October 2000 Church & State

Religious Rhetoric Sparks Debate In Campaign 2000

Debate over the use of religious rhetoric in politics has erupted again in campaign 2000.

In late August, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman sparked controversy when he called for a greater role for religion in American public life. Speaking before a United Church of Christ congregation in Detroit Aug. 26, Lieberman remarked, "As a people, we need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and to God's purposes." He also asserted that the Constitution "guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

A few days later at a prayer breakfast, Lieberman returned to religious themes, telling an audience in Chicago, "This is the most religious country in the world and sometimes we try to...hide it....[W]e are also children of the same awesome God."

Lieberman even found a way to tie his religious beliefs to the Democrats' public policy initiatives, asking attendees at the prayer breakfast, "Isn't Medicare coverage of prescription drugs really about the values of the Fifth Commandment honor your father and mother?"

On Aug. 28, the Anti-Defamation League, one of the largest Jewish organizations in the country, called on Lieberman, the first Jew to seek the vice presidency on a major ticket, to back off. In a letter to the Connecticut senator, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman asserted that while candidates should feel comfortable talking about their faith in public, at some point "an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours."

Two days later Americans United expressed concern as well. In a letter to Lieberman, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn wrote, "This style of campaigning is unhealthy to our democratic process. Americans do not need political leaders insisting that we 'reaffirm our faith,' and your insistence that they do so was terribly inappropriate."

Continued Lynn, "The very purpose of a political campaign is to offer voters the opportunity to consider candidates' stands on the important issues of the day. Ours is a democracy, not a theocracy. We are electing secular political leaders to run a government, not religious leaders to manage a house of worship."

Lynn concluded by asking Lieber­man to "take the lead on refocusing this campaign onto the issues and controversies that shape our political landscape. Ask voters to consider your candidacy and that of your running mate because of your record, not your faith."

Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, however, told reporters he would not advise Lieberman to stop talking about religion. In an interview with a television station in St. Louis, Gore insisted that both he and Lieberman support the separation of church and state, but added, "I believe in what he's saying. He's a man of great faith, and I knew that when I selected him."

Religion has been an ongoing point of interest in the presidential campaign. During the GOP primary, Republican hopeful George W. Bush declared Christ to be the political philosopher he most identified with. The Texas governor also stirred controversy this year by declaring June 10 "Jesus Day."

Bush's Democratic rival Gore has delved into religious rhetoric, observing that he often asks himself "What would Jesus do?" when considering issues. A top Gore aide told the press that "the Democratic Party is going to take God back this time."

The issue has provoked varied reactions from pundits and political commentators.

For example, Gannett News Service columnist DeWayne Wickham observed, "[R]egard for the separation of church and state is becoming less the rule than the exception.

"The great danger in this trend," he continued, "is not that politicians will become more godly, but rather that religion will become the driving force behind this nation's secular affairs. Such a turn of events would transform our democracy into a Christian state and threaten the rights and freedoms of citizens who hew to other forms of religions....

"Politicians who wear their religion on their sleeves tilt this nation away from democracy and increase the chance that our nation will one day become a theocratic state," Wickham concluded. "That would be a God-awful mistake."

Americans Reject Church-Based Politics, National Poll Indicates

Most Americans want to see less politicking emanating from the nation's pulpits, a national survey indicates.

The poll, conducted by Princeton University last spring on behalf of the Pew Charitable Trust, interviewed 5,000 adults on their attitudes toward religion, politics and public life. When asked, "Do you think it is ever right for clergy to discuss political issues from the pulpit?," 57 percent of respondents said no. Only 37 percent said yes, and 6 percent said they don't know.

Other highlights from the poll include the following points:

Asked if they would like to see more or less of religious leaders running for public office, 51 percent said less, and 39 percent said more.

Asked if they would like to see more or less of religious leaders forming political movements, 59 percent said less, and 31 percent said more.

Only 37 percent of respondents said they wanted to see "Christian fundamentalists" or "evangelical Chris­tians" exercising "more influence" in shaping public opinion.

Asked if they would like to see more or less of religious leaders appearing on television, 52 percent said less, while 39 percent said more.

