On the Papacy: Part I

Part II, where I go over the Biblical evidence.

Part III, where I go over the teaching of the Church Fathers.

Introduction: The Papacy: A Look at the Biblical Case and the Apostolic Tradition of St. Peter, Vicar of Christ.

A friend of mine and companion in the faith in Christ, challenged me to provide evidence from Sacred Scripture for a litany of Catholic doctrines he thought were unbiblical. I have decided to devote some measure of research and study to gather information that may be useful to anyone, Catholic or not, in a greater understanding of the importance of the Bishop of Rome. Unlike my first post, I will only be gathering opinion from sources that have an imprimatur and a nihil obstat, as that means that the source does not conflict with Catholic doctrine, which is my aim in all things.

Part I: The Papacy: A Look at the Biblical Case and the Apostolic Tradition of St. Peter, Vicar of Christ.

I want to firstly bring what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which was promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II as a collection of all the doctrine of the Church, says about the papacy. There will be no commentary from myself , as I feel that the CCC speaks for itself.

Par. 85, “‘The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.’ This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.” [1]

Par. 194, “The Apostles’ Creed is so called because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles’ faith. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome. Its great authority arises from this fact: it is ‘the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith’.” [2]

Par. 552, “Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Our Lord then declared to him: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Christ, the ‘living Stone’, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.” [3]

Par. 553, “Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ The ‘power of the keys’ designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ The power to ‘bind and loose’ connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.” [3]

Par. 816, “’The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Saviour, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it…. This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.’
“The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism explains: ‘For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.’” [4]

Par. 834, “Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome ‘which presides in charity.’ ‘For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord.’ Indeed, ‘from the incarnate Word’s descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior’s promise, the gates of hell have never prevailed against her.’” [4]

Par. 837, “‘Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who – by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion – are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but “in body” not “in heart.”’” [4]

Par. 857, “The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways: she was and remains built on ‘the foundation of the Apostles,’ The witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself; with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, The ‘good deposit,’ the salutary words she has heard from the apostles; she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, ‘assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor’.
“You are the eternal Shepherd/who never leaves his flock untended./Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always./You made them shepherds of the flock/to share in the work of your Son….” [4]

Par. 862, “‘Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent one, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.’ Hence the Church teaches that ‘the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ.’” [4]

Par. 863, “The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is ‘sent out’ into the whole world…” [4]

Par. 877, “Likewise, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a collegial character. In fact, from the beginning of his ministry, the Lord Jesus instituted the Twelve as ‘the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy.’ Chosen together, they were also sent out together, and their fraternal unity would be at the service of the fraternal communion of all the faithful: they would reflect and witness to the communion of the divine persons. For this reason every bishop exercises his ministry from within the episcopal college, in communion with the bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter and head of the college. So also priests exercise their ministry from within the presbyterium of the diocese, under the direction of their bishop.” [5]

Par. 879, “Sacramental ministry in the Church, then, is at once a collegial and a personal service, exercised in the name of Christ. This is evidenced by the bonds between the episcopal college and its head, the successor of St. Peter, and in the relationship between the bishop’s pastoral responsibility for his particular church and the common solicitude of the episcopal college for the universal Church.” [5]

Par. 880, “When Christ instituted the Twelve, ‘he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them.’ Just as ‘by the Lord’s institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another.’” [5]

Par. 881, “The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. ‘The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.’ This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.” [5]

Par. 882, “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’ ‘For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.’” [5]

Par. 883, “‘The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.’ As such, this college has ‘supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.’” [5]

Par. 884, “‘The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council.’ But ‘there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter’s successor.’” [5]

Par. 891, “‘The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…. the infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,’ above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine ‘for belief as being divinely revealed,’ and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions ‘must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.’ This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.” [5]

Par. 892, “Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a ‘definitive manner,’ they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful ‘are to adhere to it with religious assent’ which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.” [5]

Par. 895, “…His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope.” [5]

Par. 899, “…Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church.” [5]

Par. 1369, “The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ. Since he has the ministry of Peter in the Church, the Pope is associated with every celebration of the Eucharist, wherein he is named as the sign and servant of the unity of the universal Church…” [6]

Par. 1444, “In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ ‘The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.’” [7]

Par. 1462, “Forgiveness of sins brings reconciliation with God, but also with the Church. Since ancient times the bishop, visible head of a particular Church, has thus rightfully been considered to be the one who principally has the power and ministry of reconciliation: he is the moderator of the penitential discipline. Priests, his collaborators, exercise it to the extent that they have received the commission either from their bishop (or religious superior) or the Pope, according to the law of the Church.” [8]

Par. 1463, “Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacraments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolution consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them. In danger of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for hearing confessions, can absolve from every sin and excommunication.” [8]

Par. 1559, “‘One is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of the sacramental consecration and by the hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college.’ The character and collegial nature of the episcopal order are evidenced among other ways by the Church’s ancient practice which calls for several bishops to participate in the consecration of a new bishop. In our day, the lawful ordination of a bishop requires a special intervention of the Bishop of Rome, because he is the supreme visible bond of the communion of the particular Churches in the one Church and the guarantor of their freedom.” [9]

Par. 2034, “The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are ‘authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.’ The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.” [10]

So, what do all these quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church tell us about the papacy? They tell us that the Pope has ultimate teaching authority (CCC 85, 194, 553, 882, 891) as well as ultimate disciplinary authority (CCC 553, 816, 882, 1444, 1462-1463) and that his authority has primacy over the other bishops (CCC 85, 553, 816, 862, 877, 879-885, 891-892, 895, 899, 1444, 2034). It also teaches us the historic reality that Christ established his Church on St. Peter (CCC 552, 881) and that he gave to St. Peter and his successors the keys to the kingdom (CCC 553, 881, 1444), and that St. Peter has successors (CCC 857, 862-863, 877, 879-884, 891-892, 895, 1369). It also teaches that salvation is impossible outside of communion with the Pope (CCC 816, 834, 837, 862). Also, papal infallibility (CCC 552-553, 891) and his association with Rome (CCC 85, 194, 834, 877, 880, 882-883, 891-892, 1559, 2034). This is the summary of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about one of the oldest doctrines of the Church, that of the Papacy.

[1] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_PM.HTM
[2] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P14.HTM
[3] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1L.HTM
[4] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P29.HTM
[5] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P2A.HTM
[6] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P41.HTM
[7] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P4C.HTM
[8] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P4E.HTM
[9] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P4U.HTM
[10] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P74.HTM

Part II, where I go over the Biblical evidence.

Part III, where I go over the teaching of the Church Fathers.

All scripture citations taken from the NRSVCE, the official liturgical scripture sanctioned by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)

Addendum: In all things I submit to the authority of the Church if I have misrepresented any aspect of doctrine or history.


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