“But didn’t Jesus say, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Mt. 16.18)? Yes, but he also ordered his disciples not to seek rank among themselves (Mark 9.33-37), and said “Do not call any man on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matthew 23.9, NEB). How do we reconcile these sayings? G. K. Chesterton gave the best answer. Christ, founding his church, did not choose Peter because he was above others, but because he was not above them:
He chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward—in a word, a man… All the empires and the kingdoms have failed because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by a strong man upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.
In the coming election, we do not have to fear Dante’s hell-bound popes, Acton’s mass-murderer popes, or Newman’s in-need-of-death pope. Happily, we can expect the new pope to be a man ordinary and ignorable, like Saint Peter,” – the great Garry Wills.