Got Your Back, Holy Father
I spend a little time on my blog, now and then, defending the Pope. Me and the Pope are pretty tight. There have been rumors out there of the Pope calling people up on the phone. The most recent one being that he called a woman to tell her that she could receive communion despite a second marriage issue. People are rockin’ and rollin’ about that one. I’ll ask him about it the next time he calls me. The Pope calls me all of the time. We just shoot the breeze. Sometimes he asks for my opinion on doctrine and dogma and stuff like that. Mostly I just tell him “Holy Father, keep your chin up. There are people on your side. Dude, we’re watching your six, we got your back”
This past Friday was my birthday. I was born in 1958. That is the same year that Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Pope John XXIII was elected. There are some people who say that there weren’t any more real Popes after 1958. Others say that there have been Popes but that they have all been heretics or if not heretics they haven’t been very good at their jobs so that the gates of hell just might be prevailing. It appears as if that solid rock that Jesus promised us just up and quit being solid. Now I tend to take Jesus at his word so I’m not going to sweat all of that. I figure the rock is solid and the Holy Spirit knows his job. But then that’s just me.
Anyway, Pope John XXIII was canonized this past Sunday. I figure that since he was Pope the year I was born and then is being canonized two days after my birthday there is a connection between us. Kind of makes us besties. Karol Jozef Woijtyla a.k.a Pope John Paul II, will be canonized on that day as well. Pope John Paul II was pope for almost half of my life and since he is becoming a saint two days after my birthday, well, you can certainly see what I got going there. Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are all the Popes of my life time. They have each been my Pope, my spiritual Papa. They have each prayed for me, suffered for me and sacrificed for me. They have done everything in their power for the sake of my soul and have stormed heaven that I receive the graces and supernatural help that I need. They have stood against the gates of hell for me. They have stood as the solid rock that Christ promised, the visible and reliable sign that guarantees the unbroken bond of Christ with his Church over 2000 years to us today. As Vicars of Christ and shepherds of the flock they have taken on a responsibility for my soul and my salvation. By the great commission of Christ to the apostles, to take the Gospel to the entire world, they have taken upon themselves a certain responsibility for all of the souls in all of the world. The magnitude of that responsibility and burden is beyond me and I am humbled by it. I am honored and proud that two of my Papas were canonized as saints this past Sunday. I am respectful and give my assent to the Papa who determined that they should be saints.
There has been some controversy concerning the canonization of these two Popes. The SSPX were vehemently protesting. Vehemently protesting the infallible determination of the Church that someone be canonized a saint. Now that’s saying a whole lot right there. You would think that since these two saints have indeed been canonized these controversies, arguments and discussions would be mute. Game over, right? Would that we were so lucky, but no. The sedevacantists, of course, do not recognize these canonizations as valid. In fact, using them in favor of their argument that the Church since Vatican II cannot be the true Church but is an apostate church. According to their thinking these canonizations are in error, but since the true Church could not commit such an error, the current Church must not be the true Church. Then there are the “recognize and resist” traditionalist who are, well, recognizing and resisting. In other words, recognizing that these two saints died in a state of grace so are in heaven, but resisting them as saints in the practical sense judging their lives not worthy of example. It seems that the canonization process used to be infallible, until that is, Pope John Paul II changed it. (Obviously in anticipation of fast tracking his own bid for sainthood). According to some sources, the pronouncement that a saint died in a state of grace and was in heaven may be infallible, but the “prudential judgment” of their lives could be in error. Wow, what intellectual dexterity does it take to balance on that fence? Seems to me that such fence straddling gets you nothing but a rail up the behind. But then, that’s just my take on it. Let it not be said, however, that I am only beating up on the traditionalist set. I also read a modernist opinion that John Paul II did not qualify for sainthood because his Theology of the Body was a setback for homosexuality. And the beat goes on. Drum keeps pounding rhythm to the brain. La de da de dee, la de da de daa.
