Defending the Faith of our Fathers!


A Response to Evangelicals, Catholics, and Unity

by Art Kelly


Michael Scott Horton, Ph.D., President and Chairman of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (formerly Christians United for Reformation) and co-moderator of the White Horse Inn radio program, has written a booklet explaining why Protestants cannot be united with Catholics.  The booklet has been praised by Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man radio program as the "best booklet that he’s ever seen" on the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Dr. Horton says the Catholic Church "proclaims a false Gospel" and "cannot be considered a true visible church, for it has surrendered the most necessary mark of the true church, namely, the Gospel itself, by which alone we pass from spiritual death to new spiritual life."  Among other reasons, he mentions Sola Scriptura, the Papacy, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Purgatory.

In regard to justification, Dr. Horton is obviously unfamiliar with Chapters 7, 10, 16, 18, 19, 25 of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapters 8 and 10 of the Gospel of St. Mark, Chapter 10, 13, and 15 of the Gospel of St. Luke, and Chapter 5 of the Gospel of St. John.   The Catholic Church that has always emphasized the message of the gospels, while some other religions have ignored the clear words of Jesus.  Sola Scriptura is really the blank check that allows Protestants to profess anything they want, no matter how un-Biblical. For Dr. Horton and his followers, it’s "every man for himself" in determining what each verse of Scripture means.  This has resulted in a plethora of competing Protestant denominations. As St. Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians 14:33 indicates, Sola Scriptura cannot possible be from God.

Of course, Jesus did leave a teaching authority (Gospel of St. Matthew 28:20) and it is the Church which is "the pillar and ground of the truth." (1st Timothy 3:15)  Of all the various issues mentioned by Dr. Horton, the Papacy is actually the most crucial difference between Catholics and Protestants.  A person who believed the Catholic Church was correct on justification, Purgatory, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and every other issue would still have a good reason to remain a non-Catholic if he or she believed the Church was wrong on the Papacy.  On the other hand, if the Bishop of Rome is, in fact, the successor to St. Peter as the divinely appointed Chief Steward of the Church, then the Reformation should never have happened.


Dr. Horton rejects as "arrogance" Paragraph 882 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says, quoting Vatican II:

"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. 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."

Dr. Horton thinks that papal supremacy is based on "Rome’s appeal to tradition" but "is contradicted by much of that tradition."  He’s wrong on both counts.  The Papacy is based on Scripture. And history is crystal clear that Bishop of Rome exercised primacy in the Catholic Church from the first century onward.

The Gospel of St. Matthew 16:18-19 (in conjunction with the Prophecy of Isaiah 22:20-22), the Gospel of St. John 21:15-17 (in combination with the 2nd Book of Samuel 5:2 and the Prophecy of Ezekiel 34:23), and the Gospel of St. Luke 22:31-32, among many, many other quotations from the Bible prove that Jesus founded the Catholic Church and made St. Peter the first Pope.

Some examples of how the primacy of the Bishop of Rome was exercised in the first few centuries after Jesus:

Pope Clement (88-97) wrote to the Church in Corinth in the year 96 to tell them to make changes in their attitudes and practices. The Early Church On-Line Encyclopedia (Ecole) Initiative, a cooperative effort on the part of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant scholars across the Internet to establish links of early Church history, says "This letter is important because it indicates that the author was acting has the head of the Christian Church and that it was centered in Rome."

Pope Victor (189-199) ordered Easter to be celebrated throughout the world on Sunday, rather than on the 14th Nisan, whichever day of the week it happen to fall. All of the churches adopted Easter Sunday except those in Asia Minor. Pope Victor then excommunicated all the bishops in Asia Minor. While the Pope eventually relented in the excommunication, no one ever suggested that he did not have the authority.

Pope Calixtus (217-222) overruled those bishops who excommunicated for life all apostates, adulterers, and murderers, regardless of their repentance. The Pope decreed that all sinners with contrition could be absolved and received back into the Catholic Church.

