At his weekly general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the church, telling an estimated 33,000 people that there is no such thing as "do-it-yourself" Christians or "free agents" when it comes to faith.
Every Christian, he said, can trace his or her faith back to parents, grandparents, teachers or friends. "I always remember the nun who taught me catechism. I know she's in heaven because she was a holy woman," he said. And what was it that made her holy? A personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We cannot be holy otherwise.
In the Old Testament, the pope said, God called Abraham and began to form a people that would become a blessing for the world. "With great patience -- and God has a lot of it -- he prepared the people of the ancient covenant and in Jesus Christ constituted them as a sign and instrument of the union of humanity with God and unity with one another."
Pope Francis described as "dangerous" the temptation to believe that one can have "a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the church."
Obviously, he said, it is not always easy to walk the path of faith with other people. "Sometimes it's tiring. It can happen that a brother or sister creates problems for us or scandalizes us, but the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to human beings, to us, to witnesses," he said.
"It is through our brothers and sisters with their gifts and their limits," the pope said, "that he comes to us and makes himself known. This is what belonging to the church means. Remember: Being Christian means belonging to the church. If your first name is Christian, your last name is Member of the Church."
At the end of his talk, the pope asked people to join him in praying that they would never "give into the temptation of thinking you can do without others, without the church, that you can save yourself, of thinking you can be a laboratory Christian."
Christians, he said, are not manufactured in isolation, but belong to a long line of believers who handed on the faith and challenged one another to live it fully.
Oh, my Lord! Is he saying that if you don't have a heritage of believers, that you cannot be one?
Is he merely trying to state that those who are or would be Christians 'must' belong to a church?
Is he saying that you must belong to the Catholic church?
Is he confusing the Catholic church with the universal church of God - the communion of believers around the world who are united with and in Christ?
No one in the Gospels had a heritage of believers. Does that mean that they could not be saved?
Do I want to be in communion with the thousands of pedophile priests in the Catholic church or the many bishops who enabled them? I don't think so! I'm pretty sure that you cannot call those people Christians. They are flat-out evil!
Are we going to see a new persecution of Protestants? A re-emergence of the Inquisition?
Is he setting us up for the Great Tribulation where the real church of Jesus Christ is virtually annihilated?
As you can see, there are a lot more questions here than answers, but I find his statements to be shocking and frightening.