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As noted below, I am not a Catholic and I have particularly protesting reasons for not being such.

However, even if I don’t see the Bishop of Rome as my controlling authority, this doesn’t mean I do not respect the man. I think this is the ancient way of understanding the role of Bishops. They are not arbiters of the Spirit as they began to suggest in later centuries, but rather their authority and influence should come from their study and holiness.

For far too many centuries the hiearchy dismissed both of these qualifications, and in my estimation the Holy Spirit dismissed the monolithic authority of apostolic succession. There is no succession if it is not in fact apostolic.

Today, though, the new Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI released his first encyclical. This is an official teaching given extra potency because of the author. I give it extra respect not because of the position of the author, but because of the man who is now bishop. He is more learned than I, and most likely also more holy and devout. So, I listen with respect. And I also respect the subject of this new teaching. It’s about love.

I appreciate this because in my head this ties Benedict XVI to the early church more solidly than any supposed linear connection. One of the biggest revelations for me, someone who grew up in the Evangelical Church, when I read the early church fathers was their great and total emphasis on love. Love was everywhere. It astounded me because this was no longer part of the conversation I knew as a Christian in this century. Or, at least, it wasn’t so entirely thoroughly ingrained in the Faith. We talk about love, but it’s an add on to our other emphases. Sort of like the Holy Spirit… hmmmm….

I’ve not read through this piece by Benedict yet, but I shall today, and I’ll likely have a bit of thoughts later.

I may not be a Catholic, but Benedict is a Christian, and a wise one at that, so it would do me good to pay attention to this man who is not my father, but is my brother.

Oh!: by the by, a person really has to like the Vatican’s choice of background on their webpage.

Another Oh!: Now that I’m reading through this myself, I can’t help think of the Da Vinci Code, which essentially is a celebration of fertility cults, if my memory serves right. Benedict XVI may have higher motives, but it seems he’s putting into context the Church’s teaching contra to Dan Brown’s version of such. I guess people might still argue that Brown knows more, but such people would really be silly.

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