The Pope

We were at Kingdom Bound (a big Evangelical music festival) where the "Newsboys" played. The non-denominational Evangelical lead singer Peter Furler said, "we should not have 'lone wolf' Christians evangelizing, it creates chaos, every person should be under the authority of a pastor and every pastor under the authority of other pastors ... there should be a structure of authority." Here was a non-denominational Christian basically describing the structure of the Catholic Church as a model for evangelization.

Photo: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (2005-2013)

Infallibility

The press jumped all over Pope Benedict XVI for his comments about Islam. They said an "infallible Pope" should not make such a political blunder. That really has nothing to do with infallibility (Pope Benedict's controversial speech where he spoke about Islam is here). Sure the Pope can make political and PR mistakes. He's not a politician and he doesn't have a Madison Avenue PR firm managing his communications.

One of the most misunderstood things about the Pope is this "infallibility" thing. Some Evangelicals think infallibility means that Catholics claim that every word that comes out of the Pope's mouth is supposed to be infallible.

The Pope is human and therefore sins. He's the first to admit it. He goes to regular confession where he confesses his sin, repents and is granted forgiveness. Catholics do not deny the Pope's humanity. At a meeting of priests, Pope Benedict said:

The Pope is not an oracle, he is infallible on the rarest of occasions, as we know…"

What the Church is saying with the doctrine of infallibly is that Christ is protecting his flock by giving the Pope the ability to say the right things when making official statements about faith and morals. The Church claims that these proclamations are "infallible," not that Church leaders are "indefectible." Most certainly everybody in the Catholic Church has defects (including its leaders), just like evangelicals and all humans.

The doctrine of infallibility has nothing to do with the brainpower, intuition, moral fibre, or even the faith of the Pope. The doctrine of infallibility has everything to do with God protecting his Church. It's amazing that even during medieval times when there were some questionable and even bad Popes, God kept them silent on issues of faith and morals during their office.

A Pope only exercises infallibility on rare occasions - a handful of times in history. Here are the conditions:

  1. The Pope must speak ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter) in his official capacity.
  2. "The Chair is - let us say it again - a symbol of the power of teaching, which is a power of obedience and service, so that the Word of God- the truth! - may shine out among us and show us the way of life."

    - Pope Benedict XVI

  3. The decision must be binding on the whole Church.
  4. It must be on a matter of faith or morals.
  5. He must be intending to teach.

Some Evangelicals wonder how this mystery and miracle of infallibility could be possible. How can an imperfect human, under some conditions, speak infallibly? We have to ask ourselves "is Jesus capable of protecting his flock in this way?" The answer is that Jesus can do anything. Christ promised to guide and protect his Church and to send the Holy Spirit to lead it into all truth. (Mat 16:18-19, 18:18, 28:20; Jn 14:16, 25, 16:13). The Holy Spirit guided the Church when it decided which books were to be included in the Bible. That was an infallible decision. Praise God!

Certainly many who are reading this have had experiences where God made something very clear to them through the Grace of the Holy Spirit. How much more would He want to do that for someone who has been trusted to lead and influence millions of Christians.

The early Church had central direction evidenced by the way it handled the crisis of faith over circumcision. (Acts 15-16) Paul and Barnabus went to Jerusalem to settle the circumcision issue. "As they (Paul and Timothy) went through the towns they delivered to the believers the rules decided upon by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and they told them to obey those rules." (Acts 16:3)

Top

Was Peter the Rock?

This is a short discussion about Peter as the Rock. A full discussion exploring the Greek, Aramaic Biblical text, the history, early Christian quotes, and more is here.

In recent years some Evangelicals have suggested that the Greek word that means "rock" did not refer to Peter but only to his "faith." We got an email that said:

However Jesus stated "upon this rock I will build my church" in reference to Peter's declaration that He (Jesus) was the Christ (Matthew 16:16).

Let's call this the "little rock, big rock" theory. I don't think it holds up under scrutiny when we look at it grammatically, linguistically, historically and most important, Biblically. I think Jesus built his Church on people, not a declaration. Following through on the passage we see that Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to Peter, not to his declaration. The little rock big rock theory is very new. All of the early reformers believed Peter was the rock (but they didn't believe Peter had a successor, more about that below). The Reformer, Martin Luther, said this:

Why are you searching heavenward in search of my keys? Do you not understand, Jesus said, 'I gave them to Peter. They are indeed the keys of heaven, but they are not found in heaven for I left them on earth. Peter's mouth is my mouth, his tongue is my key case, his keys are my keys. They are an office. They are a power, a command given by God through Christ to all of Christendom for the retaining and remitting of the sins of men.'

- Martin Luther, 1530 AD, after he left the Church 1

W. F. Albright, one of the best known Protestant theologians of this century, in his Anchor Bible Commentary, says:

Peter as the Rock will be the foundation of the future community, the church ... To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence.

