Frank Beckwith recently wrote:

One of my pet peeves is the intentional overuse of “Rome,” “Roman,” “Romanist,” etc. by Protestant critics of Catholic theology. Here’s why: the Catholic Church is a collection of many churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome. It’s catechism–The Catechism of the Catholic Church–is that of all these churches that are in communion with one another and with the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. The theology found in that text, therefore, is not Roman Catholic theology. It is Catholic theology. That’s the way the Church understands itself. Common courtesy suggests that those who are critical of that theology summon the respect to refer to it as such.

Please note what was said: all these churches “in communion with” whom? “The Bishop of Rome.” Not the bishop of Constantinople, Naples, London, or Milwaukee. Rome. A local church that did not even have a monarchical episcopate until the middle of the second century. A single local church that has been, through a long process of political development elevated to the point of claiming infallibility for her teachings. A church that claims for herself any number of grossly unbiblical titles, privileges and powers. It is the Roman Church that makes these claims.

What happens when you drop the delimiter “Roman”? You are left with exactly what Rome claims for herself: universal sovereignty. The “catholic” church is not centered in Rome. Its theology and beliefs are not defined by Rome. And in fact, she can never defect from the gospel truth, no matter how hard Rome may press her to do so (and she has surely done so in the past). This is the very goal Rome has, the acknowledgement of her as universal sovereign, the Mother of all Churches, the Catholic Church. But the fact is, Rome is none of these things, and she is surely not truly “catholic.”

So may I suggest that “common courtesy” would restrain the Roman Pontiffs from making the wild, extravagant claims they have made for themselves and their man-made office? May I suggest it is the follower of Rome who should summon the respect to refrain from arrogantly claiming sovereignty for his church over those who refuse to bow the knee to the Roman see?

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