This Unity makes the Church to have one Lord, to be one Church, to teach one Doctrine, and to walk one path of Salvation. The Roman Pontiff as the visible Head of the Church, as the Vicar of Christ, unifies the faithful by his mystical unity with Christ, so that “Christ and His Vicar constitute one only head” of the one Church. Those who reject the Roman Pontiff, no matter who he may be, fall away from full communion with the one Church.
Neither can we say that scattered few Bishops, who oppose the Pope, can keep persons in the one sheepfold. The authority of the Bishops is from Christ, through the Vicar of Christ. The Bishops are many, but the Pope is one. So unity cannot come from each person following only his own Bishop, and not also the Pope. Nor can unity come from each person picking and choosing which few Bishops to follow, merely because those Bishops have ideas that each one likes. That is not faith or obedience. Such persons are not really following the Bishops in question, except in so far as they happen to manifest the disordered ideas of those persons who oppose the Pope.
Then it is not even possible for the Bishops as a body to fall away from the true faith, or to fall away from unity with the Roman Pontiff. For the Apostolic College participates in the indefectibility of the Church and of the Roman Pontiff. Then, too, the indefectibility of the Church necessarily means that She can never lose Her essential characteristics, which include being apostolic. If the Bishops ever went astray as a body, the Church would no longer be apostolic, as a few scattered Bishops are not sufficient for that characteristic. Or do you think that the promises of Christ permit the chief Shepherds of the Church to be reduced to tatters, to be shattered like a broken bowl, as if Christ’s promises were weak and ineffectual? If that is what you think, then you think God to be unfaithful.
Catholic Christians believe in submission to the authority of Christ, expressed through His Church. We believe that the Church is actively and effectively the body of Christ, with Christ as the Head of the Church, and the Holy Spirit as the Soul of the Church. And we believe in the indefectibility of this Church, not only because Christ directly promised indefectibility (Mt 16:18), but also because Christ as the Head of the body, the Holy Spirit as the Soul, and the body of the Shepherds and flock united to that Head and to His Vicar, and enlivened by that Soul, cannot possibly go astray due to the indefectibility of God. Yes, the indefectibility of the Church is from the indefectibility of God, just as the infallibility of the Church is from the infallibility of God.
For all these reasons, we must be submissive to the authority of Christ, His Church, and His Vicar, since none of these can ever go astray, or lead us away from the path of salvation, or away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who claim that a Pope or Ecumenical Council has gone astray or led astray have judged by their own fallen sinful minds and hearts. They have rejected the obedience of faith, rejected the dogmas which protect the Church, the Pope, and the body of Bishops from going astray or leading astray, and have usurped the very authority of Christ, who is the eternal Head of the Church.
When people reject Popes and Ecumenical Councils and the body of Bishops (who always follow the Popes and Councils), whom do they wish to lead the Church? The answer is always the same: those who reject Church authority wish to set themselves up as a false authority over the flock of Jesus Christ. But they lack the papal charisms as well as the charisms given to the body of Bishops. And so they are entirely unfit to replace the Pope and the body of Bishops in leading the Church. Yet they seek to do so, in their pride.
9. The Pope is one Head with Christ the Lord over the one Church and head of the one body of Bishops.
* Pope Pius XII: “After His glorious Ascension into Heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter, too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory [Pope] Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same.”
~ According to Pope Pius XII (and the First Council of Lyons, and Pope Leo XIII in Satis Cognitum), the Pontificate of Peter began at the Ascension. Thus, Peter did not have the papal charisms until the Ascension. This is indicated in Luke 22:32 by the words of Jesus, first, that He prayed for Peter, indicating the arrival of the gifts so prayed for at a later time, and second, that this would occur after Peters conversion (“so that you, once converted”).