- W. F. Albright, Anchor Bible Commentary

All of the early Church interpreted Peter as the Rock also. For example, Tertullian said:

Was anything hid from Peter, who was called the Rock, whereon the Church was built; who obtained the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?

- Tertullian, De Praescript Haeret, 220 AD

I recently spoke with a grammar specialist who is not Catholic. She explained to me that the adjective "this" grammatically must refer to the nearest preceding noun, which was Peter, not his declaration which occurs two verses earlier.

peter_rock

A full discussion exploring the text of the Greek, Aramaic, grammar, history, early Christian quotes, and more is here.

Top

The Keys

Catholics believe that Jesus had a very specific purpose in saying that Peter was the Rock upon which he would build his Church. He was evoking Isaiah 22:22.

Isaiah 22:15-24 Matthew 16:18-19
22:15 (Shebna) you have cut out a tomb here for yourself ... in the rock? ...I will thrust you from your office... 22:20 On that day I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah, 21 and will clothe him with your robe and bind your sash on him. I will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. 23 I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house. 24 And they will hang on him the whole weight of his ancestral house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.

...you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

In the Isaiah passage, Shebna was the Chancellor (like a Prime Minister) under King Hezekiah. This Prime Minister had a special role above the cabinet. He got the keys to the kingdom. Shabna messed up and was unfaithful so God appointed Eliakim to Prime Minister and gave him the keys. In Mat 16:18, Peter got the keys just the way Eliakim got them in Isaiah 22:15-24.

Protestant theologian Albright says:

Isaiah 22, verse 15, undoubtedly lies behind this saying of Jesus (Matt. 16:18). The keys are the symbol of authority and ... the same authority vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household in ancient Israel. In Isaiah 22 Eliakim is described as having the same authority. (ibid)

David Palm wrote the following:

Long before I had any inkling of becoming Catholic I came to embrace the current majority report among Protestant scholars, namely, that "this rock" of Matt 16:18 refers to the person of Peter and that he is the foundation on which Christ would build His Church. I was challenged later, by those same scholars and by Catholic apologists, to see from the use of Isa 22:22 in Matt 16:19, that our Lord, as the son of David and new King of Israel, reestablished the office of "steward" or "one who is over the house" (in modern parlance, the prime minister). He [Jesus] gives that office to Peter, as symbolized by the "keys of the kingdom." This establishes that in principle there is nothing antithetical between the supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ and a mortal man serving as His "vicar" on earth. (http://www.mwt.net/~lnpalm/jw_jpk.php)

When Jesus says  "whatever you bind" to Peter in Matt. 16:18, the Greek text used for "you" is singular. In Mat 18:18 the Greek text, the word for "you" in "whatever you bind" is plural. Catholics think these two juxtaposed but similar phrases lay out the early structure of the Church with Peter as the Pope and the other apostles as priests.

Top

Jesus is the head of the Church and Peter was his Vicar on earth

I heard a great Evangelical Christian song by the band Audio Adrenaline that says, "I want to be your hands, I want to be your feet." Most Evangelicals understand that Jesus needs people to do his work on earth. Catholics are saying that Jesus wants someone to lead his people on earth. This person is not taking Jesus' place, he is simply guiding the Church the same way Peter did when he stood up in the upper room, and told the apostles that they must replace Judas, and do so with someone who had traveled with them from the time of John the Baptist (Acts 1:15). As the head of the apostles his duty was to guide the apostles and oversee a successful unanimous outcome. Catholics think Jesus is still doing that through Peter's successor today.

"The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism."

- Pope Benedict XVI, Mass of Possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, May 2005

Jesus said "Upon this rock 'I' will build my Church." Jesus is the head of the Church. Catholics believe the Pope is simply his "vicar" on earth, the one who He has appointed. The Pope could sing the song, "I want to be your hands, I want to be your feet." Jesus is the King which in Isaiah 22:22 is represented by King Hezekiah. Peter is the Vicar on Earth which in the Isaiah 22:22 passage is represented by Eliakim. The Pope's role is kind of like that of a chairman of a board, or captain of a football team, with the other team players being the bishops. It has been like this since the dawn of Christianity. The owner and leader of the team is Jesus.

Catholics don't think the Church is "man-made." They think it is God made. Jesus said "Upon this rock 'I' will build my Church." (Mat 16:19) He did not say "you" will build my Church. Catholics think the Church was conceived at the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. (Acts 2:3) Catholics believe the Holy Spirit has been resting on the Catholic Church ever since. An historical timeline of the early Church is here.

"There is one God and one Christ and but one episcopal chair, originally founded on Peter, by the Lord's authority. There cannot, therefore, be set up another altar or another priesthood. Whatever any man in his rage or rashness shall appoint, in defiance of the divine institution, must be a spurious, profane and sacrilegious ordinance."

