Ecclesiac Community?

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

When I mentioned to some people that I was going to try to write something about Pope Benedict’s comments about the church, a few winced.

One said, “Good luck. You’ll need it.”

Others correctly said to be prepared to get hammered from both sides — those who like the pope and Catholics, and those who don’t.

Finally, the obvious question is, “Who is Pluto to have to say anything about the pope?”

Good question.

I’m just a sportswriter who has been writing about faith since 2001. And I’m not seminary-trained, just schooled from eight years of weekly jail ministry. So my opinion is just that — my opinion.

My opinion begins with, “The pope IS Roman Catholic.”

So it should not be a shock that the pope considers his church to be the one true church.

He is the head of the Catholic Church.

In the document called Dominus Iesus released Tuesday, the pope basically said the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church.

He called the Orthodox churches “wounded,” partly because they don’t consider the pope to be the final authority.

As for other Christian churches, he wrote, “Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress… it nevertheless is difficult to see how the title `church’ could be (used).”

While adding that “elements of truth” are found in other churches, he referred to them as “ecclesiac communities.”

It was reported that the pope seemed to be saying only Catholics could have salvation and go to heaven. Not true, as he wrote, “The spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them (other churches) as instruments of salvation — whose value derives from the fullness of grace and truth that comes from the Catholic Church.”

Once again, the Pope IS a Roman Catholic.

He is speaking to Catholics, and he’s reaffirming his belief that the Catholic Church is at the center of Christianity. He wrote, “they (Protestants) do not accept the theological notion of the church in the Catholic sense.”

In other words, he’s saying that other churches that aren’t Catholic are just that — not Catholic.

This does not come as a shocking news bulletin.

Time for a story.

I recently vacationed in northern Michigan near a town of 1,800. In the two-stoplight hamlet, there are nine churches — five of them Lutheran.

I’ve been to some Southern town about that size, and the breakdown was the same, only it was five Baptist churches out of the total of nine.

Battles over doctrine didn’t just show up with the advent of the iPod.

Churches split, denominations splinter, people disagree.

What some people believe is church, others may consider “ecclesiac communities,” or something along those lines.

In some church settings, a sideways look can lead to a fracture causing six families to storm out the door and join another church — or they may start their own.

Right now, you can be certain that some Catholics don’t agree with everything the pope just said. They will continue to be good Catholics, and they’ll also get along great with their friends in other churches.

Most Protestants who heard what the pope said really won’t care when it comes to interacting with their Catholic friends. They know there’s far more in common than what keeps us apart.

That’s why I love faith in action such as food kitchens, helping the handicapped, jail ministry, rest home ministry, etc. There are no great theological debates because the problems in front of the volunteers are so pressing, there isn’t time for them.

I’ve seen Catholics and Protestants and some major skeptics join hands for prayer, then get down to doing God’s work — helping those who are hurting.

That is the church in action, no matter what you may want to call it.

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at


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