NOTE: I posted this here in the Eastern Catholic sub-forum rather intentionally (as I shall explain).
After reading through countless threads and countless posts that either directly or indirectly debate this perennially favorite question, I thought it might be interesting to attempt to address this question head-on, taking the Orthodox challenge so to speak (which has been evident of late in some of the related Orthodox responses).
Can Catholic contributors here (Latin and Eastern) agree on the role of the Papacy and accurately portray both the historical and current view of Rome itself on the Pontificate? Can we reconcile the stated positions of the Church on the role and authority of the Papacy to the actual exercise of such in the life and governance of the Church? Can we successfully demonstrate that the role of the Papacy as currently understood and defined by the Catholic Church is reconcilable with early Church tradition and norms? Can we do so in a scholarly way, supporting our conclusions as the discussion progresses and conclusions are reached?
While I do not want to shut out non-Catholic points of view, I am hoping and asking that we can at first in this thread stick to facts as should be known to and understood by Catholics, and thus this should naturally be a discussion at first and foremost amongst knowledgable Catholics.
The Eastern Catholic point of view is relevant as a counterbalance, especially those members of the Patriarchial Churches.
I am hopeful that non-Catholic observers will assist by keeping this discussion and debate among Catholics “honest” in that if you feel positions have been misrepresented or that positions (opinions) are poorly supported, that posts may be offered in that regard as opposed to espousing the Orthodox counterposition until such time as agreement among Catholics, at least, seems to come forth with some consistency and agreed-upon commonality.
In the interest of focusing the discussion, I’ll start by asking how an unknowledgable (non-Catholic / non-Christian, with no historical context) reader of Pastor Aeternus would afterward summarize and understand the role and authority of the Pontiff. Would all agree that Pastor Aeternus is the right place to start, as it is current dogma and teaching?