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It’s not about FURNITURE…: Weekly Message for 02-22-2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the early Sixties an American theologian in the Reformed Christian ecclesial community, Loraine Boettner, wrote a book later considered a classic, Roman Catholicism. His goal was to study the differences between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. In his book, he describes what Papal infallibility means: it means the Pope has spoken ex cathedra, which means he speaks when seated in his papal chair, the chair of St. Peter, in his official capacity as head of the church. Boettner noted in a footnote that this was impossible, because Paul VI said the chair of St. Peter in Rome couldn’t have dated to earlier than the Ninth century.
As Peter Kreeft wryly noted in his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (cf. pages 38-40), recalling this assertion of Boettner, Boettner thought the Pope had to sit in a special chair, St. Peter’s chair, to be infallible, but the chair in the Vatican could not have been St. Peter’s, since it dated to the Ninth century. I should point out, just in case, that this is not what infallibility or ex cathedra means. Go to https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility if you’d like a good summary of the Catholic teaching on Papal infallibility. When I heard Catholicism and Fundamentalism while eating lunch many years ago this interpretation of St. Peter’s chair by Boettner struck me as so funny I almost choked on my lunch.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, and despite some beautiful chairs in St. Peter’s, it is not about furniture. It is about gratitude for the ministry and the authority Our Lord entrusted to St. Peter, a ministry handed on to the Popes as the bishops of Rome who succeeded St. Peter. When we contemplate the chair of St. Peter we contemplate it in the sense of a “chair” man of the board, or the “chair” of a committee: an office and an authority meant to serve a greater purpose.
Our Lord entrusted his entire flock to St. Peter (cf. John 21). As the Catechism teaches: “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.’ (LG 23) ‘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.’ (LG 22; cf. CD 2, 9.)” (CCC 882). Wherever we are, whether a parish, a diocese, a missionary territory, or far from civilization, the Pope is our pastor, our shepherd, on behalf of Christ. No one on earth is excluded from that pastoral concern and care, which is why on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday he gives his message Urbi et Orbi (to the City—of Rome—and the World).
Why not do a retreat this month on what this means for you? The retreats Built to Last: A Retreat Guide on St. Peter and the Papacy or Be Not Afraid: A Retreat Guide on St. John Paul II could be a good start.
Let’s pray for the Holy Father in a special way this week.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Maximizing the Mass