Monday, September 1, 2014

Pope: Rock Not Peter After All

St. Peter: rock, or a guy with a great idea?
Pope Francis said a curious thing in his Angelus message of August 24th.
"The Lord has in mind a picture of the structure, an image of the community like a building. This is why, when he hears Simon’s candid profession of faith, he calls him a “rock”, and declares his intention to build his Church upon this faith."
Ever since there have been Protestants, Catholics have been arguing that Matthew 16:15-19 means Jesus founded his Church on the person of Peter as the first of many popes. Protestants have been arguing everything except that, but especially that Jesus was referring to Simon Bar-Jonah's faith.

It may seem like the Bear is being picky, but this is an important Catholic proof text, and one that always comes up when Protestants attempt to proselytizing Catholics.

Here's the passage:
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 
New American Bible. (2011). (Revised Edition., Mt 16:15–19). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church's glossary identifies the person of Peter as the rock upon which the Church would be established. The following is typical of Catholic apologetics.
Until Jesus named Peter, Scripture only referred to God as “rock,” in the sense of an unfailing bulwark against the powers of evil. By making Peter the “rock” of His Church, Christ grants him divine authority over the Church on earth as His universal Vicar. He gives Peter divine power to fulfill his mission. The name “Rock” identifies Peter’s mission with the authority of Christ. The primary function of this authority is unity (cf. Lk. 22:31–32).
Suprenant, L. J., Jr., & Gray, P. C. L. (1999). Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions (Vol. 1, p. 26). Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.

Again, it has been Protestants who have argued that Jesus meant Peter's faith, usually followed by specious arguments based on bad Greek and obliviousness to Aramaic. This is a killer text for them, and they know it. That is why they bring their best arguments.

By suggesting that the Rock means anything but Peter, the scriptural underpinnings of the papacy are attacked, and a huge point is conceded to Protestants. To put it another way, Pope Francis is sawing off the branch on which he is sitting! Why?

The Pope adds:
On his side, Peter is the rock, the visible foundation of the Church’s unity; but every baptized person is called to offer Jesus his or her lowly but sincere faith, so that He may continue to build his Church, today, in every part of the world.
Now Peter is given back a unique position, at least, but not of authority, not of binding and loosing, but as "the visible foundation of the Church's unity." Presumably that means there is an invisible foundation of an invisible and greater Church. Because, at the same time, "every baptized person is called to offer Jesus his or her lowly but sincere faith, so that He may continue to build his Church."

People messing with the Church
makes me go all 2 Kings 2:24
Not just Catholics, mind you, but all baptized persons add their little rocks of faith so Jesus may build his (invisible) Church (of all believers). The Bear might wonder if he was reading too much into this except this isn't the first time we've heard this. Pope Francis speaks in code, but we're getting pretty good at reading him by now.

This idea of a "Church of Christ" that is "bigger" than the mere Catholic Church was sort of floated in Vatican II. Not officially, but it unnecessarily muddied the waters by references to a "Church of Christ" seemingly not exactly the same as the Catholic Church. It is hard to distinguish it from the "invisible Church of all believers" beloved by Protestants. It has been officially swatted down within the Church, but it just shrugs off the blows and eventually pops up whenever a true Vatican-2-nista talks about the Church.

Of course Protestants, lacking any historical Church, need this invisible, made-up Church. It makes sense that they have invented it. Catholics, however, don't need it and should be crystal clear about the real Church.

This is so important, the Bear must say it again. The visible, historical Roman Catholic Church is the Church. It is the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostle Peter, the first pope, to whom Jesus gave the keys. There is no invisible "superchurch" whose boundaries are more extensive than the visible Church's, encompassing all sorts of Protestants, people of other faiths and atheists who aren't ax-murderers or anything.

Peter? According to Pope Francis, he's a symbol of unity and an example of faith. Maybe that's something the Protestants can finally get behind, no?

What is one to make of this mess, except that it doesn't sound very Catholic? Read it all in context here to see what you think. But you would have to twist the words to get them into any sort of Catholic shape. The Bear believes these little "slips" add up to a novel perspective on most of what well-catechized Catholics understand to be the truth.
Is it too late for Francis to
become a Trappist?

We can seldom say exactly what Pope Francis is saying. But this does not keep us from having a pretty good idea what he's thinking.

Here, At a minimum he is obfuscating a key point in Catholic apologetics and smudging the Church's bona fides. Not that it matters to him. Apologetics is tainted by proselytizing.

