Lumen Gentium § 2 tells us, “Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant. In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest.”
The Church From the Dawn of Time
§ 759 adds, “The eternal Father, in accordance with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe and chose to raise up men to share in his own divine life, to which he calls all men in his Son. The Father … determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ. This family of God is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father’s plan. In fact, already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvelous fashion in the history of the people of Israel.… Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time.”
The Church From the Eucharist
The Catholic Church entered into history at the time of Rabbi Yeshua‘s Crucifixion. § 766 tells us: “The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus. For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.” As Adam’s bride was made from his while he slept, so was the Bride of Christ made from his side.
St. John Paul II tells us in Ecclesia de Eucharistia § 1: “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church.” He adds, “The most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to men.”
John Paul continues, § 11, “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and the work of our redemption is carried out. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the ages have lived.”
John Paul shows us, § 21, how the Holy Eucharist helped to build the Catholic Church on the shlikhim as the seeds of the new Israel. “A causal influence of the Eucharist is present at the Church’s very origins. The Evangelists specify that it was the Twelve, the Apostles, who gathered with Jesus at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:20; Mk 14:17; Lk 22:14). This is a detail of notable importance, for the Apostles were both the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy. By offering them his body and his blood as food, Christ mysteriously involved them in the sacrifice which would be completed later on Calvary. By analogy with the Covenant of Mount Sinai, sealed by sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood, the actions and words of Jesus at the Last Supper laid the foundations of the new messianic community, the People of the New Covenant.”
God has gently led Israel into a dialogue of sacrifice with him. From the time of our first parents, Israel sacrificed to him. Then the Son of God came to visit us, and his Final Sacrifice on the Cross redeemed us from our first parents’ sin. From then until the end of time the new Israel re-presents his Final Sacrifice.
The Day of Pentecost
God was present in the Tabernacle as a “pillar of cloud” by day and a “pillar of fire” by night Ex 13:21.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them” Acts 2:2–3.
Surely the shlikhim remembered an earlier time when God descended on man in fire. “And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder” Ex 19:18–19.
The Old Law was engraved in stone by the fire of God’s finger Ex 31:18. But on this day of Pentecost over a thousand years later the New Law was engraved in the hearts of the shlikhim by the descent of the Holy Spirit in tongues as of fire Acts 2:3. And there are more parallels. The Father’s descent to the top of Mt. Sinai was “on the morning of the third day” Ex 19:16 of the Israelites’ consecration. The Son had risen from the dead on the morning of the third day of his redeeming sacrifice Lk 24:7.
The descent of the Holy Spirit fulfilled Rabbi Yeshua‘s final words before ascending to the Father: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. The Holy Spirit gave the Catholic Church power to be Rabbi Yeshua‘s witnesses to the end of the earth:
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God Acts 2:5–11.
St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, in AD 107, only a few years after the death of Rabbi Yokhanan, in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans § 8, used the phrase katholike ekklesia, “Catholic Church,” declaring, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Rabbi Yokhanan did not explain katholike ekklesia, indicating that it was a familiar expression that had probably been in widespread use at least for several decades. His letters hold firmly that each city-church derives its authority from a bishop who derives his authority through apostolic succession from Rabbi Yeshua. Katholike came from kata (according to) holos (the whole), the Church of the whole truth that speaks with one voice to the whole world.
Twelve Tribes of the New Israel
Rabbi Yeshua always spoke of the twelve tribes. He told his shlikhim: “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” Mt 19:28. On another occasion he told them: “You may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” Lk 22:30. Most important, Rabbi Yeshua told them: “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. To the end of the earth! The ten tribes, although merged into the Gentile population, in God’s mysterious providence, were still part of his people Israel. One of them introduced Rabbi Yeshua to the world, “Anna … of the tribe of Asher” Lk 2:36.
Rabbi Paul, defending himself before Herod Agrippa, referred to the twelve tribes: “My manner of life … is known by all the Jews … according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial for hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day” Acts 26:4–7.
Rabbi Yaakov ben Halfai wrote his epistle “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” Jas 1:1. The Catholic Church, with one-sixth of the world’s population, includes descendants of all the lost tribes of Israel.
Rabbi Yokhanan declared: “And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel, twelve thousand sealed out of the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand of the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand of the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand of the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand of the tribe of Zebulon, twelve thousand of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand sealed out of the tribe of Benjamin” Rev 7:4–8.
Joseph represents Ephraim since Ephraim is his natural son; anyone descended from Ephraim is descended from Joseph. Ephraim’s absence from the list is a pointed reminder that the “lost tribes” were lost because of their pagan ways 2 Kings 18:11–12.
But no one represents Dan. Some Church Fathers say that the Antichrist will be of the tribe of Dan. St. Hippolytus writes, “For as Christ springs from the tribe of Judah, so Antichrist is to spring from the tribe of Dan”1 Jeremiah tells us in a terrifying vision, “The snorting of their horses is heard from Dan; at the sound of the neighing of their stallions the whole land quakes. They come and devour the land and all that fills it, the city and those who dwell in it. For behold, I am sending among you serpents, adders which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you” Jer 8:16–17. And we may compare Jacob’s prophecy, “Dan shall be a serpent … that bites the horse’s heels” Gen 49:17 with God’s curse to the nakhash, “you shall bruise his heel” Gen 3:15.
