He gave these first bishops the authority to bind and loosen, forgive sins, cure the sick, raise the dead, and drive out demons. They were tasked with teaching and preserving the faith that was given to them directly from Jesus. They passed this knowledge and authority on to their successors through an unbroken chain of apostolic succession to this day. Our bishops have the sole authority to govern the Church and the solemn duty to preserve and pass on the faith as Christ taught it.
On October 31, 1517 Father Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, posted a list of grievances on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It was a call for church reform centering mostly around the apparent sale of indulgences which he viewed as an abuse of power by the Church. Luther tried to change the Church from within but when he continued to push his opinion over Sacred Tradition, he was excommunicated in 1521.
Luther is viewed as the father of Protestantism, the third branch of Christianity. What Luther did was uncork a bottle that was ready to explode, which substituted personal opinion over Sacred Tradition that had been taught for 1500 years. Luther lived long enough to see the same thing happen to the church he started as differing opinions began to splinter all of the Protestant churches. Today, we have over 70,000 different denominational and non-denominational churches each teaching what they to believe to be the real truth Jesus taught. This number grows every day.
Meanwhile history is repeating itself in the Catholic Church. Many within the Church, both cleric and lay alike, are making demands that the Church change her teaching on a number of things. Almost all of the demands are for changes the Church has no authority or ability to change. Some examples of this are –
• It is time for the Church to ordain women to all levels of the clergy, including women bishops, and one day, our first woman Pope.I dub these the Burger King Catholics; people who want to call themselves Catholic but want their faith their way. They are Catholic Protestants who will lead the Church into her next schism.
• The Church should give her blessing to all same-sex marriages.
• That the Church allow those who have gotten a civil divorce to remarry within the Church.
• The Church should allow those who are not in a state of grace to receive the Holy Eucharist, such as those living in adultery through civil divorce and remarriage or those who publicly declare the Church teaching on morals is wrong and support grave evils like abortion and euthanasia.
• That the Church authority be handed over to the laity so that they do things like appoint who becomes a bishop through a popular vote.
This is the reason why Jesus did not set up his Church as a democracy or even a democratic republic. He appointed the Twelve, gave them his authority over the Church. He entrusted to them the deposit of faith and gave them the duty and responsibility to pass this faith on as they had received it, keeping the Church true to his teachings until his return. He gave us his promise that he would be with his Church until the end of time. This is why we believe that the Church cannot fall into error when the magisterium, that is the Pope in union with the bishops, teach on faith and morals. Catholics are required to believe 100% of the Church's teaching on faith and morals. This is not up for debate or change. Those who disagree with the Church disagree with Jesus. Our opinions on these matters do not matter and where we disagree with the Church we need to realize that we are wrong and seek to understand why.
We live in an age of disobedience where all authority is to be ignored. My truth is the correct truth for me. All things revolve around me and my opinion. Where my opinion differs from that of the Church my opinion takes precedence. I am not willing to accept a truth contrary to my belief.
After the miracle of the feeding of the five-thousand through the multiplication of the loaves and fish Jesus gave his teaching on the bread of life and told the people that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to have everlasting life. This teaching was hard for the people to accept and they left him in great numbers. He let them go, Love is always a choice.
Many of the teachings that Jesus gives us through the Church are equally hard for people to accept. Those who walk away from the Church walk away from Jesus in the same way as those who walked away over his teaching on the bread of life. We should not wring our hands and worry about the increasing spaces in our pews. Instead, we need to hold close to the truth and live our faith boldly and joyfully.
Where can we go, Lord. You have the words of eternal life.