The deposit of faith consists of the teachings Jesus Christ has given to us through the Apostles. In exercising its magisterial, or teaching, authority, the hierarchy of the Church does not add or subtract from this deposit, but guards it.
This deposit consists of Sacred Scripture and the tradition of the Church; tradition refers to divine tradition, that is, the teachings of our Lord to the Apostles which the Church has care, and not to humanly concocted rituals and beliefs.
The Catholic Church teaches that the period of public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle. Throughout the millenia, the hierarchy has had to pronounce officially on matters regarding revelation, but this has always been to clarify what has always been taught and is usually prompted by the others' propagation of false doctrine (known as heresies).
As recorded in Sacred Scripture, our Lord designates a special teaching role for the Apostles and their successors. Sacred Scripture also provides ample evidence for the existence of the hierarchy in the primitive Church.
[the references given below do not even begin to scratch the surface of the evidence Scripture gives to the Church's teaching authority; we hope to more fully display the wealth of scripture in this area in future revisions]
Acts 2:42 they kept the teaching of the apostles I Thess 5:12-13 respect ministers I Cor 4:18 authority of Paul Acts 1:21-22, 26 official witnesses to the resurrection
Scripture and tradition II Thess 2:5 tradition* II Tim 2:14-17 scripture
Sacred Scripture itself makes it very clear that when even the most sincere believers are left to themselves without a guiding authority, they will wander off into error.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel--not that there is a different gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that whch we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8)
``So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.'' (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)as St. Paul writes to a junior bishop.
Our Lord himself established the Apostles with the authority to teach in his name until his coming again at the end of time. He promised them the Holy Spirit to keep them free from all error.
"He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." (Luke 10:16)
and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29-30)
Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)
and you [Apostles] also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:27)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)Matthew 28 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Realizing that the commission to preach the gospel to all nations transcended their persons, the Apostles used the authority they had been given--the authority of Christ himself--to establish successors to this authority: fellow Apostles, and later, bishops.
They did this starting at the very beginning of the Church by electing a replacement for Judas (see Acts 1).
The Church is Christ's body and, as with any other body, each member has his own role in the growth and well-being of the whole:
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31; cf. Ephesians 4:1-6, 15-16)
In the earliest history of the Church, there was not a clear distinction between bishops and priests as there is in the modern Church; this developed a little later. Timothy and Titus were two of the ``overseers'' St. Paul appointed to help him govern the Churches and to them he wrote his `pastoral epistles' on how best to care for their respective charges.
``O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.'' (1 Tim 6:20)
Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
Jesus established Peter as the head of the college of Apostles. Matthew 16
Some object that the rock on which Jesus will build his Church is not Peter (Latin for rock) based on the use of two different Greek words for rock. The problem with this objection is that the Greek is itself a translation: the original words of our Lord were most likely in Aramaic, in which there is only one word for rock. St. Paul has preserved the original word he used: cephas (cf. 1 Cor 15:5).
Compare the symbol of the keys with that in the following:
In that day I will call my servant Eli'akim the son of Hilki'ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:20-22)
Note: the power of `loosing and binding' in heaven and on earth.
After starting Churches in various places, Peter set up his See (or place of authority) in the capital of the Empire: Rome. Here he won the martyr's crown by being crucified upside-down (not considering himself worthy to die in exactly the same way as Christ). His body was buried on a hill that was then on the outskirts of Rome, known as Vatican Hill.
Excavations this century beneath St. Peter's Basilica have uncovered what appears to be the remains of St. Peter, the first Pope. Tours, I believe, are still available through the excavation (or scavi) by special arrangment, though they are now more restricted for fear of excessive damage to the relics.
1. When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world."(1) And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent,(2) who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself. 2. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.
1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.
2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority,(3) that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office(1) of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions,(2) that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them,(3) or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from(1) the episcopate(4) those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.(5) Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.
This sacred synod, following in the steps of the First Vatican Council, teaches and declares with it that Jesus Christ, the eternal pastor, set up the holy Church by entrusting the apostles with their mission as he himself had been sent by the Father (cf. Jn. 20:21). He willed that their successors, the bishops namely, should be the shepherds in his Church until the end of the world. In order that the episcopate itself, however, might be one and undivided he put Peter at the head of the other apostles, and in him he set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion. This teaching concerning the institution, the permanence, the nature and import of the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his infallible teaching office, the sacred synod proposes anew to be firmly believed by all the faithful, and, proceeding undeviatingly with this same undertaking, it proposes to proclaim publicly and enunciate clearly the doctrine concerning bishops, successors of the apostles, who together with Peter's successor, the Vicar of Christ and the visible head of the whole Church, direct the house of the living God.