Similarly, during the Last Supper, Judas removed himself from the ranks of the Apostles. Judas knew what he had done. “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” Mt 27:4. If he committed the sin of despair and therefore did not ask for forgiveness he may be in hell.
Rabbi Yeshua added Rabbi Paul to the shlikhim. Rabbi Paul heard and saw Rabbi Yeshua. Rabbi Paul then described himself as, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” Rom 1:1. With this phrase, “set apart for the gospel of God,” Rabbi Paul declared himself to be a Pharisee Acts 26:5 for Rabbi Yeshua.
Rabbi Paul tells us several more times that Rabbi Yeshua had called him to be a shaliakh. “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” 1 Cor 1:1, and “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 2 Tim 1:1. In each case, his original Greek specifically used the word apostolos. Pope Benedict XVI adds, “The first of these, called by the Lord himself, by the Risen One, to be a true Apostle, is undoubtedly Paul of Tarsus. He shines like a star of the brightest magnitude in the Church’s history”2 But Rabbi Yeshua did not call Rabbi Paul until after he had risen from the tomb, thereby preserving the twelve Apostles.
Rabbi Yeshua gave Rabbi Yokhanan a vision of the new Jerusalem, “It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” Rev 21:12–14.
Pope Benedict XVI refers to “the calling of the twelve Apostles, which is both a symbolic gesture and a totally concrete act by which Jesus announces and initiates the renewal of the twelve tribes, the new assembly of the people of Israel”3 Why this astonishing continuity between the twelve tribes and the twelve shlikhim? To remind us that God has given us only one continuing revelation, called Jewish when it was the religion of the Judean people, and Catholic when it was opened to all the world.
Our Father’s love is without limit. In his far-seeing providence, the ten tribes who merged into the local populations became “no people” 1 Pet 2:10. Yet, in God’s mysterious providence, they spread their election to all who would follow his Son in the New Israel.
All Israel Will Be Saved
The Jews had the eternal election; Rabbi Yeshua offered his completion first to them alone. “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 10:5–6. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 15:24. Had they accepted it, they alone may have continued to be what Rabbi Yeshua, fulfilling Is 42:6, said of them: “You are the light of the world” Mt 5:14.
Rabbi Yeshua had used Judas’ betrayal to redeem the world, and he used the Sanhedrin’s denial to open his salvation to the world. But did that mean he had rejected his people Israel? Rabbi Paul answers firmly: “By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” Rom 11:1–2.
Rabbi Paul then explained what had occurred: “Through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles” Rom 11:11. Navarre comments on p. 137: “God wants to have a fully developed tree; he wants his house to be filled.… And so the place left vacant by the Jews has been filled by the Gentiles, for the house does not belong to the Israelites – although they were the first to live in it – but to God.”
Rabbi Paul continued, “Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” Rom 11:12. Israel would one day embrace its Messiah. But what would their full inclusion mean? Rabbi Paul answers: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” Rom 11:15. Life from the dead! At the moment of his crucifixion “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” Mt 27:52–53. This would occur again only at the Second Coming: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations” Mt 25:31–32.
Israel’s acceptance means life from the dead, which will not occur again until the Second Coming. The Catechism confirms it: § 674 “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by all Israel.”
But Who is All Israel
“And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” Jn 10:16.
Rabbi Paul uses the word Jews, meaning Judahites, in most of his letter to the Romans, But in his great prophecy of the return of the Jews before the end of time he uses Israel, meaning the twelve tribes of the sons of Jacob-Israel, to signal that he includes all twelve tribes. Isaiah had prophesied: “He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” Is 11:12. The ten lost tribes had merged into the local populations, but God had promised to restore them in Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” Ezek 37:11.
God himself tells us that Israel was the “fewest of all peoples” Deut 7:7. Yet he promised Abraham: “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.… So shall your descendants be” Gen 15:5. The whole people Israel would be as the stars in heaven!
The halakha teaches that Jewishness is matrilineal. The children of a Jewish mother are Jews. In God’s mysterious providence, the halakha preserved Abraham’s eternal election within people who knew nothing of it across the generations, making all men eligible to participate in his royal priesthood through the Catholic Church that he instituted. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy” 1 Pet 2:9–10.
The Catholic Church teaches § 1, “[God] calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church” § 816 “The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it.… This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” Why not just say that the original Church of Christ is the Catholic Church? Cardinal Dulles explains: “The Church of Christ, his Body and Bride, is identical with the Catholic Church, outside of which there are only elements or fragments of the true Church.”4
Judaism also subsists in the Catholic Church as a fragment of the true Church. The Ten Commandments are incorporated into the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The text of the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture is 80 percent Old Testament and 20 percent New Testament.
Our Father had grafted Ruth into Israel. He grafted Rabbi Yeshua into the House of David. Now, as he had promised, he grafted the ten lost tribes, with all their countless descendants, into the New Israel. Rabbi Paul told us: “Some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree” Rom 11:17.
The Catechism tells us, § 529: “With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior.” “All Israel” refers to the twelve tribes of the Eternal Election, the Judahites and Benjaminites, and also the ten tribes that God had allowed to disperse into the Assyrian populations and later restored through baptism into the New Israel. They bring the Eternal Election to all who enter the Catholic Church, as Rabbi Yeshua said: “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. Rabbi Paul added: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” Gal 3:28–29.
