After 26 years in the papal seat, Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005 leaving a vacancy in the Vatican that has been filled, on April 19, by the 78-year-old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who chose to be called, Pope Benedict XVI. Ratzinger is the oldest pope chosen in 275 years and is viewed as a transitional Pope. For the past 24 years “Cardinal Ratzinger has been head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition.” (BBC News article: “Profile: Pope Benedict XVI,” April 19, 2005) For anyone who knows even a little bit about Christian history, this should raise a red flag. The Inquisition has a very bad reputation for arresting, torturing and killing millions of innocent Christians during the Dark Ages. This office still exists, but now with a politically correct name, “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
Commenting on the beginning of the Inquisition, the church historian Philip Schaff says, “The civil codes adopted and pronounced death as the heretic’s ‘merited reward,’… To extirpate religious dissent, the fierce tribunal of the Inquisition was established. The last measure to be resorted to was an organized crusade, waged under the banner of the pope, which shed the blood of the mediaeval dissenters without pity…” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 6, Chapter 10, Section 79)
Commenting on the renamed office of the Inquisition the BBC states,
Cardinal Ratzinger ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This Vatican department, a descendant of the Holy Inquisition, protects Church orthodoxy. The job earned him unflattering nicknames such as “The Pope’s Enforcer” and “God’s Rottweiler”. He has a reputation for stifling dissent,… As a key aide to John Paul II he had a fearsome reputation, but those who know him say he is gentle and somewhat shy. (BBC News article: “A Pope with uncompromising views,” April 20, 2005)
Ratzinger was a right-hand man to Pope John Paul II, having considerable influence upon the pope and the church. Pope John Paul II selected Ratzinger to be “President of the Commission for the Preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and after 6 years of work (1986-92) he presented the New Catechism to the Holy Father.” (Vatican document, “Biographical notes,” online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/elezione/biografia_en.html)
There is some surprise that a key member of the Vatican bureaucracy has been elected pope. Many cardinals would like to see a less centralised Church, and a less powerful pope who guides rather than governs. They may have to wait a little longer. Pope Benedict XVI looks like a man who will not be afraid to exercise his powers. (Ibid.)
On Ratzinger’s election, CBS News reported,
No one was more feared as a chief enforcer of Vatican orthodoxy. “He has the most appalling reputation around the world as someone who has squashed theology, persecuted theologians—the chief of the thought police, the master of the inquisition,” says Catholic journalist and feminist writer Margaret Hebblethwaite. It was Ratzinger’s job as head of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith—the old Office of the Inquisition—that led to him being labeled by some as “God’s Rottweiler.” He attacked dissent, banishing it from the Church’s mainstream, sometimes banishing it from the Church altogether.… During the U.S. presidential election [Ratzinger] said any pro-choice candidates on abortion should be denied communion—and so denied any chance at salvation. As a cardinal he took no prisoners. As pope, his unbending promotion of strict, orthodox doctrine now has the stamp of infallibility. (CBS News article: “Concerns New Pope Is Hardliner,” April 19, 2005)
|Pope Benedict XVI’s Inauguration (AP Photo)|
Christian Wiesner, spokesman for the pro-reform Wir Sind Kirche, or We Are Church movement, said Ratzinger “has hurt many people and far overstepped his boundaries in Germany.” (USA Today article: “New pope was Vatican’s cardinal in charge of doctrinal crackdowns,” April 19, 2005)
Opus Dei backed Ratzinger
With such a reputation, how did Ratzinger get elected to be the next pope? Ratzinger’s election may have had something to do with the controversial and secretive papal organization called Opus Dei.
