The Catholic Church's invisible head is and will always be Jesus Christ, God Incarnate. In setting up his earthly Church, however, Christ recognized the need to maintain a physically present "head" that would be the definitive and final voice on matters of faith and morals. One only needs to look closely (or even from afar) at the now thousands of so-called "reformed" churches to see the nightmare (and elimination of true objective truth) that occurs when there is no single authority figure to make a final decision on issues that directly relate to the eternal salvation of billions of souls.
|Divine Revelation (Scriptural Proof)|
- 18And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)
- 15When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 16He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 17He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)
- 31And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. (Luke 22:31-32)
|Catechism of the Catholic Church|
- 552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." Christ, the "living Stone", thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.
- 553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
- 816 "The sole Church of Christ which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it.... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."
The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God."
- 880 When Christ instituted the Twelve, "he constituted in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them." Just as "by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another."
- 881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head." This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
- 882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."
|Ecumenical Council Documents|
- General Council of Florence (1431)
- Definition of the holy ecumenical synod of Florence
- " We also define that the holy apostolic see and the Roman pontiff holds the primacy over the whole world and the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter prince of the apostles, and that he is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him was committed in blessed Peter the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church, as is contained also in the acts of ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons ."
- 1st General Council of the Vatican (1869)
- First dogmatic constitution on the Church of Christ
- "4. In order, then, that the episcopal office should be one and undivided and that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers should be held together in the unity of faith and communion, he set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and instituted in him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation ."
- Chapter 1 - On the institution of the apostolic primacy in blessed Peter
- 1. We teach and declare that, according to the gospel evidence, a primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church of God was immediately and directly promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ the lord .
- 2. It was to Simon alone, to whom he had already said You shall be called Cephas , that the Lord, after his confession, You are the Christ, the son of the living God, spoke these words: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
- 3. And it was to Peter alone that Jesus, after his resurrection, confided the jurisdiction of Supreme Pastor and ruler of his whole fold, saying: Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.
- 4. To this absolutely manifest teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, as it has always been understood by the Catholic Church, are clearly opposed the distorted opinions of those who misrepresent the form of government which Christ the lord established in his Church and deny that Peter, in preference to the rest of the apostles, taken singly or collectively, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction.
- 5. The same may be said of those who assert that this primacy was not conferred immediately and directly on blessed Peter himself, but rather on the Church, and that it was through the Church that it was transmitted to him in his capacity as her minister.
- 6. Therefore, if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole Church militant; or that it was a primacy of honor only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ himself: let him be anathema .
|Papal Encyclical Documents|
- Commissum Divinitus (1835) - Divinely Commissioned - Gregory XVI
- " He granted this to Peter alone out of all the apostles when He promised him the keys of the kingdom of heaven and entrusted to him the obligation of feeding the Lord's sheep and lambs and the duty of strengthening his brothers . He wanted this to extend to Peter's successors whom He placed over the Church with equal right. This has always been the firm and united opinion of all Catholics. It is Church dogma that the pope, the successor of St. Peter, possesses not only primacy of honor but also primacy of authority and jurisdiction over the whole Church. Accordingly the bishops are subject to him ."
- 11. In the words of St. Leo, who continues speaking about the Holy See of Peter: " It is necessary that the Church throughout the world be united and cleave to the center of Catholic unity and ecclesiastical communion, so that whoever dares to depart from the unity of Peter might understand that he no longer shares in the divine mystery ." St. Jerome adds: " Whoever eats the lamb outside of this house is unholy. Those who were not in the ark of Noah perished in the flood." Just as he who does not gather with Christ, so he who does not gather with Christ's Vicar on earth, clearly scatters. How can someone who destroys the holy authority of the Vicar of Christ and who infringes on his rights gather with him? It is through these rights that the pope is the center of unity, that he has the primacy of order and jurisdiction, and that he has the full power of nurturing, ruling, and governing the universal Church ."
- Qui Pluribus (1846) - The Many - Pius IX
- 3. For this reason, as soon as We were placed, despite Our unworthiness, on this high See of the prince of the apostles as the representative of the blessed Peter, and received from the eternal Prince of Pastors Himself the most serious divinely given office of feeding and ruling not only the lambs, that is, the whole Christian people, but also the sheep, that is, the bishops ..."