Heirs according to promise! Yokhanan HaMatbil, last of the prophets of Rabbi Yeshua, warned the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” Mt 3:8–9. Being descended from Abraham and Sarah was not enough. Before Rabbi Yeshua, God’s people Israel were heirs according to the flesh: “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant” Gen 17:7. But Moses had commanded the Levites, “Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you” Deut 31:26. Rabbi Paul explained what happened: “But it is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but ‘Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants” Rom 9:6–8.
Our Father explained. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” Jer 31:31. These were the ten “lost” tribes of the house of Israel and the two tribes of the house of Judah. “At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people” Jer 31:1. All the families of Israel together in the New Israel. All Israel united, as Rabbi Yeshua prayed, “That they may be one, even as we are one” Jn 17:11.
Rabbi Paul particularly emphasizes the Judahites. They are Rabbi Yeshua‘s family. He came as a Judahite. He sat at table with Judahites. Today’s Jews are mostly descended from Rabbi Yeshua’s tribe of Judah, with a few from Rabbi Paul‘s tribe of Benjamin, a still smaller number from the tribe of Levi, and a scattering from each of the other tribes. Holy Mother Church recognizes their necessity at the table. § 674 “The full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles, will enable the People of God to achieve the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, in which God may be all in all.”
The full inclusion of the Jews is not simply a large number of Jews. All Israel means the corporate entry of Judaism itself, through a national revelation leading to agreement among the rabbinic authorities that Rabbi Yeshua is God’s Mashiakh, the Son of God. Let us look at Isaiah:
And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the Lord. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore Is 59:20–21.
I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins. Rom 11:25–27.
And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth Rev 11:3.
As we recall, the “two witnesses” are said to be Enoch Gen 5:24 and Elijah 2 Kings 2:11, who did not die in the ordinary sense. But why two witnesses? Where in Hebrew Scripture have we seen a need for two witnesses? The Book of Deuteronomy gave the Law for Israel: “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses he that is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” Deut 17:6. Two witnesses would show that the evidence warranted belief!
The revelation continues:
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth Rev 11:4.
And where have we seen a reference to two olive trees? The prophet Zechariah added credibility to “two witnesses,”
Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” And a second time I said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the oil is poured out?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” Zech 4:11–14.
The Revelation then goes on to describe the two witnesses as figures of Christ, killed, resurrected, and ascended:
And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will make war upon them and conquer them and kill them. Rev 11:7. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And in the sight of their foes they went up to heaven in a cloud” Rev 11:11–12.
Rabbi Paul prophesied, “Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob” Rom 11:25–26. The secret is that a partial hardening has fallen upon Israel, and will remain until the full number of the Gentiles has come in; when this is done, all Israel will be saved.
How do we know that Rabbi Paul means all Israel here all of Rabbi Yeshua’s followers? In most of Romans he writes Jews, but in Romans 9, 10 and 11 he speaks of Israel. In particular, look at, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
The Catechism § 674 quotes from Rabbi Paul: “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by all Israel, for a hardening has come upon part of Israel in their unbelief toward Jesus.”
What Makes it Eternal
God is eternal. Most of his creation is eternal. Thus it follows that all life and goodness in his creation must, in some way, share in his eternity, some more and some less.
The Catholic Church, as a divine institution in which the Holy Spirit resides, bears the mark of eternity more than any creature on earth. The Church Militant lives in chronological time, in which events have beginning and end points. But interiorly, in her heart, she lives in kairotic time, in which moments in this world have a mysterious connection to eternity. The Hebrew language calls it zakhor. It brings what is remembered from the past, or hoped for in the future, into the present. When a priest re-presents the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he celebrates as alter Christus, “another Christ,” bringing Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice into the present, on the altar. The Church Suffering, in purgatory, also lives in kairotic time, which the poor soul experiences time as the era of his purgation and finally the era of his transition from purgatory to heaven. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” Ecc 3:1, But the Church Triumphant will continue eternally in heaven even after the Second Coming.
Rabbi Yeshua told us that at the end of time he would say to the righteous, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” Mt 25:34. Each Catholic priest is “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” And the angel declared to Rabbi Yokhanan, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” Rev 19:9. Where God’s faithful gather with their priests for the marriage supper of the Lamb, there is the Catholic Church.
Kefa the Fisherman
The Great Rock
Rabbi Yeshua asked Rabbi Kefa, “Who do you say that I am?” Mt 16:15. Rabbi Kefa replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” Mt 16:16. And Rabbi Yeshua exclaimed, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” Mt 16:17.
Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven! Shimeon bar-Yona was chosen by the Father for the Son! Rabbi Yeshua told him, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18. Rabbi Kefa alone, not all twelve shlikhim. Rabbi Yeshua named him Kefa, an Aramaic word that means a great rock. “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” Jn 1:42. Rabbi Yeshua, speaking Aramaic, had said, “You are [Kefa], and on this [Kefa] I will build my church” Mt 16:18. Rabbi Paul confirmed it four times in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5 and four times in Galatians 1:18; 2:9; 11, 14.
Moreover, Rabbi Yeshua made this promise to Rabbi Kefa in a very special place, Caesarea Philippi, twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee. Caesarea Philippi is at the southern foot of Mt. Hermon (Hebrew: khermon), an awesome three-summit mountain cluster suggesting the Holy Trinity, its highest peak more than 9,000 feet above sea level. Mt. Hermon is at the very crossroads of the ancient world.
