I sit here amazed and dumbfounded. I now understand that Homer was right after all, at least according to Pope Benedict. In a recently released statement, the Pope reaffirmed and reminded the world that the Catholic Church is the universal primacy that its always claimed to be but Benedict event went so far as to say that if you're not in the Roman Catholic Church, then you are either defective (as are the Orthodox Churches) or not a true church at all (everyone else) and are not a means to salvation.
Of course, most Protestant churches would agree that their church isn't a means to salvation, only Jesus is. And one might be tempted to 'read into the Pope's statement' that he means the church and Jesus are somehow intertwined in such a way that he really means what Protestant churches say. But he doesn't. The Roman Catholic Church is THE ONLY church Jesus authorized and by means of apostolic succession, the RCC continues to lay claim as the only heir to Jesus' continued physical and spirtiual manifestation on earth.
When one talks about ecumenism and "we're all in this together", one doesn't think of Homer Simpson and two versions of heaven: the boring Protestant heaven and the partying Catholic one. It seems the Pope's version of heaven is closer Homer than many Protestants who think we'll all be mixed there together, in one form or another.
There is a new book by Mark Pinsky aptly titled, The Gospel According to the Simpsons, explores the spirituality and gospel message of Homer Simpson. In this book, Pinsky explains,
[Homer's] capacity for love dwarfs his failings. Even God sees this. Homer can't stand his fundamentalist Christian neighbor (sic.), Flanders, and is bored to death by the sermons of the weary Reverend Lovejoy. He also has little time for the Bible – “If the Bible has taught us nothing else,” he tells Lisa, "and it hasn't, it's that girls should stick to girls' sports." But when God drops in for a chat, he discovers in Homer a surprisingly convincing theology. Basically, this is that life is tough and humans are hopeless but, without making a fuss about it, God is always there as the last safety net. And, when He's not around, there's love.
"It is Homer," writes Mark Pinsky in his book The Gospel According to The Simpsons, "who has the most personal relationship with God." A special hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for this quote.
I just hope when the endgame is tallied, that Homer isn't right about the heavens. Check out this video and you'll see what I mean.
I find it dishonorable that a person of faith can be so callous and self-righteous to assume that his understanding of God is so complete that he would make such a statement proclaiming the RCC as the only true church AND that everyone else either has it wrong or has somehow screwed up their church to warrant their exclusion from God's realm. You know, if we're going to do an historical analysis of how "the church" has screwed up in its history, one doesn't have to look far to the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the selling of Indulgences that the RCC made happen. Heck, we can stay in the past century and look at priestly abuses to children and their families.
Instead of making amends for its horrid past, the Pope ought to instead ask humbly if they can join the rest of the world's Christians in coming to God, rather than protecting its Bishops, covering up its sins, and proclaiming to the world, "You're wrong, your church is wrong but thankfully you have us, the RCC to lead you in the path of righteousness."
No wonder there are so many atheists, agnostics, and the like. If the RCC is the only choice for Christianity (and for many folks in the world they are), I too might choose to not believe in anything rather that align myself with Pope Benedict.
To be fair, I know some great American Catholic priests who have a heart for Jesus and a love for everyone else. My disdain is directly aimed at this pompass-assed Pope. Hopefully one day the RCC will find its own redemption when it finally chooses a Pope with the humility and kindness that Jesus had hoped would sustain his church, after he was gone.