The Primacy of Peter, the Papacy and Apostolic Succession 

Jesus, Peter, and the Keys by Scott Butler/Norm Dahlgren/David Hess (Queenship, 1996)Almost all of the references below can be verified in Edward Giles Documents Illustrating Papal Authority AD 96-454 (London: SPCK, 1952 reprinted by Hyperion Press, 1979) or Jesus, Peter, and the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy edited by Scott Butler, Norm Dahlgren, David Hess (Queenship, 1996). Mark is responding to a critic (hereafter, "our critic") on the early Papacy which will be quoted in smaller font.

by Mark Bonocore

The author of an anti-Papal essay starts off by asserting:

<< Of immense importance to the question of leadership of the church today is the issue of the Apostle Peter and doctrine of apostolic succession. It has already been demonstrated that Peter was not the first bishop of the first church. >>

Has it now? Well, certainly not according to the witness of our ancient Christian forefathers:

(1) Tertullian (c. AD 197) speaks of Peter apart from Paul as ordaining Clement as his episcopal successor (De Praescrip Haer 32).

(2) The Poem Against Marcion (c. 200 AD) states how "Peter bad Linus to take his place and sit on the chair whereon he himself had sat" (III, 80). The word "chair" (cathedra) in ecclesiastical language always means one's episcopal throne (i.e. the bishop's chair).

(3) Caius of Rome (214 AD) calls Pope Victor the thirteenth bishop of Rome after Peter (Euseb HE V, 28).

(4) Hippolytus (225 AD) counts Peter as the first Bishop of Rome (Dict Christian Biog I, 577).

(5) Cyprian (in 250) speaks of Rome as "the place of Peter" (Ep ad Anton), and as "the Chair of Peter" (Ep ad Pope Cornelius).

(6) Firmilian (257) speaks of Pope Stephen's claim to the "succession of Peter" and to the "Chair of Peter" (Ep ad Cyprian).

(7) Eusebius (314) says that Peter was "the bishop of Rome for twenty-five years" (Chron an 44), and calls Linus "first after Peter to obtain the episcopate" (Chron an 66). He also says that Victor was "the thirteenth bishop of Rome after Peter" (HE III, 4).

(8) The Council of Sardica "honors the memory of the Apostle Peter" in granting Pope Julius I the right to judge cases involving other episcopal sees under imperial Roman law (Sardica Canon IV, and Ep ad Pope Julius).

(9) Athanasius (340's) calls Rome the "Apostolic Throne" -- a reference to the Apostle Peter as the first bishop to occupy that throne (Hist Arian ad Monarch 35).

(10) Optatus (370) says that the episcopal chair of Rome was first established by Peter, "in which chair sat Peter himself." He also says how "Peter first filled the pre-eminent chair," which "is the first of the marks of the Church." (Schism Donat II, 2 and II, 3).

(11) Pope Damasus (370) speaks of the "Apostolic chair" in which "the holy Apostle sitting, taught his successors how to guide the helm of the Church" (Ep ix ad Synod, Orient ap Theodoret V, 10). Damasus also states how "The first See is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church" and says how Rome received primacy not by the conciliar decisions of the other churches, but from the evangelic voice of the Lord, when He says, "Thou art Peter..." (Decree of Damasus 382).

(12) Ambrose (c. 390) speaks of Rome as "Peter's chair" and the Roman church where "Peter, first of the Apostles, first sat" (De Poenit I, 7-32, Exp Symb ad Initiand).

(13) Jerome (c. 390) speaks of Rome as the "chair of Peter" and the "Apostolic chair," and states that Peter held the episcopal chair for twenty-five years at Rome (Epistle 15 and se Vir Illust I, 1).

(14) Augustine (c. 400) tells us to number the bishops of Rome from the chair of Peter itself (in Ps contra Part Donat), and speaks of "the chair of the Roman church in which Peter first sat" (Contra Lit Petil).

(15) Prudentius (405) writes how in Rome there were "the two princes of the Apostles, one the Apostle of the Gentiles, the other holding the First Chair" (Hymn II in honor of St Laurent, V).

(16) Bachiarius (420) speaks of Rome as "the chair of Peter, the seat of faith" (De Fide 2).

(17) Prosper of Aquitaine (429) calls Rome "the Apostolic See" and the "Chair of the Apostle Peter" (Carm de Ingratis).

(18) The Roman legates at the Council of Ephesus (431) declare how "it is a matter doubtful to none that Peter lived and exercised judgement in his successors" and how "the holy and most blessed [Pope] Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place" (Acta Councilia, session 3, tom III, col 621).

(19) Peter Chrysologus (440) speaks of "blessed Peter living and presiding in his own see" (Ep ad Eutech).

(20) Pope Leo the Great (440) says how "the whole Church acknowledges Peter in the See of Peter (Rome)" (Serm II, 2).

(21) At the Council of Chalcedon (451), the assembled bishops respond to the teaching of Pope Leo the Great by crying out, "Peter has spoken through Leo." The sentence of the council is pronounced by the legates "in the name of Leo, the Council, and St. Peter" (Canons of Chalcedon).

(22) The Synodical Letter to Pope Leo from Chalcedon calls the Pope "the interpreter of Peter's voice."

(23) Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian III (450) speak of "the primacy of the Apostolic See (Rome), made firm on account of the merits of Peter, Chief of the Corona of Bishops" (Inter ep Leon I, Vol XI, col 637).

Now, if our critic would care to produce ONE ancient quote that DENIES that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, then perhaps he has an argument. Yet, until such time, the ancient witness stands firm and consistent.

What is Apostolic Succession?

<< We cannot, however, deprive him of the critical leadership role that he played in the early church, nor dismiss the frequent references in the early church back to the successive bishops in Rome that derived their customs and rule of faith from Peter and Paul themselves. Irenaeus in particular, draws a detailed lineage back to these two apostles in Rome. He says

[follows the famous text from St. Irenaeus on the "preeminant authority" of Rome and the succession list of her Bishops]

.ST. IRENAEUS OF LYON (c. 180-199 AD)

"It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times: men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches. For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority.

"But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized AT ROME by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. FOR WITH THIS CHURCH, BECAUSE OF ITS SUPERIOR ORIGIN [or "preeminent authority"] ALL CHURCHES MUST AGREE, THAT IS, ALL THE FAITHFUL IN THE WHOLE WORLD; AND IT IS IN HER THAT THE FAITHFUL EVERYWHERE HAVE MAINTAINED THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION." [then follows a list of successors to Peter as bishops of Rome] (Against Heresies 3:3:1-3)

This text is one of the earliest and most critical in establishing the idea of apostolic succession and primacy of Rome. There is however, a significant error in this line of reasoning. It is the fact that this text, like the other comparable ante-Nicene "succession" texts, have nothing to do with apostolic succession, as it is taught by Romanism today. As a matter of fact, they contradict the whole contemporary concept of apostolic succession. >>

Does it indeed?

<< In order to understand this, we need to look at where the office of apostle comes from, as well as the intent of these early church texts. >>

Yes, let's.

