Open Letter for Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas

April 8, 2014

Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, D.D.
President CBCP
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan

Dear Father,
Grace and peace to you From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I will be opening this letter with two bold statements then follow it up with the illumination of such claims.
1. The Catholic Church right now is in great peril.
2. There is a drastic need for all Catholics to learn the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Yes, we are in deep crisis and to deny this fact means that we have deliberately closed our eyes and ears to the spiritual degradation that we are now in. To say that what we now experience has been always here throughout the Church’s History and is not enough reason for great concern, only reveals that we already have succumbed to the enemy’s insidious deception.
“We have been Sacramentalized but not Evangelized”. I could not agree more with this axiom. Here in the Philippines we have always been proud to say that 80% of our population is Catholic. But sad to say, that also 80% of these Catholics know next to nothing about the teachings of the Catholic Church. This is the reason why our country could hardly be called a Christian nation judging on its moral bankruptcy. We may reason out that morality wise we fare much better than our western counterparts, but what we always forget to consider is, that we ought to gauge ourselves thru Christ’s standards.
I will now site several of the many detrimental effects of the lack of adequate adult Catholic Catechism.
There is an alarming rate of exodus by Catholics from the mystical body of Christ to other beliefs. Most Catholics are easy prey to this so called “evangelization” of other Christian sects since they do not understand their faith and cannot answer back even to those basic and relevant questions hurled at them by their so called concerned “evangelizer”. The usual thing that you hear from these “converted“people is this; “not until I became Born Again/Iglesia Ni Cristo/ Jehovah’s Witness/Adventist etc. I did not discover the true Gospel and was not able to give up all my vices”. And this is sad but typical occurrence is perfectly illustrated by our very own, Manny Paquiao who was once a Rosary-cladding Filipino pride. The fact of the matter is, just like “Manny”, people are hungry for the Word of God no matter how irreligious they seem to be, whether they are aware of this or not since man is created to hunger for Truth (God). Now if this deep longing and craving for the Truth is not satisfied inside their house, like hungry dogs they will devour whatever scrap of food they can get outside their house no matter how poisonous it may be just to satisfy their hunger. We cannot totally blame “Manny” for trading the true worship found in the Holy Eucharist for a false one since most of them do not know what it means or what a great treasure they already possess. We have not been effective in educating them. We have always been prompt and thorough when it comes to liturgical celebrations and preparations of “activities” but when it comes to preaching the solid doctrine, we placed it on the back seat. A lot of us have become lax and contented in just generating members instead of laboriously heeding the command of Christ to make disciples. The faithful are left to grapple from scraps of truth heard from here and there.
Let us take the case of the Iglesia Ni Cristo as an example. The reason why they are flourishing and are so effective in recruiting members and keeping them in place, is because they put emphasis on indoctrination and constantly hammer to the heads of their members what they believe and why they believe it. Their members have a concrete working theology of their belief no matter how erroneous it maybe. This is what we lack in our present set-up (at least here in the Philippines for that matter).
Yes, we have catechists, but only for children and the number of these catechists are dwindling at a rapid rate because of the lack of support. Even the important tradition of Flores de Mayo where children are catechized before their first communion is slowly fading away (even Confession are no longer given utmost importance nor regularly offered). Yes, we have seminars for the parents before baptism, seminars for couple before the wedding, GSK’s, retreats, recollections, homilies at Mass and many others which are extremely important, however these are still not enough. Yes we have several Catholic charismatic groups but most of them are not centered on teaching the Catechism. Some group may be, but their audience are limited on a few interested ones and not on a massive scale since it is not incorporated into the Church own program.
Next, many of these so called faithful Catholics who remain inside the Church do not even identify nor support the teachings of the Church especially when it comes to morality like teachings about artificial contraception, divorce, same sex marriage and many others. Why? Because people cannot be expected to embrace directives which they do not have a working understanding for such difficult restrictions which entail hefty sacrifice and personal discomfort on their part.
Next, until now we can still observe widespread Christo-paganistic practices among Filipinos such as the practice of “ padugo”, “patagna”, “habak”, “mananambal”, mga “pamahiin”, and various “Feng shui” practices among Filipino-Chinese Catholics which is seemingly a fusion of Christian and oriental religion which somehow mostly not being addressed.
Another detrimental effect of lack of Catechism is the rapid decline in Vocation. This is a natural consequence of it, since most our catholic youth right now are no longer grounded on solid doctrine, (which is found in the Catechism) and not instilled in them the genuine love of Christ and Church. Also because of the lack of adequate adult catechism, many who enter the seminary or convent enter for the wrong reason and wrong motives and bring with them when they graduate their wrong reasons and treats Priesthood as an occupation rather as a Vocation. That’s why a lot our priests right now, instead of being the Alter Christos who supposed to usher salvation of souls to those whose faith are weak, now become the instrument of apostasy and perdition of many, every time they do various kinds of scandals.
But the most injurious effect of all in putting the Catechism on the sidelines is the lack of Unity and Catholicity nowadays on the teachings among priests, religious and lay people inside the Catholic Church. Modernism, Liberal Theology, heterodoxy have already crept into the Church, Seminaries and Catholic schools which give all the more reason to put an emphasis to promote The Catechism of the Catholic Church. A concrete example of this is for instance a priest here in Ozamiz city taught in his homily that pre-marital sex is just a venial sin. Also one priest stated in his homily that fornication is okay as long as no pregnancy will result. Many priests and religious do not share the belief of the Church concerning the teaching on Humane Vitae. Some promote religious indifferentism and false ecumenism. There are many other conflicting teachings to mention which leaves the faithful dazed and confused. This will clearly be the outcome when in Seminary Formation; the teachings of dissident and liberal theologians are given precedence over and above The Catechism of the Catholic Church as what is going on right now in some seminaries.
In relation to these problems we face, we need to step up our effort since the Salvation of Souls is what is at stake here. It is high time that we have to have an active Catechism Centre here in our Diocese sanctioned and spear-headed by the Bishop where the Catechism of the Catholic Church is systematically indoctrinated to all the faithful especially adults. There is a great need to have a place for a regular, weekly, all year-round extensive Adult Catechism Lecture Center where people can go and deepen their Catholic Faith and equip them for evangelization.

Our ultimate goal is that this will eventually be duplicated in all the parishes all over the Philippines. Let us make it our goal that the teachings of Jesus Christ (The Catechism of the Catholic Church) will become a common knowledge to all Catholics just like the Israelites during the ancient days where most (if not all) of them are well versed of the Laws of Moses.
Contrary to popular belief, the Catechism is not at all boring, it is actually suitable for all ages particularly the youth, as long as it is skillfully presented, adequately elucidated and correlated to practical daily experiences with concrete examples rather than given in vague and abstract language. As a matter of fact, since October 2010, five of us (who were given Ecclesiastical Authority by the Bishop) members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Faith Defenders through the support of Vicar General Msgr. Maximino Naron are conducting 30 minute catechism lectures before Sunday Mass in some of the different parishes in Ozamiz and Tangub City. So far the response has been very encouraging and parishioners love it.
Even then, we feel that this effort is still not fast enough to reach out to many people as possible as time is of the essence since many Catholics right now are prancing their way to hell and are not even aware of it. I should know, since I was once like this before, until by God’s grace, led me to the Truth which in turn set me free from bondage of sin. I was once an active member of a Catholic Charismatic group yet living an immoral life and on the verge of leaving the Catholic Church. I was on my way to perdition yet without the faintest idea that I’m already heading downhill. Why? Because of wrong theology. I was not aware that even though how I claim to love Jesus and how “good” I seem to be, one mortal sin (unrepented of at death) is enough to send me to hell forever. I reached my 30’s yet still I was not aware how important Sanctifying Grace is, that this is what we need to enter heaven. Actually I was not even aware that there is such a thing as Sanctifying Grace. In fact, never have I heard this mentioned in any homily or sermon at mass in my entire life. This is now the state of most average Filipino Catholic. And I know with great conviction that there’s a lot of Catholics out there who are just like me before who needs to hear the Truth and needs to be saved from the state of Mortal Sin and spiritual death and time is running out, fast.
Lastly, the intention of this letter is not to point fingers nor judge any specific clergy, religious or laity whatsoever. I apologize if this might come across as harsh but my aim is to point out hard facts that are actually happening in our midst that might have slipped our awareness that by now warrants drastic and prompt measures. I pray that this exhortation and request will be taken with an open mind for the greater glory of God and the furtherance of His Kingdom here on earth. In fact, I would not be so honest like this in expressing my innermost sentiments have it not been you to whom I will be submitting my letter to. My utmost respect and confidence on your spiritual integrity has given me the audacity to be up front like this knowing that a message such as this will fall into sympathetic heart and mind, like yours.
In humility and obedience shall I wait for your response.

Sincerely,

Jose Gonzalo M. Ditching S.S.V.P.
Nat’l Vice President, Internal Affairs
Catholic Faith Defenders

Mariology Lecture

By Bro. John Diona M.A.Th. (CFD Davao)

Bro. John Diona lecture in GKK (The four dogma of Mary).
Lk 1:28 “Hail, full of grace the Lord is with you!”
Lk 1:38 “And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.”
Lk 1:43 “And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Lk 1:48 “for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”

Bro Thata Rosal (CFD) VS Rodrigo Mondeja (SDA)

Bro Thata Rosal (CFD) VS Rodrigo Mondeja (SDA)

Date: October 16, 2011

Pakinggan po ninyo kung paano ni lampaso ni Bro Thata Rosal ng
CFD ang debatedor ng SDA Reform na si Rodrigo Mondeja.

Live at DXDD 637kHz Ozamiz City

www.catholicfaithdefenders.com

http://confraternityoftheologiansanddefenders.com/

http://www.splendorofthechurch.com.ph/

Scott Hahn on the Papacy

Introduction

Many people think that Vatican II’s primary vision of the Church as a communion was summarized in the phrase, “The People of God,” but the Old Testament roots for that phrase, “People of God,” “am’ Yahweh” actually has as its primary meaning, “Family of God.” That term “people,” am’ literally denotes kinship, so it could be translated “kinsmen” or “Family of God,” and that’s how most Old Testament scholars translate it. So when we look at the Pope, as we will this morning, we are going to be looking at him, not as some tyrant, not as some authoritarian “know-it-all” and not as some magician who can just kind of concoct a new revelation to satisfy all parties, or anything like that. We are going to be looking at a father figure that Christ has established over the family that He has purchased with His own blood.