After Pope Cornelius (251-253) was elected, he was faced with an antipope, Novatian, who promptly went about trying to consecrate bishops throughout the world who would be loyal to him. Naturally, this created tremendous uncertainty and confusion wherever Novatian tried to create false bishops over the heads of the legitimate bishops. This unequivocally shows the power of the Pope as the recognized leader of the worldwide Catholic Church.

Pope Stephen (254-257) removed certain bishops in Africa for heresy. Later he overruled a synod of African bishops which wanted to re-baptize lapsed Catholics returning to the faith and those converting to Catholicism from schismatic sects. The Pope made it very clear he was in charge and eventually prevailed in this matter.

Pope Dionysius (260-268) reprimanded Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria for misstatements on the Trinity. The Bishop then followed the Pope’s guidance.

Pope Sylvester (314-335) did not attend the First Council of Arles (314), thinking it unbecoming for him to leave Rome. Following Arles, the bishops there commended him for not leaving the spot "where the Apostles daily sit in judgment." He repeated this example at Nicaea, which his successors followed in the councils of Sardica (343), Rimini (359), and the Eastern ecumenical councils. At Nicaea, Pope Sylvester sent two priests as his legates, who helped preside over the sessions and who were the first to sign the cannons.

Pope Julius (337-352) decided that Athanasius, rather than Pistus, should be the Bishop of Alexandria. At the same time, he read the riot act to the Arians in Alexandria.

Because Pope Liberius (352-366) stood firm against Arianism, Emperor Constantius had him kidnapped and replaced with an antipope, Felix, who no one accepted. In captivity, the Pope was tortured until he signed a semi-Arian document, which, of course, was not valid. This episode clearly showed the vital role of the Pope in determining Catholic doctrine. The Pope returned to Rome and continued his fight for orthodoxy. He eventually succeeded in seeing many Arians come back to the Catholic Church.

These examples take us through the first three centuries after Jesus founded the Church. Of course, there are scores of other examples after 366.

Dr. Horton’s first example of a bishop who he says did not support papal primacy was St. Cyprian, who presided over the Seventh Council of Carthage, Africa in September 258, which responded to Pope Stephen’s condemnation of a previous African council which stated that all non-Catholic baptisms were invalid.  If the first instance Dr. Horton can find of a bishop who rejected papal primacy is a quarter of a millennium after Jesus, then his case is weak indeed.  But in fact, Dr. Horton’s case is not just weak. It’s nonexistent.

St. Cyprian clearly recognized the primacy and authority of Pope Fabian (236-250), Pope Cornelius (251-253), Pope Lucius I (253-254), Pope Stephen (254-257), and Pope Sixtus II (257-258).  A convert to Catholicism, St. Cyprian was baptized on April 18, 246. He become Bishop of Carthage in 248.  In 251, he wrote, "If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he (should) desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?"  In 252, in a letter to Pope Cornelius informing him of a rival bishop in Carthage, he wrote, "When a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the Chair of Peter and to the principal church, in which sacerdotal unity has its source."

Later, St. Cyprian wrote to Pope Stephen asking him to remove Bishop Marcian of Arles, who was refusing absolution to repentant sinners even on their deathbed, and to arrange for a new bishop to replace him. There’s a lot more historical evidence regarding St. Cyprian’s belief in the primacy of the Pope. For Dr. Horton to suggest that Catholic tradition did not support that primacy ignores all of the abundant historical proof.

It is true that St. Cyprian later got into a dispute with Pope Stephen about re-baptism of persons who enter the Catholic Faith from other Christian denominations or Catholics who had lapsed and returned to the Church.  Dr. Horton quotes the Seventh Council of Carthage in 258 as saying "neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops," but that passage refers to the Council not forcing all bishops in Northern Africa to go along with re-baptisms. Specifically, it was a statement by St. Cyprian that he was not attempting to impose his opinion regarding re-baptism on Bishop Jubaianus.

There is no one who thinks that refers to the Bishop of Rome. In fact, the deliberations of the Council of Carthage were sent to Pope Steven for approval, but he rejected them, making it very clear that Catholic doctrine was once baptized, always baptized. He forbade re-baptisms and threatened excommunication to those who performed them.  The Pope emphasized that he was the successor to St. Peter, about whom Cyprian had written about so enthusiastically. He told St. Cyprian he must obey him.

