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Austin Cline

Power & the Papacy: Centralized Control vs. Collegiality

By November 25, 2012

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Papal States: Coat of Arms There is a lot of debate in the Catholic Church about the nature of the Church and how individual Catholics should relate to it. On the one side are those who take an authoritarian stand, insisting that authority in the Church flows from the top down, with Church members obligated to obey the hierarchy's directives in all things.


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September 25, 2007 at 11:41 am
(1) tracieh says:

I remember my mother telling me that when she was young, she was afraid to open her Bible or read it. She said she feared god would strike her dead if she did so. She was raised in NJ as an Italian Catholic.

I have certainly met other Catholics who were baffled by my mother’s belief. I don’t know why there is such a discrepancy; but I’m betting it has something to do with the point of this article. I think that if a Catholic attends a church like my mom’s old church (she moved to fundamentalism later in her life), then they have been taught that the priests on upward as the ultimate authorities, and that they are singularly capable of interpreting the scriptures and dictating authoritative church doctrines. At least, that’s how my mom understood the teachings.

In some ways it actually makes sense to me. Most modern Xian doctrines and the Bible are products of the upper structure of “the church.” I’m not sure it was ever meant to be a “people’s” religion. I recognize that the concept is that Jesus taught to everyone; but that wasn’t the Xianity we have today. The doctrines we have today, the divinity of Jesus, the trinity, creation ex nihilo, and so on, were all determined in debates and councils that really weren’t directed by the uneduated man-on-the-street.

In that context, I can see why the church would want their dictates to not be left to scrutiny. If you have “just anyone” interpreting the Bible, for example, you get as many interpretations as there are people who can read it. And that’s a noncohesive mess. If, however, the Bible is subject to church leader authority, you get one interpretation and everyone must stick to it.

I recall reading recently something about this, but I can’t recall specifically what it was. But it was the idea that without the church authority to interpret, there would be chaos. And it’s true–look at the myriad denominations. And if you argue with apologists, you find that while they use the same arguments, none of them can seem to agree–sometimes on major and sometimes minor issues. It’s like trying to pin down water.

October 1, 2007 at 5:37 pm
(2) John Hanks says:

There is one thing that we can be sure of. Anyone who claims to speak for G-d is fooling himself and everyone else around him. Jesus hated blockheads and phonies. Religious leaders are inevitably both.

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