- St. Cyprian 246 AD, The Unity of the Catholic Church

Top

Examples of Peter's Authority among the Apostles

  • Next to Jesus, Peter is mentioned more than any other apostle in Scripture (152 times).
  • He stood up and spoke on behalf of the apostles (Mt 19:27, Acts 1:15, 2:14)
  • He stood up at the birth of the Church at the Pentecost to lead them. (Acts 2:14)
  • The disciples were referred to as Peter and the Apostles. (Acts 2:37, 5:29)
  • Peter was given the authority to forgive sins before the rest of the apostles. (Mat 16:18)
  • He was always named first when the apostles were listed (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13) -- sometimes it was only "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32);
  • John ran ahead of Peter to the tomb but upon arriving he stopped and did not go in. He waited and let Peter go in. (Jn 20:4)
  • Peter stepped out of the boat in the middle of the storm, even though they were all afraid they would die in the storm. (Mat 14:29)
  • Jesus told Peter to "feed my lambs ... tend my sheep ... feed my sheep." (Jn 21:15-17) The difference between a sheep and a lamb might be significant. A lamb is a baby, a sheep is an adult. Perhaps Jesus was asking Peter to take care of both the general people (the lambs), and the apostles (sheep). Regardless of that interpretation of sheep and lambs, is clear Jesus is asking Peter to feed and tend his flock. That is what a shepherd does. It appears to me that he is asking Peter to shepherd his Church on earth, on his behalf.

An Orthodox priest who doesn't believe in the primacy of Peter, pointed out that James made the decision over the circumcision issue in Jerusalem, not Peter. (Acts 15:19). James was the Bishop of Jerusalem, it totally makes sense that James would say that. He made that decision based on Peter's (Simeon's) discourse (Acts 15:14). His decision was a response to Peter's directive.

Top

How could Jesus have decided to build his Church?

Bishop Fulton Sheen describes it very well. There are 3 basic ways Jesus could have organized his Church:

  1. Democracy (Everybody votes and the idea with the most votes wins)
  2. Aristocracy (A group of elders get together and prayerfully make a decision on behalf of the people)
  3. Theocracy (Built on one person who leads the others who provide input but who defer to their leader)

Jesus asked the apostles, "Who do they say that I am?" (Mat 16:13) He was referring to the general people, their democratic voice. They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." In other words, no unity, no certitude. Leave the government to the people and you get no unity.

Then he appealed to the aristocracy, the apostles, but there was no answer, (Thomas doubted, Judas was in money, Philip was troubled about relations with the heavenly father.) Jesus could not build his Church on an aristocracy alone.

At this point one man comes forward without the consent of the others. It is Peter, who says "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is the right answer. Here was one man, divinely illuminated, speaking for all, who confesses the divinity of Christ, who is to be chosen as the leader of the Church. This is the Theocratic form of the Church that Catholics believe Jesus chose. This is what God did when he chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses etc.. Jesus is the big rock, and Peter is a little rock, acting on behalf of Christ on earth, giving the keys to him.

Top

Why did the Church move to Rome from Jerusalem?

Peter, who was given the keys, died in Rome and that's where his successors were. Meanwhile in Jerusalem in 70 AD a great persecution made the Church almost completely inactive there until about 130 AD. Just as the Old Testament is full of foreshadows of the New Testament, Catholics believe the Bible is clear that the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation is not the historic city of Jerusalem. After the death of Jesus, the Old Testament prophesies about Jerusalem were clearly understood as a reference to God's people rather than the historic city of Jerusalem. This paved the way for the move to Rome.

Jesus wanted the Gospel preached through all the world. If there had not been persecutions in Jerusalem it is questionable how far the Gospel would have traveled. The persecutions forced the apostles outward. We see in the book of Acts a powerful movement to establish the Church in Rome. That is where the book of Acts finishes. St. Luke states, “This is how we finally came to Rome” (Acts 28:14). Some Evangelicals think the Book of Acts ends too abruptly. They fail to see that the establishment of the Early Church in Rome was the goal and Luke ends his book when this is accomplished.

There is no biblical evidence of a power struggle between St. James (the Bishop of Jerusalem) and St. Peter.

“Simon, Simon! Remember Satan has asked for you (Greek plural-“you all”), to sift you all like wheat. But I have prayed for you (Greek singular-“you alone”) that your faith may never fail. You in turn must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

Peter oversaw the grafting in of the Samaritans, and then the Gentiles. This could have wrecked the faith, but under Peter's guidance the Church went along with it, because he was their leader. Jesus said "make disciples of all peoples" (Mat 28:19) and that could best be accomplished through the communications centre of the world, which was Rome.