There is no evidence that St. Cyprian, who was martyred shortly after, was ever excommunicated. St. Jerome wrote that, after receiving the Pope’s command, the African bishops then corrected their decision to re-baptize and issued a new decree. St. Augustine says the Easterners also followed the Pope’s ruling.

Dr. Horton’s first case-in-point actually adds to the evidence for the primacy of the Pope.

His second example was from Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea, which he characterized as declaring that each church center was to be ruled by its own bishop and not by one head over all bishops.  But Dr. Horton didn’t quote Canon 6. Here’s what it actually said:

"Let the ancient usage throughout Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis be strictly adhered to, so that the Bishop of Alexandria shall have jurisdiction over all these; since this is also the custom of the Bishop of Rome. In like manner, as regards Antioch and the other provinces, let each church retain its special privileges."

There are a couple of different opinions on the exact meaning of the canon, but both views are indicative of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.  By looking closely at the Greek, the best interpretation is that, because the Roman Bishop has historically recognized the Alexandrian Bishop’s authority in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, that ancient custom should be upheld.


A little background: The long-standing authority of the Bishop of Alexandria over the churches of Egypt and the neighboring provinces had been contested by Bishop Meletius of Lycopoli and his Arian allies. They asked him upon what warrant the claim to rule over and depose his fellow bishops was based.

The Bishop of Alexandria had no written document, so the Council of Nicaea came to his assistance by decreeing that his authority must be respected because it was "archaia" and because it was sanctioned by the Roman Bishop ("epeide kai to en te Rome episkopo touto sunethes estin").  Another interpretation holds that the arrangement for the Bishop of Alexandria to govern Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis is approved because this is the way it is done in Rome. The procedures for doing things in Rome are held up as role models for the Catholic Church throughout the world.  Either way, Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea illustrates the primacy of the Pope.

The next example Dr. Horton provides is the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which he said declared that Rome’s rank was based on its political significance, rather than any spiritual superiority. Canon 28 states:

"Following in every way the decrees of the holy fathers and recognizing the canon which has recently been read out--the canon of the 150 most devout bishops who assembled in the time of the great Theodosius of pious memory, then emperor, in imperial Constantinople, new Rome -- we issue the same decree and resolution concerning the prerogatives of the most holy church of the same Constantinople, new Rome. The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of older Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city which is honored by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equaling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her."

However, when all of the information about the Council is considered in context, papal primacy is upheld in the strongest possible manner!  The Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church met from October 8 until 1 November 451 at St. Euphemia’s Church in Chalcedon, in the near vicinity of Constantinople. Its principal purpose was to assert the doctrine against the heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites.   Due to the invasion of Attila the Hun in Western Europe, very few Western bishops could attend the Council. Of the 520 bishops in attendance (some estimates are as high as 630), only the papal legates and two African bishops represented the West. All of the others belonged to the Eastern Church.  However, the presiding officer was one of the papal legates, Bishop Paschasinus of Lilybaeum. The members of the council recognized this prerogative of the papal legates. When writing to the Pope, they professed that, through his representatives, he presided over them in the council.

From the Acts of Council in the first session:

"Paschasinus, the most reverend bishop and legate of the Apostolic See, stood up in the midst with his most reverend colleagues and said: We received directions at the hands of the most blessed and apostolic bishop of the Roman city, which is the head of all the churches, which directions say that Dioscorus is not to be allowed a seat in this assembly, but that if he should attempt to take his seat he is to be cast out.

"Lucentius, the most reverend bishop having the place of the Apostolic See, said: Let him give a reason for his judgment. For he undertook to give sentence against one over whom he had no jurisdiction. And he dared to hold a synod without the authority of the Apostolic See, a thing which had never taken place nor can take place.

"Paschasinus the most reverend bishop, holding the place of the Apostolic See, said: We cannot go counter to the decrees of the most blessed and apostolic bishop who governs the Apostolic See, nor against the ecclesiastical canons nor the patristic traditions.

