Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Misunderstood - Series Part II

Click here to read the intro to this Series.
Click here to read Part I to this Series.

Misunderstanding Assumption II
'Catholics believe a man, the Pope, over the Word of God. Therefore many of it's teachings are unbiblical and just "man made-up" traditions.'

Photos on this post provided from the
Catholic Church Facebook "The Papal Visit to the UK" album.
 I've run into so many people whom are confused in their understanding of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Many think we worship and pray to him and not God. Many think we'll believe whatever he says or does. Many think he can just make up any tradition and Catholics will believe and do it. This is all completely false. If one would take the time to learn why the Catholic Church believes that Jesus the Great Shepherd entrusted us with an authoritative shepherd here on Earth to care for His lambs and sheep - one might understand better why Catholics love and honor our Pope. "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time He said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17)." 

Let me remind my blog readers again, the purpose of these series of posts is not to debate the Catholic Church's interpretation of Scripture because I realize there are many differing interpretations - the purpose is to clarify misconceptions people have about the Church and it's teachings. Like this banner that was proudly displayed by Catholic supporters in the UK during the Pope's visit last week, the Catholic Church bases their teaching about having an authoritative Pope upon the great amounts of Scripture that support the idea, including Matthew 16:15-19. I understand many other Christian denominations interpret these verses are about Peter's profession of faith or Christ Himself. But the Church is favorably sided by the Early Church Fathers to show that it was in fact Peter himself who Jesus gave a new role of power and authority and that Jesus said that the gates of Hell would not overcome His Church, and that He would be with us always, even until the end of the age (Matthew 16:18, 28:20). So because the Church interprets the Scriptures in this sense, we could never as Catholics believe that the Church became corrupt, that true Christianity was lost until a reformer came along, because then we would be calling Jesus a liar.

So why do Catholics honor the Pope which often gets misconceived as worshipping him? When one thinks of Jesus, a humble man comes to mind. So why then does the Pope wear such lavish attire, allow people to kiss his ring and bow to him? A good comparison would be an ambassador that is representing his country abroad - would you expect the ambassador to wear casual clothes (t-shirt, jeans) or to wear something dignified to represent his country? At official diplomatic ceremonies where marks of honor are given to the ambassador, are they for him personally or the country he represents? In like manner, the Pope is the primary ambassador for Christ and for the heavenly kingdom. Formal attire honors the dignity of his office and the Person he represents. Marks of honor given to the Pope are not for him personally but for Jesus, who he represents. Catholic also don't pray to the Pope in the same manner as praying to God, but they ask the Pope to pray and intercede for them just like we ask our family and friends to.

Many have this misconception that the Catholic Church teaches the Pope unlike the rest of men cannot sin or make mistakes, that he is infallible in everything he does, thinks and says. This is false. Papal infallibility means that the Pope is protected from error when he "proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals" (CCC 891). This does not mean that he is impeccable (incapable of sin) or inerrant (incapable of error). Papal infallibility does not involve any special revelation from God. A Pope learns about his faith in the same way that anyone else does--he studies. Infallibility cannot be used to change existing doctrines or proclaim new ones. It can only be used to confirm or clarify what has always been taught. The teachings of Christ cannot change. Infallibility is not something that endows a pope with divine powers, but rather it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that protects the Church from the human frailties of a Pope. The Catholic Church believes 1. Jesus requires that we obey all that He commanded (Matthew 28:20). 2. Jesus gives us the grace to obey all that He commanded (Philippians 4:13). 3. Jesus provides us a means (His authoritative Pope) of knowing what He commanded (Matthew 16:15-19).

See our Pope is a normal-baseball-cap-wearing-"man" just like you and I! :)

I thought this was such a beautiful photo, thousands of Catholic supporters there to greet the Pope last week in the UK all there to honor, serve and love God. I pray and hope this post has cleared up misconceptions that Catholics worship or believe a man, the Pope, over the Word of God - quite the contrary, we believe the Word of God teaches and is given to us without error by the protection of the Holy Spirit through these Apostolic successors, our Popes. That their infallibility does not give them the power to add to the Scriptures or proclaim anything new (i.e. man-made tradition). Stay tuned for Part III of this blog series!

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