Quick Question

Here’s a quick question for y’all:

In Catholic theology, what is the Pope “head” of?

Yes, it is a trick question as well as a quick question. Here’s a clue: Google it and take note of what NON-Catholic internet soures say the Pope is “head” of, and then take note of what CATHOLIC sources say he is the “head” of. Note, however, that not even all the Catholic site getthe answer right.

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15 Responses to Quick Question

  1. Peregrinus says:

    Sir! Sir! Please, sir!

    He’s the head of the college of bishops, and referred to as such in Lumen Gentium and Christus Dominus

    Lumen Gentium also refers to his as the “>visible head of the whole Church”.

    Interestingly, both the passages which identify him as head of the college of bishops and those which identify him as visible head of the whole church do so in order to emphasise that his assent or participation is essential to the exercise by the bishops of their collective office of govering the whole church. It seems that being “head” (in either sense) means that he is essential to the working of the College of Bishops, but it doesn’t mean that, on his own, he can do anything that other bishops can’t.

  2. Anne says:

    David I thought that he is also, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the universal church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Soverign of the State of the City of Vatican, Servant of the Servants of God and 265th Pope.
    Is this an answer you were thinking of?

  3. I think the answer, according to Roman theology, is that the Pope is head of the episcopal college. As Peregrinus and Anne suggest, though, the Pope is more than just that.
    As you know, David, most Lutherans have been willing to concede primacy to the Pope if he would allow the Gospel free course within the church; it’s the ‘more than just that’ with which we have problems.

    • Anne says:

      Hello Mark, I dont understand what you mean by “if he woud allow the Gospel free course within the church. Its the more than just that with which we have problems”
      Can you help with this please?
      God Bless

      • Well, if David will permit it Anne, I’m happy to reply to your question.
        Lutherans regard the primacy of the Pope – his headship of the college of bishops – as existing by human rather than divine ordering, but nevertheless we would – for the most part – be willing to accord him that position of honour and service, in the Western church at least
        (bearing in mind that the nature of the Pope’s primacy is also an issue for the Eastern Orthodox), if he would accept that the Gospel is the good news that we are saved through faith in Christ, and that this salvation is entiurely a gift from God, and thus we are not saved by our works and nor do our works contribute to our salvation, and if he would subsequently permit the Roman church’s doctrine and practice to be reformed according to this great scriptural truth.

        What does this mean? Well, if the Gospel were sincerely accepted by Rome, it would necessitate a “top down” review of doctrine in light of the Gospel, from the claims about the Papacy, to Mariology, the nature of sainthood, right down to the question of the indulgences which our erstwhile Lutheran brother David promotes here (as you may know, the issue of indulgences was what sparked the Reformation in 1517). Lutherans regard these Roman doctrines and practices as tainted with a synergism (salvation = God’s grace + our works) which is inconsistent with the Gospel.

        It should be said that many Lutherans held high hopes that the agreement on the doctrine of justification declared in 1999 between the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican represented at least the first part of this process, but the lack of progress in any reform in the ten years has left a somewhat bitter taste in their mouths. This is especially so as the current Pope, for all his good qualities which we otherwise admire, seems to be promoting a revival of some of Rome’s most questionable practices which Vatican II at least played down, partly, I think, out of sensitivity to we ‘separated brethren’ .

        It should also be said, however, that some Lutherans, myself included, thought there were flaws in the JDDJ agreement and we did not expect much to come from it, knowing how entrenched synergism is in Roman Catholicism. That is pretty much the attitude Martin Luther took in his time, as expressed in his Smalcald Articles, for example, when the Pope of his day decisively rejected the Lutheran reform proposals.

        There is, of course, much more that could be said, but that is the gist of it.

        If David is gracious enough to allow this reply to be posted, I shall be most grateful to him. I am not trying to begin a debate, since David and I have gone down that path before and we quickly reach an impasse on a particular point. This is just to answer your question Anne. We must all examine these matters with the utmost seriousness because, in the final analysis, our salvation and that of others rests upon them.

        • Anne says:

          Thanks for your response Mark but having just come home from a rough day I need to digest what you have written. I always have understood that faith and works go together. not one without the other. Faith is a gift to me by God, and because of this great gift and my understanding of this grace, my works are my response to that love, by loving (hesed) my neighbour. because I love God first I offer what I can so that my neighbour feels that love that I have for God and His Mercy towards me and him/her. Faith and works are a tandem story. God gives us gift of grace, faith, love, we respond with what we little have… love.
          Sorry thats all I have for now.

          • Well, what you’ve written sounds good to me, Anne. Yes, faith and works go together, no Lutheran would disagree with that – faith alone saves, but faith is never alone, it is always active in works of love.
            The nub of the question is what actually justifies us before God: our faith, our our works, or a mixture of both?
            To put it simply, Lutherans, following Paul, answer that our faith alone justifies us; Roman Catholics still seem to us, both in their doctrine and practice, to be saying that works contribute to our justification.

            The classic Lutheran statement can be found easily over at my blog, ‘Glosses…’ in a recent post which I actually title ‘For Anne’ just in case you wandered in. It is also helpful to read through Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians in order to understand the scriptural teaching on justification,
            and can I also recommend Luther’s ‘Preface to the Letter to the Romans’, which can be found here: http://www.ccel.org/l/luther/romans/pref_romans.html in translation by a Benedictine monk.


            • Anne says:

              Mark please dont use the term “pax” I dont know why but I cringe when I hear it/see it.Please as a favour to me.
              Secondly I have not heard preached that “works” lead us to heaven always in my parish my priest speaks of faith and love and loving our neighbour, because when we love our neighbour we will not harm them. Amother who loves her God and loves and does her work for her family does well by both. I have a special ministry which I have done full time for 14 years and I do this because of His healing Mercy towards me and in return I speak of that Mercy to others and help them experience that love and Mercy.
              You see I experienced His love and Mercy when I wasnt looking for it. Indeed was running from it. He came looking for me and in the healing I speak of it to others who have a need and slowly lead them to experience it too and to share that love and Mercy and healing with others in their life.
              Do I think its my work that one day I might see the face of my God? As the huge sinner that I am, if I make the gates I will be doing well. So no matter how much of the works that I do, I still remain a sinner and only His love and forgiveness can get me there. I love others in pain because He loved me first.

  4. Schütz says:

    Actually, Anne and Mark, I was just interested in what the Pope is “head of” – I know all that other stuff.

    But I did learn something in asking the question and receiving your answers.

    MY point was that most non-Catholics say that Catholics believe that the Pope is “head of the Church”, to which they immediately object “BUT CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH”.

    I wanted to point out that what the Church teaches is that the Pope is the “head of the college of bishops” – so an early minute to Perry for getting the right answer.

    However, Perry also taught me something, by pointing to Lumen Gentium.

    Lumen Gentium, quoting Ephesians, asserts that “The Head of this Body is Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and in Him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body which is the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the first place”.

    Jesus is also “teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God.”

    So what position does the Pope hold in the Church, if Christ is the head of the body?

    Lumen Gentium declares “This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father;(136) and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion.(1*) And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful. Continuing in that same undertaking, this Council is resolved to declare and proclaim before all men the doctrine concerning bishops, the successors of the apostles, who together with the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ,(2*) the visible Head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God.”

    That phrase, as indicated by the reference to the First Vatican Council, is in fact a partial quotation from that Council, in which it declared in the Constitution “De Fide Catholica”:

    if anyone says that
    blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honour only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ himself:
    let him be anathema. ”

    This, of course, refers to Peter, who is then repeated called the “Prince and Head of the Apostles” throughout the rest of the decree.

    As regards the Pope, the Council went on to say:

    “And so, supported by the clear witness of holy scripture, and adhering to the manifest and explicit decrees both of our predecessors the Roman pontiffs and of general councils, we promulgate anew the definition of the ecumenical council of Florence [49] , which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that the apostolic see and the Roman pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, true vicar of Christ, head of the whole church and father and teacher of all christian people. ”

    This deliberately draws upon the definition of the Council of Florence: “Then there is the definition of the council of Florence:
    “The Roman pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church.”

    The language of the Councils is instructive, especially in the use of the term “Prince of the Apostles” and Vatican I’s insistence that Peter was appointed by Christ as his Vicar to be “Visible Head of the whole Church militant“. It is interesting that Vatican II left off the word “militant” here, because it says to me that we can therefore make several distinctions between the way in which Christ is “head” and the Pope is “head”:

    1) Christ is the head of the body. This is an organic image, taken from scripture, which also asserts that Christ is the body itself. The Body here is the whole people of God, militant, suffering and triumphant.

    2) The Pope is Vicar, or visible stand-in representative, of Christ on earth. (Just like the dean of the Cathedral is “vicar” of the Archbishop, or my boss is “episcopal vicar” for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. As +Denis says of my EV, “When he is there, I am there; what he says, I say.”)

    3) The Pope is “head” in the sense that he is the visible leader – or “prince” or “dux” or “general” – of the Church militant. This is, I believe, chiefly a political or military image.