Many Catholics believe that Rabbi Yeshua made his promise facing south so that Rabbi Kefa, facing north, could see Mt. Hermon with its huge wall of rock about 100 feet high and 500 feet wide. Rabbi Yeshua‘s Church would tower over every other faith, in the Holy Land and in the world.
At the foot of Mt. Hermon is a cave, from which flows the easternmost and largest spring sending water into the Jordan, the sacred river that had stopped flowing so the Israelites could carry the Ark of the Covenant across on dry ground, and in which Rabbi Yeshua was baptized in the Jordan River by Rabbi Yokhanan HaMatbil, representing Ezekiel’s vision of the water Ezek 47:1–12 that would become the Mashiakh ’s living water Jn 7:38.
Rabbi Kefa knew that in the Old Testament God is often addressed as Rock. Moses declared in his farewell address, “The Rock [ha-tzur], his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice” Deut 32:4. Hannah’s prayerful pre-figuration of the Magnificat proclaimed, “There is no rock [tzur] like our God” 1 Sam 2:2. David said, “My God, my rock [tzuri], in whom I take refuge” 2 Sam 22:3; Ps 18:2, and “Who is a rock [tzur], except our God?” 2 Sam 22:32; Ps 18:31. Isaiah wrote, “Look to the rock [el-tzur] from which you were hewn” Is 51:1. But Rabbi Yeshua used the Aramaic term Kefa, from the Hebrew keph, rather than tzur, to highlight that Kefa had a special relationship with God but remained only a man.
The Hebrew keph also means a great rock. All of the capes, such as Cape Horn, the most southerly point of South America, the Cape of Good Hope near the southern tip of South Africa, etc., all of them with great outcroppings of rock, are called keph in modern Hebrew.
Some Christians imagine that Kefa means a small stone. But Aramaic had a word for a small stone, evna, so we know Rabbi Yeshua meant a great rock, like Mt. Hermon’s rock wall or the Rock of Gibraltar. In the New Testament’s koine Greek there is no difference between petros and petra; both describe a great boulder. The Greek Petros becomes the English Peter. The koine Greek word for a small stone is lithos. “Command these stones [lithoi] to become loaves of bread” Mt 4:3. “The Jews took up stones [lithos] again to stone him” Jn 10:31, “… and like living stones [lithoi] be yourselves built into a spiritual house” 1 Pet 2:5.
Rabbi Yeshua certainly changed Shimeon bar-Yona’s name to Kefa. “You are Peter” Mt 16:18. “Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)’” Jn 1:42. Yet afterward Rabbi Yeshua continued to call him Shimeon Jn 21:15–17. Why would he do that? Rabbi Yeshua wanted to constantly remind Kefa and the shlikhim that, while he remained visibly with us, he alone was the Rock. But after Rabbi Yeshua ascended to the Father, Kefa was never again called Shimeon. On two occasions the Acts of the Apostles refers to him as “Simon who is called Peter” Acts 10:5, 32 but in every other case he is called simply Kefa.
Kefa became Rabbi Yeshua‘s vicar, or personal representative, on earth. As Rabbi Yeshua‘s vicar, Kefa, with his infallible authority on faith (love God) and morals (love one another), would teach the other shlikhim, who would in turn teach the whole body of Rabbi Yeshua‘s faithful. “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” Jn 16:12–15. Because Rabbi Yeshua told us: “I am with you always” Mt 28:20, we know that he intended it to continue in a line of apostolic succession, with successors of Rabbi Kefa and successors of the shlikhim.
Rabbi Kefa in particular, and the shlikhim teaching in union with him, received infused knowledge directly from God. “And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” Acts 2:2–4. Rabbi Kefa and the other shlikhim had at last received power to proclaim the Word of God Made Flesh.
Why did Rabbi Yeshua call him Kefa and not Even Shtia, Foundation Stone? Rabbi Yeshua created the world anew, and Jerusalem was the very center of his new creation. Rabbi Yeshua said he would build the Church on Kefa the rock, which means that Kefawas the Church’s foundation stone. Every pope sits in the Chair of Kefa, and is Kefa’s successor.
Rabbi Yeshua did not call the man on whom he would build his Church Even Shtia because there can be only one Foundation Stone. The rock on whom Rabbi Yeshua would build his Church was a mortal man who would die and have hundreds of successors as the Barque of Peter sailed across the centuries driven by the breath of the Holy Spirit. Rabbi Kefa is the Church’s Foundation Stone, but his authority passes to his successors. There are many rocks but only one Foundation Stone.
The Prime Minister
Rabbi Yeshua is a divine person, one in being with the Father, but in his human nature he always acted as the Father’s prime minister. “I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me” Jn 8:28.
In ancient Israel, each king had a prime minister who would speak for him in his absence. The prime minister did as the king did, in the way that the king did. Everyone could tell which of the royal cabinet ministers was the prime minister since he carried the keys to the kingdom. God had said of King Hezekiah’s prime minister Eliakim: “I will place on his shoulder the key of the House of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” Is 22:22. These words, open and shut, were common in rabbinic law. Open meant open the way, permit something to be done. Shut meant to close the way, prohibit something from being done. These were the legislative and judicial powers of the rabbinic office for earthly matters.
