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THE POWER OF PETER AND THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, 7th Week of Easter, May 25, 2012
Acts 25:13-21, Ps. 102, John 21:15-19


"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs'" (John 21:15).


After the resurrection, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked Simon Peter three times whether he loved him. And three times Peter said, Yes, I love you. Then three times Jesus said, Feed my lambs. Peter denied Jesus three times (Matt. 26:69-75). Jesus now gives him three opportunities to make up for his denial. Peter three times affirms that he loves Jesus, and three times Jesus responds by giving him authority over the other apostles and over the Church.


We see the same thing in the gospel of St. Luke, when at the Last Supper Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). That is, Jesus gave Peter the power and authority to confirm the other apostles and the Church.


Finally, in the gospel of St. Matthew we also see the special power and authority that Jesus gave to Peter in his Church. Jesus said to Peter: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:18-19). Here we see that the Church is built upon Peter as upon a solid rock, and that she will survive the death of Peter-"And the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18)-and will continue in the world with this same structure of being built upon Peter; that is, Peter will have successors. The keys of the kingdom were only given to Peter, and he will have great power and authority in the Church, the power of binding and loosing; and all that he binds or looses on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. This power of binding and loosing was also given to all the apostles as a group (Matt. 18:18), but in addition it was given individually to Peter so that what they can do together, he can do alone, as an individual.


The bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter, and he exercises these powers to this day for the good of the Church. When he makes a definitive decision concerning faith or morals, acting explicitly as the successor of Peter to confirm the brethren (Luke 22:32), all are required to believe these things "by divine and catholic faith" (canon 750). A current example of the use of this power is the decree of Pope John Paul II that "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, May 22, 1994).


The same Pope approved and ordered published the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the above decree is "to be held definitively" and is to be "understood as belonging to the deposit of faith," requiring "definitive assent," for the above decree is "a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith" (Responsum ad Dubitum, October 28, 1995). This power of the successor of Peter is covered by canon 750.


This is a contemporary example of the power that the successor of Peter exercises in the Church for the good of all.

 

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