1. Cfr. Conc. Vat. I, Sess. IV, Const. Dogm. Pastor aeternus. Denz. 1821 (3050 S.).
2. Cfr. Conc. Flor., Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 694 (1307) et Conc. Vat. I, ib.: Denz. 1826 (3059)
19. The Lord Jesus, having prayed at length to the Father, called to himself those whom he willed and appointed twelve to be with him, whom he might send to preach the kingdom of God (cf. Mk. 3:13-19; Mt. 10:1-42). These apostles (cf. Lk. 6:13) he constituted in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from amongst them (cf. Jn. 21:15-17). He sent them first of all to the children of Israel and then to all peoples (cf. Rom. 1:16), SO that, sharing in his power, they might make all peoples his disciples and sanctify and govern them (cf. Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:45-48; Jn. 20:21-23) and thus spread the Church and, administering it under the guidance of the Lord, shepherd it all days until the end of the world (cf. Mt. 28:20). They were fully confirmed in this mission on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-26) according to the promise of the Lord: "You shall receive power when the Holy Ghost descends upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). By preaching everywhere the Gospel (cf. Mk. 16:20), welcomed and received under the influence of the Holy Spirit by those who hear it, the apostles gather together the universal Church, which the Lord founded upon the apostles and built upon blessed Peter their leader, the chief corner-stone being Christ Jesus himself (cf. Apoc. 21:14; Mt. 16:1118; Eph. 2:20).
3. Cfr. Liber sacramentorum S. Gregorii, Praefatio in Cathedra S. Petri, in natali S. Mathiae et S. Thomas: PL 78, 50, 51 et 152. S. Hilarius, In Ps. 67, 10: PL 9, 450; CSEL 22, p. 286. S. Hieronymus, Adv. Iovin. 1, 26: PL 23, 247 A. S. Augustinus, In Ps. 86, 4: PL 37, 1103. S. Gregorius M., Mor. in lob, XXVIII, V: PL 76, 455-456. Primasius, Comm. in Apoc. V: PL 68, 924 BC. Paschasius Radb., In Matth. L. VIII, cap. 16: PL 120, 561 C. Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Et sane, 17 dec. 1888: ASS 21 (1888) p. 321.
20. That divine mission, which was committed by Christ to the apostles, is destined to last until the end of the world (cf. Mt. 28:20), since the Gospel, which they were charged to hand on, is, for the Church, the principle of all its life for all time. For that very reason the apostles were careful to appoint successors in this hierarchically constituted society.
In fact, not only had they various helpers in their ministry, but, in order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, they consigned, by will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborators the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun, urging them to tend to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had appointed them to shepherd the Church of God (cf. Acts 20:28). They accordingly designated such men and then made the ruling that likewise on their death other proven men should take over their ministry. Amongst those various offices which have been exercised in the Church from the earliest times the chief place, according to the witness of tradition, is held by the function of those who, through their appointment to the dignity and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue consequently of the unbroken succession, going back to the beginning, are regarded as transmitters of the apostolic line. Thus, according to the testimony of St. Irenaeus, the apostolic tradition is manifested and preserved in the whole world by those who were made bishops by the apostles and by their successors down to our own time.
4. Cfr. Acn 6, 2-6; 11, 30; 13, 1; 14, 23; 20, 17; 1 Thess. 5, 12-13; Phil. 1, 1; CoI. 4, 11. et passim.
5. Cfr. Act. 20, 25-27; 2 Tim. 4, 6 s. coll. c. 1 Tim. 5, 22; 2 Tim. 2, 2; Tit. 1, 5; S. Clem. Rom., Ad Cor. 44, 3; ed. Funk, I, p. 156.
6. S. Clem. Rom., Ad Cor. 44, 2;ed. Funk, I, p. 154s.
7. Cfr. Tertull., Praescr. Haer. 32; PL 2, 52 s.; S. Ignatius M., passim.
8. Cfr. Tertull., Praescr. Haer. 32; PL 2, 53.
9. Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III, 3, 1; PG 7, 848 A; Harvey 2, 8; Sagnard, p. 100 s.: "manifestatam".
10. Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III, 2, 2; PG 7, 847; Harvey 2, 7; Sagnard, p. 100: .custoditur., cfr. ib. IV, 26, 2; col. 1053, Harvey 2, 236, necnon IV, 33, 8; col. 1077; Harvey 2, 262.
In that way, then, with priests and deacons as helpers, the bishops received the charge of the community, presiding in God's stead over the flock of which they are the shepherds in that they are teachers of doctrine, ministers of sacred worship and holders of office in government. Moreover, just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent one, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. The sacred synod consequently teaches that the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ (cf. Lk. 10:16).
