Is the Papacy really even necessary (or right)?


#1

Do you consider the Papacy as a divinely instituted office? I understand there is considerable historical and scriptural precedence for it, however, even though I am Catholic, I have my reservations.

Suppose there are two factions within the Church. We’ll call them faction A and B. Now, if the truth is knowable, which Catholics believe, and a certain man is genuinely seeking the truth while fighting the passions, shouldn’t he be able to arrive at a definitive conclusion about whether or not the beliefs of faction A or faction B are right? Shouldn’t this man be able to accomplish this task by looking at what the Church has always taught and taking the unity of the faith into consideration? If a doctrine is true, after all, it should logically follow from the sacred deposit of the faith. If so, why is the Pope even necessary? If Truth, which is Christ, manifests Himself to those who seek Him, why is there even a need for a man invested with divine power to confirm dogmas, if dogmas themselves are evident to all genuine seekers of Truth?

It seems that in general, Eastern Orthodox Christians have maintained the heritage of our faith better than most Catholics. However, the Orthodox lack a centralized Church government. If the Papacy is true, why is it that the Orthodox appear to have a unity of faith light-years beyond that found among Catholics? For instance, it is true that the Catholic Church has official and unalterable/infallible doctrines set down in ink, but do they really mean anything? 90% of Catholics in the United States consider all forms of contraception acceptable, and about half of Catholics in America don’t object to abortion. What good is it to have new official documents drawn up every hundred or so years if no one follows them?

The Orthodox haven’t had a council for about 1,000 years, yet they seem to be handling the modern world just fine. Indeed, they are growing at astounding rates, preserving their Divine Liturgy and customs unchanged, utilizing technology superbly, and correctly responding to the moral issues of our times. Yet they have had no “technology summits,” no “role of Church in the modern world” conferences, or anything of that sort. While people in Western Christendom are always experimenting with new kinds of Biblical scholarship and seeking ways to improve upon the work of the Church Fathers, the Orthodox keep employing the same techniques Christianity has always used.

Maybe we Christians of the Western persuassion are missing the boat? We seem to respect the Church Fathers as great minds for their times, true enough, but we always want to criticize, correct, or build on them. On the other hand, the Orthodox approach them with all humility, sitting upon their lap as a small child sits upon the lap of a grandfather, listening intently to everything he says and believing in his words wholeheartedly. I admire the Orthodox greatly for this. They claim to have the fulness of the truth, and are content to live that truth without feeling the need to develop it any further.

For them, the faith is a perfect, unchanging, eternal, and unified whole. Have Western Christians departed from a true Christian identity? Have we fallen into the trap of wanting to perfect religion, rather than letting religion perfect us? It seems like everything is about us nowadays. Both liberals and ultra-traditionalists (dare I say, apostates and heretics, respectively) give the image that we must somehow save the Church from impending doom by taking this or that action. I was under the impression the Church needs to save us, not vice-versa. A Church in need of saving, simply put, is not the True Church.

I am beginning to think of Western Christianity as mainly an intellective/emotive exercise with a few secondary spiritual elements. Where is the numinous, where is the transcendent, where are the mystics, where is our divine birth-right?

When Catholics talk about God, they sound more like lawyers than lovers. This is my main complaint. Western Christianity has become more idea than practice. I am beginning to sympathize with the Eastern Orthodox perception that Catholicism and Protestantism are more similar to each other than to Eastern Christianity.

Thoughts? Opinions? Rebukes? Speak your mind, but mind how you speak.


#2

Because Jesus instituted the Papacy when he built His Church upon Peter.

It seems that in general, Eastern Orthodox Christians have maintained the heritage of our faith better than most Catholics. However, the Orthodox lack a centralized Church government. If the Papacy is true, why is it that the Orthodox appear to have a unity of faith light-years beyond that found among Catholics? For instance, it is true that the Catholic Church has official and unalterable/infallible doctrines set down in ink, but do they really mean anything? 90% of Catholics in the United States consider all forms of contraception acceptable, and about half of Catholics in America don’t object to abortion. What good is it to have new official documents drawn up every hundred or so years if no one follows them?

I do think that Eastern Orthodox Christians have maintain the heritage. I think it is because of their perseverence to keep their liturgy unchanged. Many of the Eastern Rite have rites dating back as far as the 200 AD.

