Pope Benedict is reclaiming the notion that the Catholic Church is the one “true” church. The argument seems to turn upon the ability of the Catholic Church to claim apostolic succession for their ordained clergy. Interesting assertion given the trend toward ecumenism. Not sure why in this post-modern culture that sees community as a powerful tool for transformation that the Catholic Church wants to risk pushing all other faith communities away? I know we are to be counter-cultural, but this theological stance seems to potentially do more harm than good. My prayer is that we focus and unite on the major truths of our faith and not be distracted over other things. (Of course, the trick is for us to agree what is “major” and what is merely a distraction!)
Here is a stab at defining Apostolic succession: the ability of a religious group to trace their “ordinands” through to the Apostles. It is like a family tree for clergy (eg. Paul ordained Timothy who ordained X who ordained Y who ordained Z). If you can’t trace your clergy roots back to Christ, you do not stand in apostolic succession and therefore the Catholic Church asserts you are not endowed with the ability to bring salvation since you are not part of the “one true church”.