“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” Jn 20:21. Rabbi Yeshua told Kefa, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18. Rabbi Yeshua named Rabbi Kefa as his prime minister, by giving him the keys to heaven. “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Mt 16:19. The shlikhim would instantly have recognized Rabbi Yeshua‘s reference to Eliakim. The Son of David had passed the key to the House of David to Rabbi Kefa.
Rabbi Yeshua also told Kefa, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” Lk 22:32. Kefa later wrote two infallible epistles that were included in the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture as 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
The other shlikhim were Rabbi Yeshua‘s royal cabinet ministers. He also told them, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Mt 18:18. But only Rabbi Yeshua‘s prime minister, Rabbi Kefa, was given the keys.
We have seen that the Torah is a legal system. The rabbis used bind and loose to apply God’s legal rules to bind a man to a religious obligation or loose him from it, and to exclude from the community a man who had been disobedient or re-admit him if he were contrite and had a firm purpose of amendment. This separation from the community was a serious matter. The Jews were alarmed when Rabbi Yeshua said he would dine at the home of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector for Rome. “And when they saw it they all murmured, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner’” Lk 19:7. But Zacchaeus was contrite and had a firm purpose of amendment: “And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold’” Lk 19:8.
These same words bind and loose had become very common in Rabbi Yeshua‘s time because of the constant disputes between the schools of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai. What Rabbi Hillel bound, Rabbi Shammai at times loosed, and what Rabbi Shammai bound, Rabbi Hillel at times loosed.
Eliakim exercised authority from an earthly king. He had authority to open and shut. Rabbi Kefa and the other shlikhim had authority from the Son of God to exercise legislative, executive and judicial authority in his name, to bind his followers to a provision of God’s law or loose them from it. In the case of a mortal sin the shlikhim had authority to continue the penitent’s separation from God or re-admit him into God’s friendship. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” Jn 20:23.
The Prince of the Apostles
Rabbi Yeshua told Rabbi Kefa that he was to strengthen the other shlikhim: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” Lk 22:31–32. St. Luke’s original Greek for you in “Satan demanded to have you” Lk 22:31 is plural, humas, referring to all the shlikhim, but in “I have prayed for you” it is singular, sou, referring to Rabbi Kefa alone.
Rabbi Yeshua always treated Shimeon/Kefa as first among the shlikhim. In Capernaum he entered Shimeon’s house. At Lake Gennesaret, Rabbi Yeshua saw two boats moored and entered Shimeon’s. Back at Capernaum Rabbi Yeshua paid the Temple tax only for himself and Rabbi Kefa. During the Last Supper, Rabbi Yeshua washed Rabbi Kefa’s feet first. And Rabbi Kefa knew that he was first among the shlikhim. He often spoke for them, asking Rabbi Yeshua to explain a difficult parable, a precept or a promised reward.
The other shlikhim knew that Rabbi Kefa came first. After Rabbi Yeshua rose from the dead, Mary Magdalene ran to Rabbi Kefa and Rabbi Yokhanan and told them she had found the tomb empty. Rabbi Kefa and Rabbi Yokhanan raced to the tomb. Rabbi Yokhanan arrived first, but did not go in; when Rabbi Kefa entered, Rabbi Yokhanan followed.
The Evangelists knew that Kefa came first. All four Gospels place Rabbi Kefa before the other shlikhim when describing events that occurred after Rabbi Yeshua made Rabbi Kefa head of the Church: “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John” Mt 17:1. “Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him” Mk 13:3. “So Jesus sent Peter and John” Lk 22:8. “Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together” Jn 21:2. Rabbi Kefa appears in Scripture far more often than the other eleven shlikhim combined; only Rabbi Yokhanan, Rabbi Yaakov ben Zevdi, and Rabbi Philippos appear with any regularity; the others are mentioned only rarely. In fact, Rabbi Kefa appears in the four Gospels and Acts more often than any other human person; only Rabbi Yeshua, a divine person, is mentioned more often.
After Rabbi Judas had died, Rabbi Kefa quoted: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’ and ‘His office let another take” Acts 1:20. The Septuagint Ps 108:8 uses episcope, which refers specifically to the office of a bishop, an overseer. The RSV2CE (Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition) translates it in Acts 1:20 as office, while the King James Version translates it as bishopric. Rabbi Paul uses the same word: “If any one aspires to the office of bishop [episcope], he desires a noble task. Now a bishop [episcope] must be above reproach” 1 Tim 3:1–2.
Once Rabbi Yeshua ascended to the Father, Rabbi Kefa was head of the Church. He conducted the election of Matthias to replace Rabbi Judas Acts 1:15–26. On Pentecost Rabbi Kefa was the first to proclaim the Mashiakh crucified and risen Acts 2:24. After the twelve were arrested Rabbi Kefa spoke first to proclaim Rabbi Yeshua before the rulers and elders and scribes Acts 4:10. His prestige as the head shaliakh was so great that people “carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” Acts 5:15. Rabbi Kefa was the first to accept a pagan into the Church Acts 10:47–48, and spoke authoritatively at the Council of the Apostles Acts 15:7–11. The absolute primacy of Rabbi Kefa and his successors have remained constant in the Church’s Ecumenical Councils:
The Council of Carthage, AD 418, declared:5
Although the tradition of the Fathers has attributed such great authority to the Apostolic See … and it has always preserved this [judgment] by canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline up to this time by its laws pays the reverence which is due to the name of Peter, from whom it has itself descended … ; since therefore Peter the head is of such great authority.