~ Notice the teaching that Christ the Lord and each Roman Pontiff together form only one Head of the one Church. Pius XII states that this “solemn teaching” has been the constant teaching of the Popes at least since Boniface VIII, indicating an infallible teaching. This dogma is not so well known, and it is quite remarkable. An easier to understand position would be that the Church has a visible head, the Pope, and an invisible Head, the Lord Jesus. And that much is true, but the full teaching of the Church on this topic is more profound. These two heads, the visible and invisible, have a mystical unity in the Mystical Body of Christ (the title of the Pius XII document containing this dogma). They are united by God as one only Head. Then this unity implies the other papal charisms. For from his unity with Christ, the Pope obtains many gifts for the Church. And these gifts are given to each Pope, whether a Saint or sinner, for the sake of the faithful, not for his own sake. A Pope can lose his own salvation, but he nevertheless has all the papal charisms, the same as every other successor of Peter.
* Pope Saint Boniface I, to the bishops of Thessaly: “It is therefore certain that this Church [the Roman See] is to the Churches throughout the world as the head to its members. If anyone cut himself off from this Church, not being in union with her, he is outside the Christian religion.”
~ The expression “this Church” refers to the Roman Church or Apostolic See, not to the Catholic Church as a whole. Note that Pope Saint Boniface I wrote long before the great Schism that separated the Orthodox Churches from the Catholic Church, and long before the Protestant Reformation. So he did not intend to claim that the Orthodox or the Protestants are not Christians.
~ Now what would happen if a Bishop were to cut himself off from submission to the Roman Pontiff? Then he, too, is no longer in union with the Apostolic See and so is outside of full communion with the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. This is not a judgment of such a person’s soul, as they might have committed this objectively grave sin with a sincere but mistaken conscience, to one degree or another. Some persons formally outside the Church can be implicit members and in the state of grace. But the path of salvation is more difficult, certainly, for any Catholic, let alone a Bishop, who falls away by rejecting submission to the Roman Pontiff.
~ That anyone who cuts himself off from the Apostolic See falls away from full communion with the one Church proves that the Roman Pontiff, Head of the Apostolic See, is the source of unity of the body of Bishops. Sometimes, those who resist a Roman Pontiff seek to justify themselves by adhering to few heretical or schismatic Bishops. But since these Bishops are cutoff from the Church (cf. Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 15), union with them is not union with the Apostolic See or the true Church.
* Pope Boniface VIII: “3. And so, the one and only Church is one body, one head, (not two heads like a monster), Christ certainly, and the vicar of Christ, who is Peter and the successor of Peter. For the Lord said to Peter himself, ‘Feed my sheep.’ [John 21:17] He said ‘my’ generally, not solely of these or of those. By this, it is understood that all [universas] were committed to him. Therefore, if either the Greeks or others declare themselves not to be committed to Peter and his successors, they necessarily admit themselves not to be among the sheep of Christ, just as the Lord says in John, ‘there is one sheepfold, and only one shepherd.’ [John 10:16]”
* Catechism of the Council of Trent, 1566: “The Church has but one ruler and one governor, the invisible one, Christ, whom the eternal Father has made head over all the Church, which is his body; the visible one, the Pope, who, as legitimate successor of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, fills the Apostolic chair. It is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers that this visible head is necessary to establish and preserve unity in the Church. This Saint Jerome clearly perceived and as clearly expressed when … he wrote: ‘One is elected that, by the appointment of a head, all occasion of schism may be removed.’ ”
~ Anything unanimously taught by the Fathers and confirmed as such by the Magisterium is a dogma. It is therefore required belief that the Roman Pontiff, as visible Head of the Church, is necessary in the plan of God for the unity of the Church.
* Catechism of the Council of Trent, 1566: “Should anyone object that the Church is content with one Head and one Spouse, Jesus Christ, and requires no other, the answer is obvious. For as we deem Christ not only the author of all the Sacraments, but also their invisible minister — He it is who baptizes, He it is who absolves, although men are appointed by Him the external ministers of the Sacraments — so has He placed over His Church, which He governs by His invisible Spirit, a man to be His vicar and the minister of His power. A visible Church requires a visible head; therefore the Savior appointed Peter head and pastor of all the faithful, when He committed to his care the feeding of all His sheep, in such ample terms that He willed the very same power of ruling and governing the entire Church to descend to Peter’s successors.”
