After the interest my last post generated, I thought I would dwell on the topic of authority a little longer. Most non Catholics, when they think of the Catholic Church, immediately conjure up images of the Virgin Mary, statues, large drafty churches, and of course the Pope. Indeed, the Pope is a very important figure to Catholics, but who is he? What role does he play and where can I find mention of him in scripture? I hope to drill down into a few of these questions in this post. As always, feel free to leave a question or comment below.
You will not find the term Pope (meaning papa or father) in the Bible. Worried yet? Don’t be. Just like you won’t find the term trinity, the papacy is an office that can be found in the Bible even without explicit use of the term. The main text that Catholics use to defend the Papacy can be found in Matthew 16:18-19. It reads:
“18And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Taken from the NAB found here
Peter, who’s name means rock, has just been told that it would be upon him that Jesus’s Church would reside. Jesus singles out one, and only one, apostle for this particular responsibility. He also gives to Peter the “keys of the kingdom”. Lest anyone doubt Peter’s authority, Jesus makes it emphatically clear. The keys were a sign of authority which could be traced back to the Davidic Kingdom in the Old Testament. The Kings right hand man, who kept charge of the kingdom in the Kings absence, was the Prime Minister. See if you spot any coorelations between that of the Prine Minister and the role given to Peter.
“I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open.” Isaiah 22:22-NAB
Coincidence? I don’t think so. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to fulfil many of the promises of the Old Testament. As the “Son of David” he also fulfilled the Davidic kingdom. One such way he did this was by appointing a new Prime Minister; someone who would settle disputes and lead the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. St. Peter was the first to fulfil this roll and now Pope Francis fills it currently.
Contrary to the accusations made by some, Catholics do not worship the Pope or think him immune from sin. In fact, Pope Francis makes a regular practice of going to confession. What the Papacy is, at its very core, is a gift. Christ knew that without a visible head, someone to settle disputes and define orthodox belief when necessary, his church would wander into confusion and heresy.
Having experienced life as a non Catholic, I can’t express to you the comfort that comes along with embracing the Papacy.
“Wait, you feel good about submitting to the Pope’s authority?”
You see, before becoming Catholic I was, in essence, my own Pope. I looked to my own interpretation and understanding of the Bible to be the definitive say on all matters of faith and morals. The only problem is that if we are all our own “popes,”, which of us has it right? Which “pope” has the correct teaching on salvation, baptism, communion, etc.? I’m going with the one in Rome, the one who’s roots go all the way back to St. Peter himself!
Much more could be said on the significance of the Papacy. I hope this brief primer has been helpful as you explore the Catholic Church and what she teaches.