Where Does the Catholic Church Get Its Authority?

Despite the faults and sins of her members, the Catholic Church has always claimed to be an authority on matters of faith and morals. But where did the Church get its authority?

Monsignor Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father™, recently responded to a listener who asked this very question. He said:

“Christ founded a Church. So the question is: where is that Church? What Catholics believe, and what I know as a Catholic, is that everything that Christ intended us to have for our sanctification and salvation subsists in the Catholic Church.

Meaning, the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ. It has everything Christ intended it to have for our sanctification and salvation. It doesn’t mean that other Christian churches don’t have some of what Christ intended us to have. But the fullness, or the completeness, of what Christ intended us to have is found in the Catholic Church.

He came to fulfill the first covenant, and in His fulfillment of it He established a Church, and that Church continues on. In fact, He promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church in Matthew 16. And, of course, at the end of His time on earth He promised He would be with us until the end of time. So Christ promised both that the Church would not pass away, will not be destroyed, and that Christ will be with us until the end of time.

Historically, we can just look at the history and see that for most of the first millennium, while there were times when we had schisms or heretical sects, the Church was one. The Church only began to be broken with the 11th century, and then that fraction was relatively minor compared to the incredible rupture that happened in the 15th century. So for most of Christian history, the understanding of one Church was quite clear. It’s only in the last few centuries that this scattering or disruption has been so acute.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

Go Ask Your Father airs weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.