<< Apostolic Succession: Who died and made you an apostle? The crux of the problem lies in a single semantical distinction of "apostle" and "bishop." If we look in the New Testament at the usage of the word "apostle" we see that it is applied to not only the twelve, but to Paul numerous times, to Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and possibly Andrionicus and Junias (Romans 16:7). Many early church fathers call the seventy that Jesus sent out "apostles" (Matt. 10:1-22) Paul mentions "super-apostles" in the Second letter to the Corinthians (who are actually false apostles) and the Book of Revelation mentions that the church of Ephesus wisely tested those who claimed to be apostles, and found them wanting. Where does an apostle come from? Scripture declares that only God can make a true apostle. >>

Let me save everyone a lot of wasted energy by pointing out the crucial fault in this author's understanding of what Catholics believe and teach when it comes to "Apostolic succession." Very simply, "Apostolic succession" DOES NOT mean that the Pope, or any other bishop, succeeds to the full office of an Apostle. That is not the Catholic claim at all. Rather, "Apostolic succession" maintains that a Pope, or a particular bishop, succeeds FROM an Apostle or Apostles. It, in no way, implies that this Pope or this bishop is now an Apostle himself.

Furthermore, it in no way implies that this Pope or this bishop is Divinely-inspired (as the Apostles were), or infallible (in the sense that the Apostles were), or that they are the originators of new, Christ-given revelation (as the Apostles were). Rather, the Pope and his brother bishops are merely the authoritative, Spirit-protected guardians of revelation (i.e. the Apostolic Deposit of Faith) that has already been delivered to us, in full, by the Apostles. So, as this author correctly points out, and as Catholics clearly believe, only God can commission someone to be an Apostle.

Now, with all that said, let me draw an important distinction. While a Pope, or another bishop, may not succeed to the full office of an Apostle (e.g. the Apostle Peter), they do succeed to a dimension of the Apostolic office: and that is the episcopal dimension of the Apostolic office. In other words, all Apostles, as part of their Apostolic calling, were also bishops (e.g. "overseers" -- pastors of the flock). Peter calls himself a "presbyter" among other (non-Apostle) presbyters in 1 Peter 5:1, as does the Apostle John in 2 John 1 and 3 John 1. Here, it is important to note that, at the time the New Testament was written, the terms "bishop" ("overseer") and "presbyter" ("senior" / "elder" -- which would eventually evolve into our English word "priest") were still being used interchangeably (and this is more than understandable, given that all Catholic bishops are also priests).

And so, when the Bishop of Rome says that he is the successor of the Apostle Peter, or when the Bishop of Ephesus says that he is the successor of the Apostle John, they are referring to the episcopal offices held by Peter (1 Peter 5:1) and by John (2 John 1), and not to the full measure of their Apostolic ministries. And so, the author of our article simply misunderstands the Catholic teaching.

Also, speaking of the Apostolic office of St. Paul, our critic says:

<< There was no way that he could have had an apostolic office passed on to him from the original apostles. >>

I'm sorry, but this again is a mischaracterization of what Catholics believe. As I said above, the Catholic Church fully agrees with this author's assertion that only God can appoint an Apostle. Such was clearly the case with the Apostle Paul, who did not succeed from any of the Twelve (the Twelve were made Apostles to the Jewish people, by the way), but was called directly by Christ Himself to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. So, it is certainly true that no human authority made St. Paul an Apostle. However, if you read Acts 13:1-3, you will clearly see that a human authority (i.e., the bishops of the church of Antioch) DID appoint both Paul and Barnabas, by the laying on of hands, to their episcopal offices (thereby giving them the authority to found other churches and to ordain other presbyters within them: Acts 14:23). Before this time, neither Paul nor Barnabas ordained anyone, nor did they claim the authority to found any churches (but merely, in Paul's case, to preach the Good News, which is the function of an Apostle). Yet, only a bishop can ordain or establish churches; and a bishop is also subject to Church hierarchy and submits to it when necessary (e.g. Acts 15:2).

Our critic then goes on to attack Apostolic succession (as he improperly understands it) by citing how there was no succession from St. James the son of Zebedee, saying:

<< There was no "dynastic" succession for the office. In Acts 12:1,2, we see that Herod seized James, brother of John, and put him to death. It must be noted that there is no move to fill his "apostolic" office. Why? Because apostleship is not conferred on others by men. >>

Here, once again, our critic confuses succession to an Apostle's episcopal office with succession to the full measure of the Apostolic office. So, simply put, no one succeeded to the episcopal dimension of St. James the son of Zebedee's Apostolic office because St. James the son of Zebedee did not serve as the singular bishop of any particular city-church! Truth be told, according to the Acts narrative, St. James was martyred for his faith in Christ before the Apostles left Jerusalem to serve as bishops of other city-churches. So, given that St. James never went on to found any city-churches outside of Judaea, we Catholics (given what we mean by "Apostolic succession") do not need to show that anyone succeeded to the Apostolic office of James. So, here, once again, our critic leads us on a wild goose-chase that has nothing to do with true Catholic teaching.

Bishops and Presbyters

Yet, our critic goes on:

<< Now, compare this with the office of "bishop" (Gr. "episcopoi"). The Bible offers significant parameters on what qualifies one for being a bishop or overseer. It is a position that one can "desire" and aspire to (1 Timothy 3:1). >>

Please permit me to chime in here for a moment. First of all, as I said above, at the time when the New Testament was written, the terms "bishop" and "presbyter" (aka "priest") were still being used interchangeably (e.g. compare the author's citation of 1 Tim 3:1 with 1 Tim 5:17-22, which refers to exactly the same office, but which calls them "presbyters" and not "bishops"). The exclusive use of the term "bishop" to distinguish the leading presbyter of a particular city-church from his fellow presbyters began in Syria in about AD 100; and that semantic usage spread to Europe soon after, probably thanks to St. Ignatius of Antioch. Yet, in NT times, the terms were still fluid and interchangeable.

For more detail on this point see Mark Bonocore's article

The Church Always had Monarchical Bishops: Response to James White

Secondly, in saying that the office of "bishop / presbyter" can be "desired" or "aspired to," what our critic is apparently suggesting is that one can become a bishop on one's own, without being ordained to the episcopate by the Church (e.g. some Baptist pastors simply proclaim themselves "bishop"). Well, not only is this ridiculous, but it is also unscriptural, as 1 Tim 5:22 reveals to us. Here, speaking about "presbyters / bishops" Paul tells Timothy, the ruling bishop of Ephesus at the time, "Do not lay hands too readily upon anyone." What's more, in 1 Tim 3:1, Paul does not say that one is made a bishop by simply desiring to be one. Rather, please notice that he is quoting a well-known saying in the Church at the time, and writes, "THIS SAYING is trustworthy: 'Whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.'" Here, Paul is using very crafty, rabbinical language; and he is speaking in the sense of "Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it." In this, he is warning any man who seeks to lead the church for his own personal glory, and reminding those who would accept episcopal duties that they are taking on grave responsibilities which will require them to become (as Christ taught) the servants of all.

However, our critic goes on:

<< The qualifications are practical, numerous, and clearly defined. When the apostles had made their missionary circuit, they returned to all of the churches they had started to ordain elders (presbyteros) in all of the churches. The pre-eminent of the presbyters was the episcopoi, bishop or overseer. >>

I'm genuinely amazed that our critic agrees with the Catholic Church on this point. Yes, this was certainly the case; yet, as I keep pointing out, the leading presbyter of a city-church was not exclusively called a "bishop" until a generation or so later. In NT times, this leading presbyter of a city-church was referred to as both a "bishop" and a "presbyter" (e.g. 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1; etc).