Catholics have a free will. They have the choose to decide what is right and what is wrong morally. When they reject the teachings of the Catholic Church concerning contraception, and abortion, they find themselves at odds with God, who gave the Church authority. The early Church was no different. There were heretics and disobedient sheeps back then.

((continue))


#3

The Orthodox haven’t had a council for about 1,000 years, yet they seem to be handling the modern world just fine. Indeed, they are growing at astounding rates, preserving their Divine Liturgy and customs unchanged, utilizing technology superbly, and correctly responding to the moral issues of our times. Yet they have had no “technology summits,” no “role of Church in the modern world” conferences, or anything of that sort. While people in Western Christendom are always experimenting with new kinds of Biblical scholarship and seeking ways to improve upon the work of the Church Fathers, the Orthodox keep employing the same techniques Christianity has always used.

They have had one council but it was more of a Synod. I forgot the name of the synod but it did reject most of the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy, transtantiation and so forth.

Maybe we Christians of the Western persuassion are missing the boat? We seem to respect the Church Fathers as great minds for their times, true enough, but we always want to criticize, correct, or build on them. On the other hand, the Orthodox approach them with all humility, sitting upon their lap as a small child sits upon the lap of a grandfather, listening intently to everything he says and believing in his words wholeheartedly. I admire the Orthodox greatly for this. They claim to have the fulness of the truth, and are content to live that truth without feeling the need to develop it any further.

We respect their right to preserve proper “orthodox” teaching. Nothing wrong with that.

For them, the faith is a perfect, unchanging, eternal, and unified whole. Have Western Christians departed from a true Christian identity? Have we fallen into the trap of wanting to perfect religion, rather than letting religion perfect us? It seems like everything is about us nowadays. Both liberals and ultra-traditionalists (dare I say, apostates and heretics, respectively) give the image that we must somehow save the Church from impending doom by taking this or that action. I was under the impression the Church needs to save us, not vice-versa. A Church in need of saving, simply put, is not the True Church.

The Church does need to save us, and we do need to protect the Church from heretics.

I am beginning to think of Western Christianity as mainly an intellective/emotive exercise with a few secondary spiritual elements. Where is the numinous, where is the transcendent, where are the mystics, where is our divine birth-right?

When Catholics talk about God, they sound more like lawyers than lovers. This is my main complaint. Western Christianity has become more idea than practice. I am beginning to sympathize with the Eastern Orthodox perception that Catholicism and Protestantism are more similar to each other than to Eastern Christianity.

Thoughts? Opinions? Rebukes? Speak your mind, but mind how you speak.

Pope Benedict XVI didn’t sound like a lawyer when he wrote his first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.


#4

Thank God for our Vicar on earth Pope Benedict!:thumbsup:


#5

I believe that the one thing that you are not looking at is the Hierarchy as a whole. The Pope is only one cog of the Hierarchy. Remember that the Eastern Orthodox Churches have Hierarchies in each one where instead of a Pope they have a Patriarch. This Patriarch for all intents and purposes has the same power as the Pope in each of the Churches of the Orthodox Union except for the infallibility clause.

Anyway the purpose of the Hierarchy in the Catholic Church and Orthodox churches are the same and that is the protection and proper interpretation of the doctrine handed down by the Apostles.

Now concerning the Othodox faiths there are some differences in the beliefs in each individual patriachy. They are not major but there are some differences that have filtered in.

The biggest difference between Catholic and Orthodox in my opinion is that the Easterners stopped building on the faith of the Apostles and the Fathers where the Westerners continued to build on that faith.

Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would lead his Church into all truth. Which means that God will continue to help us learn more about Him. That is what the Fathers believed was their responsibility. They built upon the faith of the Apostles and the theologians before them. If you do not believe this start reading the writings of the Fathers and it will soon become obvious that is the case. Now the question must be asked: Has the Holy Spirit taught us everything that He is going to teach us? Or Has the Tower of Knowledge been completely built? The Easterners would say yes and the Westerners would say no. That is in my opinion our greatest difference.

Concerning the Protestants who for the most part do not have much of a Hierarchy if any. All you have to do is look what was believed 20, 50, 100, 200, 300 or … in a given denomination to discover what having no Hiearchy has done to the development of their theology. Or look at all of the denominations that have sprung up of the years.

