An ongoing series on CNN called “Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History,” explores the controversies surrounding the storied history of the popes. As one commentator recently observed, the dearth of authentic Catholic commentary in the series should give us pause. Does it really make sense to limit the number of believing Catholics among participants in a series which claims to be examining an institution which is itself Catholic in origin and nature?
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the misdeeds of particular popes down through the centuries constitute serious blights on our historical record. That the office has been misused or abused is certainly not news. But that the office itself has been devalued is quite another claim. Those who hold offices of honor and importance very often do not live up to the ideals which the office represents. The failure or refusal of those office-holders to instantiate the ideals for which their offices stand do not devalue the ideals themselves. The sheer endurance through history of an office like the papacy testifies to this, not only from the perspective of its divine institution by Christ, but also from an anthropological perspective. People need to be unified. Divisions need to be resolved. Questions on important matters need definitive resolutions. The buck has to stop somewhere.
That the deposit of faith — entrusted to the Church by Christ himself — has remained undefiled these 2,000 years offers sufficient proof of the divine institution of the papacy. The sins and prevarications of those who have held the office prove nothing other than its disappointingly predictable humanity.