But that's why it's important to clean up after him. We've heard this meme twice in our parish since, that it was Peter's faith that was the rock, not Peter himself. We all need to be clear that Our Lord established His Church on the person of Peter and gave him the keys to the kingdom.

Why do we have to re-argue these old Seventh Day Adventist chestnuts with our own Pope?


  1. I also mention these things to our dear Lord. Why is His Vicar confusing us? Why cannot we depend on the pope to do and say the right thing? Why does he dislike Catholics who wish to embrace ALL the teachings and rites of the Church? Why does he name call? Why is he soft on sin? Why did he call a synod to discuss possible change in doctrines that can never change? Is the Church again on shifting sand like after VII in stead of on rock?

  2. In the OT the Davidic kingdom lasted all of two kings: David and Solomon. It then split into North and South just like the U.S. Civil War. Most kings in both parts were scoundrels. To top it off, the Assyrians took Israel in the North captive, then the Babylonians took Judah in South. The glorious temple of Solomon was looted and destroyed. Their country and their worship -- which was centralized, remember -- seemed gone forever.

    But then Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon and brought the captives back after just 70 years.

    I don't think Francis is a bad man. I think he suffered the misfortune of being exposed to unsound ideas and, for whatever reason -- God knows, I don't -- floated along with the destructive current of "The Spirit of Vatican II" like so many others. I suspect there are uniquely Argentine elements in this train wreck, as I've written about elsewhere.

    Pope Francis sees himself, I believe, as a change agent. He has swallowed V2 hook, line and sinker, and knows that time is running out for his generation. And it is. His fond dream of being the symbolic head of a pan-Christian religion is a delusion. Few Protestants are going to go along with that, no matter what his buddy Tony Palmer told him.

    The Babylonian Captivity lasted 70 years. I figure we need to hold out another 20. Ultimately, in the choice between groovy dialog and having a Church, self-interest is on our side. So much dead wood is going to go into the fire in the next 20 years you cannot imagine!

  3. Pope Francis seems to have doubled down today in his morning homily where he said that the authority of Jesus comes from His having been anointed by the Holy Spirit.

    Rinse and recycle that thought slowly. Try to frame it in terms of Catholic orthodoxy. The Second Person of the Trinity has authority from being anointed by the Third Person of the Trinity?!?!?!

    Here's the money quote: "“The authority of Jesus – and the authority of the Christian – comes from this ability to understand the things of the Spirit, to speak the language of the Spirit. It comes from this anointing of the Holy Spirit.” See and,-but-being-moved-by-the-Holy-Spirit-32041.html

    And now let me ask myself out loud: how am I better for knowing all this about the Pope? I'm starting to feel like a sane person locked up in a crazy house. Do I really need to hear, over and over again, that everyone around me is crazy to know that I am not? At what point can I start to laugh at everything rather than stay in a constant state of "I can't believe all this! How can this be happening?"

    The Pope has been and is saying some things that just aren't reconcilable with Catholic orthodoxy. Those of us with supernatural faith, with a true sensus catholicus, recognize this without hearing about it over and over and over from blog after blog after blog. It's like the meditations on Hell in the Spiritual Exercises: at some point, you "get it" and you don't need to hear, for the umpteenth time, just how awful Hell is and why you shouldn't want to go there.

    We know what the Truth of the Catholic Faith is. It is not clear that Pope Francis does. If he doesn't, we must pray for him because this is as much about his own salvation as for those whom he is ordained to shepherd. For the rest of us, we need to be serious about the business of being holy and being strong for those who need our strength. We need to know our Faith well enough to give people the Truth on the off chance that they might even know that Pope Francis may not be giving it.

    We can confront error with the Truth. It shouldn't be necessary to point out every instance of error pouring forth from the mouth of the Pope. If people need to hear the Truth, speak it. If the Pope needs to be contradicted, then contradict him, but do it discretely and respectfully.

    It sounds about right that all this will sort itself out within the next 20 years. But it's going to be increasingly miserable before it does. The Church has been like a crazy house for several decades now. But it's the only Church given to us by Our Lord. THIS is where we have to live, and THESE are the circumstances within which we are called to be faithful. I vote that we all agree not to say anything about the Pope unless someone asks us what we think about something they have already heard about. I also vote for studying the catechism and being prepared to respond with Truth to whatever Pope Francis might say that is not.