Now, there are many misconceptions that people have. They sometimes think that the teaching of the Church is that the Pope is infallible; therefore, he can’t sin. That’s nonsense, although the present Pontiff goes to confession, I understand, at least once a week. He’s got to have something to confess for it to be a valid sacrament administered to him. Others think that he always says the best thing at the right time. No, the Church has never insisted upon the fact that the Pope will always say the best thing at the right time. Rather, the teaching of the Church would allow for the Pope perhaps to postpone out of cowardice, a right thing. Or when he says the truth, when he teaches the truth, he might do so in a way that includes an ambiguity.

So we are responsible as Catholics to understand, not only what the Church teaches, but what the Church doesn’t teach to help clear up these misconceptions. The Church teaches in a simple summary that the Holy Father, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as the successor to Peter and the Vicar of Christ, when he speaks as the universal teacher from the Chair of Peter in defining faith and morals does so with an infallible charism or an infallible gift through the Holy Spirit so that we can give to him the full assent of our intellect and our will, and we can hear the voice of Christ coming to us through the voice of the Pope when he is speaking in this capacity.

Now we are going to flush off on the meanings of this as time goes on, but there are three basic issues or problems. First of all, can we prove Papal Primacy, that is, that the Pope is not just the first among equals but that he has a certain primacy, a unique supremacy in relation to all of the Bishops. We have to begin by showing that Jesus conferred this gift upon Peter. Then secondly, we have to establish the doctrine of Papal succession. If we can prove from the Bible that Peter was granted by Jesus a certain primacy, that doesn’t go far enough. We then have to go on to establish Papal succession; that is, Peter had successors to whom would be entrusted the same gift or charism. Then thirdly, we have to establish evidence for Papal infallibility, that is that God grants a gift to the successors of Peter for them, not to give new revelations. The Church insists that no Popes have ever given new revelation. Revelation has been, once and for all deposited by Christ through His Apostles and with the death of the last Apostle came the close of all public revelation. The Popes, in a sense are given the task of preserving and of transmitting, explaining and enforcing that revelation, but not giving new revelation. So that third doctrine is the doctrine of Papal infallibility, that when they transmit, when they explain, when they enforce it, they are granted a charism or a special spiritual gift preserving them from error.

Infallibility, in a sense, is a negative gift. It doesn’t mean he always says the right thing, it’s always the right time; but that when he speaks with the authority that Christ gives to him, we have this Divine guarantee, because Christ promises that “I will build my Church.” The Church of Christ is not a human institution first and foremost. Jesus identifies it as His own. “My church” and the institution and edification and up-building of the Church Jesus claims for himself, “I will build my Church.” So, whatever instruments that Jesus chooses to use, ultimately are going to be under His control and He is going to be using them with this ultimate intention in mind, of building His Church, of governing His family and thus bringing about the guarantee that He imparts in Matthew 16, as we will see, that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, and will not prevail against the Rock which is Peter and the Popes who are in the line of succession with Peter.

Now, I have just given to you a very quick, bird’s-eye view of all that we have to do. Now I have to confess from the bottom of my heart and with total sincerity that we are not going to be able to do an adequate job this morning. This is just too much! If I talk as rapidly as I possibly could and try to get everything across and go through all the others and everything else, I still couldn’t get through 20 percent of it. So I’m not going to talk your ears off. I’m not going to try to plow through all of this and take three or four hours. Instead I’m going to try to focus upon the mountain peaks, the real highlights, so that you can see from scripture and from history and from the Church, the key ideas that we need to use and present and share as evidence and support for our belief and our practice as Catholics.

We are going to first and primarily look at scripture. We are also going to look at the historical development of the Church’s understanding and then, finally, we are going to focus on some of the Church’s teachings relative to the Pope and his authority. Before I go on, having given you this qualification, I think I need to recommend some sources for your study over, above and beyond our time this morning.

First of all, I would like to recommend a book entitled, Catholicism and Fundamentalism and the Attack on Romanism by Bible Christians. It’s written by Karl Keating, the founder and director of “Catholic Answers” in San Diego. You may also wish to write him for a catalog of other materials that Catholic Answers publishes, but this book is a very adequate treatment of all of the common objections against the Catholic faith, many of them we are not going to be able to cover this week, and how, from scripture and also Church history, we can answer these in a very convincing and persuasive way.

The second book that I recommend is by Dr. Alan Schreck. It’s entitled, Catholic and Christian, an Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs. This is a very positive and constructive, I’d say, pastoral presentation of the Biblical evidence and historical reasons for the Catholic beliefs. This is not directed as much against Fundamentalists as perhaps Evangelical Protestants and it really helps them a great deal.

There are two other books written by one of the greatest philosophers of our century, Stanley Jaki. The first one is on my right, And on This Rock, the Witness of One Land and Two Covenants. He shows the geographical, historical and Biblical background for what Jesus intended to say when He renamed Simon, “Rock” or Peter. A very interesting book. Then, this other book of his, The Keys of the Kingdom, a Tool’s Witness to Truth focuses upon, not the Rock so much, but the keys of the kingdom that Jesus entrusted to Peter and his successors. These two are full of some of the most valuable information, interesting data, that you will come across.

At a more popular level and something you can read in ten or fifteen minutes, Catholic Answers puts out two little brochures, two little tracts or pamphlets. One is entitled, Papal Infallibility and the other one is entitled, Peter and the Papacy, and you could write Catholic Answers for that. And lastly, if you will permit me, I’ll recommend a tape that I made sitting at a desk about a year ago, up in my study in Jolliet, Illinois, before we moved to Steubenville. It’s entitled, “Peter and the Papacy” and in this tape I focus primarily on Matthew 16, verses 17 through 19. I focus upon three aspects that we are going to begin with this morning: the Rock, the keys and the guarantee of Jesus that the gates of hell will not prevail.

Papal Primacy and Succession

Now that’s going to be our starting point and I’m going to take the liberty here, if you will permit me, of summarizing what I’ve said on that tape – not because I assume you have listened to the tape or you will, but because you can, if you are so interested. And I don’t want to go into an hour’s worth of detail just on one passage when there are other important passages to cover as well. But those three ideas are closely associated with the very important passage that we find in the first gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verses 17 through 19.

Let me read that passage and then I will back up and consider those three aspects. Let’s drop back to verse 13, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do men say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets’.” Rather impressive testimony because these people constitute the Old Testament Hall of Fame of Saints, here. “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” And as is characteristic throughout Matthew’s gospel, Peter steps forward, or I should say, speaks up. Peter is the only one to walk on water. Peter is the one who often speaks up, representative of the twelve disciples. Verse 16, “Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ,’ — the Christos, the Anointed One in Greek or the Messiah in Hebrew, ‘the Son of the Living God. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven, and I tell you, you are Peter (Petra) and on this Rock (Petros), I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.’” And then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ.

Now, let me just get a little personal here. Six or seven years ago, a couple years before I became a Catholic, I had been studying the doctrine of the Covenant. I came to an understanding of the Covenant as a family, and with this insight I began to discover all kinds of exciting truths, novel innovations, new discoveries that I thought were really undiscovered before. Then as I began to dig deeper into these libraries, I noticed that time and time again, Catholic scholars — I mean not just recently but going all the way back to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Centuries, in the Middle Ages — the saints and the Doctors of the Church were consistently coming up with all of my brand new discoveries and teaching them with a kind of ho-hum attitude like, “You all know such and such.”

That really, at first it provoked me. Then it scared me and then it led me to dig deeper and deeper into Catholic sources to see how many of my discoveries they may have found in practically every one of them, except the ones that were false. The Pope, though, was a different matter. For me, the idea of a Pope who claims primacy and succession and infallibility was a presumption, an arrogant presumption that no man should make.

But then one day, as I was working through the Gospel of Matthew, because that stresses, that gospel builds on the Old Testament more than any other and especially the idea of David’s kingdom. That really seems to be the central thrust of Matthew’s gospel, that Jesus is the Son of David and He is establishing the Kingdom of David. That’s how Matthew introduces Jesus. He is the only one of the four gospel writers who traces His genealogy right back to David, and he says, “Jesus, the Son of David” at the very start of Matthew. That’s a common and prominent theme throughout the gospel.

So I wanted to dig deep and see what I found in this particular passage, and on the basis of that discovery, or I should say, on the basis of that study, I made some discoveries. First of all, I discovered that when you read in verse 17, “Jesus answered, ‘And blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church,’ ” I discovered that all the evidence points to the fact that Peter is the “rock.”

Now you might say, “That’s as plain as the nose on your face. What’s the excitement of that discovery?” Well, non-Catholics frequently claim that it’s Peter’s faith that Jesus is speaking of, or Peter’s confession that Jesus is speaking of when He says, “this rock.” Or other Protestants object and say, “No, Jesus says, ‘And you are petros.’” You are petros, you are rock, and on this petra, the Greek word for large rock, “I will build my Church.” So some Protestants object to the Catholic view and say, “What Jesus is really saying is. ‘You’re a little pebble and on this rock, namely Christ, the Rock, (1 Corinthians, 10:4 and so on) I will build my Church.’”

Now the closer I studied the more I realized that those positions were untenable, simply untenable. And I’m going to share in a few minutes the fact that most conservative anti-Catholic Protestant scholars today will admit that readily and candidly. The more I dug, the more I found that the evidence pointed to the fact that Jesus was speaking of Peter. Peter is the Rock. Peter just said, “You are the Christos,” so Jesus says, “You are the Petros.” There is a little parallelism there. “You are the Son of the Living God” and “You are the son of Jonah, Simon Bar-Jonah; you are the Petros.”

Now people could say, “Wait a second. There is a distinction in the Greek language between petros,” Peter’s name and petra. Petros can mean stone, whereas petra can often mean “big rock.” The problem with that is two-fold. First of all, Jesus probably didn’t speak Greek when He was with the disciples. I mean that is held by 99.9 percent of all scholars. It’s overwhelmingly unlikely that Jesus in His normal conversations spoke Greek. What’s almost certain is that He spoke Aramaic and in the Aramaic there is only one word that could possibly be used and Kouman and other scholars have pointed to the fact that if Jesus spoke Aramaic, He only could have said, “You are Cephus, and on this Cephus I build my Church.” So given our knowledge of the Aramaic language, there is no possibility for Jesus to have made the distinction between “little stone” and “big rock.” The Aramaic language doesn’t allow it.

Well, somebody could say, “The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to use two different words. Well, that’s true, because “petra” is the word in Greek that is normally used for “large rock,” but – I should say petra is the Greek word that means “large rock” but it’s in the feminine form. In other words, the gender of this Greek word, petra, large rock, is feminine. You do not apply a feminine form of the word in order to name a male. You adopt it by giving the masculine form. In other words what Matthew was doing, guided by the Holy Spirit, is something that was rather obvious and practically necessary. That was to take the Greek from Jesus’ saying and start by saying, “I will build my Church on this massive stone, this ‘petra’ in the feminine but then to show that Peter gets the name, “Rock” in its proper masculine form.

You wouldn’t name him Josephine or Rockina or, you know, something like that. You give him the masculine form of the word. I should also add that there is absolutely no archeological evidence from antiquity for anybody having been named Peter before Simon. In other words, Jesus was taking a word that had never been used as far as all the many records we have are concerned, never was used to designate an individual person and Jesus gives that name, gives that word to Simon.

Again, I suggest the fact that Simon is the Rock. I should say a few things along these lines because I mentioned that I have these Protestant quotes. I have note cards that I actually put together when I was preparing a paper for a graduate seminar on the subject. I was still a Protestant minister, and I was taking a graduate seminar on the Gospel of Matthew and the professor was a Protestant. He was a Lutheran and he knew what I wanted to do for my project and so I presented this paper, “Peter and the Keys” and I worked at it because I knew that he might not be open to my conclusions, that I knew what my conclusions were going to be at the end of my research. They were rather Catholic, neither Presbyterian nor Lutheran.

So, I worked and worked and I put these notecards together and when I made the presentation — I should add, this was a very interesting experience because all the other students who presented papers, the professor encouraged the rest of the students to interact with the presenter. And he seldom, if ever asked questions in interacting. He wanted the students to get involved. But when it came to presenting a 30-page paper presenting the evidence that Peter is the Rock and that the keys denote succession and that the Catholic position is right, not one student spoke up for the entire two and one-half hour seminar. He did all the talking and we even went over. I ended up leaving the classroom like forty-five minutes after the seminar was supposed to end. It was the most grueling cross- examination I’d ever undergone, and I might add, I had intestinal digestive problems for about a week afterwards because of how nerve- wracking it was.

But at the end of the whole ordeal he said, “I think your paper is flawless. The only fault that I found is that you have the middle initial on one person’s name in one of your footnotes wrong!” He said, “I think your arguments are persuasive, too. I’m just grateful that I don’t think that Matthew is historically reliable, so I don’t have to follow the conclusions.” I’m glad you said that, you know, and not me.

Protestants are often ready to admit the fact that Peter is the Rock and that the keys of succession are given to him to imply an office that will be filled by successors. For instance, one of the top evangelical New Testament scholars in the world, R.T. France says this in his commentary on Matthew, “Verses 17 through 19 are addressed to Peter and have been regarded by some as a late addition to support an early claim to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Whether or not they give any such support, there is no textual evidence for their addition to the gospel after its original composition, and the strongly Semitic or Jewish character of the language throughout these verses point to a relatively early origin in a Palestinian environment.” What is France saying? Well, many scholars have suggested that Jesus could not have given this gift to Peter. Jesus could not have given this original saying. Why? Because many scholars don’t believe that Jesus foresaw the building of the Church. They think that all of these sayings of Jesus concerning the Church were added later by the Church to support whatever had happened to the Church.

Dr. France says, “That’s just not tenable.” When you study this you realize that all of the evidence in the text shows that this is one of the original sayings of Jesus. He goes on to say, “Jesus’ beatitude of Peter or His blessing is given to Peter alone. The other disciples may have shared his insight but Peter, characteristically expressed it. Matthew often illustrates Peter’s place at the head of the disciples’ group. He was the spokesman, the pioneer, the natural leader.” He goes on to talk about how Peter is referenced to the Rock. France says, “It describes not so much Peter’s character, that is the Rock. He did not prove to be rock-like in terms of stability or reliability but rather the name Rock or Peter points to his function as the foundation stone of Jesus’ Church.”

This is a non-Catholic. This is an Evangelical Protestant who has absolutely no interest in supporting the Church’s claims but he says, “The term Peter, Rock, points to Simon and not his character because he could be very unstable, but rather his official function as the foundation stone of Jesus’ Church. The word-play is unmistakable.” He says, “It is only Protestant over-reaction to the Roman Catholic claim, of course, which has no foundation in the text, that what is here said of Peter applies also to the later Bishops of Rome.” In other words France is saying, “We can’t apply this to the Popes, the later Bishops of Rome.” I’ll overthrow that opinion in a few minutes, I think, but France is very candid in saying, “Look, it’s only because we Protestants have over-reacted to the Catholic Church that we are not frank and sincere in admitting the fact that Peter is the Rock. He is the foundation stone upon which Jesus is going to build the Church.”

One of the greatest Protestant Biblical scholars of the century supports this — W. F. Albright, in his Anchor Bible Commentary on Matthew. I opened it up. I was surprised to see, “Peter as the Rock will be the foundation of the future community, the church. Jesus here uses Aramaic and so only the Aramaic word which would serve His purpose. In view of the background in verse 19, one must dismiss as confessional interpretation any attempt to see this rock as the faith or the confession of Peter.” In other words, Professor Albright is admitting as a Protestant that there is a bias in Protestant anti- Catholic interpreters who try to make Jesus’ reference to the rock point only to Peter’s faith or confession. “To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter,” Albright says, “among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence. The interest in Peter’s failures and vacillations does not detract from this pre- eminence, rather it emphasizes it. Had Peter been a lesser figure, his behavior would have been of far less consequence. Precisely because Peter is pre-eminent and is the foundation stone of the Church that his mistakes are in a sense so important, but his mistakes never correspond to his teachings as the Prince of the Apostles.” We will see.”

Albright goes on in his commentary to speak about the keys of the kingdom that Jesus entrusted to Peter. Here’s what he says, “Isaiah 22, verse 15, undoubtedly lies behind this saying of Jesus. The keys are the symbol of authority and Father Roland DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household in ancient Israel. In Isaiah 22 Eliakim is described as having the same authority.”

Now let’s just stop here and ask, “What is he talking about?” I think it’s simple. Albright is saying that Jesus in giving to Peter not only a new name, Rock, but in entrusting to Simon the keys of the kingdom, He is borrowing a phrase from Isaiah 22. He’s quoting a verse in the Old Testament that was extremely well known. This, for me, was the breakthrough. This discovery was the most important discovery of all. Let’s go back to Isaiah 22 and see what Jesus was doing when He entrusted to Peter the keys of the kingdom.

By the way, I do not find hardly any Catholic defenders of the faith these days with awareness of this particular point. This was the point above all points for me. It was the point that the defenders of the Catholic faith in the 16th and 17th Centuries were very aware of, but for some reason amnesia has set in upon many defenders and interpreters not aware of how crucial this particular passage is. In Isaiah 22 beginning back in verses 19 and 20, we have some very interesting background. This is where Jesus goes for a quotation to cite this passage.

What’s happening here? Well, in verse 19 it says, “I will thrust you from your office and you will be cast down from your station and on that day I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe and will bind your girdle on him and will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah; and I will place on his shoulder the key of the House of David.”

Now the House of David is like, you know, the House of Bourbon. It’s a dynastic reference. The House of David is the Davidic kingdom, the Davidic dynasty. We know this because David has been dead for hundreds of years when this is happening in Isaiah 22, “I will give you the key of the House of David. He shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open. He will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.” Look at all of the symbols of dynastic authority that are being given to this individual. First of all, an office. Second, a robe. Third, a throne and fourth, keys, the key of the House of David, these royal keys.

Now, what is going on here? I’ll just summarize it in rather simple terms. Hezekiah was at the time, the king over Israel. He was the son of David, hundreds of years after David had died. He was in the line of David and also he was ruler over the House of David. Now all kings in the ancient world had, as kings and queens have these days, cabinet officers, a cabinet of royal ministers. Like Margaret Thatcher is the Prime Minister, so there are other ministers under the Queen in Great Britain. Hezekiah, as King, had as his Prime Minister before Shebna who proved unworthy. So he was expelled, but when he was expelled, he left an office vacant. Not only did you have dynastic succession for the king, but you also have a dynastic office for the Prime Minister. When Shebna is expelled, there is an empty office that needs to be filled and that’s why Eliakim is called to fill it.

Now, Eliakim is a minister in the cabinet, but now he is being granted the Prime Minister’s position. How do we know? Because he is given what the other ministers do not have, the keys of the kingdom, the key to the House of David. That symbolized dynastic authority entrusted to the Prime Minister and dynastic succession. Why? Because it’s the key of David; it’s the House of David.

Let me go back and try to simplify this even further. I’ll read the quote. Albright says, “In commenting upon Matthew 16 and Jesus giving to Peter the keys of the kingdom, Isaiah 22:15 and following undoubtedly lies behind this saying.” Albright, a Protestant, non- Catholic insists that it’s undoubtable that Jesus is citing Isaiah 22, “The keys are the symbol of authority and DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority as that vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household of ancient Israel.” In other words, the Prime Minister’s office.

Other Protestant scholars admit it too, that when Jesus gives to Peter the keys of the kingdom, Peter is receiving the Prime Minister’s office, which means dynastic authority from the Son of David, Jesus, the King of Israel, but also an office where there will be dynastic succession. When I discovered that, it was like the blinders fell off. Within a few weeks I had gotten together with the leading Protestant theologians in the world, one of the most reputable anti- Catholic Protestant theologians and spent ten hours with him and then in a Mercedes we drove two hours and I presented this case, and his only comment was, “That’s clever.” But he said, “You don’t have to follow the Pope because of that.” I said, “Why not?” And he said, “Well, I’m going to have to think about it.” He said, “I’ve never heard that argument before.” And I said, “It’ s one of the basic arguments that Cajeton used against the Protestants in the 16th Century and Cajeton was one of the most well-known defenders of the Catholic faith and you’ve never heard of him before?” I said, “I had never heard of it before until I discovered it on my own and then found it in all these other people.” And he said, “That’s clever.” Clever, perhaps. True, definitely; enlightening, illuminating, very interesting.

He goes on to say some other things. “It is of considerable importance,” Albright says, “that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are discussed, the symbol of the keys is absent, since the saying applies in these instances to a wider circle. The role of Peter as steward of the kingdom is further explained as being the exercise of administrative authority as was the case of the Old Testament chamberlain who held the keys.”

