From time to time, one hears the assertion that Jesus did not give the keys of the kingdom to Peter alone. Instead, it is argued that all of the Apostles received the keys, and various scriptures are offered as “proof” including verses from both Matthew 18 and John 20. Interestingly, even paragraph 981 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is claimed to support this wider distribution of keys; it states:
981 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.” The apostles and their successors carry out this “ministry of reconciliation,” not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:
[INDENT][The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.[/INDENT]
As should be obvious from the text, the Church has received the keys because Peter has them. As a result, the authority to forgive sins has been given to men - not to a man - but to men. Jesus says this clearly in Matthew 9:8. Nothing like the idea that all the other Apostles receive the keys can be supported from paragraph 981.
That non-Catholic polemicists are engaged in proof-texting becomes even more obvious when the Church’s position on the possession of the keys is examined in the broader context of the Catechism. For example:
553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.” The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.” This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
936 The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is “head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth”
From this, we can see clearly that the Catholic Church rejects any attempts to distribute the keys of the kingdom equally to all of the Apostles. She possesses the keys of the kingdom because Peter and his successors retain them.