You probably see the title of this post and think: “Great, now he’s going to tell us how Peter is the Pope again when the word ‘Pope’ isn’t even in the Bible.”
Actually, I’m not. I’m going to let Steve Ray do that.
He’s got a great talk called “Peter, the Rock, the Keys, and the Chair” and he does a way better job of explaining it than I ever could.
It’s embedded here, for you to watch later, if you like.
No, I want to talk more about why I submitted to the authority of Rome.
If we pick up where I left off yesterday: In the span of two days I went from someone who identified as a Presbyterian to someone who didn’t even believe in the two primary supports of Protestantism anymore: Sola Fide (Faith Alone) and Sola Scriptura (Bible Alone).
At that moment, I honestly didn’t know for sure where to go and the options I had didn’t really look great at the time.
Should I try and look for some sort of secret Protestant denomination that maybe had escaped my attention that taught all the right teachings but wasn’t Catholic?
Should I invent my own denomination, which is perfectly plausible in Protestantism? It’s happened over 30k times before!
Or, do I submit to the Authority of Rome and all that it teaches including: Papal infallibility, Mary, the Eucharist, Purgatory, Confession, praying to Saints, etc?
I knew from History and from my reading that basically all of Christendom was Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox) up until the Reformation. I also knew that the two primary theological supports for the Reformation, mentioned above, were directly contradicted by the scriptures themselves.
I knew that if Protestantism wasn’t true and I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror, with any sort of self-respect, and maintain my integrity; that I honestly had to admit to myself that I had no real reason not to be Catholic.
Then I read Matthew 16 and a few commentaries on it. I read how it was a reference to Isaiah 22 and the Steward. (“What he shuts, no one will open. What he opens, no one will shut”). God always intended his Church to have oversight and operate under a definitive authority. God abandoning his Children to heresy as soon as the apostles died is not just illogical, but unmerciful, something that He is not.
At this point, I knew that I had to submit to the Authority of Rome. To not do so would be to go on living something that I knew was not God’s truth. I know that can have some painful insinuations for some of the folks reading, but I don’t really know of a more charitable way to say it. Sometimes, the truth hurts, as you can see below. :(
The reaction from my Protestant friends and family has been widely varied. I’ve had some say "I submit to no authority but the Bible and Jesus Christ”. I’ve had some say “How can you believe that all of those terrible Popes were Christ himself?”. I’ve heard others say “Jesus is the only Priest I need!”
All of those statements give credence to the idea that the Caricature of Rome has become the Perception of Rome. All of those statements are built upon one widely believed un-truth or another about the Catholic faith and the Pope.
Now, I’m not going to go into all of that, you can go read it yourself if you like, but I will talk about why I like the Church having the authority.
As I looked back over the last two years, I realized I had gotten quite angry about the way I had seen Christians behaving, especially the clergy:
I saw Pastors tell people to vote for people who supported abortion.
I saw Pastors tell people in the pews that they needed to feel guilty because of their skin color.
I saw Pastors and church administration ignore real needs within the congregation.
I saw Pastors echo the SJW agenda against the police.
I saw Pastors echo the societal calls for acceptance of the redefinition of gender.
I saw Pastors refuse to preach from the Bible.
I saw Pastors basically water down the Gospel to the point where there was no real difference between those who faithfully followed what they taught and the pagans walking the sidewalk.
I saw and continue to see Protestant Pastors tell their sheep it is best to remain silent in the face of great evil but to speak up when it is societally acceptable: go along to get along.
I could not reconcile this with the teachings of Jesus or of what I believed to be the Christian “tradition”.
But in Protestantism, if you don’t like what one Pastor says, you just go find another one.
But everywhere we looked it was always the same: the true teaching of Christian tradition ignored and the faith compromised to keep the Church culturally relevant and the offering plates full.
The Catholic Faith is the polar opposite. We have something called the “Magisterium”. It is defined by the Catholic Catechism as:
[85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."] - CCC p85-86
It is the Magisterium that has the sole authority to interpret the scriptures.
It is the Magisterium who faithfully guards the interpretations of the scriptures and the official Dogmas of the Church.
The Magisterium’s interpretations of scripture, teachings and the tradition handed down from the Apostles and the Church Fathers make up what we call “the Deposit of Faith”.
There is only one way the Deposit of Faith is ever changed and that is through an infallible declaration by the Pope that occurs “ex-Cathedra” or, in English, “from the Chair”.
This has only ever been done twice:
Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be infallible teaching on December 8, 1854
Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be an infallible teaching on November 1, 1950.
