Do you want to take Christian Counseling Courses: The Papacy
Christian Counselors from different theological backgrounds may have differing opinions on the Papacy. Some may see it as the vicar of Christ on Earth, while others may see it as a self entitled and political position. Some may sway in the middle and call it a Christian symbol on Earth. Whatever the case, Christian’s views on the Papacy usually direct their overall Christian world view on the essence of what “church” is or as theologians call it, Ecclesiology.
Some extremists may denounce the Papacy as the “whore of Babylon” while devout Catholics will defend the infallibility of the Pontiff as Christ’s successor, but what can the papacy be for the Christian world—so divided?
Please review the following ideas on this divided issue. In the meantime, if you wish to take Christian Counseling courses, then review the program.
From a Catholic Perspective
As Francis I takes the throne of Peter, orthodox catholicism views the role of the pope as the successor of Peter. They believe the Pope is the leader of the Church and in spiritual matters only cannot error. This is especially the case when the Pope speaks from the throne of Peter. Catholics do not believe the pope is perfect or is incapable of sin. In fact, the Church has had many evil men sit on the throne of Peter throughout the centuries.
Liberal Catholics will attack the divine founding of the Petrine ministry and even the belief in infallibility which was declared at the First Vatican Council in the Nineteenth Century.
While Catholics see the Pope as the successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, they do not consider him to replace Jesus. In fact, the head of the Church is Christ and not the Pope.
From a Protestant Perspective
The position among Protestants is very complicated. Some forms of Protestantism recognize a hierachy while other grass root elements of Protestantism possess no hierarchy. Obviously, Anglicans would have a better understanding and appreciation for the Petrine Ministry than Baptists. Some Protestants view the Pope as an important symbol of Christianity but do not follow his legal authority while others view him as the seat of the Antichrist.
For the most part, Protestantism denies a special priesthood that is beyond that of the universal priesthood of Baptism. For these reasons, the relevance of the Pope is not seen as important to them and their spiritual relationship with Jesus.
From an Orthodox Perspective
The Orthodox have never denied the power of this Western Patriarch in the affairs of the Western Church but they do question his universal authority. Before the schism, the Pope was seen as a first among equals. The five Patriarchal Sees of Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Constantinople ruled the early Church. The successor of Peter was acknowledged in Rome but his political power did not filter into the management of the other autonomous churches. As Rome became more powerful, the See of Rome became more prestigious which led to political dissention. After the fall of Rome, the East especially resented Roman pride as Rome became a stable to the barbarians. Through cultural and political shifts, the two churches fell away from each other. While some Eastern Churches retain union with Rome, most of the East remains separated, not recognizing the Pope’s legal authority outside of his See. They possible could view him as a center of unity but any matters of authority within their churches would be rejected.
A non-Christian Perspective
For non-Christians, especially Jews, Muslims, and Easterners, the Pope plays a pivotal role as a statemen for religious and human dignity. While the Papacy is not free from political corruption and bad political decisions within its past, it still for the most part, especially in recent years, proven to be a champion of the poor and those who are afflicted and have no voice.
What Does History Have to Say?
Whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, history does support a hierarchy within the early Church. Via apostolic succession, Francis can trace his roots back to Peter. While historians and scholars debate whether the See of Peter became eminent via political shifts or the words of Christ “On this rock I will build my Church” there remains enough evidence to support that the idea of a pope is central to Christianity prior to the Sixteenth Century.
So What is the Role of the Pope in the Universal Church?
If your a Christian, the papacy means alot to you regardless of denomination. It is a tradition and a guiding hand in many spiritual matters. Some issues may divide Christians, but the pope is a voice that is heard around the world as a symbol of Christian unity. While some may wish to forget the first 1600 years of Christianity, one cannot dismiss the driving power of the Papacy for better or worst. It is a Christian treasure for all to embrace–just to what degree depends on who you are.
If you are a non Christian, then the Papacy and its relevance depends upon who sits on the throne of Peter. For the most part, it is the responsibility of the Popes to defend all peoples. In many cases they are the only voice of the afflicted. Unfortunately this has not always been the case, but when a man of great integrity does become pope, it is a blessing for the whole world.
May God bless, Pope Francis–may he be a central voice for all Christians as he dispenses the Word of God and protects the poor and weak from the rich and powerful.
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Mark Moran, MA