From a clearly practical standpoint, I can't possibly imagine how the Church could have succeeded with the Pope in Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been in a constant state of turmoil, and has been conquered many times. Jerusalem was under Islamic rule for many of centuries since the time of Christ. I can imagine the fate of the seat of Christ under Islamic Rule. It would have been a disaster. I think God knew what he was doing when he moved the seat of the Church away from that hotbed.

Top

Succession

As shown above, most reformers understood Peter to be the rock. The reason they could say this and still claim that the current Pope is not the same rock as Peter is that they think Peter's authority died with him. Catholics think this is a mistake.

In Matt.18:16, true to his usual form of teaching, Jesus was invoking an old testament Scripture. In this case it was Isaiah 22:22. If we look at this passage, we see the precedent of succession to which Catholics believe Jesus was referring.

...  I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open...and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house.  And they will hang on him the whole weight of his ancestral house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. (Isaiah 22:22)

In the Old Testament, the office of Chancellor was a dynasty that had successors. This was evidenced by the reference to an office, a throne, a robe, authority, and the keys. This office also sounds a lot like a present day Pope. The key holder is called a father. This appears very much to be the language of succession. Even the reference to the "House of David" in Isaiah 22:24 points to the issue of succession. David had died 400 years earlier. Jesus is also in the lineage of David. Jesus was King and certainly had the authority to give Peter the chancellor's (Prime Minister's) keys that God had given to Eliakim.

Scott Hahn (Ph.D. and former Evangelical pastor) says:

When Jesus gives to Peter the keys of the kingdom, Peter is receiving the Prime Minister's office, which means dynastic authority from the Son of David, Jesus, the King of Israel, but also an office where there will be dynastic succession.(ibid)

Keys are a permanent kind of thing. Jesus didn't say "I'll take them back after you die". That would not make sense. Catholics think Jesus gave Peter the "office" just as Eliakim had been given the "office". Jesus gave Peter power to bind on earth. So Peter had power to name a successor, which Catholics think he did. He gave the keys to Linus, who gave them to Anacletus, who gave them to Clement.

While in Corinth, St. Clement, who was the Pope in 96 A.D., wrote appeals for the memory of the two martyrs, Peter & Paul (epistle to the Corinthians 5:3-7) He explicitly referred to the Apostles who appointed bishops and made provisions for their succession.

Irenaeus was familiar with those who had been close both to Peter and to Paul and who "had the preaching of the blessed Apostles ringing in their ears." He testifies that the truth which the Church received from the Apostles had come down to him, and consequently "one and the very same life-giving faith had been preserved in the Church and was handed down in its purity and integrity from the Apostles even to his own day" (Against Heresies 3,3). (Knights of Columbus pamphlet Mary Mother of God)

Catholics feel this commission is not without biblical precedent. In the Old Testament we see prophets passing on power to their successors by the laying on of hands and anointing. For example:

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him (Deut 31:1-8)

You [Elijah] shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place (1 Kg 19:16)

...Samuel took a horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers and then spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. (1 Sam 16:13)

Over time, the successors to the Apostles were called bishops ("Bishop" is a translation of the Greek "episcopos" which literally means "one who oversees/supervises") and they had an office: "This saying is trustworthy, whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task" (1 Tim 3:1) (see also Phil 1:1)

I was recently in Rome and took the opportunity to visit the Catacombs. It was a very moving experience. The early Christians set up a separate room specifically for the Popes. This room contained the remains of 9 Popes from 235 A.D. to 283 A.D. The early Christians understood how important it was to have a leader. Each one was in succession of Peter.

Pope's tombs in

Buried here were the following Popes. In brackets are the years they served.

St. Anterus (235-36 A.D.)

St. Fabian (236-50)

St. Cornelius (251-53)

St. Lucius I (253-54)

St. Stephen I (254-257)

St. Sixtus II (257-258)

St. Dionysius (260-268)

St. Felix I (269-274)

St. Eutychian (275-283)

A complete list of all the Popes is here.

Catholics believe Peter was the first Pope and that there has been succession to this day. There have been 266 Popes. The keys have been handed down. The Catholic Church can trace historically through each era until the present day. A timeline of the early Church is here, There is a section explaining Priestly succession here.

Top

How come the word "Pope" is not in the Bible?

The "Pope" is not really an office, but merely a nickname for the Bishop of Rome. St. Peter ended his days as the Bishop of Rome, and the Bishop of Rome succeeds to the ministry of St. Peter as the head of the universal Church. "Pope," is merely a nick-name from the early 300s. It comes from the Greek word "papa," that means "father" or "patriarch." It was not exclusive to the Bishop of Rome himself. Rather, in the very ancient Church, there were three regional patriarchal bishops (1) Rome, (2) Alexandria (in Egypt), and (3) Antioch (in Syria)in that order of primacy. All three of these bishops derived their authority from St. Peter and from ties of discipleship between Peter (in Rome) and his disciples Mark (in Alexandria) and Evodius (in Antioch). It was necessary to have patriarchs in different parts of the world when fast communication and transportation systems did not exist.

