One of the best-known passages in all the Bible is John 3:16:
How incredible that Logos, Second Person of the Trinity, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, should subject Himself to the limitations and frailties of the human condition. God become man. And what kind of man? He could have been the greatest of kings, with incredible wealth and power to proclaim His might, but He did not. Instead, He walked among us as a working man and itinerant teacher.
Again and again, Christ taught the lessons of humility. Examples are at:
During His earthly ministry, Christ lived and taught humility. The Roman Catholic Church declares that its leader is Christís Vicar on earth, Vicarius Filii Dei. Surely then, the Pope must live and teach as Christ did.
Of course Catholic popes do not live humbly. They make their home in a great palace, surrounded by a court of princes, courtiers, aids, servants and petitioners. Riches beyond calculation are represented by magnificent works of art and all the trappings of great wealth.
Is this a big deal? After all, the present pope did not build the the Vatican, and he did not commission or accept the objets díart that litter his home. The guy has to live somewhere. Why not there? There are a billion souls affiliated with the Roman Church. Looking after the needs and affairs of so many certainly requires a huge bureaucracy. So whatís the beef?
Over the centuries since Rome first arrogated to itself the authority belonging to the "true church," popes have been raised higher and higher until, it would appear, they seem to covet the authority of God Himself. Catholic apologists, of course, likely would deny this charge, citing that the popes have given themselves the title Servus servorum Dei, Servant of the Servants of God.
Well, it is good the popes refer to themselves as servants, at least they have since Gregory the Great first used the descriptor back in the 6th Century. Do they mean it? Letís look at a few things.
At the papal coronation, these words are spoken, in Latin of course, as the triple crowned tiara is placed on the new Pontiffís head:
Given the Vatican II emphasis on the pastoral role of the popes, Popes John Paul I and John Paul II declined the formal coronation ceremony and do not wear the three-crowned tiara. Though they apparently considered such references to papal temporal authority to be inappropriate, there is nothing to preclude a future pope from continuing the coronation tradition.
The source of papal temporal authority derives from the RCCís faulty interpretation of Matthew 16:18,19 and itís insistence that Christ passed leadership of His Church to Peter. As the Godís Vicar, popes lay claim to great temporal as well as spiritual authority.
The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us the title, Vicar of Christ, refers only to the popeís authority over the church:
Historically, however, popes have used the claim to such a position to exercise enormous power in both ecclesiastic and secular arenas. Though the label Godís Vicar was seen as early as 502 A.D., the particular title Vicarius Filii Dei is not found until around 752-774, in the document known as the "Donation of Constantine." Over the next seven centuries or so, no less than nine popes used this document in their efforts to establish the spiritual and temporal supremacy of the papacy. Centuries later, it was proved that Constantine did not write that document. However, the document was confirmed by a church council, according to a high RCC personage quoted in Labbe and Cossartís Sacrosancta Concilia, Volume 1 (1539-1541). Gratian incorporated the document into Catholic canon law (Corpus Juris Canonici ), which was endorsed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1622.
Exactly what authority does the so-called Donation of Constantine give the popes? As cited by Franciscan canonist Lucius Ferraris in his Prompta Bibliotheca, the last edition of which was printed in Rome by the press of the Propaganda, it states:
For folks who donít read Latin (like me), Edwin Lee Johnson, professor of Latin and Greek at Vanderbilt University, translate this as
Historically, the Roman popes have claimed authority over all secular rulers, and they have not been reluctant to exercise that authority Ė even to the point of removing kings and queens who would not bend their knees to Rome.
Could a humble man really claim so much power? Here are a few examples:
The Dictatus Papae, attributed to Pope Gregory VII, was included in the Popeís register in 1075 A.D. Two of those dictates were:
Thatís pretty humble. Right? Secular heads of government were required to kiss the popeís feet and, if he wished, the pope could kick an emporer off his throne. Yeah. Thatís humility.
In 1081 A.D., Gregory VII wrote these words to the Bishop of Metz:
Pope Innocent III included an interesting observation on the relationship between empire and the papacy in Sicut universitatis conditor (1198 A.D.):
Pope Eugene IV claimed papal primacy over the entire world when he wrote, in Laetentur Coeli, dated July 6th, 1439:
Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed himself Caesar during the jubilee of 1300:
"But that had to do with temporal power and authority, and those were medieval times. Things have changed," you might argue. "Todayís popes arenít concerned with temporal power. "
Well, that may or may not be true, but for the sake of argument, letís move on to look at some of the papacyís spiritual claims to authority.
In his Bull, Unam Sanctum, issued in 1302, Pope Boniface VIII declared:
Liberal Catholics argue that Boniface was referring to Catholics only and that the current ecumenical movement initiated with Vatican II is in no way affected by this old Bull. On the other hand, conservative Catholics have pointed to Unam Sanctum for support for their claim there is no salvation outside the RCC. Hmmm. Being in subjection to the Roman Pontiff is a requirement for salvation. Kinda flies in the face of Scripture, doesnít it?
Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical Letter, Sapientiae Christianae, 1890, wrote:
Leo XIII was quite a guy. In his Encyclical Letter, Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae, 1894, he claimed that the Roman popes actually hold the place of God on earth:
Pope John Paul II re-affirmed Leo XIIIís claim in his book, "Crossing The Threshold of Hope", published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., copyright 1994 by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, ISBN 0-679-76561-1:
Foto © 2007 Medal of Freedom.com
In a Maundy Thursday display, Pope John Paul II showed the world his humility by pouring a little water on a single foot of each of twelve priests in a symbolic washing ceremony evocative of our Saviorís washing of the feet of the Twelve during the Last Supper. Once the pontiff had dabbed dry the feet of each priest, he showed the world he was more humble even than Christ by kissing each foot. How wonderful that a photographer was present to capture this moment of supreme humility.
The Roman Pontiff lives in a grand palace, claims authority over princes and Christ's own Church, and dares to claim that no one can be saved except through allegiance to him. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, was a meek and humble man. He lived a simple life and preached humility and submission to God and to secular authority.
|Cardinal Josip Ratzinger, former Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, out-humbled his humble predecessors when he ascended to Peter's Throne. Not only did he choose not to wear the Triple-Crown, his inaugeration-vice-coronation was conducted a long way from the golden altar of St. Peter's. Some might point out that the newly-promoted Pope Benedict XVI honored tradition in the celebration of the Papal Mass in Latin. Not so, argue traditionalist Catholics, for the Mass was conducted according to the Novus Ordo Missae, so was not a traditional Latin Papal Mass. At least some traditional Catholics were also upset that Ratzinger did not accept the Tiara, but did choose to keep the bent cross favored by JP2 and Paul VI. At least one Catholic Traditionalist was displeased with the new Pope -- and those who recently preceded him -- during the early days of his emperorship: