“There’s always a king somewhere.”
Or so says Michner in his book, “The Source.”
I tend to agree with him. No matter how democratic a democratic nation or organization might be, there is a person or small group of persons with undue influence on how things go. There is a de facto person in charge. Even if it is simply by natural selection there is that person that people will naturally turn toward as leader even if that leader is charged with making sure the democratic nature is upheld.
I would also augment Michner’s statement to say, “There is always a pope.” We could extend it further and say, “there is always a Tradition.” And it seems the more a church fights against popes and tradition, the more they entrench the very ideas they wish to deny.
Take, for example, a typical non-denominational church where the very thought of having a leader acting as a universal vicar for Christ is taught as an abhorrent notion. Where does that very notion come from? The pastor of the church – perhaps in consultation with some form of elders. Sounds very much like a pope in consultation with his cardinals. There is an established hierarchy (even if there is a strong effort to deny and hide the fact) but the belief system is not left to chance. There is a clear message with an authoritative leader.
“Ahhh,” a dissenter from this thought might say, “but that pastor or that church board is not speaking on its own but, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is only speaking the unadulterated truth of the Gospel and not adding anything to it.” (Sola Scriptura as it is known.) This is actually a very good retort and one that could be taken seriously if those who subscribed to such a belief did not splinter into thousands and thousands of churches on just about every point in the Bible.
Take this example: Baptism. Some say that it is necessary for salvation, others do not. Some say that it transforms who we are, others see it as a rite of passage. Some see it as permanent, some do not. Some see at as an assurance of heaven, some do not. Some understand the Trinitarian formula much as the Catholic Church does, some are far from it. If Scripture is so very clear so that all one has to do is read it and it will give you the exact instructions on what to do to be admitted into heaven, how on earth could there be so many interpretations of what it says?
And how do people of any given denomination (or so called non-denominations) know what interpretation to follow. There is only one answer: It is their Tradition – the very unbiblical interpretation of what they are reading and pass on from one believer to the next. It may be voted on by a conference, a congregation, held in a writing of a founder, interpreted by a pastor, history book, or decided upon by grandma at the dining room table and passed on to her family but in any event it is a Tradition on how to interpret the Scripture being read. (Even which version of Scripture to read is a Tradition. The accumulation of the Bible itself is a result of Tradition.)
Every church you pass on the way to Mass has some form of pope and exercises some form of Tradition. It is just much more transparent at your Catholic parish.