When all is said and done, whatever an individual's virtues, attributes or talents, there is just one basic question to be asked in order to discern whether he/she is a genuine Catholic.
Does this individual (cleric, religious or lay) humbly and thankfully accept the magisterium, i.e., the teaching authority of the Catholic Church on matters of faith, morals and discipline that are to be held by all the faithful?
It is abundantly clear from the gospels that Our Lord himself is responsible for the arrangement of passing on his teaching authority to his apostles with Peter as head, and from them to their successors - the Pope and bishops in union with him.
Knowing our fallen human nature, he foresaw the need for such an arrangement, provided it, and guaranteed his protection and that of the Holy Spirit. It is a tremendous gift rather than an imposition. Moreover, it must be remembered that Our Lord identified himself with his Church (Acts 9:5). They cannot and should not be separated.
Incidentally, for those who hold that the Pope is only the first among equals and base their claim on Vatican II, I refer them to the Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ( Lumen Gentium), par 25.
There should be no need to add that it is more than desirable for Catholics to know not only the "what" of magisterial teaching but also the "why." Hence the need for good, authentic, reliable adult Catholic programs. The recent UK publication Evangelium admirably fulfils this need. It is highly recommended for RCIA and upper secondary school programs as well. Its Australian distributor is St Paul Publications.
FR M. DURHAM
Retired Queensland priest