    1. Terry, I had been thinking about the statements you reference, but had not yet drilled down very deep. I thought the reassignment of St. Peter to a symbol of Christian unity and example of faith was more interesting, but now I'm not so sure.

      We may have to agree to disagree, but I think it is important to clean up after Pope Francis. Why?

      Because not everybody is equally well-educated on every topic. It might take an apologist to see anything weird with a seemingly off-hand comment about St. Peter. By the same token, you saw something I didn't in the other strange statement.

      Because identifying and correcting error makes things seem less out-of-control. It's not just insanity, but there seems to be a Franciscan paradigm that is not just bad theology, as you seem to suggest, but aimed at change of some sort.

      Because there is comfort in knowing that you are not among the demented. Yes, we have a problem. This is what it looks like, and these are its limits. In the end, this blog, at least, has always counseled "holy stubbornness." We are in our 70-year Babylonian Captivity. There is reason to hope for better days ahead.

      Because the Pope is a one-man meme machine. His words don't just fall from his lips to the floor. They are repeated, and gather authority as they go. For example, I suspect someone was paying attention to the Pope about the "rock" being Peter's faith, because I heard it twice in as many days in my own parish.

      If every day we were just moaning about the Pope tearing down the Church rar rar rarrr then I'd agree. Surely you're not suggesting that is the method here, though. By now, everybody who reads this blog knows that the Bear has already crossed the Rubicon of Francis' Delicate Condition. That's a given. Every time I do an article about the Pope, it is in connection with a specific issue. Please, someone, if I'm just wringing my hands, do me a favor and Bruno me.

      Because these are important issues that go beyond the Pope. Surely there is merit in making sure that the three or four people who actually read this blog are alerted to potential problems with the Pope's public statements.

      So, in conclusion, I agree that if the only thing we were doing was beating our Francis Sock Puppet every day, yeah, that would get old and be unnecessary. That's not what we're doing here. We're commenting on select oddities, especially when they seem to touch on the vexed issue of Like What's Up With all the Protestants? This "meta-issue" goes to the heart of the Church, and the pope's view of his office and his Church are what the Bear has been interested in. We have never been about the color of shoes the Pope wears, but have stayed pretty focused on Pope Francis' soteriology and ecclesiology, which appear to be pretty dodgy unless the Bear has misread him.

      And that, Terry, is important stuff. You and I both know how much PERCEPTIONS can really change the Church without a single actual teaching. This blog isn't much, but what it is will continue to offer occasional comment on what Pope Francis is doing to the Church.

    2. Oh, Terry, I forgot to welcome you and say hello, show you around the cave, my collection of My Pretty Pony figures and offer you a delicious Korbinian's Doppelbock!

      It occurs to me that the example you gave is one that I would probably not blog about. Why? Because I see no practical mischief in holding such strange beliefs. It is pretty cerebral, if you can call it that. Maybe that's the sort of thing Jesuits kick around after dinner. I dunno. I'm just a Bear.

      The reason it is vital to on top of the issue of what the Church is and whether you need to be in it to be saved is obvious. It matters. It matters big time.

      If Pope Francis doesn't understand how Jesus works, it's a shame, but, in the end, just kind of goofy. No one is going to go to Hell for flunking Trinity 101. But if Pope Francis tells Tony Palmer he shouldn't convert to Catholicism because he needs "bridge builders" among Protestants, that matters in a way your example doesn't. If -- let's just go crazy here for a minute -- there really is no salvation outside of the Church (a dogma I wager Michael Voris would endorse) we need to be really, really clear. Agreed? And the impression Pope Francis is giving is that EENS is old fashioned bunk that doesn't even merit refuting. The Caserta fandango -- that merited comment for the same reason. The "solemn nonsense" of proselytizing -- that's worth talking about. These are issues that all touch on the salvation of souls. See the difference?

      Having said that, I'm just a Bear with a microblog. My style is what it is. I try to mix it up, throw in some humor. "Hard blows, but fair" is the ideal. You're in a different league. I completely respect your decision not to criticize the Pope. When people have criticized you guys, I have defended you. I will continue to do so. Like I told one critic, there's plenty more going on besides the Pope, so CMTV will never run out of good topics.

      I have a premium membership and have gifted two of my sons with their own premium memberships. If anything, there's TOO MUCH content. It's overwhelming!

      Again, I hope you continue to enjoy St. Corbinian's Bear -- the ONLY Catholic Blog Written By a Real Bear!