Someone told me there are upside down crosses in the Vatican, and that proves the Papacy is from Satan. Is that true?

caravaggio painting of Peter's CrucifictionPeter requested to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying on the cross the way his Lord and Saviour died. Ever since the time of Peter's death, the Church has symbolized Peter's martyrdom with an upside down cross. This is called a "Petrine Cross." The Vatican is built on the place where Peter was martyred. The Pope sits in the seat of Peter and therefore there are "Petrine" crosses (upside down) in the Vatican. The Church will not discontinue the Petrine Cross (Peter's Cross) just because satanists are trying hijack the Cross to mock us. Nor will the Church discontinue a 2000 year old tradition that was recognized by all Christians until the 1500's because some Evangelicals are confused as to its meaning.

When I was in Rome, I visited the jail where tradition reports that Peter was held. In the picture above there is the pillar where tradition says Peter was chained. The altar next to it was built in the middle ages and has upside down cross, symbolizing the way Peter was crucified.

Top

Doesn't the Bible say "call no man father?" Why do Catholics say "Holy Father?"

Some Evangelicals point to the Scripture passage "Call no man your father?"  (Mat 23:9-10) as a reason not to call priests "father." In the same sentence Jesus says "Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah." Using this passage to claim that we cannot call a priest "father" would mean that we could not call professors at an Evangelical Bible college "instructors." If we were to take this passage literally, it would mean that I could not call my earthly dad "father" either. Catholics don't believe Jesus was forbidding the use of "father" in that passage. There are plenty of examples in the Bible where that the word "Father" applies to humans, and the Bible links the priesthood to fatherhood. (Judges 17:10, 18:19, 1st Thess. 2:10-11, Acts 4:25, 7:2, 8, 14, Philip. 2:22,Hebrews 12:9, 1st John 2:13, 14 , 1st Cor. 4:15, 1st Thess. 2:11-12.) Catholics believe that Jesus was condemning the hypocrisy of unholy men who were in office at the time, he was not condemning their office.

Top

How come the Pope lives in luxury, gets lots of kudos, and doesn't live a humble life?

We got an email that said:

"It seems that the Pope (bishops and other Catholic clergy) wears really fancy and expensive clothes, lives like royalty, and has people bow to him, kiss his ring - are those traditions from Peter?"

The Pope is not only the Bishop of Rome and the head of the Church but he is the leader of a country, the Vatican. We take good care of the Pope. He's over 80 years old! We feed him well, dress him well, give him a good doctor, give him a comfortable bed so he sleeps well and stays healthy, give him a bullet proof vehicle so crazy people don't kill him. He is working long hours, and has dedicated his life to the Church. It's a lot of work to elect a new Pope, and we don't want them always dying on us, unnecessarily. We must remember that the early Church did not want people to run out and try to get themselves killed for the faith. They said "avoid becoming a martyr if you can, but don't compromise your faith." And that is the spirit with which we are taking care of our Pope. The early apostles such as Peter, received a great deal of respect from the faithful.

The Pope actually lives a life that is more frugal than almost any leader in the world. He lives in the papal apartments, smaller than most TV evangelist's homes. He doesn't have his own airplane, transportation is chartered by commercial carriers, he doesn't wear a crown or anything like that. His vestments are no more expensive than James Dobson's suits. Of course they are well pressed and well washed. He has a big cross around his neck to show that Jesus is the focus.

At over 80 years old, he works over 50 hours a week. I don't know how he does it. So of course we want to make him as comfortable as possible. There are almost no other world leaders who would work 50 hours a week at over 80 years old. They are living in mansions, and are in happy retirement. Our Pope will likely work until the day he dies, like most of the other Popes throughout history.

Every year the Pope washes the feet of the priests in an act of humility and at the command of our Lord Jesus at the Last Supper (see video):

He gets on both knees and kisses the ground, every time he enters a Church in acknowledgment of the Lord who is Lord of all. Pope John Paul II kissed the ground of every country he visited.

Top

What about the "Bad Popes" of the Middle ages

Most certainly there have been bad Popes throughout history. Historians would say there have been about 12 Popes out of 266 were morally corrupt. Benedict IX was a rotten Pope from 1032-1045 AD. He became Pope in his late teens and early 20's and was kind of like me in my early 20's, running around with many different women. He incited a riot in Rome because the people were fed up with him. Probably the worst Pope was Alexander VI (1492-1503). He had several illegitimate children before and during his reign as Pope. He was into bribery, deceit, debauchery and anything else you could imagine. Pope Innocent VII (1484-1492) and Pope Leo X (1513-1521) were from the Borgia and Medici families which were kind of like the Sopranos of the middle ages. They were infamous in Italy. These three Popes contributed significantly to the unrest that led to the Reformation.

