26. August, 2014Blog Post 16 comments

Francis Angelus

As most readers know, I’ve had a few ‘dust-ups” with the Founder of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, over the last year or so; in particular as it relates to his unease at my willingness to shine the light of truth on the words and deeds of the pope.

Today, however, in the face of a yet another assault on the doctrine of the Church at the hands of the Bishop of Rome, we are poised to lock arms in defense of the Faith that comes to us from the Apostles.

Giving rise to our new found solidarity is the Angelus Address of 24 August 2014 wherein the Holy Father expounded upon the Gospel reading for that day’s Novus Ordo Missae, Matthew 16:13-20.

According to Pope Francis:

…Simon, in the name of the Twelve, professes his faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”; and Jesus calls Simon “blessed” for his faith, recognizing in it a special gift of the Father. He says to [Simon], “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.”
Let us pause for a moment on this point, on the fact that Jesus bestows on Simon this new name, “Peter,” that in Jesus’ language [Aramaic] was “Kepha,” a word meaning “rock.” In the Bible, this name, this term, “rock,” referred to God. Jesus attributes this name to Simon not for his own personal qualities or his human merits, but on account of his genuine and firm faith, which comes from on high.
Jesus feels a great joy in His heart, because He recognizes in Simon the hand of the Father, the action of the Holy Spirit. He recognizes that God the Father has given Simon a “dependable” faith, upon which He, Jesus, can build His Church, that is, His community, that is, all of us. All of us.
Jesus intend to give live [sic] to “His” Church, a people founded not on offspring, but on faith, that is to say, on a relationship with Himself, a relationship of love and trust. Our relationship with Jesus builds the Church. And so to begin His Church Jesus needs to find in His disciples a solid faith, “dependable” faith. This is what He must confirm at this point in the journey, and this is why He asks the question.
The Lord has in mind the image of building, the image of the community as an edifice. And so, when He hears Simon’s frank profession of faith, He calls him “rock,” and makes clear His intention of building His Church on this faith.
Brothers and sisters, what happened in a unique way in Saint Peter, also takes place in every Christian who develops a sincere faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.

To most readers, the problem is obvious enough.

When Our Blessed Lord said “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” the “rock” to which He referred is none other than the person of Peter. That, my friends, is the faith of the Church, and the very basis for her understanding of the papacy.

The opinion offered by Pope Francis, that the rock upon which Jesus intends to build His church is simply a “sincere and dependable faith” such as “also takes place in every Christian,” is not especially original; the Protestants have been making that failed argument for centuries as part of their denial of the Petrine Office.

In fact, the heretics have been so inclined to argue in such manner for so long that Catholic Answers saw fit to dispel with this error some ten years ago in an article bearing the imprimatur of +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego.

Take a look:

Who is the rock?
Now take a closer look at the key verse: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18). Disputes about this passage have always been related to the meaning of the term “rock.” To whom, or to what, does it refer? Since Simon’s new name of Peter itself means rock, the sentence could be rewritten as: “You are Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church.” The play on words seems obvious, but commentators wishing to avoid what follows from this—namely the establishment of the papacy—have suggested that the word rock could not refer to Peter but must refer to his profession of faith or to Christ. [Emphasis added]

Returning to Pope Francis…

Being inclined as he is to engage in the modernist pastime of clothing novelties in quasi-Catholic language, the Holy Father went on to say:

For his part, Peter is the rock, as the visible foundation of the unity of the Church; but every baptized person is called to offer to Jesus his or her own faith, poor but sincere, so that He can continue to build His Church, today, in every part of the world.

Don’t let the “visible foundation of the unity of the Church” rhetoric fool you. Pope Francis has made it rather clear that his vision of that oh-so-elusive “unity” that he labors to find along with the heretics has nothing to do with submission to the authority of the pope.

In any event, at the conclusion to his address, the pope goaded the faithful into joining him in crying out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” three times.

At this, he turned and waved goodbye, presumably to what he thought were a bunch of “rocks” assembled in the square below.

In the aftermath a question remains: WWCAD? What will Catholic Answers do?

Ten years ago, Catholic Answers saw fit to offer a spirited defense of the papacy in the face of a nameless, faceless, generic attack carried out on the part of those who might argue that Jesus “will build His Church” upon the “rock” of “faith” as opposed to the person of Peter and his successors.

They did so with very good reason as such misrepresentations as this might threaten to cause questions on the part of those who are sincerely seeking the truth. In other words, under the steady leadership of Mr. Keating, they simply lived up to their name by offering “Catholic Answers” to potential questions.

To which I say, Bravo!