Don't expect Americans' dislike for church-based politicking to slow down the Religious Right, however. Last June TV preacher D. James Kennedy launched an attack on the federal tax law that bars non-profit groups from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

In a letter to supporters, Kennedy asserted that provisions in the Internal Revenue Code must be removed so "America's pastors and Church leaders [will] be free to speak out about moral and political issues."

In fact, pastors and church leaders can address political and moral issues now, and many do so regularly. Tax law bars non-profit groups only from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

With his appeal for funds, Kennedy included petitions to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), asking them to overturn IRS prohibitions on church-based partisan politicking. No action is expected in Congress, but Americans United will be watching closely in case Religious Right allies in the House and Senate move to support Kennedy's crusade.

Coalition Voter Guides Are Propaganda, Says Florida GOP Candidate

A Republican officeholder seeking reelection in Seminole County, Fla., says his views were misrepresented and distorted by the Christian Coalition.

Seminole County Commissioner Daryl McLain told the Orlando Sentinel he had good reason to be suspicious of the group's motives: One of his opponents in the Sept. 5 GOP primary was Bob West, former Florida field director for the Coalition.

McLain said he sent detailed, written responses to the Coalition's survey, which asked for his views on 49 issues. Despite the level of detail, McLain was surprised to see all of his views listed as "unclear" on the Coalition's voter guide.

"It's pure misinformation, it's propaganda," McLain said. "I think, in my opinion, if you read the answers, they are clear, crystal clear. [West's] tactics are those of misinformation and mud-slinging."

The candidate survey asked office-seekers to give their views on issues ranging from abortion and gun control to zoning. McLain said on the issue of so-called "partial birth" abortions, he wrote, "I believe partial-birth abortions should be banned." The guide, however, listed his stand on this issue as "unclear."

West said McLain had failed to follow the Coalition's directions, which require candidates to mark "support," "oppose" or "undecided" for the issues listed. He said the Coalition has listed McLain's comments on the website but did not summarize his views on the voter guide because he did not feel comfortable interpreting what McLain wrote.

"He got the same instructions everyone else got," West said. "He just chose not to follow them. I'm sorry about it if he feels that way, but I really feel I went the extra mile to try to accommodate him."

West resigned his position with the Coalition after he decided to run for McLain's seat, although he helped prepare the voter guide in its early stages. On primary election day, West captured 39.2 percent of the GOP vote to McLain's 36.8 percent. A third candidate took 23.9 percent. With no candidate capturing a clear majority, West and McLain will advance to a runoff on Oct. 3.

McLain, a former member of the Christian Coalition, told the Sentinel he was forced out of the group in 1996 for asking "too many questions," including queries about the organization's partisan nature and whether its activities might violate tax law.

Concluded McClain, "I will say I am very disappointed that the director of the Christian Coalition would try to misrepresent my position to the Christian community, which I'm a member of."

Ohio Motto Endorses Christianity, Says AU In Legal Brief

Ohio's use of the New Testament phrase, "With God All Things Are Possible," endorses Christianity and thus violates the separation of church and state, Americans United has advised the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, Ameri­cans United attorneys argue that the phrase has clear religious connotations, is not non-sectarian and that its use by the state furthers no secular purpose.

"The words of the Ohio state motto, properly understood, are undeniably Christian and theistic in nature," asserts the brief. "The motto...is a direct quotation from the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian New Testament and is attributed to Jesus. As the [lower court] panel noted, 'Ohio's is the only state motto which quotes directly from either the Old Testament or the New Testament of the Christian Bible.'"

Last April a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court ruled 2-1 that Ohio's use of the motto violates the separation of church and state. That ruling is now being examined by the entire 15-judge panel of the court, sitting en banc.

In the original decision, Judge Avern Cohn, writing for the court, observed, "In the context in which the words of the motto are found as the words of Jesus speaking of salvation to a reasonable observer, they must be seen as advancing, or at a minimum, showing a 'particular affinity' for Christianity. Simply put, they are an endorsement of the Christian religion by the State of Ohio. No other interpretation in the context of their presence in the New Testament is possible."