For the first time, two of the 115 voting cardinals— Julian Herranz of Spain and Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Peru—are members of Opus Dei, giving the group the ability to work inside the conclave. …recently, several Italian newspapers breathlessly reported that the two Opus Dei cardinals were throwing their support behind the candidacy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German-born traditionalist who has served as chief enforcer of church doctrine for two decades. Opus Dei flourished during John Paul’s pontificate. In 1982, he took the unprecedented step of making Opus Dei a personal prelature of the church, answerable not to local bishops in the dioceses where it operated, but to the pope alone.… Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and associate editor of his religious order’s magazine, America, says it is undeniable that Opus Dei has a stake in the election of the new pope. (Los Angeles Times article: “Controversial Opus Dei Has Stake in Papal Vote,” April 19, 2005)
Now that Ratzinger has been elected pope, he said “his ‘primary task’ would be to work to reunify all Christians and that sentiment alone was not enough. ‘Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences are needed,’ he said. The new pope said he wanted to continue “an open and sincere dialogue” with other religions and would do everything in his power to improve the ecumenical cause.” (CBS News article: “Pope Benedict: A New Era Begins,” April 20, 2005)
I do not know what Ratzinger means by “Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences,” but it certainly sounds like he is committed to exercising all his power to fulfil his “primary task” to “reunify all Christians.” This is certainly a big task to accomplish, considering that there are well over 2,000 different Christian denominations and sects today. Just prior to entering the conclave to elect a new pope, Ratzinger warned everyone of the dangers to the faith. The first on his list was sects, so his mission to reunify all Christians must include eliminating sects, bringing them all under one banner with the pope as the head.
After reading about Ratzinger’s strict defense of Catholic doctrine I was somewhat surprised to read his following statement:
Are Believers of Other Religions Saved?
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Responds
VATICAN CITY, SEP 5 (ZENIT.org).- “How is it possible to explain the unique character of Christ and of the Catholic Church to a Jew or a Lutheran,” a reporter asked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, during a press conference to present the “Dominus Iesus” declaration, which is concerned, precisely, with the unique and universal salvation of Christ and the Church.
Referring to a believing Jew, Cardinal Ratzinger clarified that “we are in agreement that a Jew, and this is true for believers of other religions, does not need to know or acknowledge Christ as the Son of God in order to be saved, if there are insurmountable impediments, of which he is not blameworthy, to preclude it. However, the fact that the Son of God entered history, made himself part of history, and is present as a reality in history, affects everyone.” (Zenit news story, “Are Believers of Other Religions Saved?” Sept. 5, 2000)
This reply by Ratzinger stands in stark contrast to the historic Catholic position on those outside the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Eugene IV, 1441 (speaking ex cathedra)
“The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives.” (Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, p. 578; Denzinger 714)
Pope Pius XI, 1928:
“The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this is the house of faith, this is the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation.” (Mortalium Animos (# 11), Jan. 6, 1928, The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), p. 318)
Pope Eugene IV (speaking ex cathedra)
“Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity.—But the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in unity… Therefore let him who wishes to be saved, think thus concerning the Trinity.” (Council of Florence, Sess. 8, November 22, 1439)
As noted earlier, Ratzinger was selected by Pope John Paul II to be the “President of the Commission for the Preparation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” I went to the Vatican website and read portions of the Catechism. Notice what it says under the following heading:
“Outside the Church there is no salvation”
How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? (Cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21:PL 3,1169; De unit.:PL 4,509-536) Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Note: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5)
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Note: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. (LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, formulated under Ratzinger’s supervision as President, paragraphs 846, 847)
The Vatican II council, held from 1962-1965, opened the way for the Catholic Church to have a broader picture of Christianity, admitting that salvation can be found by those who are not members of the Catholic Church, including Jews, and Ratzinger seems to have adopted these views as his own. Notice what Ratzinger’s Catholic Catechism says about the Church:
Who belongs to the Catholic Church?
“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” (LG 15) Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” (UR 3) With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.” (Paul VI, Discourse, December 14, 1975; cf. UR 13-18)
“Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.” (LG 16)
Note: The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, (Cf. NA 4) “the first to hear the Word of God.” (Roman Missal, Good Friday 13:General Intercessions,VI) The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”, (Rom 9:4-5) “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” (Rom 11:29)
And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.
The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (LG 16; cf. NA 3)
The Church’s bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race: (Ibid., paragraphs 838-842)
The wording in the current Catechism is much more tolerant of other Christian and non-Christian religions than the official Catholic position 100 years ago. Are her principles changing or is it a ploy to gain power over other religions and unify them under one head, the pope? There is no doubt that Ratzinger wishes to unify all of Christianity. This is his “primary task,” as proclaimed by himself.