In the present case, however, we’re not just talking about a nameless, faceless, generic attack that just might cause confusion as to the doctrine of the faith; rather, we are dealing with the very same assault leveled in the form of a personal, and erroneous, opinion offered by a man dressed in papal grab, speaking from a balcony at St. Peter’s, thereby giving innocent observers every appearance of speaking on behalf of the Holy Catholic Church.

In other words, one can be entirely certain that countless millions of sincere people have been led to confusion and now have questions as to the faith of the Church, and very specifically as it relates to what Pope Francis said.

This being the case, surely Mr. Keating will direct his organization to offer very specific “Catholic Answers” to their very specific questions. No?

  1. Roman Watcher August 26, 2014 4:19 pm

    If Peter is Peter because of his personal firm faith, then what is Bergoglio for his personal shaky and wishy washy faith?

  2. A Catholic Thinker August 26, 2014 7:02 pm

    RW, he’s more Simon than Peter in practice, of course. But he still holds Peter’s staff.

  3. A Catholic Thinker August 26, 2014 7:15 pm

    Another completely disgusting, yet now completely predictable, pandering to the gross errors of the Protestant Revolution.
    Like all things Protestant, their very novel interpretation of this passage – like so many others insisted that Scripture doesn’t mean at all what it plainly says – has no foundation whatever in the early Church. No Father taught such a thing – none. To be sure, as with much of Scripture, there are multiple meanings for “Rock”, there is no mistaking the fact that the primary one is the blessing of Peter as *the* visible head of Christ’s Church on Earth – and his successors as well.
    There is ample evidence for this reading both on the surface and below it, with no contrary interpretation reasonably possible. (Of course, blessed with the “gift” of [authoritative] private interpretation, the Protestant is free to believe it says whatever he likes, each individual Protestant being his own pope and magisterium.)
    Here are a few of my old ruminations on this subject:

  4. Matthew August 26, 2014 7:32 pm

    Francis begins by saying that Peter’s faith was a direct gift from God, but ends by saying that the same thing takes place in us when we “develop a sincere faith”. In a mere minute of speaking time, faith has gone from being a gift from God to being a product of human effort. That has to be some kind of a record.

  5. rubyroad2014 August 26, 2014 7:44 pm

    And didn’t the pope say last year that even though Peter denied Jesus, THEY made him pope.

  6. Indignus famulus August 26, 2014 8:07 pm

    St. Augustine left other writings that demonstrated his solid belief in the Primacy of Peter and the Papacy, but on the topic of Peter’s confession of Faith, it seems he left a controversy behind, from which Pope Francis may be taking his ideas?
    In “Retractions” St Augustine wrote:
    “In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built’…But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable.”
    —Source:The Fathers of the Church (Washington D.C., Catholic University, 1968), Saint Augustine, The Retractations Chapter 20.1.
    –According to Stephen Ray, who has done much research on the topic, it is necessary to get a consensus of Church Fathers, Councils, Writings of the Popes.etc, rather than taking one opinion of one Father before drawing a conclusion. We weren’t able to find his debate on the topic–maybe someone else can contribute more..

