Apostolic Succession and the Catholic Church

From today’s Arizona Republic

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday asserted the spiritual primacy of the Roman Catholic Church.

He did so at the expense of Christian Orthodox churches, which he said are wounded, and Protestant churches, which he said are not really churches at all.

The pope approved a document that says the only path to true salvation is Catholicism. The move was a stark reaffirmation of centuries-old Catholic belief that Protestant churches are lacking because they cannot trace their leadership back to Christ’s apostles.

The document says Christian Orthodox churches are true churches but have a “wound” because they do not recognize the power of the pope.

The Episcopal bishop of Arizona, the Rt. Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith, was surprised by the pope’s position.

“It’s disappointing to see such a hard line,” Smith said. “I don’t know what would cause him to say this at this time.”

Smith also pointed out that Catholics and Episcopalians in the community work together frequently. “It’s not consistent with what’s happening in the grass-roots.”

Some Catholic Church observers think the pope is trying to revisit the historic events of Vatican II from 1962 to1965.

Apostolic Succession can be something of a stumbling block for ecumenical relations between Episcopalians and other non-Catholic denominations. But how much of a stumbling is it as long as our objective is good relations and not reunification? Is reunification desirable?

UPDATE: Tobias has a helpful catechism on the statement from Rome. Sounds to me like the RCC is rounding up Lone Rangers and not about a change and chill towards other denominations. Thanks to Ann Fontaine for the pointer.

UPDATE: Our church’s chief ecumenical responds, “This doesn’t change anything for us, and is certainly nothing new for the Roman Catholic Church … And we look forward to what should be a very interesting Anglican – Roman Catholic (ARC-USA) dialogue in Washington, DC next October!”

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