Universal Jursidiction

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

"882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”

The goal of this thread is to examine the scriptural and historical basis for the Church’s view of the universal jurisdiction of the pope as well as to consider the views of groups that reject this position.

To begin, I will present scriptural evidence of Peter as vicar of Christ, shepherd of the Church, and Royal Steward of Jesus the King.

Be nice. :yup:

Three bags ready.

Let me begin with the following:

Peter’s Role as Vicar of Christ’s Church Proved from Scripture

In John 21:15-19, the resurrected Christ, commands Simon Peter three times to “feed my lambs” and “tend my sheep.”

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed (bosko) my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of (poimanao) my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, "Feed (bosko) my sheep.

In this passage, we can see that Jesus leaves Peter in charge of feeding, tending and caring for His sheep. Who feeds, tends and cares for sheep? A shepherd!

Unfortunately, many non-Catholics object to the Catholic understanding that Peter was given this unique leadership position, and they cite a passage from earlier in this same Gospel wherein Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd, and says there is to be but “one flock and one Shepherd.” (John 10:11-16) Therefore, the immediate question springs to mind: If Christ is the Good Shepherd, why can’t He “feed” and “tend” His own sheep?

Of course, Jesus is God, and He is clearly capable of taking care of His own flock – even after He ascends to heaven. So, why does He appoint Peter to this role? Obviously, all sheep belong to Christ, and they do not cease to belong to Jesus after the ascension. Yet, Peter is told to “feed” and “tend” them. Jesus commissions Peter to act as His “stand-in” or “vicar” after the ascension. Jesus will remain the one Shepherd, yet Peter will “feed” and “tend” the sheep, in the sense that Jesus will not be physically present to do it. Thus, Peter will be the visible, vicarious shepherd of the flock.

Because of the implications of this earthly authority and the unique Catholic claims for the papacy, non-Catholics seek alternative explanations for Jesus’ words. One attempt is to claim that Peter simply has the same authority to care for the flock of Christ that all of the other apostles had. However, this argument fails for two reasons.

First, the extent of the authority Jesus gave to Peter can be seen quite clearly in the original Greek. For example, the word which is used for “feed” in John 21 is bosko – a word which the Jewish historian Philo of Alexandria, and other 1st Century writers, use to denote “spiritual nourishment.” Similarly, the word “tend” is poimanao – the same Greek word which is translated as “rule” in passages such as Matt 2:6, Rev 2:27, Rev. 12:5, and Rev. 19:15, where it is applied to Jesus Himself. Peter, like Jesus, is to “rule” over the sheep, and to “supply them with spiritual nourishment.” Thus, Peter is established as the vicarious shepherd (i.e., “supreme pastor”) of the Church in Christ’s physical absence.

While it may be argued that any shepherd would have similar responsibilities for his sheep and that the Bible is full of passages using the relationship between sheep and shepherd as a metaphor for our relationship with God, in the context of the New Testament, only Peter received this unique appointment directly from Christ Himself. Jesus took great care to identify Peter’s new responsibility as head of the Church with His own role as Head of the Body, the Church. No other Apostle received this focus.

Second, in Luke’s Last Supper account, we see quite clearly that Peter was singled out to play the role of a leader and unifier among the Apostles. The passage is as follows:

Luke 22:31-32
“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. 33But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

In Luke 22:31-32, Satan sought to destroy all of the Apostles, but Jesus prayed for Simon Peter alone that Peter might strengthen all of the other Apostles whose faith would be shaken, as well. Clearly, Peter is not merely “one Apostle among others.” Rather, he is also responsible for the welfare of all. That is a special ministry – the ministry of the vicarious shepherd. No other Apostle is given the responsibility for caring for the Twelve in this way, and this assignment is all the more significant when we consider that in the following verses (v. 33-34), Jesus predicts Peter’s three-fold denial. Despite Jesus’ foreknowledge of Peter’s denials, Jesus prays for and assigns to Peter the task of caring for the others.


This brings us to the refutation of another non-Catholic argument against Peter’s position as leader of the Christian Church: Jesus was simply re-instating Peter in John 21 by mirroring Peter’s three denials with three questions, “Do you love me?” Yet, we see from Luke 22:31-34, that Peter’s three-fold denial is contrasted, not with Peter’s apostleship, but rather with Peter’s special ministry to strengthen and unify the other Apostles …and this before he denies Christ three times. Thus, if Peter is restored to anything in John 21, it must include the commission he was given in Luke 22:31-32 – namely, to be the one to strengthen those other Apostles whose faith was flagging.

In Luke 22:31-32 and John 21:15-19 Peter is commissioned, and then re-commissioned, as the vicarious shepherd over the entire flock in Christ’s physical absence.

