Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scripture and the Pope: Part 1

What follows is Part 1 in what I think will be a very fruitful dialogue with Amy, who owns a blog called "The Way I Say." I happened upon her blog because I was looking for a poem about redemption for a presentation on that topic and she just happened to have exactly what I needed. Since then she has made some very helpful comments on my blog and I look forward to our dialogue together.

That said, here is her first post to me:
First of all, do you like switchfoot, because that is a most important matter to clear up?
Do you give as much authority to the Pope's words as you do to scripture?
I definitely like Switchfoot! I hope that's ok :D

As for your second question, I don't want to give a simple "Yes" or "No" answer because I'm afraid it might imply things I don't intend. I will say that, when the pope speaks as the Successor of St. Peter, in his role of feeding and tending God's people, on a matter of faith and morals that is to be binding on the whole Church, then his words require our obedience. Of course, Scripture requires our obedience too. So, they are both authoritative voices in the life of a Catholic. But, they are authoritative for different reasons.

The Bible is authoritative because it is the inspired revelation of God. It is God's self-communication, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The pope is authoritative because, when he intends to speak authoritatively (which isn't always the case) his words are protected from error by a charism of the Holy Spirit given to the Successor of St. Peter. This charism is called "infallibility."

So, they're both authoritative, but no one would say that the Pope provides "new revelation" or that his words are a "new Scripture." The Bible is true because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The authoritative words of the pope are true because his conclusions, while formulated using his own ability to reason, are protected from error by the Holy Spirit. Does that make sense? I realize it's a nuance, but it is still an important distinction to make.

I hope that answers your question.

Pax Christi,


  1. Thank you for engaging me in this discussion. I know you are busy. I have been praying for you and the cute girl in your profile pic. the fact that we are both Switchfoot fans, there can be no debate on this. ;-D

    Again we have a point where no contention can be made: The Bible is authoritative because it has been inspired by God (God-breathed). (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)

    Now I have a question: 1)How do you know for sure: "his words are protected from error by a charism of the Holy Spirit given to the Successor of St. Peter."

    Can you direct me to scripture that supports this?

    2)Would you say that Peter did not have this same charism of the Holy Spirit, except for what he wrote in scripture (which is inspired by God) because some of what he spoke was a denial of Christ? (John 13:37-38)

    I, like you, believe in submission to church leadership. I know that it was a command for Peter to feed Christ's sheep. (John 21:17) Good church leadership provides this to His church through the exposition of the Word of God.

    thanks again,

  2. Great dialogue thus far guys : ) Very charitably done...and I like your name "no fluff required".

  3. Thank you, tpp.


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