Either the Church is protected from error on this kind of thing or it isn’t. If it isn’t then the canonization of every single saint is in question, not just these two. If you consider the leadership of the Holy Spirit to be hit or miss nothing is certain. None of the councils, none of the Popes, none of the dogmas, doctrines or teachings are certain. None of the sacraments are certain. All certainty would have died with St. John the last apostle. This is not the case, however, because Jesus promised us the rock solid certainty in the authority of Peter and his successors. If we do not believe in the primacy of the Pope, in his charism of infallibility and inerrancy concerning faith, morals and discipline then we cast doubt upon the word of Jesus Christ and call him a liar. We cast doubt upon everything concerning the Church and what we believe. Christianity crumbles into dust. The keys of the kingdom were given to Peter and his successors. The authority and the ability to bind and loose, to say what is so and what is not. We can debate until the cows come home about whether canonizations are infallible or not. It doesn’t matter because they are authoritative. Like it or lump it the Pope has been given that authority and we have not. Each Pope has been given that authority equally, one is not greater than the other nor does one ever bind the authority of another. We would do better to have the Pope’s back rather than stab him in it by trying to usurp and circumvent his authority, taking it upon ourselves.
We refer to him as our Holy Father. The commandment tells us to honor our Father, I believe that this extends to the Holy Father as well. We are told in scripture that this commandment holds with it a promise that if we do honor our father all will go well with us. The book of Sirach tells us to heed a father’s right (of authority as a ruler) that we may live. It tells us that honoring a father atones for sins. Our prayers are heard when we honor our father. We are told to glory not in a father’s shame for it is no glory to us. He who fears the Lord honors his father. If all has not been well with the Church over the last fifty years or so we might want to look to ourselves. Because at some point many decided not to honor the right and authority of our Holy Father, to question whether or not he truly possessed such right and authority. We began to resist him rather than assist him and may have in fact impeded him through such resistance. We began to look for opportunities to shame him and glory in it. Maybe if we decided to take a stand at his six, to assist him rather than resist him, to honor him in our words, actions and prayers, all would again be well with us. It couldn’t hurt. Scripture tells us that the prayers of the man who honors his father are heard. If we honor the Holy Father, especially by actively praying for him we are told we will be heard. If we come together in harmonious prayer with him and with each other for him, we are again promised that our prayers will be heard and answered.
In the Old Testament the keys to the kingdom are in reference to the authority of the king. In the New Testament the keys to the kingdom are only mentioned twice. Once in reference to Christ and once in reference to Peter. The authority of Christ in the Church has not been given to a remnant or to an invisible Church. Christ established a visible Church and gave that Church a visible leader. God is a described as a rock. Christ is described as a rock and Christ gave Peter the very name of rock so we could know that the certainty of his authority, through the leader he had chosen, was as reliable as he is. To submit to that authority is to submit to Christ himself. To resist it is to resist Christ. Our greatest strength is in our unity with each other in communion with the Pope. A house divided cannot stand. It is time for us to know and believe this with a surety that cannot be shaken. To face down Satan and tell him that this weapon he has tried to form against us will not prevail.
With our prayers, with our words, with our actions, with our loyalty we must begin to honor the father who has been given authority over us. If we do, all will be well with us and our prayers will be heard. It is the best shot we have because this dissent business, this recognize and resist or refuse to recognize at all is not working for us. It is not tenable either scripturally or traditionally. I cannot imagine saying that I have decided to recognize but resist Jesus Christ. How then can we even conceive that we could do so to the authority that he has established?
Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II have been canonized by the authority of Christ given to Pope Francis. We are not obligated to have our own relationship with them or seek their intercession personally. We are, however, as a matter of faith, required to believe that not only are they in heaven but that the Church has prudently judged their lives as worthy of exemplifying and that the Church has committed no error in doing so. We are required to say, regarding this determination…Holy Father, I’ve got your back.