The Gift of Ecclesial Ministry

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 871-96, 976-87:

  • Christ Himself is the source of ministry in the Church: ever since He chose the 12 Apostles and endowed them with authority, this sacred college has continued through their successors, the bishops, led by the Bishop of Rome.
  • Bishops, and their co-workers the priests, receive sacred authority from Christ through ordination, in order to serve the faithful; they serve principally by teaching the faith, sanctifying through prayer and the sacraments, and governing.
  • The Bishop of Rome has primacy among all the bishops because he is the successor of St. Peter, the head of the apostolic college; he is called the “Pope,” from the word “Papa,” in affectionate recognition of his fatherly role.
  • Christ entrusted the fullness of authority to Peter by giving him the keys of the Kingdom; evoking Old Testament imagery from the Davidic Kingdom, Christ made clear that Peter would serve as the chief steward in the Messianic Kingdom.
  • The Pope is the Vicar of Christ: he has universal jurisdiction over the Church and serves as the visible foundation of our unity.
  • His fellow bishops likewise serve as the visible source of unity in their local Churches, which they guide with the authority they receive from Christ; bishops are not vicars of the Pope, but are brothers in collegial communion with him.
  • Christ empowered the Apostles to forgive sins; thus He gave the Church a great gift of mercy, the ministry of reconciliation through the Sacrament of Penance.
  • To protect the Church from heresy, Christ has bestowed the charism of infallibility upon His shepherds.
  • This does not mean that Popes are perfect, for they sin and make mistakes in prudential judgments; nor does it apply to their routine statements.
  • The gift of infallibility instead prevents an erroneous definition of doctrine; this charism is exercised when the Pope proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine of faith or morals, or when the Pope and bishops in an Ecumenical Council declare a doctrine as divinely revealed.

Live Your Faith

While the world sees authority through the lens of power and control, Christ has taught the Church to view authority through the lens of sacrificial service.

The Lord could have constituted His Church in any number of ways, but He chose to give us shepherds. It is His will that our Pope, bishops, and priests serve us for our own spiritual good.

The Lord Himself will hold each and every one of our shepherds accountable for how well, or poorly, they upheld this sacred trust.


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