An urban legend illustration. It never happened, but it illustrates an important principle (1:54)
Church’s Teaching Authority
The ship vs. lighthouse
An urban legend has circulated on the Internet since a 1995 iteration that was represented as an actual transcript of such a communication released by the office of the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations. A variation of it dates to at least the 1930s, sometimes referred to as "the lighthouse vs. the carrier" or "the lighthouse vs. the battleship". The U.S. Navy has a webpage debunking it. Preachers have often used it as an illustration teaching the dangers of inflexibility and self-importance, or the need for situational awareness.
A battle ship was on exercise at sea in bad weather. The captain was on the bridge. It was foggy. Just after dark the look out spotted a light on the starboard side. The captain asked if it was steady or moving. The look out replied the light was steady meaning they were on direct collision course with that ship! The captain ordered the lookout signal to the other ship:
“Change course 20 degrees. We are on collision course.”
The signal came back ‘”Advisable for you to change course.”
The captain signalled ‘”I am a captain. Change course 20 degrees.”
“I am a seaman second class. You had better change course 20 degrees” came the reply.
The captain was furious. He sent back ‘”I am a battleship. Change course!”
Back came the signal, “I am a lighthouse. Your call.”
When the Church's magisterium presents to us God's truth for us to obey, and we wonder why, we need to remember the reason why God gave us scripture and Tradition. If we want to avoid disaster in this life and the next, we really need to obey His orders!
What is said of the bible at the end of the clip, can equally be said of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church — (2:21)
Kit Allowitz — (2:12)
The Coming Home Network International (5:00)