Thursday, 29 October 2009

"Never Peter without the Twelve*" - Did I really hear that? (*See update 08/11/09)

I remember hearing an interview a few years ago with a prominent Catholic cleric, who has since retired. One sentence has stuck in my mind ever since. He said: "Never the Twelve without Peter; never Peter without the Twelve".

“Never the Twelve without Peter” – of course. But “Never Peter without the Twelve?” Did I dream it? Where did he get that from? Surely it can't be right. What is the point of crafting an apparently well-balanced sentence, if the second half of it is false?

Perhaps it was a simple error. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. Or perhaps he had stated the actual attitude of the English and Welsh hierarchy to the Successor of Peter. If he did, has that attitude changed?

From Lumen Gentium, Section 22 (the emphases are mine):

“But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.”

In short: the Pope is free; the Bishops are not; at least, they are not free in absolute terms. Their freedom is contingent upon their unity with him. Have I understood this correctly?

*Update on 8th November:

The exact quotation seems to have been “Never Peter without the eleven; never the eleven without Peter”, assuming it was quoted correctly in this Tablet editorial. No wonder I couldn’t track it down on the internet at my first attempt.


Anonymous said...

You are right to make this very important point.

Anonymous said...
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Dorothy said...

Thanks, Laicus. I should mention that I have updated the post with a slight correction to the quotation.