Pope Benedict is busy building bridges. After causing a furor with his remarks about Islam and the Koran he is wooing the Muslims-and will find that they are not so gullible or easily wooed as some Protestants have been. It's those gullible Protestants the Pope is now targeting. The latest news is that he wants to build a bridge across the chasm that separates Lutherans from Rome. And how better to do it than to bring Martin Luther in from the cold to the warm embrace of mother church? Listen to this report from the Times of London:
Pope Benedict XVI is to rehabilitate Martin Luther, arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices. Pope Benedict will issue his findings on Luther (1483-1546) in September after discussing him at his annual seminar of 40 fellow theologians - known as the Ratzinger Schülerkreis - at Castelgandolfo, the papal summer residence. According to Vatican insiders the Pope will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic.
I must say, this is going to be interesting. According to Rome, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the Holy Father and the head of the entire Christian Church. According to Luther, the Pope was Antichrist! Now my question is, according to Rome, is it heresy to pronounce the Pope to be Antichrist? I must assume that Rome would have to look on that as a heretical statement and the man who made it a heretic. But according to Pope Benedict, Luther, who delighted to condemn the Pope and who mocked him mercilessly, will no longer be looked on as a heretic! I must say that that sounds most magnanimous. It took only the best part of 600 years to do this. While Luther lived the Vatican tried to get its hands on him and would have cheerfully strung him up or made a bonfire out of him. Now, in an effort to win back Luther's professed followers, the Pope is building a bridge.
One thing to watch is whether the Pope will change one iota of the decrees of the Council of Trent, especially on the subject of justification. Trent cast Roman Catholic dogma on this and other subjects in stone. It leaves no wiggle room. According to Trent-the decrees and dogmas of the Council of Trent, Luther was a heretic. Now according to one modern Pope, he was not.Why is the Pope doing this? The answer is simple. It will do Martin Luther no good-he doesn't need it. But it may make Lutherans and other Protestants look more favorably on Roman overtures. But remember that with all the Pope's nice words, he will not alter one bit of the dogma that led Luther to denounce him in the first place. In other words, Benedict is engaged in a big PR exercise, a confidence trick to bring Lutherans back to the papal fold. It reminds me of the old nursery rhyme: Come into my parlor, said, the spider to the fly; it's the nicest little parlor that you ever did espy. Sure it is! As Lutherans and other who fall for the Pope's blandishments will discover, the papal parlor is a fatal to their interests as the spider's is to the fly. To change the metaphor, while Lutherans may think the Pope is building a bride, he knows he is building a one way street back to the papal fold.