Opinion Thomas Reese: Signs of the Times

‘I have made serious mistakes,’ says pope. ‘I ask forgiveness.’ …

Pope Francis lies down in prayer during the Good Friday Passion of Christ Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on March 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(RNS) — The catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was more memorable than the film “Love Story,” where it was uttered twice. At first the words sounded nice, but on reflection they made no sense at all, especially to a Christian.

Saying you are sorry is itself an expression of love. It can be an expression of sympathy toward someone who is suffering or it can be an expression of regret for having hurt someone.

What could be more loving?

Lawyers often tell their clients never to say they are sorry lest it be taken as an acknowledgment of guilt and liability. During the sexual abuse crisis, Catholic bishops who followed this legal advice got in lots of trouble.

Authority figures often fear admitting mistakes to avoid undermining their credibility. This is why many in the Roman Curia thought Pope John Paul II was crazy when, as part of the celebration of two millennia of Christianity, he decided not only to celebrate the achievements of 2,000 years of Christianity but also to ask for forgiveness for the sins of the church during the same period. Such an admission, they thought, would weaken the authority of the church. After all, if the church made mistakes in the past, it could make mistakes in the future, so why should people follow it?

Of course, the opposite happened. John Paul gained credibility and respect for his honesty.

In his recent letter to Chilean bishops, Pope Francis has admitted he made “grave errors” in judgment in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis there. He had defended Bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of knowing about the abuse done by the Rev. Fernando Karadima but doing nothing about it. Francis said there was no proof. He even accused the bishop’s accusers of “calumny.”

Eventually, Francis did the right thing and sent Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna to investigate. Scicluna has a reputation for being a dogged investigator who follows the evidence. He is the one who got the goods on the Rev. Marcial Maciel, a sexual predator and founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

Scicluna is one of the few clerics trusted by survivors of sexual abuse. His 2,300-page report based on 64 interviews forced the pope to acknowledge with “pain and shame” the “many crucified lives” of those who were victims of abuse.

The pope admitted he was wrong and apologized. This was not a “non-apology apology,” but a full-throated admission that he had messed up.

“I have made serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation,” he wrote. He said this was due to a “lack of truthful and balanced information,” but it was still his mistake.

“I ask forgiveness from all those I offended,” he said, “and I hope to be able to do so personally, in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have with representatives of the people who were interviewed.”

The pope has asked the Chilean bishops to come to Rome to assist him “in discerning the short, mid- and long-term measures that must be adopted to re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile, with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal and re-establishing justice.”

Popes are not supposed to make mistakes. And if they do, the church tends to wait decades — if not centuries — before admitting it. But Francis from the beginning of his papacy has admitted that he is a sinner like every other Christian. He made a mistake, corrected it, asked for forgiveness. That is what it means to be a Christian.

Catholics should remember that priests and their congregations begin every Eucharist with an admission of sins: “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”

In the Catholic Church, love means always having to say you’re sorry.

About the author

Thomas Reese

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest, is a Senior Analyst at RNS. Previously he was a columnist at the National Catholic Reporter (2015-17) and an associate editor (1978-85) and editor in chief (1998-2005) at America magazine. He was also a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University (1985-98 & 2006-15) where he wrote Archbishop, A Flock of Shepherds, and Inside the Vatican. Earlier he worked as a lobbyist for tax reform. He has a doctorate in political science from the University of California Berkeley. He entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1974 after receiving a M.Div from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

65 Comments

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  • Admitting guilt is the first step. The next step is to set up procedures to prevent things from happening again and that will involve making some more major concessions/apologies/identifying flaws in theology that led to the situation in the first place. We will see how serious he is by how much and what he does to change the climate that created the situation in the first place.

  • I am humbled by a religious leader that is willing to acknowledge when they are wrong:

    >”Popes are not supposed to make mistakes. And if they do, the church tends to wait decades — if not centuries — before admitting it. But Francis from the beginning of his papacy has admitted that he is a sinner like every other Christian. He made a mistake, corrected it, asked for forgiveness. That is what it means to be a Christian.”

    I am struck by how powerful it is to see a prominent religious leader, even the Pope, be lying prostrate on the ground. I wish we had more leaders like Pope Francis.

  • “”We will see how serious he is”

    Marie Collins’s resignation tells us how serious he is.

