Thursday, January 26, 2012

Papal Authority

In a recent discussion which began at BeggarsAll - Mr. John Lollard responded to some of what I said.  His response to me was not really the topic of that discussion so I am responding here under the subject title of what he said.
Mr. Windsor,
You had said:
So, based on this fact it is our position that St. Peter was indeed our first pope AND he was contradicted, as recorded in Scripture, by St. Paul. Thus, I have fulfilled the request to demonstrate from OUR TEACHING and OUR PERSPECTIVE how even a pope can be contradicted.
We read in Scripture"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong... The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabbas was led astray." Galatians 2:11-13
So we see, your first pope was not only contradicted, but he was clearly wrong and through following him many - even Barnabbas - were led astray.

I have never held a position that a pope could not ever be wrong.  It seems like so many Protestants are of the opinion that papal infallibility equates to papal impeccability - and that is simply not a valid equation.  The point of the episode in Galations 2 is only partially about St. Peter being wrong on that point - but also that not only was he contradicted by St. Paul, but CORRECTED by St. Paul.  St. Peter did not remain in error.
It's a strange situation, you insisting that popes can be wrong and induce their followers to moral error according to Scripture, the Protestants that you "are bound to submit to this power" as per Vatican I.
There seems to be a word or phrase missing in that sentence, but I believe I'm following what you're saying here.  You're saying it is strange that I insist the popes can be wrong (and induce their followers to moral error) AND that I also insist that Protestants are "bound to submit to this power" per Vatican I.  You can correct me if I'm wrong in restating what you said.  Now for my response:

1) Yes, popes can be wrong. 
2) Catholics are followers of Jesus Christ.  The pope is simply the current successor of the one whom Jesus empowered to "Feed My sheep" in John 21.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as He was departing this world, gave St. Peter that command in threefold manner - making it clear that St. Peter would be His vicar in His absence. 
3) That Protestants are bound to submit to this "power" - is a truism.  Yes, Protestants are indeed bound to submit to the will of the Shepherd and therefore be shepherded by the one whom Jesus "empowered" to be his stand-in.
How did we end up in opposite world(s)?
I would not say we're in opposite worlds!  We both have a love and fervor for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We're separated primarily by a movement which represents only a portion of 25% of the history of Christendom.  That movement, primarily started by Martin Luther (though I would say he was more of a political pawn of the German princes) is not "opposite" of Catholicism - just separated from it.  An "opposite' world would be one of atheism or perhaps one which follows a different god or gods.  So, while we are not opposites - we're also not "one" as is the Will of Jesus - that we may be one, just as He and the Father are One (John 17:21).
All the same, I'm glad that you apparently no longer believe in the authority of the pope; 

Now hold on a moment!  I have not rejected the authority of the pope!  Just because popes MAY be wrong and even HAVE been wrong many times throughout history - starting with our first pope - does not mean popes do not have authority given to them by Jesus Christ!  You're making quite the non sequitur here!
he's just some guy saying stuff, and whatever, who cares what he says if he doesn't make any sense with it.
He's more than "just some guy saying stuff!"  He DOES have authority and all faithful Christians are bound to obey him so long as he's not asking us to do something immoral - and in the example from Galations 2 we're not talking about a matter of morality, but of discipline.  St. Peter was asking Gentiles to ACT like Jews - and St. Paul corrected him and insisted he (and by default "we") not expect everyone, especially converts from non-Jewish faiths, to act like Jews.  Again, DiSCIPLINE not MORALITY.
He doesn't have any more authority to teach than you do, or than anyone does, 'cause he's just some German guy living in Italy. 
Well, as I've already said, he's much more than "just some guy" and he was empowered by Jesus Christ Himself to a position of authority - and his successors have that same authority.  
You should really look at whether what he's teaching is right, not on the office of the person teaching it.
Oh, I AGREE!  We should ALWAYS be mindful of what he's saying!  However, that does not change the fact of the matter relating to the office he holds.  Similarly, though not identically (as no analogy may be exactly equivocated) the President of the United States holds an office - and whereas I may not AGREE with him in everything he SAYS - once he signs a law into effect, as a citizen of the United States, I am obliged to OBEY that law.  Failure to do so will have consequences.
Bravo! I'm glad you're willing to make such an admission! :P

Likewise, I'm glad you're willing to admit that St. Peter was our first pope and that this "German guy living in Italy" is the successor of that "Jewish guy who lived in Jerusalem, Antioch and died in Rome!"  ;-)



  1. Hey Scott,

    Thank you for making a separate post to address me specifically.

