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There Are Two Keys


February 1, 2023  0


When Our Blessed Lord made Simon Bar-Jonah the head of the Apostles, He did so by saying, "And to you I give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 16:19) Notice: keys — plural — more than one key. That reality is expressed on the Vatican's flag, which has two keys. One key represents the pope's spiritual authority; the other represents his temporal authority.

And moreover, they intersect each other to show that (sometimes) both these jurisdictions overlap. The one key, the spiritual one, represents the teaching authority. And when it is challenged or attempted to be taken, that is heresy — denying a teaching or teachings of the Church. The other key, the temporal authority one, is violated when someone denies or ignores the temporal authority the pope exercises over the Church — that is schism.

It's not the teachings that need to be believed in; it's the Church.

The point is, there is more than just one way to challenge the Church: either through Her teachings or Her authority. Today, both things are happening. Some challenge the teachings; others are challenging the authority. Some are engaging in heresy, others in schism. There's more than one side of the Barque of St. Peter a Catholic can fall from. 

Schism is just as much of a threat to the life of a faithful Catholic as heresy. And they both damage the Church, sometimes severely. Just look at the schism with Eastern Orthodoxy 1,000 years ago and the effects of the Protestant heresy 500 years ago. This is why both heresy and schism need to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible — because once they gain traction, they tend to spin out of control. And once that happens, there's no real coming back, as history shows us.

The point that both heretics and schismatics seem to miss is this: It's not the teachings that need to be believed in or the Faith itself; it's the Church — the Church's divine charter, Her mission — ultimately, Her authority. The teachings proceed from all that, so it is the Church that must be believed in, not the teachings or the Faith per se. The teachings flow from the Church, not the other way around. 

The authority of the Church does not come from the teachings. Her authority comes directly from Christ, Who transmits that authority to the pope and the hierarchy. To the extent that a pope or members of the hierarchy may abuse that authority, they don't lose their position or office — particularly the pope.

No man or council or Catholic social media types have authority over the pope, only Jesus Himself. It's His Church — period. After his betrayal of Our Lord, Peter lost his headship over the Apostles. But notice, it was not the other Apostles who did it. Nor was it Mary Magdalene or even Our Blessed Mother, who any faithful Catholic would consider that if anyone could do it, the sinless Virgin Mary could. Nope — it was Jesus alone.

The teachings flow from the Church, not the other way around. 

This is why, at the seashore, Jesus says, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He abandoned the name and title "Peter" that He had bestowed on him at Caesarea Philippi when He had handed him the keys and referred to him three times as Simon, Son of John — his "pre-authority" name.

Our Lord needed to exact from Peter a profession of his faith and love, in the presence of the other Apostles, before restoring him to his authority as their leader. But it was Jesus Himself Who did that. No one else had the authority to unseat him nor restore him. No man (and certainly not a mere layman) has the authority and should not even raise these kinds of doubts in people's minds.

We believe that, or we don't. And if we do — or at least, claim to — we don't get to deny one key or the other. It is insufficient to point out heresy while you yourself are propagating schism. There are two keys — two.

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