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June 29th, 2003
Catholic Homilies
June 29th, 2003

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Feast of St. Peter and Paul


Jesus certainly intended that Peter lead his followers after He returned to the Father in heaven. He also, one must assume, thought that others would follow after Peter. However, it would be wrong to assume that Jesus approved all the developments in the Papacy since then or that the Roman Curia as now constituted is of divine origin. There have been many bad Popes in history though none since 1700. There have been many more who were poor admistrators. The ceremonial surrounding the papacy somehow often seems inappropriate for the successors of Peter the Fisherman. None of that is of the essence of Petrine leadership. Jesus's promise to Peter did not mean that his successors would all be saints or all be good men or all be able leaders or that all would avoid mistakes. Catholics should keep that in mind and realize what is of faith and what is not. They should keep in mind that the old dictum "Ecclesia semper reformanda" may also be applied to the papacy without any loss of faith or loyalty. We believe in God and his love as revealed by Jesus and the Church. We do not worship the Pope. To do so would be idolatry.

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There is an old story about the death of St. Peter in Rome during the persecution of Nero. Peter heard about Nero's plan to burn the city and blame the Christians. He figured as the one who presided over the church in the city he would be arrested and put to death. So he did the sensible thing - Peter was always a sensible man - he got out of town. At night. The Appian Way was dark for awhile as Peter snuck down it. However, as the night wore on the sky was illuminated by the flames rising from the city. Peter hurried on and eventually was far enough away from the city that it was dark again. Then he saw someone coming in the opposite direction, someone who even at night seemed familiar. It was the Lord himself. What was he doing out at night and walking towards Rome. Where are you going, Lord? (Quo vadis, domine - hence the title of the novel by Henrik Sienkiewicz  and the film based on it). To Rome, was the reply, to be crucified again in your places. Peter turned around and returned to Rome. Not all his successors turned back.

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