The Church and the Papacy

[accordion] [item title=”Why do Catholics believe the Catholic Church is the one true Church, founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ Himself?”]

The Catholic Church is the only church today that can claim to be the one church founded by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Other denominations can trace their origins back to various human founders at a later date in history. (How old is your church?).


In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” Jesus handed the authority to guide the Church in His name to Peter and the apostles, to be passed down through the centuries.


The Church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23). Christ established only one Church—one body—so that there would not be multiple “bodies” with conflicting doctrines. After all, God cannot contradict Himself. Christ also wanted His Church to be visible, so all may see that the Church is indeed one, just as Christ and the Father are one (John 17:22).


This one, visible church, with divine authority and consistent doctrine that Christ established 2,000 years ago is the Catholic Church, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). As Paul asks in 1 Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). No. That is not what the Christ intended. So, He established one Church.



[item title=”Where does the Pope get his authority to lead the Church on earth? What do Catholics believe about ‘apostolic succession’?”]

Again, Matthew 16:18 is key to understanding Christ’s intent to pass on the authority to lead the Church to Peter and the apostles. Christ tells Peter that he is the rock on which He will build His church.


When Catholics use the term apostolic succession, they are referring to the line of bishops that stretches all the way back to the apostles—to Peter—the first Pope. Apostolic tradition (the authentic teaching of the apostles) was handed from Christ to the apostles, and from them to their successors. This unbroken line of popes (the bishops of Rome) and all other bishops have guided the Church for the past 2,000 years, just as Christ intended (Matthew 28:19-20).


Christ sent His apostles out into the world with authority to teach and heal (Luke 9:1-2) and to forgive sins (John 20:23). This God-given authority is exercised by the bishops within the Catholic Church to this day.


[item title=”What does it mean to say that the pope is infallible?”]

Just as Christ established a visible Church, He also provided a visible person to guide the Church—the pope. Because the pope is guiding and teaching the Church in Christ’s name, His teachings must be infallible.
Christ’s profound love for the Church is manifested in the doctrine of papal infallibility, which asserts that the pope is preserved by God from error when teaching on matters of faith and morals. How does this show Christ’s love for us? He didn’t want to leave His Church in darkness! He wanted His doctrines to be consistent so His people could be guided by truth.
The core of papal infallibility is faithfulness to Christ. All of the Catholic Church’s teachings are Christocentric—they point toward Christ, who is at the center of her teachings. That is why the Catholic Church doesn’t change her doctrines to adjust to the changes in society and culture. The pope helps to uphold and preserve the teachings of Christ. Jesus Himself promised us, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). To make true His promise, Christ gifted the Church with an unbroken line of popes for 2,000 years, teaching with the papal infallibility that Christ bestowed on their office.


[item title=”As Catholics, do we have to accept everything the Church teaches?”]

If you want to call yourself Catholic, but you want to pick and choose for yourself which of the Church’s teachings to accept and which to reject, you give everyone else who calls themselves Catholic the right to do the same thing.
For example, you believe women should be priests…in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1577 states, “Only a baptized man validly receives ordination…For this reason the ordination of women is not possible!” You don’t believe that…well, that’s fine…[RIP] just tear that page out of your Catechism…you just made it a Catechism of your Catholic Church…not mine.
But remember, if you can throw doctrines out, so can everyone else who calls themselves Catholic. That gives Joe Parishioner over at St. Doubting Thomas Catholic Church the right to throw out the Church’s social justice teachings…he doesn’t feel like feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, and all that other “bleeding heart” stuff – Paragraphs 2401 -2463 [RIP]…he just made it a Catechism of his Catholic Church…not mine and not yours.
You believe contraception is okay? Paragraph 2370 says contraception is intrinsically evil! [RIP] Joe Parishioner doesn’t like what the Church teaches on the death penalty – Paragraphs 2266-2267 [RIP]. You don’t like what it teaches on pages 55-60 [RIP]. He doesn’t like what it teaches on pages 128-140 [RIP]

Can you see what’s happening? I heard it said once that there is a shortage of vocations to the priesthood in the United States, but no shortage of vocations to the Papacy! If we don’t believe in all of it, if we each appoint ourselves Pope and throw out a doctrine here or a doctrine there, then our faith is no longer Catholic.



[item title=”How come I don’t feel like I was being fed in the Catholic Church?”]

Sadly, some former Catholics today have expressed a sense of emptiness in their spiritual lives. They may have gone to Mass on Sundays and found themselves just “going through the motions”. They may not have felt close to the Lord, or welcomed in their home parish. They may have thought the music wasn’t as good as it could be, or discovered that the people around them weren’t as friendly as they hoped they would be. All in all, those feelings may have led to some sensing like they were just not being fed in the Catholic Church.


Sometimes, these feelings cause people to decide to drift away from the Church. Maybe they choose to just stop practicing their faith altogether, or they go to a local non-Catholic church that seems more exciting and upbeat.


But the solution to the problem of not being fed actually lies in the Catholic Church. Whether or not the music or preaching or programs are the way we may wish them to be, it is in the Catholic Church that we find the one and only place where we can be truly fed with the Bread from Heaven: Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharist. Our closest encounter Jesus is when He gives Himself to us, at each and every Mass in the Eucharist. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.


