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Non-Catholics Section: Authority/Obedience

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Non-Catholics Section:

Authority / Obedience

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Do You Reject the Concept of Authority in the Church? Do You Believe That Obedience is Not Due to Any Hierarchy in the Church?



Do You Reject the Concept of Authority in the Church? Do You Believe That Obedience is Not Due to Any Hierarchy in the Church? 


* Do you deny that Jesus established a visible, hierarchical Church? Click here

* Do you reject the papacy / the pope? Click here

* Do you reject the concept of authority because you don't believe that anyone should tell you what to believe? Click here

* If obedience is not due to the hierarchy in the Church, why does Scripture say "Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you" (Heb. 13:17)?

* If there is no authority in the Church, how could presbyters "lord it over" those who were assigned to them (see 1 Pt. 5:3)?

* If there is no authority in the Church, why would bishops be charged with "exhorting" and "refuting" (see Ti. 1:9)?

* If there is no authority in the Church, how can Scripture speak of those "who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you" (see 1 Thes. 5:12)?

* If there is no authority in the Church, how can St. Paul speak of the authority that the Lord has given him (see 2 Cor. 13:10)?

* What is the point of having a hierarchy in the Church if obedience is not due to them? Note: If you deny that Jesus established a visible, hierarchical Church, click here

* How do you expect to have unity in the Church without authority? Without a final authority, how can one ever be certain in matters of doctrine?

* If you reject the concept of authority in the Church, do you reject all of the New Testament letters since they clearly indicate authority?

* How could the Church combat heresy without authority?

* How can there be no authority in the Church considering that Christ said...?

"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 16:17-19, emphasis added)

Are you unaware that keys are a symbol of authority?

* If there is no authority in the Church, why does Jesus tell Peter - three times - to tend to His sheep (see Jn. 21:15-17)? 

* If there is no authority in the Church, how do you explain the fact that Peter took charge in choosing a successor to Judas (see Acts 1:15-26) and that he acted as head of the council in Acts 15:6-12? How do you explain the fact that decisions of the apostles were considered binding?

* If Peter had no authority, why did the angel instruct Cornelius to seek him (see Acts 10:5)?

* If Paul had no authority, why was he "appointed preacher and apostle and teacher" (2 Tm. 1:11)?

* If Peter had no authority in the Church, why did Paul - the apostle called directly by Christ after His Resurrection - go to Peter after his conversion (see Gal. 1:18)?

* If one does not need to obey authority, why does Scripture say...?

Rom 13:1-2: Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.

* If there is no authority in the Church, why does Scripture speak of...?

Apostles being given authority by Jesus (see Mt. 10:1, Mk. 6:7, Lk. 9:1)

Peter being given authority to bind and lose (see Mt. 16:19)

Apostles given authority to bind and loose (see Mt. 18:18)

Apostles given power to forgive sin (see Jn. 20:22-23)

Apostles handing down decisions of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 15:28)

* If obedience is not due to authority, what is the point of...?

Jesus commissioning the Apostles (see Mt. 28:19-20, Mk. 16:15-16, Jn. 20:21)

Appointing presbyters (priests) / laying on of hands (e.g. Acts 6:6, Acts 13:3, Acts 14:23, 1 Tm. 4:14, 1 Tm. 5:22, 2 Tm. 1:6, Ti. 1:5)

Having various offices (e.g. Acts 15:4, 1 Cor. 12:28-29, Eph. 4:11, Phil. 1:1, 1 Tm. 3:1, 1 Tm. 3:8, Ti. 1:7-9)

Being an ambassador of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:20)

Having an apostolic foundation (Eph. 2:20, Rv. 21:14)

* How can you deny the concept of authority when it is clear in Scripture that St. Peter was the leader of the apostles? How do you explain away the fact that Peter's name is mentioned more than all the other disciples names combined?

* How can you deny the authority of the papacy considering that all the earliest Christians accepted it? If you attempt to argue that the papacy didn't exist in the first century, how can you explain quotations such as this one? - "If certain persons should be disobedient unto the words spoken by Him through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger." (Pope St. Clement, c. 95 A.D.)

* If you reject the concept of authority in the Church, do you also reject the fact that there was a seat of Moses (see Mt. 23:2-3)? 

* "Christ had to come to earth, suffer and die because of disobedience, and now he expects no obedience to any authority in his name?" Jesus - that is, God incarnate - obeyed his earthly parents, yet you refuse to obey anyone but yourself?

* How can you reject the concept of authority, considering that Christ authorizes certain persons to act in His name and that rejection of them means rejection of Christ? Consider that Scripture says...

Lk. 10:16: "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

Jn. 13:20: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

Rom. 13:2: Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.

How can you not be concerned that you are rejecting those who have received authority from Christ?

* Without authority, how do you imagine that new issues could be resolved? Or that disputes could be settled?