- 10.... God Himself has set up a living authority to establish and teach the true and legitimate meaning of His heavenly revelation . This authority judges infallibly all disputes which concern matters of faith and morals, lest the faithful be swirled around by every wind of doctrine which springs from the evilness of men in encompassing error. And this living infallible authority is active only in that Church which was built by Christ the Lord upon Peter, the head of the entire Church, leader and shepherd, whose faith He promised would never fail . T his Church has had an unbroken line of succession from Peter himself; these legitimate pontiffs are the heirs and defenders of the same teaching, rank, office and power. And the Church is where Peter is, and Peter speaks in the Roman Pontiff, living at all times in his successors and making judgment, providing the truth of the faith to those who seek it. The divine words therefore mean what this Roman See of the most blessed Peter holds and has held ."
- Amantissimus (1862) - Beloved - Pius IX
- 2. T o preserve forever in his Church the unity and doctrine of this faith, Christ chose one of his apostles, Peter, whom he appointed the Prince of his Apostles, his Vicar on earth, and impregnable foundation and head of his Church . Surpassing all others with every dignity of extraordinary authority, power and jurisdiction, he was to feed the Lord's flock, strengthen his brothers, rule and govern the universal Church . Christ not only desired that his Church remain as one and immaculate to the end of the world, and that its unity in faith, doctrine and form of government remain inviolate. He also willed that the fullness of dignity, power and jurisdiction, integrity and stability of faith given to Peter be handed down in its entirety to the Roman Pontiffs, the successors of this same Peter, who have been placed on this Chair of Peter in Rome, and to whom has been divinely committed the supreme care of the Lord's entire flock and the supreme rule of the Universal Church .
- 3. You above all, venerable brothers, have known how this dogma of our religion has been unanimously and unceasingly declared, defended and insisted upon in synods by the Fathers of the Church. Indeed, they have never stopped teaching that "God is one, Christ is one, the Church established upon Peter by the voice of the Lord is one ;" "the massive foundation of the great Christian state has been divinely built upon, as it were, this rock, this very firm stone;" "this Chair, which is unique and the first of gifts, has always been designated and considered as the Chair of Peter;" "shining forth throughout the world it maintains its primacy;" "it is also the root and matrix whence sacerdotal unity has sprung;" it is not only the head but also the mother and teacher of all the Churches;" "it is the mother city of piety in which is the complete and perfect stability of the Christian religion" "and in which the pre-eminence of the Apostolic Chair has always been unimpaired; "it rests upon that rock which the haughty gates of hell shall never overcome;" "for it the Apostles poured out their entire teaching with blood;" "from it the rights of the venerable communion are extended to all;" "all obedience and honor must be given to it." "He who deserts the Church will vainly believe that he is in the Church;" "whoever eats of the lamb and is not a member of the Church, has profaned;" "Peter, who lives and presides in his own Chair, proffers the truth of faith to those seeking it;" " Peter, who lives up to this time and always lives, exercises jurisdiction in his successors;" "he himself has spoken through Leo;" "the Roman Pontiff, who holds Primacy in the entire world, is the Successor of Blessed Peter the Prince of the Apostles and the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church, and is the visible Father and Teacher of all Christians ." There are other, almost countless, proofs drawn from the most trustworthy witnesses which clearly and openly testify with great faith, exactitude, respect and obedience that all who want to belong to the true and only Church of Christ must honor and obey this Apostolic See and Roman Pontiff.
- Principi Apostolorum Petro (1920) - Peter, Prince of the Apostles - Benedict XV
- 2. Indeed the unique gift of Peter's primacy is that he might spread everywhere and preserve the riches of charity and faith , as Ignatius Theophorus, a man of Apostolic times, beautifully declared. For in those noble letters he wrote to the Roman Church on his journey, announcing his arrival in Rome to be martyred for Christ, he gave testimony to the primacy of that Church over all others by calling it 'presiding officer over the universal community of charity." This was to signify not only that the Universal Church was the visible image of divine charity, but also that Blessed Peter, together with his primacy and his love for Christ (affirmed by his triple confession), remains heir of the Roman See .
- Ecclesiam Dei (1923) - The Church of God - Pius XI
- "The Church of God, by a wondrous act of Divine Providence, was so fashioned as to become in the fullness of time an immense family which embraces all men. The Church possesses-a fact known to all-as one of its visible marks, impressed on it by God, that of a world-wide unity. Christ, Our Lord, not only entrusted to His Apostles and, to them alone, the mission which He had received from His Father when he said: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations;" (Matt. xxvii, 18, 19) He also wished the College of Apostles to possess perfect unity, a unity based on a twofold and well-knit bond, one bond internal, that of the selfsame faith and charity which is "poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Romans v, 5); the other external, that of the rule of one of the Apostles over all the others, for He conferred upon Peter a primacy over the Apostles as a perpetual principle and visible foundation for the Church's unity ."
