The Role of the Papacy - Can Catholics Agree?

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?

I would agree that Pastor Aeternus is the correct place to start. However I would add the caveat that Pastor Aeternus cannot be read apart from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from Vatican II. In this dogmatic constitution Vatican II sought to complete the work begun at Vatican I, especially in regards to the role of the Pope and the Collegial nature of the Church.

Likewise, Pastor Aeternus cannot be read apart from the Official Relatio issued by Bishop Gasser as the official explanation of Pastor Aeternus. This Relatio is important because it was mandated by the Council Fathers, who requested Bishop Gasser to compose this explanation on behalf of the committee that was responsible for drafting Pastor Aeternus to begin with. The Relatio represents Pastor Aeternus as understood by those who drafted the document. It was thus with this understanding in mind that the Council Fathers voted in favor of Pastor Aeternus to begin with.

Very good place to start. I shall go and read the document. I hope that this thread goes well, because this is going to be quite an instructive and interesting thread.

All important and valid points - thanks, Phillip!

Since I posed the question (and am truly interested in seeing other independent Catholic responses), I will not offer my opinion or analysis. But I am glad you agree this is an appropriate place to start, as now caveated!

AS - suggest you take Phillip’s comments, and do not read Pastor Aeternus in isolation, but rather with the other documents as well.

As you are a curious but faithful Catholic reading these docs for the first time, it will be very interesting to hear your “take aways” and formed understanding when you are finished reading.

Greetings ByzCathCantor,

Yes I will also add Guadium et Spes as well. It will be refreshing to reread these documents in light of what little I have learned about the Eastern Churches. It may take a few days to read through them because I wish to do so in a prayer and meditative way [lectio divina.]

I will share that, should I do it in this thread?

God Bless,
Anathama Sit

Yes, please do - I hope this evolves into a lively, informative discussion for all (myself included)!

“through the divine assistance”…The Holy Spirit is infallible. I want to peruse the documents again before posting any more.


In view of Pastor Aeternus I guess I’m asking what kind of conclusion (“do you expect”) at the end of such a discussion in this thread since there will obviously be “some” differences in views.

The following is a short thread which might be of interest.

I’m pre-supposing no conclusion whatsoever. I only suggested this as a starting point (subject to debate itself), in the hopes we can agree (in large part) on the current position and what it truly means, and then with this foundation retrace and re-examine the roots of the Papacy.

This is a good little thread, on the Melkite point of view, that I had somehow missed previously. Thanks for the reference.

Will do. I just started Lumen Gentium, sorry Guadiam et Spes was the wrong title in my last post.

I may get involved when this thread takes off full blown and be too late. I would hate to digress the thread. :bigyikes:

Little danger of that at the moment - no takers as yet.

I fear that it is easier (or perhaps more enjoyable for some) to bicker over who may be “the most wrong” or “the least right” than to attempt to support the veracity of our own Catholic understanding :shrug:

Haven’t even gotten an obligatory CCC citation … :frowning:

Greetings ByzCathCantor,

If you do get the CCC citation, I will be very, very surprised and suspect it being taken out of context. :smiley:

God Bless,
Anathama Sit

Pope Benedict XVI on Papal authority:

“After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not “manufactured” by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition. . . . The greatness of the liturgy depends - we shall have to repeat this frequently - on its unspontaneity.”

Do you have the link? I’d like to read everything he said about it.


I picked this up off of a website which had several pages of quotes from His Holiness:

I’ll see if I can tract down an original, complete transcript.

Oh yeah! I’ve seen a couple of websites like this one. Thank you.
I would really like to read his whole message. Maybe it is on the Vatican website?

It is from a book written before his Papacy:

The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000)

The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2000, pp. 164-167.

Thank you! You too ByzCathCantor!

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