Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Michael Terheyden

3/12/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Jesus not only gave the apostles a mission, he established the Church and appointed Peter as his visible representative on earth

Given the extraordinary events unfolding before us, it only seems natural for us to reflect on why we need the Catholic Church and the Pope. The main reason that comes to my mind at this time is the teaching mission of the Church.

Cardinals in Rome as they prepare to vote for the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church

Cardinals in Rome as they prepare to vote for the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church


By Michael Terheyden

Catholic Online (

3/12/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Catholic Church, Conclave, Cardinals, Pope, Rome, Michael Terheyden

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - The Catholic Church is presently without a pope, but not for long. Cardinals from around the world have gathered in Rome for the sole purpose of electing a new pope. The conclave of cardinals begins on Tuesday, March 12.

Given the extraordinary events unfolding before us, it only seems natural for us to reflect on why we need the Church and the Pope. Obviously, there is more than one reason, but the main one that comes to my mind at this time has to do with a practical matter: the teaching mission of the Church.

Jesus said, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:19-20).

Okay, so exactly how is that done in the real world? Well, I know this much. According to various estimates, there are over 30,000 different Christian denominations in the world today. And there are hundreds of different interpretations regarding significant matters of faith, if not more. This is not how it is done. 

We read in the Bible that dissension was a problem for the Christian community right from the start. There are many examples. I have listed a few as follows:

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned; avoid them" (Rom 16:17).

"There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves" (2 Pt 2:1).

"Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist" (2 Jn 1:7).

Such dissension over the centuries has created much confusion for Christians and non-Christians alike. What are people to think when Christians can't agree on the most basic elements of the faith? For instance, is Christ truly present in the Eucharist or not?

The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is truly present whole and entire--Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity--in the Eucharist, that the bread and wine are changed through a process called transubstantiation, and that this change can only be effected by a man who has been ordained as a priest by a bishop in the line of apostolic succession.

On the other hand, some Protestant denominations believe in a form of the real presence while others do not. Among those situated in the real-presence camp, some believe in their version of transubstantiation, while others believe in consubstantiation or in a "pneumatic" presence. Then there are those denominations that believe in a spiritual presence only, and those denominations that view the Eucharist as mere symbolism.

The Catholic Church also teaches that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, not just a commemorative meal as some Protestants believe. For Catholics, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is an unbloody representation of Christ's actual sacrifice on the cross. In his Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini, Blessed John Paul II said that Jesus unites His sacrifice with ours at each Mass and presents it to the Father, thereby continuing to redeem the world and transform it, through the one sacrifice which is not limited by time. 

The Catholic theologian Scott Hahn has said that history and the Mass are linked. History is controlled from Christ's sacrifice at the altar in heaven. History is also determined by what takes place on our altars and in our hearts. Through our liturgical worship, we, in a sense, release God's action and judgment on the world. It is the key to history and the realization of the Kingdom in heaven and on earth.

Saint Pio said, "It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass." Saint Leonard of Port Maurice said, "I believe that were it not for the Holy Mass, as of this moment the world would be in the abyss."

These are important matters. If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is what the Catholic Church says it is, then our participation in the Mass is the most important thing we could ever do for ourselves and for the world. If the Eucharist is truly the Lord Jesus made present, and we ignore this fact or receive the Eucharist unworthily, the offense would be unimaginably grievous.

In order to do the right thing, we need to know who is correct. How do we do that? We first need to ask ourselves, how do we reasonably fulfill Christ's teaching command in the real world? Clearly, we need an authoritative body, a recognizable institution like the Catholic Church. And that institution needs a leader, the Pope.

This is exactly what Jesus established when he said, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mat 16:18-19). 

Jesus not only gave the apostles a mission, he established the Church and appointed Peter as his visible representative on earth. We know this because in Jewish culture "the keys" represent an actual office endowed with authority and power. In Isaiah, we read that the palace official Shebna was thrown out of his office, and it was given to Eliakim. King Hezekiah said to Shebna, "I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open" (Is 22:22).

But even this is not enough. How do we know if the Church's teachings correctly reflect Christ's commands after two thousand years? This does not seem possible for any person or institution. But for God all things are possible. The Church belongs to God. It is His Body, and Christ is its head (Col 1:18). And in his first letter to Timothy, Saint Paul called the Church "the pillar and foundation of truth" (3:15).

What's more, Jesus told the apostles, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name-he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you" (Jn 14:26). "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. . ." (Jn 16:12-13).

The reason we can trust the teaching of the Church is because we can trust God. We trust what God said. This is where Catholics get the idea of infallibile teaching. No doubt, you have heard reference to the Pope being infallible. Paragraph 891 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains what the Church actually means by infallibility. It is as follows:

"'The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful--who confirms his brethren in the faith--he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,' above all in an Ecumenical Council" (891).

We can see how valuable the charism of infallibility has been when we read some of the writings of the Early Church Fathers from the first and second centuries. For instance, Saints Clement I, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus wrote about the Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Another early source is a book by an unknown author called the Didache. It was written around 70 A.D., and it describes the Mass in detail. 

Of course, these writings cover many other topics as well. But the point is that when we read them, we will recognize the Catholic Church, and we will know that the Church's teachings have not significantly changed in matters of faith and morals for two thousand years. Thus, we can be confident that the Church has faithfully carried out its mission, and its teachings correctly reflect Christ's commands.

This kind of talk may make some of our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Protestant churches feel uncomfortable, both for differing reasons. However, it need not. As Catholics, we recognize the goodness and beauty of all Christians around the world. For instance, many Christians living in Muslim countries are shedding their blood for the universal Church. They are modern-day martyrs making atonement for our sins and paving the way for a glorious new springtime.

