Weekend Potpourri Popery

Being the valiant romantic that I am, I took the missus to Cincinnati this Valentine’s weekend where we saw the exhibit, Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Nothing keeps the spark in your marriage going like a few Papal artifacts, eh?

The exhibit had its ups and downs—the collection was fascinating, but the crowd and the setup took away from the experience (word to the wise: don’t go on a Saturday). The over-hyped Tomb of St. Peter and the skull fragments and fingers of a deceased Popes didn’t garner most of my attention (I was halfway hoping that the skull fragment, a healing relic, might alleviate my neck pain…). It was the exhibits regarding the office of the Papacy that reminded my why I am not a Roman Catholic.

With all due respect to my Catholic friends, I think that the Roman Catholic idea of the primacy of Peter is severely flawed. In the museum, whenever St. Peter was mentioned, it was usually followed by something like “St. Peter, upon whom Christ founded his church,” which was then followed by a citation from Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

The meaning of this verse has been debated for centuries. Who/what is the rock to which Jesus is referring? Roman Catholics insist that it is Peter himself, after all, in Greek, Peter means “rock” and the same word is used in a pun-like fashion. Many Protestants hold that the “rock” is Peter’s confession just two verses before, “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (Matt. 16:16) Others have postulated that the rock is Jesus himself. The episode took place at Cesearea Phillipi—a town that was basically hewn out of, you guessed it—rock. There are good arguments on all sides, but let’s just for argument’s sake say that the Catholic view is correct.

Even if Peter is given some sort of primacy by Jesus, it does not follow that he is the only person upon which the church will be built. Peter was first a leader in the church at Jerusalem, so why not the Jerusalem Catholic Church? Peter is certainly not given the sole authority to interpret Scripture, status current day Popes enjoy. Paul even rebuked Peter when he was in error (Gal. 2:11-14)—so much for infallibility.

This is not at all to diminish the life and service of the Apostle Peter—he was a much better man than me, and God used him mightily in the formation of the early church. I point out these things merely to say that the Popes who came after Peter took upon themselves much more power than even Peter himself had. The papacy is a facade, a human institution that was built upon the Rock of St. Peter.

I’m not of the evangelical sort who thinks that true Christians are never to be found within the Roman Catholic Church—I believe there are many who will be found faithful to Christ. However, I also believe that the Roman church has erected many barriers to Gospel, the papacy being one such barrier, which are very dangerous to the souls of those within their care.