Now, what he means there is that nowhere else, when other Apostles are exercising Church authority are the keys ever mentioned. In Matthew 18, the Apostles get the power to bind and loose, like Peter got in Matthew 16, but with absolutely no mention of the keys. That fits perfectly into this model because in the king’s cabinet, all the ministers can bind and loose, but the Prime Minister who holds the keys can bind what they have loosed or loose what they have bound. He has, in a sense, the final say. He has, in himself, the authority of the court of final appeal and even Protestants can see this.

In fact, I found this quotation in Martin Luther from 1530, years after he had left the Church, “Why are you searching heavenward in search of my keys? Do you not understand, Jesus said, ‘I gave them to Peter. They are indeed the keys of heaven, but they are not found in heaven for I left them on earth.’” This is Jesus talking, “‘Peter’s mouth is my mouth, his tongue is my key case, his keys are my keys. They are an office.’” Luther even saw it, “‘They are a power, a command given by God through Christ to all of Christendom for the retaining and remitting of the sins of men.’” The only thing that Luther won’t admit is that there was succession after Peter died, which is exactly what the keys denote, given their Old Testament background.

One of the greatest reformed Biblical scholars of this century, Herman Liderboss, a European scholar, in his Matthew commentary says, this is going back. I should have read this a few minutes ago. But he says, “The slight difference between these two words, petra and petros, has no special importance. The most likely explanation for the change from petros, Peter, masculine, to petra is that petra was the normal word for rock, because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name; however, Simon was not called Petra but Petros. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that He was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the Church. The words “on this rock,” petra, indeed, refer to Peter. Because of the revelation he had received and the confession it had motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future Church.”

One of the top Evangelical, non-Catholic scholars in America, Professor Donald Carson of the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in his book, God With Us, Themes from Matthew says, “Jesus was simply using a pun to say that Peter is the rock on which Jesus would build His Church.” Now Dr. Carson is no Catholic Apologist. He would try to set up arguments against the Catholic faith, I’m sure; but he’s sincere and, I think, also respectable as a scholar in insisting upon the obvious evidence in the conclusions.

This has led an Evangelical Protestant German scholar, Gerhardt Meier, who wrote a famous book that conservative Protestants frequently refer to, “The End of the Historical Critical Method”. In his article, “The Church and the Gospel of Matthew,” Gerhardt Meier says on pages 58 through 60, “Nowadays, a broad consensus has emerged which, in accordance with the words of the text applies the promise to Peter as a person.” This is a Protestant speaking now. “On this point liberal and conservative theologians agree,” and he names several Protestant theologians from the liberal to the conservative side. “Matthew 16:18 ought not to be interpreted as a local church. The church in Matthew 16:18 is the universal entity, namely the people of God. There is an increasing consensus now that this verse concerning the power of the keys is talking about the authority to teach and to discipline, including even to absolve sins.” Professor Gerhardt Meier is a Protestant with no interest in supporting the Catholic claim but, as an honest scholar, admits that Peter is the one that Jesus is giving His power to. “Peter is the rock and the keys signify, not only disciplinary power to teach, but even to absolve sins. With all due respect to the Protestant Reformers, we must admit that the promise in Matthew 16-18 is directed to Peter and not to a Peter-like faith. As Evangelical theologians, especially, we ought to look at ourselves dispassionately and acknowledge that we often tend unjustifiably toward an individualistic conception of faith. To recognize the authenticity of Matthew 16:17 and following demands that we develop a Biblically based ecclesiology or doctrine of the church.”

Gerhardt Meier is showing, as an honest scholar, that the church which Jesus speaks of is a universal church, not just a local congregation, another favorite ploy of anti-Catholic apologists. He says, “No, the church He’s talking about is the one, holy, Catholic Church, the universal church and the rock on which it will be built is Peter, not Peter’s confession and the keys that Jesus gives to Peter are keys not only to teach but even to absolve sins.” He’s not saying, “We all should become Catholics, but what we should honestly do is to grant the Catholics the point. Because if we are honest in interpreting the Bible, we have to admit these conclusions.”

Another Lutheran professor, a professor of scripture and theology at Concordia Seminary in Hong Kong, Torg Forberg wrote an article entitled, “Peter, High Priest of the New Covenant.” Forberg insists that Jesus is the ultimate High Priest in the New Testament, but he says, “Peter is presented as some kind of successor to the High Priest in tradition used by the final redactorate, Matthew 16:13-19. Peter stands out as a kind of chief Rabbi who binds and looses in the sense of declaring something to be forbidden or permitted. Peter is looked upon as a counterpart to the High Priest. He is the highest representative for the people of God.” This is Protestant testimony.

Elsewhere I found in The Interpreter’s Bible, “The keys of the kingdom would be permitted to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority, unlimited power, total. Post- apostolic Christianity is now beginning to ascribe to the Apostles the prerogatives of Jesus.” The person who wrote this section in the Interpreter’s Bible is saying, “I don’t think personally that Jesus ever said these words. How could Jesus give to the Apostles prerogatives that are His own?” Well, the Church has always said that Jesus said this and what Jesus is giving is His own grace, His own power and His own authority to His Apostles.

Now Bultmann, one of the most notorious and well-known Protestant Biblical scholars of the century argues that it is impossible to regard Matthew 16 as an authentic saying of Jesus. He said, “How could He have envisioned the future development of an organized congregation of followers and appointed for them Peter as possessor of the power to teach and to discipline?” I have several other quotations here. I won’t go through them all, but let me just summarize with a quotation from an English Protestant scholar, J.N.D. Kelly in his book, Oxford Dictionary of the Popes. He says, “The Papacy is the oldest of all Western institutions with an unbroken existence of almost 2000 years.”

We are reaching a point these days in the scholarly dialogue that is exciting, where some of the most essential points are now being admitted and acknowledged by both sides. But I must say, as I listen to tapes that are made of debates that are held across the country through these last few years, there are still many Protestants, or I should say non-Catholics, out there who are so vehemently opposed to the Catholic Church, they will still go back to the over-reaction of the Protestants, the anti-Catholic misinterpretations and use them.

A good friend of mine was in a recent debate with a Protestant minister who was using it right and left, even after the debates. My friend went up to him and said, “Do you think, even though you are arguing that Peter isn’t the Rock because you were quoting this and that and the other thing, do you think that Peter is the Rock?” And the anti-Catholic debater said, “Of course I do!” Although he had argued against that position, he held it himself. He just wanted to undermine the Catholic teaching. There is a broad consensus emerging, and it’s a strong and sure foundation that we can build on in discussions and dialogues. I don’t want to overdo it, but I think it is a very, very important point.

Common Objections to Papal Infallibility

Now, what I would like to do at this point is to move beyond Matthew 16 and consider some other factors that play into this as well. First, let me just throw out some objections that may come into your mind. How could a human be infallible? Isn’t infallibility a prerogative of God alone? Then as Catholics I think we should admit Mary who never sinned, although we never say that the infallible Popes never sin. They sin. They are not impeccable; they are infallible As persons, they sin. As persons, they make mistakes. As persons, they might hold the wrong opinion inside their own minds; but Christ prevents them, through the Holy Spirit in His omnipotent love, from ever sitting down in the Chair of Peter and teaching the wrong opinions as Catholic beliefs.

It’s ultimately the infallibility of Christ that is the foundation for whatever we ascribe to the Popes. Now somebody could say, “Infallible? Teaching nothing but truth? To err is human, to forgive divine. You know we don’t need infallibility. We can’t have it. It isn’t human.” Well, I would say this; two things. First of all, if I were to sit down and write a textbook in say Algebra, and we got a thousand proof readers from across the world and they all went through it with a fine tooth comb, and after years they didn’t find a single mistake, would you have to conclude this was not written by a man but by God? There are no mistakes. No, of course not. I mean to err is human, but to be human is not to err only and always, continually. We can make mistakes, but we don’t have to! And God can prevent us from doing so.

You hear Protestants says sometimes, like I always used to say, “You know this idea of infallibility just doesn’t belong to humans. But then you think about it another minute. Non-Catholic Christians rarely admit that the Bible is infallible because the Biblical authors were given the gift of infallibility: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James, Jude — all of them wrote infallible truth. In fact, the Bible Christians insist that the Bible alone is our authority because the Bible is infallible.

Well, ask them. If God was capable of using thousands of sinners to infallibly communicate infallible truth, then, so that the Church could see it as the truth, which is the Bread of Life, which is Christ himself and all the teachings, if God could do it then, with fallible sinners, like Peter and Paul and John and Matthew, couldn’t He still do it? In other words, certainly God is capable; and if you look around at how the Church spreads throughout the world, and how the Church encounters all kinds of crazies down through the ages, do you suppose that Jesus would say, “Well, once I give the Church this infallible scripture, there really is no need anymore for infallible interpretations of scripture. The Church can hold together just with the infallible Bible.”

Oh, really? In just 500 years, there are literally thousands and thousands of denominations that are becoming ever more numerous continuously because they only go with the Bible. It points to the fact that we need an infallible interpretation of this infallible book, don’t we. I mean, can you imagine the fathers of our country putting together the U.S. Constitution and mailing it out to every citizen and saying, “Fend for yourselves. Go it alone; with the spirit of Washington you will be guided to your proper interpretation.” What do you call that? Anarchy. We wouldn’t have lasted a month as a nation. The Constitution established a governmental structure with a court of final appeal, the Supreme Court, that is final in all matters of constitutional interpretation.

Now that’s in the human sphere. If the constitutional founders had sufficient wisdom to see the need for one little nation in 200 years to have a court of final appeal, how much more would Christ see the need to establish and constitute in the Church and putting in His constitution not only the truth but the official organs for interpreting and enforcing and explaining and preaching and proclaiming that truth. It’s just common sense. It’s not unprecedented either.

Somebody could say, “Well, this idea of Peter speaking ex- cathedra, that’s bogus, that’s novel, that’s unheard of’.” I would say, “No, it’s not.” When the Church teaches about how, the Pope when he speaks from the Chair of Peter, Ex Cathedra, “from the seat or from the cathedra” (we get the word cathedral from the fact that’s where the bishop’s cathedra is) the Church isn’t inventing something new. It’s building, rather, on the teachings of Jesus.

Turn to Matthew 23, verses 1 and 2, “Then said Jesus to the crowds and to His disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. So practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do, for they preach but they don’t practice.’” They preach, but they don’t practice what they preach. What’s he saying? Jesus says, “The scribes and the Pharisees.” Now, what does Jesus think of the scribes and the Pharisees? Well, read the rest of Matthew 23 and you will discover it. He goes on in this chapter to call the scribes and the Pharisees “fools, hypocrites, blind guides, vipers and whitewashed tombs.” He doesn’t think too highly of the scribes and the Pharisees, does He?