In Ratzinger’s first sermon as Pope Benedict XVI, he spoke of himself, saying that he “is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.” (BBC News document, “Pope’s first sermon in full”)
In the new pope’s acceptance homily he said,
With great affection I also greet all those who have been reborn in the sacrament of Baptism but are not yet in full communion with us; and you, my brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God’s irrevocable promises. Finally, like a wave gathering force, my thoughts go out to all men and women of today, to believers and non-believers alike.…
Both the image of the shepherd and that of the fisherman issue an explicit call to unity. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must lead them too, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10:16); these are the words of Jesus at the end of his discourse on the Good Shepherd.
And the account of the 153 large fish ends with the joyful statement: “although there were so many, the net was not torn” (Jn 21:11). Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no—we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord, as we plead with him: yes, Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity! (CNN article: “Text of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily,” April 24, 2005)
After Ratzinger’s acceptance speech, he made it his first priority to meet with leaders from other denominations. “After calling for unity in his inauguration address, the pope made meeting leaders of other faiths who attended his installation his first public duty Monday.” (CNN article, “Pope ‘prayed not to be elected,’” April 25, 2005)
For the first time “at least since the Reformation,” Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury was to attend such an event, the Church of England’s Web site said. Rowan Williams will also lead “representatives from the Anglican delegation in Rome” in a brief audience with the pope Monday.
Benedict invited Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Segni, but he could not attend because Sunday is the first day of Passover.
Since Tuesday, when he was elected pope, Benedict has made clear he would continue to reach out to leaders of other faiths, building on the inter-faith work of his predecessor. (CNN article: “Benedict XVI installed as pope,” April 24, 2005)
According to Bible prophecy, we will see some dramatic changes in the way Protestant churches cooperate with the Catholic Church and the United States to bring about the Mark of the Beast crisis. (For further information on this subject, please read the article, “National ID and the Mark of Beast,” in the March 2005 issue of Present Truth.) The events that take place in the next few years are going to be very interesting. Beware of the papal push for ecumenical cooperation. You can be sure that this alliance will be based on false doctrines, such as the Trinity and Sunday observance, which is celebrated in honor of the Trinity.
The role of the Papacy in the world
The papal seat is one of the most influential and powerful positions in the world. This position gives the pope authority, not only over the 1.1 billion Catholics but, as a head of state, he has a powerful voice among world leaders in every nation and religion, especially with his amazingly large following in almost every country of the world. For many years Protestants have closely monitored the the events surrounding the papacy, because its influence has far reaching effects, and for its prominent role in Bible prophecy. Historically, Protestants have labeled the Roman Catholic Church as the “little horn” power of Daniel 7, the “first beast” of Revelation 13 and the “great whore” of Revelation 17.
The name Protestant originated because those who were given that name protested the false doctrines and persecutions of the Catholic Church. Today, the Catholic Church has taken a more tolerant appearance, and many Protestants have stopped protesting. Catholic doctrines have not changed much, but their power has been limited since Napoleon’s general, Berthier, invaded the Vatican and took the pope hostage in 1798, who later died in captivity. Many have seen this as the “deadly wound” the “first beast” received in Revelation 13:3. This “deadly wound was healed” (Revelation 13:3) on February 11, 1929 when Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican, granting her 110 acres to be know as Vatican City State. Once again, the Roman Catholic Church had civil power, but it was limited in comparison to what she had exercised during the Dark Ages. Her change of circumstances has forced the Vatican to refrain from openly using force to persecute Christians as she had done for so many years. This gives the Roman Catholic Church a more gentle appearance, even though inwardly she has not changed much.
Let’s notice some principles of the Inquisition, an office that has been run by Ratzinger for the last 24 years.
The following four quotes are cited from The American Textbook of Popery which, in turn, quotes from the Directory for the Inquisitors. (Page numbers listed are for the Directory.)