* Catechism of the Council of Trent, 1566: “Above all these, the Catholic Church has always placed the Supreme Pontiff of Rome, whom Cyril of Alexandria, in the Council of Ephesus, named the Chief Bishop, Father and Patriarch of the whole world. He sits in that chair of Peter in which beyond every shadow of doubt the Prince of the Apostles sat to the end of his days, and hence it is that in him the Church recognizes the highest degree of dignity, and a universality of jurisdiction derived, not from the decrees of men or Councils, but from God Himself. Wherefore he is the Father and guide of all the faithful, of all the Bishops, and of all the prelates, no matter how high their power and office; and as successor of St. Peter, as true and lawful Vicar of Christ our Lord, he governs the universal Church.”
* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 10: “Indeed no true and perfect human society can be conceived which is not governed by some supreme authority. Christ therefore must have given to His Church a supreme authority to which all Christians must render obedience. For this reason, as the unity of the faith is of necessity required for the unity of the church, inasmuch as it is the body of the faithful, so also for this same unity, inasmuch as the Church is a divinely constituted society, unity of government, which effects and involves unity of communion, is necessary jure divino [by divine law]. ‘The unity of the Church is manifested in the mutual connection or communication of its members, and likewise in the relation of all the members of the Church to one head’ (St. Thomas, 2a 2ae, 9, xxxix., a. I).”
~ Leo XIII quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas in saying that the unity of the Church requires our mutual relation to one Head. But that one Head, according to the above discussed dogma, is Christ and His Vicar as one only Head of the one Church.
* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 11: “Jesus Christ, therefore, appointed Peter to be that head of the Church; and He also determined that the authority instituted in perpetuity for the salvation of all should be inherited by His successors, in whom the same permanent authority of Peter himself should continue. And so He made that remarkable promise to Peter and to no one else: ‘Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church’ (Matt. xvi., 18). ‘To Peter the Lord spoke: to one, therefore, that He might establish unity upon one’ (S. Pacianus [St. Pacian, Bishop] ad Sempronium, Ep. iii., n. 11). ‘Without any prelude He mentions St. Peter’s name and that of his father (Blessed art thou Simon, son of John) and He does not wish Him to be called any more Simon; claiming him for Himself according to His divine authority He aptly names him Peter, from petra the rock, since upon him He was about to found His Church’ (S. Cyrillus Alexandrinus [St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria], In Evang. Joan., lib. ii., in cap. i., v. 42).”
~ Christ founded His Church on Peter at the Ascension. Saint Cyril says “about to found”, indicating that Peter was not yet the Rock of the Church at the time that Christ spoke in Matthew 16:18 and Luke 22:32. Notice that the authority given to the Roman Pontiff as one Head of the one Church with Christ is “instituted in perpetuity”, implying that it never fails, regardless of who the Pope may be. And this is “for the salvation of all”, indicating the grave necessity, in the plan of God, to submit to papal authority, so as to remain firmly on the path of salvation.
* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 12: “These, then, are the duties of a shepherd: to place himself as leader at the head of his flock, to provide proper food for it, to ward off dangers, to guard against insidious foes, to defend it against violence: in a word to rule and govern it. Since therefore Peter has been placed as shepherd of the Christian flock he has received the power of governing all men for whose salvation Jesus Christ shed His blood. ‘Why has He shed His blood? To buy the sheep which He handed over to Peter and his successors’ (S. Joannes Chrysostomus, De Sacerdotio, lib. ii).
~ The Pope is the Shepherd and leader at the head of the whole flock of Jesus Christ. He has authority to govern the whole Church.
* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 12: “And since all Christians must be closely united in the communion of one immutable faith, Christ the Lord, in virtue of His prayers, obtained for Peter that in the fulfilment of his office he should never fall away from the faith. ‘But I have asked for thee that thy faith fail not’ (Luke xxii., 32), and He furthermore commanded him to impart light and strength to his brethren as often as the need should arise: ‘Confirm thy brethren’ (Ibid.). He willed then that he whom He had designated as the foundation of the Church should be the defense of its faith. ‘Could not Christ who confided to him the Kingdom by His own authority have strengthened the faith of one whom He designated a rock to show the foundation of the Church?’ (S. Ambrosius, De Fide, lib. iv., n. 56).”
