The Papacy

Tract: Petrine Primacy

Here are 8 reasons why a Protestant should 'pope':

1. Rock of Faith:

Of all the Apostles, only Peter's is called [Petros/Kepha] 'rock' (Cf. Matthew 16:18) by Our Lord. There are a number of things to note about this:

2. Keys of the Kingdom:

Peter, to the exclusion of the other Apostles, is given the keys to the Kingdom.

"In Matthew 16:19 it is presupposed that Christ is the master of the house, who has the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, with which to open to those who come in. Just as in Isaiah 22:22 the Lord lays the keys of the house of David on the shoulders of his servant Eliakim, so Jesus commits to Peter the keys of his house, the Kingdom of Heaven, and thereby install him as administrator of the house." (Oscar Cullman, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, 1953)

Characteristics of 'keys':

i) conveys authority;
ii) permits and prohibits entry into the house via the door - allowing or disallowing persons or teachings;
iii) conveys idea of stewardship but not necessarily ownership;
iv) is transferable - allowing others to use the keys after the current holder's 'term'.

3. Bind and Loose:

"The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, says Josephus (War of the Jews 1:5:2), ‘became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and bind.’ The various schools had the power to ‘bind and loose’; that is, to forbid and to permit (Talmud: Ta’anit 12a). This power and authority vested in the rabbinical body of each age or in the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifna, Emor, ix; Talmud: Makkot 23b).’ In this sense Jesus, when appointing his successors, he used the familiar formula (Matt. 16:19, 18:18). By these words he virtually invested them with the same authority as that which he found belonging to the scribes and Pharisees who ‘bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers’; that is, ‘loose them,’ as they have the power to do (Matthew 23:2-4)." - David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992), p.56-57.

In Matthew 16:19, Peter is given the exclusive power to "bind and loose" apart from the other Apostles.

4. Faith Will Not Fail:

"And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." (Luke 22:32)

There are two things of significance here. The first is that Peter is doing the strengthening while the object of his "strengthening" are his brethren (the other Apostles). This indicates his separation from them insofar as the divine grace of a particular kind of strength is concerned. Secondly, notice that Our Lord warns Peter that Satan has asked for all of the Apostles and has desired to sift them as wheat. Yet, without skipping a beat, Our Lord changes his focus from the community to Peter as if to suggest that he has responsibility over the others. Although Satan has asked for all of them, it is Peter alone whose faith will not fail and whose faith will strengthen the brethren. If Satan can defeat or overcome Peter, then he has won the war against Jesus Christ and His Church. This corroborates the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:17-19 where Jesus reveals that He will build His Church on Peter.

5. Chief Shepherd: "When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" (John 21:15-19)

As someone who is confirming his choice, Christ confirms Peter's place as head of the community of the Apostles by asking Peter three times if he loves Him. Jesus does this, of course, to reverse Peter's threefold denial of Christ during the passion. The conversation is exclusively between the King and his first minister: "Do you love me more than these?" It is a rhetorical question. Jesus knows the answer. Because of Peter's love for Christ, the prophecy of the death he would suffer, and the imagery of the shepherd and the sheep used, Jesus is effectively sharing with Peter the title that He claimed for Himself: the Good Shepherd. - "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)

6. In the Beginning:

Even in Genesis, there is a foreshadow of the Petrine office:

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-20)

"Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren." (Genesis 49:22-26)

Similarities between Joseph and Peter:

7. Cephas over James:

"I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother." (Galatians 1:16-19)

Is it not curious then that:

#1 - Paul particularly singles out Peter to "get acquainted with". Although, he knows that there were other apostles in Jerusalem (v.16) and he mentions that he did not see any of them except James (v.19), he nevertheless intends to consult with Peter. What does this suggest? It suggests that Peter is the head of the Church. Indeed, it would be very strange for St. Paul to intend to meet with someone who was not the head of the Church.

#2 - This is particularly more noteworthy when one considers that, as scripture and history attest, James "the Lord's brother", was the first bishop of Jerusalem. If Peter did not have primacy, it would be natural for St. Paul to consult with the leader of the Church in Jerusalem which was James. But the passage indicates that St. Paul by-passed James and went to Peter, mentioning James almost in a foot note!

8. The Barque of Peter:

During Our Lord's ministry, He made reference to the Apostles being "fishers of men". On at least two occaisions Jesus asks the disciples to throw out their net to catch fish (Cf. Luke 5:1-7, John 21:1-9), an obvious reference to "catching souls for the Kingdom of God". The imagery here is rich not only because of Our Lord's instruction to "fish for men", but also to recognize who is doing the fishing and from whence they are throwing their nets. The Gospel accounts relate how the Apostles are the principal "fishers of men". Fishermen, of course, do not merely fish from the shore but, in order to gather a sizeable number of fish, they do so from their boats. In the gospels, the Apostles are shown together, fishing from the same boat (Cf. Luke 5:1-7). The allusion here, of course, is to the Church being that boat. So, just as you have a group of men fishing from the same boat, you have the Apostles united together evangelizing from the same Church.

"One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." (Luke 5:1-7)

Of the two boats that are present, Our Lord chooses Peter's boat. From Peter's boat, Our Lord teaches and then asks Peter to "let the nets down for a catch". It is Peter who speaks for the others, indicating his primacy and leadership over them. Jesus speaks to Peter because it is Peter's boat, and it is Peter who speaks for the others ("we've worked hard all night..."), and ultimately decides for them ("I will let down the nets"). Peter then instructs them to let down the nets and they do so ("When they had done so..."). The symbolism here is apparent. This whole action is indicative of what the Church does: it fishes for men. And, it is not a coincidence that, front and center, we see that Peter's prominence as the head Fisherman is unmistakable.

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." (Matthew 14:22-33)

In this account, we see the Church being attacked. The boat is being "buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it." The boat is likely Peter's and as the captain, he has a responsibility to the others to act on their behalf: "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water." Although Peter's human fraility becomes apparent, it is he who takes the leap of faith and trusts in Jesus. (Incidentally, here we see the mirage of separating faith from action (or works) wiped out. If Peter had not acted and stepped on the water, can anyone really say that he believed?) Although Peter demonstrates a courageous and divine faith, he nonetheless waivers because he is subject to our fallen human nature. In the end, however, Peter and those in the boat are still saved by Jesus from certain death. In this scene, we see the whole Christian "faith drama" played out between the Lord and the Church (represented by the boat) and the Pope (represented by St. Peter).

Peter is the captain of the boat. The Pope is the captain of the Church.

Peter is the one who testifies to Christ and comes out to meet Christ in order to calm the storm. The Pope is the vicar of Christ on earth, and continually seeks Christ's intercession to deliver the Church from the attacks of her enemies.

When Peter exercises divine faith and acts on it, God sustains him in his journey and works miracles through him. When the Pope is faithful to the Gospel, God works through his faith to bring about glorious miracles.

When Peter's faith waivers, he suffers and so do those in the boat. When the Pope is not faithful to the Gospel, the Church and society suffer horribly.

Ultimately, though, Jesus saves Peter and those in his barque from perdition despite their weakness. Jesus also promised the same to his Church (Cf. Matthew 16:18) and to Peter (Cf. Luke 22:32) particularly.

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
September 1, 2002