<< In Paul's speech to the elders of Ephesus, he uses the verb for "shepherd" (pastor) to describe the elders' and overseers' function in their churches (Acts 20:28). Very early in church history, we see the government of each assembly set up on the basis of Bishop-Presbyter-Deacon, with each role being filled by godly men of character, normally appointed by the existing elders, with the consent of the whole congregation. >>

Amen! This, once again, is in complete agreement with the Catholic position. What our critic fails to mention, however (because he, no doubt, doesn't believe it himself) is that the ordination of these bishops, presbyters, and deacons was understood to be something sacramental in nature, directly involving the Holy Spirit, and performed via the "laying on of hands." For example, we've already seen in 1 Tim 5:22, where, speaking about the ordination of presbyters, St. Paul tells Timothy, "Do not lay hands too readily upon anyone." Likewise, in 2 Tim 1:6, Paul refers to Timothy's own ordination, saying: "For this reason I remind you to stir up the flame of the Gift of God (i.e. the Holy Spirit) that you have through the imposition of my hands." Here, it is quite clear to see that ordination to the episcopate, the presbyterate (priesthood), or the diaconate was not merely an act of human nomination, but a sacramental act of the Holy Spirit Himself through the ministry of His Church and of its minister (Paul).

<< It is critical to see at this point that the office of apostle, and the office of bishop are not interchangeable. >>

Of course they're not. They never were. Rather, like I said, the Apostles were ALSO bishops/presbyters; and Apostolic succession means that one succeeds to the episcopal office that was held by an Apostle. That's all.

<< The very cornerstone of the apostolic rule of faith is built upon the presumption that the true faith was entrusted to the apostles, and they in turn appointed bishops and elders in the churches they established. >>

Yep. And the Catholic Church agrees completely.

<< The elders and bishops, by apostolic command, are to have successors, while there is no apostolic command to create a lineage of apostles. >>

Agreed. We Catholics do not believe in any such "lineage of apostles." our critic is chasing "phantom Catholicism," not the real thing. The Pope, for example, is the linear successor of the Apostle Peter IN THAT he directly succeeds to the EPISCOPAL OFFICE held by the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:1), which was the episcopate of the city of Rome (called "Babylon" in 1 Peter 5:13, just as it is in Rev 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 18:10, 18:21, etc). And the episcopal office of Peter holds particular responsibilities when it comes to maintaining the unity and orthodoxy of the entire Church (e.g. John 21:15-19).

The Succession List of St. Irenaeus

<< If you look very carefully at the text above, you will see that Irenaeus is promoting, in his exact words, the doctrine of "succession of bishops." The reason why this is so important is because if there was such a thing as apostolic office passed down from the original apostles, those apostles would have the divine right to declare any arbitrary doctrine they wanted as "apostolic truth." >>

Hey, if you have a problem with the term "Apostolic succession" and want to call it "succession of bishops" that's fine. I already explained what we mean by the term "Apostolic succession" above. Yet, what our critic is clearly not appreciating is that Peter himself (along with several other Apostles) was ALSO a bishop (1 Peter 5:1; cf. 2:25); and the "succession of bishops" in Rome begins with him (as was consistently maintained by the ancient Church, per the 23 citations I presented above).

As for St. Irenaeus who admittedly does not number Peter among the bishops of Rome, but rather presents the Roman episcopal succession after the time of Peter and Paul, here one must not fail to appreciate WHY Irenaeus was writing, WHO he was writing to, and WHAT was the point he was trying to make.

The quote from St. Irenaeus provided by our critic above is taken from his great work, Against the Heresies (c. 180 AD) in which Irenaeus outlines, addresses, and refutes all the major heretical groups of his time. In citing the importance of "episcopal succession," what Irenaeus is trying to refute is the notion that the Apostles passed down "secret knowledge" to some of their followers -- "secret knowledge" that they did not share with the rest of the Church, but only with a "select few." The Gnostic heretics claimed to be the custodians of this "secret knowledge" and, in order to refute this claim, Irenaeus argues that if the Apostles imparted such hidden information to any of their followers, this would certainly have included the bishops who they ordained. However, no legitimate bishop who can trace his succession to an Apostle taught anything like the strange doctrines that the Gnostic heretics were promoting. And so, given that this is Irenaeus' objective, he was simply not concerned with proving that the Apostles served as the first bishops of certain city-churches. Why not? Because everyone, including the Gnostics, took it for granted that the Apostles were authoritative and presided over these flocks. Rather, what had to be shown by Irenaeus is the unbroken line that existed subsequently to these Apostles. And this he does quite brilliantly.

So, Irenaeus never intended to give us a formal list of succession of any particular city-church, starting with the Apostle who served as its first Bishop. Rather, he presents the episcopal succession of these churches in order to illustrate his point. What's more, as all scholars agree, St. Irenaeus drew his succession list from St. Hegesippus, a Jewish convert and native of Jerusalem who, a generation before, went from city-church to city-church writing down the episcopal succession from the Apostles. Eusebius of Caesarea, who had an original copy of Hegesippus' book (now lost to us), provides us with the following quote from him:

"And the Church of the Corinthians remained in the true Word until Primus was bishop in Corinth; I made their acquaintance during my journey to Rome, and remained with the Corinthians many days, in which we were refreshed with the true Word. And when I was in Rome, I made a succession up to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And in each succession, and in each city, all is according to the ordinances of the Law and the Prophets and the Lord." (Hegesippus in Euseb IV, 22)

Now, this is taken from the SAME Eusebius of Caesarea who, quoted in my list above, cites PETER as the first Bishop of Rome (Chron an 66 and HE III, 4), and maintains that he presided over Rome for twenty-five years (e.g. from the time he flees Jerusalem in Acts 12:17 until his crucifixion atop Vatican hill). Eusebius clearly got this information from the sources available to him, which included the succession lists of St. Hegesippus -- the primary source from which St. Irenaeus himself draws his information.

More Misunderstandings of Apostolic Succession

<< This, in a nutshell, is what perpetuates the Mormon church. The leader of their quorum claims the right of apostleship, and they have, on numerous occasions, spoken completely new dogma into being. They have proven that they can even create dogma that their own former apostles and even their own scriptures contradict, yet, the office of the living apostle takes priority. >>

Okay. So, what's your point? Catholics do not believe anything like this.

<< What does the Roman church teach? Do they teach that the Gospel was entrusted once for all to the apostles, and handed down to the bishops? >>

Yes, they do.

<< Or do they maintain that they have the office of apostle within their hierarchy? >>

No, we don't.

<< So there is no doubt about their claims, cited here is the declaration from the most recent Council, Vatican II (ca. 1965). In the dogmatic statement on the church, Lumen Gentium, we read: "Just as the role that the Lord gave individually to Peter, first among the apostles, was permanent and meant to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and was meant to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. Therefore this sacred synod teaches that by divine institution bishops have succeeded to the place of the apostles." Clearly the Roman church believes that the apostolic office remains within their domain, and is past down by succession. >>

Once again, our critic suffers from a profound misunderstanding of what the Church actually believes or what it means via the words of Lumen Gentium. However, as I pointed out above, the bishops of the Catholic Church succeed only to the episcopal dimension of the Apostolic office -- the dimension which "nurtures the Church" as Lumen Gentium directly says. There is nothing in Lumen Gentium about delivering new doctrine or new revelation (despite the comparision to Mormonism made by our critic), and the bishops of the Catholic Church do not possess any such authority.

