Monday, January 08, 2007

Why a Pope?

This post came to me at 5:00 am this morning. During the previous evening my brother and I discussed the difference between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The primary difference to my mind was that Roman Catholic Church have the Pope and the Episcopal Church does not. At best, they claim a leader who sits as Archbishop of Canturbury, really a layman who sits on property stolen from the Roman Catholic Church. With a Pope (and by implication) you get a Magesterium, a teaching office. Without one you just have to make up your own mind (and hope you get it right.) I think the Episcopal church weakly offers "guidance."

Now, this decision to go by the Pope is not an arbitrary one. The authority of the Pope comes from Jesus the Christ and it is laid out, quite simply, in the Bible. If ones open their Bible to the back section called the New Testament one of the first four books is called the Gospel of Saint Matthew. If one turns to Chapter 16, one finds these words starting with verse #15

Jesus said to them: But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: You are Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you: That you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

Friends, we do not need a doctorate in biblical studies to understand what is going on here. Jesus is testing the disciples. Simon-Bar-Jona, a simple fisherman, blurts out what the Apostles have come to believe. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, whom the Jews have been waiting for thousands of years.

Simon-bar-Jonah gets a few rewords for answering this holy triva quiz from Jesus.

1) He gets a new name, Petrus which is "rock" in Latin and Greek.
2) He gets named by Jesus as the corner stone of Jesus' church. (Jesus does a word play on his name)
3) He gets keys to heaven.
4) He gets legal authority, "loosing and binding" on earth and heaven (a ton of authority for a simple fisherman)

So, Jesus sets up a eartly chieftain for his church. He DID NOT tell the disciples to decide for themselves, form a committee, take a vote, debate, or wait for personal revelation.

Peter outlived Jesus, wound up in Rome, was crucified there, and a successor was named. Quite naturally ole Church headquarters would up in Rome. There have been over 300 Peters, some better than others, all with authority handed directly from Jesus himself. The Pope is the legitimate successor of Saint Peter, 1st Century Christians all knew this, St Paul knew it, the Apostles knew it, even the wicked Roman Emperors knew it. No other christian sect can claim any Biblical or Godly authority like the Roman Catholic Church. These privatistic sects are forced to go into "decide for yourself" mode.

Does one dare usurp authority on earth and in heaven granted by Jesus Christ to someone else?


M. Alexander said...


Steven P. Barrett said...

I only wish Rowan Williams had even a tenth of the authority possessed by Benedict XVI.

Come to think about, our German Shepherd had a lot of clout when he was plain old Joseph Ratzinger.

Of course, the liberals remember him as Der Panzerkardinal.

Truth is, he's a softie, but in the right sort of way.