The Council of Ephesus, AD 431, declared:6
No one doubts, but rather it has been known to all generations, that the holy and most blessed Peter, chief and head of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith, the foundation stone of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that the power of binding and loosing sins was given to him, who up to this moment and always lives in his successors, and judges.
The Second Council of Lyons, 1274, declared:7
Also this same holy Roman Church holds the highest and complete primacy and spiritual power over the universal Catholic Church which she truly and humbly recognizes herself to have received with fullness of power from the Lord Himself in Blessed Peter, the chief or head of the Apostles whose successor is the Roman Pontiff.
The Council of Florence, 1439, declared:8
We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See, and the Roman Pontiff, hold the primacy throughout the entire world; and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and that he is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him in blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church; just as is contained in the acts of the Ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons.
The Fifth Lateran Council, 1518, declared:9
The Roman Church, which the other churches are bound to follow as their mother, has decreed that the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter the key bearer, and the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, by the power of the keys.
The Council of Trent, 1565, declared:10
I acknowledge the holy Catholic and apostolic Roman Church as the mother and teacher of all churches; and to the Roman Pontiff, the successor of the blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles and vicar of Jesus Christ, I promise and swear true obedience.
The First Vatican Ecumenical Council proclaimed:11
We teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.
And so it remains today. Canon 331 states:12
The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.
The Catechism § 891: “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…. The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium, above all in an Ecumenical Council.” The Holy Spirit protects each pope in his time against error when he teaches on faith or morals as shepherd of the whole Church.
At the same time, we recognize that the true supreme authority in the Church is the Son of God. The pope’s mission is to preserve, transmit and defend “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” Jude 3.
Each pope numbers among his titles, pontifex. A pontifex is a “bridge builder. It comes from the Latin pons, bridge, and facere, to make.
Each pope in his time participates in building the Catholic Church, the bridge between God in heaven and man on earth, and also, through the apostolic succession, the bridge between the incarnate Rabbi Yeshua and the Catholic Church in our time.
The phrase Catholic Church was first used in St. Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, chapter 8, about AD 107. “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” In St. Ignatius’ original Greek, kata (according to) holos (the whole), combined as katholikos, the Church of the whole truth that speaks with one voice to the whole world.
Our Father has always directly connected the authority of those who speak for him with his own authority. His Son did the same. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” Mt 10:40.
The name “Shimeon” comes from the Hebrew root shma, to hear, with overtones of listen and obey. “Hear O Israel…” The original Hebrew is Shma Israel, a command, from the active side of the verb. We recall that the people Israel responded, na’aseh v’nishma, “We will do and we will be obedient” Ex 24:7. Shimeon comes from the passive side of the verb; it means one who hears well. Rabbi Yeshua chose a good listener to become Kefa the Rock, his vicar on earth, to feed his sheep. Solomon had prayed, “Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind [Hebrew: lev shomea, a hearing heart, from the root shma] to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil” 1 Kings 3:9. But where Solomon failed, by God’s grace Kefa succeeded. Rabbi Kefa’s na’aseh v’nishma came at Capernaum when he told Rabbi Yeshua, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” Jn 6:68.
The shlikhim had authority to appoint successors, who in turn would appoint their successors, and so on. Rabbi Paul wrote to Titus: “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might … appoint elders in every town as I directed you … For a bishop [episcope], as God’s steward, must … hold firm to the sure word as taught” Titus 1:5–9. The shlikhim enrolled Matthias to replace Judas and appointed deacons as assistants.
Rabbi Yeshua promised his shlikhim continuing guidance, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” Jn 16:12–13 And promised, “He who hears you hears me” Lk 10:16.
Rabbi Yeshua gave his shlikhim a mission to all the nations with the command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” Mt 28:19. He gave two great commands: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40. Rabbi Yeshua, the “good shepherd,” established his vicar on earth by directing Kefa, “Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep” Jn 21:15–17. His words to Kefa, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” Mt 16:18 and “I am with you always” Mt 28:20 made the Church infallible on faith and morals. Faith comes from the first great commandment, to love God, and morals from the second, to love our neighbor.
Rabbi Yeshua built the Catholic Church. Its complete deposit of faith is like the sun that sends forth rays of light in all directions. Before his public ministry, Rabbi Yeshua had been a carpenter. Everything he built fit together perfectly. Rabbi Yeshua built the Catholic Church as a beautifully integrated, organic whole. Every mystery is centered on Rabbi Yeshua, grounded in Scripture, and proclaimed in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Whole World
Rabbi Paul documented the shlikhim’s authority to appoint successors, and the successors’ to appoint other successors, thereby making a worldwide Church possible: “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might … appoint elders in every town as I directed you … For a bishop, as God’s steward, must … hold firm to the sure word as taught” Titus 1:5–9.
The descended Holy Spirit immediately highlighted the Church’s worldwide mission. Kefa and the other shlikhim spoke in their own language to the devout Jews of Jerusalem who had come from every nation under heaven, yet each Jew heard in his own native language. “And they were amazed and wondered, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?’” Acts 2:7–8.
