Striving to live the communion

    February 22, 2024

    The feast of the Chair of St. Peter celebrates the unity of the church in Christ, symbolized by St. Peter’s chair and the office of the pope. Jesus gave the church the pope as a visible head, one who acts in Jesus’ headship in order to preserve the deposit of faith and the unity of the body.

    We need to pray for the pope and give him proper deference, so he may serve well. Sadly, Christians are already split, and the issue of headship is one of the reasons. Even some of us Catholics who love the symbol of the pope defer to his authority only when he advances the issues and positions that we hold dear.

    But what is proper deference? We do not want to be in the position of fighting against God, who has consistently used human instruments to exercise his power. Neither should we adopt slavish or unthinking obedience. The chair of Peter has been misused by more than one of its occupants over the years, as papal history makes clear. Such malfeasance must be called out. However, as with any gift of God, we cannot simply measure the papacy and its effectiveness by how certain individuals have messed it up. We’ve also had saintly popes.

    The greater effort on the part of the church (the people of God) needs to be striving to live the communion that gives room for God’s gift to flourish (which means, at the very least, being willing to listen with an open mind and heart). To paraphrase Jesus, this effort can be made only with prayer and fasting.

    David Werning is the director of social policy engagement at CCUSA.

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