Posted by: L. E. Barnes | June 29, 2010

Why We Need Church Councils

Fr. Jeffrey Mickler, of the Society of St. Paul, offers some insights about the importance of Church councils, using what has come to be called the Council of Jerusalem as the basis for the discussion. This council, discussed in Acts 15, reveals the importance of the Magisterium. The Church is a living thing, not some fossil in a museum. It cannot stay frozen in tme, and sometimes established practices become outmoded and need to be adjusted or even replaced altogether. Of course, people tend to resist to change, sometimes for good reason. However, sometimes appealing to tradition is insufficient. Also, the cacauphony of competing opinions created in such cases shows that a clear voice of authority is needed to settle the matter. Otherwise, you have every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there thinking that they have the answer, resulting in divisions. (Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. Having come from an evangelical Protestant background, I’ve witnessed ugly church splits, which can sometimes occur not just over important spiritual matters but even the pettiest disagreements.) In fact, one of the things I’ve grown to appreciate most about the Catholic Church is the Magisterium, which keeps the Church from fragmenting into a zillion denominations, as Protestantism has unfortunately done.



  1. […] Why We Need Church Councils […]

  2. Yes. Acts 15 is remarkable. I discuss it in my Catechism class each year to show the kids that the church hierarchy was making decisions on its own before there was even a New Testament.

    • kkollwitz,
      Absolutely. Too bad Protestants either don’t take that into account at all or just explain it away somehow. But the episode shows clearly that the Magisterium is needed to prevent Christians from endless fragmentation.

  3. I also remind the kids of all the Mosaic laws that they learned about earlier in the year when we looked at Exodus, Leviticus, and keeping the Sabbath. These were all OT instructions, yet the new church authorities decided along with the Holy Spirit to set them aside.

    Also note that even though Jesus personally appeared to Paul, that was not enough of an endorsement of Paul’s authority to allow him to decide alone. He was obliged to travel back to Jerusalem to have collegial input which included Peter.

    Teaching my class is such a privilege.

    • “Teaching my class is such a privilege.”

      I’m sure it is! You certainly have the right attitude. 🙂

      But yes, those are other good points that cannot be overooked. The OT was the only sacred scripture for the first Christians, yet some of its mandates had to be set aside–and the Church needed the apostles to settle these matters. Who will settle such things today? The Magisterium!

  4. What is so wonderful about the Catholic Church’s magisterium is that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church can always interpret traditionally any modern question. Pope Benedict XVI is very good at doing this and I love to read his writings. He is the right man for the big job of today – and talk about inheriting a mess! No criticism of Pope JP II in this. It’s the world making great headway trying to destroy the Church, which is never going to happen no matter how hard it tries.

    • Barb,
      As Jesus said, the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. And Pope Benedict definitely has his work cut out for him. How a man his age can handle so much is amazing to me!

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