That worldwide authority has crossed the centuries in an unbroken line of apostolic succession. Each bishop today is a successor of Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the ordinary form a priest begins with, “The Lord be with you,” or one of its variants, but only a bishop begins by using the risen Rabbi Yeshua‘s own first words to his shlikhim, “Peace be with you.” The shlikhim had just seen Rabbi Yeshua‘s institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and Final Sacrifice. A successor of the shlikhim celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a shaliakh with us today.
From Rabbi Kefa to Constantine there were 33 popes. Thirty were martyred and two died in exile. Each one stepped into the papacy in full knowledge that he would likely be martyred. In Rabbi Yeshua‘s New and Eternal Covenant, each time we consume the true Blood of Christ Jn 6:51–58 we recall that Rabbi Yeshua‘s shed that blood for our salvation. We Catholics, his image and likeness Gen 1:26–27, need to be always prepared to shed our blood for the salvation of others Jn 15:13. If we are not, we eat and drink judgment on ourselves 1 Cor 11:29.
§ 88 The Church’s Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes in a definitive way truths having a necessary connection with them.
§ 89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.
§ 90 The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ. “In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith.”
Examples of Catholic Dogma
Rabbi Yeshua is the Son of God
“We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father [homoousion to patri], through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made out of nothing (ex ouk onton); or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance [than the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, [them] the Catholic Church anathematizes.”
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” Jn 16:12–15.
Rabbi Yeshua is the good shepherd Jn 10:11. The Church he instituted and promised to protect Mt 16:18 takes what the good shepherd taught and teaches it to us. We believe all that the Catholic Church teaches us as divinely revealed because the Catholic Churchteaches it, not because we ourselves have examined the doctrine and accept it as true. A man who can ably defend each and every Catholic dogma and believes it on that basis alone is not a Catholic. We believe because the Church teaches it, and defend it as Church teaching, not as our own.
Father Hardon taught that doctrine is “Any truth taught by the Catholic Church as necessary for acceptance by the faithful.” He added, “What makes it doctrine is that the Church authority teaches that it is to be believed.”
Doctrines may be taught infallibly or fallibly. The distinction between infallible and fallible doctrines is not whether we must believe them, we must, but whether or not a future pope may someday change them. That is not something the lay Catholic need be concerned with.
Each Catholic teaching is adequate for the moment of its teaching. We never anticipate what the Church may someday teach.
We may imagine a small child crossing a busy city street with his mother. The boy is holding his mother’s hand as he was taught to do. His mother knows that the boy can cross safely only if he holds her hand.
Ten years later, the same mother and boy cross the same street. By then the mother is confident that her son will look both ways and cross safely, so the rule that he has to hold her hand is no longer in force.
The Popes Prove Catholic Authority
Recall that Rabbi Yeshua told his shlikhim, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” Jn 16:12–13. Rabbi Yeshua‘s Catholic Church taught, and still teaches, with infallible authority.
The First Vatican Council formally defined the dogma of papal infallibility in 1870. Every dogma is revealed by Rabbi Yeshua to his Church, and therefore has always been true. The dogmatic constitution quotes proclamations by the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869) proclaimed it. The Second Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1442) confirmed it as well. The First Vatican Council simply raised it to the level of a dogma by formally defining it. When a pope intends to teach by virtue of his supreme authority on a matter of faith or morals to the whole Church, the Holy Spirit preserves him from error.
The Catholic Church has been governed by 266 popes these past two thousand years New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: The List of Popes. They have proclaimed the Faith with such absolute consistency that only four have even appeared heterodox: St. Callistus (218-222), Pope Liberius (352-366), Pope Honorius I (625-638) and Pope John XXII (1316-1334). All were in fact orthodox.
St. Callistus, before becoming pope, had been associated with Sabellius, the advocate of the monarchian heresy. However, after becoming pope, St. Callistus condemned Sabellius and excommunicated him. Papal infallibility does not apply to what a man taught before becoming pope.
Pope Liberius, with St. Athanasius bishop of Alexandria, boldly defended the true faith against the full power of Emperor Constantius II, who embraced the Arian heresy and forced most of the bishops in the empire to proclaim it. Constantius imprisoned and so cruelly mistreated Pope Liberius that he finally agreed to condemn Athanasius. Popes are not infallible in disciplinary decisions. In the crucial matter of doctrine, under extreme pressure Pope Liberius signed an ambiguous confession of faith which was capable of Arian interpretation subordinating the Son to the Father, but he added to it even in prison an anathema on all who said that the Son is not like the Father in substance and in all things. Although Constantius led many people at the time to believe that Pope Liberius had accepted the Arian heresy, the documents show that he never did.