"Paschasinus the most reverend bishop, representing the Apostolic See, said; Flavian of blessed memory hath most holily and perfectly expounded the faith. His faith and exposition agrees with the epistle of the most blessed and apostolic man, the bishop of Rome."

In the second session held on October 10, Pope Leo’s epistle was read to the members of the Council. When the letter was read, the Acts indicate the members of the Council exclaimed:

"This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe.

Anathema to him who does not thus believe. Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles."

On October 31, the Council passed Cannon 28, which attempted to reinstate Canon 3 of the First Council of Constantinople in 381, which said, "The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honor after the Bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome."  However, Canon 3 of the Council of Constantinople never obtained the confirmation and consent of Pope Damascus and, thus, was invalid. The Council of Chalcedon tried again with its Canon 28.

At the conclusion of the Council of Chalcedon, the bishops wrote to Pope Leo to inform him of what had been done, thanked him for the exposition of the faith contained in his epistle, spoke of his legates as having presided over them in his name, and asked for his ratification of the Council, including Canon 28:

"We make know you furthermore that we have made still another enactment which we have deemed necessary for the maintenance of good order and discipline, and we are persuaded that your Holiness will approve and confirm our decree. We are confident you will shed upon the Church of Constantinople a ray of that Apostolic splendor which you possess, for you have ever cherished this church and you are not at all niggardly in imparting your riches to your children.

"Vouchsafe then, most Holy and Blessed Father, to accept what we have done in your name, and in a friendly doubt that this good deed should proceed in the first instance from you provident hand. But we, wished to gratify the pious Christian emperors, and the illustrious Senate, and the capital of the empire have judged that an Ecumenical council was the fittest occasion for effecting this measure.

"Hence, we have made bold to confirm the privileges of the aforementioned city, as if Your Holiness had taken the initiative, for we know how tenderly you love your children, and we feel that in honoring the child we have honored the parent. We have informed you of everything with a view of proving our sincerity and of obtaining your confirmation and consent."

Likewise, Bishop Anatolius of Constantinople, wrote to Pope Leo, "The holy Synod and I have submitted this canon to your Holiness in order to obtain your assent and confirmation, which I beseech your Holiness not to withhold."  Let their be no doubt about the views of the Council of Chalcedon: As successor to St. Peter as Bishop of Rome, the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church!

As a postscript, Pope Leo ratified the Council of Chalcedon but item-vetoed Canon 28. Once again, Dr. Horton’s own examples definitely support the primacy of the Pope. This is true with the last example as well.

Dr. Horton said Pope Gregory I (590-604) rejected "the word ‘universal’ as it was being used to express an exaggerated claim to authority over others by the pontiff" and purports to quote from "Epistle 18."  This is totally and completely false.  First, the so-called "quotation" Rev. Horton provided is actually pieced together from two completely different Epistles: Book V, Epistle XVIII, and Book VII, Epistle XXXIII.  The truth is that in Book V, Epistle XVIII, Pope Gregory I is strongly reprimanding the Bishop of Constantinople, John the Faster (John IV), from using the title "universal bishop," because he had no authority to do so and because the title implies that all jurisdiction comes from one bishop, that all other bishops are only his vicars and delegates. Catholic theology does not affirm this of the Pope or anyone.  Diocesan bishops have ordinary, not delegate, jurisdiction; they receive their authority immediately from Christ, though they may use it only in the communion of the Roman See.

In 1053, Pope Leo IX (1049-1054) wrote to Bishop Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, "How lamentable and detestable is the sacrilegious usurpation by which you everywhere boast yourself to be the Universal Patriarch."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

894 "The bishops, as vicars and legates of Christ, govern the particular Churches assigned to them by their counsels, exhortations, and example, but over and above that also by the authority and sacred power" which indeed they ought to exercise so as to edify, in the spirit of service which is that of their Master.

895 "The power which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church." But the bishops should not be thought of as vicars of the Pope. His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope.