Jesus prayed for unity within his family: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (Jn 17:20-21). Thousands of different Christian denominations is not unity; it is a disgrace, and it has hindered the teaching mission of the Church.

We are a family, but a broken family. Christians living today did not cause the rupture that exists within the Christian family, but we are being called to mend it and facilitate its healing. I believe this because Christianity is increasingly being threatened throughout the world, "and if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand" (Mk 3:25).

I ask all the angels and saints to pray for our cardinals and our future pope. And as the conclave begins, I invite all Christians, and all people of good will, to unite with the Catholic Church in friendship and share in our hope and joy. Today friendship, tomorrow, who knows . . . .


Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.



Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Europe

The unexpected thing one Syrian refugee did for Germany that will melt your heart Watch

Image of Syrian refugee Alex Assali fed the homeless outside Berlin's Alexanderplatz station in an effort to give back to the city that has helped him, and other refugees, so much (Imgur).


Amid fears of ISIS infiltration and Muslim takeovers, one Syrian refugee took a stand against prejudiced tensions and thanked the city of Berlin on behalf of all refugees. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Each Saturday, Alex Assali cooks and distributes food to ... continue reading

Concentration camps and Nazi language: Berlin guards caught on tape speaking unbelievably cruel about refugees Watch

Image of Berlin guards at the office for refugees have reportedly been recorded using Nazi language and suggesting refugees be sent to concentration camps (Markus Heine/ NurPhoto).


Videos have been released showing Berlin guards around the office for refugees using "Nazi language" and suggesting the refugees be sent to concentration camps. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Security guards working for private contractor Gegenbauer Security ... continue reading

SHOCK SHOW: Sacrilegious art exhibit in Spain uses 240 stolen consecrated hosts Watch

Image of Photos of the theft of the Hosts and their placement on the ground are shown in a public art gallery in Pamplona.

By Catholic News Agency

Critics of Pamplona's city council say it deliberately attacked Catholics and broke Spanish law by using city property to display a sacrilegious art exhibit with more than 240 stolen consecrated Hosts. Madrid, Spain (CNA) - The Spanish artist Abel Azcona stole ... continue reading

French Hostage Situation: Two armed suspects engage in shootout with French police Watch

Image of French police engaged in a shootout with two suspects armed with Kalashnikovs (Not pictured).


Two suspects armed with Kalashnikov rifles engaged in a shootout with French police in Toubaix, France. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The suspects are believed to have taken a bank director and his family hostage, but very little is currently known.[media ... continue reading

Vatican corruption: Journalists stand trial Watch

Image of Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi must stand trial at the Vatican for publishing confidential documents (Reuters).


Following the publication of books claiming the Holy See was mismanaged and spoiled through corruption, five people went on trial at the Vatican on Tuesday. Two of the five on trial were Italian Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, neither of whom ... continue reading

Undercover reporter reveals secret FEMALE ISIS organization in Britain Watch

Image of One veiled ISIS sympathizer was filmed during the undercover investigation (Channel 4).


In a new British documentary titled The British Women Supporters Unveiled, one young female reporter goes undercover to infiltrate a secret Muslim organization designed to garner sympathy for the Islamic State. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The reporter, who uses ... continue reading

OUTRAGEOUS: Find out why The Lord's Prayer was BANNED from Just Pray movie theater ad Watch

Image of


An advertisement featuring the Lord's Prayer has been banned from movie theaters in England. According to the Church of England, the policy that prevents the prayer advertisement did not exist when they began production on the commercial. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Swiss farmer finds 4,000 extremely rare Roman coins in his orchard Watch

Image of The cache of coins is estimated to be more than 1,700 years old.


A Swiss farmer was tilling his orchard in Ueken, in the northern canton of Aargau, Switzerland, when he spotted something shiny on the ground. He had inadvertently stumbled across a treasure trove of Roman-era coins - 4,166 in all, some dating as back as 274 ... continue reading

Five people indicted by Vatican in 'Vati-leaks' scandal Watch

Image of Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi (pictured), had both recently published books, citing specific Vatican documents detailing waste, mismanagement, and greed.


A judge, rendering a decision in a scandal involving Vatican finances has indicted five people, which include two journalists and a Vatican monsignor. Information linking the Vatican to financial malfeasance, as well as related graft and corruption called ... continue reading

Massacre in France is a Piecemeal Third World War, and Jesus is the Path to Peace Watch

Image of With tenderness, Jesus looked out from the Mount of Olives and saw the Holy City of Jerusalem. How he loved - and still loves - that special City. Then, Jesus wept. The Word Incarnate, made a man like us in all things but sin, cried. He knew that the City of Jerusalem would soon be overtaken and destroyed by the armies of Titus. He wept the tears of Love - and revealed the compassion of His Sacred Heart

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Do we recognize the time of our own visitation? God is present in our world today. He wants to  speak, to lead, to serve, to heal and to save. He is not to blame for the mess we are in. We are!  Those who purport to be representing their "God"  as ... continue reading

All Europe News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • St. Saturninus: Saint of the Day for Sunday, November 29, 2015
  • Daily Readings for Sunday, November 29, 2015
  • President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in ...
  • 'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for ...
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:15-27
15 'I, Daniel, was deeply disturbed and the visions that passed through ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87
82 Bless the Lord, all the human race: praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:34-36
34 'Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 28th, 2015 Image

St. Catherine Laboure
November 28: St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, ... Read More