The Authority of the Catholic Church

How did you personally come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church holds religious authority? Why are you placing your faith in the Catholic magisterium? What exactly is your rationale for holding such a belief? Can you rationally justify it?

Note: This is a philosophy forum (or, at least, it purports to be one). So, I expect a rational argument. If you did not arrive at your belief rationally, then just say so.

I am not a philosophy student - so I can’t vouch for whether my answer is “rational” by the standards of philosophical argument - - - but here goes.

I came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church holds religious authority because of the twin pillars of Scripture and History.
In brief:
A) Scripture clearly demonstrates that such authority exists - given by Jesus in both Mt 16 and Mt 18 - and exercised by the early Church, as recorded in Acts 15.
B) The Catholic Church with it’s demonstrable history of apostolic succession is clearly the Church founded by Christ.
C) The alternatives to this (the protestant model) is clearly not biblical since the NT repeatedly calls for unity of a highly profound nature - to be one as Jesus and the Father are one…to be of one mind, praise with one voice, etc…

Now - naturally when I say “clearly” in the above…I mean that it is clear to me…and that is why I am Catholic and accept the Magisterium of the Church as authoritative. I do so because I am obedient to Christ and the NT Scriptures.

Hope this answers your question.


Rationally…I have found no other source to compare with the level of scholarship that resides in the Catholic Church.

A good example is the Catechism of the Catholic Church which displays this very well and does so with conciseness and unrivaled eloquence

By comparison, all the n-C sources I have encountered come away as shallow and incomplete. :shrug:

“They must find it difficult those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”

  • Gerald Massey

I find it very difficult to define this as a philosophy question, as any discussion on the Authority of a construct of faith like the Church is outside the framework of pure philosophy and brings it into the discussion of Theology.
The existence of God is a philosophy discussion, but once you move forward outside the apologetics of reason then you cannot support the authority of any belief structure.


I agree with you and JRKH. The Catholic Church received her Authority from Jesus Christ and HE is the WAY the TRUTH and The LIFE. Jesus promised that the Gates of Hell would NEVER prevail against HIS Church and it hasn’t. The Catholic Church still teaches all the TRUTHS that Jesus gave her for all these 2.000 years. Look around and you can see the confusion of so many other beliefs systems and how they have strayed from the truth.
In spite of all the persecutions and inner problems the Catholic Church has endured, (we are all sinners), Her teaching authority, the Magisterium, stands firm and can lead us all to the fullness of Christ’s truth. God Bless, Memaw

It just takes reasoning. As a convert, what convinced me is the structure of the family. You grow up with parents or caretakers. They provide the rules of the house for your well being and safety. When you grow up, it’s common to deny the rules and start trying to live on your own. Outside of America, family is often close together. Inside America, we are taught individualism, and we’re used to living on our own. One of my songs talks of this as ‘letting go of their traditions’. This rejection is similarly the movement of the protestant church along with those who became atheists. There’s no more authority with them, but individualism. The bible never teaches individualism, but unity, a community with Paul’s outlined bishops, presbyters, and deacons who practiced succession. This is to ensure not just authority, but ensuring the family for generations will live with the same traditions and truth as the last generation.

You can also think of the prodigal son who came running back to his father, and his father ran to him with welcoming arms, and a feast was given for the son’s return. This is a beautiful image of the church and the Lord’s mercy. The church is your family. You may be lost, hurt, or need time, but your family is still praying for you at mass. The scriptures often take reference of a shepherd looking for his lost sheep as well. We pray you’ll come home soon.

Your argument is based on the premise that the Scripture are authoritative. Why do you believe the Scriptures are authoritative?

Me: Because God’s Church, tells me they are authoritative, within the overall authority of the Church.

You: Then how do you know the Church is right? - that is - authoritative?

Me; because the Church goes back to Christ - Who, being God incarnate, is the ultimate authority…

And Christ - I take on Faith.