    • A Catholic Thinker August 26, 2014 8:26 pm

      Yes, IF, the Fathers are only infallible when they speak in unison. They did so regarding the primacy of Peter and his See in general, of course.
      The Rock may be Christ in a sense, but not in the main sense; this is really incontrovertible when looking at the Greek text, I think:
      The “God is the Rock” Argument
      There are many places in the Old Testament where God is referred to as “rock”, and so Protestants argue that Christ must have actually been referring to God (or Himself – He also being God). But this is just completely nonsensical, for Christ was referring to Peter literally and there is no way around this. In fact, the fact that previously “rock” had been used to refer to God makes the passage all the more remarkable.
      Besides the fact that the text clearly has Christ referring to Peter as the “Rock”, there is the large problem that Christ is doing so because He had already given Peter “Rock” as his name(which is what Peter/Cephas means) as described in John 1:42.
      In fact there is no difficulty with God being likened to a “rock” and Peter (“Rock”!) being called Rock as well – Scripture in many instances uses the same name or metaphor to apply to different things. Both Jesus and the apostles are called the foundation of the Church, both Christ and all Christians referred to as “stones”, and both Christ and the faithful called the “temple of God”, for example.
      The fact is that Scripture repeatedly assigns divine attributes to Peter and the other apostles, because the Church is a divine institution.
      In addition, there actually is an Old Testament precedent to a man being called “Rock” as well: Abraham. Here is Isaiah 51:1-2:
      “[1] Give ear to me, you that follow that which is just, and you that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence you are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you are dug out. [2] Look unto Abraham your father, and to Sara that bore you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and multiplied him.”
      Here Abraham is equated with the “rock” in verse one. (Salza outlines the uncanny parallels between Abraham and Peter: each a patriarch of a covenant of God, each the first leader of their respective Covenants, both shepherds of the people of the Covenant, both had their name changed by God, and both called “rock”.)
      The “Peter is the Small Rock” Argument
      Since it’s very clear that Peter is indeed (literally) Rock and that Christ tells him he (Peter) will be the foundation of the Church, another line of Protestation has been to argue, via a tortured linguistic gymnastic, that while Peter is indeed a “rock” he is a “small” (or female) rock and Christ is, in contract, a “large” rock.
      Of course, this one is also completely untenable and is revealed as nothing more than clever sophistry under scrutiny. (And while I do not speak or read Greek, I believe those who say that no native Greek speaker reading the original Greek text would ever read it in the sense that the proponents of this argument insist on.)
      The argument is a linguistic one based on the fact that Greek has both masculine and feminine forms of nouns. In the Greek translation (of Christ’s words most likely spoken in Aramaic – more on that below), Christ calls Peter “Petros” initially but in the “build my church” phrase uses “petra” for “rock”. Protestants argue that Christ used this contrast because he was referring to Peter as a “pebble” but Himself as the “rock” on which the Church is built.
      The first problem is that the language that most historians (Christian and otherwise) say Christ and His followers spoke, Aramaic, does not have gender-specific nouns (which should not be surprising to us English-speakers as we don’t either). If this is true – and it’s extremely likely it is – there is no way the argument can have any merit whatsoever because there is only one form of rock (neuter) in Aramaic just as there is in English.
      But, to continue with the Greek: it turns out that the grammatical rules of the language do require the two different forms of rock be used, because of the gender of the object (Peter). Petra is a feminine noun naturally, but when used as the name of a man its masculine form –Petros – must be used. Also, it is not true – according to the experts – that Greek requires genders to match when they are used to refer to the same object – that is true only of pronouns. Any exegist who is honestly fluent in Greek can confirm these things.
      John Salza again goes into the details expertly, and also provides great evidence that petra means only a large, immovable rock, providing many examples from Scripture.
      Says D.A. Carson (a Protestant): “Although it is true that petros and petra can mean ‘stone’ and ‘rock’ respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover, the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses (‘you are kepha’ and ‘on this kepha’), since the word was used both for a name and for a ‘rock.’ The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name.” (Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1984], volume 8, page 368, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 17-18)

      • Lynda August 26, 2014 9:04 pm

        Dear A Catholic Thinker, Thanks for the clear exegesis of the biblical passage.

      • A Catholic Thinker August 27, 2014 6:06 pm

        I should’ve said, “When looking the Greek text, but especially the fact that Christ spoke Aramaic” (which has no gender-specific nouns, etc.).

  7. Michael Leon August 26, 2014 9:45 pm

    I wrote about this homily on Sunday. I started off with a question:
    “Is it just me or does it seem like there is not a single verse in the Bible that bergoglio is not able to squeeze some heretical interpretation out of?”
    Thanks to Louie for providing the answer: It’s not just me.
    My main observation was that bergoglio refers to Christ’s “community” which by this time we know is his way of referring to all who call themselves “Christians” regardless of how many Catholic truths they deny.
    You can read more here if you are interested:
    I also had a folow-up article based on a very Catholic homily titled “If No One Is Pope, Everyone is Pope”:
    The only problem is that it totally contradicts the homily offered by bergoglio….
    I was going to write a third article about how bergoglio stresses in this homily the protestant notion of “a personal relationship with Christ”… this is the non-sacramental approach to Christianity which is based on “feelings”…. aka modernism.

  8. Denise August 27, 2014 11:52 am

    I think that Karl Keating will ignore this latest Protestant viewpoint as uttered by Pope Francis. Or, Mr. Keating, if he does address it, will find a way to make it conform to Church teaching.

    I agree with Louie that the ‘unity’ that Pope Francis tries to find with heretics has nothing to do with the submission to the authority of the pope. Pope Francis doesn’t want anyone to submit, except maybe for trads.

    Notice that in Pope Francis’ address, at the end of the third paragraph down, where he says….”upon which He, Jesus, can build His Church, that is His community, that is, all of us. All of us.”

    The pope emphasizes “All of us,” which I take to mean all “Christians,” such anyone who calls themselves Christian. I get the feeling that Pope Francis doesn’t like Catholicism, or the Church, very much. But he stays in it in order to try to change it from within. He’s far more suited to be an Anglican or Lutheran. We’ll see what happens when the synod meets in October. If Bp. Athanasius Schneider is correct, that’s when things will happen that will reveal the true crisis in the Church. It is a serious crisis, for which Karl Keating et al don’t realize the seriousness of.