Protestants are very inconsistent in their beliefs of a period of time. Baptist used to baptise infants. Now it is not acceptable. I do not mean to pick on the Baptist here but it is just an example.

What I am saying is that the Pope and hierarchy are necessary for the continuation of our Faith. Without the Pope we would either stop growing as a faith as the Orthodox or splinter as the Protestants.


#6

Esran,

Man can do so but not all men have access to the same information. The Scriptures truth is not in the letter, but in the meaning. In the USA, for example, everyone can find out what the Constitution says, but the Supreme Court still must give the definitive interpretation as to what it means. The Pope is in a similar position. Theoretically people can find out the truth themselves, but in practice we need pastors. The infallible word of God needs to be infallibly proclaimed to be what God intends it to be.

Here are some tracts by St. Francis de Sales which may help you:

angelfire.com/ms/seanie/fds/fds_church1.html

angelfire.com/ms/seanie/papacy/fds_pope13.html
angelfire.com/ms/seanie/papacy/fds_pope14.html

The above are chapters taken from other tracts which can be found in their entirety here:

angelfire.com/ms/seanie/fds/fds_index.html

If you’re struggling the papacy, I would read the whole tract on the topic as well as the one on church authority.


#7

I believe that the one thing that you are not looking at is the Hierarchy as a whole. The Pope is only one cog of the Hierarchy. Remember that the Eastern Orthodox Churches have Hierarchies in each one where instead of a Pope they have a Patriarch. This Patriarch for all intents and purposes has the same power as the Pope in each of the Churches of the Orthodox Union except for the infallibility clause.

No, a Patriarch does not have the same power as a Pope, minus infallibility. Each local bishop is pretty much autonomous in Eastern Orthodoxy, which makes their unity even more miraculous. Patriarchs are spiritual fathers to other bishops, and figureheads, but no more. For instance, they can’t even mandate how each jurisdiction should handle Catholic converts, and no one can change the Divine Liturgy, much less do they even want to.

Anyway the purpose of the Hierarchy in the Catholic Church and Orthodox churches are the same and that is the protection and proper interpretation of the doctrine handed down by the Apostles.

Now concerning the Othodox faiths there are some differences in the beliefs in each individual patriachy. They are not major but there are some differences that have filtered in.

Differences? Who cares about those differences? I know what you are refering to, i.e. duration of purgatory/toll houses etc… Really, Catholics shouldn’t point figures. I heard a sizeable number of Catholics don’t even believe in the resurrection of the body anymore.

The biggest difference between Catholic and Orthodox in my opinion is that the Easterners stopped building on the faith of the Apostles and the Fathers where the Westerners continued to build on that faith.

Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would lead his Church into all truth. Which means that God will continue to help us learn more about Him. That is what the Fathers believed was their responsibility. They built upon the faith of the Apostles and the theologians before them. If you do not believe this start reading the writings of the Fathers and it will soon become obvious that is the case. Now the question must be asked: Has the Holy Spirit taught us everything that He is going to teach us? Or Has the Tower of Knowledge been completely built? The Easterners would say yes and the Westerners would say no. That is in my opinion our greatest difference.


#8

I would agree with the Easterners, and I would also say it is not the Church’s job to build upon the Faith, but rather to protect the Faith delivered once and for all to the Apostles. I am familiar with the Church Fathers, and I see no doctrinal development. I see progress in the clarity it is presented in, but I fear ideas of doctrinal development will be the death of Rome.

What I am saying is that the Pope and hierarchy are necessary for the continuation of our Faith. Without the Pope we would either stop growing as a faith as the Orthodox or splinter as the Protestants.

My point exactly. Western Christians intend to perfect the Faith rather than have the Faith protect them, which leads to the conclusion that the Faith is incomplete. This is a dangerous road you’re traveling on…

We respect their right to preserve proper “orthodox” teaching. Nothing wrong with that.

Well, I’m glad you allow them minority rights. Don’t you see though that this is a kind of religious relativism? There cannot be multiple correct theologies. The law of non-contradiction is violated. Either they are right in saying the Faith cannot develop, or you are right in saying it can. You can’t have it both ways, and don’t even try throwing that “Catholics think in terms of both/and” fallacy.