The motto, first adopted by Ohio in 1959, was inspired by a New Testament quote from Matthew 19:26, which reads, "But Jesus beheld them and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God, all things are possible."

Following the ruling, some religious groups argued that the motto merely endorses God in a generic sense. In its court filing, Americans United rejected that interpretation.

"In the passage from which the motto is derived, Jesus teaches his disciples about salvation," notes the AU brief. "Jesus explains that 'it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.' In response, the disciples ask Jesus, 'Then who can be saved?' 'With men this is impossible,' Jesus responds, 'but with God all things are possible.' As understood by Christians, this passage is not simply a generalized description of the omnipotence of a generic god. Instead, it is an explanation, by Jesus himself (regarded by Christians as their savior), of the uniquely Christian notion of salvation. It cannot be gainsaid that the notion of spiritual salvation is the central, defining characteristic of Christianity, a tenet that sets it apart from the world's other religious traditions. The words of the motto are thus particular to Christianity and are unmistakably sectarian."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio v. Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board case was brought by the Rev. Matthew Peterson, a Presbyterian minister in Cleveland, with legal backing from the ACLU of Ohio.

The Anti-Defamation League joined with Americans United in the recent friend-of-the-court brief.

Falwell Merges With Anti-Separationist Legal Group In Fla.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell has an­nounced that one of his organizations is merging with Liberty Counsel, a Relig­ious Right legal group based in Orlando, Fla.

Falwell's National Liberty Journal carried a brief item about the merger last August. It reported that Liberty Counsel, founded and run by attorney Mat Staver, would merge with Jerry Falwell Ministries. No other details were given, except to say that Falwell's son, Jerry Falwell Jr., who is an attorney, would go to work for Liberty Counsel.

In at least one respect, the new partnership is unusual. Falwell is a fundamentalist Baptist with little tolerance for differing religious viewpoints. Staver, according to a 1998 profile of him that ran in the Orlando Sentinel, is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor turned attorney. Adventist doctrines are based in part on the revelations of SDA leader Ellen White, and the church has sometimes been attacked as unorthodox by some fundamentalist Christians.

Adventists have historically supported church-state separation, but Staver toes the common Religious Right line on religion and government. He often tries to find a place for official prayer in public schools by calling it free speech. Last year Staver defended the West Monroe, La., public schools, which were sponsoring prayers and other forms of religious activity. Attorneys with Americans United had sued the school and defeated Staver in court.

Earlier this year Staver filed a lawsuit against a public school in Willis, Texas, after two sisters accused a teacher of throwing their Bible in the trash. The school denied the allegations, and just weeks after the case was filed, Staver abruptly withdrew it without explanation.

Falwell, meanwhile, is becoming more and more outspoken about his disdain for church-state separation.

During an Aug. 2 online chat with USA Today, the TV preacher was asked about church and state. He replied bluntly, "I do not believe in the separation of church and state, nor did our founders. This is a nation under God, built upon the Judeo-Christian ethic. America is in trouble today because she has forgotten her religious heritage."

Ralph Reed Firm Draws Criticism For Dirty Tricks In Virginia Race

A top official of Ralph Reed's political consulting firm has been accused of involvement with dirty tricks in a GOP congressional primary in Virginia.

According to news media reports, Tim Phillips, vice president of Reed's Atlanta-based Century Strategies, helped create a supposedly "non-partisan" tax-exempt organization called the Faith and Family Alliance allegedly to drum up support for conservative causes in Virginia. But just four days before the state's June 12 GOP primary, the Alliance sent out a mailing attacking congressional candidate Eric I. Cantor.

The Alliance mailing was apparently intended to boost the prospects of State Sen. Stephen H. Martin, Cantor's Republican congressional opponent and the man who hired Phillips.

However, critics say the Alliance mailing distorted an incident in Cantor's past in which a business partnership ran into financial difficulties. The mailing slammed Cantor as a "millionaire lawyer [who] says he wants to cut your taxes...but he didn't pay his own. He got caught. He got fined. And he finally was forced to pay $31,527.17 in back taxes."

