Catholic Studies Lecture: “Is the Pope Catholic?”

Submitted by Mike Moritz '11 on May 11, 2011

Although the title of the lecture may be confusing to some, Richard Gaillardetz made sure the Dolan School of Business audience knew he was not questioning the Pope’s religion. Gaillardetz, the Margaret and Thomas Murray and James J. Bacik Endowed Chair in Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo, addressed a crowd filled with students and locals who appeared for his lecture entitled “Is the Pope Catholic?” on the evening of April 13. He urged the audience not to question whether or not the Pope was baptized as a Roman Catholic or elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church, but instead question whether the Pope is acting as a true steward and facilitator of the church’s catholicity.

In order to understand this question, Gaillardetz explained that one must look at the nature and purpose of Papal ministry. He went in depth about the history of the Catholic Church and argued that the Papacy did not play as big of a role as it does currently. Throughout the first 1,000 years A.D., many citizens could not even name the Pope, who did not appoint bishops, preside over agendas, or canonize saints. It would be safe to say that over the first 1,000 years of Christianity, the Pope did not rule over the Church.

Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) sought to restore the autonomy of the Church. Gaillardetz explained that the reforms created by Pope Gregory VII were some of the most important developments in church history. Pope Gregory VII was despised by many secular leaders for using his Papal power, but that did not stop him from excommunicating Henry IV twice. Gaillardardetz wanted the audience to ask themselves what it meant to reconsider Papal Ministry and to reflect on how the Church changed over the second 1,000 years.

In defining Papal Ministry, Gaillardetz wants Pope Benedict XVI to facilitate catholicity more, so that the church in the Philippines can contribute something to the church in Saskatchewan. Even though I am not Catholic myself, it was interesting to hear what Gaillardetz had to say. He is an incredibly intelligent man with a vast amount of knowledge of the history of the Papal Ministry. As a rising global citizen, I found it beneficial to listen to an expert’s opinion on the state of the Catholic Church and receive knowledge that I normally would not have acquired.

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