A critical study of the hierarchical paradigm of ecclesiastical authority as implemented within Roman Catholicism
Unpublished Thesis (MAR)
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The current period in history may be seen in a social sense as an era of profound crisis of authority. Similar to the secular society, authority in the Christian community has been challenged in various ways, even though the twentieth century marks the period when the doctrine of the church (ecclesiology) received its prominence in Christian theology. Two clear reasons for the challenge to ecclesiastical authority are (1) a misunderstanding of the nature of the church, and a (2) misuse or abuse of authority in the church. The purpose of this study is to evaluate critically the hierarchical paradigm of ecclesiastical authority in the Roman Catholic Church in order to clearly understand the church, its nature, and its authority. Ecclesiastical authority in the Roman Catholic Church is designated as the authority of the hierarchy. The core of authority in the Roman Catholic Church centers around the popes and priests who comprise the College of Bishops. The church authorities insist that these bishops are historical successors of the apostles. The pope, who is the head of the College of Bishops and considered the vicar of Christ, is reckoned as the final authority in the hierarchy. The Roman Catholic Church also claims the infallibility of the hierarchical authority to teach sanctify, and govern the believers. The Roman Catholic Church furthermore tends to elevate the sacerdotalistic concept which is based on hierarchy. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has syncretical elements which were effected by paganism. This hierarchical concept is contrary to the biblical concept of the priesthood of all believers. The emphasis on ritual provides evidence that the Roman Catholic Church maintain her authority through ritualism. This hierarchical paradigm overlooks the concept of charismatic diaconia as the real meaning of ministerial authority and the organic aspect of the church. It cannot be denied that hierarchical authority in the Roman Catholic Church depends upon sacerdotalism and clericalism and clericalism. The emphsis on a church institution or hierarchical organization could lead to institutionalism and bureaucratization of the church, so that the essence of the church becores the institution and not the people of God themselves. Ecclesiastical authority, from a biblical standpoint, is bestowed not through the autocratic and kingly exercise of hierarchical power in the institution, but through the spiritual and servantly exercise of all believers who are the organic body of Christ.
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