Primacy and Authority of Peter

Yet, let's take this quote from Lumen Gentium line-by-line:

"Just as the role that the Lord gave individually to Peter, first among the apostles, was permanent and meant to be transmitted to his successors...."

Okay. What "role" did Christ give "individually" to Peter? Well, in Matthew 16:17-19, Christ individually imparts to Peter the office of "Rock," "Key-bearer," and the authority to "bind and loosen." Also, in Luke 22:31-32, the Lord individually imparts to Peter the task of strengthening his brethren (i.e. the other Apostles). Also, in John 21:15-19, the Lord makes Peter a shepherd, telling him three times to "feed my lambs" and "tend my sheep."

And so, here's a simple question: Are any of these things exclusive to the full measure of Peter's Apostolic office? Answer: No, they are not. And why? Because, Peter, like the other eleven, were made Apostles WAY BACK in Matthew 10:1-8, which was LONG before Peter was individually granted any of these other duties or responsibilities. And, speaking of Matthew 10 here, verses 7-8 tell us what the office of an Apostle is: It is a Christ-appointed office to proclaim the Gospel -- to deliver the fullness of new revelation to mankind. In this sense, and according to this Apostolic ministry, Peter was merely one of the Twelve and, as one of the Twelve, his Apostolic office was directed primarily toward to the Jews (Gal 2:7-9). Yet, as is clear from Scripture, the EPISCOPAL DIMENSION of Peter's Apostolic office carried other, additional responsibilities, which were given to him individually by Christ. And these responsibilities concerned maintaining the entire flock (the universal Church) in unity and orthodoxy. And this is exactly what we see Peter doing throughout the New Testament.

What's more, focusing on John 21:15-19 for a moment, here Peter is unquestionably being commissioned by Christ, and given authority over the entire flock ("feed my lambs" / "tend my sheep"). Now, our critic himself correctly pointed out above that a BISHOP (i.e. "OVERSEER") is a shepherding term, applied to governance over the flock. He writes:

<< In Paul's speech to the elders of Ephesus, he uses the verb for 'shepherd' (pastor) to describe the elders' and overseers' function in their churches (Acts 20:28). >>

Yes, indeed. So, here's another question: This being the case, what role is Christ (as Lumen Gentium puts it) giving "individually to Peter" in John 21:15-19? Is it the role of an Apostle, or is it that of a Shepherd / Overseer / Bishop? I think the conclusion is obvious. Thus, when Lumen Gentium says:

"Just as the role that the Lord gave individually to Peter, first among the apostles, was permanent and meant to be transmitted to his successors...."

Here, the Council is saying that the episcopal office that Christ gave individually to Peter (the office which made him "first among the Apostles") is a permanent episcopal office, intended to be transmitted to his successors. That's all. We Catholic DO NOT teach that the full measure of Peter's Apostolic office, which was NEVER conferred on him individually, but collectively and equally, along with the other members of the Twelve, is permanent or meant to be transmitted by succession. In order to believe such a thing, we would have to follow the view of the Mormons, who teach that new public and binding revelation can be delivered to the Church, over and above the Apostolic Deposit of Faith (or any deeper appreciation of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith). This is not what Catholics believe.

Yet, Lumen Gentium goes on:

" also the apostles' office of nurturing the Church is permanent..."

Notice that it is the Apostles' office of "nurturing the Church" (e.g. "feed my sheep"), and NOT the Apostle's office of proclaiming new revelation to mankind. Big difference. The quote above, as I said, refers to the episcopal dimension of the Apostolic office.

"....and was meant to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops."

Yep. There was never a time when the Church did not possess bishops to nurture and care for the Church. As St. Irenaeus points out, there was no break in the "succession of bishops" stemming from the Apostles.

"....Therefore this sacred synod teaches that by divine institution bishops have succeeded to the place of the apostles."

Yes indeed. They succeed to the episcopal place of the Apostles. For example, Peter no longer "feeds Christ's sheep" on earth. Rather, Peter's successor is entrusted with this ministry. Our critic has completely misread this authoritative Catholic document, since he is not reading it within its intended context (the understanding of the Catholic Church and her tradition), but in his own misguided context.

<< Such confusion between the biblical and historical concept of the succession of bishops and apostolic succession has caused untold amount of novel doctrine to be declared "dogma" by the Roman church. >>

I see. So, in our critic's view, any newly proclaimed "dogma" is automatically "new revelation," as opposed to a deeper, more clearly-defined appreciation of something that already existed in the Apostolic Deposit of Faith? Well, if this is the case, then our critic must clearly deny the Trinity (defined as "One God in three, co-equal, co-eternal Divine Persons"), given that no such description of the Trinity exists in the Bible, and given that the Catholic dogma of the Trinity was not defined until 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea and subsequent Councils (three centuries after the death of the last Apostle and the end of public revelation). So, was the Trinity also "novel doctrine" and "new revelation" ?

Authority to Bind and Loose

What's more, and I began to touch on this above, the authority to "bind and loosen" given to Peter in Matt 16:19, and to the Apostles collectively in Matt 18:18, is not an aspect of their primary Apostolic ministries, but rather an episcopal charism, involving the episcopal dimension of their offices, and one that is passed down to their episcopal successors. If anyone doubts this, he need only look at Matt 18:18 in context (i.e. Matt 18:15-18), and see that this authority to "bind and loosen" involves church government, viz. excommunication and the like -- an authority that is certainly still possessed by the Church today, even without the presence of true Apostles.

And so, what does that tell us? Simply this: The Church still has the Divinely-decreed, Spirit-protected authority to "bind and loosen" and its bishops still wield this authority. However, our critic disputes this, saying:

<< When the Popes declared the two Marian doctrines (Immaculate Conception and Mary's Assumption into Heaven) in 1854 and 1950, each Pope invoked the "authority of Jesus Christ, Peter and Paul, and by our own authority" to define these beliefs as essential for the catholic faith. >>

He sure did. And he has every authority to do so, given that, according to the Lord, he possesses the ultimate power to "bind and loosen" on earth. This is what Christ promised. Are you saying that Christ is not true to His promises?

As for the proclamation of these Marian dogmas (which are really a discussion in and of themselves) both Mary's Immaculate Conception and her Assumption, though debated in the Church as "theolegoumena" ("theological opinions") for centuries, stem from the ancient Syro-Palestianism expression of Catholic Christianity (the cultural Rite of the Church, based in Syrian and Palestine, that is closest to the original Jewish expression of Christianity), and so were indeed part of the Apostolic Deposit, though admittedly not a very prominent part.

What our critic is apparently overlooking, however, is that ALL Catholic dogmas start out as theolegoumena (theological opinions) until they are formally defined. This is how dogma is formulated; and such was the case with Gentile circumcision (before it was ruled unnecessary by the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15), and even with the Trinity itself, given the present orthodox definition of the Trinity (before that dogma was formally defined at the early Ecumenical Councils). Once again, our critic lacks a comprehensive understanding of Catholicism or how Christ's true Church traditionally operates.

<< Despite the fact that none of the early church fathers would have subscribed to such outlandish ideas, the Popes in question in fact made Mary's sinlessness and her reign as Queen of heaven part of the apostolic rule of faith. >>

Excuse me? While it's not on topic, here are some quotes for you:

See Mark Bonocore's article on the Immaculate Conception, Assumption, and Queenship of Mary

Yet, I thought this was supposed to be a discussion of Petrine primacy?