Sorry if I am putting words in your mouth…but I figured that would be the next question (or something similar). If I’m wrong, I apologize.


Listening and lurking… :wink:

And this comment fosters intelligent discussion how?

Then you cannot rationally justify your beliefs. So, we will have to conclude that your beliefs are based on irrationalism or non-rationalism.

What is that supposed to mean?

What is the difference between irrationalism or non-rationalism?

It sounds like you are not only looking for a rational argument for the Authority of the Catholic Church, but a rational argument for Christianity as well. For this, in addition to a rational argument for the authority of the Church, please sit tight and read my long post: (By the way this is not how I personally came to believe in the Church, but it is a very rational argument which supports my belief)

1) The New Testament is the most bibliographically sound ancient written work.
Take a look at this chart:

How often do people question whether or not Plato actually conveyed the ideas we have in our current copies and translations of his works? Almost never. If the message of these other ancient teachers aren’t questioned, why should Jesus be any different?

2) In the New Testament, Jesus claims to be God

But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said to him: Art thou the Christ the Son of the blessed God? [62] And Jesus said to him: I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven.

(Mark 14:61 Douay-Rheims version)

Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.

(John 8:58 Douay-Rheims version). Note that ‘I am’ is in present tense, in reference to the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush. (Exodus 3:14) The One Who Is, the Being Who IS existence itself. To God, there is no past or future since He is eternal and outside of time, hence the present tense. He does not use the natural grammar construction “before…I was”. He uses “before… I am”.

There are many other places where he claims to be God as well.
in John 20:27-29, Thomas says that Jesus is God and Jesus acknowledges that he has “believed” and does not reproach him for it. John 14:1-12 is another one.

3) If Jesus claimed to be God then He could only be either…(C.S. Lewis’ “Liar Lunatic Lord” argument)
**a liar **(He wasn’t God and knew He wasn’t),
**a lunatic **(He wasn’t God but He thought He was),
or The Lord (He was God).
There is evidence that he was neither a liar (would a liar go to the cross for his lie?) nor a lunatic. He must be God. Believing that Jesus was just a “kind man”, as many non-Christians do, is clearly not a supportable position.

So far, this gets us to Christianity in general. Now for Catholicism in particular:
4) In the New Teestament, Jesus founded the Church in history.
The verses mentioned by the other poster supports this. (supports it for historical accuracy, i.e. Jesus actually said those words, and the early Church actually practiced those things) posted by JRKH:

A) Scripture clearly demonstrates that such authority exists - given by Jesus in both Mt 16 and Mt 18 - and exercised by the early Church, as recorded in Acts 15.

Mt 16:19 says:

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

(Douay-Rheims version)

5) If Jesus was God, and He said what is recorded in Mt 16:19, then that means God gave the Church authority.

Note that this argument does not require one to believe in the infallible authority of scripture before hand, only in the historical accuracy of it.

This is also what convinces me of the truth of the Church and Apostolic succession. St John Paul made comment on aspects of ‘tribe’ (as the extension of family), as being a similar conduit of truth through succession and ancestor worship, as the Church, in Crossing the Threshhold of Hope.

"At this point, it seems opportune to recall all the primitive religions, the Animist type of religion, which puts first emphasis on the worship of their ancestors. It seems that those who practice it are particularly close to Christianity. Among them the missionaries of the Church more easily find a common language.

Is there, perhaps, in this veneration of the ancestors a kind of preparation for the Christian belief in the communion of saints, wherein all believers - whether living or dead - form a single community, a single body? Faith in the communion of the saints is, ultimately, faith in Christ, the only source of life and holiness for all.

There is nothing strange, then, in the fact that the African and Asian animists would become confessors of Christ more easily than followers of the great religions of the Far East."

I might add that the Australian indigenous people were also animists in this same vein.

Why do you believe the Catholic Church received its authority from Jesus Christ?

They’re basically synonymous. But “irrationalism” may have a negative connotation whereas nonrationalism does not.