The Charlottesville Daily Pro­gress reported that the controversial mailing was prepared and sent by Robin Vanderwall, a Virginia Beach man who serves as president of the Alliance. Vanderwall said he used $15,000 from an anonymous donor to pay for the materials, which went to 40,000 voters in the district. He identified himself as a friend of Phillips who has worked with him on campaigns in the past.

Phillips told the Richmond-Times Dispatch he knows Vanderwall but had no involvement in the anti-Cantor mailing.

The newspaper indicated that Cantor's financial problems were more complex than the mailing indicated. "Court documents," the daily reported, "show that a partnership, Old Cox Road Associates, in which Cantor and other family members were involved, bounced a check on March 11, 1994. Henrico County issued a tax lien against the partnership in June 1997. The back taxes were paid off in 1999, after the partnership mortgage was refinanced."

Republican Del. Paul C. Harris of Albemarle County blasted the Faith and Family Alliance for its actions. "I am profoundly displeased with the revolting tactics of the Faith and Family Alliance and the Martin campaign," Harris said. "Eric Cantor is one of Virginia's most honest, capable and trustworthy public servants." (Cantor is a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates.)

The attack failed in the end when Cantor squeaked by Martin in the GOP primary, winning by just 264 votes.

The Faith and Family Alliance is organized as a "527 political organization" under the Internal Revenue Code. 527 groups are not permitted to "expressly advocate the election or defeat of any clearly identified candidate for public office," although they may "educate" voters about candidates. Critics say the organizations have often been created to use funds from anonymous donors to attack candidates. Federal legislation was passed recently to curtail the activity.

"[527s] are usually deceptively named," said Steve Calos, executive director of Common Cause of Virginia. "They are being done simply to conceal things from the voters that the voters should know."

Century Strategies' Reed, who served for years as executive director of TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, is known for his hardball politics. Reed was the architect of the Coalition's voter guide program, which uses churches to distribute fliers distorting candidates' stands on the issues.

Ironically, Reed has publicly professed the highest religious and ethical standards, even while engaging in underhanded politics. In an October 1999 speech to the Coalition in Washington, D.C., Reed said, "When people look at us, let's make sure they see Jesus Christ....Serve Him, not any party or politician. Love your enemies....In the end, we are not required to win because He will take care of that but we are required to be faithful."

Reed has made fewer media appearances since he left the Christian Coalition, but he's still quite active in politics. He is currently working as a behind-the-scenes adviser to Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush.

"I'm doing as much or more than I've ever done, but I just don't talk about it," Reed told the Associated Press in September. "When you're a campaign adviser or consultant, the first things you've got to learn are discretion and confidentiality."

'Sleazy Stunt' By Small Religious Right Group Falls Flat In Senate Race

An effort by a small Religious Right group to circulate rumors that First Lady and Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lesbian fell flat in September after the national news media declined to pick up the story.

The Christian Action Network (CAN), a Religious Right group based in Forest, Va., held a press conference in New York City Sept. 7 to announce plans to place ads in the New York media suggesting that Clinton is gay. The organization freely admitted that it had no hard evidence for the allegation but cited ongoing "rumors."

Americans United, which has monitored CAN for the past 11 years, said the action was a typically sleazy move by the group and its president, Martin Mawyer, a former employee of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's now-defunct Moral Majority.

"The Christian Action Network's rhetoric is so extreme that people may be tempted to dismiss the entire organization as a joke," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "But there's nothing funny about hate-mongering. Religious groups should elevate political discourse, not drag it down into the gutter. I call on all responsible Christian leaders to condemn this organization's vitriol and smear tactics."

CAN's fund-raising letters encourage hatred of homosexuals, make outrageous claims about public education and other targets and float improbable scenarios about a possible United Nations takeover of America.

Lynn cited the following examples:

A January 2000 mailing asserting that CAN faces "voluntary bankruptcy" and may soon go out of business. The letter begged for $20 gifts and insisted that "the sheriff may come in any day and SEIZE our equipment, desks, phones and even chairs."

