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Friday, August 10, 2007

Peter, the Rock

In today's Gospel reading (Matthew 16:13-23), I am reminded of something I wrote last year concerning the Protestant disdain and/or horror of the papacy. I just wish they could also see in it what they accept in other contexts.

  • Protestants readily accept that they can be their own Scriptural interpreters (with the Holy Spirit's aid) of Scripture, but not see that the papacy and the Magisterium, with the Holy Spirit -- revealing not by flesh and blood but from the Father in Heaven -- can do the same interpreter's job. The pope and the Magisterium also act as a second witness to the Holy Spirit being the first.
  • Would Christians have refused to follow Peter's decrees unless they could be convinced from Scripture (the Old Testament)? Perhaps because they would never consider a human being wielding such authority to teach? But they accept their own authority to teach themselves. What's more, doesn't this constitute a contradiction to Christ's assertion that Peter has the keys to bind and loose on earth as in Heaven?
  • Further to that, is it a Scriptural precept that one is never to obey leaders of the Church unless one assents? What of the seat of Moses? What of hearing the Apostles as if one were hearing Christ?
  • It is easy enough to assert that the pope cannot possibly have infallibility. What is the basis? Is it his personal frailty? But his teaching authority and papal infallibility are not of "flesh and blood". Neither the most thorough, prayerful Protestant nor the pope possess a personal infallibility. Neither possess personal impeccability. Were Christians of all stations (including the Apostles themselves) to rely on personal abilities alone, then Christianity would succumb easily to extinction by error. Christendom would also degenerate into utter chaos, for there would be absolutely no foundation of certitude. On the other hand, were Christians of all stations (including the Apostles themselves) to rely on an equal share of the Holy Spirit's gifts, and were they all to assert an equal authority to teach from the Holy Spirit's guidance, then we would still degenerate into utter chaos. Why? Because it would be one's word against another's. The only solution is for the ministry to teach to be conferred rather than asserted. And the only conferrer could be the head, Jesus Christ. There is no objective basis otherwise.
  • On a recent evening, my friend maintains that doctrines in dispute among Christians are probably not important and should not be held as rock-solid truth. My response was that this measure will result in the necessary conclusion that there is no truth. Why? Because truth cannot admit contradiction. Christians of different denominations still contest the sacraments, predestnation, and even the Trinity. They also still contest the meaning of justification, salvation by faith alone that is or is not truly alone. They contest the validity of divorce, and as a result, they contest what adultery means. They even contest abortion as murder or.. not, depending on which stage of pregnancy it is carried out. In such a tableau of contested doctrines, it appears that Christendom is at an impasse.
Does the papacy and the Magisterium solve all of this? Yes, but not perfectly! In order for this to work, people must actually assent to the teaching authority of the papacy and the Magisterium of the Church. They must see that the pope and the Magisterium of councils occupy the seat of Peter (previously that of Moses). We must therefore do as they tell us -- even as we must sometimes not do as they do. Because hypocrites as they may be at times, it is not the persons of authority we follow, but the Father in Heaven who reveals His truth to these frail human beings of flesh and blood.

But why can it not be that the Father reveals truth to ALL human beings who are baptized? Because this charism is not for everyone. Some are called to be prophets. Others as teachers. One was called Cephas -- Rock -- on which the Church is built, and given the keys of the kingdom. He was told that what he opens and shuts are on earth as in Heaven. He was also given the task to feed the sheepfold. The sheepfold are still here, but Cephas died almost 2000 years ago. Quo vadis? Is it now our lot to be our own Cephas? Are we now bearer of the keys? Will what we open and shut be on earth as in Heaven?

Where does the Bible say that?

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