In summary, we know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that there is one Shepherd and one flock (cf. John 10). Yet, in the passage from John 21, we can see that Jesus leaves Peter in charge of feeding, tending and caring for His sheep. Peter becomes the shepherd who will lead the flock after Jesus’ ascension. Therefore, while Jesus is forever our Good Shepherd reigning from heaven, He has made provision for us by naming someone else to stand in His place, to be His vicar, here on earth. The Vicar of Christ established by Jesus is the Pope of the Catholic Church.

Not only does Peter (and his successors, the Popes) hold the keys to the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 16:18, Is. 22:22), but he holds the shepherd’s crook or crozier, as well.

Peter – The Rock, Keeper of the Keys and Royal Steward

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)

Peter’s understanding that Jesus was the Son of God did not come from working it out on his own; God the Father infused this revelation into Peter’s mind thus imprinting His seal of approval upon the humble fisherman. In turn, Jesus recognized that Simon had already been anointed by His Father in this way, and He declared, “Blessed are you” because the Father had already blessed Simon with knowledge of the Son. Speaking in His native tongue, Aramaic, Jesus gave Simon a new name, “Kepha”, the Aramaic word that means “rock”. Jesus declared, “You are kepha, and on this kepha I will build my church.”

Although Jesus spoke Aramaic, the New Testament was written in Greek, and “Kepha” would have been translated into the Greek words for “rock” which are “petra” or “petros”. “Petra” is the feminine form of the masculine word, “petros”, and obviously, “petros” is the more suitable form for a man’s name. From “petros” we derive the English name, “Peter”. For us modern readers then, Jesus’ pronouncement reads, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”, but we must never lose sight of the fact that in the original language used by Jesus, Simon is clearly identified as the rock upon which the Church would be built by Jesus. Jesus announced His intention to establish His Church (singular – not “churches” plural) and His choice of Peter as its leader.

What is it about Peter’s character that caused Jesus to compare him to something as solid as rock? Isn’t this the same Peter who Jesus called “Satan” just a few verses later? (cf. Mt 16:23) Isn’t this the same Peter who would deny the Lord three times after his arrest? (cf. Lk 22:34) Surely this unstable character is anything but solid rock upon which a Church could be built; yet, Jesus sees something deeper in Peter’s character, and His choice would be vindicated when Peter ultimately received a martyr’s crown via crucifixion.

Matthew also tells us that Jesus gave Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”. In ancient times, a king might choose a second in command (known as the royal steward) who literally wore a large key as a symbol of his office and who spoke with the authority of the king. The prophet Isaiah confirms this:

"In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Isaiah 22:22)

In the passage above, God is speaking, and He confirms the existence of the office, the key, and the continuation of the office despite the change of office holder. In other words, the office of the royal steward continued even when the man who held the office died or was replaced by someone else.

How does this relate to what we have learned from Matthew? In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus inherits the throne of his father, David.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:31–33)

Thus, we know that Jesus is a king who will reign forever. Matthew tells us that that King Jesus named Peter as His royal steward and gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven" as the symbol of his authority to speak in His name. Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end. Although Peter died as a martyr (as Jesus foretold), the successors of Peter have taken his place in the eternal office of royal steward that Jesus established in His royal court.


In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)

"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

Jesus was thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament scriptures, and He intentionally referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter as His royal steward. Peter received authority from Jesus to speak in His name, and to do so faithfully, Peter must not teach error. Therefore, Peter (and his successors who are the leaders of Jesus’ Church) are protected by God from ever teaching error in matters of faith and morals. This is called “infallibility”.

Jesus reveals the infallible nature of the Church when he declares, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." What does this curious passage mean? There are two possible interpretations.

First, if God reciprocates the binding and loosing of Church on earth with an identical binding or loosing in heaven, then the binding and loosing done on earth must of necessity be free from all error. If this were not so, God would have put Himself in the impossible situation of having to affirm that which is not true whenever the Church taught error.

A second interpretation would be that the authority of the church is to carry out the will and decisions of God upon earth as they have been established in heaven. This is in perfect accord with the way Jesus instructed us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Thus, the Church must either be prevented from teaching error in order that God may ratify its decisions in heaven or the Church must be proclaiming here below those things that are already true in heaven. Either way, the decisions and actions of the Church can be seen to be infallible with regard to matters of faith and morals. Anything less would make Jesus a liar for He also declared, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13) and “I am with you always till the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)

In conclusion, we have seen that Matthew has packed an incredible amount of information into one brief passage. We know that Jesus promised that He Himself would build a single Church with Peter as the rock upon which that Church would be built, that the office of head of the Church would be eternal, and that the Church itself must be protected from ever teaching error.

Cue tired refutation, “Keys given to Church through Peter, not just to Peter; Canon VI of the First Council of Nicea; Canon III of Council of Constantinople, first among equals, the Ancient Pentarchy, etc., etc…”

Drat. I was hoping this thread might bring something new… :compcoff:

Any thoughts on the royal stewardship of Peter and his successors?