A March 2000 letter written by Mawyer's wife, Bonnie, blasted Disney for allowing gay groups to visit Disney World. The letter asserts, "Now I have learned that the radical, perverted homosexuals and lesbians are already promoting their '2000 Disney Gay Day' with Disney's help! And they are timing it to occur in June right when children out of school will be flocking to Disney-owned parks! This proves the true intent of these homosexuals: they are after our children!!"

A February 2000 mailing soliciting support to help conservatives keep control of Congress. The letter read in part, "I am not ready to give this great nation over to one-world government extremists...radical, disease-carrying homosexuals...or anti-family lesbian feminists...or hate-mongering atheists who despise our religious beliefs...or the ACLU who would deny us our free speech rights...or anti-American U.N. globalists!"

A September 1998 letter that sought to raise funds from CAN supporters because Mawyer had been in a traffic accident on Virginia's "Interstate 29" (there is no such road in the state) two years earlier. Mawyer claimed the organization's van was damaged and was trying to raise funds for a new one.

CAN's Mawyer appears to be following closely in the footsteps of Falwell, who helped Mawyer get his start. Falwell too has engaged in ethically dubious activities, including selling a videotape charging President Bill Clinton with involvement in the drug trade and arranging murders.

Concluded Lynn, "With this un-Christian and frankly sleazy stunt, Mawyer has managed to match his old boss Jerry Falwell," said AU's Lynn. "That's no easy accomplishment."

Mawyer, in a press release, asserted, "The question of Hillary Rodham Clinton's sexual preference is important. If someone cannot be trusted to abide by the laws of nature they should not be involved in passing laws for the nation."

Mawyer apparently hoped the charges against the first lady would win mentions in the national media and boost his obscure group's low public profile and sagging budget. He announced plans to run the ads attacking Clinton in several New York cities, but reporters did not see the effort as a serious one. Mawyer's plan backfired badly when the national and New York media ignored the event.

Feminism Is 'Hurtful To Women,' Charges Dobson's Focus On The Family

The feminist movement is "hurtful to women" because it encourages them to give up their natural roles as mothers, homemakers and nurturers, a top staff member with Focus on the Family asserted recently.

Dianne Passno, executive vice president of FOF, made the comments in an interview that ran in the September 2000 edition of Focus on the Family magazine. Passno, who claims she was once a feminist, said the women's movement has gone awry because of "its love affair with abortion and lesbianism."

Asserted Passno, "Many of the spokeswomen have never been married, never tried to balance family and a career. Many are lesbians. That doesn't represent the majority of American women, so how could they address what women today need?"

Continued Passno, "Feminism discounts every bit of value the Lord has placed on living in relation to Him. It's a movement that negates the pattern of marriage and the importance of children and men. It says that women can determine their own futures; they're stronger, they're smarter, they're better than men. They should be able to kill their children; two women should be able to have a family, without male involvement. Every­thing that is ignoble is sanctioned."

Passno is the author of a new book, Feminism: Mystique or Mistake?, that is being distributed through FOF. The radio-based evangelical ministry, headed by psychologist James Dobson, is headquartered in Colorado Springs. It is one of the nation's largest Religious Right organizations, with 1998 revenues of $122 million.

Dobson claims the group is nonpolitical, but he has regularly intervened in partisan politics, pressing Republican leaders to adopt Religious Right stands on education, abortion, homosexuality and other social issues.

In the interview, Passno traced the decline of feminism to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Roe, she asserted, "devalued children" and thus "a woman's role in bearing, nurturing and raising children was devalued as well. Career was emphasized as the alternative and promoted as real achievement."

While Passno denied that she wants women to stop working outside the home, she insisted that "our Creator God designed a woman to want to take care of children, to provide a good home, to be a nurturer. That's how we function best. Women can even bring those gifts into the workplace. But if all that's important is career achievement, then it negates how we're created."

Concluded Passno, "The absolutely beautiful thing is how the Lord designed men and women. When He acknowledged Adam's loneliness, He could have made another man. But He didn't. He made a woman. A man and a woman in union with Himself. It's an incredible picture of intimacy that mirrors the Trinity, the most intimate relationship of all."

Anti-Separationist Pope On The Fast Track For Catholic Sainthood

A 19th-century pope who condemned church-state separation as an "error" has taken a major step toward sainthood.

