I am not a Catholic, but I was saddened to hear that Pope Benedict XVI resigned as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a champion of Orthodoxy and has had great courage to stand against the moral progressivism in order to maintain the teachings of Christ and His Church. For this I consider him a man of honor to be respected by all Protestants and people who claim the title Christian.
For most Protestants, we don’t understand why there is a Pope and how this lines up with Scripture.
The short answer is Saint Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch developed a structure for the Church to help establish orthodoxy, fight heresy, and establish an ecclesiastical structure (church leadership structure) that would guard the church against false teachings and maintain the orthodox teachings of the Apostles as the standard for all Christians. His structure was that Christ is the head, Peter was his successor, and next are Bishops, Elders, and Deacons. Peter’s role was to lead and guard the church against heresy. Was he the first Pope? Scripture does not use this word of Peter and so it was a man-made office, however, as in all institutions there should be a leader — the establishment of clergy and church structure was necessary considering the heretical teachings that threatened to splinter and destroy the Church. There were people claiming Christ was just a ghost, or that sexual immorality was permissible, or that the physical universe is evil and only the spiritual is good – these three teachings were not based in the teachings of the Bible. They were based in Greek Philosophy or Pagan Mythology, therefore the false teachings were rejected by the Apostle John and by those trained under John like Ignatius and by those trained by Ignatius and so on – this was called Apostolic Succession (authority passed down from generation to generation originating with the Apostles and based in their teachings, which is the New Testament writings). This is the role of the Pope, to uphold the Scriptures and guard the Church from heresy.
Progressive Catholics – The word progressive means progress, to move forward with society. This is fine as long as Catholics and Christians do not compromise the Scriptures. The Scriptures do not contradict what we know about science, archeology, and history — however, there has been an incredible attempt on the part of liberal scholars to suggest otherwise – but when you do the research you will discover liberal scholars base their claims on shoddy research guided by bias. About liberal scholarship, Anne Rice said, “…I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I’d ever read.”
The Role of the Pope – If the role of the Pope is to be the head of the Catholic Church under the authority of Jesus Christ, and if his role is to guard the church from heresy and point people to orthodoxy, then it is the Pope’s job to uphold Christian morality as found in the Scriptures and to stand against moral progressivism.
Good for the Pope – Pope Benedict XVI is one of my modern-day heroes because he stood against anti-Semitism and those who would claim the Holocaust never occurred; he condemned clerical sex abuse and said he is deeply ashamed; he rejected sex outside of marriage; he rejected same-sex marriage and described homosexuality as an objective disorder and an intrinsic moral evil; and firmly upheld bans against divorce, abortion and stem-cell research.
May church leaders from all denominations have such courage to stand for Scriptural values.