But what does He say here? “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.” Therefore, “you have to,” it’s in the imperative tense, “You have to practice and observe whatever they tell you.” “Whatever they tell you,” you have to practice and observe. Why? Because they sit on Moses’ cathedras. The Greek word is “cathedra”. The Church, when it speaks of Peter’s authority and the Popes speaking ex-cathedra are simply borrowing from Jesus’ teaching.

Now, I would challenge anybody to go back into the Old Testament and find some explicit text in the Old Testament where we find Moses establishing a chair, some endowed seat, that will always have successors. You don’t find a text explicitly saying that. So why does Jesus refer to it. Because there is also oral tradition, even in the Old Testament, which was used by God to transmit certain essential terms that the covenant family of God requires and depends upon for its life. Jesus doesn’t quote a text. He appeals to a well-known oral tradition that He assumes the scribes and the Pharisees know about as well as His listeners. He doesn’t just assume they know it, He assumes they are going to submit to it, and that they have been submitting to it. It’s just that they have been experiencing problems because Old Testament priests and bishops are sometimes just as troublesome as New Testament priests and bishops are. But why do we follow, because they have so much charm and charisma? No, because Jesus Christ has established in the Old Testament a seat of Moses which is replaced in the New Testament with the seat of Peter.

In the Old Testament we don’t have the full disclosure of all final revelation, but in the New Testament Jesus tells us that He will guide us in all truth. We don’t say that Moses and his successors were infallible; because the fullness of the truth had not yet been given. But once it is given to the Apostles and their successors, we can see why Jesus guarantees that the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church. Why? Because of what Jesus has entrusted to this cathedra, this Petrine seat, the sea of Peter in Rome.

This is such assurance for us that whether John XI or John XII, two of the most sinful Popes in all of history or Alexander VI; I mean these guys were scoundrels. We have had scoundrels for Popes. Out of the hundreds of Popes, it’s amazing to think that there were really only three or four scoundrels, but that should bother you. But should it cause you to overthrow your confidence in listening to the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the Pope? No, of course not. For one thing, you can be grateful that these scoundrels were too busy sinning to even attempt teaching from the seat of Peter. They didn’t, and they brought great confusion upon the Church so it is a deplorable condition.

But let’s consider one fact. Jesus chose twelve Apostles, didn’t He? And what about those twelve Apostles? One of them was Judas. Did Jesus know it beforehand? You bet He did. Why did He choose him? Maybe to get us ready for Judas priests in all generations.

Peter’s Place in the Early Church

But what does the Church do after Jesus is ascended into heaven, after Judas has committed suicide? Turn to Acts 1 to see what the Church does in response to Judas’ death and Jesus’ departure. It’s very interesting and important because Peter stands up with the eleven in the Upper Room, verse 15, and He speaks about Judas’ death and He says, “It was known beforehand and had even been prophesied in the Old Testament” and so what should we do now?

Notice that Peter — and by the way, notice that it is Peter who stands up. He’s not just contributing an opinion. When Peter declares an opinion it is binding and immediately following, exactly what he advises. And what is it he advises? He quotes the Psalms, “Let his habitation become desolate and let there be no one to live in it.” But then he doesn’t say, “Hey, guys, we’re from twelve down to eleven. We better hang together now or we might end up hanging separately. No we’re just down to eleven and it’s going to be us from now on.” He doesn’t say that.

He says, “His office, let another take.” Or as the King James version says, “His bishopric, let other men take.” The word there is episcopae, where we get the word episcopacy or episcopal. It’s the word for bishop. In other words, there’s an epioscopal office that is now empty and vacant. Peter stands up and says, “Well obviously, automatically, in line with the Old Testament tradition, in line with this Old Testament practice of patriarchal succession at every level in God’s family, not just at top with Moses and his seed and his successors, but even the seventy elders, when they died, they left empty offices that must be filled,” Peter is just obviously appealing to this Old Testament precedent is saying, “Let another man his bishopric, his office, take.”

And they draw lots and they choose Matthias. No debate, no novelty. The other ten don’t say, “Huh, what are you talking about, Simon? This is weird.” No, they understand, but even more, they submit. There’s no debate, no discussion.

Notice also in Acts 2, Peter’s responsibility, not just over the ten, but over all of Jerusalem. He is the one who preaches the first sermon, that Pentecost, verse 14. He is the spokesman for the Church to the world at Pentecost.

Then you go on in chapter 3, we see Peter’s second sermon. We also see that Peter is the instrument by which the first real healing miracle occurs, the lame man in the temple in Jerusalem in the portico called Solomon, I should say.

Then in chapter 4, we see Peter’s pre-eminence emerging even further as he exercises his teaching authority over the Jewish senate, the Sanhedrin. He’s put on trial, so you think he’s going to be defensive. He’s going to come to His own defense saying, “Oh gosh, guys, you know, please don’t do these things.” But no. He puts the Sanhedrin on trial for crucifying the Lord. He exercises supreme authority over the Jewish senate. It left them flabbergasted! Who does this fisherman think he is? The vicar of Christ over the family of God. And so they’re set free. They are astounded at his boldness.

Then in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira, two wealthy members of the Church, sell some land and then lie about how much money they gave to the Church. Peter said to Ananias, “What are you doing?” Ananias says, “Well I gave you all the money.” And Peter says, “You are lying to the Holy Spirit.” Ananias said, “No, I’m just lying to you, Peter.” But no. In lying to Peter, Ananias was lying to the Holy Spirit and to the Church. He’s struck dead! A few hours later his wife Sapphira comes along. Peter says, “What happened?” “Oh, we sold the land for this amount, and we gave you all the money.” And, “Hark, the footsteps of the men who just carried out your husband are coming for you.” She drops dead! “And great fear came upon all those who heard of it,” in verse 5.

No wonder. Petrine promise was rather apparent here. I mean Peter’s pre-eminence was on display for the whole Church and the whole world and all the Jews to see and to behold. And it goes on and on and on. We see Peter, for instance, in Acts 11 and 12 — even before that — Acts 8, the first time non-Jewish half-breeds, Samaritans are brought into the Church. They are baptized. Word reaches Jerusalem that these non-Jewish half-breeds, the Samaritans are coming into the Church. Immediately, what do they do? Send Peter and John. They go down there and what do they do? Well, a Confirmation action, here. “They lay the hand,” verse 14, “When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed they might receive the Holy Spirit.” They were baptized but they hadn’t received this additional grace that we often associate with Confirmation. Then the laying on of hands; they received the Holy Spirit and then Simon Magus tried to buy the gift and Peter rebukes him.

“May your money,” verse 20, “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. You have no part to share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord and perhaps He will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart, for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” At this point Simon, who probably had heard of Ananias and Sapphira was trembling, you know. “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” I mean, even if some don’t see Peter’s promise, at least Simon Magus, the first heretic in the Church did. He said, “Please pray for me that I won’t become the next Ananias and Sapphira.”

Acts 11, now we’re not talking about half-breeds; now we are talking about just plain outsiders, the Goene, the Gentiles, the swine, those that the Jews had often considered to be mere beasts. Cornelius, the first Gentile believer is going to be let into the Church? This is going to cause scandal. What’s the Holy Spirit going to do? Have Peter be the first to authorize and admit the first Gentile Christian.

So Peter has this vision and in Acts 10 and 11, I should say, he has this vision: he’s being commanded by God in this vision to kill and to eat these unclean animals that symbolize the Gentiles. He says, “I’ve never done it.” Three times later he says, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it.” And then these people come and say, “We’re being sent from Cornelius, the Gentile Centurion.” In a dream, in a vision, the Lord had said to Cornelius, “Send for a guy named Peter.” So Peter comes and what happens? Well, Peter goes up to his house and he perceives, verse 34, he says after he’s baptizing Cornelius, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

So then he goes ahead, preaches the gospel, baptizes these Gentiles and admits the first non-Jewish believers into the Church. And I mean, this could have been the greatest crisis of all, but there isn’t even a fizzle, practically. But look at chapter 11, verse 2, “When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, ‘You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” And he explained exactly what happened and said, “Hey, God told me.” It’s Peter and they stopped.

But the crisis reaches an even higher point in chapter 15. We have the famous Council of Jerusalem where there’s a huge debate tearing apart the Church. These Gentile believers, do we circumcise them or not? Well you might say, “How important is that?” Well, gentlemen, if you were in your twenties, thirties and forties and you were considering conversion and along with conversion, you had to get circumcised, you might end up considering conversion a lot longer than if all you needed was baptism, right? There was sort of a strategic purpose behind all of this. But notice, as the debate is raging, all of a sudden it stops. When? Verse 6 and 7, “The Apostles and elders met together. After much debate Peter stood up and addressed them,” and he basically says the Holy Spirit purified their hearts through Baptism, circumcision isn’t needed; end all debate! The only thing that follows is that James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, adds the kind of qualifying proviso so that the Jews are not needlessly scandalized in Gentile lands. But Peter’s word was final and absolute. The debate ended. Peter had spoken.

Now you might say, “Well, this is just Peter.” No, the keys symbolize succession, an office which is left vacant must be filled. This is something that the Church understood. This is something that was well-known to the early Church. I hardly have time to get into this, but I have all these note cards about the early Church, after the death of the last Apostles, recognizing that the Bishop of Rome had Peter’s authority and that was final and absolute.

Early Church Fathers Recognized Papal Primacy and Succession

Clement of Rome, about 96, writing to Corinth about this disunity, “But if any disobey the word spoken by him, Peter, through us.” Remember Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus? Those were the first Popes.

Irenaeus, writing in the 2nd Century says, “Anyone who wished to discern the truth may see in every Church in the whole world, the Apostolic succession clear and manifest.” We saw that in Acts 1. I mean, if Judas’ office when left vacant is filled by a successor, then why should we be scandalized and lose our faith if a Pope is a scoundrel? You know, you may say, “The Pope shouldn’t be a scoundrel.” I’d say, “Yeah and amen.” But Jesus knew that it wasn’t going to be human strength and human authority that would put it all together for the Church. That’s why He chose a Judas in the first place, to assure our hearts that no matter who was in the Apostolic seat, whether it’s Peter or the other Apostles, his Bishops, it’s Jesus’ omnipotent love for His family that will see us through to the truth, no matter what may come.