He is a heretic who does not believe what the Roman Hierarchy teaches… A heretic merits the pains of fire… By the Gospel, the canons, civil law, and custom, heretics must be burned.—page 164
All defense is denied to heretics.—page 153
For the suspicion alone of heresy, purgation is demanded.—page 156
He who is without the church can neither be reconciled nor saved.—page 144
Notice the positions of other Catholic writers regarding the persecution of heretics:
Experience teaches that there is no other remedy for the evil, but to put heretics [Protestants] to death; for the [Romish] church proceeded gradually and tried every remedy: at first she merely excommunicated them; afterwards she added a fine; then she banished them; and finally she was constrained to put them to death. (Cardinal Bellarmine, famous champion of Romanism, cited by Schumucker, page 76)
By the famous bull ad exstirpanda, of 1252, [Pope] Innocent IV. authorized torture as a measure for extorting confessions. The merciless use of this weapon was one of the most atrocious features of the whole procedure. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 6, Chapter 10, Section 86)
Down to the very close of the Middle Ages, the pages of history were disfigured by the decrees of popes and synods, confirming death as the penalty for heresy, and for persons supposed to be possessed with witchcraft. The great council of Constance, 1415, did not get away from this atmosphere, and ordered heretics punished even by the flames, —puniantur ad ignem. And the bull of Leo X., 1520, condemning Luther, cursed as heresy the Reformer’s liberal statement that the burning of heretics is contrary to the will of the Spirit. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 6, Chapter 10, Section 86)
The stated position of the Catholic Church, as decreed by her popes, is that anyone who does not believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches is a heretic and should be put to death. Whenever the Roman Catholic Church has had the power to carry out this policy, she has done so unmercifully.
Commenting on the prophecy that the little horn should “wear out the saints of the Most High,” Barnes says:
Can any one doubt that this is true of the papacy? The Inquisition, the persecutions of the Waldenses, the ravages of the Duke of Alva, the fires of Smithfield, the tortures of Goa,—indeed, the whole history of the papacy, may be appealed to in proof that this is applicable to that power. If anything could have worn out the saints of the Most High,— could have cut them off from the earth so that evangelical religion would have become extinct,—it would have been the persecutions of the papal power. In year 1208 a crusade was proclaimed by Pope Innocent III against the Waldenses and Albigenses, in which a million men perished. From the beginning of the order of Jesuits in the year 1540 to 1580, nine hundred thousand were destroyed. One hundred and fifty thousand perished by the Inquisition in thirty years. In the Low Countries fifty thousand persons were hanged, beheaded, burned, or buried alive, for the crime of heresy, within the space of thirty-eight years from the edict of Charles V against the Protestants to the peace of Chateau Cambresis in 1559. Eighteen thousand suffered by the hand of the executioner in the space of five years and a half, during the administration of the Duke of Alva. Indeed, the slightest acquaintance with the history of the papacy will convince any one that what is here said of making “war with the saints” (verse 21), and “wearing out the saints of the Most High” (verse 25), is strictly applicable to that power, and will accurately describe its history. (Albert Barnes, Notes on Daniel, page 328, comment on Daniel 7:25)
The Roman Catholic Church has not changed her attitude in regard to heretics. All that has changed is that she no longer has the civil power to enforce her policies. If she is given the power again, you can be sure she will exercise that power to its fullest extent.
The Roman church has never repented of her complicity with these unchristian acts. On the contrary, she still holds the principle of persecution in connection with her doctrine that there is no salvation outside of her bosom. The papal Syllabus of 1864 expressly condemns, among the errors of modern times, the doctrine of religious toleration. Leo XIII., a great admirer of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Encyclical of Nov. 1, 1885, “concerning the Christian constitution of states,” wisely moderates, but reaffirms, in substance, the political principles of his predecessor. A revocation would be fatal to the Vatican dogma of papal infallibility. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 8, Chapter 1, Section 11)
So far as we know, the Roman Catholic Church has never officially revoked the theory and practice of the mediaeval popes and councils, but on the contrary the utterances of Pius IX. [pope from 1846-1878] and Leo XIII. [pope from 1878-1903] show the same spirit of vicious reprobation for Protestants and their agencies. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 6, Chapter 10, Section 86)
The Bible predicts that the Roman Catholic Church again will persecute God’s people, with the United States taking the lead in using the power of the state to “cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” (Revelation 13:15)
Keep your eyes open, and hold fast to the truth!