The teaching power frightens

The teaching power frightens

I was reading Pope Benedict’s homily from the Mass of taking possession of the cathedra of the Bishop of Rome and was struck by one particular paragraph where he speaks of the teaching authority of the Pope and the college of bishops.

This power of teaching frightens many people in and outside the Church. They wonder whether freedom of conscience is threatened or whether it is a presumption opposed to freedom of thought. It is not like this. The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism. [emphasis added]

A very interesting distinction. In a way it’s a response to both the critics who think he’s a hardliner, imposing a severe form of Catholicism upon them and to those who think that any pope could be elected who would water down the truths of faith, especially in the area of sexuality, which the press and pundits seem most fixated on. What he says is that the Pope is not like an Emperor, whose word is law, but whose word is built on a capricious will, so that a new emperor means a new law. Instead the Pope is simply a caretaker of the Word and the expressed Will of God. He does not rule over the Law, but the Law of God rules over him. He is its servant as we should also be. This also embodies one of the titles of the Holy Father, the Servant of the servants of God, because by being this guarantee, entrusted with this task by the Holy Spirit, he helps all Christians to know and understand.

The Pope is not the map to the buried treasure, nor is he the mapmaker. He is the protective laminate covering placed on the map by the Mapmaker, i.e. the Father, to protect it and the legend that interprets the Map, i.e. the Word/Christ, in conjunction with the Compass, i.e. the Holy Spirit, which points the way. I’m not sure if that’s a helpful anaology, but it works for me.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
3 comments
  • “The Vatican seems to be in echurch still resides on diocesan property.

    And this is just the beginning of what is wrong in Cleveland – – Pilla also invented his own rite for the Mass and his diocese was perhaps the worst when it comes to priests homosexually assaulting teen age boys.

    Pope Benedict XVI, if you by chance read Dom’s blog, PLEASE check the old papal files for Bishop Pilla’s resignation letter!!! 

  • Dom,

    Thank you for your insights.  The paragraph you cited is one of my favorites from the text.  My hears perked when I first heard it during the Mass, but for a different reason.  Along with apocalyptic literature, another area of interest for me is the ongoing theological discussion between Catholics and Orthodox.  The manner in which Benedict is elucidating the Petrine ministry seems to me to be one which would be more acceptable to Orthodox sensibilities.  Benedict has also been using the phrase that the Petrine office st, it looks like a no-win situation.

  • AP sent this on Tuesday:

    FORT WORTH, Texas – Pope Benedict XVI named the successor to Fort Worth Bishop Joseph Delaney on Tuesday, picking an Illinois pastor who gained notoriety for saying he would be reluctant to administer Holy Communion to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin over his support of abortion rights.

    Monsignor Kevin Vann, vicar for clergy and the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, was named coadjutor bishop of Fort Worth. He will become bishop of the diocese upon the death or retirement of Delaney.

    Vann gained some attention last year after he said that if Durbin came to the front of Blessed Sacrament at Communion time, he would bless the Democrat the same way he does those who are unable to receive the sacrament. Durbin is Catholic but believes in abortion rights, a position at odds with church doctrine.

    Durbin was once a Blessed Sacrament parishioner but at the time was attending a Chicago church.

    Sounds good!

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