Another excerpt from Dom Prosper Gueranger, and this one is most interesting. It is from the Greek Menaea for Pope St. Leo the Great, written, according to Dom Gueranger, many centuries before the Great Schism of 1054. The words from this hymn certainly do seem to establish a strong
belief in Papal primacy. They also highlight how the early Church viewed doctrinal orthodoxy/purity/correctness as one of the most vital characteristics of a bishop, especially the Sovereign Pontiff. No bonus points for saying Catholic things 99% of the time……they are demanded 100% of the time. See what you think below:
O happy Pontiff! Glorious Leo, thou hast been made companion of the faithful priests and martyrs; for thou was t most invincible in battle, and immovable as a tower and fortress of religion. Thou dist proclaim, with most prefect orthodoxy and wisdom, the unspeakable generation of Christ.
O ruler of…
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Shepherds & Kings: A Look at the Papacy
There is to be one Shepherd here. It was first King David (Ezekiel 34:23), then Jesus (John 10:11), and now is the Pope (John 21:17). This role is tied to the role of King. As David was King (2 Samuel 5:12) and Christ is King (Matthew 27:11), so the Pope is (as the Vicar of Christ) “father of princes and kings”.
Historically, the Pope has been the unifier of everyone: emperors, artists, the religious, and so on. Whenever emperors would abandon the Faith, they would be publicly corrected. Whenever artists sought to honor Christ, they would be promoted. And whenever Christians in the East would fall into heresy, the Pope would be the one to bring them in line, as Russian Orthodox theologian Vladimir Solovyov noted.
The Pope has a temporal role. Only the Pope can thoroughly ensure the recognization of Christ as King in society.
Pope Gelasius I wrote to Emperor Anastasius, “There are two powers, august Emperor, by which this world is chiefly ruled, namely, the sacred authority of the priests and the royal power. Of these that of the priests is the more weighty, since they have to render an account for even the kings of men in the divine judgment.”
On the correction of earthly monarchs, I often think of the Walk to Canossa, the journey of penance taken by Henry IV, of the Holy Roman Empire, in reparation for his grave sins against the Pope. This was done only out of selfishness on Henry’s part, of course, but still, under the right societal conditions, people can be motivated to repent. I also think of Emperor Theodosius, who only repented after forceful rebukes by St. Ambrose. Should we not incentivize such righteous actions in our own societies? Of course, we should!
Much temporal good has come from our Holy Mother Church, the Mater et Magistra (“mother and teacher”). In the Middle Ages, for example, during which the power of the Church was at its highest, literacy rates increased, art flourished, the university system developed, laws were better-codified, and the Bible became more accessible to lay people. This was all due to popes leading as shepherds and flocks following like sheep. The laypeople of the period, I think, had a greater appreciation for hierarchy and understood that, if left to its own devices, society would collapse. Remember that God had to come down to His people; His people did not go up to Him. Society, today, unfortunately, detests anything other than near-absolute egalitarianism.
Now, imagine for a moment, a Papacy unhindered by societal pressures, free to guide its flock to the fullest, and empowered to pave a beautiful kingdom for Christ’s return! Shepherds like Pope Alexander VI understood and promoted this possibility. Unfortunately, because of the rise of democracy and secularism, the temporal honors historically afforded to popes have dwindled. Now, an Alexander would be almost universally despised, and for no reason!
The Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the Visible Shepherd, the Father of princes and kings, the pinnacle of civilization — he needs us. Pray for him and forever support him in every way possible. And pray that the Church may be empowered to pave the way for Her King.
“[W]hat is certain is that the ruins and traces of the Holy Empire are all about us. An understanding of its history and continuing influence is key to understanding the practical implications of the Social Kingship of Christ — which idea, in so many ways, is the ideal successive Emperors and their loyal subjects sought to follow on Earth, and without which, as Pius XI teach[es] in Quas primas, real peace is impossible.” – Charles A. Coulombe
Frequently, critics of the Church will accuse it of being extraordinarily wealthy (and with that comes the implication of corruption and moral depravity). But the Church is not that wealthy.
