What authority does the Clergy have?


So, from what I understand, the first pope was Peter, who Christ called, “the Rock” on which the church would be built. (Feel free to correct any mistakes I make) now, I completely understand how Peter would be consider the “leader” of the early church, as you could say that Christ told him that he would lead the church. But how in the world did we get to, “well, whoever the Bishop is Rome is has complete power over the church!” And then there’s Catholic Dogma, and what is and isn’t Canon, And Meetings like the council of Nicaea. How is any of this justified? For example, Pope Pius XII Said that the Assumption of Mary was Canon, and he used papal infallibility. So, the pope could just decide that’s what happened and everybody accepts it as truth? What gives him the right? This is my biggest obstacle in conversion, and frankly it doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.


I sort of understand where you’re coming from, but after half a century of bouncing around Protestant denominations I have come to the conclusion that without that central authority, we tend to gravitate toward our own tendencies, becoming a church of one. The authority of the papacy in conjunction with the magisterium is more logical to my semi-educated mind.




Although I thank you for the link, I still fail to understand why the clergy has this power :confused: I suppose I’ll have to do more research


Call into Catholic Answers Live, perhaps.


The Pope can’t just wake up one morning and decide what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s just that when he does speak on the Catholic faith as the Pope (he generally says something along the lines of “Therefore we declare and define by our Apostolic authority… to be binding on the Christian faithful…”), God will not let him speak falsely. It is a charism unique to the Papacy, and one given to the position by God and God alone.


Haha. That’ll certainly an option, although I’m sure somebody has likely asked that question before. I’ll have to check through the YouTube Archive, if it just so happens that it hasn’t been asked Live, where is their schedule at?


We’ll that partly answers my question, so you have my thanks for that, but where does it confirm that the Pope cannot speak falsely?


Matthew 16:18-19:

“16:18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
16:19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

Peter leading the flock into falsehood would mean the gates prevailed, as God is truth, so leading us into a lie would be leading us away from God. Not only that, but if what Peter binds on earth is bound in heaven, then it’s impossible for it to be a falsehood. Falsehoods in heaven would be absurd because, again, God is truth, and such falsehood would have no place there, and vice versa: falsehood cannot come from heaven.


Yes, this makes perfect sense. For Peter. But Peter was one man. There have been over 250 popes. How does that refer to them?


In Acts 1:12-26, we see the apostles replacing Judas by election under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There seems to be a compelling need to do so, too, and not just leave his vacated position empty. Likewise, we know that the apostles all designated successors to take up their duties whenever they were no longer in a position of authority, either by establishing a local Church community and moving on (leaving a bishop behind, trained and duly deputed by the apostles) or by their death - they all had “understudies” as it were, for lack of a better word. When Peter died in Rome, his immediate successor (Linus) literally held Peter’s seat, and so it’s been ever since.


Why wouldn’t they have what Peter have? Why would the Church be allowed to consecrate priests and bishops for herself but not another Pope to lead her? There are some who were Apostles, preachers, and teachers, but only one Pope ever?


And finally, after compiling about 3 or 4 answers together, my question is complete :laughing:


We don’t just do this with the pope, either. If there is an aging bishop, there is often a coadjutor bishop appointed alongside him. Canon Law states that upon resignation (or death) of the bishop, the coadjutor becomes the automatic successor to that same see. With the pope nowadays, they do elections that, although different, are not totally unlike the Biblical example.


The Holy sees or the seats where the Early Church were , based on who went where.

It would be a great idea if you read history of the Early Church, why when how and into what social conditions th councils were called.

And what the heresies were and how the councils defined who Jesus is


You already got some great answers that seemed to help.

Just wanted to add if you would like some more information I would recommend the following two MP3 downloads from this site.

Tim Staples is a convert to the Catholic Faith who had many of the same hang ups that you seem to be having. He is a great speaker and gives some in depth information on these talks.

Hope this helps,

God Bless


Like our Priest told us once, Jesus was NOT stupid. He did not intend for the “Papacy” to end when Peter died. He intended for the sole authority of a Pope to be over the Church until the end of time. He set it up that way so that we would have the 3 fold “stool” of Truth: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition (because everything said and done by Jesus couldn’t have been written down. Also what was written down wasn’t done so for a very long time so the teachings had to be done by mouth) and the Magisterium.


Consider the New Testament. Why should I read some letter written to people in Greece, in 50 AD? I don’t live in Greece, nor in that year. The answer is that God provides continuing guidance, through the centuries.

For that matter, who determined this:

That a New Testament should exist at all?

That it applied to people in the future, not just readers in the years it was written;

Which books should be in it.

Of course God made those decisions but through what visible human agency was God’s Will communicated? Through the Magisterium. Without the Magisterium no new testament. Or rather, everyone would have a different New Testament, with thousands of different possible books, even those written this year.
No Magisterium, no Christianity.


The Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a long-term Christian belief shared with the Orthodox Churches (oriental and eastern), who celebrate Mary’s Dormition (end of her life) and who also proclaim her as bodily assumed into Heaven and as Queen of Heaven. This is taught in both east and west. The pronouncement by Pius XII confirmed this and that it was not something that secular and Protestant-influenced Catholics could choose to ignore as a myth.


Authority at it’s heart is not a right or a personal claim to rights like you are framing it, authority is a charism.
The charism of authority is sourced in Christ himself. Christ is incarnate God, and so Christ is fully in the human condition. The Church is also incarnate in the human condition, or instituted. In this way the Body can serve the world’s needs. The Body is composed of many gifts or charisms, and authority must be one of those. Some have unique authority like the Pope, others have a more general authority as pastors or parents.

So first and foremost, this human condition requires our gifts in service to one another, because the Incarnate God serves his flock to the death. We serve one another as Christ serves us.

At the end of the day we have servant authority rooted in Christ who breathed on his followers. The Pope is the servant of the servants of God as JP2 put it. Woe to all of us when we abuse this authority for our own aggrandizement.

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