Here’s the background:

In 588, Bishop John IV held a synod at Constantinople to examine certain charges against Gregory, Patriarch of Antioch. Of course, Constantinople had no right to discuss the affairs of Antioch, but the Acts of the Synod were sent to Pope Pelagius II (570-590) for approval. The Acts were signed by John "archbishop and ecumenical patriarch."

Pope Pelagius II protested against this title and told Bishop John IV never to use it again. When Pope Pelagius II died, he was succeeded by Pope Gregory I, who was on good terms with Bishop John IV, as Gregory had known him before when he was a legate to Constantinople.

In 593, Bishop John IV tried again to use the title, but Pope Gregory I was as vehement as Pope Pelagius II in disapproving it. The Bishop had scourged two priests in his diocese accused of heresy. The priests appealed to the Pope—in itself illustrating the role of the Pope in the worldwide Catholic Church.

In the resulting correspondence, John the Faster assumed the title of ecumenical patriarch, "O’ikoumenikÚs patriŠrches," in almost every line of his letter. It is true that Pope Gregory I knew no Greek and read the letter when it was translated into Latin as "Patriarcha universalis," which may have had a somewhat different meaning from what was intended by Bishop John IV. Intended or not, it is plain how the Pope understood it.

In Book V, Epistle XVIII (which Dr. Horton failed to include in his so-called quotation), Pope Gregory I wrote to Bishop John IV:

"For, having confessed thyself unworthy to be called a bishop, thou hast at length been brought to such a pass as, despising thy brethren, to covet to be named the only bishop. And indeed with regard to this matter, weighty letters were addressed to your Holiness by my predecessor Pelagius of holy memory;

"And thou wilt become by so much the greater as thou restrainest thyself from the usurpation of a proud and foolish title: and thou wilt make advance in proportion as thou art not bent on arrogation by derogation of thy brethren.

"Was it not the case, as your Fraternity knows, that the prelates of this Apostolic See which by the providence of God I serve, had the honour offered them of being called universal by the venerable Council of Chalcedon. But yet not one of them has ever wished to be called by such a title, or seized upon this ill-advised name, lest if, in virtue of the rank of the pontificate, he took to himself the glory of singularity, he might seem to have denied it to all his brethren."

In Book VII, Epistle XXXIII, which Dr. Horton incorrectly claims is part of "Epistle 18," Pope Gregory I wrote to Emperor Maurice:

"Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others. Nor is it by dissimilar pride that he is led into error; for, as that perverse one wishes to appear as above all men, so whosoever this one is who covets being called sole priest, he extols himself above all other priests."

Likewise, in Book V, Epistle XX, the Pope writes to the Emperor:

"For to all who know the Gospel it is apparent that by the Lord's voice the care of the whole Church was committed to the holy Apostle and Prince of all the Apostles, Peter… Lo, he received the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and power to bind and loose is given him, the care and principality of the whole Church is committed to him, and yet he is not called the universal apostle; while the most holy man, my fellow-priest John, attempts to be called universal bishop. I am compelled to cry out and say, O tempora, O mores"

And in Book IX, Epistle LXVIII, in a message to Bishops Eusebius of Thessalonica, Urbicus of Dyrrachium, Andrew of Nicopolis, John of Corinth, John of Prima Justiniana, John of Crete, John of Larissa and Scodra, and others, Pope Gregory I wrote, "For if one, as he (John the Faster) supposes, is universal bishop, it remains that you are not bishops."  Thus, Pope Gregory I in 593 proclaimed consistent Catholic doctrine regarding the nature of the episcopate and the papacy.