<< Looking historically at the role of Peter and his office in the church is a task rarely undertaken by non-Roman Catholic authors. >>

Really? I can name many Protestant scholars who have explored the subject in detail (e.g. Oscar Cullmann).

<< Because there is so little non-partisan information on the issue, it is common in secular historical works to find the early bishops of Rome referred to as "Popes" (Latin "Papa"). This is very inaccurate, since the title was first used by Phrygian heretics, then by adopted by various bishops throughout the church. It was not until the 10th century that the expression was used uniquely by the bishop of Rome. >>

Actually, even that isn't true, since the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Monophysite Churches still speak of their Patriarchs as "Popes," and in the Russian Orthodox Church the term "pope" is even applied to common priests. The term means "father." It is a nick-name (i.e. "daddy"), applied affectionately, and originally to any bishop, by his flock.

And, by that standard, the first one to make mention of it is actually St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:15:

"Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, you do not have many fathers, because I BECAME YOUR FATHER in Christ Jesus through the Gospel."

Here, Paul is referring to his episcopal authority over the church of Corinth. What's more, the Phrygian Montanists were not the first to use the term "Papa" / "Pope" (which is actually a Greek term, and not a Latin one -- the native Latin is "Babo"). Rather, the Phrygian quote you refer to makes mention of the episcopal title (an illicit episcopal title, in this case) in passing. Thus, it was a custom that already existed in the Church.

Early Evidence: St. Clement of Rome

<< Did the early church view the apostle Peter as the head of the church? Was he the "rock" according to Matthew 16:18? Was Rome, by apostolic command, to have primacy amongst the churches? Looking at the earliest sources, we can find that the church's opinion of Peter and Rome is somewhat misrepresented by todays Roman Catholic apologists. >>

Is it indeed? Okay, you're on.

<< Taking for example, Clement of Romes Letter to the Corinthians (97 AD). Clement was the third bishop of Rome from Peter. The occasion of the letter would provide an excellent opportunity to assert Papal primacy, since the Corinthian church was in disarray. Its elders had been ousted by a younger, ambitious group of men. Since it is clear that, if the primacy of Rome was true, this would be evidence, Romanist apologists have even manufactured "quotes" from this letter, to prop up their argument. >>

Have we? Well, what can I say? This is simply a classic example of the anachronistic way in which already-prejudiced Protestants approach Papal history. By demanding that First Clement to the Corinthians depict Rome "asserting Papal primacy" our critic reveals both his poor appreciation of early Church history and his insensitivity toward first century Christian sensibilities. In other words, the earliest Papacy, given that it was a Christian authority, did not express itself in the secular / "imperial" style of the late Roman or medieval Papacy, but in the humble, charitable, and Christian style reflected in 1 Peter 5:1-4 and the like.

The reason for this should be self-evident: the Papacy had not yet encountered a rival in Constantine the Great or the other nominally-Christian Roman Emperors who, as "Pontifex Maximus" under imperial law, were the legal (though not the Traditional) heads of the Church, given that the Church had become the imperial "state cult." It is only after 400 years of struggling against heretical Emperors that a more secular, commanding, and "dictatorial" (as many Protestants would see it) expression of Papal authority comes to the fore -- and as a "necessary evil" given the political and cultural demands on the Papacy at the time.

Thus, if one reads First Clement expecting to see the Bishop of Rome speaking in the same style as a Pope Leo the Great or a Pope Innocent III, one is going to be pleasantly disappointed. Rather, as I said, Pope Clement I speaks as the "Servus Sevorum Dei" ("The Servant of the Servants of God") -- a traditional Papal title which underscores Christ's own teaching that "He who would be first among you must become the servant of all." One who speaks and acts in such a way is no less an authority than one who legitimately beats his chest and demands submission. So, just as Pontius Pilate did not see a "King" when he looked at the meek and humble Jesus standing in chains before him, our critic fails to see a Pope in the manner and language of St. Clement of Rome. Yet, for anyone with eyes to see, Clement's authority is obvious.

For example, consider the opening of Clement's letter to the Corinthians:

"Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have befallen us (i.e., the persecutions of Emperor Domitian), we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury." (First Clement, Chapter 1)

Notice how it was the Corinthians who appealed to Rome: just as the early church of Antioch appealed to the Apostles at Jerusalem for a solution to their problems in Acts 15:2. But, why so in this case, since there were no living Apostles in Rome? Indeed, why didn't the Corinthians of this time appeal to nearby Ephesus (as they did in the days of Paul: 1 Cor 7:1 and 16:8), where the Apostle John was still alive and presiding!

This fact is documented by St. Irenaeus, who writes:

"Then, again, the church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the Apostles." (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, Book 3:3, c. 180 AD)

The Emperor Trajan reigned from AD 98 until AD 117. Therefore, the Apostle John was indeed presiding in nearby Ephesus when the Corinthians appealed to St. Clement at Rome. So, what was so special about Rome that gave it the authority to settle such disputes? And to do so even during a time of persecution?

Also, in his quote above, Clement speaks of Rome "turning its attention" to the problems of Corinth, thus implying that Rome routinely instructed the other churches. And he also praises the faith of the Corinthians in a universal context -- a context he could only invoke if Rome had universal jurisdiction. And, Clement continues:

"Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continueth." (First Clement, Chapter 46)

Here, Clement speaks on behalf of the universal Church in condemning the Corinthian schism. And, he goes on:

"Ye, therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue." (First Clement, Chapter 57)

Here, without question, Clement gives a direct command, ordering the trouble-makers to submit to the local Corinthian presbyters. Well? Why does he have the authority to do this? Why should they listen to him when they won't even listen to their own presbyters? Indeed, consider the historical situation here: This is the second-generation Church, right? Who then had ordained the presbyters of Corinth? It was the Apostles themselves, was it not? The same Apostles who ordained Clement to be one of the presbyters of Rome. So, if the trouble-makers in Corinth refused to listen to their own Apostle-appointed presbyters, what makes Clement a superior authority?

However, our critic ignores all this and says:

<< The letter is completely devoid of anything that would come close to suggesting Roman or Petrine primacy. Hahn's statement is completely fabricated. Lightfoot likewise makes no such concession. What the letter does, suggest, however, is that the presbyters of Rome, would desire that the Corinthian church maintain the succession that was started in their church, by, in this case Paul. >>

Oh, please! Clement of Rome does not say, "We desire you to maintain your succession." Rather, he COMMANDS the trouble-makers, telling them: "Ye, therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue."

So, who's fabricating things now? Catholic Tradition, Lightfoot, and Dr. Hahn, or our anti-Catholic author?

<< Consequently, Clements letter makes its appeal to the Apostle Paul, the founder of the church, rather than any move to dictate directions from the "chair of Peter." He says "Take up the epistle of Paul! What did he write to you when the gospel was first being preached? Truly under the inspiration of the Spirit he wrote to you regarding himself, Cephas and Apollos, for parties were being formed by you. (Ch. 47)." >>

Once again, our critic is playing fast and loose with both the facts and the context of First Clement to the Corinthians. Yet, truth be told, Clement does not appeal to the authority of Paul, in the sense of an appeal to Papal authority, but rather CITES what St. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 1:10-17 about divisions in the Church. Any why? Because, in 1 Cor 1:10-17, St. Paul was writing to THESE VERY SAME CORINTHIANS (less than thirty years earlier), who were guilty of the VERY SAME KIND of schismatic behavior! That's very different indeed. A modern Pope would do the same.