The Reformation did not escape many of the same kinds of corruptions that it was accusing Catholic courts of practicing. Martin Luther was disgusted with the conduct of many of fellow Protestants who had authority. Church historian John Laux writes:

...in his own Wittenberg, where Protestant Princes confiscated the wealthiest bishopbrics and monasteries for their own use…while the preachers often suffered the direst want. Irreligiousness, immortality and vices of all sorts flourished...

In a 1545 letter to his wife Martin Luther writes about the Reform...

Let us get out of this Sodom. I prefer to wander about homeless and to beg my bread from door to door than to poison my poor last days by the spectacle of all these disorders. We experience it daily that the people are seven times worse today than ever before under the Papacy; they are more avaricious, more unchaste, more envious, more intemperate, more dishonest... [John Laux, CHURCH HISTORY, p.431]

Some will point to the bad Popes as proof that God did not institute the Papacy with Peter. The Catholic Church claims that its teaching is infallible, but it does not claim that its people are not indefectible. Even Jesus chose a bad disciple, Judas. We don't say "Hey Jesus can't be the Saviour, he had a bad disciple." Ten of the disciples deserted him. What is really amazing regarding the bad Popes is that they stayed silent of issues of faith and morals. They could have defined all kinds of crazy doctrines in the name of their teaching authority, but they didn't. Catholics think this is a testimony in favour of the Papacy. These bad Popes did not define any doctrines. Catholics think this is part of God's infallibility promise. Not only will God direct Popes in their teaching, but He'll also shut them up about dumb (heretical) teaching too. Catholics believe God protected his Church during those periods when there were bad Popes. I believe He meant what He said:

...you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Mat 16:18)

It should be noted that 78 Popes are Canonized Saints and 10 more are beatified, which means they were awesome Popes.

Top

Why did Popes become heads of states?

Basically, the biggest reason that the Pope was head of his own country is that it is important that the Church not be interfered with by any other political leaders and if the head of the Church was in a country governed by a political leader it would be vulnerable to outside interference. In the Eastern Orthodox Church there were big troubles because of political interference from the heads of states in countries where the Church was situated. This system of a Pope being a political head of state is certainly not perfect because ancient Popes sometimes became overly ambitious politically. However, history shows us that God had a way of knocking them on their butts when they did, as in the 1527 sack of Rome by the Germans. God did the same kind of thing to the ancient Jewish kings when they became too aggressively ambitious. Today, the Vatican is a tiny little state that is only about 2 square miles, and is occupied only by a couple of thousand people who work in the Vatican. This is probably a good balance. There is an article about why Popes became heads of states is here.

Top

Hierarchical authority

Authority and hierarchy are hard concepts to sell these days. Businesses are adopting horizontal organizational charts. Kids are swearing at their school teaches. The public is pulling apart politicians. Perhaps these are all progressive ideas, but Catholics think this age has authority-phobia. I heard a sermon on the radio by a gifted Evangelical minister Dr. Tony Evans. He took us on a biblical tour or the hierarchical and structural authority in the heavens among the angels and heavenly creatures.

  1. Seraphim (Is 6:2)
  2. Cherubim (Gen 3:24)
  3. Thrones (Col 1:16)
  4. Dominions (Col 1:16)
  5. Virtues (Eph 1:21)
  6. Powers (1 Pt 3:22)
  7. Principalities (Rom 8:38)
  8. Archangels (1 Thess 4:16)
  9. Angels (Rom 8:38)

He quoted the Bible chapter and verse to show that Angels only activate under authority, when they are told what to do by their superior. (Job, 38:7, Gen 3:24, 19, 21:17, 22:11, Acts 7:53, Ex 23:20-23, Judg 13, 6:11-24, Isa 6:5, 1 Kgs 19:5, Jude 1:9, Rev 12:7 etc.) It was a powerful testimony to the Catholic approach to Church (although I don't think Dr. Evans knew that). It showed that God is not at all afraid of structural authority. Catholics think the Hierarchical Structure of the Church was divinely inspired by God and revealed to those who formed it in the early centuries of Christianity.

Top

The Magisterium

The Magisterium consists of the Episcopal College and its head, the Pope. It is based on the 12 apostles. Peter and the rest of the apostles made up a single apostolic college. So in like fashion the "The Roman Pontiff," Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another." (Catechism 880). It is the teaching office of the Church. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. This is where the infallibility thing comes into play. Most often these infallible declarations happen at an ecumenical Council. There have been 21 councils since the time of Christ. This magisterium is the glue of the Church. It is what keeps us all going in the same direction theologically. It is where we turn to find out what the Church really believes about something.

