In yesterday’s post on the silence of Jesus, I neglected to bring up an important concern: In Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, Jesus told the apostles in general, and St. Peter in particular, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” In other words, the Church has the power to declare teachings binding on the Christian’s conscience.
This, I hasten to add, is not a blank check, nor has the Catholic Church ever construed it as such. Contra Lord Acton’s assertion of the papacy’s absolute power (and how it tends to corrupt absolutely), the pope and the bishops are “accountable to God’s revelation, to the fundamental structure of the Church given it by Christ, to the seven sacraments, to the creeds, to the doctrinal definitions of earlier ecumenical councils, and to ‘other obligations too numerous to mention …’”. Nevertheless, the authority to bind and loose knocks the pins out of the claim, “Jesus didn’t say it, so I don’t have to believe it.”
But this point led one person to ask:
OK ... But then wouldn’t the Church have the authority to change at least some of these things later? I’m not saying that it necessarily should, but if you have a reform movement and a status quo movement (on say women as priests) it seems a tad convenient to say that Jesus’ silence on the issue can be used by the status quo side as evidence, while also supporting the power of the Church to modify, fill in the gaps, etc.