In this article, we will explore some philosophical foundations of having a national referendum every 8 years on a code of ethics. Specifically, we will explore one of the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.
One major difference between Protestentism and Catholicism is that one is a democracy and the other is a monarchy. Most Prostestant Churches — and virtually all non-Catholci Christain churches — vote to hire and to fire their leaders. By voting for their leaders, they are voting for the theology of the leaders. Thus a conservative church will vote for a conservative minister and a liberal church will vote for a liberal minister. If the minister changes his theology, he could be replaced. In deciding a change in religious mythology or a change in a code of ethics, members of the church usually use democratic procedures (that is, some form of Robert’s Rules). The parishioners vote on a minister; then the ministers of the various churches vote on higher leaders; and these higher leaders meet in a conference every few years and vote on theological and moral issues.
Not so with the Catholic Church. Based on the belief that Jesus wasn’t a democrat, they don’t run their Church with democracy. Jesus didn’t ask his disciples, nor his followers, to have a vote on which theology they should ascribe to. The Church sees the Pope as Jesus’ representative on earth. Thus they give him the last say in matters of faith and morals. Thus the Pope and the magisterium (the leaders of the Church) basically dictate morality and theology to the members of the Church. When they want to change theology the top brass have their discussions and even possibly a vote. Then the Pope has the last word. The parishioners hardly have a say. They are told what is right and wrong. Of course at every level of heirarchy, the Church leaders listen to the parishioners and integrate their ideas into their final decisions. One basic tenet of the Catholic faith is that the leaders of the Church, especially the Pope, is being led by the Holy Spirit and will not error in their discernment.
Various interpretations of this basic “infallibility” are pervasive in the Church and the whole subject probably comes down to mythology, which each individual must make a choice as to what he personally believes. However, here is one interpretation of infallibility that is interesting:
If an ordinary Catholic (or perhaps any other denomination) accepts the theology of his leaders, God will honor his obedience and subordination. Thus, in this way the leaders are infallible as far as the ordinary Catholic is concerned. However, being leaders, they are responsible in the eyes of God, as one understands him, for their decisions.
To understand the differences between various Christian churches it is important to understand this basic difference.