Before I was 17 years old I was a good young catholic, I even went to see Jean Paul II in 1984 when he came to my country. I was highly educated in a Jesuit school. Actually, they taught me to never accept an statement without questioning it. So I did, I read my bible looking for answers, met my Lord and inevitably left catholic path.
So as a Latin-American I have a special feeling and love for grassroots Catholics, I have seen their search for faith and I understand their love for their religion. Catholicism is part of culture and grassroots Catholicism helped poor people to survive their masters and poverty. Only their Christ (unfortunately not always the biblical one) gives them hope to keep walking. Many of them have a real relationship with God. So I felt sad when I noticed trough the 90’s that Jean Paul II and his right arm Mr Ratzinger removed from any authority in their church enthusiastic priest with new progressive ideas in Latin America. Priests that read their bibles, believed in Love and the Grace of God. To removed them was a long process that lasted many years. When Jean Paul II died and Mr Ratzinger arrived to the power as pope, all Cardinals in latin America and probably the world belonged to the old catholic orthodox school. The cleaning up was completed, and all priests from Vatican II that had any new progressive view were relocated as simple priests in some forgotten parish in some forgoten town. So you imagine I was not a surprise to see Mr Ratzinger becoming Pope and having all these old orthodoxy interpretation of his church.
Why I rumble all these things? Well somehow I am very very surprised that and intelligent man as Mr Ratzinger (better known today as Benoit XVI) has made such a theological mistake. He just called church “sinner” and “wounded”(see the media)
I won’t debate internal catholic scandals. It is sad what is happening, and it is not new. It has been more than 20 years we have heard about this problems, so one day justice had to cry louder, so it does today.
But that is not the issue I want to talk. Mr Ratzinger has made a weird theological statement. The Bible teaches us that The Church is the Body of Christ and it is the Bride of Christ too. And as the apostolic creed says "it is Holy" because it has been cleaned by blood of the lamb of God. And it goes through history victorious even in tribulations. The Bible will never called the church sinner or wounded, even in rough times, like when Paul wrote to Corinthians, and weird things were happening in that church.
But for Mr Ratzinger his priest are the church! And some of his priest are sinners, therefore the church is sinner. It is embarrassing, but Catholic theology has been trapped in a paradox that contradicts Paul’s writings and their own theology of Church . They just have gotten themselves a holy church that is sinner. Will they drop the word "Holy" in their creed?
If you are an outsider you may wonder, why after 500 years Protestants and Catholics are still separated? Why is even so diffcult to agree and reunify at least in one symbolic ecumenical church?
Well differences can be more difficult to solve than we think.
Oddly enough it is not the protestant dogma of salvation by faith what dived us.Although it is not Vatican theology many Catholics and priest believe that too, neither the Bible is a big difference, we have the same Bible, and they have lovely translations. We both believe Christ is the Son of God who came for our sins, ..well they have their saints… So what is this the real difference?
What really differentiates us is; the understanding of what The Church is, and the How the Grace of God is send by God.
For Protestants (all movements); Church is the community of believers that have been touched by the Grace united by the Holy Spirit. God gives his grace directly to each believer and all believers are priests, so all believers are equals before the Grace. A minister and simple believer are just equals, sinners saved by his Grace. For us God in Jesus, delivers his Grace as he wishes, and we only announce the good news.
For Catholics; Church is the community of believers united by the Holy Spirit which allows the church to hold and delivers the Grace of God. But the Holy Spirit does not act the same in all believer. Not all believers can deliver the Grace of God, only those that have received priesthood. And Priesthood can only be delivered by the Pope who is directly chosen by the Holy Spirit to validate the elite of priests the Holy Spirits choses among believers . So there is an elite chosen by the Holy Spirit that delivers the Grace of God through the seven sacraments. Grace can only be delivered through these seven sacraments. Each on of this 7 sacraments are concrete manifestations of the Grace of God. So the Catholic Church is based on this elite that has been named by God through the Pope to deliver these 7 sacraments (so the Grace of God). You are free to believe the way you want, (salvation by faith if you want) But you cannot doubt neither question: the 7 sacraments (the manifestation of the Grace of God) , the people that delivers them (the priests) and the one that has been chosen to lead this elite (The Pope)
So Priesthood is understood for them as eternal and mystical reality, a superior state of grace more important that the man who is the priest. Why? Because the sin of the priest should not affect the Grace of God delivered in a sacrament. So even if the man is the worst sinner, he is still a priest that holds and delivers the Grace of God
. So the church must cover the sinner to protect the mystery of his priesthood which is bigger than the man that holds it. So God will continue to deliver His Grace in the seven sacraments through the priesthood of this man, even if this man is the worst sinner, through the years Catholic church felt necessary to protect the sinner not because the man but because his priesthood which overcomes the man, and finally is more important than the man, because priesthood is the fundamental on which catholic church is built..
For Protestants, if the believer sins (or a minster, who is just a man, we do not have elite priesthood, we are all priests ) then the man is a sinner. If his sin is a crime against society, he is excluded from the community until he repents and he should pay his duties to the law. So even if the Church is sad, the sin of this man does not transform the community in "sinner". Church is holy because the Lord has cleaned it, man is a sinner and individually responsible of his own sins. The protestant believer does not deliver the Grace of God, He proclaims it!!. It is up to God to deliver it in Jesus name and according to his will.
For Catholics, their priest have sin, the church in order to protect priesthood has historically covered their sins. Now they feel guilty, they realize it was a sin; so priesthood is in sin, so Mr Ratzinger concludes the church is sinner. They have wounded their believers, so Church is sinner and wounded….It seems to me he is caught in an illogical logic, and completely forgot that Church is the future wife of Christ and Christ himself is his head. It does not belong to priests, pastors. or who ever. It belongs to Him!!!. I hope he has not forgotten who Christ is and that He himself will come to judge us too.
I am sorry Mr Ratzinger some of your priest may be sinners, and criminals, and they must pay their crimes, but the real Church of Christ is not sinner and many of your grassroots Catholics have been touched and will be touched by the Grace of God. Wake up, call your people to real conversion, call from the exile all these good priests who read their bibles and wanted to change your church and with grassroots catholic that only have Jesus as consolation be for once part of the Real Spiritual Universal and Invisible Church of Christ, which is Holy and Victorious by His Irresistible Grace.