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The Papacy



The Papacy
The papacy can be a great source of division, because one of the key aspects of the Catholic faith is that it is led by the pope, the bishop of Rome. There are many who do not want to accept the authority of the pope to teach and govern the Church because they believe that it should be left up to the individual or that one bishop in particular doesn't have so much authority and power.

In the Bible Jesus instituted the Papacy in Peter
Jesus Himself instituted the papacy through St. Peter so that His church would have a visible leader. Without one point of reference for the entire church, it would be too easy for everyone to believe their own thing and for their to be much disunity. With one leader, everyone can refer to him when there is a dispute and the Church will remain unified. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus singles out Peter. “He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.'” - Matthew 16: 15 – 19. Jesus makes Peter a crucial part of the Church he is building on earth, and Peter is the one who is its leader, who has the keys to the Church and thus is in charge of it. In Acts 15, there is an example of Peter exercising that authority in the early church. There was a problem to solve, so the apostles got together to discuss the issue. After a while, Peter stood up and proclaimed his opinion. When he finished, the debate was over and everyone else agreed to implement what he had proclaimed. He had a higher status of authority in these church matters than the other apostles.

Early Church Fathers Pope was bishop of Rome
Even in the early centuries of the church, there are writings speaking of the bishop of Rome as the head of the Catholic Church and the sign of unity. But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles. Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition. - Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:3:2
With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the Chair of Peter and to the principal church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source. - Cyprian Epistle to Cornelius 59:14
[Christ] made answer: "You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church..." Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church? - Ambrose The Faith 4:5
Among these [apostles] Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church. Because of that representation of the Church, which only he bore, he deserved to hear "I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. Augustine Sermons 295:2
These early Christian writers show that they understood Peter and his successors as the bishops of Rome to have a special and unique authority and place of power within the Church. Peter was set apart from the other apostles to be the leader, and that leadership was passed on to the bishops of Rome. Anyone who was not in communion with the bishop of Rome was not in communion with Christ.

The Pope is infallible
This belief about the infallibility of the pope is often misunderstood. It means that the pope cannot make a mistake when teaching about faith and morals. This is a re-assuring because the Church will not teach something that is not true. It does not mean that the pope is impeccable, that he is sinless. The pope is human like everyone else. He can be a very sinful person, and there have been some of these popes. However, God guarantees that they will not teach something wrong in regards to faith and morals. It also does not apply to teachings about other subjects. If he makes some pronouncement about science, it is not infallible. The pope must also be speaking clearly in an infallible way; he must be wanting to make a definitive statement about faith and morals.

In the Bible Pope Infallible
There are no places in the Bible in which it speaks specifically about the pope being infallible when teaching about matters of faith and morals. However, it does speak of the church being the teacher of truth. “If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” - 1 Timothy 3:15. St. Paul writes that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, but it could not such a foundation if there was any chance that it could teach error. It would be a very poor foundation of truth if it could teach error. Jesus Himself makes a promise that the Church will not be overcome by evil. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” - Matthew 16:18. As He is talking to Peter, He promises that no evil will assail the Church. Any error in teaching would indeed be the definition of evil encompassing the Church. This promise that the Church will not teach evil is particularly embodied in the promise of infallibility. The pope is the visible leader of the Catholic Church on earth, and it is particularly through his ministry that this promise of truth is kept.

Early Church Fathers Papal Infallibility
Although the doctrine of infallibility was not officially defined until 1870, it has been believed throughout the history of the church.
Would the heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors can come? - Cyprian of Carthage Letters 59 [55], 14
The church of God which sojourns at Rome to the church of God which sojourns at Corinth ... But if any disobey the words spoken by him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. - Clement 1 Clement 59:1
To your inquiry we do not deny a legal reply, because we, upon whom greater zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent than upon the whole body, out of consideration for our office do not have the liberty to dissimulate, nor to remain silent. We carry the weight of all who are burdened; nay rather the blessed apostle Peter bears these in us, who, as we trust, protects us in all matters of his administration, and guards his heirs. - Pope Siricius of Rome To Himerius Epistle 1
These authors from the early church demonstrate that it was believed that the pope taught faith and morals free from error. They clearly wrote and warned that by not following the pope's teachings, local churches could be entering into error. The idea of papal infallibility has existed for many centuries.

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