WHO IS REALLY A CATHOLIC?
An Incidental Exhortation on Infallibility
The answer to this question is very simple: The one who does not say ‘No’ to the Pope! Of course, we are talking here about Faith and Morals. “With the help of the Holy Spirit I will try to explain why we, as Catholics, always take the side of Peter’s successor” (the wordings of Dr. Brian Kelly).
During Bible study elsewhere, a couple of weeks ago, somebody posed this question and I answered it just as I did today. A Catholic husband and wife team in their seventies or more, who were engaged in academia all their lives were indignant at my response. I was shocked when they declared that they considered they needed to examine everything the Pope says and give their opinion; that it is their ‘civil’ right. It definitely never was their right. But, having lived in ignorance of the real tenets of their faith all their lives, they came to the wrong conclusion, following the vain thinking of the world. If in the past they had ignorance as an excuse, nowadays, there is no excuse for ignorance, not after 13 years of Bible study; otherwise, we might be tempted to declare that Bible study is ineffective without a thorough grounding in the Faith through Catholic Apologetics. Anyway, the reality is that some civil rights in this case need to be relinquished by Christians who understand the will of the Father. God comes first (Acts 5:29).
You see, for a closely knit Catholic family, proper catechesis (the Domestic Church) would have solved the problem ages ago, resulting in a more fruitful life. Now, as it is, years and years have been lost. Major mistakes are bound to have been made, such as having taken contraceptives during marriage (or worse still, before marriage), thus messing with Procreation, which is God’s plan for us. A superficial reading of the New Testament of the Holy Bible, and a young couple would think that engaging in sex before marriage is OK since it is a norm in this world, and they did not come across it in the Bible; whereas, the Word clearly states that such is prohibited (the keyword here is fornication: 1 Corinthians 6:9). Actually, in one Bible, only the word fornicators is mentioned, and then, only once.
Anyway, the Word of God says we are in the world, we are for the world, but we are not of the world (John 15:19, and 17:15). Our citizenship is in Heaven (John 17:14-18; Philippians 3:20). So, we do not have to do what they do. In brief, those Catholics who jump up to defend personal rights and freedom, very often are ignorant of the ways of the Lord, and ignorant of the known details of His plan of salvation for us. Back to the Pope:
It is elementary that no entity can survive without a head, a seer, an administrator, a controller. It is also elementary that if an administrator is needed to manage affairs at the start of a movement, as long as that movement is alive, it will always need an administrator to keep it on track. That having been said and approved, I can now declare that our Lord Jesus Christ chose Peter, despite his faults, to start organizing this way of life we call Christianity.
Let me assure you that it was to Peter alone that Christ said, “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” (Matthew 16:18). It was to Peter alone that Christ said, “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” (Matthew 16:19). It was to Peter alone that Christ said:
Luke 22: 31 Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”
It was to Peter alone that Christ said three times, “Feed my lambs”; “Tend my sheep”; “Feed my sheep” (John 20:15-19); thus, making Peter our shepherd on earth. So, to properly appreciate the authority that our Lord gave to Peter, one has to examine the precedent cited by Isaiah:
Isaiah 22: 22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.
Peter confirmed our Lord’s choice when at the First Ecumenical Council in the history of Christianity, the Council of Jerusalem, he said in the quote in verse 7 below:
Acts 15: 6 the apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter. 7 After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe”
…thus making Peter the head teacher, preacher and interpreter of Scripture (the Bible). Since we will always need a Peter, his successors, the Popes carry the same weight Peter carried and practically have the same authority. The other apostles (who can be considered super bishops, Cardinals by today’s standard, since they were appointing bishops: 1 Timothy 3, and 4:6, and Titus 1:5-9) also received authority from Jesus to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18), but only in the context of forgiving sins. Anyway, along with Peter, they were made priests when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24), and reconfirming it a few hours after His Resurrection (John 20:22-23), when Jesus bestowed on them the authority to forgive sins (or withhold them). So, Peter heads the apostles and with them appoints bishops and explains the Gospel, and any new problem surfacing having a bearing on the Deposit of Faith. Today’s parallel is the Pope with his Magisterium, the bishops, the Cardinals, the teaching authority of the Church.
As a Catholic, how can I question the Pope about doctrine, the explanation of Scripture, the Deposit of Faith and any other decision affecting such, due to new challenges brought about by scientific discoveries, or due to the upsets of the evil one and his allies? I may question the Pope about baseball or cooking recipes, but how can I question him about doctrine and morals and such, when God gave him the keys of the kingdom and the power to bind and loose on earth and to teach. It is God’s say and not mine. I have free will to think and reason, and I thought (not for very long), and I reasoned it best not to council God, as some are so inclined (1 Corinthians 2:16). I have free will to obey God and, with perseverance to the end, to reap eternal life; and I also have free will to disobey God and go to hell. God counsels: Choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).