Irenaeus goes on and says, “We can enumerate those who were appointed as bishops in the churches by the Apostles and their successors down to our own day, but as it would be very long in a book of this kind to enumerate the successors of all through the churches, I will point out the Apostolic tradition in faith announced to mankind.” And it goes on. Speaking about the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul at Rome — I won’t read the whole quote, it goes on, but there also we see Iraneaus in the 2nd Century underscoring the Bishops as the successors to the Apostles and the Bishop of Rome, in particular, as the successor to Peter.

Tertullian in the late 100′s and the early 200′s A.D. said, “Was anything withheld from Peter who was called the Rock on which the Church should be built, who also obtained the keys to the kingdom of heaven with the power of binding and loosing in heaven and earth?”

Origen, in the late 100′s spoke of Peter first because, “He was more honored than the rest.”

St. Cyprian spoke of the Roman Church founded on Peter who fixed his chair in Rome. He speaks of the Church in Rome as our Mother Church, “the root of universality and Catholicity.”

Hilary in the 300′s speaks of the foundation of the Church on the Rock from which the Church was built. In other words, the early Church Fathers recognized this. The Protestant historian, Goodspeed, in his history book says, “The claim of primacy among the bishops for its head began under Victor in the 2nd Century and progressed under Calistus who claimed the power of the keys and reached a peak under Stephen in the 3rd Century, who professed to occupy the chair of St. Peter.” Now even Cyprian, when he opposed Stephen as Pope, didn’t oppose authority but opposed his opinions. Then finally, because Cyprian is St. Cyprian, he gave in to the Pope which is why he became a saint. St. Cyprian says, “A primacy is given to Peter and it is thus made clear that there is but one Church and one Chair.”

I have about thirty quotes from a Syriac saint and Father, St. Ephraim. He is the one who just reaches to the clouds for words to describe the authority of Peter and his successors in the Sea of Rome. I don’t have time to go through these all, but I recommend a three- volume work written by a Professor Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, and it goes through all the Fathers and the many, many things they said to show that they recognize this authority in the Pope. Augustine, for instance, “Even if some traitor crept into this order of Bishops which is drawn from Peter, himself, up to Anastasius who now occupies the same See, he would not prejudice the Church.” He speaks of the cathedre Petri.

When you look at St. Augustine, a great saint and Father that the Protestants revere, Augustine had more things to say about the Popes as successors to Peter with all of his plenary authority than almost anybody else in the first seven centuries of the Church. It’s astonishing. Augustine said, “Who is ignorant that the chief Apostolate is to be preferred to any Episcopate?” Of the dignity of Peter he says, “in whom the primacy of the Apostles shone forth with excelling grace.”

Another Objection: Why Wasn’t Papal Infallibility Defined Until the 1800′s? The Bible Never Mentions Papal Infallibility.

Now, we could go on and on. Somebody could say, “Now, wait a second. Why wasn’t Papal infallibility defined until the 1800s? The Bible never says Papal infallibility.” No it doesn’t. But the Bible never says Trinity, either. And all non-Catholic Christians affirm the Trinity. Why wasn’t the word “Trinity” used? Well, because the word Trinity wasn’t necessary until heresies arose that forced the Church to formulate and to defend the doctrine of God, one God in Three Persons adequately and sufficiently. At that point, they came up with a very helpful term, “Tri-unity” or Trinity to do so.

Likewise, in looking at Matthew 16 and the unconditional guarantee that Jesus gives to Peter, the recipient of the keys, the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church which is built upon the Rock. The gates of Hades will not prevail against Peter and his successors. Well, the gates of Hades derive their power from error, from untruth, from falsehood, the father of lies. If one lie is allowed into the Church’s pure, sacred teaching, that’s like taking a window pane and putting one crack into it. I’ll tell you what happens. I was driving down a highway in Milwaukee and a little pebble bounced up and just touched the windshield, a little crack. What happened? Over the next few months, my wife will tell you, that crack grew and grew, and we had to replace it because the whole thing could have been shattered.

Conclusion

If one should admit one falsehood, defined as truth, the gates of Hades have prevailed. Christ has given us an unconditional guarantee that they will not prevail because he will build His Church upon Peter and His successors, the Rock, the foundation stone. This gives us confidence because the family of God on earth is never left without a father figure to teach and to help us.

Now, if a Judas-type occupies the Chair, you better believe that God will graciously pour out an extra measure of the Holy Spirit to protect His children and see that that scoundrel is out, quick. And they were. And to show that these people were exposed — every Catholic historian will admit that certain Popes, a very, very few, were scoundrels who were acting too scoundrelish to even bother teaching, thanks be to God. But this gives to us the kind of confidence we need as God’s sons and daughters to listen to the Holy Father, John Paul II, and hear the voice of Christ because this awesome grace that is given to the Pope is one of the many graces that Christ died to give to us.

Let’s treasure it. Let’s cherish it and let’s live it out with God’s grace and power. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we pray, Our Father, etc.

Retrieve From: http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp

The Papacy: God’s Gift to the Church

The Papacy: God’s Gift to the Church

by James Akin

rainbow The Papacy: Gods Gift to the Church

I want to begin by telling you a story. It is the story of a good and wise king who lived 3,000 years ago in the middle east. Although this king sometimes made mistakes–including serious ones, for which he was chastised–he still was a devout and pious king whom the Bible describes as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).

King David pleased God so much that he made a special covenant with him. God promised that he would build a dynasty after him. He would even give David a descendant–a Son–who would be a great deliverer for the people of Israel–the long-awaited Messiah whom God had promised some time earlier, and who now would be the great and glorious Son of David, who would build a kingdom surpassing even David’s.

Now King David, like all kings–especially the good ones–was a very busy guy. He had funds to raise, public works projects to oversee, crimes to punish, legal cases to settle, wars with other nations to fight, foreign diplomacy to conduct, and that is on top of the tasks of an ordinary man, such as eating, sleeping, and raising his family.

He had his plate full, and there was simply no way he could personally administer everything in his household, which included more than a thousand family members and servants. There were supplies to be ordered, meals to be cooked, babies to be burped, children to be put to bed, students to be taught, wives to be clothed, rooms to be cleaned, servants to acquire and replace, floors to be scrubbed, walls to be paneled, accounts to be balanced, vendors to be paid, and hundreds of other tasks.

Because there was no way David could personally oversee those doing these tasks, no way he could give instructions personally to every servant or family member, no way he could reward them if they followed the instructions or punish them if they didn’t, David appointed a group of ministers to handle the overseeing of his house for him. It was these servants who would instruct, reward, and discipline the members of the household in their daily tasks.

But his house was so large, with so many members to oversee, that there was a large number of ministers overseeing them, and whenever you have a large number of people doing something, there are going to be quarrels. Members of one department are going to want things which another department wants for itself. Some will think the children will need to be taught one way, while other will think they need to be taught differently. Some want the daily schedule ordered one way; others want it ordered another. And there needs to be some way to settle these quarrels and keep the overseeing ministers operating as a harmonious group.

So the wise King David arranged for such a method. He appointed one particular minister who would serve as the chief steward of his house, rather like the President today has the White House Chief of Staff. This minister, who was accountable to King David alone, had the task of settling quarrels, keeping ministers in line, and in general keeping the house together and running smoothly.

When the king was away, this meant that the chief steward or chamberlain of the house was in charge. He was the head of the household when the king was away, and was second in command when the king was present.

This arrangement of having one chief minister who could oversee the lesser ministers and keep them from getting into conflicts with each other was so successful that it was used by the later kings of the House of David, and even by the kings of the House of Israel, when that broke away from the Southern Kingdom after Solomon died.

Unfortunately, not all of the occupants of the chamberlain’s office were worthy of their position, and God stripped some of them of their authority. We read of one instance where this happened in Isaiah 22. There a chief steward named Shebna is being stripped of his office, which is then given to a man named Eliakim.

If you read the passage, you will see that Shebna had gotten God mad at him because he had grown accustomed to the pomp and finery of the office, relishing in splendid chariots and such, and had arrogantly carved out a fancy tomb for himself at Jerusalem, when in reality he was going to be sent into exile and die in a foreign land.

 

God declared that Shebna would be pulled from his office as the king’s chamberlain, and the position would be given to another man. God describes this transfer of power in a very vivid, visual way. He says:

“I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.” (Isa. 22:21-23).

Typical of Hebrew prophecy, that uses a lot of powerful imagery, and two of its images–the key of the house of David and the fact that the chamberlain acts as a father to the people of Jerusalem and the house of Judah–are significant to us.

To symbolize his authority, the chamberlain had a special key which he carried in a pouch on his shoulder. This key symbolized the difference between him and the lesser ministers her oversaw. Other ministers could bind and loose–permit and prohibit activity in the household–but the chief steward or chamberlain could bind and lose in the greatest way, so what no one could undo his judgments. No one, except the king himself.

Because he had such authority, he served as a father figure for the people of the kingdom. A father, biblical culture and biblical imagery, is someone who is able to effectively defend and provide for one. That is why the Old Testament is so strong in its declarations that one must stand up to defend fatherless when their rights are violated. You must defend them because, since they have no father, they don’t have anybody to efficaciously defend and provide for them.

Anyone who was thus put in a position where he defended and provided was thus a father figure–including the king’s chamberlain. If one’s rights were being violated or one was in great need, one could go to the chamberlain and obtain protection and provisions from him, either immediately, by his authority alone, or by getting him to appeal to the king on your behalf. Thus the chamberlain was a father figure for the people of the kingdom.

Now why are those important lessons for us? Because today, for us, there is also a chamberlain for the people of God. When the time came for the Messiah to appear–great David’s Greater Son, the one who fulfilled God’s covenant with David, who himself is the new and perfect David–he did something very similar in setting up his kingdom.

The new kingdom would not be a merely national enterprise, like the old kingdom, but an international one which would include people of many nations. This made it an even bigger organization, which would need an even greater organizational structure. And so, to govern the members of his household, the New David, like the First David, appointed ministers. We call them apostles and bishops and priests and deacons, but that is who they are–Christ’s ministers, who oversee his household.

And as before, whenever you have a bunch of ministers, there are going to be conflicts that need to be settled, and for that you need a central authority–a chief minister who has charge over the others. If you don’t have a central authority to settle disputes, you will have chaos and the household will disintegrate into multiple competing sects. So when Jesus, the Son of David, went about setting up his kingdom and appointing its first ministers, he wisely set up a chief minister.

From the very beginning of his interaction with this man whom he would appoint, Jesus marked him specially, giving him a special, personal name. He did this in John 1:42, where we read that Andrew:

“He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).”

