If You Are Unhappy With Francis’ Latest Decision

Traditionalist Romanists are unhappy that Francis, the Bishop of  Rome, has reversed yet another of Benedict XVI’s decisions. He has strictly limited the use and spread of the old Latin (Tridentine) Mass.

The use of the Tridentine mass (i.e., the mass as it was handed down at the Council of Trent) has apparently spread rather rapidly among traditionalist Romanists. Francis is even requiring those who wish to use the Tridentine mass to affirm Vatican II as a precondition. What is amusing to confessional Protestants is that we seem to understand the authority of the papacy in Rome better than the traditionalist Romanists do. The pope has had this sort of authority since Unam Sanctam (AD 1302), in which the pope was declared to be the supreme head of the church. What does Unam Sanctam say to disgruntled Romanists: “Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2], unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth [Gen 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

The confessional Reformed and Lutheran Churches have a message for disgruntled Romanists: We understand. If it all seems arbitrary, even nominalist, we understand. There is a head of the church who does not change his mind with each papacy, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). His name is Jesus. He is the Chief Shepherd of the sheep (1 Pet 5:4). He is the Supreme Pontiff (“appellatus a Deo pontifex iuxta ordinem Melchisedech;” Heb 5:10; Vg). It was he, not Benedict XVI or Francis, who was obedient, crucified, dead, buried, raised, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. It is Jesus who is coming again to judge the world. He is the righteous one and when you put your trust completely in him you are covered by his condign merit. You need not worry about accumulating condign merit by cooperation with grace nor even about congruent merit. When you are covered by Jesus’ condign merit you are completely righteous now and you are free to obey him with a free conscience.

Bishops come and go but Christ is the Alpha and the Omega (Apoc 1:8). He has instituted one holy catholic church but it has little to do with fickle Roman bishops and contradictory councils.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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