  9. FrankIII August 27, 2014 8:49 pm

    The late Fr. Stanley Jaki wrote a great book on this, “And on This Rock: The Witness of One Land and Two Covenants.”
    Here’s a review from Amazon.com:
    In the area of the ancient city of Caesarea Philipi is a huge stone that dominates and can be seen from all over the area. At the foot of this rock are the remains of an ancient site dedicated to the pagan fertility god, Pan. On the top of the rock are the remains of a temple to the Roman god, Jupiter. From a crevice in the rock springs one of the source tributaries of the Jordan river that flows through and nourishes the barren landscape. It was with this backdrop that Jesus affirmed Simon as the Rock on which He would build His church. Many scholars have failed to grasp the significance of this location to the affirmation of Peter’s primacy among the apostles. But what better juxtaposition of the stability to be found in the life-giving church against the gates of hell?
    Fr. Jaki brings his thorough scrutiny as a scientist and theologian to bear on the history of the use of the name, Rock, for God alone in ancient Jewish tradition. He affirms that a mere man being called Rock should lead us to humility and provide a basis for greater unity among different Christian traditions rather than prove to be a point of contention between us.
    In the final chapter, Fr. Jaki takes to task liberal Protestantism as it searches for the historical Jesus while denying His assertion to Peter. Taken to their logical conclusions, Fr. Jaki observes, “any investigator of Jesus’ life, who does not take for genuine Jesus’ reply to Peter’s confession, will not endorse a faith in Jesus as defined at Niceaea.” And so, in the end, the infallible Rock of the Catholic Church stands against the liberalizing influences of changing times and remains a bulwark of the one true deposit of faith. Fr. Jaki’s insights from scripture, philosophy, and common sense have given us a great work for meditation as well as apologetics.

  10. philipp August 28, 2014 9:16 am

    The Holy Father is simply following the Catechism, which teaches, “Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church” (#424).

    Similarly, St. John Chrysostom wrote, “What then says Christ? … ‘And I say unto you, ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church;’ that is, on the faith of his confession” (Commentary on Matthew, 54, 3).

    The Church is founded upon Peter insofar as he confesses the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    God bless you.

    • Matthew August 28, 2014 11:38 am

      There is no fault in saying that Peter was appointed by Christ as the foundation of the Church by virtue of his confession of faith. But if we lose sight of the primacy of the confessor, we fall into error. As St. Cyprian wrote, “He [i.e. Christ] builds the Church on one person.”
      Giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, we could say that he means to communicate nothing other than that, just as Peter was chosen as the “rock” (Matthew 16:18) upon which Christ established His Church by virtue of his faith, so, too, do we become “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) for the building of His Church by virtue of our own. Such a statement would be unobjectionable. It would offer little in the way of insight, but it would be doctrinally sound.
      But is this all Francis is saying? If so, he’s doing a remarkably poor job of it. In one place, he says that faith is a gift from God. In another, he says that faith is a relationship with God. In yet another place, he says that faith is the product of human effort. He says that faith is something we receive, and yet something we must offer up. It’s all very Zen-like.
      I recognize that one could, through considerable effort of translation, find a way to reconcile each of these statements with genuine Catholic thought. But as they stand, one can only come away thoroughly confused as to what, exactly, Pope Francis is saying about faith. He frequently employs terms – terms which used to have clear doctrinal significance – in such a way as to render them dangerously nebulous. If Nietzsche did philosophy with a hammer, Pope Francis does theology with a bubble machine. Even if one were to give him the benefit of the doubt, one can’t ignore that his words, rather than bringing clarity, add considerably to the confusion.

  11. philipp August 28, 2014 3:41 pm


    It seems to me that Francis’ address was concerned not so much with ecclesiology as with the supernatural origin of our faith, particularly its foundations in the Trinitarian economy of grace.

    By the way, I’d deploy that Cyprian quote with care, given what comes immediately afterwards: “Although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, [Christ] gives an equal power…Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.”

    God bless you.

  12. philipp August 28, 2014 3:47 pm

    “But is this all Francis is saying? If so, he’s doing a remarkably poor job of it. In one place, he says that faith is a gift from God. In another, he says that faith is a relationship with God. In yet another place, he says that faith is the product of human effort. He says that faith is something we receive, and yet something we must offer up. It’s all very Zen-like.”

    These dynamics are characteristic of the entire Christian mystery: at once human and divine, at once received and offered. There is nothing novel here, I don’t think. As we pray in the Liturgy of John Chrysostom, “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto thee…”

    Why don’t we keep our powder dry for more serious slip-ups?

    God bless you.

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