That’s it..seriously. The rest of it is ancient. Super ancient relative to the Reformers. It goes back all the way to the first five centuries..a millennium and half.
(Now I know someone is going to ask “What about Vatican II and Humanae Vitae?” Or “What about when Pope Francis was telling people we need to save the planet?”.
Humanae Vitae is an encyclical. It is opinion. I personally think Humanae Vitae could be declared Dogma and I would be fine with it. But it hasn’t been. Pope Francis seems to have a real love for environmental causes; that’s his prerogative. If he decided to make some sort of ex-Cathedra declaration on that he could do so, but he hasn’t and I doubt very seriously that he will. )
Once I realized the above, I found it very easy to submit to the authority of Rome. Submitting to Rome means I no longer have to be trapped in the hell described by the seminarian I ended yesterday’s post with. I don’t have to worry about constantly trying to decide if my Church is teaching the Christian truth anymore or if I like the ambiance or the pastries or the coffee or if the Praise and Worship band has sang Oceans recently enough.
I am no longer left critiquing the Homily (“sermon”). It’s just the Priest’s opinion or commentary on some societal issue at the time. I find them very moving, but I also know that he’s not interpreting scripture and he’s not creating new doctrine or Dogma. I can enjoy it for what it is and agree with it or disagree with it and not be worried that I’m not following God’s truth.
There’s another benefit to this too.
The Catholic Church doesn’t have any super-star preachers.
We don’t have the prosperity Gospel.
We have a Church, with an altar, and on that altar is the body and blood of Jesus and everything in that Church is about that blessed sacrament: the Holy Eucharist.
And that’s perhaps the most important thing.
The Catholic Church has the true body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior and I am willing to believe their dogmas and submit to that authority in order to participate in that communion.
That’s what we’ll talk about tomorrow: The Holy Eucharist.
I leave you today, like yesterday, with a profound passage from one of the many books I've read during this. This passage has to do with the authors epiphany of the true nature of authority found in the Protestant community.
[I was eager to go visit this revered theologian and pose my questions to him. So, I begged my older friend to take me along for a Saturday morning “court session,” which he was only too eager to do. We arrived one Saturday morning to find four or five pastors and other theological types already gathered around, with the discussion in heated progress. We found chairs and sat down to pick up the thread of conversation. The topic turned out to be church attendance, as well as the fact that the revered theologian had quit going to church, except at the insistence of his wife. In fact, he no longer belonged to any local congregation or denomination. The other participants were perturbed at this development and tried to persuade him, by various arguments, that attending church and loyalty to a denominational organization were important parts of the Christian life. He rejected all these arguments and, being more knowledgeable than all present, could not be persuaded otherwise. At one point he pontificated, “I don’t need to belong anywhere. I just want to be a universal Christian, like Billy Graham or the Pope.”1 Well, that comment rankled me. First of all, there was the hubris to put himself on par with two of the greatest leaders of world Christianity. Second, the analogy didn’t work. Billy Graham and John Paul II were not independent, “universal” Christians: I was pretty sure Billy Graham was a loyal Southern Baptist, and John Paul II had a very clear loyalty to a certain “denomination.” He was Roman Catholic! At this, my good opinion of the revered theologian started to fade, and the more he talked, the more irritated I got. His reasons for not bothering to go to church were sometimes similar to ones given by the nonpracticing Christians and new converts I worked with on a regular basis. Furthermore, it became clear after a while that he really didn’t regard himself as being accountable to anyone else, nor under anyone’s authority or pastoral care. He wasn’t following Hebrews 13:17. A kind of youthful, self-righteous indignation filled me up, till I burst out with what I thought was a sound theological rebuke: “You know what your problem is?” I intervened into the theologian’s monologue, “You have set yourself up as your own arbiter of the truth!” The revered theologian looked up at me with a bemused expression, as if just noticing that I was there. “Yes, well,” he said, without pause or missing a beat, “that is the Protestant principle, isn’t it?” My jaw hit the floor, and I dropped back in my chair. The theologian continued lecturing with the other participants, but I had lost interest in the proceedings. I motioned to my friend, who was also tired of the whole discussion, and we excused ourselves. The way home in the car was largely silent. “That is the Protestant principle,” kept going through my mind, “Your own arbiter of the truth.” The revered theologian was less pious and devout than I was. But he was more clever and more wise. He had realized the essential nature of Protestantism long before I was willing to admit it to myself. Sola scriptura meant that everyone was his own pope. True, the Scripture was above everything … but everyone was left to himself to decide what the Scripture meant.] - Dr. John Bergsma, Stunned By Scripture