“The word ‘rock’ expresses a permanent, subsisting being; therefore, it applies to the person, rather than to one of his necessarily transitory acts. Jesus’ subsequent words confirm this when he said that the gates of the netherworld, the powers of death, will not prevail ‘against it.’ This expression can refer to the Church or to the rock.”

— Christ builds his Church on Peter
Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience
Wednesday 25 November 1992

I apologize for the lack of activity on WPI over the weekend. I have been working on overdrive for the past couple of weeks, and this weekend, I simply crashed. I have a number of excellent essays in the editorial queue, including submissions by Carlos X. Colorado and Nate Tinner-Williams, as well as essays by two new contributors.

That said, I don’t want to leave all of you with nothing from this weekend, even though it’s late on Sunday night. David Wanat’s recent piece reminded me of Pope St. John Paul II’s catechesis on the Church, given during his Wednesday General Audiences between July 1991 and August 1995. The ten specific addresses I wanted to bring to your attention deal specifically with the pope, and were delivered from November 1992 through March 1993 (numbers 45-54 in the series).

Unfortunately, the official English translations of these addresses seem to not have successfully made the jump when the Vatican updated its website 7-8 years ago, although you can still find them on the old Vatican site via the Wayback Machine.

These addresses are very important for understanding our obligations towards papal teaching, and many of Francis’s critics refuse to engage what they say (because deep down, I think they realize that they dissent from the Magisterium, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not).

Many have argued that our approach to the papacy is “ultramontane.” My response is that our view is in absolute alignment with the teaching of Francis’s predecessors. As I’ve said before, we are simply applying traditional Catholic teaching on the papacy to the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Fortunately, a website called “Totus 2us” has preserved these teachings in an accessible format. Here is an excerpt from the very first of the addresses in the series:

“Jesus indeed said to Peter: ‘I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Mt 16:19). This is another simile Jesus used to show his will to confer on Simon Peter a universal and complete power guaranteed and authenticated by heavenly approval. This does not mean only the power to formulate points of doctrine or general norms of action. According to Jesus, it is the power of ‘binding and loosing,’ that is, of doing whatever is necessary for the life and development of the Church. The opposing terms ‘binding-loosing’ serve to show the totality of the power.

It should be immediately added, however, that the aim of this power is to open the entrance to the kingdom, not to close it: ‘open,’ that is, to make it possible to enter the kingdom of heaven and not to place obstacles that would be equivalent to ‘closing’ it. This is the proper purpose of the Petrine ministry, rooted in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ who came to save and to be the gate and shepherd of all in the communion of the one fold (cf. Jn 10:7, 11, 16). Through his sacrifice Christ became ‘the gate for the sheep,’ the symbol of which was that built by Eliashib, the high priest, who with his priestly brothers worked to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the middle of the fifth century before Christ (cf. Neh 3:1). The Messiah is the true gate of the New Jerusalem built through his blood shed upon the cross. He entrusted the keys of this gate to Peter so that he might be the minister of his saving power in the Church.”

I’ll post more from this series in the future. Have a blessed week.

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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