  4. There are publications, blogs and persons who, if they didn't engage in public criticism of the Pope, wouldn't know what to do with themselves and need either to shut down or be victim of their own internal gas explosion (e.g., The Remnant, Catholic Family News and all those who write for them). Pope Francis is just their latest Pope to kick around: they've been at this for decades and even though they would all pass a written test on Catholic orthodoxy, none of them could survive one of your cross examinations designed to prove whether they were really practicing Catholics in communion with the Church. They ALL have the fallback position of "there's always the SSPX for those who truly want to live their Catholic Faith in all Her fullness."

    Your blog is and always has been respectful in your critiques of the various troubling things said by Pope Francis almost on a daily basis. You aren't even in the same league, or Church, as the publications and people I named above. THEY are quite happy supporting people in their abandonment of the Church for false so-called "safe havens" so they really see no bad consequences from giving people reasons to lose faith in the papacy: "there's always the SSPX." Your "nail your foot to the floor" approach couldn't be more different from their faux Catholicism. YOU are a faithful Catholic who knows that the Church can't fail and that, even though times may be difficult, there's nowhere else to go! That your combox isn't generally inhabited by those who have left communion with the Church seeking further reinforcement for their decision (we ARE rational beings and, therefore, quite good at rationalizing!) means that your public critiques of Pope Francis are "in bounds" and achieving at least the good end of reassuring the scandalized that "No, you are not alone." I'm sure it also helps you, personally, to write all this down and achieve clarity about things in your own mind. (At least it does that for me when I find myself wrestling with these things)

    But I am, for all that, concerned about the consequences that CAN follow public criticism of the Pope, not least of which is loss of faith in the papacy itself and, ultimately, loss of faith in the Church Herself. There was a time, within my own lifetime, when Catholics weren't treated to a daily dose of "What did the Pope say today?" and, amazingly, it was possible to lead faithful Catholic lives! For me, "change in the Church" was a new title was added to the Litany of Loreto, or "Blessed Be Her Glorious Assumption" was added to the Divine Praises! We were Catholics, we lived like that, our Catholic schools taught Catholicism, our priests and bishops were dependably Catholic and, of course, there was Bishop Sheen. What the Pope may have said or did, good or bad, every day, wasn't an issue for anyone but clerics and religious.

    Now (not to be too obvious), things are different, and it's necessary to fight to be faithful both in belief and practice. All the things I could take for granted in my younger days are no longer able to be taken for granted. NONE of them! We all live in a culture that wars against Catholic Truth both consciously and deliberately. We are all affected by this. It is now important, even necessary, to point out that our religious leaders aren't so much leading us to Heaven as to Hell. People need to know what to do in these circumstances and, yes, it can be necessary to point out that the Pope himself may not be leading us to Heaven, either. But the Pope IS different and, like it or not, we CAN lead people AWAY from the Church if we are not careful about when, where and what we say about the Pope.

    [continued below]

  5. Groups like the SSPX are an attempt to be Catholic without being in communion with the Pope. What the Pope said about Peter's faith being the "rock" rather than Peter himself plays right into the hands of those who have left the Church. People DO leave the Church while not realizing that they have done so because they believe they are being faithful to "the Faith" and, thus, dismiss "union with Peter the person AND office" as essential and integral to Catholicism.

    In the kind of "mess" in which we find ourselves today, we just need to be really careful that we aren't guilty of scandal (leading people to sin) when we report the scandalous words or deeds of the Pope. A bishop might be exposed as a practicing homosexual but we can always defend "the Church" and isolate his example as a particularly bad one. But the nature of the papacy is such that were the Pope to be exposed regularly as "not a faithful Catholic" (which apparent rejection of dogmatic teaching more than suggests), you expose easily scandalized people to the temptation to look elsewhere for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded on the "rock" that IS Peter and his successors. Again, it's possible to be guilty of scandal while exposing it.

    Finally, being realistic, neither CMTV nor this blog reach more than a tiny fraction of even the faithful Catholic world. Those we both reach are, generally, NOT in need of LEARNING about bad things the Pope has said or done so much as reinforcement of Catholic teaching and encouragement to "keep on keeping on" in the midst of the "devastated vineyard" in the "desolate city" in which we find ourselves.

