According to the news, the Vatican has had to rope off part of St Peter’s Basilica after chunks of plaster fell down Holy Thursday -- near Michelangelo’s famed Pieta statue to the right of the main entrance -- during the height of the Easter holiday season. It was like the lightening that struck St. Peter's when Benedict XVI resigned. It was an external sign of internal issues. What issues? Well, for one the Pope had some brandy or coffee with an old journalist friend and apparently dropped the bomb that he is not sure there is a hell and thinks most likely there is not. All of this in the shadow of Good Friday. Hmmmmm. The plaster is the least of the Vatican's problems. The sky is falling due to a Pope who either deliberately is confusing or who is downright denying a basic tenet of the faith. Again.
My point is that this is the story that the news will always remember no matter what the Pope might have been trying to say. It is the news the world hears in the somber moments of Good Friday when the Church recalls the sacrificial death of the Son of God for sinners. It is the muddying of waters that should be as clear as we can make them, when questions are asked and we give answer to the hope that is in us. This is not bad news for Rome but for all Christians. If there is no hell, we don't really need a Savior all that much. If we don't need a Savior all that much, then the whole of the Christian message is but a curiosity at best. The devil is indeed in the chaos. Nothing works more against the proclamation of the Gospel that a voice from within Christendom who suggests it is a nice thing but not all the needed. Confusion has become the hallmark of this papacy and this at a time when clarity is most needed.
Lutherans could see some benefit of a unified voice from within Christendom. We have always admitted that. But this is not the voice and this is not the message. It only makes those suspicious of the papacy only more certain that whatever good such an office might do is more than made up by the mischief that has been done by those who held that office. Pope Frank only makes us even more certain why a pope is a problem and this pope is a catastrophe for us all. No Christian and no Christian church can afford to be indifferent to what’s happening in the Roman church right now.