Some people may find it odd to see the word "pope" used as a verb. But there is a specific context in which that is entirely appropriate. A similar meaning is referred to when we say of one that he is "crossing the Tiber." It means to convert to the Catholic Faith and Church, specifically, and generally from some other (non-catholic) form of Christianity. When a person "popes" what that means is that he joins the Catholic Church and places himself in submission to the Roman Pontiff.
"Poping" is therefore a good and highly advisable thing for anyone to do if they are interested in serving their Creator and being blessed by Him and by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. "Crossing the Tiber" is simply another expression for the same thing, the Tiber being a river in Rome, and the idea is one of crossing over that river to the side from which the Catholic Church had long been run (Vatican City). But I prefer the expression poping.
Now why should a person pope? I realize that some merely do so because of practical reasons, such as where a nearest church is or because they have married a Catholic and would like to have religious peace in the home. But there are also those who have made a careful study of history, or of theology, or of Scripture, etc., and it is this study that has shown one that the Catholic Church is that Church which was founded by the Savior, and which truly is commissioned by God to represent His interests in this world.
One of the key reasons and most powerful is a reading of the early Church Fathers. These holy ancients documented what the Faith and Church was at a time far too early for any corrupting influences to have distorted the original revelation to any great extent. The Ancient Church Fathers provide that greatest antidote to the Protestant myths of Christianity somehow rapidly fading into nonexistence soon after the last of the original twelve Apostles died and of more than a millennium of apostasy and lack of any real faith until Martin Luther appears on the scene, or else of Christianity only most gradually acquiring all of the more specifically Catholic details at some much later date.
Recently, I was reading an advertisement regarding a new collection being published of quotes and extracts from the writings of the Ancient Church Fathers, which showed a great example of just how profound their teachings are with regards to understanding the original Gospel of Christ. In a nutshell, what happened was this:
Jimmy Akin (of Karl Keating's Catholic [sic] Answers) had debated David Hunt on Catholicism versus Protestantism. Despite the strength of the Catholic arguments, the mostly Protestant audience found the debate "inconclusive" at best. But one such in the audience (we will call him Alex because Mr. Akin does) approached Jimmy Akin some years later to tell him that he had not been impressed by his case at the time, but that something he said in his closing remarks had impressed him and motivated him to do some research on his own, research that ultimately led him to "pope." Mr. Akin's closing remarks had been:
"Who is more likely to have understood what the writers of the New Testament meant - the Protestant Reformers, who lived in the sixteenth century, or the Fathers of the Church, those earliest Christian writers who lived in the first, second, and third centuries?
"Should we accept Calvin's and Luther's interpretations, even though they lived 1,500 years too late to have known the apostles, or should we accept the testimony of men such as Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, who learned directly from the apostles or from those who had known the apostles?"
Those remarks had started Alex on a quest to know just what these ancient Fathers had written. One thing that had struck him so deeply was the profoundly Catholic sense their writings all had. How very closely certain heresies, known and refuted back then (and refuted authoritatively by those who knew what the truth was, with an authority borne both of direct and qualified expertise as well as an authoritative place of rank and respect within the Church) closely resemble details of the Protestant teachings. This pursuit of truth is what forced Alex to pope, to convert to Catholicism, and then also to try to bring in as much of his Protestant congregation as he could.
But did Alex and his congregation actually make it to the Catholic Church? Sadly, no. Given that all of that happened in the context of the Novus Ordo [New Church], all they have done is convert from one Protestant sect to another. It is as if having been Baptists they have decided to become Methodists. I doubt that Alex or many (if any) within that congregation of his are in any way to blame for their failure to complete their conversion to Catholicism, or even conscious of the difference.
One has to bear in mind that Protestants have been around Catholics all nearly five centuries of their existence, and though their understanding of Catholicism has long been gravely distorted, at least those who had distorted the Catholic message so as to render it unattractive to the crowds at least had had a valid and authentic Catholicism to start with. So despite its inaccuracies, the defective Protestant's conception of what Catholicism is nevertheless contains something of an echo of authentic Catholicism, and even as yet relatively little of the changes introduced by Vatican II have really sunk in with them. If anything, Vatican II has only made it all the easier for them to bring their Protestant mindset with them into what they innocently mistake for the Catholic Church. Conversion can really be quite easy when it doesn't call for much of a change. Some of Alex's congregation have to be wondering just what difference it made. In that, one can only pray that perhaps they will one day realize that perhaps they have not really yet poped.
On what few occasions that a Protestant is able to hear something from a traditional Catholic, he realizes that the Catholic Church will never change, and for him Vatican II is but an insincere accommodation to Protestantism (and other religions), and not any implication that the real Catholic Church could ever change its nature or teachings one whit. So when a Protestant is so persuaded, especially by exposure to the ancient Church Fathers, to convert to being a Catholic, he often thinks in terms of accepting Mary, Purgatory, Penance, the Papacy, Sacraments, images used in worship, the Mass, the Rosary, Benedictions, in short all the things the Novus Ordo [New Church] has been quietly ditching since its beginning at Vatican II.