There is no question that, as Bishop of Rome, he exercised a primacy of authority over the whole Church. Protestant historian J. D. N. Kelly, in the Oxford Dictionary of Popes, writes that "He was indefatigable, however, in upholding the Roman primacy and successfully maintained Rome’s appellate jurisdiction in the east." Pope Gregory I wrote that "It is manifest that the Apostolic See is, by the ordering of God, set over all Churches…" (Book III, Epistle XXX)

In a letter to Bishop John of Syracuse, Pope Gregory I wrote, "And it is exceedingly doubtful whether he says such things to us sincerely, or in fact because he is being attacked by his fellow-bishops: for, as to his saying that he is subject to the Apostolic See, if any fault is found in bishops, I know not what bishop is not subject to it." (Book IX, Epistle LIX)  Furthermore, in Book IX, Epistle LXVIII (the same message to several bishops in which he condemned Bishop John IV’s "proud and pestiferous title of ecumenical, that is to say, universal"), Pope Gregory I wrote, "without the authority and consent of the Apostolic See nothing that might be passed would have any force."

Dr. Horton says, "What is the tradition then? Strikingly, the traditions of the ancient fathers of both the East and West, even the Bishop of Rome, is that the very doctrine of papal supremacy, which Rome eventually declared infallibly binding on all Christians, was at best an act of schism and disunity and at worst a claim worth comparing to the arch-usurper of Christ’s authority, the Antichrist."

The most charitable thing that can be said about Dr. Horton is that he knows very little about the facts of history.  He is completely unable to prove his statements. Not one of his examples supported his contentions. In fact, each example actually upheld the primacy of authority of the Pope.  Dr. Horton goes on to incorrectly claim that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome was based on the Donation of Constantine, which he said was "Forged in the papal chambers under Pope Paul I (757-767)." He provides no sources for his claims, but historical scholars do not agree with him. Neither the World Book Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, the Early Church On-Line Encyclopedia, or the Microsoft Encarta On-Line Encyclopedia make any such statements.  All of them say that the Donation of Constantine was a document, which was composed sometime between 750 and 800, purporting to give dominion over all of Rome to Pope Sylvester I and is successors for curing Emperor Constantine I of leprosy.

It was found in the Frankish Empire around 850. No use was made of until 1054 when Pope Leo IX made reference to it in a letter to Bishop Michael Cerularius of Constantinople. In the 12th century, the document was used to support papal claims of temporal lordship over central Italy. However, Pope Innocent (1198-1216) rejected it. In 1440, Lorenzo Valla published a study proving it was false.  Even if the document had been genuine, neither Emperor Constantine nor any other politician would have authority to make any pronouncement whatsoever regarding the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the Catholic Church.

So while Dr. Horton once again badly "misses the boat," he eventually does come around to getting a handle on the true role of the Pope. To his credit, he writes:

"Furthermore, the first five centuries witnessed the greatest doctrinal crises in church history. In these debates, the orthodox interpretations of such biblical doctrines as the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, original sin, and the need for grace were frequently defended by Rome. While other bishops were often less

trustworthy in their interpretations of Scripture on these crucial points, the bishops of Rome usually took the right stand when truth required resolute confidence."


This is the meaning of Jesus’ words that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against" his Church (Gospel of St. Matthew 16:18) and that "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Gospel of St. Matthew 28:20)   He would not permit his Church to teach error.  Likewise in the Gospel of St. John 14:16, Jesus says, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever."   Also, in the Gospel of St. John 14:26, Jesus promises, "But the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."  Furthermore, in the Gospel of St. John 16:12-13, Jesus says, "I have yet many things to say unto you, you ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of trust, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."

To provide leadership to his Church, Jesus gave the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" (Gospel of St. Matthew 16:19) to St. Peter and his successors. This role as the Chief Steward of the Church can be understood from the Prophecy of Isaiah 22:20-22:

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open."

In addition, the power of Chief Shepherd was conferred on St. Peter in the Gospel of St. John 21:15-17 when Jesus tells him to "Feed my lambs" and "Feed my sheep." This special role can be understood from the following two verses:

2nd Book of Samuel 5:2 "Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel."

The Prophecy of Ezekiel 34:23 "And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd."

Likewise, in the Gospel of St. Luke 22:31-32, Jesus confers on St. Peter the responsibility to strengthen his fellow apostles, who are the first bishops of the Church:

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

For almost 2,000 years, that is exactly what the Popes have done.


(Art Kelly is a member of St. Veronica’s Catholic Church in Herndon Virginia. He can be reached at