Once we realize that our deepest yearning can only be fulfilled in the Eucharist, we will begin to see that it is in the Eucharist that we find the true life and liveliness of our faith. Only the Catholic Church can feed us with this food that fully satisfies, and only with this food—the Eucharist—will your yearning be fulfilled, and your restlessness ended.


“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).


“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst…I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh’” (John 6:35,51).



Apologetics Links
Infallible Magisterium of the Church(
The Catholic Church in Salvation History (
Origin of the Pope (
Papal Authority (
Apostolic Succession (
Why Peter?(
More about the Papacy (
The Four Marks of the Church (
Four Marks (One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic) (
All about the Pope (

Biblical Passages
Peter as the Rock (
Primacy of Peter (
Keys of Authority (
Papal Succession (
Infallibility of the Church (
Church Hierarchy (
Church Controversies (
1Timothy 3:15
Matthew 16:18-20
Matthew 18:18-20
John 20:23
John 21:17
John 14:25-26
Ephesians 1:22-23
Matthew 18:15-17
Acts 1:20
Luke 22:32

Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Church as Mother and Teacher
The Four Marks

Church Fathers
Peter as the Rock (
The Church is Catholic (
Church Hierarchy (
Apostolic Succession (
The Church is in Rome(
What Catholic Means


Suggested Books

Pope Fiction: Answers to 30 Myths and Misconceptions About the Papacy
By Patrick Madrid
This exciting new apologetics book offers a tour-de-force refutation of 30 major arguments raised against the papacy. Using Scripture, Church history, and common sense (with a dash of wit added for good measure), Patrick Madrid explains why these commonly believed “pope fictions” simply don’t hold water.

The Faith of the Early Fathers: A source-book of theological and historical passages from the Christian writings of the pre-Nicene and Nicene eras
By W. (William) A. Jurgens

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; The Early Church Was the Catholic Church
By Kenneth D. Whitehead
Very often in the history of Christianity, “reformers”, by whatever name, have aspired to return to “the early Church”. The Church of their own day, for whatever reason, fails to live up to what they think Christianity should be: in their view there has been a falling away from the beautiful ideals of the early Church.

The Fathers of the Church, Expanded Edition
By Mike Aquilina
The Fathers of the Church, first published a decade ago, has become the standard popular introduction to the great teachers of early Christianity. Now, this new edition presents more material from more of the Fathers — including authors from little-known traditions of Egypt, East Syria, North Africa, and the lands that make up modern Iran and Iraq. Also new with this edition is a section on selected “Mothers of the Church,” holy women from Christian antiquity.

The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development, and Mission of the Papacy
By J. Michael Miller

Upon This Rock: St.Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church
By Stephen K. Ray
As an Evangelical Protestant, Stephen Ray realized that the real issue dividing Catholics and Protestants was authority. Everything else was secondary to the issue of authority. Protestants accept the authority of the Bible alone, whereas Catholics understand the authority to be residing in the Magisterium, the Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition. Ray goes through the Scriptures and writings from the first five centuries of the early Church to demonstrate that the early Christians had a clear understanding of the primacy of Peter in the See of Rome. He tackles the tough issues in an attempt to expose how the opposition is misunderstanding the Scriptures and history. He uses many Evangelical Protestant scholars and historians to support the Catholic position. This book contains the most complete compilation of Scriptural and Patristic quotations on the primacy of Peter and the Papal office of any book currently available.

The Papacy Learning Guide
By Stephen K. Ray, R. Dennis Walters
Catholics revere the pope as the head of their Church; but how much do we know about the papacy itself? This guide will lead you to a deeper understanding of the Holy Father’s office. Here you’ll find answers to common objections to the papacy, a discussion of historically prominent popes, and explanations of terms such as “papal infallibility.” Each section ends with a list of study questions that help you recall important points from the preceding pages. The book includes a glossary of important terms and a chronological list of every pope who has succeeded Peter. “The Papacy” provides readers with everything they need to know to understand the papacy, and to defend it to those who do not. Informative and interesting, this guide is a must for any apologetics library.

Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
By Peter Kreeft
For the first time in 400 years the Catholic Church has authorized an official universal catechism which instantly became an international best-seller, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Using this official Catechism, the highly-regarded author and professor Peter Kreeft presents a complete compendium of all the major beliefs of Catholicism written in his readable and concise style. Since the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written for the express purpose of grounding and fostering catechisms based on it for local needs and ordinary readers, Kreeft does just that, offering a thorough summary of Catholic doctrine, morality, and worship in a popular format with less technical language. He presents a systematic, organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental Catholic teachings in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. This book is the most thorough, complete and popular catechetical summary of Catholic belief in print that is based on the universal Catechism.


Go in Peace: A Gift of Enduring Love
By Pope John Paul II
Why do we suffer? How can we pray? How can we live as followers of Jesus in an unbelieving world? These are some of the questions the late Pope John Paul II addresses in this collection of his most intimate words, drawn from his many writings during his quarter century as pope. The material in Go in Peace is arranged in twelve chapters that correspond to the themes that dominated his papacy. Editor Joseph Durepos emphasizes the words John Paul directed to lay Catholics and to the world at large. They are memorable, heartfelt, often striking words that articulate an astonishingly powerful vision of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world. Go in Peace displays and preserves the compassion, intellect, and poetry of the most visible and influential Christian leader of modern times.