Quite often the media will say stuff like, "55% of Catholics believe that gay marriage is OK" and similar such things. The media is often talking about people who don't go to Church anymore, who are not reading the Bible, who don't identify themselves as Catholic except when asked if they are Catholic for a newspaper poll. 

Thank God that the Church is not a democracy. The early Church was not a democracy either. Democracy works well for politics but not for faith and morals because people in general want to make things easy on themselves.

Modern society thinks that the pathway of spirituality should be decided by the common people, that is why the New Age is so popular. Anybody can be a Guru and lead people down dark alleyways of Spirituality. In the New Age, everybody can believe whatever they want, can do whatever they want while still claiming to be God centred. That is part of the reason books like the Da Vinci Code that try to mix up Christianity with Gnosticism have become so popular. Gnosticism was a great heresy that was defeated in 300 A.D. but has resurfaced in the "New Age". Catholics don't believe that is Christ's way. Jesus please help us.

The Church does not exist to be evangelized by society. It exists to evangelize society.

It is in light of the Bible and the history of the early Church that Catholics are totally cool with having a Pope.

Top

The List of Popes and Years Served

St. Peter (32-67)

St. Linus (67-76)

St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)

St. Clement I (88-97)

St. Evaristus (97-105)

St. Alexander I (105-115)

St. Sixtus I (115-125)
-- also called Xystus I

St. Telesphorus (125-136)

St. Hyginus (136-140)

St. Pius I (140-155)

St. Anicetus (155-166)

St. Soter (166-175)

St. Eleutherius (175-189)

St. Victor I (189-199)

St. Zephyrinus (199-217)

St. Callistus I (217-22)

St. Urban I (222-30)

St. Pontain (230-35)

St. Anterus (235-36)

St. Fabian (236-50)

St. Cornelius (251-53)

St. Lucius I (253-54)

St. Stephen I (254-257)

St. Sixtus II (257-258)

St. Dionysius (260-268)

St. Felix I (269-274)

St. Eutychian (275-283)

St. Caius (283-296) -- also called Gaius

St. Marcellinus (296-304)
St. Marcellus I (308-309)
St. Eusebius (309 or 310)
St. Miltiades (311-14)

St. Sylvester I (314-35)

St. Marcus (336)

St. Julius I (337-52)

Liberius (352-66)

St. Damasus I (366-83)

St. Siricius (384-99)

St. Anastasius I (399-401)

St. Innocent I (401-17)

St. Zosimus (417-18)

St. Boniface I (418-22)

St. Celestine I (422-32)

St. Sixtus III (432-40)

St. Leo I (the Great) (440-61)

St. Hilarius (461-68)

St. Simplicius (468-83)

St. Felix III (II) (483-92)

St. Gelasius I (492-96)

Anastasius II (496-98)

St. Symmachus (498-514)

St. Hormisdas (514-23)

St. John I (523-26)

St. Felix IV (III) (526-30)

Boniface II (530-32)

John II (533-35)

St. Agapetus I (535-36) -- also called Agapitus I

St. Silverius (536-37)

Vigilius (537-55)

Pelagius I (556-61)

John III (561-74)

Benedict I (575-79)

Pelagius II (579-90)

St. Gregory I (the Great) (590-604)

Sabinian (604-606)

Boniface III (607)

St. Boniface IV (608-15)

St. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) (615-18)

Boniface V (619-25)

Honorius I (625-38)

Severinus (640)

John IV (640-42)

Theodore I (642-49)

St. Martin I (649-55)

St. Eugene I (655-57)

St. Vitalian (657-72)

Adeodatus (II) (672-76)

Donus (676-78)

St. Agatho (678-81)

St. Leo II (682-83)

St. Benedict II (684-85)

John V (685-86)

Conon (686-87)

St. Sergius I (687-701)

John VI (701-05)

John VII (705-07)

Sisinnius (708)

Constantine (708-15)

 

St. Gregory II (715-31)

St. Gregory III (731-41)
St. Zachary (741-52)

Stephen II (752)

Stephen III (752-57)

St. Paul I (757-67)

Stephen IV (767-72)

Adrian I (772-95)

St. Leo III (795-816)

Stephen V (816-17)

St. Paschal I (817-24)

Eugene II (824-27)

Valentine (827)

Gregory IV (827-44)

Sergius II (844-47)

St. Leo IV (847-55)

Benedict III (855-58)

St. Nicholas I (the Great) (858-67)

Adrian II (867-72)

John VIII (872-82)

Marinus I (882-84)

St. Adrian III (884-85)

Stephen VI (885-91)

Formosus (891-96)

Boniface VI (896)

Stephen VII (896-97)

Romanus (897)

Theodore II (897)