    You did misinterpret my comments, which may have been due to my use of a comma splice instead of a semi-colon. I meant that in the comments on Beggars All, the Protestants (i.e. EA and Constantine) were the ones insisting that you (Scott Windsor) had to submit to the proclamations of the pope, even when they weren't "infallible", as the head and pastor of the entire church (as you would say). You, the Roman Catholic, were disagreeing, that you are free to disagree with official papal statements as you see fit. I then commented that we were in opposite world, where black is white and white is black, up is down and left is right, dogs and cats are friends and Protestants tell Roman Catholics to obey the pope.

    My comment was (as you seem to have noticed) intended to be kind of ironic/silly. I was really just trying to get you to disagree with yourself. Which, for the record, I think you have, and this is not the first time I've seen you do this, and you aren't the only Roman Catholic that I know who does this.

    It seems like Roman Catholics are big on the authority of the pope and big on the authority of the magisterium to teach and promulgate and secure the same sound theology as handed to the Apostles... right up to the point where anyone shows them that teaching and promulgation, and then you seem really big on your freedom to disagree with them and form your own opinions and interpretations.

    It comes off as insincere, is all. Like you only believe in the pope when it's a convenient talking point, but not when it's a theological stumbling block.

    That's all I was trying to say.

    I appreciate you dedicating your time and energy to speaking with me, and this post addressing my comment.

    In Christ,
    John Lollard

  2. John wrote: You, the Roman Catholic, were disagreeing, that you are free to disagree with official papal statements as you see fit.

    Right, I disagree that we are free to disagree with official papal statements as we see fit. A lot depends on the statement, how it was delivered and to whom it was delivered.

    The point in question in the original discussion dealt with a couple well respected popes making statements on what THEY believed should be, and at least under their jurisdiction must be, but such statements of opinion are not binding upon future popes - nor even future laity or other clergy.

    Another point I raised with them, which seemed to shut them up, is that the quotes from Ratzinger (prior to him becoming Pope Benedict XVI) were from an obscure source and most definitely out of context - in fact we got NO context.

    John adds: I was really just trying to get you to disagree with yourself. Which, for the record, I think you have...

    I'd like to know where you believe I disagreed with myself! I do not believe I have - and IF I have, I will correct myself. Please, document this alleged self-disagreement.

    John concludes: It comes off as insincere, is all. Like you only believe in the pope when it's a convenient talking point, but not when it's a theological stumbling block.

    I believe that opinion is rooted in ignorance of what Catholics REALLY believe when it comes to the pope. Many, if not most, Protestants seem to put the pope on a higher pedestal than Catholics do - and then attack that position, which we do not hold. That's called a straw man argument. Those same Protestants, though when confronted will deny it, also tend to put forth an argument for impeccability of the pope instead of infallibility. The charism of infallibility is truly quite rarely imposed by the pope - and some/most NEVER impose it.

    Back to your point of thinking I disagreed with myself... I believe that stems from the fact that you changed subjects - which is why I created a new blog entry instead of responding on BA. The point on BA was/is the example of two well respected popes declaring what they believed should/must be taught at Catholic universities (Thomistic philosophy) AND countering THAT with examples of contemporary Catholics disagreeing with those stated opinions. The Catholic response there is that faithful Catholics CAN disagree with non-dogmatic papal opinions.

    I hope this helps.

    In JMJ,

  3. So, was Humana Vitae dogmatic? If a Catholic read it and thought "meh, that's his opinion as a private theologian and/or is just a matter of discipline", then are they still a "good" Catholic?

  4. Scott,

    When I made my comment on Humane Vitae, I had not read your response to Constantine's question. I remembered Constantine asking the question from BA, but not you responding to it.

    In Christ,

  5. I presume you are referring to this response:

    That one may disagree with the opinions of previous popes does not undermine "tradition" - and especially not "Sacred Tradition." Would it be wise to reject sound Catholic teaching in favor of more modernist views? Probably not! But so long as what is being disagreed with is not dogmatically defined (ex cathedra) statements from popes, then Catholics may disagree with them (direct link).

    Is that correct? There was another response to Constantine here, but it does not seem to be related.

    As for your question about HV, could you be more specific? No document, as a whole, is 100% a dogmatic definition - not even everything from the Council of Trent is a dogmatic pronouncement.



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