- "2. The Church was born in unity and grew into "a single body," vigorous, animated by a single soul, of which "the head is Christ from whom the whole body is compacted and fitly joined together." (Ephesians iv, 15, 16) Of this body, following the reasoning of St. Paul, He is the visible head who takes the place of Christ here upon earth, the Roman Pontiff. In him, as the successor of St. Peter, the words of Christ are being forever fulfilled: "Upon this rock I will build my Church ." (Matt. xvi, 18) And the Pope who, down the ages, exercises the office which was bestowed upon Peter never ceases to confirm in the Faith, whenever it is necessary, his brethren and to feed all the sheep and lambs of the Master's flock."
- Ad Salutem Humani (1930) - For the Salvation of the Human Race - Pius XI
- 16. Furthermore, Augustine emphatically asserted that this unity of the universal Church and her absolute inerrancy as a teacher, is derived not only from her invisible Head, Christ Jesus, who from Heaven "rules His body" and speaks by the lips of His teaching Church, but also for her visible head on earth, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the chair of Peter belongs by the lawful right of succession. For this line of Peter's successors "is that rock against which the haughty gates of hell do not prevail." By incontestable right we "are kept within the bosom of the Church by a succession of priests from the chair of Peter the Apostle, to whom our Lord after His resurrection gave the charge of feeding His sheep, down to the episcopate of today ."
- Mystici Corporis Christi (1943) - The Mystical Body of Christ - Pius XII
- " 40 . But we must not think that He rules only in a hidden or extraordinary manner . On the contrary, our Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth. You know, Venerable Brethren, that after He had ruled the "little flock" Himself during His mortal pilgrimage, Christ our Lord, when about to leave this world and return to the Father, entrusted to the Chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded . Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in view of his primacy is only Christ's Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth . After His glorious Ascension into Heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter, too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same ."
- "41. They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it .
- Fidei Donum (1957) - Gift of Faith - Pius XII
- "42. It is an undoubted fact that it was to Peter alone and to his successors, the Roman Pontiffs, that Jesus Christ entrusted the entirety of his flock : "Feed my lambs; feed my sheep." But even though each bishop is the pastor of that portion only of the Lord's flock entrusted to him, nevertheless as lawful successor of the Apostles by God's institution and commandment he is also responsible, together with all the other bishops, for the Apostolic task of the Church, according to the words of Christ to the Apostles: "As the Father has sent me, I also send you."
- Ad Apostolorum Principis (1958) - Prince of the Apostles - Pius XII
- 40. And when We later addressed to you the letter Ad Sinarum gentem, We again referred to this teaching in these words: " The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity ."
- 44. We mean that discipline which has been established not only for China and the regions recently enlightened by the light of the Gospel, but for the whole Church, a discipline which takes its sanction from that universal and supreme power of caring for, ruling, and governing which our Lord granted to the successors in the office of St. Peter the Apostle .
- Ad Petri Cathedram (1959) - To the Chair of Peter - John XXIII
- Unity In Organization
- 73. That there is unity in the administration of the Catholic Church is evident. For as the faithful are subject to their priests, so are priests to their bishops, whom "the Holy Spirit has placed......to rule the Church of God." So, too, every bishop is subject to the Roman pontiff, the successor of Saint Peter, whom Christ called a rock and made the foundation of His Church. It was to Peter that Christ gave in a special way the power to bind and loose on earth, to strengthen his brethren, to feed the entire flock .
- Aeterna Dei Sapientia (1961) - God's Eternal Wisdom - John XXIII
- The Magisterial Prerogative of St. Peter and His Successors
- 44. There is, moreover, another essential safeguard of the Church's visible unity which did not escape that notice of this saintly Pope: that supreme authority to teach infallibly, which Christ gave personally to Peter, the prince of the apostles, and to his successors . Leo's words are quite unequivocal: "The Lord takes special care of Peter; He prays especially for Peter's faith, for the state of the rest will be more secure if the mind of their chief be not overthrown. Hence the strength of all the rest is made stronger in Peter, and the assistance of divine grace is so ordained that the stability which through Christ is given to Peter, should through Peter be transmitted to the other apostles."
|Fathers and Doctors of the Church Documents|
- De Fide (378) - Of Faith - Ambrose
- Book V - Prologue
- "2. It is Peter, chosen by the Lord Himself to feed His flock, who merits thrice to hear the words: "Feed My little lambs; feed My lambs; feed My sheep." And so, by feeding well the flock of Christ with the food of faith, he effaced the sin of his former fall. For this reason is he thrice admonished to feed the flock; thrice is he asked whether he loves the Lord, in order that he may thrice confess Him, Whom he had thrice denied before His Crucifixion ."