Monday, December 20, 2010

Just to Keep the Record Straight

One blog site I came upon thanks to John at Ad Orientum had a discussion in which someone asked, "When Rome speaks of 'full unity among Christians,' does Rome mean anything other than unqualified submission to the authority of the Bishop of Rome, and the dogma and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church?" and a Catholic wrote back, "This is ridiculous. The Catholic Church doesn’t require “unqualified submission” to the pope from Catholics. How can we have actual dialog with this kind of (ignorance? attitude?)."

The Catholic went on to add:

Christians give “unqualified” submission to Christ. “Submission” (what does that mean, exactly? Is that the best word?) to the Bishop of Rome would be qualified… by the content of divine revelation… by Christ… by the doctrine of the Catholic Church… by the fact that one’s actual ordinary is not the Bishop of Rome… by Canon Law… by a myriad of things, all of which “qualify” the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

Um ..... no.

As for the content of divine revelation, the pope tells Catholics what that is.  Ditto the doctrine.  As for canon law, he has the ultimate say in formulating it, and there is nothing in it that limits either his authority or the requirement for Catholics to submit to it.

According to the Catholic Catechism, the pope's authority over the church is supreme, full, immediate, and universal (see paragraphs 882 and 937).  The scope of the pope's claimed authority, within and outside of the Catholic institution, is apparently not limited; see many papal and other Catholic quotes to that effect here).   In any case, whatever its scope may be, submission to papal authority is required to be absolute, not qualified.

Theoretically, perhaps, Catholics only have to submit when a pope speaks infallibly. (Although more than one Catholic 'saint' has said otherwise; see the link above.) But rather than theorize, let's look at this in down-to-earth terms: What, specifically, is there, taught by any pope, which the 'magisterium' considers optional for Catholics?

(A lot of Catholics don't submit to some teachings, notably on birth control, but not because Rome makes submission optional.)