A midsummer Associated Press report from Italy stated: "For the second time in a week, Pope Benedict XVI has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, reasserting the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church and saying other Christian communities were either defective or not true churches" (July 10, 2007).
Also, according to the International Herald Tribune, "The Vatican document repeated many of the contentious claims of a document issued in 2000 by the Vatican office on orthodoxy, which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed for more than two decades before being elected Pope in 2005" (July 12, 2007).
From the papal point of view, the bottom line as to what constitutes a church is the capacity to trace one's line of bishops all the way back to the original apostles. The AP report quoted the recent Vatican document's assertion that "the other communities [religious denominations] ‘cannot be called churches in the proper sense' because they do not have apostolic succession . . . and therefore their priestly ordinations are not valid."
Naturally leaders in the Protestant world objected to these assertions from the papacy. "It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the Reformed family and other families of the church," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which represents 75 million believers in 214 churches in 107 countries.
They rightly see it as a putdown and as endangering the ecumenical efforts for Christian unity between Catholics and Protestants during the past century. They generally claim that the Bible itself rather than church tradition is the key determining factor when evaluating ecclesiastical validity.
Sadly, mainstream Christianity in general—including Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy—has drifted far away from the doctrines the early Church believed and practiced as revealed in Scripture. To understand the real truth of this matter, request or download our free booklet The Church Jesus Built. (Sources: Associated Press, International Herald Tribune.)