Scott asked:

Why do some converts flirt with Eastern Orthodoxy before coming back to Catholicism? Why would someone ultimately choose Catholicism?

Jimmy Akin replied:

"I can tell you why I did because that was a decision that I had to consider when I was becoming Catholic ... One of the things that it really came down to for me is the office of Saint Peter.

Because both sides, both Catholics and Orthodox, agree that Saint Peter has a successor in a unique way ... that the pope is a successor of Saint Peter in a special way. What they disagree about is the kind of authority that that role gives him. I looked at that question. A few things occurred to me. Number one, I didn’t think that the kind of authority that Eastern Orthodox would attribute to Saint Peter’s successor really made sense in context because ... both groups agree that the pope has a special authority as a result of his role as the successor of Saint Peter. In the east it would be common to say he has what’s known as a primacy among equals. That doesn’t really seem to correspond very easily to the way authority was conceptualized in the first century in Jewish circles. And so I had to ask myself how would the apostles have understood Peter’s unique role?

Obviously they were all equal in the sense of being apostles. But Peter nevertheless had a unique role that included the pastoral care of the other apostles, and we see that for example in Luke 22 when after discussing who is greatest, Jesus points out that the principle of servant leadership and then he points out that all the twelve apostles are going to have a special place in his kingdom. Then he points to Peter and says that he’s prayed for him, and when he’s turned back, strengthen his brothers. So he gives Peter this unique pastoral role among the apostles. We see the same thing at the end of John’s gospel. John [he meant Jesus] asks Peter in the presence of other apostles, ‘do you love me more than these?’ And Peter says, ‘yes Lord, I love you.’ And then he says, ‘feed my sheep.’ So Jesus’ other sheep would seem to include, from Peter’s point of view the other apostles ...

God doesn’t just give people a primacy of honor with no authority accompanying it ... So that was one of the things. Also if we agree that this is a divine institution, the Bishop of Rome as Peter’s successor in a special way then we would naturally ask the question, ‘which side or group is more likely to be guided by God to a correct understanding of that office? The side that actually has the office, or the side that is separate from the office?’ ... I had to conclude ... that God was more likely to guide the Catholic church into a proper understanding of the role of the pope compared to non-Catholic Christians."


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

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Show air date: August 22, 2013

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 10:16

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