I believe the Church’s testimony that she is the one Church founded by Christ. I believe that Christ gave His Gospel to the Apostles, who have handed in down in “by their oral preaching, by example, and by observances,” to their successors the bishops who preside over each particular Church. And I believe that no particular Church can be a true part of the Church Catholic unless it is united to the Church of Rome, the city in which the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul shed their blood, thereby fulfilling their mission to preach to the whole world, since Rome was providentially prepared in its pagan history to be the head of the whole world. I believe that the Roman Church has never lost the faith. And I believe that the bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter, is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and the rock on which the universal Church is founded. I believe that in certain circumstances he teaches infallibly, that is, that he could never commit the Church to any falsehood.
Lector: Surely you can’t believe everything ever defined by every pope and council in all of history? For one thing, many of them contradict each other, and for another much of what the older ones say is ridiculously offensive.
Auctor: Yes I can. In fact the more I read the teachings of popes and councils, the more I am struck by their remarkable consistency across the ages. Even apparent contradictions disappear when one examines them more closely.
But I don’t just submit to the infallible definitions of the popes and the councils in union with them. In the words of the Professio Fidei:
I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals. Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.
Of course, I recognize that the popes and bishops can err on prudential matters, and that respectful disagreement with them is possible on such matters. But even in such disagreements I try to preserve the spirit of St. Catherine of Siena toward the “sweet Christ on earth”:
Even if the pope were Satan incarnate, we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom. He who rebels against our father is condemned, for that which we do to him we do to Christ; we honor Christ if we honor the pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the pope.
Not that I think this is particularly hard with our current pope, who far from being a devil is quite a good man. I find some of his words and actions imprudent, but I do not find it difficult to love him as a father, and submit myself to his rule.