Pope Benedict XVI didn’t sound like a lawyer when he wrote his first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

I wasn’t too impressed by it. He could have gone so much further into depth. Plus, I don’t think now is the time to keep releasing fluffy documents such as these. "Feel-good"ism is our problem, after all. Don’t get me wrong, His Holiness said some very profound, beautiful, and true things in that letter. I just don’t see how it can help our current situation though.

Because Jesus instituted the Papacy when he built His Church upon Peter.

This is akin to Protestants saying the Bible is inspired because the Bible says so. I admire your zeal and faith, but you failed to even address my concerns.

I do think that Eastern Orthodox Christians have maintain the heritage. I think it is because of their perseverence to keep their liturgy unchanged. Many of the Eastern Rite have rites dating back as far as the 200 AD.

Catholics have a free will. They have the choose to decide what is right and what is wrong morally. When they reject the teachings of the Catholic Church concerning contraception, and abortion, they find themselves at odds with God, who gave the Church authority. The early Church was no different. There were heretics and disobedient sheeps back then.

Yeah…but my questions remain ignored. Besides, have you ever visited an Orthodox Church for a pro-longed period of time? If not, do you really know what you’re even talking about?


#9

I think you’re reading the wrong things. If all you read is apologetics (which is essentially presenting a legal defense) or certain magisterial texts, you will miss the boat. Even the Councils accepted by the Orthodox are dry and concerned primarily with simply establishing the boundaries of truth on some point and then enacting canonical legislation.

Read the Saints. Read the Carmelite Doctors (John of the Cross, Therese, and Teresa of Avila). Read St. Francis de Sales. Read St. Alphonsus Liguori. Read St. Catherine of Siena. Read St. Bernard. Read St. Bonaventure. Those are just a few post-schism Latin saints who in their writings show forth the fire of God’s love.

As for the Church Fathers, there is a reason many in recent times have been declared Doctors of the Church and why the current Pontiff has been preaching on them in his audiences. They are just as important now as before.

But they too build on each other. For example, St. John Chrysostom does not simply repeat St. Ignatius and others, but rather synthesizes and extrapolates on what they have said. The Church today and the past few centuries is just as alive as the Church in the first few centuries–in fact, it is the same Church. The Holy Spirit is just as active now as then. The saints of every generation continue to make their contribution to the patrimony of faith handed down. That is how the acorn grows into an oak. That is how the little ball of dirt rolls into a huge mountain, as Daniel prophesied.


#10

You have conflated a whole bunch of issues in your post but i will start with this

Well first this is an “US-centric” way of thinking but that not the main fault of this paragraph.

  1. You listed the percentage for US Catholics, have you had survey for Orthodox layity in the US? how do you know that its not even more than 90% listed for Catholics? the Opinion of what is right or wrong would depend on how far a culture is degraded, its not a reflection on the Catholic or Orthodox church at all, e,g, some Latin America country (don’t remember which one) recently tightened their laws on Abortion, Well its a reflection of the where the country is, not the Catholic Church, as you said the Church postion is “unalterable/infallible”

  2. Your argument also dies if you expand it to a country like Greece. The premier country in Eastern Orthordoxy. I believe 90%+ of the population is Orthodox, and their attitutude about abortion are parallel if not more secular than in the US

The argument i’m making still stands, Its not a reflection on Eastern Orthodoxy either, just like the situation in the US is not a reflection on the Catholic Church, its the Society


#11

This is a good point–it is the state religion in Greece, and yet Greece has legalized abortion and one of the highest abortion rates. Likewise, the liturgy attendance rates there are abysmal (granted, there is no formal canonical obligation).

I live in an area with a lot of Orthodox–most are just like many Catholics; they are in name only and are only so because of nationality/ethnicity.

If you go someplace where the Churches are persecuted or where the general population of that faith is low, you are more likely to find more faithfulness (in both cases) since the only people of the faith are those that have sacrificed to be so.


#12

Here’s something to note. Read the book of Acts. Really visualize what is going on. Notice how Peter often rises up and speaks for the whole group. Notice how he is given attention. If you were an onlooker at such a situation, you would naturally see him as the leader of the band.

Now look at the world today. The voice of Peter is the only one that rises of the din of the entire planet. No patriarch commands that kind of attention. They lack the voice of Peter–churches apart from Peter have no real mouthpiece, as the Fathers so loved to call him.