    We're not on different pages at all. We're both trying to survive personally and help those we love to survive as well. We're both trying to let people know "you're not alone" and we're both trying to help people keep their eye on the prize, which is Heaven. But probably for you as well as for ourselves, if we announce that "Pope Francis said something crazy today," the overwhelming majority of people who would hear it would be hearing it for the first time and those who already knew it already know how to respond to it! We are either "preaching to the choir" or "scandalizing the vulnerable" and neither consequence is, to me, worth it.

    The ship we're on can't sink but, like Peter walking on the water, it's very easy to start to doubt (and sink!) if you hear that not only is the crew a bit crazy but so is the captain! There are ways to criticize the Pope that are clearly bad (The Remnant, Catholic Family News etc.) and there are ways to criticize the Pope that are less bad. I don't think there's a way to do it that could be called an unqualified good. Prudence is not the easiest of virtues to master given our ability always to rationalize for our own benefit.

    So don't take anything I've said here as "criticism" so much as "contribution to the discussion." We're living in difficult times, which are also great times to become a Saint! As you know, we all "see through a glass darkly." We're all stumbling along trying to get it right. As a general rule, I think it's better to ignore "Papa's Delicate Condition" more than talk about it but be prepared to explain it when necessary. We, and the Church, can and will survive this crisis.

    Thanks for the opportunity to "vent."

  6. What a great discussion! You make some valid points, Terry. To pick up the Pope's thread, the Pope is indeed different than a bishop because one of his special roles is being the unifying element of the Catholic Church. He's why Eastern Orthodox aren't Catholic. He's why Protestants aren't Catholic. It's because they are not in unity with the Pope, pure and simple. God forbid the Bear should scandalize anyone to the point they would consider walking away from the Pope! (Kind of hard to walk away with your foot nailed to the floor, though. See, the Bear thinks of everything.)

    Too often people have legitimate concerns, but when they look into them they get bland "business as usual" Catholicism from the establishment bloggers of the "Church of Nice." This can foster mistrust in the Church (although it should really only foster mistrust of those particular outlets). Hopefully, some find there way here and say, "Hey, this Bear seems legit; maybe I'm not imagining things after all."

    And you're also right about preaching to the choir. Of course, other than people who comment, I have no idea who is reading SCB. I suspect I have a regular readership who doesn't disagree with the Bear on much. I've thought about that. I like to imagine people come here, are validated, cool off, maybe have a chuckle, and leave with something to think about. But I don't know.

    The Bear is not sedevacantist-friendly, and would not want a family member to go into SSPX. Heck, the Bear isn't even a tradtionalist. (By which he means he is not attached to the traditional Latin Mass.) He's just an ordinary Novus Ordo Bear.

    We are experiencing a perfect storm. The Pope is no longer a remote monarch who communicates formally and rarely. The Pope is out there talking nearly every day, and to a worldwide audience. Unfortunately, a lot of what he says is weird. He may not put a lot of thought into his remarks ahead of time. You cited the example of him saying that that Jesus' authority came from the anointing of the Spirit. I suspect he knows that is nonsense and was trying to make a point about Christians being anointed and it all came out wrong. But the point is, media allows for a new Pope Francis story every other day, and this pope wants to be the pope who feeds into that.

    When I hear my kids complain about their parishes I ask them, "Did Jesus come?" Well, of course He did. "So let me get this straight. It was good enough for Jesus, but it's not good enough for you?" (That and "Do you know for a fact Jesus doesn't like bongo drums?") Despite the Roman Circus, we can refocus on what's important. The papacy uniquely secures the unity of the Church. Clean up after the Pope if you feel so called, and remember what's important.

  7. One need not be Catholic to know that "Peter" is the "rock," Any one who studies Romance languages MUST know that. A Holy Father of Italian ethnicity, raised in Latin America, familiar of course with Latin...doesn't know that?

    French: Pierre=Peter and Rock
    Spanish/Portuguese: Pedro=Peter & Rock
    Italian: Pietro=Peter, Rock
    Latin: Petra=Peter, evolved from Greek.
    And in Greek: Petros=Peter; petra=Rock.

    Aramaic: Jesus called Simon Cephas, which means "stone"

    Apparently Eastern Orthodox Sacred Tradition believes in Peter's faith as the rock.

    [A little help from wikipedia to complete what I did not know.]

  8. What an interesting discussion! I loved reading this. Thank you SCB for providing this!


Moderation is On.

Featured Post

Judging Angels Chapter 1 Read by Author

Quick commercial for free, no-strings-attached gift of a professionally produced audio book of Judging Angels, Chapter 1: Last Things, read...