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Should errors of the past mean that teaching authority should be discounted

Do these errors and mistakes in the past prove that the teaching authority itself should be discounted?

The teaching authority, just like the Church itself, is human and stands in constant need of reform. This does not mean that it is not exercising an important function.

The excessive claims of the present Roman authorities and the oppressive regime they inflict on the universal Church force us to remind the whole community of faith of the previous errors and mistakes of these bodies which, in the eyes of many of the faithful, enjoy an undeserved aura of 'infallibility'.

However, the episcopate, headed by the Pope, have a very important task of preserving the communio of the whole body of the Church and of witnessing to the revealed truths that belong to its treasury of faith. Also, in spite of its many failings in the past, the teaching authority has greatly contributed to keeping the Church on course.

We do not discard cars, railways or planes because accidents happen at times. We learn from the mistakes to prevent them happening again.

Jesus did not reject Peter because he denied him three times in the house of Annas and Caiaphas (Mark 14,66-72). He accepted Peter’s repentance and made him a shepherd who would ‘lead’ with love because he had himself experienced the need of sympathy and love (John 21,15-17). When Peter erred in Antioch, by distancing himself from the newly converted Gentile Christians, Paul corrected Peter in front of the whole community because he was not ‘respecting the true meaning of the Gospel’ (Galatians 2,14).

Do we reject the papacy because Peter made mistakes?

John Wijngaards

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

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