|'Guide me O thou great co-mediatrix?' Francis I prays to Mary|
OK. I get it. White smoke has billowed. A Cardinal has swapped his red get up for a white one. Benedict XVI has disappeared into the shadows never to be seen again. Francis I is the new pope. But is is he a Catholic? No, seriously. Is he? You know, I don't reckon he is. 'Uh' you might say, 'what you talking about Prot-head? Course the pope's a Catholic. Stupid.' Yeah, yeah, I know. But being pope and stuff isn't exactly a Catholic thing to do. Certainly not in the modern Roman Catholic, full-on infallibility mode sense of the word. The infallibility thing only happened at Vatican I in 1870. And despite what they say, there isn't a shred of evidence in the New Testament that the apostle Peter was the first Bishop of Rome. That idea was fabricated later to give a retrospective smattering of biblical authority to the papal office.
You see, catholicity as in 'We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church' means holding to the faith revealed in Holy Scripture and believed by the Church throughout the ages. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 882 states:
The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.
Who on earth believes that apart from the Roman Catholic Church? Departing from the Catholic faith and then demanding that everybody else subscribes to your distinctives smacks more of a sect than a church with any claim to true catholicity. I mean, 'full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered'? C'mon. You're not the boss of me, Francis I. I acknowledge only One who who has supreme and unhindered power over the whole Church and that's Jesus. The Puritan Richard Sibbes was right to say,
Then, if the question be, which is the catholic truth – Popery or our religion – I say not Popery, but our religion. That which ‘without controversy,’ all churches have held from the apostles’ time…that is catholic. (Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 5, Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, pp. 477-78).
So, is the pope a Catholic? Well, no, actually.