  • As far as I’m concerned this is all theater by this incredibly evil man who heads the Roman Catholic Church. He just recently denied there was any Hell & that evil souls merely evaporate into nonexistence when they die. That lie is refuted even by the Catholic Bible in Revelation. Hell is a place for eternal torment for all those who rejected the love & sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It also nullifies centuries of Catholic teachings about purgatory & indulgences (money) paid by fear stricken Catholics to help get their loved ones out of purgatory & into Heaven, which is another of the many massive lies & heresies & apostasies that are contradicted by the plain Word of God. I put no stock in anything the pope says due to his many other heretical remarks. Many, many Catholics feel the same way. Francis will believe in the reality of Hell when he dies & goes there Forever & ever

  • “…. with the goal of repairing as much as possible the scandal and re-establishing justice.”
    Francesco

    “…. the spirit with which we’re working together to insure that we address the situation that happened
    last week in a Starbucks store,”
    CEO Kevin Johnson

    Same thing – it’s all about preventing a revenue hemorrhage….

  • He said this was due to a “lack of truthful and balanced information.” Since the pope was provided truthful information on at least half a dozen occasions that we know of. this IS a ““non-apology apology.”
    And, as others have noted, until the pope takes the actions recommended by SNAP and BishopAccountability for the past 15 years that would help to prevent further sex abuse, this IS a ““non-apology apology.”
    If Reese is the expert he claims to be, he would certainly know all of this. Willful ignorance or just more lies?

  • Trust is a fragile thing. We may start out with a good will and the “benefit of the doubt”, but it must then be built up over time. Most of us will offer such. However, some lack good will and will never be able to offer the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, this latter group will never forgive.

  • A belief in universal salvation was ommon among early Christian theologians and preachers. It was even approved by Pope Stephen in making the teachings of St. Maximus allowable )”No one is saved until all are saved).. The pope was beheaded for this by the conformity-minded and power-minded Emperor Justinian. the need to preach an eternal hell was embeded as the best way to deal with the many barbarian invaders who were pagan or Arain rather than Orthodox or Catholic.

  • Perhaps the pope, advised by the American in charge of Vatican communications, has leaned the American PR way of saying “sorry’ with no follow-up changes.

  • She resigned over a year ago. Let’s give the Pope a chance to see if her resignation added into his change of mind and brings about action.

  • Expecting Francis to actually do something with real consequences is like expecting Lucy not to move the football.

  • I’m not expecting anything. i am simply willing to wait and see! It sounds as though you aren’t willing to do that!

  • “Hell is a place for eternal torment for all those who rejected the love & sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
    For god so loved the world and his special pets, humanity, that he invented hell just in case you don’t love ihm back.

  • Gee, how could the leader of a church that is somehow guided by god, make errors?

    Someone should inform Il Papa of the American expression “talk is cheap”.

    You want forgiveness, Mr. Pope? Start making some changes. And then back that up with (1) contributions to organizations that work to make things right, (2) halting the expulsion of clergy who disagree, (3) making changes to make sure these bad things don’t happen again.

    All of these would demonstrate sincere repentance and a sincere desire to make sure his errors will not be repeated by anyone.

    Somehow, I’m not gonna hold my breath….

  • There are no “flaws in theology that led to the situation in the first place”.

    Other organizations, some without any theology, suffered similar problems.

  • The members of the church from top to bottom make errors.

    It’s divinely inspired, not a marionette on strings.

  • Perhaps you could tell me exactly what it means that the church is “divinely inspired”. How does that divine inspiration work? Who gets it? How can I recognize it?

  • Francis is a good start after 35+ years under JPII and B16. However, he is hemmed in by official church doctrines that elevate the ordained and subordinate the laity.

  • And Francis’ biggest mistake? Becoming a priest in a religion which based on erroneous history, dogmas and theology.

  • No, Bobosé, the church is not divinely inspired. It is merely institutionalized nonsense.

    You, however, are a paid marionette on strings for the NRA, and you are both a snowflake and a ninny.

  • I will be happy to do the search, but I want to make sure I do it correctly. What search terms do you think would be particularly useful?

  • Well, it’s your fictional being that is being shown to be the jerk here,
    Bobosé, you little yellow snowflake.

  • You don’t know what actions have been recommended by victim support groups and secular legal experts.

  • I’m equally sure (1) you cannot define exactly what “divinely inspired” (etc) means, and (2) that however it is defined, it cannot be shown to have occurred at all convincingly before or after it has allegedly occurred.

    IOW, it’s an “idea” that’s intended solely to show religion in a positive light.

  • Release the names of the priests already convicted by the Vatican for sex abuse and order bishops to release the names of their employees found guilty, or would have been were it not for statutes of limitations, of sex abuse. (This and the following only apply in countries where Catholics are not persecuted.)

    Order Vatican employees, and bishops and their employees, to notify civil authorities when they receive a credible report of sex abuse.

    Order Vatican employees, and bishops and their employees, to fully cooperate with civil authorities prosecuting cases of sex abuse.

    Only the pope can remove “culpable Church officials.” Pope Francis has taken no action against any of 17 bishops credibly accused of complicity with abusive priests. A recent investigation in France exposed five additional pedophile-protecting bishops still in office.

    Instruct his bishops where appropriate to halt their opposition through their political arms (“Catholic Conferences” in the U.S.) to statute-of-limitations reforms for further justice for the victims and as an incentive for all to take prompt actions in the future.

  • I am not a Catholic and it probably takes someone who isn’t to not be afraid to point out the flaws with the Theology. The most major flaw is the one about infallibility and the belief that becoming a Christian, taking the sacrament of becoming a priest and higher orders (Bishops etc.) fundamentally changes the person.

  • You’d have to take up infallibility with the Founder, as well as the sacrament of Holy Orders.

    “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven” etc, etc.

  • The “Vatican” does not “convict” anyone except for crimes within the Vatican City, and that is a civil matter, not a ecclesiastical one.

    Releasing the names of employees accused and not convicted would result in lawsuits in the USA.

    Canon Law already orders bishops to notify civil authorities when they receive a credible report of sex abuse and to fully cooperate with civil authorities.

    Pope Francis apparently does not agree with your assessment of who has been credibly accused of complicity.

    Statute-of-limitations “reforms” to this point have been aimed only at churches, deny defendants due process, and therefore violate the requirements of justice.

  • It’s too late to do that, the founders are long gone. They created a mess and now it is up to their descendants to clean it up.

  • According to them their Founder was Jesus Christ, and his commands were irrevocable.

    So, you’re back to your default position of simply rejecting and disliking religion, nothing more, nothing less.

  • “History therefore becomes the arena where we see what God does for humanity. God comes to us in the things we know best and can verify most easily, the things of our everyday life, apart from which we cannot understand ourselves” (JPII, Fides et Ratio, 12).

    “There is thus no reason for competition of any kind between reason and faith: each contains the other, and each has its own scope for action. Again the Book of Proverbs points in this direction when it exclaims: ‘It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out’ (Prov 25:2)” (Ditto- 17).

    “There are also signs of a resurgence of fideism, which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God” (Ditto-55).

    “In other words…not Catholic.”

    So JPII was not Catholic???

  • Your immense lack of correct information on the subject precludes the ability to address it via a “comment.”

  • Facts remain facts, whether you like them or not.

    This notion of a vast conspiracy, immunity to laws, and immense power is a fantasy.

  • Saint John Paul II did not deny the existence of any of the sacraments.

    Reason does not trump revelation.

  • Actually that isn’t true. Paul was the founder. What Jesus taught was quite different from what has been taught about Jesus.

  • “Reason does not trump revelation.”

    Reason and revelation work together, as JPII taught. Furthermore, there are instances when reason, while not trumping revelation, can demonstrate that *purported* revelation is just that, i.e., a false claim. Using scripture to show that Jesus did not do certain things as claimed by a self-serving and self-promoting hierarchy (not all bishops, mind you) does not contradict revelation. God gave each of us a brain and expects us to use it. History is a valuable source of information about past human behavior. Thank God.

  • “I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing and I say……NOTHING!”
    John Paul, Benedict and now Francis.
    As a former Catholic, the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis: the heinous ignoring of victims, the cover-up, the perp shuffle game, the fecklessness of making change, the consequent financial debacle, the still secret investigations, etc., suggest to me that the Church hierarchy does not at all believe in what they preach. Not at all. With such craven, reprehensible behavior and ethics the Catholic Church has zero credibility to speak on anything moral other than engaging in a worldwide apology tour and making financial restitution to victims.

  • Yes, reason and revelations work together.

    For example, if one using right reason concludes that Christ was divine, he founded a church, and that the New Testament records his teachings, and one reads “This is my body” and “This is my blood”, one concludes that after the consecration they are the body and blood of Jesus.

    On the other hand, if one says “my beliefs trump revelation”, and therefore concludes that the result after the consecration looks like bread and wine, and therefore cannot in any real sense be body and blood, one is opposing revelation.

    Right reason would lead the inquirer to believe that divine power trumps appearances, and that the creator of the physical laws trumps chemistry.

    So, what is happening is that reason is NOT demonstrating revelation is false, it is elevating personal beliefs above the revelation.

    This is called pride, and you favor a number of authors for whom that is a particular vice.

  • So, you’re back to your default position of rejecting and dismissing religion, in this case making light of Christ’s founding a church based on ephemeral musings of anti-Christians, nothing more, nothing less.

  • What do you mean by the word “founded” as in “[Jesus] founded a church”? History informs us that there were no ecclesiae established by the Twelve and others until *after* the Resurrection. Paul’s thinking in 1 Cor 15:12-19 is relevant here. I remind you there is no evidence of the Twelve serving as heads/bishops of local churches or of their ordaining anyone to serve in such a capacity. Various ministries, as demonstrated by scripture, were established — and some renounced — in response to local need or other circumstance. The primitive Christians did not have a separate priesthood from that conferred by baptism. Their understanding of sacrifice was not cultic in nature. These understandings would enter Christian doctrine and practice later. They also had no ministerial ordination. Liturgical presidership was based on one’s community leadership.

    No one is denying the words of Jesus at the Last Supper as providing the basis for the consecration of the elements at Catholic worship or our belief in their becoming the body and blood of Jesus. The word ‘liturgy’ means “the assembly’s act of thanksgiving”, the latter word translated from the Greek for “thanksgiving”.

    No one is asserting that “my beliefs trump revelation.” In physical terms, the consecrated elements *do look like* bread and wine. Ratzinger has offered a reasonable explanation for this issue. Ultimately, this matter is mystery, i.e., that which cannot be explained but, within Christian doctrine, is believed by Catholics and other Christians embracing the belief in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist.

    I *believe* that divine power trumps physical appearances. On the other hand, God does not set chemistry aside. Faith and reason both lead to Truth, i.e., God. Again, Ratzinger has offered what I think is a reasonable explanation between physicality and doctrine in this matter.

    Contrary to your suggestion, I do not hold that reason somehow demonstrates that revelation is false. The Church values both faith AND reason as JPII taught. Faith and reason, I repeat, are different tracks to Truth. Unless theologians and scientists have professional backgrounds in both disciplines, they best stay within their respective areas of expertise.

    Pride is not involved.

    On the other hand, your ignorance is glaring.

  • History does not inform us of anything. History takes place. People write down the events, sometimes long after they occurred, and they often filter them.

    Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

    The Greek term for “church” is “ekklesia”. It is found 114 times in the New Testament employed in four senses:

    1- It represents the body of Christ worldwide, over which the Lord functions as head (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 1 Tim. 3:15).

    2 – It refers to God’s people in a given region (Acts 9:31, ASV, ESV).

    3 – Frequently, it depicts a local congregation of Christians (1 Cor. 1:2; Rev. 1:11).

    4 – It can also signify a group of the Lord’s people assembled for worship (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

    So “there were no ecclesiae established by the Twelve and others until *after* the Resurrection” can only be true in the sense that until they began to exercise their teaching mission, there were no local congregations.

    We see the Twelve serving as bishops in the Acts at the Council of Jerusalem.

    You are asserting that “my beliefs trump revelation.”

    And your pride is glaring.

  • Do you research Bob you are way off base as usual and ignorant even about the basics of your own religion.

  • I’m not getting into a historiography debate. We know what we know from various historical sources. My sources are both Catholic and non-Catholic, but all are respected within their fields.

    Matthew’s two mentions of “church” are the only two references to the term in the canonical gospels. They are most likely interpolations, i.e., material added to the text sometime *after* the earliest oral or written narrative. You refer to non-Gospel canonical sources; they are irrelevant.

    It appears we agree on the appearance of ecclesiae only after the Twelve began their post-Resurrection teaching mission.

    “We see the Twelve serving as bishops in the Acts at the Council of Jerusalem.” Perhaps *you* do, but there is nothing in this meeting even remotely indicating the Twelve were “bishops”. They were missionaries commissioned by Jesus to go forth, preach, and baptize. Period.

    If you are accusing me of asserting that “my beliefs trump revelation,” you are grossly mistaken.

  • You have to get into a historiography debate or drop your entire shtick.

    Your sources – McBrien for example – may be “respected within their fields”, but they are without exception peddling their positions and their books.

    For example “Matthew’s two mentions of ‘church’ are …. most likely interpolations” is classic Brown, McBrien,et al. They use it to explain away anything which torpedoes their texts.

    The Twelve began teaching mission after the Resurrection because until the Resurrection all Jesus had was claims and what appeared to be some miracles.

    As to the Council of Jerusalem “there is nothing in this meeting even remotely indicating the Twelve were ‘bishops’” except they were making doctrinal decisions in council for the entire group.

    That “They were missionaries commissioned by Jesus to go forth, preach, and baptize. Period.” is your hypothesize. To this point it remains only your hypothesis.

  • OK, we can get into *something* of a historiography debate if you’d like. If you accuse McBrien of “peddling” his position, etc., then we can continue with accusing conservative historians and theologians of “peddling” their books, etc. It gets us nowhere except back to the evidence offered by the respective sides. My information about the church beginning after the Resurrection, for example, did not come from McBrien. It came essentially from Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul makes quite clear if Jesus had not risen (I suppose I must spell it out for your benefit), there’d have been no reason for him and the Twelve not to return to their previous labors. Any church historian or theologian who can see the commonsense point in this epistle has Paul to thank.

    As for the mention of “church” twice in Matthew and nowhere else in the canonical gospels, this is fact, not something made up by McBrien or any other theologian or exegete. Matthew was written ca. late 70’s or 80s. Not even the later gospels of Luke (ca. mid to late 80s) and John (ca. 90s) mention the word “church”. What to draw from this observation? That likely/more than likely/most likely, a story teller or later writer inserted the word “church” in the earlier oral or written tradition. Not even the gospel of Mark (ca. late 60s to early 70s) mentions “church”, etc.

    You write, “The Twelve began teaching mission after the Resurrection because until the Resurrection all Jesus had was claims and what appeared to be some miracles.” Are you claiming I wrote or suggested otherwise???

    The Council of Jerusalem (ca. 50) was unique among all church councils. James led the Jerusalem Christian community. Just because the *leaders* made “doctrinal decisions” does not mean, as you contend, that the Twelve present were “bishops”. Unlike later church leaders and subsequent “bishops”, the Eleven (excluding Matthias) held a unique ministry in that they personally witnessed Jesus during his earthly ministry and at his Resurrection. Unlike others, they were also commissioned by the risen Jesus to “go forth”, teach, and baptize. There is no evidence — the Jerusalem council notwithstanding — that the Twelve served as heads/leaders of local churches, much less ordained anyone to serve in this capacity. The Twelve were missionaries. If any of the Twelve remained in Jerusalem and did not “go forth”, Acts informs us that James was the local church leader, not any of them except for Peter who would soon begin his own “going forth” from Jerusalem. At this very early stage of Christianity, in other words, the Twelve and James were making decisions *for the Christian faith* in response to concerns from Antioch. They were not making doctrinal decisions only for a particular church, the responsibility of a leader — and, still later, “bishop” — of a particular community. We have no evidence the Twelve represented individual Christian communities.

    You contend, “That ‘They were missionaries commissioned by Jesus to go forth, preach, and baptize. Period.’ is your hypothesize [sic]. To this point it remains only your hypothesis.” No, unless you think that MATTHEW 28:19 and ACTS 1:8 are “hypotheses”.

    As with our previous exchanges, mon ami, I continue to provide substance, and you continue grasping at straws.

    Not recommended.

  • “They were not making doctrinal decisions only for a particular church, the responsibility of a leader — and, still later, ‘bishop’ — of a particular community. We have no evidence the Twelve represented individual Christian communities.”

    Indeed, they were having a general council of the leaders of the various communities, as bishops assembled.

    This vacuous twaddle was all decided at the Reformation, your group went one way, the Catholics the other along with the Orthodox, Oriental orthodox, Church of the East, and so on – the majority of Christians.

    What you continue to provide is attempts at rehashing matter decided centuries ago.

  • I repeat: The Twelve were missionaries. There is absolutely no evidence that they each served as the leader/head/”bishop” of a Christian community. Contrary to your assertion, the Jerusalem council was NOT a meeting “of the leaders of the various communities, as bishops assembled.” As Francis Sullivan has noted, “[James] is, in fact, the only example in the New Testament of a single residential leader of a local church” (Sullivan, FROM APOSTLES TO BISHOPS: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EPISCOPACY IN THE EARLY CHURCH, Paulist Press, 2001, p. 62). If you have evidence to the contrary about the role of the Twelve, present it.

    Your uninformed comments reflecting *belief*, not history, are the “vacuous twaddle” in our exchange.

  • The Twelve were not “missionary bishops”. They were “Apostles” (traditionally uppercase to denote their special, unique relationship with the risen Jesus). The two entries to which you link, each now more than one hundred years old, do not refute my earlier link’s information about the Twelve.

    Your first link, dealing with “General Councils”, has only a very brief mention of *the significance* of the Jerusalem Council, to wit: “Such [i.e., the infallibility of general councils in union with the pope reflecting the same authority of the Church] was the mind of the Apostles when, at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:28), they put the seal of supreme authority on their decisions in attributing them to the joint action of the Spirit of God and of themselves: Visum est Spiritui sancto et nobis (It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us). This formula and the dogma it enshrines stand out brightly in the deposit of faith and have been carefully guarded throughout the many storms raised in councils by the play of the human element.” The focus is on church decisional authority. Nowhere does this link portray the Twelve as “bishops”.

    Your second link, dealing with “Judaizers”, describes decisions made by the Council of Jerusalem. Again, this entry does not portray the Twelve as “bishops”, missionary or otherwise.
    Interestingly, a reference to “distant churches founded by St. Paul” mirrors general Catholic tradition that each of the Twelve went forth into the world beyond Jerusalem to “found” churches, e.g., Mark in Egypt and Thomas in India. However, the Twelve were not regarded as “bishops”, that is, as heads of local churches. Local Christian communities, founded by the Twelve or other apostles, had their own locally chosen leadership.

    There is no evidence the Twelve functioned as “bishops” of any local Christian ecclesiae/assemblies/churches. A “bishop”, by tradition and definition, is the resident leader of a local Christian church (even today the Church of Rome requires every bishop to be actual or “titular” head of a local church — even if said church no longer exists!). Residency is key; this requirement would come up again years later as Rome grappled with bishops who spent more time away from their designated dioceses than in them).

    When the last of the Twelve died, the Church no longer had the unique ministry of “Apostle”. This position was one-of-a-kind in that it was established by Jesus himself and entrusted to the Twelve (or Eleven) who had personally witnessed his earthly ministry and Resurrection and were commissioned by Jesus to “go forth”, preach, and baptize. “Bishops”, on the other hand, were chosen or otherwise acknowledged by their communities as *resident* leaders. They were not “sent forth”, the meaning of “apostle” (lower or upper case). The episcopacy (not necessarily to be confused with its Greek or Latin root) was a later development. In the Church of Rome, a bishop is assigned to an existing diocese — even if a new one with him as its first resident leader. If the geographic area is mission territory and not yet a diocese, the “missionary bishop” functions officially as the Vicar Apostolic, i.e., a personal representative of the pope who has universal jurisdiction.

  • No, the Apostles were not the “first bishops”. You’re confusing doctrine with history. Not the same.

    As for your reference to episcopal “sees”, let’s be careful with language. The earliest Christian communities were not “sees” as we understand this term today. Each community had its own leadership chosen/recognized in some fashion locally. Leaders were not “bishops” who represented or were subject to any papacy. The Twelve and other apostles “founded” local churches, which organized themselves. This was a period of flux and diversity.

    As for the “Council” of Jerusalem, it included James, leader of the local church, and the Apostles (upper case) who participated as missionaries commissioned by Jesus. No future councils could claim this distinction. It’s not unusual to see it referred to as a “supposed” council because of its uniqueness.

    I’m as much a Catholic as you.

    God bless you, and may you get over your frustration.

  • Nor did St. John Paul II deny the Church doctrines on the Four Last Things: death, judgment, Heaven, and especially Hell. Nor, for that matter, did he deny the existence of Hell.

  • What Father Reese wrote:

    “Catholics should remember that priests and their congregations begin every Eucharist with an admission of sins: “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.””

    A correction of same, properly stating the fullness of the Catholic faith:

    “Catholics should remember that all of the faithful, priests and laity together, begin every Mass with the praying of the Confiteor: “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.””

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