Okay, this is about the Pope. Dear Catholic friends, either grit your teeth firmly, or look away now.
The Catholic Teuchtar has pointed out this report of some statement or other issued by the (Scottish) Free Presbyterians, deploring the Pope’s planned visit and repudiating his claims to both churchly and civil authority. In response to their statement, a “spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church” is reported as saying, “intemperate objections should not detract from what will be a tremendous occasion for Scotland.”
The problem is that calvinists, presbyterians, and protestants in general, cannot in good faith welcome the Pope to our country. It is fundamental to protestantism, presbyterianism, and calvinism that we reject his political claims, his ecclesiastical claims, and his spiritual claims.
The Pope is not the head of the Church. He is not Christ’s vicar and he is not Peter’s successor. He is not our holy father. He cannot absolve from sin. He cannot change bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord. He has no jurisdiction in our nation. He may, and often does, make pronouncements which we can agree with. We can agree that abortion is wrong and euthanasia is wrong. We can agree with things like his criticisms of New Labour’s Equality Bill and the philosophy that motivated it. But the reasons why he believes that these things are wrong differ from the reasons why we believe these things are wrong, and the fact that his pronouncements on moral issues sometimes coincide with what we believe cannot compensate for the vast array of other principles and doctrines that divide us.
Whether objections to the Pope’s visit are expressed temperately or not, the point is that there are real, serious, biblical, doctrinal, theological, christological, soteriological, and ecclesiastical differences,* which may or may not be irreconcilable, but which at any rate do not deserve to be brushed aside as irrelevant or somehow capable of being put to one side for the duration of a papal visit.
Especially in this anniversary year of the Reformation in Scotland, it would really just be unthinking and unprincipled to pretend otherwise.
* Erm, to name but a few.