<< By citing this very verse from 1 Corinthians 3, Clement dissolves any possibility that Peter could be head of the church. The whole concept of Petrine primacy simply did not exist. >>

Really? Look at the descending hierarchy in St. Paul's 1 Corinthians 10:12:

"I mean that each of you is saying, 'I belong to Paul,' or 'I belong to Apollos,' or 'I belong to Kephas (aka Peter),' or I belong to Christ' Is Christ divided?"

Now first of all, one needs to appreciate what was really going on at this time in Corinth. The factional split that had developed was NOT a 3-way one between the disciples of Paul, Apollos, and Kephas (Peter), but only a 2-way struggle between the Jewish Christians of Corinth who revered Apollos (Acts 18:27-19:1 -- those who would not listen to Paul when he was in Corinth earlier: Acts 18:6-11) and the Gentile Christians who followed Paul from the start. This should be self-evident from 1 Cor 3:5-11, where Paul makes it clear that he and Apollos are the only two teachers active in the Corinthian church.

Peter (Kephas) is probably not even there; but rather, like those who went around saying "I belong to Christ," those who said, "I belong to Kephas" were referring to Peter's universal primacy. Yet, given the matter at hand (i.e. the Corinthians were dividing the Church as if it were merely a group of rabbinical schools), even this reference to Peter (Kephas) or to Christ is not enough since, as Paul asks them, "Is Christ divided" ?

As for Paul's use of the term "Kephas" for Peter, this is a classic Jewish pun referencing Peter's headship. True, "Kephas" (frequently rendered as "Cephas" in English Bibles) is merely a Greek form of the Aramaic name "Kepha" (Rock); but in Greek it also implies Headship, in that "Kephale'" is the Greek word for head. And we can see this pun (a pun that's never lost on Greek-speaking readers) all throughout the New Testament (e.g. John 13:8-9; 1 Cor 9:5; 1 Cor 15:5; Gal 2:9; Gal 2:11,14; etc). All these as veiled references to Peter's "headship" and when understood in Greek and in context, one cannot miss them.

More Early Evidence: St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Dionysius

<< Looking through the rest of the earliest writings we see that the idea of Roman or Petrine supremacy is absent from any writing or teaching of the first bishops and apologists. >>

I seem to recall above that our critic quoted St. Irenaeus referring to Rome's "preeminent authority." Did he suddenly forget this? Also, what about St. Ignatius of Antioch (107 AD), who speaks to the Roman church and says:

"You have never envied anyone, you have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed, which in your instructions you enjoin [on others]." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 3)

So, coming from the other side of the known world (Antioch in Syria), St. Ignatius is familiar with Rome's teaching authority. I wonder why that is? Perhaps it's because Ignatius also says that Rome "presides in the chief place" and how it "presides in love" or "holds the presidency of love" (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 1). Here, Ignatius uses the Greek word "prokatheemai," which is defined as an authoritative, jurisdictional position; and this is the meaning of the word "presides" whenever Ignatius uses it (e.g. Ignatius' Epistle to the Magnesians 6:1).

Also, what about St. Dionysius of Corinth (c. 170 AD), who writes to Pope Soter of Rome, and says:

"Today we kept the Holy Day, the Lord's Day (Sunday), and on it we read your letter (Pope Soter's epistle). And we shall ever have it with us to give us instruction, even as the former one written through Clement." (Dionysius Epistle to Pope Soter in Eusebius)

Here we not only see the church of Corinth taking instruction from the church of Rome, but we see that the Corinthians had a long-standing tradition of taking such instruction -- still retaining the epistle of St. Clement, which was sent to them some 80 years before. And Dionysius continues to address the Roman bishop, saying:

"You have also, by your very admonition, brought together the planting that was made by Peter and Paul at Rome and at Corinth; for both of them alike planted in our Corinth and taught us; and both alike, teaching similarly in Italy, suffered martyrdom at the same time." (Dionysius Epistle to Pope Soter of Rome 25:8 in Eusebius).

So Dionysius compares the teaching of Pope Soter to that of Peter and Paul. And, he continues:

"For from the beginning, it has been your custom to do good to all the brethren in various ways and to send contributions to all the churches in every city....This custom your blessed bishop, Soter, has not only preserved, but is out-doing, by furnishing an abundance of supplies to the saints, and by urging with consoling words, as a loving father [to] his children, the brethren who are journeying." (Dionysius, Letter to Pope Soter in Eusebius' Church History 4:23:9 [AD 170])

So Dionysius refers to the bishop of Rome as a "father" ( i.e. the root of the word "Pope" cf. 1 Cor 4:15; Phil 2:22; 1 Thess 2:11; 1 Tim 5:1; etc), speaking of the Christians in every city as his "children," whom he "urges," "consoles," and provides for -- Dionysius says that this has been the custom of the Roman church "from the beginning."

Primacy of Peter in the Fathers

However, our critic would have us believe that such a view of Roman primacy is "totally absent" from the early patristic witness. As for the primacy of Peter himself, there is simply an overabundance of patristic witness for that:

St. Clement of Alexandria

"...the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples ..." (Who Is the Rich Man That is Saved? 21:3-5 [AD 200]).

St. Cyprian of Carthage

"The Lord says to Peter: 'I say to you,' he says, 'that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church' . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e. apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; first edition [AD 251]).

See John Chapman on Cyprian and the Papacy for much greater detail.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

"The Lord is loving toward men, swift to pardon but slow to punish. Let no man despair of his own salvation. Peter, the first and foremost of the apostles, denied the Lord three times before a little servant girl, but he repented and wept bitterly." (Catechetical Lectures 2:19 [AD 350])

St. Ephraim the Syrian

"[Jesus said:] Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on Earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in my institution [the Church] so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures." (Homilies 4:1 [AD 351])

St. Ambrose of Milan

"[Christ] made answer: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church...' Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?" (The Faith 4:5 [AD 379]).

St. Jerome

"'But,' you [Jovinian] will say, 'it was on Peter that the Church was founded' [Matt. 16:18]. Well... one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division." (Against Jovinian 1:26 [AD 393])

St. Augustine of Hippo

"Some things are said which seem to relate especially to the apostle Peter, and yet are not clear in their meaning unless referred to the Church, which he is acknowledged to have represented in a figure on account of the primacy which he bore among the disciples. Such is 'I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,' and other similar passages. In the same way, Judas represents those Jews who were Christ's enemies." (Commentary on Psalm 108 1 [AD 415])

And so on. To say that the Fathers did not universally consider Peter to hold the primacy among the Apostles, and over the universal Church, is simply ridiculous.

<< The Didache (100 AD) is silent on the issue, despite the fact that it discusses the role of bishops and prophets at length. >>

So what? The Didache was used for catechetical instruction, not as a written compendium of all Apostolic Tradition or a code of canon law. Furthermore, the Pope is merely a bishop like all the other bishops; but he was, and is, the bishop with primacy.

<< The Epistle of Barnabas is silent. >>

I should hope so, given that it has Gnostic roots.

