Jesus & the Keys

In the Gospel of Matthew 16 we hear the words of Jesus that give apostolic authority to Peter. But, as historian Gary Wills points out, in the same gospel Jesus gives the power not to Peter exclusively but to the followers as a community. “In truth I tell you {hymin plural) that whatever you tie on earth will have been tied in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven” (Mt. 18:18). From this Augustine concluded that Peter is just “a representative of the church”- and in fact the community as a whole had the power to include or exclude members in the early gatherings. The idea that Peter was given some special power runs into the problem that he had no successor.” (What Jesus Meant, pp. 80-81).

The traditional understanding of millions of Catholics and the hierarchy is that one must obey church doctrine on every issue because Jesus gave the keys to Peter and through him to the popes and the bishops in communion with him. If we accept the scholarship that I share with you, we are on solid ground to reimagine that Jesus entrusted spiritual authority in the entire believing community.

I have a sign in my kitchen that reminds me daily of my fallibility and humanity, “Embrace the imperfections, the chaos, the holy mess of your beautiful life.”
As I reflect on our two thousand year history of clerical domination and sexism, I see a lot of messes in our Roman Catholic stories, but, we are also a pilgrim people on the way to fuller equality and justice by living the change we have dreamed of in inclusive communities like Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community. We are bearers of hope and possibility- messengers of healing and love!

People today ask me, why do I belong to the Roman Catholic Church since they have excommunicated me multiple times. My response is that I cannot leave my precious family- who now number approximately 1.3 billion. All the baptized are spiritual equals in the Church. The hierarchy is not the Church alone, they are only part of it, even though they think they are in charge of it. We, the people of God, are co-responsible and empowered to be prophets of Jesus’ vision of inclusivity and equality for the flourishing of the Church and the world.

Seven Women, including Christina Moreira, who was ordained at St. Andrew in 2015 in Sarasota, wrote a letter to the papal envoy in Paris, volunteering to fill open ministerial positions including bishop, priest and pastor in communities in France. In response, the nuncio invited them to individual meetings with him in September. So is this the beginning of an historic dialogue between a representative of Pope Francis and seven feminists including a woman priest advocating the full equality of all baptized in the Church? Stay tuned, Church!

*Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

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