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Vatican Doublespeak

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 20, October-December 2000.

T HE Church of Rome is nothing if not ecclesiastically and politically adroit. Briefly in September the ecumenical mask slipped. Cardinal Ratzinger stated in a Declaration Dominus Iesus that Protestant denominations were "defective" and to be regarded as "ecclesial communities" rather than "churches". The way of salvation was "only in the unique and universal Catholic Apostolic Church" - i.e., Rome.

Now, however, the customary mask has been restored to its place. According to newspaper reports the Pope has declared that "all of the just on Earth, including those who ignore Christ and his Church" are "called upon to build the kingdom of God." This is a generous statement indeed! It seems that after all heaven is open to anyone who is 'good'. But which is the true face of Rome? and, more importantly, what saith the Scripture to these things?

Events such as these are a reminder that, in assessing any claim, especially those made in the religious realm, we must not simply accept whatever is offered for public consumption, however slick the presentation, but we must go below the surface to authorative statements - to councils, creeds, confessions and constitutions. There Rome pronounces anathemas against those who deny the authority of the papacy, the validity of her traditions, and crucially, affirm the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone. These curses remain, unrepealed. Publicly Rome will flatter you. Officially she damns you.

When we suspect a counterfeit object we are wise if we hold it up to the light for close inspection. The spiritual equivalent is to examine any dubious teaching in the light of the Word of God. There we learn that "he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16) for the righteous Lord will take vengeance on "them that know not God" (2 Thess. 1:8). The truth is that apart from grace we must be lost, for "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:12).

Salvation is not ordinarily to be had outside of the church, for it is to the church that the Lord adds "such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). But which church? Surely that which continues stedfastly in "the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (v.42). This Rome does not, horribly perverting the true gospel, discipline, sacraments and worship. Do not be taken in by her doublespeak.