Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Acts 5:9
A claim of Universal Authority over the Church carries with it the weight of exercising that pastoral office with the same prophetic insight that was the expected χάρις of all apostles and prophets in the pages of scripture. To make a claim of infallibility in teaching imposes the same burden, for the Bible reveals that we cannot distinguish between doctrine and prophetic insight in something as weighty as teaching authority. Peter could not be fooled in the case of these two liars who wanted more praise from their fellows than honesty would have permitted. He spoke to them and God took their breath away. A distinction between the gift to teach sound doctrine with all authority, and the responsibility to deliver the helpless among God's people from the oppression of sinful and false shepherds, indicates a standard far lower than the power we see in God's representatives as we find them in the pages of scripture.
In a recent e-mail exchange, a former Anglican priest who has begun to swim the Tiber in recent years, has expressed his indignation at Ed Pacht and me for referring to his denomination not as The Catholic Church, but as the Roman Catholic Church. We have tried to make clear the simple fact that this is not an expression of disrespect, and certainly not of malice, but rather a necessary way for us to state our own identity as belonging to the same Church we profess every time we say either of the two Creeds in the regular practice of our liturgical life. We cannot refer to the Catholic Church in such a way as to exclude ourselves, and neither can we teach our people to do so.
But, if we were even to consider this man's demand, we would have to ask on what basis? The problem with the demand is the weight it puts on the See of Rome, even if we were to call it the See of Peter. Does the clergy scandal of recent years tell us that we should trust that one See so completely as to hand over our polity in exchange for its single rule? What confidence could we have, even if we bought the claim to a χάρισμα of Infallibility in matters of doctrine (which claim was not made before 1870), to an Ecclesiastical authority that spent years doing nothing about complaints that children were being abused, and that certain bishops were living in an openly "gay lifestyle" that scandalized the faithful?
How valid is the claim to infallibility of doctrine without some sort of moral and prophetic insight, and what damage may result someday from yielding Universal Primacy to a See that failed to keep its house in order? I am glad that the new sheriff in town, that is the town of Rome, is going about to clean things up. But, I am not able to see why anyone trusts the system itself.