So when Jesus met the man that he would make his chief steward–a man known as Simon bar-Jonah or Simon, the son of John–he have him a new name to specially mark him–the Aramaic word “Cephas” or, more properly, “Kepha,” which was later translated as “Peter” when the Church began to move into Gentile, Greek-speaking circles.

This new name was very significant since this was not an ordinary name. People at this time were not named “Kepha.” The word just means “Rock,” and it probably sounded almost as strange to their ears to give someone the nickname “Rock” we it would to ours. It would have sounded strange to Peter’s ears, and he would naturally wonder, “I just met this man. Why does he say I’m going to be called ‘Rock’ from now on? What does he have in store for me?”

Well, Peter would eventually find out. As Jesus gathered a group of disciples around him, Peter became their natural, de facto leader, and eventually Jesus chose to formalize this relationship, making Peter the official leader of the disciples. We read of that in Matthew 16, in the famous passage where Christ asks the disciples who people say he is. They indicate that the people aren’t sure and give various guesses at the identity of Christ. Then Jesus asks them who they–the disciples–think he is, and Peter answers correctly: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” prompting Jesus to reply:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 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.” (Matt. 16:17-19)

Now this passage was very central to my own conversion. For years I had said to myself the standard Protestant thing that the rock Jesus is referring to in this passage was not Peter but the revelation that Jesus was the Messiah. However, one day I was reading this passage and something struck me that I had never noticed before. Eventually I noticed a whole bunch of things about this text which require that Peter be the rock Jesus is talking about, and I’d like to share just two of them with you today.

If you look at the structure of what Jesus says, he makes three statements, all of them directed to Peter. The first one begins “Blessed are you…” The second one begins, “You are Peter…” and the third one begins “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”

What I initially noticed is that in this passage Jesus is blessing Peter. Just look at the first and the third statements he makes. “Blessed are you he says…” “I will give you the keys to the kingdom…” I know I would feel pretty blessed in Jesus was saying things like that to me, and I’m sure you would, too. This is significant, because if the first and the third statements Jesus makes are beatitudes upon Peter, then the middle one, the one sandwiched right in between them, is going to be a beatitude, too. This means that when Jesus says,

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

He is saying something that magnifies or builds up Peter. That’s a very important insight, because in order to make the rock something other than Peter, people who dispute the papacy have tried to say Jesus is doing the opposite of blessing Peter in this passage, that he is diminishing him. They claim, as I did before I was a Catholic, that what Jesus is really saying in this passage is, “I tell you truly, Peter, you are a little stone, a little, tiny insignificant thing, but on this great Rock of the Revelation of My Identity, I will be building my Church.”

But when you set that phrase in the context of the two beatitudes Jesus pronounces on Peter before and after it, the resulting construction makes no sense. Jesus would be saying, “Blessed are you Simon bar-Jonah! (You insignificant little thing, you.) Here are the keys to the kingdom of heaven!”

That just doesn’t scan, and so I had to conclude that Jesus was the rock that Jesus would build his Church on.

One of the other things I noticed about this passage, and the second thing I wanted to share with you about it tonight, is that each of the three statements Jesus makes to Peter has two parts, and the latter half of each statement explains the meaning of the first.

So when Jesus makes the first statement and says, “Blessed are you Simon bar-Jonah…” the meaning of that–the reason Peter is blessed–is explained by the second half of the statement “…for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Similarly, when Jesus makes the third statement and says, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven…” the meaning of that–part of what it means to have the keys–is clarified in the second half of the statement, when he says, “…and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

That means that when he makes the second statement and begins “I tell you, you are Peter…” the meaning of that–what it means to be Peter–is clarified by the second half of the statement “…and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

There are also a whole bunch of other reasons why Peter must be the rock to whom Jesus is referring in this passage. For example, notice that this passage pictures Jesus as being separate from the Church he builds, not part of it, and so not its foundation in this passage–a point which I discovered when reading an Evangelical Protestant commentator on this passage. But the two reasons I have shown you were instrumental in my conversion, and that is why I wanted to share them.

You see, once I realized that Jesus was making Peter the rock on which the Church would be built, this meant that once Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter would be left in charge. He would be the head apostle, the leader of the earthly Church, and, as I realized, the leader of the earthly Church is a pretty good description of the office of the pope. When I realized that Peter was indeed the rock being talked about in this passage, I had to concede that the Catholics were right and that Peter really was the first pope. I didn’t yet know if Jesus meant there to be any other popes, but I knew Catholics were right to describe Peter as pope.

This is something that became even clearer to me when I began to study the Old Testament background to this passage, for in it Jesus uses the very important symbol of the keys. Now if you read the Old Testament, there are only two places where keys are even mentioned. One is in Judges 3, and it is not theologically significant, for it just records that after one of the Judges of Israel had slain a foreign king, that king’s servants took a key and opened the door to the room in which their master lay slain.

But the other passage in which a key is mentioned is the one we looked at before–Isaiah 22–where the key was the symbol of authority for the chief minister of the house of David. Because this is the only other passage in the Old Testament and the only one where the key is used as a symbol, Isaiah 22 must therefore be the symbolic background to Matthew 16, which means that Jesus, the New David, is making Peter the chamberlain of the house of the New David. Peter is going to be the chief steward, under Jesus the king. That is what this passage is saying to us.

And lest you think that is something I am just making up out of pro-Catholic bias–something I certainly did not have when I figured all of this out as a Protestant–I would like to share with you a brief excerpt from the writings of F. F. Bruce, who is arguably the most important Evangelical Protestant Bible scholar of the twentieth century. In his section on this saying in his book, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, Bruce comments on this phrase and writes:

“And what about the ‘keys of the kingdom’? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chief steward or major domo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him. About 700 B.C. an oracle from God announced that this authority in the royal palace in Jerusalem was to be conferred on a man called Eliakim: ‘I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open’ (Isa. 22:22). So in the new community which Jesus was about to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward. In the early chapters of Acts Peter is seen exercising this responsibility in the primitive church. He acts as chairman of the group of disciples in Jerusalem even before the coming of the Spirit at the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 1:15-26); on the day of Pentecost it is he who preaches the gospel so effectively that three thousand hearers believe the message and are incorporated in the church (Acts 2:14-41); some time later it is he who first preaches the gospel to a Gentile audience and thus ‘opens a door of faiths to Gentiles as well as Jews (Acts 10:34-48).”

So you see here, someone who is not a Catholic and who does not believe in the papacy, and who is one of the greatest Bible scholars of this century, respected even by liberal Bible critics who despised his Evangelical faith, was able to admit that in this passage Jesus is commissioning Peter to be the chief steward of the house of the New David, meaning that while Jesus the King is away in heaven, Peter is in charge in the Church on earth. In other words, Peter is the pope.

Because he is the chief minister of the house of the New David, because he bears the keys of the New Kingdom, he is also a father to those of us in the Church. He in no way infringes on God’s Fatherhood–for God is the Ultimate One who defends and provides for us–but, following the Old Testament parallel, the chamberlain of Christ’s house is “a father to those in Jerusalem and of the House of Judah” so to speak. He is someone who–within the Church–we look to for the defense of our ecclesiastical rights and to provide for our spiritual nourishment.

The pope is an especially great gift to the Church because he is able to step in and solve problems when they arise. Every group of men needs someone who can do this. This is true of religious groups as well, and it is true even in non-Catholic Churches. Even though a typical Protestant congregation may be ruled by a deacon board or a board of elders, there is still one person–the pastor–who can step in and settle disputes. In Eastern Orthodox churches, the bishop plays that role. And what is true on the small scale is true on the large as well. Thus, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention has a president who is elected. Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox have patriarchs who are able to settle disputes between bishops in their areas.

What these men recognize–correctly–is the need of every group to have a personal, immediate head who can step in when situations of crisis and dispute arise. And they thus recognize the wisdom of Christ in appointing Peter to oversee the Church as a whole.

However, what is often not recognized is the strength which the man at the top needs to have. Even if there is a nominal person in charge, if he is only a figurehead or has little real authority, he will not be able to serve effectively to hold the group together. This is, not to in any way disparage our non-Catholic brothers, why the Eastern Orthodox communion is so fragmented and divided into a set of autonomous churches which are engaged in conflicts. The system of patriarchs is not sufficient to knit the union together effectively because the patriarchs do not have sufficient authority to settle disputes, and because the patriarchs have disputes among themselves with no one to adjudicate.

It is also the reason, again not to in any way disparage our non-Catholic brothers, why there are literally thousands of different Protestant denominations. Without the influence of the patriarchs to hold things together, the Protestant communion has been fragmented even further into very small administrative units which, regrettably, are often in conflict with each other.

Sometimes congregations will split over very insignificant things. I remember one church I attended went through a crisis when some people in the group thought the building fund was being misapplied. In another one I went to on occasion, the pastor commented about how when the new church was built, some people got mad and stopped coming because they didn’t like the color of the carpet that was selected. These are very minor things to occasion church splits, but they happen regularly. If you go into Evangelical bookstores and look at the books for pastors, you will find numerous books on how to prevent, manage, and clean up after a church split.

Things like that never happen in Catholic communities. Sure, people may get mad over the color of the carpet or how the building fund is managed, but the parish never splits in two with two resulting churches. That never happens in the Catholic Church because we have leaders with effective authority and they can prevent tiny matters like that from growing into huge crises. That is also why Catholic churches are so much larger than Protestant ones. The typical Protestant church has less than a hundred members; while the typical Catholic one has several hundred families in it. Why? Because Catholic churches don’t split. That’s why there may be only one or two Catholic parishes in some smaller communities, yet the same community may have dozens of non-Catholic churches.

It is effective leadership which has allowed the Catholic Church to hang together and grow to its current size. Right now, the Catholic Church includes 18% of the human race. One in six human beings is a Catholic, and the reason for that is the pope. He is the ecumenical center of the Church, the rallying point which holds it together and keeps it from breaking into pieces. And this only shows the wisdom of Christ in endowing the Church with such a leader to function in his absence.

The papacy is a great gift to the Church, and it is the reason why the Church has thrived and prospered as it has, making it the largest Christian group on earth–larger even than all other Christian groups combined. If God had not chosen to bless us with a leader with effective administrative authority, someone with administrative jurisdiction to settle crises in all parts of the Church, that would never have been possible. In order to achieve what Christ’s Church has achieved, it must have someone who, in Christ’s absence, functions with papal primacy.

