Authority and Duties of Shepherds

Homily Series: Teaching Authority of the Church

How to make sense of current controversies in the Church

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, Fr. Steve reflects on the three-fold ministry of shepherds: governing, teaching, and sanctifying. Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Dei Verbum 10, Fr. Steve discusses the special role of the "Magisterium" (or teaching office) of the Church, and how the Holy Spirit guides the Church and protects the Church from potential confusion and corruptions in Her teaching.

Last week, Fr. Steve preached about Pope Francis' most recent Apostolic Exhortation, "Rejoice and Be Glad: On Holiness in Today's World," and raised questions and concerns about the ways that bishops, priests, and other theologians have interpreted that text as well as (especially) his earlier Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

This week, Fr. Steve quotes Cardinal Gerhard Müller who asserts that critical comments and questions about (interpretations and pastoral applications of) papal statements can sometimes be a "duty of conscience." The Magisterium is a gift to the Church for the preservation of the Truth we find in Christ.

Fr. Steve concludes with an excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI's homily from the Mass when he took possession of the Chair in St. John Lateran in May 2005, which outlines his understanding of the limits on papal authority.

The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience in faith . . . . The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.

May all shepherds, from least to greatest, have such obedience to Christ, and thereby prove to be shepherds after the heart of the Good Shepherd!

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