Pope Pius IX, who served as head of the Roman Catholic Church from 1846 to 1878, is a highly controversial figure with a record of hostility toward Jews and non-Catholic faiths. However, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Sept. 4, a move often seen as a precursor to sainthood.

Pius IX labored to assert the political authority of the church at a time when Italians were moving toward unity as a secular nation. In 1864 he issued a "Syllabus of Errors" purporting to list various theological errors denounced by the church.

Among the propositions listed in the Syllabus as errors are the belief that "the Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church" and the idea that "Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true."

In the Syllabus, Pius also rejected the notion that "the Roman pontiff can and should reconcile and harmonize himself with progress, with liberalism, and with modern civilization."

Pius played a key role in mandating some of the church's most familiar theological beliefs. In 1854 he proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the teaching that the mother of Jesus was born without original sin. In 1869 he convened a church council that, while condemning materialism and atheism, also approved the doctrine of papal infallibility, the belief that the popes speak without error on theological matters.

Given his strong views, Pius' relations with other religions were rocky. He confined Jews in Rome to a ghetto and once referred to them as "dogs," complaining that "there are too many of them present" in the city. In 1858 he sparked a worldwide uproar by permitting church police to seize a 6-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, who had been baptized as a Catholic by an illiterate serving girl in the Mortara home. Despite international appeals that the boy be given back to his parents, Mortara was raised at the Vatican; he became a priest upon reaching adulthood.

Adding contemporary fuel to the fire, a top Vatican official, the Rev. Daniel Ols of the Congregation for the Promotion of Saints, recently appeared to defend the church's actions in the Mortara case. Ols said he would still "find it beautiful" for a child to be baptized Catholic without his parents' knowledge, arguing that the "good of eternal life" would supercede the parents' wishes.

Jewish organizations criticized John Paul's decision to beatify Pius IX. In an Aug. 23 letter, the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Relations called on the pope to reverse course, saying Pius falls "far short of saintliness."

John Paul apparently shrugged off these concerns. At the Vatican beatification ceremony, the pope said the 19th-century church leader was "much loved, but also hated and slandered." He added that Pius was an example of "unconditional adherence to the unchangeable storehouse of revealed truth" and saluted him for maintaining "profound serenity...even in the midst of incomprehension and the attacks of many hostile people."

While Pius had his admirers during his time, he was also the object of bitter hatred, especially after he called in the French army to protect Vatican interests during attempts to merge the kingdoms of Italy into one nation that began in 1849. After unification, the church was stripped of most of its lands and political power, and Pius became a virtual prisoner in the Vatican. After his death, while Pius' body was being moved to a cemetery in Rome in 1878, an angry mob attacked the carriage and nearly succeeded in throwing his coffin into the Tiber River.

Perhaps hoping to ward off some of the criticism, John Paul beatified Pope John XXIII at the same time he took the action for Pius. John, pope from 1958-1963, was relatively moderate by papal standards. He convened the Second Vatican Council, popularly known as "Vatican II," which gave official church endorsement to religious toleration.

While Vatican II was seen as a step forward, the Catholic Church has continued over the years to proclaim its supremacy over other religions. On Sept. 5 the Vatican released a document bluntly asserting that the Catholic Church is the only "instrument for the salvation of all humanity" and calling non-Catholic religious bodies "defective."

The document asserted that followers of other religions may "receive divine grace" but added that they are "in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the church, have the fullness of the means of salvation."

About the same time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican official in charge of ensuring doctrinal purity, wrote to bishops around the world and ordered them to stop using the term "sister churches" when referring to Protes­tant denominations.

Ratzinger wrote that the term "sister church" can only be applied to certain Orthodox denominations that have rituals and a hierarchy similar to Catholi­cism. All other churches, Ratzinger declared, are not equivalent to the Catholic Church. "It must be always clear that the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic universal church is not the sister, but the mother, of all the churches," he wrote.

Representatives from some Protes­tant denominations viewed the document as unnecessarily provocative. "The tone is certainly very disappointing and does not bear adequate witness to the good ecumenical progress made over the past 30 years," a spokesman for the Church of England told the London Daily Telegraph.