian unity is important – VERY IMPORTANT. I believe we can have unity within a greater diversity of denominational and doctrinal differences. We are to be united in Christ. This unity in Christ is our catholicity, with a little “c.”
Rome is not and cannot be a point of unity for the whole of the Christian Church. The Roman Catholic Church would like to make the Roman Pontiff be the point of Christian unity, but this can never be. Rome has erred just as every other denomination. The Pope is not without error in matters of faith, despite its claim to the contrary.
At the council of Trent the Roman Church officially cursed all Protestants. I hold to the early Protestant teachings and on many of those points Rome has officially said that I should be “anathema” which means cursed, which means, “go to hell.”
At Vatican II the Roman Church played that issue down and called Protestant Christians things like “separated brethren” and “brothers” but these titles are new and go counter to what Rome has said for at least 800 years. I point this out in the blog article Unum Sanctum and Vatican II. In Unum Sanctum (US) Pope Boniface VIII declares that all those that are not under the direct authority of the Pope "anathema." In other words, all Protestants and Eastern Christians who are not joined to Rome are going to hell. The 16th century Council of Trent anathematised Protestants many times over on a number of doctrinal issues that separated them from Rome. Vatican I reaffirmed these things and declare the Roman Pontiff to be without error when he spoke ex cathedra (from the chair of Peter), and of course Unum Sanctum and Trent are such statements and so the anathemas against Eastern Christians and Protestants are without error and still stand.
How then are we now, since Vatican II, merely separated brethren? We must be anathematised (going to hell) brethren. I’ve seen Catholics fidget around on this issue and I’ve seen them say straight out “Yes, if you are not a Roman Catholic you are going to go to hell.”
Vatican II and the Catholic Catechism have sufficiently equivocated on the issue of whether or not non-Catholics can be saved. I’ve seen Roman Catholics who are quick to quote from these late 20th century pronouncements and declare that we Protestants can be and often are truly saved. I’ve also read Catholic arguments that say that while the wording is toned way down, the Roman Catholic Church still believes and teaches that you can not be saved outside the RCC.
I hope we can get an unequivocal official answer from Rome on this issue. I like to talk with my RCC family and friends, I just wish they would make up their minds as to where I stand as a Protestant.
If I am not going to hell, then Umum Sanctum and Trent are in error. If they are in error, than Vatican I is in error as well and Rome has destroyed all her own claims to supremacy. One day the doctrine/facade of an infallible Pope and church will fall away and be no longer defensible. Maybe then we will be able to really discuss Christian catholicity with our RCC brethren.