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Catholic authority derives from the pope’s authority as Vicar of Christ and successor to Peter, the head apostle.
Jesus told his prodigal son Peter, Jn 21:15 “Feed My lambs … Tend My sheep … Feed My sheep.” Jesus had earlier said, Jn 10:11 “I am the good shepherd.” By directing that Peter become the good shepherd, Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom, ordaining his office and primacy. Peter became Christ’s vicar, or personal representative, on earth. Peter’s prestige as the head apostle was so great that people Acts 5:15 “… carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.”
Each pope is the successor of Peter, and therefore speaks with Christ’s own authority as His vicar on earth. Jesus said, Jn 8:28 “I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.” So, too, the Church does nothing on its own authority, but speaks only as the pope teaches and directs.
Catholic authority extends to every human person on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. The Church Militant is the branch of the Catholic Church that serves us in this life. The Church Suffering serves the souls in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant serves the souls in heaven.
The Church Militant has authority over every human person on earth. CCC 1 “God ... freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. ... He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son, and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.” Jesus commanded, Mt 10:40 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He willed that His flock be one. Jn 17:11 “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” Many baptized Christians do not accept Catholic authority, and many more men do not accept Jesus as their Redeemer or even that God exists at all. God has given the Church authority over all men, whether they recognize it or not.
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