I did. I said, “Yes, Lord”. And I said and will keep on saying, “Yes, Holy Father”, to whatever the Roman Pontiff decrees. On Faith and Morals, I can say, ‘Yes!’ to the Pope and I can say, ‘No!’ But, I cannot question him. If I say, ‘No,’ I am rejecting him. And if I reject him, I am rejecting God:
Luke 10: 16 Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.
On Faith and Morals, the Pope and the rest of the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church), together, are infallible for five reasons:
Firstly: Because the Gospel is infallible, it must be taught infallibly. What good is infallibility if the interpretation is going to be faulty?!
Secondly: Because the Church has the fullness of the Truth (the whole Deposit of Faith):
1 Timothy 3: 15 But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.
Thirdly: Because our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a precedent and has as good as said that on Faith and Morals, the Pope is infallible when he speaks from the Chair of Peter (ex cathedra):
Matthew 23: 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
Fourthly: Because our Lord, the Holy Spirit is directly involved in directing the life of the Church, especially at Church Councils. Behold, at the Council of Jerusalem, some 2,000 years ago:
Acts 15: 28 ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,
Fifthly: Because Matthew 16:18-19 says that whatever Peter decrees on earth, it will also be decreed in Heaven and God is not going to let a mortal jeopardize Heaven. Thus, the Holy Spirit works very closely with the Pope and the Magisterium. In fact, as I have said earlier, the Holy Spirit presides over Church councils (Acts 15:28).
Now, to have a better grasp of the workings of our Lord, the Holy Spirit, refer to the following verses from the Acts of the Apostles: 8:29; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 16:7; 20:22; 20:23; 21:11; and, 28:25. Let us display one:
Acts 13: 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.
So, I will not say, ‘No!’ I will say, ‘Yes,’ of my own free will, and couple it to my faith; a faith which builds up through ever increasing knowledge of Him and His will for me.
This is why even a primitively knowledgeable Catholic does not say ‘No!’ to the Pope; does not say ‘No!’ to the teachings of the Church, “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The Catholic who questions the Pope on Faith and Morals is ignorant of the manifested ways of God and is considered of weak/incomplete faith. Even those truths in the Catholic Church which I am not yet aware of, I accept unconditionally, because the Catholic Church is in possession of the whole Truth; in possession of all of the Deposit of Faith, which the Church has zealously guarded for you and for me, for more than 1,900 years through Apostolic Succession by the Laying on of Hands (Numbers 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:1-2); unchanged, unadulterated, just as Paul described it:
Galatians 2: 4 but because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us– 5 to them we did not submit even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain intact for you.
Employing Logic and a touch of Philosophy, if you agree that by heaven’s choice, what Peter opens nobody shuts and what Peter shuts nobody opens (Matthew 16:19; and Isaiah 22:22), then, you are agreeing that Peter is Pope, and that he decrees what is already (or will be) at work in HEAVEN! Since God is not going to let a mortal jeopardize heaven; then, still employing Logic and Philosophy, we can only deduce that Peter had the clearly discernible companionship of the Holy Spirit! Therefore (Logic), the Holy Spirit is the Guarantor! Therefore (Logic), on my lips there can only be ‘the YES!’ to all that the Catholic Church teaches. Did we not say in confirmation in the Act of Faith when we became adults that “I believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because You, have revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived”? From here on, I can only behave and learn.
A word of caution here from the Church is appropriate. Reflect on the following: Common sense and logic dictate that I believe all that the Church teaches, because Jesus is the Truth and the Triune God is All Truth. Therefore, all that God has revealed must be accepted by the community of Faith. If we are rejecting any truth revealed by our Lord, the Holy Spirit, then we are committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and this is THE UNPARDONABLE SIN; pardonable, neither in this age nor in the age to come. That leaves only one place for the perpetrator who does not repent, should he/she die unrepentant: HELL! Jesus said:
Matthew 12: 31 Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit 22 will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Footnote: 22  Blasphemy against the Spirit: the sin of attributing to Satan (⇒ Matthew 12:24) what is the work of the Spirit of God (⇒ Matthew 12:28).
A Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph is very appropriate here, coming from the only Church that has all the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15):
CCC 2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”
To top things off, let us point out again here and emphasize that the Holy Spirit is the One Who built the Church and accompanied her over all these years and still does and will continue to do so until the end of time.
We just do not say ‘No!’ to the Pope on matters of Faith and Morals. If anybody, including theologians, thinks God left a knowledge gap in His Church so that a person can prove his superiority over others, scandalous as the idea is, let him take it up with the Pope, not with us the Laity; and take it up along the hierarchical route: Talk to the priest, the priest to the bishop, the bishop to the Conference of Bishops and the Conference of Bishops to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to the Pope and his Magisterium; the Magisterium being the Servant of the Word, and not its master (CCC 86).
These are the teachings of the Church on infallibility: Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):
CCC 2035 The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.77
CCC 889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”417
CCC 890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. 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. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
CCC 891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421
CCC 2051 The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.
So, in the Catholic Church, we do not pick and choose. We accept all of God’s Revelations.
We do not question the Pope and the Church on Faith and Morals.
The Catholic Church has never been wrong on Faith and Morals throughout her two-thousand-year life!