In 2011, the Vatican had a $19 million (15 million euros) budget deficit. The Vatican typically faces a budget deficit every year (the year 2010 being a rare exception).
Dioceses all over the world have also been struggling financially. You can read about an example of that here.
The thing about the Church’s money is that it is typically spent in the following fields: general charity (ex: Catholic Relief Services, etc.), salaries (which, I assure you, are comparatively low next to many jobs), parish upkeep, missionary work, education, and social outreach.
First of all, some of those services are run independent of each other (and some are even managed by lay people, so the Church is not always able to exercise direct control and have more flexibility in those situations).
Second of all, those areas need a certain amount of stability, so when possible, budgets are left largely unchanged. The Church can not abandon its mission just because money is tight. We can not stop building irrigation systems in Ethiopia, providing clean water in the Philippines, putting HIV and AIDS programs in place in the developing world, and other charitable works.
The Church certainly does not waste what money it has, either. Catholic organizations are widely cited as some of the most efficient and productive organizations in the world. When it comes to Catholic Relief Services (a charity governed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), for example, 94% of the money they spend goes directly to programs that benefit the poor overseas (unlike many other charities that pay their leaders high salaries and provide many perks to them). You can read more about CRS’s efficiency here.
Despite all of that, the Church’s Institute for Works of Religion (most commonly known as the Vatican Bank) has been subjected to controversy. Conspiracy theorists suggest that the Vatican Bank has strong ties to the mafia, trying to link it to events that occurred in the 1980s. However, there is no proof that the Vatican Bank has or ever had any real ties to the mafia.
Many Protestants think the Church is a sort of all-powerful behemoth, capable of getting anything it pleases, but they do not take into account that the Church’s temporal authority has been greatly curtailed in the last few hundred years. Long ago are the times when the Church was able to demand action by governments and was able to bring about social change when it was needed. Now, the Church is lucky to even get represented at all in most debates.
So, the next time someone tries to suggest that the Church is some sort of corrupt organization intent only on making and hoarding money, please correct them.
The Church openly recognizes that popes are not perfect.
Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected Pope. His response was:
“I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined. … There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”
There is a common misconception among Protestants that the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility means, essentially, that popes can never be wrong about anything. However, that is not what the Church teaches. The Pope is only infallible when he is speaking ex cathedra (basically, when he is instructing all of the faithful at once about something relating to faith or morals).
In the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) papal infallibility was defined:
“Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.”
(By the way, you can read the documents from the First Vatican Council here.)
Popes are capable of sinning, just like any other person, and they know that. In fact, Popes typically go to Confession fairly often, even though Catholics are only duty-bound (by one of the Precepts of the Church, which you can read about here) to go to Confession at least once a year.
Now, some point to popes such as Pope Alexander VI and others as proof that popes are corrupt and unworthy of their office. However, I do not believe that personal flaws necessarily mean a pope is bad, nor do they prevent a pope from doing good.
For example, Pope Alexander VI helped with negotiations between Spain and Portugal (which eventually led to the Treaty of Tordesillas and what is sometimes called the “Papal Line of Demarcation”) and encouraged the development of education by signing a papal bull which founded King’s College, Aberdeen. He also, after the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain, welcomed thousands of Jews into Rome.
If you read more about the what some call “bad popes,” you will see that, underneath a handful of flaws, the vast majority of them were men with many positive attributes who, for one reason or another, felt called to serve God.
But let us look at this from a different perspective. Not all Presidents of the United States are well-liked, but that does not have any bearing on their authority. Even if you may not like the person administering the law, you are still obliged to follow the law.
Popes are not perfect, but that is irrelevant. They are the successors of St. Peter. They have been chosen to lead us, and it is our job to listen to them (on matters of faith and morals, at the very least). After all, the Holy Spirit is more than capable of speaking through them and making sure that we are not led astray.