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A Shocking Defense of the Pope (Don’t Call Him “Intolerant”)

by Stephen Hebert on Monday - 16 July 2007

in Ministry, This and That

Read the MSNBC Article

DISCLAIMER: I have not read the document in question, yet. I hope to get my hands on a copy at some point and give it a thorough perusal.

What I Like About the Pope

So, in a nutshell, here’s the story. Pope Benedict XVI has approved a document, which was produced several years ago, that states that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church. The problem with orthodox churches: they don’t acknowledge the Pope. The problem with Protestant churches: they cannot claim apostolic succession (they can’t claim to have been instituted by an apostle in the same way that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church can).

Look, these are in-the-box times. By “in-the-box” I mean that so often leaders (political or otherwise) find themselves thrust into a central position (“in-the-box”) in hopes of appealing to both sides. Pope Benedict is the Pope. He knows he’s the Pope. Consequently, he sticks to his guns. I can admire that in a certain way.

A Word on ‘Religious Tolerance’

In academic circles, this particular announcement is not very popular. Academics would stress the need for religious tolerance (e.g., see April DeConick’s post). Now, I’m not going to go Nietzsche on you and say that tolerance is for the weak, but…tolerance is for the weak. Isn’t it?

As a religious person (and I assume the Pope is), there is one central problem with religious tolerance (as it is being used in this debate): it assumes that your belief may not be true.

OK, I’m going to be bombarded on all sides for that one. But, let’s be honest. While I would never claim that my flavor of Christianity is the one true Christianity, I do often claim that it is the Truth (capital ‘T’). Well, if it’s the Truth, then am I not saying that anything that runs counter to it is un-Truth?

At the same time, I would say that I practice religious tolerance. First, and foremost, I do not persecute you for believing what you believe. Second, I do not attempt to force my view on you. Third, I do not believe that you are a bad person for your belief; I do not judge you in it. I might, however, think you’re wrong.

Religious tolerance isn’t about who is right or wrong. It can’t be. We’d be intellectually dishonest if it was. Rather, religious tolerance is about believing that people have a right to believe what they want and we shouldn’t force our views on them.

Looking at this article about Pope Benedict XVI, I can’t criticize him for being “intolerant.” I could probably criticize him for some other stuff though…

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