Tuesday, July 15, 2008


by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

In Chapter seven Bishop Robinson confronts the power of the papacy. He writes:

In speaking of a Peter-figure, should we have in mind the pope of the Catholic Church with some adjustments? Or, rather than start with the papacy as it now is and suggest changes, would it be possible for the entire Christian world to go back to the bible, all aspects of what has been handed down and the wisdom of the world of today, and create a new synthesis? The essence of the idea would be a Peter-figure who was the calm rock of unity and who, after consultation with the church and speaking in the name of the church, proclaimed the faith of the church.

To put this in another way, I do not believe in the church of Pacelli or Roncalli or Montini or Luciani or Wojtyla or Ratzinger (the family names of the last six popes), but in the church of Jesus Christ. The views of the particular individuial who carries out the role of Peter should not have the importance they have had in the past....It should be quite impossible to be loyal and orthodox under one pope and then somehow less loyal and less orthodox because another human being has taken his place.
(p. 140)

The second Vatican Council made the significant change of saying that a bishop's power comes from ordination rather than from a delegation of power by the pope. (p. 141)

One further fact needs to be mentioned. Not one, but two apostles gave witness of martyrdom in Rome. So the bishop of Rome is to do everything possible to make present in the church the witness of both Peter and Paul, and is never to be a witness to Peter alone. On one famous occasion Peter and Paul clashed, and at all times they stood for different, if complementary, values. Among other things, Paul stood for the priority of the hierarchy of holiness over the hierarchy of power, for the Spirit over the letter and the Word over all human endeavours. This must be part of the witness of the bishop of Rome. (p. 142)

I am not advocating Conciliarism or Gallicanism or Febronianism or Modernism or any other 'ism' of church history. I am simply saying that the Peter-figure serves the church, as the church serves the reign of God within the hearts of all people. This appears to be fully in accord with what is said in the Acts of the Apostles concerning the relationship between Peter and 'the church'. It must mean that circumstances can arise when the Peter-figure must answer to 'the church' or when 'the church' must act to preserve its integrity and its relationship to the reign of God. There must be laws of 'the church' safeguarding these values that even the pope is subject to and cannot change. (pp 143-144)

The word 'pope' means 'father', and I have no objection to popes being seen in a parental role, as long as they remember at all times that they are parents of adult children. They should always be listened to with respect because they are parents, but they cannot order their adult children to do everything the way they want it done, and they cannot order them to think the way they think....

...Christian tradition has always recognized that a consensus of belief among all the members of the church is something that must be listened to and given its full weight....John Henry Newman took this idea further by saying that, 'while the multitude may falter in its judgment', we have certainty when the whole church 'in due course rests and acquiesces in a deliberate judgment.'
(pp. 145-146)

...the council made the statement that 'the whole body of the faithful....cannot err in matters of belief. (p. 147)

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