Pope Honorius I declined to teach when he should have, but papal infallibility addresses only what a pope teaches, not what he does not teach. The Catholic Church teaches that Christ’s divine and human natures each had their own will and operation. We call this doctrine dyothelitism: “two wills.” If a man has no independent will he is not a man but a puppet. Emperor Heraclius at Constantinople promoted the monothelite heresy, which said that Christ has two natures but only one divine will. Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople accepted this “one will” heresy and wrote to Pope Honorius I asking his opinion. Honorius I refused to dispute the issue as Sergius had framed it. Honorius said that Christ had taken the original human nature that existed before the Fall, not the one that had been corrupted by sin, so that his human nature had “one will” in Rabbi Paul’s sense of the two wills within man: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” Rom 7:19. But Honorius affirmed that Christ’s human nature had its own will, apart from his divine will, else there would have been no need to distinguish between original and fallen human nature. Sergius took Honorius’ words “one will” out of context in an attempt to prove that monothelitism was not heretical. Pope St. Agatho (678-681) affirmed Honorius’ orthodoxy when he declared in a letter to the Emperor that he and all his predecessors “have never ceased to exhort and warn [the monothelites] with many prayers that they should, at least by silence, desist from the heretical error of the depraved dogma.” Honorius was condemned for negligence in leaving the Lord’s flock exposed to heretical teachers but never for any doctrine attributable to him.
Pope John XXII proposed in three sermons that the souls of the just do not enjoy the beatific vision immediately after their particular judgment but only after the Second Coming. However, he added that he was not sure and invited theologians to comment, making it abundantly clear that he had been speaking as a private theologian. A pope exercising the magisterium of his office speaks authoritatively. Anyone who wishes to see the difference can compare Pope Pius XII’s two major documents on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. First look at his encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae, May 1, 1946: “We wish to know if you, Venerable Brethren, with your learning and prudence consider that the bodily Assumption of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith, and whether in addition to your own wishes this is desired by your clergy and people.” Then look at his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus, November 1, 1950:
By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.… Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.
Cardinal Ratzinger, quoted in John Allen’s Conclave: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election, was once asked whether the Holy Spirit plays a role in the election of popes. He replied, “I would not say so in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope, because there are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked. I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”
In ancient Rome, at times, political leaders influenced the papal election process. Theodora, wife of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, had (through channels) offered a deacon named Vigilius 700 pounds of gold and the promise of the papacy if he would cooperate with her promotion of the monophysite heresy. Vigilius and Theodora had (again through channels) Pope Agapetus I (535-536) killed, but the Roman clergy elected Silverius (536-538), not Vigilius, the next pope. Justinian’s Byzantine army pressured the Roman clergy, which appeased Theodora by proclaiming Vigilius pope, knowing that since Silverius was still alive Vigilius would be an antipope. Vigilius, aware of the ruse, arranged to have Silverius killed as well. The Roman clergy, fearful that anyone else would meet the same fate, recognized Vigilius as pope (538-555). Vigilius instantly began to protect true Catholic doctrine. He wrote to Theodora, “Though unworthy, I am Vicar of Blessed Peter the Apostle, as were my predecessors, the holy Agapetus and Silverius.” Theodora went ballistic. In 545 she had Vigilius arrested while he was celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and taken to Constantinople where he was put under constant pressure. Even after Theodora died in 548, Justinian kept up the harassment. Once Vigilius escaped and ran to a church and begged the people to protect him. Another time he lowered himself from a window on a rope. Later he was confined and fed only bread and water. After ten years in exile he was sent home but died on the way. Only God’s power could transform a man who murdered two popes into a martyr for the Faith.
No other institution on earth has had 266 consecutive leaders (including Francis) over two thousand years proclaim with absolute fidelity the teachings of its founder. No pope has ever reversed a predecessor on a doctrine of faith or morals. When a man sits in the Chair of Peter the Holy Spirit makes him Vicarius Christi (Latin: Vicar of Christ), just as he makes ordinary bread and wine into Rabbi Yeshua’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The man’s outer appearance is unchanged, but his substance, his teaching of true faith and morals, is completely transformed.
The Apostolic Pardon: A Very Special Authority
The Apostolic Pardon, also called the Apostolic Benediction, is a very special indulgence given by a priest to a Catholic approaching death. A special faculty allowing it is granted to the bishops, who in most cases delegate it to their priests. The conditions are the dying person’s invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus at least mentally, willingness to accept all his sufferings in reparation for his sins, and submission entirely to the will of God.
EWTN explains that, “The focus is on the remission of temporal punishment due to sin.” The Apostolic Pardon remits all temporal punishment due for forgiven sins. Because it is applied at the point of death, the Catholic goes into eternity completely cleansed of temporal punishment:
By the faculty given to me by the Apostolic See, I grant you a plenary indulgence and the remission of all your sins. In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Apostolic Pardon is ordinarily given after the dying Catholic receives the Sacraments of Penance and Anointing to assure that he is in the state of grace, his sins are forgiven. The Apostolic Pardon remits temporal punishment due for forgiven sins. The Church applies it at the point of death, which means there is no unfinished sin or punishment that needs purgation as the dying Catholic enters eternity. Objectively speaking, he therefore goes straight to heaven.
Father Zuhlsdorf emphasizes the extreme importance of the Apostolic Pardon. Every priest should use it regularly, but not all priests know it. Johnette Benkovic calls it a lost treasure. Father Jeff tells a wonderful true story about how God waited for him to administer the Apostolic Pardon.
The Apostolic Pardon has a long, long history. This is how it was done in the centuries before Vatican II.
Viaticum: The Last Sacrament
Viaticum is a Latin word that means “with you on the way.” It comes from via the way, ti you, cum with.
“Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you” 1 Kings 19:7.
§ 1524 In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.
§ 1525 Thus, just as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist form a unity called “the sacraments of Christian initiation,” so too it can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life “the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland” or the sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage.