As a Catholic, I now understand that the Protestant world has a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Holy Spirit works, and how God orders the Church. He does not work to interpret scripture or doctrine through just anyone, and certainly not through everyone. He works in many ways with many people, but when it comes to interpretation, either of scripture or of doctrine, He works only through the designated authorities of the Church, whom scripture tells us to obey. Who are the designated authorities? Peter and the Apostles, and their successors the Pope and the Bishops, in the valid Apostolic Succession through the laying on of the hands.
There is only one passage in the New Testament where Jesus clearly gives authority to another: Matt 16:13-19. In this passage, Jesus asks who the disciples think he is, and they all give different answers. He then asks Peter, who says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replies,
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 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. I will give you the keys of 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.”
God revealed to Peter alone a truth of the faith, the true identity of Christ, when the others were confused and divided. That is the seed of Papal infallibility in scripture.
The passage is strikingly similar to Is 22:20-24:
In that day I will call my servant Eli’akim the son of Hilki’ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And 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. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.
And to Rev. 3:7:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.
Keys in scripture are symbolic of authority; the key of David symbolizes the authority of God. The passage in Isaiah is in the context of usurping a former authority that wasn’t true to God, and establishing a new authority while the old is cut down (Isaiah was prophesying to Judah and Jerusalem, just prior to the Babylonian exile). The passage in Revelation is clearly a reference to Christ, who is God Incarnate.
So, in Matt 16:13-19, Jesus Himself, recognizing that God the Father has chosen Peter, gives him the keys to His own authority, the authority of God, and the power of binding and loosing that goes with it, in a clear allusion to Is 22. The Isaiah background is the judgment of the Jews and the destruction of the Temple, which Jesus also prophesied. Jesus was founding a new church in place of the Judaic Temple, and proclaiming a new leader, revealed by God the Father, in Peter.
Peter alone, and no other, was given a direct revelation by our Father in heaven of Christ’s identity, and so given the biblical keys of authority, the authority of God to bind and loose, make final decisions. And it is not an arbitrary authority, but the authority of God to steer the Church to the truth in moments of man’s confusion, given to Peter alone. That is why the Church defines the Magisterium as “The Pope and the Bishops in union with the Pope.”
I close this reflection with this quote from an article on Papal Infallibility:
Often those who object to the doctrine of infallibility confuse it with impeccability or personal inerrancy. It is neither. Impeccability means that a person is incapable of sinning. Popes, like other Christians, are sinners. Personal inerrancy means that Popes cannot make mistakes. Infallibility, on the other hand, refers to that guidance of the Holy Spirit that guards Popes from officially teaching error in matters of faith and morals. [italics mine]
It is a gift that I, for one, am extremely grateful.
Read the whole thing.