Luther on the Keys

“So we stand here and with open mouth stare heavenward and invent still other keys. Yet Christ says very clearly in Matthew 16:19 that He will give the keys to Peter. He does not say He has two kinds of keys, but He gives to Peter the keys He Himself has, and no others. It is as if He were saying: why are you staring heavenward in search of the keys? Do you not understand I gave them to Peter? They are indeed the keys of Heaven, but they are not found in Heaven. I left them on earth. Don’t look for them in Heaven or anywhere else except in Peter’s mouth where I have placed them. Peter’s mouth is My mouth, and his tongue is My key case. His office is My office, his binding and loosing are My binding and loosing.” (Martin Luther, The Keys, in Conrad Bergendoff, ed. trans. Earl Beyer and Conrad Bergendoff, Luthers Works, vol. 40, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1958, p. 365-366.)

Right. This is not the first time a Roman Catholic has cited this bit of Luther. Interestingly, they tend to neglect the context and what comes next. :rolleyes: Keep reading. What does Luther go on to say?

[T]he keys of the pope [when misused] are [essentially] not keys but husks and shells of the keys…

Ah! So Lutherans do not (nay, cannot!) deny that the Keys were given to Peter; Scripture is clear. But Peter =/= the papacy, in the Lutheran view. The Keys were given to Peter and passed to the church.

I’ve got a site bookmarked that has more information on the Lutheran view here (along with the remainder of what Luther wrote in volume 40: beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/08/luther-christ-gave-keys-to-peter.html

Your point is that Peter was given the keys, at least that is what I see. Okay, any changes made since the time of Peter are not valid, got it.

The issue I have with this interpretation is that Peter was singled out from the rest of the apostles for when both the Keys are given and for binding and loosing. It is only then that Jesus and Peter return to the rest of the apostles and Jesus then establishes the binding and loosing of them of the apostles as a collective. Nowhere in scripture or in the early Church Fathers have I seen where the Keys are given to the Church as a whole, meaning that every person of the Church contains the Keys. The Church does hold the keys in the sense that the successor of Peter holds them, as a part of the Church and uses them for the Church, but I have never seen anywhere that depicts anyone in the Church other than the successor of Peter having the authority of the Keys.

EDIT: I also found this interesting argument about Canon 6, philvaz.com/apologetics/CouncilNicaeaSixthCanon.htm

cough Well, er, what canon in the first 1000 years of the papacy would you cite that points towards ‘universal jurisdiction?’

I’ll start. Sardica canons 3 and 4.

Of course not! Otherwise, you’d be Catholics! OTOH, you’re going to need a bit more to convince me that the Lutheran view is right! :stuck_out_tongue:

The Keys were given to Peter and passed to the church.

You have a scripture verse of two which states this explicitly. You ARE a* sola scripturis*t, correct?

I’ve got a site bookmarked that has more information on the Lutheran view here (along with the remainder of what Luther wrote in volume 40: beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/08/luther-christ-gave-keys-to-peter.html

Ah…James Swan, James White…talk about cueing tired arguments. :sad_yes:

So, it is your contention that Luther held that Peter really did get the keys but then having misused them, they became mere “husks”?

Still nothing on the office of the Royal Steward, steido01?

Did Jesus say He gives the keys to the kingdom to Peter AND his successors? No. He gave them to Peter.


Did you read my post about the royal steward?

History and context are “tired arguments”? Fascinating.

Yes, twice. Should we listen to the current Pope, yes. Should the Pope be aware of all the changes by the Bishops he appoints, yes. Should he step in when errors appear, yes.
Would Peter have stepped in to correct errors, yes.

Does anyone on earth have the right to change the law of God, no.

The need for a clear and single head of the Church was developed.

In the establishment of emerging churches, Rome was seen as the main financial supporter of them, as well as that having the charism of settling disputes that were unresolved in patriachs.

Then there was the Roman emperors’ persecutions and invasion by the barbarians that impoverished the Latin Church. The Eastern Church at Constaninople was thriving up to the Islamic invasion.

The papacy’s role was further defined in face of the forthcoming schisms and splintering of Christianity. Latin and Eastern Churches excommunicated each other. If Luther referred to the Keys as husks, etc., that is pastoral administration. We look to the pope in communion with the bishops, and there were miscommunications between Leo and Luther. The Church liturgy and Church environment were most in need of reform due to clericalism. But that does not in any way imply corruption of the deposit of faith which is found fully in Catholicism, that includes the seat of Peter that the Orthodox exclude.

The papacy provides Christ present to the world in the Living Tradition, representing the will of Christ that cannot be done through a council per se. If there are disagreements, it is easier to follow one person than a conciliar model. And bishops admit they vote differently if they report directly to Rome vs deciding and voting through a council. In modern times, there is the perception of compromise to the world.

The Latin Church through the pope definitely bears witness to the truth to the world, and does not hesitate those who cause injustice and human suffering. I don’t see any other church, religion, or governments that speak out for all humanity and justice as does the office of the papacy.

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