John IX (898-900)

Benedict IV (900-03)

Leo V (903)

Sergius III (904-11)

Anastasius III (911-13)

Lando (913-14)

John X (914-28)

Leo VI (928)

Stephen VIII (929-31)

John XI (931-35)

Leo VII (936-39)

Stephen IX (939-42)

Marinus II (942-46)

Agapetus II (946-55)

John XII (955-63)

Leo VIII (963-64)

Benedict V (964)

John XIII (965-72)

Benedict VI (973-74)

Benedict VII (974-83)

John XIV (983-84)

John XV (985-96)

Gregory V (996-99)

Sylvester II (999-1003)

John XVII (1003)

John XVIII (1003-09)

Sergius IV (1009-12)

Benedict VIII (1012-24)

John XIX (1024-32)

Benedict IX (1032-45)

Sylvester III (1045)

Benedict IX (1045)

Gregory VI (1045-46)

Clement II (1046-47)

Benedict IX (1047-48)

Damasus II (1048)

St. Leo IX (1049-54)

Victor II (1055-57)

Stephen X (1057-58)

Nicholas II (1058-61)

Alexander II (1061-73)

St. Gregory VII (1073-85)

Blessed Victor III (1086-87)

Blessed Urban II (1088-99)

Paschal II (1099-1118)

Gelasius II (1118-19)

Callistus II (1119-24)

Honorius II (1124-30)

Innocent II (1130-43)

Celestine II (1143-44)

Lucius II (1144-45)

Blessed Eugene III (1145-53)

Anastasius IV (1153-54)

Adrian IV (1154-59)

Alexander III (1159-81)

Lucius III (1181-85)

Urban III (1185-87)

Gregory VIII (1187)

Clement III (1187-91)

Celestine III (1191-98)

Innocent III (1198-1216)

Honorius III (1216-27)

 

Gregory IX (1227-41)

Celestine IV (1241)

Innocent IV (1243-54)

Alexander IV (1254-61)
Urban IV (1261-64)

Clement IV (1265-68)

Blessed Gregory X (1271-76)

Blessed Innocent V (1276)

Adrian V (1276)

John XXI (1276-77)

Nicholas III (1277-80)

Martin IV (1281-85)

Honorius IV (1285-87)

Nicholas IV (1288-92)

St. Celestine V (1294)

Boniface VIII (1294-1303)

Blessed Benedict XI (1303-04)

Clement V (1305-14)

John XXII (1316-34)

Benedict XII (1334-42)

Clement VI (1342-52)

Innocent VI (1352-62)

Blessed Urban V (1362-70)

Gregory XI (1370-78)

Urban VI (1378-89)

Boniface IX (1389-1404)

Innocent VII (1404-06)

Gregory XII (1406-15)

Martin V (1417-31)

Eugene IV (1431-47)

Nicholas V (1447-55)

Callistus III (1455-58)

Pius II (1458-64)

Paul II (1464-71)

Sixtus IV (1471-84)

Innocent VIII (1484-92)

Alexander VI (1492-1503)

Pius III (1503)

Julius II (1503-13)

Leo X (1513-21)

Adrian VI (1522-23)

Clement VII (1523-34)

Paul III (1534-49)

Julius III (1550-55)

Marcellus II (1555)

Paul IV (1555-59)

Pius IV (1559-65)

St. Pius V (1566-72)

Gregory XIII (1572-85)

Sixtus V (1585-90)

Urban VII (1590)

Gregory XIV (1590-91)

Innocent IX (1591)

Clement VIII (1592-1605)

Leo XI (1605)

Paul V (1605-21)

Gregory XV (1621-23)

Urban VIII (1623-44)

Innocent X (1644-55)

Alexander VII (1655-67)

Clement IX (1667-69)

Clement X (1670-76)

Blessed Innocent XI (1676-89)

Alexander VIII (1689-91)

Innocent XII (1691-1700)

Clement XI (1700-21)

Innocent XIII (1721-24)

Benedict XIII (1724-30)

Clement XII (1730-40)

Benedict XIV (1740-58)

Clement XIII (1758-69)

Clement XIV (1769-74)

Pius VI (1775-99)

Pius VII (1800-23)

Leo XII (1823-29)

Pius VIII (1829-30)

Gregory XVI (1831-46)

Blessed Pius IX (1846-78)

Leo XIII (1878-1903)

St. Pius X (1903-14)

Benedict XV (1914-22)

Pius XI (1922-39)

Pius XII (1939-58)

Blessed John XXIII (1958-63)

Paul VI (1963-78)

John Paul I (1978)

John Paul II (1978-2005)

Benedict XVI (2005-2013)

From www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272a.htm

Notes:

(1) Scott Hahn, A Closer Look at Christ's Church, Answering Common Objections

Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.
Amen