He converts, not so much to an organization which he mistakes for the Catholic Church, but more accurately to the very idea of becoming a Catholic. I know I can speak from experience in this, for I too was familiar with at least some such ancient writings. And once ready, I was far more willing to be really and truly and fully Catholic than many I met up with at what I mistook for a Catholic church at the time. In my case, the writings I had read were not by any means the most persuasive; in my case, it was the Apocryphal New Testament books that I had read, and though those particular writings were generally disdained by the ancient Fathers and generally less persuasive, they did nevertheless reflect something of a remarkably Catholic outlook which was jarringly out of step with the usual Protestant conception of a gradually evolved Catholicism. The more accepted Fathers which I have since familiarized myself with do so even only all the more dramatically, and usually with far more theological precision than one might expect at so early a stage in Christian doctrinal development.
The advertisement, which I mentioned above pertains to the publishing of a book which collects the writings of many of such ancient Church Fathers into a readable form and which should hopefully prove of great persuasive value in converting Protestants to Catholicism. The book is called "The Fathers Know Best" by Jimmy Akin, and in a future article here I hope to be able to review it as a book.
But what of those, like Alex and his congregation, who have converted to, let us say, the idea of becoming Catholics? For now, they remain as much within a Protestant sect as before, but clearly not through any deliberate choice of their own. Many of them may well be doing the best they know, given the common error many have of confusing today's Vatican organization with the historic Roman Catholic Church. In short, misinformation has deprived them of any choice. The real Roman Catholic Church can only be associated with Tradition, and if the ancient Fathers are sufficiently explored, that alone is the conclusion one could reach. But it may require more familiarity with the ancient Fathers than any single volume could provide. A full and detailed acquaintance with the ancient Church Fathers can only point one quite specifically and exclusively to traditional Catholicism, but if one's readings are less than full (and who really has the time and resources to read them all?), one might think he finds the Eastern Orthodox to be acceptable since they are "not that far off." To be able to mistake Novus Ordoism for the ancient Church requires quite a bit more ignorance of the ancient Church Fathers.
Experience may subsequently set some of them straight (if it doesn't instead drive them to Eastern Orthodoxy), namely the blatant unCatholicism of the Novus Ordo. The now ex-Protestant, having accepted Mary and Purgatory and Sacraments etc. now finds these very things being disavowed in their own local "St. Miscellaneous parish." In recent times, several Anglican clerics decided to pope, but instead of joining the Catholic Church they instead merely joined the Novus Ordo. Things had gotten pretty sick within the Anglican Church, for example publicly homosexual bishops etc., and so they left it. Now, having joined the Novus Ordo in flight from such madness, how long will it be before they end up saying to themselves or even to each other, "Didn't we just leave this party?" Time must come that they discover that all they did was transfer from one breakaway Anglican communion to another just like it.
One real reason that more non-Catholic persons who decide to read the ancient Church Fathers might choose Eastern Orthodoxy or even Novus Ordoism is merely that traditional Catholicism is not all that well-known, or even more simply, it is not commonly available in the form of local churches and parishes in many areas. A person wanting to pursue Faith will at some point desire personal contact with a trained cleric and a thriving congregation of likeminded believers. For the first time in well over a millennium, the actual historic and authentic Roman Catholic Church is unable to provide this in most of the world.
Another point is the irony of our present situation. If one is truly familiar with and aligned to the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy, then one would be constrained to reject as "pope" the characters put forth as such by today's Vatican organization. One cannot truly complete one's process of poping without realizing that the Church has no pope today. But, we can take solace in having aligned and affiliated ourselves with all the historic popes of Holy Mother Church, and with all that must eventually yet come to be if the Lord tarries long enough.
Also, though our numbers at present are quite small, we can also take solace in the fact that our traditional Catholic Faith alone is identical to that of all Catholics of former ages. In all of history taken together there are and have been vastly more followers of Christ who have believed exactly as we do than there have been those following all other opinions put together, even including today's massive defection to the Novus Ordo sect.
Besides the longer articles Griff has been writing for the DailyCatholic, he has submitted shorter articles that were published in the Traditional Catholic monthly periodical The Four Marks over the last few years. They are short articles that editor and publisher of The Four Marks Kathleen Plumb has graciously given permission to run here. We are grateful for the opportunity to share these with our readers who may not have had the opportunity to see them originally in The Four Marks since they are Griff's The above appeared in the March 2011 issue.
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com We at the DailyCatholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.
For Griff's previous articles from his STRAIGHT STUFF features, see ARCHIVES