* Without authority, how do you imagine that people would become better rather than worse?

* How do you expect that the Church would continue to grow since the time of the apostles without any authority? 

* Do you imagine that the Apostles' authority ended upon their deaths? How do you explain that Judas' authority was passed on to another after his death (see Acts 1:15-26)? Why did the Jews (and Jesus) recognize Moses' seat (Mt. 23: 1-3) if religious offices didn't survive death? How is it you think the keys Christ gave to Peter would not be transferred to another? Would heaven simply be closed after the death of Peter? Does the presidency of the country end because a President dies? Does the Church that Christ promised would withstand the gates of hell (Mt. 16:18) simply fall apart upon the death of the apostles?

* If the authority of the pope was to end with St. Peter's death, how can you explain the unbroken succession of popes since that time (complete with historical records to back them up)? If no successor was supposed to take St. Peter's place, why did the apostle St. John (who was still alive) fail to complain about it? In fact, why was Pope Clement (the fourth pope!) consulted to resolve a particular matter in the Church when St. John was still alive (and closer)? 

* How is it that the earliest Christians accepted the papacy and other offices in the Church, but you reject them? (Remember, their acceptance of them is a documented fact!) All (orthodox) Christians accepted the office of the papacy (as well as the other offices) prior to the schism of the Orthodox! How is it that the testimony of the earliest Christians clearly shows that the apostles handed down their authority, but you reject it?

* How do you claim to reject the concept of authority in the Church if you accept the Bible? Are you unaware that the New Testament was determined on the authority of the Catholic Church? Do you realize you would have no bible without the authority of the Church?

* Does not the very fact that there are thousands and thousands and thousands of competing Protestant sects constitute positive proof of the need for a supreme authority in the Church? Protestant sects have no supreme authority and therefore they are wholly incapable of unity [contrary to Christ's desire that "they may all be one" (Jn. 17:21)]. As Pope Pius XII has said, "For often those who disagree with the true Church complain openly of their disagreement in matters of dogma and thus unwillingly bear witness to the necessity of a living Teaching Authority." (Pope Pius XII, "Humani Generis", 1950 A.D.)

* Why is it that the Catholic Church can trace its authority directly back from the Apostles (the Pope being the successor to St. Peter and the Bishops being the successors to the other Apostles), yet your 'church' has no apostolic succession? Are you unaware that apostolic succession has always been a criterion for truth?

* Is it perhaps true that you reject authority in the Church simply because you don't want to have to answer to those in charge? Do you think this will excuse you? Will it not rather increase your guilt?

* If you don't like the concept of having to obey authority in the Church, you should take it up with Jesus - since He is the one who set it up that way! 

Closing Quotations...

"[I]t is characteristic of pride to be unwilling to be subject to any superior" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church)

"Do not let them imagine that the way of life and of salvation is still open to them, if they have refused to obey the bishops and the priests." (St. Cyprian of Carthage, 3rd century A.D.) 

"In a like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters and the council of God and college of Apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 A.D.) 

"Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be contention over the bishop's office. So, foreknowledge, they appointed the above-mentioned men, and afterwards gave them a permanent character (epimonen), so that, as they died, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." (St. Clement I, 1st century A.D.) 

"And let a man respect the bishop all the more if he seems him to be a man of few words. For, whoever is sent by the master to run His house, we ought to receive him as we would receive the Master Himself. It is obvious, therefore, that we ought to regard the bishop as we would the Lord Himself." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, 2nd century A.D.) 

"Take pains to impress on the Christian people a due obedience and subjection to rulers and governments. Do this by teaching, in accordance with the warning of the Apostle, that all authority comes from God. Whoever resists authority resists the ordering made by God Himself, consequently achieving his own condemnation; disobeying authority is always sinful except when an order is given which is opposed to the laws of God and the Church." (Pope Pius IX, "Qui Pluribus", 1846 A.D.)

"Although man, when excited by a certain arrogance and contumacy, has often striven to cast aside the reins of authority, he has never yet been able to arrive at the state of obeying no one. In every association and community of men, necessity itself compels that some should hold pre-eminence, lest society, deprived of a prince or head by which it is ruled should come to dissolution and be prevented from attaining the end for which it was created and instituted." (Pope Leo XIII, "Diuturnum", 1881 A.D.)

"You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 A.D.) [Note: The above has been considered the earliest known written use of the term "Catholic Church". St. Ignatius was a hearer of the Apostle St. John, and the third bishop of Antioch.]

"The Church, which our Risen Jesus is organizing during these days (Acts 1:3), and which is to be spread throughout the whole world, is a true and complete society. It must, consequently, have within it the power to govern, and be able, by the obedience of its subjects, to maintain order and peace... [O]ur Savior supplied this want by establishing a shepherd of both sheep and lambs, a Vicar of his own divine authority: yet Peter, after all, is but a man; and however sublime his authority, he cannot exercise it directly and personally over each member of the flock. The new society has need, therefore, of magistrates of a lower rank, who, as Bossuet so well expresses it, 'are to be sheep with regard to Peter, and shepherds with regard to the people.'" (Dom Gueranger) 

"I cried out while I was in your midst, I spoke with a loud voice, the voice of God: 'Give heed to the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons.' Some suspected me of saying this because I had previous knowledge of the division which certain persons had caused; but He for whom I am in chains is my witness that I had no knowledge of this from any human being. It was the Spirit who kept preaching these words: 'Do nothing without the bishop, keep your body as the temple of God, love unity, flee from divisions, be imitators of Jesus Christ, as He was imitators of the Father.' I did my best as a man devoted to unity. But where there is division and anger God does not dwell. The Lord, however, forgives all who repent, if their repentance leads to the unity of God and to the council of the bishop." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 A.D.) 

"The Apostles have received their mission. The Sovereign Master has bade them divide among themselves the nations of the earth, and preach everywhere the Gospel - that is, the Good Tidings - the tidings of man's Redemption wrought by the Son of God, who was made flesh, was crucified, and arose again from the dead. But what is to be the grand support of these humble Jews, who have been suddenly transformed into conquerors, and who have to win the whole world to Christ? Their support is the solemn promise made to them by Jesus, when after saying: Go, teach all nations! He adds: Lo! I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world! Hereby he promises never to leave them, and ever to direct and guide them. They shall see him no more in this life; and yet he assures them that he will be ever in their midst. But these men, with whom Christ thus promises that he will abide for ever, and preserve them from every fall and from every error in the teaching of his doctrine - these Apostles are not immortal. We shall find them, one after the other, laying down their lives for the faith and so leaving this world. Are we, then, condemned to uncertainty and darkness, like men who have been abandoned by the light? Is it possible that the appearance of our Emmanuel upon the earth has been but like that of a meteor, which we sometimes behold in the night, emitting a lurid light, and then suddenly disappearing, leaving us in greater darkness than before? No: the words of our Risen Jesus forbid us to fear such a calamity. He did not say to his Apostles: 'Lo! I am with you even to the end of your lives;' but Lo! I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. So that those to whom he addressed himself were to live to the end of the world! What means this, but that the Apostles were to have successors, in whom their rights were to be perpetuated? Successors whom Jesus would ever assist by his presence and uphold by his power. The work founded by...God, out of his love for man, and at the price of his own precious Blood, must surely be imperishable! Jesus, by his presence amidst his Apostles, preserved their teaching from all error; by his presence he will also, and for ever, guide the teaching of their successors." (Dom Gueranger) 

"A remarkable paradox at once presents itself - that Liberty can only be secured by Laws. Where there are no laws, or too few, to secure it, slavery immediately appears, no less surely than when there are too many; for the stronger individuals are, by the absence of law, enabled to tyrannize over the weaker. Even the vast and complex legislation of our own days is designed to increase and not to fetter liberty, and its greater complexity is necessitated by the greater complexity and the more numerous interrelationships of modern society. Laws, of course, may be unwise or excessively minute or deliberately enslaving; yet this does not affect the point that for all that Laws are necessary to the preservation of Liberty. Merchants, women and children, and citizens generally can only enjoy rightful liberty if they are protected by laws. Only that man is free, then, who is most carefully guarded. In the same manner Scientific Liberty does not consist in the absence of knowledge, or of scientific dogmas, but in their presence. We are surrounded by innumerable facts of nature, and that man is free who is fully aware of those which affect his own life. It is true, for example, that two and two make four, and that heavy bodies tend to fall towards the center of the earth; and it can only be a very superficial thinker who considers that to be ignorant of these facts is to be free from the enslaving dogmas of them. If I am ignorant of them, I am, of course, in a sense at liberty to believe that two and two make five, and to jump off the roof of my house; yet this is not Liberty at all in the same sense in which reasonable people use the word, since knowledge of the laws enables me to be effective and, in fact, to survive in the midst of a world where they happen to be true. That man, then is truly more 'free' whose intellect is informed of and submits to these laws, than is the man whose intellect is unaware of them." (Benson) 

"But as this heavenly doctrine was never left to the arbitrary judgment of private individuals, but, in the beginning delivered by Jesus Christ, was afterwards committed by Him exclusively to the Magisterium already named, so the power of performing and administering the divine mysteries, together with the authority of ruling and governing, was not bestowed by God on all Christians indiscriminately, but on certain chosen persons. For to the Apostles and their legitimate successors alone these words have reference: 'Going into the whole world preach the Gospel.' 'Baptizing them.' 'Do this in commemoration of Me.' 'Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.' And in like manner He ordered the Apostles only and those who should lawfully succeed them to feed - that is to govern with authority - all Christian souls. Whence it also follows that it is necessarily the duty of Christians to be subject and to obey. And these duties of the Apostolic office are, in general, all included in the words of St. Paul: 'Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God' (I Cor. iv., I). Wherefore Jesus Christ bade all men, present and future, follow Him as their leader and Savior; and this, not merely as individuals, but as forming a society, organized and united in mind. In this way a duly constituted society should exist, formed out of the divided multitude of peoples, one in faith, one in end, one in the participation of the means adapted to the attainment of the end, and one as subject to one and the same authority. To this end He established in the Church all principles which necessarily tend to make organized human societies, and through which they attain the perfection proper to each. That is, in it (the Church), all who wished to be the sons of God by adoption might attain to the perfection demanded by their high calling, and might obtain salvation." (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.)

"When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread abroad and propagate His teaching. 'All power is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Going therefore teach all nations...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you' (Matt. xxviii., 18-20). So that those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish. 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not shall be condemned' (Mark xvi., 16). But since it is obviously most in harmony with God's providence that no one should have confided to him a great and important mission unless he were furnished with the means of properly carrying it out, for this reason Christ promised that He would send the Spirit of Truth to His Disciples to remain with them forever. 'But if I go I will send Him (the Paraclete) to you...But when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will teach you all truth' (John xvi., 7-13). 'And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of Truth' (Ibid. xiv., 16-17). 'He shall give testimony of Me, and you shall give testimony' (Ibid. xv., 26-27). Hence He commands that the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept as if it were His own - 'He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises Me' (Luke x., 16). Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He is the ambassador of the Father. 'As the Father sent Me so also I send you' (John xx., 21). Hence as the Apostles and Disciples were bound to obey Christ, so also those whom the Apostles taught were, by God's command, bound to obey them. And, therefore, it was no more allowable to repudiate one iota of the Apostles' teaching than it was to reject any point of the doctrine of Christ Himself. Truly the voice of the Apostles, when the Holy Ghost had come down upon them, resounded throughout the world. Wherever they went they proclaimed themselves the ambassadors of Christ Himself. 'By whom (Jesus Christ) we have received grace and Apostleship for obedience to the faith in all nations for His name' (Rom. i., 5). And God makes known their divine mission by numerous miracles. 'But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed' (Mark xvi., 20). But what is this word? That which comprehends all things, that which they had learnt from their Master; because they openly and publicly declare that they cannot help speaking of what they had seen and heard. But, as we have already said, the Apostolic mission was not destined to die with the Apostles themselves, or to come to an end in the course of time, since it was intended for the people at large and instituted for the salvation of the human race. For Christ commanded His Apostles to preach the 'Gospel to every creature, to carry His name to nations and kings, and to be witnesses to him to the ends of the earth.' He further promised to assist them in the fulfillment of their high mission, and that, not for a few years or centuries only, but for all time - 'even to the consummation of the world.' Upon which St. Jerome says: 'He who promises to remain with His Disciples to the end of the world declares that they will be for ever victorious, and that He will never depart from those who believe in Him' (In Matt., lib. iv., cap. 28, v. 20). But how could all this be realized in the Apostles alone, placed as they were under the universal law of dissolution by death? It was consequently provided by God that the Magisterium instituted by Jesus Christ should not end with the life of the Apostles, but that it should be perpetuated. We see it in truth propagated, and, as it were, delivered from hand to hand. For the Apostles consecrated bishops, and each one appointed those who were to succeed them immediately 'in the ministry of the word.' Nay more: they likewise required their successors to choose fitting men, to endow them with like authority, and to confide to them the office and mission of teaching. 'Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus: and the things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same command to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also' (2 Tim. ii., 1-2). Wherefore, as Christ was sent by God and the Apostles by Christ, so the Bishops and those who succeeded them were sent by the Apostles. 'The Apostles were appointed by Christ to preach the Gospel to us. Jesus Christ was sent by God. Christ is therefore from God, and the Apostles from Christ, and both according to the will of God...Preaching therefore the word through the countries and cities, when they had proved in the Spirit the first-fruits of their teaching they appointed bishops and deacons for the faithful...They appointed them and then ordained them, so that when they themselves had passed away other tried men should carry on their ministry' (S. Clemens Rom. Epist. I ad Corinth. capp. 42, 44). On the one hand, therefore, it is necessary that the mission of teaching whatever Christ had taught should remain perpetual and immutable, and on the other that the duty of accepting and professing all their doctrine should likewise be perpetual and immutable. 'Our Lord Jesus Christ, when in His Gospel He testifies that those who not are with Him are His enemies, does not designate any special form of heresy, but declares that all heretics who are not with Him and do not gather with Him scatter His flock and are His adversaries: He that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth' (S. Cyprianus, Ep. lxix., ad Magnum, n. I)." (Pope Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 1896 A.D.)


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