Friday, 6/ 6/ 14
This Gospel tells us that Jesus solemnly gave Peter a lead role among his followers. He did the same in Matthew, 16: 18 when he said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”
That earlier time he had gone on to say that Peter’s leadership of the church would live on and on. He said that figuratively by saying that the gates of the netherworld would never prevail against it.
We know that the early church saw it that way. They chose Linus, Cletus, Clement and a line of others to carry on in Peter’s place. In the next century Irenaeus wrote about how bishops were chosen as successors of each of the Apostles, as well as of Peter.
In putting Peter in charge, Jesus did not specify the extent of Peter’s authority. The Third Century witnessed disputes over its limits. St. Cyprian, who was bishop of Carthage in 255, denied the right of Pope Stephen to appoint bishops for North Africa. He did, however, insist that the right of all dioceses to call themselves “Catholic,” rested on their being in union with the bishop of Rome.
After the conversion of the nation of the Franks in 500, the church adopted that nation’s feudal structure of government. Feudal nations saw their king as receiving absolute authority from God, after which the king meted out authority in fief to his barons, who meted it out in fief to the landlords.
With that same feudal structure, the pope has come to be seen as possessing complete jurisdiction, from which he metes out authority to the bishops he appoints; with their passing it on to pastors of the benefices they hold in fief to him. Vatican II jangled that neat system somewhat by defining the church as “The People of God.” But undeterred, we have been able to carry on pretty much as before.
On that fearful D Day seventy-five year ago three thousand of our boys gave their lives to free Europe, and three thousand German boys gave their lives honoring their crazy ruler. We try repaying our debt to them with our prayers.