~ Notice that the charism of unity flows from the decision of Christ that He and His Vicar would always be one head of the one Church. This union of the Pope with Christ, and this single headship over the whole flock makes the members of the Church closely united in one faith. And the reason that this plan, to give such a position to a fallen sinner, does not fail or harm the Church gravely is that Peter and his successors have the charism of never-failing faith.
* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 12: “Wherefore Chrysostom says: ‘He was preeminent among the Apostles: He was the mouthpiece of the Apostles and the head of the Apostolic College….at the same time showing him that henceforth he ought to have confidence, and as it were blotting out his denial, He commits to him the government of his brethren….He saith to him: ‘If thou lovest Me, be over my brethren.’ Finally He who confirms in ‘every good work and word’ (2 Thess. ii., 16) commands Peter ‘to confirm his brethren.’ ”
~ Leo XIII teaches that the Pope is the head of the Apostolic College. Thus, the Apostolic College is limited in its ability to teach or rule apart from the Roman Pontiff, who is the head of the body. And this is true whether the Apostolic College is gathered in a Council or dispersed in the world. The Bishops are not a full Apostolic College without the consent, participation, or agreement of the Roman Pontiff.
* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 15. “From this it must be clearly understood that Bishops are deprived of the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately secede from Peter and his successors; because, by this secession, they are separated from the foundation on which the whole edifice must rest. They are therefore outside the edifice itself; and for this very reason they are separated from the fold, whose leader is the Chief Pastor; they are exiled from the Kingdom, the keys of which were given by Christ to Peter alone.
“And [Saint] Optatus of Milevis says: ‘You cannot deny that you know that in the city of Rome the Episcopal chair was first conferred on Peter. In this Peter, the head of all the Apostles (hence his name Cephas), has sat; in which chair alone unity was to be preserved for all, lest any of the other apostles should claim anything as exclusively his own. So much so, that he who would place another chair against that one chair, would be a schismatic and a sinner’ (De Schism. Donat., lib. ii).”
~ Today, some Bishops have rejected the authority of Pope Francis and falsely accused him, contrary to the dogma of never-failing faith, of apostasy, heresy, and idolatry. Pope Leo XIII says that such Bishops are “deprived of the right and power of ruling”. They are outside of the edifice of the Catholic Church and separated from the fold, whose leader and head is the Roman Pontiff. For the Keys were given by Christ to Peter alone, not to each and every individual Bishops. Then the Apostolic College can only exercise the supreme authority of the Church with the Roman Pontiff, never without him, never in opposition to him.
~ Saint Optatus says that in the chair of Peter alone is the unity of the one Church. Those who try to set up another chair, that is, another source of authority and unity, are schismatics. And yet today we see that those who reject Pope Francis constantly grasp at straws, seeking a replacement for the authority and charisms of the Roman Pontiff. They gather themselves to schismatic Bishops. They publish a vast number of articles offering many varied and contradictory explanations for their rejection of the Roman Pontiff, and various plans for a Church which would not have supreme authority vested in the successor of Peter. Such a rejection of the Pope is schismatic, and such plans to revise the authority and charisms of the Roman Pontiff are heretical.
* Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 15: “But the Episcopal order is rightly judged to be in communion with Peter, as Christ commanded, if it be subject to and obeys Peter; otherwise it necessarily becomes a lawless and disorderly crowd. It is not sufficient for the due preservation of the unity of the faith that the head should merely have been charged with the office of superintendent, or should have been invested solely with a power of direction. But it is absolutely necessary that he should have received real and sovereign authority which the whole community is bound to obey. ”
~ The faithful who reject the Roman Pontiff cannot turn to the body of Bishops, as they indefectibly follow the Roman Pontiff (as a body). They cannot turn to the Bishops who also reject the Roman Pontiff, as those Bishops have fallen away from communion with the Apostolic See and so have lost their jurisdiction and authority. The entire body of Bishops, apart from the Pope its head, has no authority to oppose or correct the Supreme Pontiff. They must obey the Roman Pontiff and remain in communion with them, or they fall away from Christ and His Church.
~ And the unity that comes from the Roman Pontiff is due to his supreme authority. A Pope without that supreme authority, as some papal accusers have proposed, would not be able to fulfill his divine task to preserve the unity of faith and of the faithful.