    4) The Pope is “head” of the “whole church militant” precisely as the first among all the “generals” and “princes” of Church, namely the bishops.

    Thus the Pope is not head of the Church in the way in which Christ is the head of the Church. I would go further and say that as Vicar of Christ and Visible Head of the Church, the Pope is NOT visibly mirroring the organic image of Christ as head of the Church, but is rather “head” in the sense that he is the “head governor”, or “prince” of hte Church. It is not “head” as in head of a body, but “head” as in head of a State or Society or Organisation.

    Do you think such a distinction can be maintained?

    • Peregrinus says:

      The primary mean of of “head” is of course the head of a body.

      But we know that the is the seat of the brain, and therefore of reason, reflection and memory. The ancients may not have known much about the brain, but they knew that a head injury could impair reason, reflection, memory, etc. The head is also the location of the principal sense organs – sight, hearing, smell, taste and of the organs of speech.

      From this, it’s easy to move to an analogical use of “head” to refer to anything/anyone which motivates and leads a larger entity or organisation. And this is a fairly universal analogy. A quick check on vatican.va tells me that the Italian text of Lumen Gentium uses capo, which does indeed mean “head” in the physiological sense. But anybody who has seen The Godfather knows that it has the same analogical meaning in Italian as it does in English. The Latin original, of course, uses caput, which has the primary meaning of “head” in the physiological sense, or “skull”, but which in classical latin had the secondary meaning of a military or civil commander. It’s from caput that we get “capital”, “captain” and (via French) “chief” and “chef”.

      So I think the word has always evoked both of these senses. But any particular use of the word may evoke either sense more strongly than the other.

      I think what we see in the Vatican II documents is an attempt to tie the word (when used of the pope) more closely to the “head of a body” sense, or to make that sense more explicit than it was before. The head of a body is, of course, useless without the body; it is in fact dead. It derives its significance and value from the role it plays in relation to the rest of the body body. Hence to call the pope a “head” is – in the Vatican II documents – not to assert his authority or power of governance over the college of bishops/the church, but his central and essential role within the college/the church.

      In an earlier and more imperialistic phase of church history, more attention was paid to the secondary, political meaning of “head”, and it was seen as an assertion of power and jurisdiction. I think Vatican II seeks to point more to the primary sense of the word.

  5. matthias says:

    He’ s also a sinner saved by Grace

    • Anne says:

      Amen Matthias and I am always amazed when I hear that the Pope goes to confession weekly, I think to myself, why? but then again simply being alive and mixing within the millieu of life there is always a temptation to sin.

    • Schütz says:

      Quite, but that is who he is as a person. The Lutheran Church, for eg, is quite clear that her pastors are sinners, but nevertheless, when he speaks, he does so as “a called and ordained servant of the Word” and, according to Luther’s order for private confession, his words are the “very words of God”.

      So, we are not here speaking about Joseph Ratzinger, who will one day die and have to give account of himself before God. We are speaking about the Bishop of Rome, which is an office.

      In the same way we could say all kinds of things about the office of Prime Minister, and then add that Kevin likes dogs too, but that is not what we are talking about.

      • Anne says:

        Thanks David, but I heard about the Pope going to confession weekly (and JPII also) when I was in Rome several months ago and heard this from a priest who lives there. I guess I always see the Popes as very Holy men so I hadnt thought much further than that until that time.

  6. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    That’s my Lenten abstention, staying out of this one until I saw if it went the way I thought it would go.

    Of course the “pope” is the head of the college of bishops. That’s what the “pope” has been since before the “pope” was Christian or the “bishops” either, and the whole structure was adapted and adopted not from Christ or the Apostles but the Roman Empire, even before in the Republic actually, wherein the pontifex maximus was head of the collegium pontificum, whose duty it was to attend to the official state cult. Far from the authority of Christ, it exists by the authority of the Emperor Theodosius, whose edict De fide catholica of 27 February (hey, that’s Saturday, fire up the votive candles!) 380 established the “Catholic Church” as the official imperial religion and identified the bishop of Rome at the time, Damasus, as pontifex, referring to other bishops more characteristically with a Greek-derived Latin term, episcopus, to the extent that Ambrose even got the Emperor at the time, Gratian, to renounce the title.

    And so the pontifex maximus and his collegium pontificum soldiers on to-day, minus the Empire that established it but not its state religion.

    I am surprised, though, that among the various apoplectics, I mean apologetics, for this ridiculous charade the association of Peter with Jesus paying the tax was not mentioned; used to be a big one for “proving” the role of Peter acting in the stead of Jesus. Oh well. Back to the other thread to see how I am a victim of Catholic education designed to fail.

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