<< Ignatius discusses the need to be in submission to the bishop, but there is no clue of a "bishop of bishops." >>

We do not believe that the Pope is a "bishop of bishops." Rather, we believe that he is a bishop AMONG bishops, yet a bishop with primacy, just as Peter was an Apostle AMONG other Apostles, yet held the primacy among them.

<< Mathetes Letter to Diognetus does not allude to anything "Roman." >>

Why should it? It doesn't mention the Trinity either. So, should we then conclude that its author denied the Trinity?

Polycarp and the early Bishops of Rome

<< Polycarp was known to have conflict with Anicetus of Rome, but, as according to the apostolic pattern, they mutually agreed to recognize each others practices as valid. There was, as yet, no "Roman primacy" nor "Pope" in Rome. >>

Poppycock. Again, look at the historical CONTEXT:

Polycarp of Smyrna was a disciple of the Apostle John, and the close associate of Ignatius of Antioch. In 155 AD, at the age of 85, Polycarp traveled to Rome as the representative of all the Asian churches, to explain to Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, why the Christians of Asia Minor celebrated Easter (the feast of the Lord's Resurrection) on a different date than that observed by Rome and the rest of the universal Church. An account of this is recorded by Polycarp's disciple St. Irenaeus, both in Book III of his "Against the Heresies" and in a letter from Irenaeus to Pope Victor of Rome.

Now, the immediate question springs to mind: Why did Bishop Polycarp have to defend the Asian custom to the Bishop of Rome? Remember, Polycarp was the venerable, elder churchman and someone who knew the Apostle John personally. Pope Anicetus never knew an Apostle personally. So, why did Polycarp have to confer with him? Let alone travel all the way from Asia Minor to Italy in order to do so? And at the age of 85! Polycarp clearly had an understanding of Roman authority, and the only reason he stood fast to his Easter tradition was because it had come from the Apostle who ordained him, just as Pope Anicetus' Easter tradition (which was the Easter tradition for most of the universal Church) came from Peter and Paul. This is why St. Irenaeus tells us:

"....For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other Apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him (i.e. the earlier Bishops of Rome, going back to Peter). And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect; so that they parted in peace one from the other, maintaining peace with the whole Church, both those who did observe [this custom] and those who did not." (Epistle of Irenaeus to Pope Victor)

Why would Pope Anicetus have to concede the Mass to Polycarp (a fellow-bishop) unless Anicetus was in some way superior to him?

<< In the later half of the second century, we have one of the most revealing pictures of the status of the Roman church found in the candid remarks of Justin at his trial. Justin was asked where he was teaching in Rome, and he replied to his inquisitor: "I live above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian bath; and during the whole time (and I am living in Rome for the second time) I am unaware of any other meeting than this. And if any would come to me, I would communicate to him the doctrines of truth." (Martyrdom of Justin) Justin says he was unaware of any other meeting in Rome while he was there. In all fairness, I suspect that if he went to the catacombs, he probably would have found a congregation, as well as several other small house churches. The point is, however, that 130 years after the church began, the leading Christian apologist of the day didn't know of the supposed successor of Peter in Rome. Although I believe there was an overseer in the church at Rome at that time, it is not likely that he could have had the role that Roman Catholics ascribe to him today if he was unknown to the Christians in Rome and churches throughout the empire. >>

This one is rich. And it once again, reveals our critic's profound lack of appreciation for historical context. First of all, it needs to be pointed out that second century Rome was a city of over one million people -- the largest city in the world at the time. Secondly, unlike medieval or modern Rome, second century Rome was a pagan city; and the Christian community there did not live out in the open (i.e. there was no "Vatican City"), but existed as an illegal, underground society persecuted by the imperial Roman government.

In this, it was constantly on the look-out for the "frumentarii" -- the imperial Roman "secret police" (i.e. government spies and their network of informants), which had a history of infiltrating the house-churches, collecting names, and turning everyone over to the magistrates. This, oddly enough, is the origin of "godfathers" or "godmothers" -- Christians in good standing who would sponsor a new convert to the Faith as they underwent their (year-long) preparations for Baptism. Having such a sponsor assured the community that one was a genuine believer, and not an imperial spy.

So this was the state of affairs for the Roman city-church; and when a Christian arrived in Rome, it was not expected that they should seek "an audience with the Pope" -- assuming that they were privy to information about his identity or location in the city, which was (more often than not) a closely-guarded secret, known only to the other Roman presbyters and deacons; and advertised only when necessary. This being the case, it's no wonder St. Justin Martyr was unfamiliar with the other house-churches in Rome, especially given that there were several hundred such house-churches in the city at this time (and not only "several small ones").

In addition, our critic failed to mention that St. Justin Martyr was not a native of the city of Rome, but rather a Palestinian Roman, who only visited Rome occasionally, sojourning there (as his quote above says) on only two separate occasions. Thus, he did not belong to the Roman city-church, and was certainly not part of that church's "inner-circle." On the contrary, like many non-Roman residents in Rome, he dwelled "above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian bath" -- a section of the city reserved for foreigners (i.e. he lived in what we today would call a "hotel"), and so did not even associate with the natives. In other words, he was a tourist!

Also, given the fact that St. Justin was a well-known Christian "celebrity" at the time -- his famous debate against Trypho the Jew at Ephesus, and his "Apologia" (addressed to the Emperor himself!) being published throughout the Empire, this didn't exactly make him fitting company for the Bishop of Rome, who was a wanted outlaw with a considerable price on his head. This, for no other reason, explains why St. Justin didn't seek to associate with the Roman church or its hierarchy.

Lastly, I find it interesting that our critic freely admits that there was one bishop / overseer for the entire city of Rome (a city of one million people, lest we forget), yet in the same breath says, " is not likely that he could have had the role that Roman Catholics ascribe to him today." Oh? Well, do the math: Given that Rome was a city of one million souls, and assuming that the Christians only made up 2% of the population, which is being very generous to our critic (i.e. Irenaeus, writing less than 10 years later, says that Rome is the "greatest [biggest] church known to all"), that means that the Roman bishop presided over at least 20,000 Christians -- a far larger flock than any presided over by Christ (Acts 1:15 -- there were 120 persons in the Upper Room), or the Apostles after Pentecost (Acts 2:41 -- 3,000 converts + 120 = 3,120), or at the height of the Apostles' collective governance in Jerusalem (Acts 4:4 -- 5,000 Jerusalem Christians in toto).

St. Irenaeus and Pope Victor

Indeed, even if we fast-forward a decade or so, and consider the words of St. James the Just to St. Paul in Acts 21:20, "Brother, you see how many thousands of believers there are from among the Jews," the Christian population of Rome still (according to Irenaeus) dwarfed that of the Jerusalem city-church. And, according to our critic, only one bishop presided over all of these, to say nothing of the other, smaller churches throughout Italy, Gaul, Spain, and North Africa, who looked to Rome for leadership. In this, we mustn't forget that Irenaeus (writing less than 10 years after St. Justin Martyr) was the Bishop of Lyon in Gaul (France), and he says that Rome possessed "preeminent authority."