21. In the person of the bishops, then, to whom the priests render assistance, the Lord Jesus Christ, supreme high priest, is present in the midst of the faithful. Though seated at the right hand of God the Father, he is not absent from the assembly of his pontiffs; on the contrary indeed, it is above all through their signal service that he preaches the Word of God to all peoples and administers without cease to the faithful the sacraments of faith; that through their paternal care (cf. 1 Cor. 4:15) he incorporates, by a supernatural rebirth, new members into his body; that finally, through their wisdom and prudence he directs and guides the people of the New Testament on their journey towards eternal beatitude. Chosen to shepherd the Lord's flock, these pastors are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1), to whom entrusted the duty of affirming the Gospel of the grace of God (cf. Rom. 15:16; Acts 20:24), and of gloriously promulgating the Spirit and proclaiming justification (cf. 2 Cor. 3: 8-9).
11. S. Ign. M., Philad., Praef.; ed. Funk, I, p. 264.
12. S. Ign. M., Philad., 1, 1; Magn. 6, 1; Ed. Funk, I, pp. 264 et 234.
13. S. Clem. Rom., 1. c., 42, 34; 44, 3-4; 57, 1-2; Ed. Funk. I, 152, 156, 171 s. S. Ign. M., Philad. 2; Smyrn. 8; Magn. 3; Trall. 7; Ed. Funk, I, p. 265 s.; 282; 232; 246 s. etc.; S. Iustinus, Apol., 1, 65; PG 6, 428; S. Cyprianus, Epist. passim.
14. Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 29;Un. 1896: ASS 28 (1895-96) P. 732.
15. Cfr. Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, Decr. de sacr. Ordinis, cap. 4; Denz. 960 (1768); Conc. Vat. I, Sess. 4, Const. Dogm. 1 De Ecclesia Christi, cap. 3: Denz. 1828 (3061). Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 29 iun. 1943: ASS 35 (1943) PP. 209 et 212. Cod. Iur. Can., c. 329 1.
16. Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Et sane, 17 dec. 1888: ASS 21 (1888) P. 321 S.
17. S. Leo M., Serm. 5, 3: PL 54, 154.
In order to fulfill such exalted functions, the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:4; Jn. 20:22-23), and, by the imposition of hands, (cf. 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6-7) they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration. The holy synod teaches, moreover, that the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, that fullness, namely, which both in the liturgical tradition of the Church and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the acme of the sacred ministry. Now, episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, the duty also of teaching and ruling, which, however, of their very nature can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college. In fact, from tradition, which is expressed especially in the liturgical rites and in the customs of both the Eastern and Western Church, it is abundantly clear that by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in a resplendent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd and priest, and act as his representatives (in eius persona). It is the right of bishops to admit newly elected members into the episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.
18. Conc. Trid Sess 23, cap. 3, citat verba 2 Tim. 1, 6-7, ut demonstret Ordinem esse verum sacramentum: Denz. 959 (1766).
19. In Trad. Apost. 3, ed. Botte, Sources Chr., PP. 27-30, Episcopo tribuitur "primatus sacerdotii". Cfr. Sacramentarium Leonianum, ed. C. Mohlberg, Sacramentarium Veronense, Romae, 1955, P. 119: ."ad summi sacerdotii ministerium... Comple in sacerdotibus tuis mysterii tui summam"... Idem, Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae, Romae, 1960, PP. 121-122: "Tribuas eis, Domine, cathedram episcopalem ad regendam Ecclesiam tuam et plebem universam". Cfr. PL 78, 224.
20. Trad. Apost. 2, ed. Botte, P. 27.
21. Conc. Trid., Sess. 23, cap. 4, docet Ordinis sacramentum imprimere characterem indelebilem: Denz. 960 (1767). Cfr. Ioannes XXIII, Alloc. Iubilate Deo, 8 maii 1960: AAS 52 (1960) P. 466. Paulus VI, Homelia in Bas, Vaticana, 20 oct. 1963: AAS 55 (1963) P. 1014.
22. S. Cyprianus, Epist. 63, 14: PL 4, 386; Hartel, III B, p. 713:"Sacerdos vice Christi vere fungitur". S. Io. Chrysostomus, In 2 Tim. Hom. 2, 4: PG 62, 612: Sacerdos est. symbolon. Christi. S. Ambrosius, ln Ps. 38, 2S-26: PL 14, 1051-52: CSEL 64, 203-204. Ambrosiaster, In 1 Tim. S, 19: PL 17, 479 C et In Eph. 4, 11-12: col. 387. C. Theodorus Mops., Hom. Catech. XV, 21 et 24: ed. Tonneau, pp. 497 et 503. Hesychius Hieros., In Lev. L. 2, 9, 23: PG 93, 894 B.