We are not celebrating a chair, so to speak, but rather the authority of the Pope, who derives his authority to teach and lead the Catholic Church by virtue of being the legitimate successor to St. Peter, the first Pope.
Jesus established His Church on Earth, and appointed St. Peter to lead it in His stead. This is why the Pope holds the title “Vicar of Christ”, he is the visible head of Christ’s Church on Earth, and teaches with the same authority. This is shown in today’s Gospel reading:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
St. Peter was the only Apostle to answer Jesus’ question correctly, and Jesus revealed that it was not through his own ability that he answered, but only through the revelation of God the Father. This is a basis for the Catholic Doctrine of Papal Infallibility, that the Pope is protected from teaching moral and doctrinal error by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He is not protected from behaving immorally, as history has shown there to have been “bad popes”, but only when he exercises his authority as the successor to St. Peter in teaching matters of Faith and Morals. He cannot pick the winners of the World Series, the Super Bowl or the World Cup, or mandate that involvement in a war somewhere is wrong. Only in his role as leader and teacher of the fullness of Gospel and Apostolic Truth is he infallible.
This makes sense. You would think that Jesus’ Church would have a leader who has a guarantee of certitude in teaching. Otherwise he’s just a human, subject to human frailties and weakness. He is just a human, and subject to those flaws, but excluded are the areas I already referred to.
This is because Jesus knew that we would be easily led astray but all manner of strange teachings, as shown by all the Protestant and Evangelical denominations that all claim authority, but contradict each other, and often teach things in contradiction to Sacred Scripture. They have no singular authority with the guarantee that was conferred upon Peter and his successors.
This certitude is what attracted me to the idea of the primacy of the Catholic Church in my sobriety. AA was wonderful in helping me to establish my sobriety, but the vagueness and shallowness of its spirituality leaves it open to many personal interpretations and too many risks for falling for anything that sounds good. While this may be fine in some areas, when my immortal soul is at risk, I need a little definition.
In its 2,000 years of history, the Catholic Church has never changed its teachings on Faith and Morals to be fundamentally different than what they were. Her teachings have become more developed as the Gospel and Apostolic writings have become better understood, but the core remains the same.
This, to me, strongly implies that the Church has the guarantee of protection by the Holy Spirit. No mere human institution could have survived the Catholic Church’s turbulent history. It is a creation of God, and therefore as with all things that are of God, endures despite itself.
We, as Catholics, therefore need not have worries or questions about the why’s and what’s of Reality. The answers to everything are all in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (the body of teachings of the Church from the Apostles and their successors, rooted in and derived from Scripture, and which illuminates it as well.) All other belief systems have some elements of truth, just not the fullness of God’s Truth. The human elements shift and change with passing human fancy.
Not a bad deal to safeguard your sobriety? This is the first of probably many (and occasional) postings on “Why the Church?” as a vehicle for sobriety I mentioned I would write, sometime before.
You want to weather adversity, and the storms that ordinary life tosses at you, no better refuge that the Rock: Peter, his successors and the fundamental certitude of their teachings, solidly rooted in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"