As converts to Catholicism, the Church’s teachings on the office and authority of the pope were a considerable hurdle. What is the Catholic teaching on the pope and how can it be supported from Scripture and history?
Is it crazy to think of the prophets and apostles as we do — as imperfect and sinful men through whom God communicated infallibly his Word? Is it crazy to believe that God could inspire sinful fallible men to write infallible scripture?
But the Church doesn’t teach that the pope is a modern-day prophet or apostle with the ability to write inspired Scripture. What the Church teaches is far more nuanced than that. It’s not that the pope is inspired as the prophets and apostles were. It’s not that everything a Pope thinks or says at all times is true or said in the best way. Popes are fallible men. But Jesus gave the keys to Peter and promised to build his Church on that rock, and based on this, what we believe as Catholics is that when the Pope in his role as shepherd of the universal Church intends to speak for all Christians, and when from the chair of St Peter he formally defines a matter of faith and morals, the Holy Spirit keeps him from error, and therefore from leading the Christian world into error. This is what Catholics mean by papal infallibility.
Hear Our Stories
Here are a collection of testimonies from members of the CHNetwork for whom the issue of the papacy and Church authority were key issues in their own conversions.
There are a number of very solid resources available for learning about the papacy and Church authority. Here are some of our favorites.
Talks on the Papacy from the CHNetwork
Recommended Articles & Documents
By Dr. Robert Stackpole
Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, explains the role of the papacy and its foundation in Scripture and Tradition. Dispelling the myths and misunderstandings of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, Dr. Stackpole explains why the Pope is Christ’s representative on earth.
by Stephen Ray
This book, written by a former Evangelical Protestant, makes the biblical and historical case for papacy. The author carefully moves through Scripture and the first five centuries of the Church to demonstrate that the early Christians had a clear understanding of the primacy of Peter in the see of Rome.
by Stanley Jaki
The hallowed phrase, “the keys of the kingdom,” presents a striking image. But what does it mean? In this book, the author explores the biblical and historical meaning of “the keys” at a remarkable level of detail. The context around Jesus’ commission to Peter provides a nearly bullet-proof antidote to those Protestants who deny the Catholic claim (and who deny history) that Jesus was granting authority to Peter and his successors.
by J. Michael Miller
This book by the now Archbishop of Vancouver is maybe the best general overview of the Catholic teaching on the papacy from the scriptural, historical and theological perspectives. Your faith will be deepened and broadened.
by Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren & Rev. David Hess
This voluminous study examines the question of the Papacy in theological, biblical, and historical context, attempting to dispel doubts about the traditional Roman Catholic position by an impressive collection of data and commentary. “The amount of useful and pertinent data in this veritable compendium is simply staggering.” Scott Hahn
by Mike Aquilina
This is a fascinating book. The popes whose stories you’ll read here were chosen because they reveal how the papacy itself developed. Their lives show us how Christ kept his promise to his bride, the Church…not only in her health but also her sickness. The great popes advance our understanding of Christian doctrine. What about the bad popes? Learn why, even in it’s darkest moments, the story of the papacy is the story of triumph.