But not all disputes in the Church are merely administrative. Some are also doctrinal, and these are the more serious ones, not only because doctrinal matters are weightier than mere matters of practice and administration, but because they are also the ones that cause the deepest divisions among people. When people have a deep and fundamental disagreement about doctrine, it makes all other divisions between them pale in comparison.

This means that for the pope to do his job effectively in holding the Church together, there must also be a mechanism by which doctrinal disputes can be settled.

Of course, there is the model of an ecumenical council. This is a biblical model following the holding of the Spirit-directed council of Acts 15, where it was decided that Gentiles could become Christians without having to keep the Mosaic Law. But sometimes a council is not expedient, either because one physically not be called–as was the case during the Roman persecutions–or because the council would be very deeply divided on some question, or because a resolution to the crisis is needed too quickly, before a council could be assembled. In such cases, when an ecumenical council is not practical, God has gifted the pope himself with the ability to definitively settle doctrinal conflicts. Thus he has given him the gift of papal infallibility.

This gift is often misunderstood by people as thinking that the pope is supposed to be sinless, but that clearly wasn’t the case even for Peter himself as Scripture is quite frank about his sins, as it is about the sins of all the figures in its pages. Yet this did not stop Peter from infallibly writing to of the books of Scripture–the two epistles which bear his name, 1 and 2 Peter.

The gift of infallibility is also often misunderstood by people as meaning that, even if the pope isn’t infallible in all he does, he is infallible in all he says. This again is untrue. The object of the pope’s infallibility is matters of faith and morals. He cannot speak infallibly on anything else unless it is something that has a bearing on the teachings of faith and morals (for example, whether a given council really was ecumenical or not). This is what theologians call the secondary object of infallibility. But the pope is not infallible when it comes to matters of science or history or math or interior decorating or anything else unless it pertains to defense of Christian faith and morals.

Not only is his infallibility limited in terms of the topics it applies to, it is also limited in terms of the times it applies to. The overwhelming majority of the things the pope says are not infallible. The only time the pope ever speaks infallibly is when he definitively declares a doctrine to be held by all, when he indicates that this is a definitive, once-for-all decision, that there is no room for debate or alternate interpretations, that this is the bottom line and everyone has to toe it.

This only happens occasionally. Sometimes a pope will be elected who chooses never in his entire term of office to ever issue one infallible statement in all of the encyclicals, bulls, and apostolic letters he writes. Normally, they are only reserved for times of crisis, when some dangerous teaching is being spread in the Church.

So even though the infallible utterance is used infrequently, it is still a very valuable tool and very necessary when these times of doctrinal crisis arise. That is why Christ gave it to the Church, because he promised that the Church would never dogmatically teach heresy.

Remember: He promised Peter, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” If the Church ever did dogmatically teach heresy and bind the conscience of believers to believe something that is erroneous, then it would cease to be Jesus’ Church and the gates of hell would indeed have prevailed against it. So there is just no way the Church can ever dogmatically teach error. If it did, the gates of hell would prevail against it and it would cease to be Jesus’ Church, which he himself promised would never happen. It follows, therefore, that whenever the Church does dogmatically teach something and say, “You really must believe this. This is the truth of God,” that the thing must be true. That is why Paul, in 1 Timothy 3:15, refers to the Church as “the pillar and ground of truth.” It is the Church which upholds the truth of God in this world.

And so, just as the pope is the chief shepherd of the Church–the focus of its pastoral authority–he is also the chief teacher of the Church–the focus of its doctrinal authority, and so is capable of making infallible utterances.

This is nothing new in the history of God’s people. If we look at the Old Testament high priest, for example, he had a similar, though not identical revelatory charism. If you look at Exodus 28:30, for example, you find out that the high priest was supposed to wear a special breastpiece, known as the breastpiece of judgment, in which he was to carry two objects known as the urim and thummim. He was then to use the urim and thummim to inquire of God, settle disputes, and obtain directions for the people of God.

In Numbers 27:21, for example, Moses was directed to have Joshua look to the high priest inquire with the urim and thummim concerning when and where the Israelites were to go.

In 1 Samuel 14:41, Saul had the priest use the urim and thummim to inquire concerning who was at fault in a particular situation.

And after the exile, in Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65, the governor decides that certain men claiming to be priests but unable to prove the fact are not to be allowed to eat the most holy food in the Temple until there is a high priest who can inquire with urim and thummim to find out if these men really are priests.

So the idea is nothing new that the earthly religious leader of God’s people might have a special charism from God to let him settle disputes. And, of course, whenever God is operating through this charism, the results are infallible, meaning that in certain situations the high priest in the Old Testament had a certain form of infallibility charism.

This charism also operated regardless of whether the high priest in question was a saint or a scoundrel. For example, if you look at John 11:49-52, we read:

“49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; 50 you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Here we have the high priest who disbelieved and put Messiah to death–certainly not a saintly man–issuing a prophecy. And he does not issue it because he is a nice guy and is on God’s good side–for he is about to put God’s Son to death–but, John tells us because he was high priest that year. It is because of the office of high priest that he is able to make this prophecy.

Now that was very significant to me when I was a Protestant. I recognized that here the high priest had a special charism from God that operated independently of his personal quality, simply because of his office. I said to myself, “It is a good thing that the Catholics are wrong about Peter being the rock, because if he were the rock then he would be a New Testament equivalent to the high priest as the earthly leader of the people of God, and we would expect his office to be invested with some similar charism, meaning that the Catholics would have a good case for papal infallibility.”

Later, when I found out Peter was the rock, this made papal infallibility much easier for me to accept. I even pointed it out to Scott Hahn once and later found out he used it in his taped commentary on the Gospel of John.

And it does provide an excellent parallel to papal infallibility. Because they were living in an age when new revelation was still being given, the high priests of the time could receive actual new revelations, while today, since the age of public revelation is closed, the pope no longer does that, but he can still settle dogmatic controversies that arise over revelation that has already been given, just as the high priest could via his charism. In fact, if the Jewish high priests had been more aggressive in using their charism to inquire of the Lord and find out the truth, the Jewish world of Jesus’ day might not have been so theologically divided, with some Jews, such as the Pharisees, asserting the existence of souls and angels and the Messiah, while other Jewish, such as the Sadducees, denied these.

So God provided for his Church excellently by choosing a man to serve as its head while Christ is in heaven, by providing this man with the authority in the Church needed to settle controversies and keep the Church from dissolving into innumerable, competing sects, by giving this man the ability to speak authoritatively in matters of doctrine so that when he solemnly defines something, the Christian can know that he is speaking the truth. In all of these things Christ provided for the needs of the Church most excellently, enabling the Catholic Church to grow and thrive through history.

And we find the popes doing all in their power to aid an assist the Church, right from the beginning. In the times of the Roman persecutions, when the Church was an underground organization, the popes were often impeded from fulfilling their functions as swiftly and efficiently as they would be able to when the Church no longer had to operate in secret. But even so, we find them doing all they can.

For example, toward the end of the first century, in the A.D. 90s, we find Pope Clement I writing a letter to the Corinthians–way over in the country of Greece–trying to help them settle an internal dispute in their churches. In fact, we find out by reading Clement’s letter that the Corinthian church had written him specifically appleaing to him to settle their dispute. We know this because at the beginning of his letter he apologizes to them for not being able to write them sooner due to a local persecution by the Roman authorities.

Clement was a man of immense stature in the early Church, and some even though his epistle to the Corinthians should be included in the canon of the New Testament. This, of course, made him a tough act to follow, and not every pope would live up to his high standards of personal holiness and good judgment, but even when popes of this period messed up, we still see them behaving as popes, even under Roman persecution.

For example, about a century after Clement’s time, around A.D. 190, the Church was wracked by a controversy over a matter which we today would consider rather less important. It concerned the proper date for the celebration of Easter. Some Christians were of the opinion that Easter should be celebrated on the same day of the month every year, while others were of the opinion that Easter should always be celebrated on the same day of the week every year–Sunday. The problem is that the same day of the month does not fall on the same day of the week every year, and so the controversy was over whether Easter should be celebrated as a fixed or a movable feast.

The Christians in the provide of Asia Minor thought it should be a fixed feast, while elsewhere it was held that Easter should be a movable feast so that we would always celebrate Christ’s rising from the dead on the Lord’s Day, the day of the week on which he did rise. The controversy grew so heated that at one point Pope Victor I excommunicated the province of Asia Minor for a time.

Protestant early Church historian J.N.D. Kelly explains the situation:

“At his instigation, synods were held both at Rome and at other centers, from Gaul to Mesopotamia, and majority opinion sided with him. The churches of Asia Minor, however, refused to abandon the age-old Quartodeciman custom of observing Eastern on the 14th of Nisan, whatever the day of the week on which it fell. Victor thereupon proclaimed their exclusion from communion, not simply with Rome but with the Church generally” (The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, 12).

Now personally, I think this was a little rash of him. I wouldn’t have excommunicated over such a matter, but even so we see a pope acting with the authority of a pope–having the ability to excommunicate even an entire province of the Church if it refused to accept his judgment. This man clearly had an understanding of the authority he wielded.

And the other writers of his age didn’t challenge him. The French bishop Irenaeus–one of the most important Church Fathers of the second century–urged the pope to rescind his excommunication of Asia Minor, which he did, but he did not challenge Victor’s authority to do so, merely to exercise that authority in a different way. In fact, in Irenaeus’s own writings, in his master work, the book Against Heresies, he describes the Rome as “presiding over the Church in love,” and he gives a succession list of the popes from the beginning down to his own day.

And fortunately, most popes were not nearly as rash as Victor. A final, excellent example of a pope in the early Church who worked for the benefit of the Church he shepherded was Leo I, also known as Leo the Great, who, through skillful negotiation, managed to keep Rome from being sacked by Attila the Hun.

In the 440s, a heresy known as monophysitism broke out. This heresy involved a confusion of Christ’s divine and human natures. In response, Leo wrote a document which is today called The Tome of Leo.. It was sent to the fourth ecumenical council, the Council of Chalcedon, and according to the acts of that council:

“After the reading of the foregoing epistle [The Tome of Leo], the most reverend bishops cried out: ‘This is the faith of the fathers! this is the faith of the Apostles! So we all believe! thus the orthodox believe! Anathema to him who does not thus believe! Peter has spoken thus through Leo! . . . This is the true faith!’” (Acts of the Council, session 2 [A.D. 451]).

In the same way, Catholics can know that when the pope solemnly defines an issue, we too can have confidence in what he has said, and with the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon, we too can say: “This is the faith of the fathers! This is the faith of the apostles! Peter has spoken!”

Retrieve from: http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/papacy.htm