#13

no I think Jesus Christ was just ragging on Peter when he affirmed his profession of faith, change his name to Rock and told him in front of the other apostles that he was now the effective head of the Church. He was still in that practical joker mode when he commissioned the apostles to preach, heal, cast out demons and baptize in his name.

of course I think Jesus Christ instituted the Papacy and we tamper with it at our peril.


#14

I am familiar with the Church Fathers myself, and I do. How else did the doctrine of the Trinity developed. The word itself is no where mention in the Bible. The Councils defined it.

You have to show me if doctrinal development is not part of the Church, then tell me how the doctrine of the Trinity developed.

My point exactly. Western Christians intend to perfect the Faith rather than have the Faith protect them, which leads to the conclusion that the Faith is incomplete. This is a dangerous road you’re traveling on…

Faith is never incomplete. It is up to the individual to decide for themselves how much of the faith they have on their Church leaders whom God entrusted.

I wasn’t too impressed by it. He could have gone so much further into depth. Plus, I don’t think now is the time to keep releasing fluffy documents such as these. "Feel-good"ism is our problem, after all. Don’t get me wrong, His Holiness said some very profound, beautiful, and true things in that letter. I just don’t see how it can help our current situation though.

Could you do any better than he?

This is akin to Protestants saying the Bible is inspired because the Bible says so. I admire your zeal and faith, but you failed to even address my concerns.

So what do you suggest. Have the entire Catholic population, reject the Pope? I assumed your concern is “is the papacy really necessary?”

Yeah…but my questions remain ignored. Besides, have you ever visited an Orthodox Church for a pro-longed period of time? If not, do you really know what you’re even talking about?

Nope, I’m currently exploring Eastern Catholicism and bought some materials. Eastern Christianity has brought me a deeper zeal to know my Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters. There isn’t much I know about it.

There may come a point where I might switch rites. You heard the phrase Romans are trying to Latinize their rites. Well, I think the Eastern Catholicism is trying to byzantinize me into their liturgy…


#15

You have to show me if doctrinal development is not part of the Church, then tell me how the doctrine of the Trinity developed.

The dogma was always there, we just named it.

But all in all guys, thanks for your help. You’ve made really good points, and I think I see my errors. God bless you.


#16

I would avoid the word error. It’s more like misunderstanding. I see that you are Eastern Rite.


#17

What would happen if lets say one of these Bishops starts preaching something contrary to the teachings of the Orthodox church as a whole?

Many people care about those differences for those differences are the teachings of the individual churches and those differences impact true unity of those churches. We are discussing the teaching of the Church. Not the wayward beliefs of those people who claim to be Catholic or Orthodox but refuse to follow the dogma of the respective Church.


#18

So what you are saying is that at some period in time the Holy Spirit which is the Spirit of the Church stopped speaking to the Church? It stopped teaching the Church? I believe that there are many Doctors and Saints who would disagree with that comment. The Church is alive because of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit continues to speak to us. The evolution of the writings between the Old Testament and the New Testament are perfect examples of this. Christ said that the Holy Spirit would be sent to lead us into all truth. Also read the Church Fathers not just be familar with them and it will become very obvious.

The function of the Church is to protect the teachings of Christ through History. That is one of the reasons for its existence. It protects these teachings by writing them down, the Bible, and by teaching. Even Orthodox Christians would agree with this. Concerning Faith I have grown in Faith with this Church. This Church has made it possible for me to get to know God to the best of my experience and knowledge. I am not the only who can claim this. There are many who through the teachings, liturgies, devotions of the Church have become Saints and Martyrs which our Canon of Saints attest to and we all know Catholics who live lives that cannot be anything but blessed.

I don’t think your questions have been ignored, I believe you have refused to see the answers laid out to you which could mean that we are all wasting our time responding to your rebuttals.


#19

Amen! :thumbsup:


#20

You heard? What source? It’s irrelevant. Church teaching on this has not changed has it? Then regardless of errant individuals, no matter how many there may be, the truth remains and those who reject it are confronted by it.

I think it’s unwise to get into things like that because as you have already pointed out, there is no unified authority in EO which I think makes it all the harder for that community to address any errant teachings that a given parish might develop. (Not saying that they would. Just a what if…)

I applaud the fact that you would not want to change the Divine Liturgy and myself would, at some point, like to participate in it to enhance my own appreciation of the Mass.

Is the papacy necessary? IMO more than ever!
Is it right? Based upon the Word of God. Yes.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.