That's the view of Pope Benedict XVI who, for the second time in as many days, has laid down a traditional marker on the issues of faith.
In a document entitled "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church", it restates fundamental Catholic Church teaching to the effect that it is the one, true church, even if elements of truth can be found in other churches and communities.
The document said the "one Church of Christ . . . subsists in the Catholic Church". It also said Protestant churches were not churches "in the proper sense", but were "ecclesial communities".
The document follows the Pope's Motu Proprio at the weekend which relaxed restrictions on the use of the Tridentine Mass.
Issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not only does it carry the Pope's formal "approval", it reaffirms points originally outlined in the document Dominus Iesus, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000 when it was headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.
The documents says Orthodox churches are defective and that other Christian denominations are not true churches.
“Christ ‘established here on earth’ only one church,” the document said. The other communities “cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense” because they do not have apostolic succession which is the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.
In relation to Protestants it says the following
"According to Catholic doctrine, these communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of the Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense."
The document said Orthodox churches were indeed “churches” because they have apostolic succession and that they enjoyed “many elements of sanctification and of truth.” But it said they lack something because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope — a defect, or a “wound” that harmed them, it said.
“This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of primacy which, according to the Catholic faith, is an ‘internal constitutive principle’ of the very existence of a particular church,” the commentary said.
This document will do very little for ecumenical dialogue but I am glad to see the Pontiff put issues of theology over political correctness.
Protestants have been upset by this publication and none more so than the head of the Free P sect Ian Paisley.
He said "This excommunication of all Christendom, by the Pope, spells out the strongest possible message that the Pope of Rome has not changed"
"All outside the pale of Rome are told dogmatically by him that they do not belong to the true church of Jesus Christ."
I follow the line from Pope John Paul II that all religions have a path to god, I don't believe that Catholics get to heaven any quicker than Protestants.
That being said I have to agree with the Pontiff, as a Catholic I believe that I am a member of the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church". I make no apologies for that, I am proud of that.
The Pope has reasserted the universal primacy of the Catholic Church and I believe that he is right to do so.