“Why I am a Catholic” in a few brushstrokes

Perugino's Delivery of the Keys

Hanging in the grand hallway of Le Fer hall here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is is a reproduction of Perugino’s Delivery of the Keys. I love that painting because it is the whole issue reduced to canvas and brushwork. Either Christ instituted a Church, to be taught and governed by the Apostles and their succesors in communion with Peter and his successors, or He did not. If He did, the Catholic Church is right. If He did not, the protestants are right. So this is a determinative question; on that question turns the entire issue. It is, as a forthcoming essay will term it, “the Catholic proposition” in a nutshell. If Perugino’s painting is an essentially true (albeit stylized) representation of what happened near Cæsarea Philippi about 1,980 years ago, nothing that happens on Earth should detatch us from the Church—not bad bishops, not stupid liturgy, not teachings with which we want to disagree, not modernist architecture or abominable music, not dullard cardinals, not kooky religious, not even abusive priests. If this is the Church that Christ built on the rock of Peter, then, like her or not, one can only buckle up and enjoy the ride.

This observation was occaisioned by a comment elsewhere that the Vatican lacks “credibility” to tackle heresies among women religious because of its failure to adquately respond to the abuse scandal. 1 I find that claim puzzling; it is essentially the democratic fallacy, which I addressed here. Why would the Holy See need “credibility”—presumably meaning “credibility with the laity,” and in fact meaning “credibility with me”—as a prerequisite to carrying out the Petrine mission, as if the Church were a democracy in which Papal authority derives from the assent of the laity, and why, in any event, would it have lost its credibility as a result of the abuse scandal?


  1. Cf. MP: The Kansas City Fumble (June 7, 2011), reprinted in 1 Simon Dodd, Motu Proprio Breviarium Annuum 15 (2012).

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  1. The Rebiba Bottleneck < MOTU PROPRIO on Friday, June 22, 2012 at 11:59 am

    […] central to Christianity. See, e.g., J.I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958); MP: “Why I am a Catholic” in a few brushstrokes (June 1, 2012); Simon Dodd, The Catholic Proposition (forthcoming 2012). It is a determinative […]