<< Moving to the latter part of the 2nd century, we have the statements from Irenaeus previously cited regarding the succession of bishops. When he wrote the letter, I have no doubt that the church of Rome was a benchmark of orthodoxy. However, this does not necessarily prove Petrine Primacy. >>

Doesn't it? Well, consider this:

Around 312 AD, the Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, drawing from earlier sources, gives us an account of the 175 AD mass martyrdom of the Christians of Lyon (in Gaul), saying:

"And when a dissension arose about these said people [the Montanists], the brethren in Gaul once more . . . [sent letters] to the brethren in Asia and Phrygia and, moreover to Eleutherus, who was then [AD 175] bishop of the Romans, negotiating for the peace of the churches." (Eusebius, Church History 5:3:4 [AD 312])

Here, it should be noted that the Church in Lyon was founded by state-sponsored Greek immigrants from Asia and Phrygia. However, their epistle to the Bishop of Rome is nothing short of an acknowledgement of primacy. It was the Bishop of Rome who could negotiate peace between the rival factions. And, the report goes on:

"And the same martyrs too commended Irenaeus (i.e. St. Irenaeus of Lyon), already at that time [AD 175] a presbyter of the community of Lyon, to the said bishop of Rome, rendering abundant testimony to the man, as the following expressions show: 'Once more and always we pray that you may rejoice in God, Bishop Eleutherus (i.e. the Pope). This letter we have charged our brother and companion Irenaeus to convey to you, and we beg you to receive him as zealous for the covenant of Christ'." (ibid 5:4:1-2)

Once again, the Greek Christians of Lyon acknowledge the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Roman church. They do not treat him merely as a "brother bishop," but as a superior.

<< As mentioned in the Irenaeus biography, he had no hesitation in rebuking Victor, bishop of Rome for trying to assert his paschal custom over that of the Eastern churches. >>

"Rebuking" ? Here, our critic once again puts his own Protestant spin on the facts. Yet, let's examine what really took place, in the words of the Protestant historian, JND Kelly:

"At his (Pope Victor's) instigation, councils were held both at Rome and at other centers, from Gaul to Mesopotamia, and majority opinion sided with him (the Pope). The churches of Asia Minor, however, refused to abandon the age-old Quartodeciman custom of observing Easter on the 14th of Nisan, whatever the day of the week on which it fell. Victor thereupon proclaimed their exclusion from communion, not simply with Rome but with the Church generally." (The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, page 12)

And so, Victor wasn't just some "bad boogie-man," as our critic wishes to cast him. Rather, he was acting out of concern for the universal unity of the Church (I wonder why he cared about that?), and in accord with the other bishops "from Gaul (France) to Mesopotamia (Iraq)." If this isn't universal primacy, I don't know what is.

As for St. Irenaeus (who was a native of one of these Asian churches himself), he wrote to Victor, not to "rebuke him" (i.e. Irenaeus NEVER suggests that Victor does not have the authority), but rather URGES him not to issue the excommunications, because the dispute was merely Liturgical and not doctrinal in nature. And, to support his case, Irenaeus does not cite his own authority as bishop of Lyon, or even his ties of discipleship with the venerable St. Polycarp (who knew the Apostles), but rather the authority of Victor's OWN predecessor, Pope Anicetus, who (as we discussed earlier) conceded to Polycarp, and granted the Asians the Liturgical freedom to celebrate Easter according to the tradition they received from St. John. THIS is why Victor withdrew the excommunication, and not because of any authoritative "rebuke." Our critic needs to get his historical facts straight.

<< Even more telling, however, is a small insight that we can get from Irenaeus regarding a certain practice that was in Rome. In Against Heresies XXV, he briefly mentions a heretical sect that had come to Rome many years earlier. He says: "Marcellina, who came to Rome during the episcopate of Anicetus, and holding these doctrines, she led many astray...they possess images, some of them painted...while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at the time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images...and have other ways of honoring these images, after the same manner of the heathen." According to Irenaeus, there was a heretical sect that entered Rome very early in the churches history that had images of Christ and crowned and honored them "like the heathen." This plainly and incontrovertibly proves that the practice of honoring images (even of Christ) was rejected by the universal church from the earliest days. >>

More anachronistic silliness. The key words above are "LIKE THE HEATHEN." In other words, they WORSHIPPED these statues AS GODS, and believed that the spirit of Christ (that is, the GNOSTIC version of Christ) came and took up residence within them, because that's what the pagans believed when they worshipped a statue of Zeus, or Apollo, or some other Greco-Roman god. Catholics believe no such thing, however.

What's more, statues were not used by Christians until relatively late in Christian history (and only in the Western Church), long after classical paganism died out. Before that time, as continues in the Eastern Church today, Christians used 2-dimensional icons. And the reason for this is so that they wouldn't be confused with pagan idols at a time when idol worship was still a common cultural practice. However, Western Catholic Christians only began to make statues of Christ and the saints in the 9th or 10th centuries -- long after, as I said, classical paganism ceased to be. So, there is no historical connection; and anyone who maintains otherwise is telling fairy tales.

As for the heretic Marcellina being active in Rome itself, once again Rome was a city of one million people, and Irenaeus clearly says that she "came TO Rome" from elsewhere. She would not have been the first heretic to cause problems in an orthodox city-church. Yet, the mere fact that Irenaeus lists her among the heretics, proves that she was condemned by Rome which, as Irenaeus says, held "preeminent authority."

<< Irenaeus says that many Christians in Rome were "led astray" by these practices. The same might be said for many "Roman" believers today. All that has changed is the degree to which the heathen practice has spread. >>

This is an irresponsible and historically ignorant supposition, rooted in the heresy of Iconoclasm, which was dogmatically condemned by the Church at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II in the year 787 AD -- a century before the Western Church started using statues!

<< If we were to go right through all of the Christian literature of that century, the idea of the primacy of Rome would be conspicuously absent. The Shepherd of Hermas, the writings of Taitian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Clement of Alexandria and other 2nd century fragments would reveal no "Rome-centered" theology. >>

I see. So, I suppose all modern Catholic books need to directly mention the Papacy in order to be Catholic?

As for one of the early Christian works listed above, our critic has apparently overlooked a passage in the Shepherd of Hermes which does refer to Roman primacy, in that it mentions St. Clement of Rome (yes, the same Clement who wrote to the Corinthians), referring to his authority to speak for Rome overseas. The author of the Shepherd writes:

"Therefore shall you (Hermas -- Romans 16:14) write two little books and send one to Clement (Bishop of Rome) and one to Grapte (the female host of a house-church). Clement shall then send it to the cities abroad, because that is his duty." (The Shepherd 2:4:3 [AD 88]).

<< Clement [of Alexandria's] definition of church unity, based on the Bible, rather than a church leader or place, has already been cited. >>

As we've already seen, St. Clement of Alexandria recognized the primacy of the Apostle Peter himself. He was also no advocate of "sola scriptura" ("Bible alone"), as our critic seems to imply (the "Bible alone" never brought unity to any church), but believed in both Scripture and Sacred oral Tradition. St. Clement of Alexandria writes:

"Well they preserving the Tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy Apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the fathers (but few were like the fathers), came by God's will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds. And well I know that they will exult; I do not mean delighted with this tribute, but solely on account of the preservation of the truth, according as they delivered it. For such a sketch as this, will, I think, be agreeable to a soul desirous of preserving from loss the blessed Tradition." (Miscellanies 1:1 [AD 208])

Tertullian of Carthage

<< In the third century, we have substantial amounts of writing from Tertullian. Tertullian, of course separated himself from the orthodox church to join the Montanist movement. Although he would therefore be considered a "hostile witness" with respect to the development of the church at Rome, and therefore somewhat biased, I am going to include his remarks regarding Petrine primacy. In On Modesty :XI Tertullian writes: "If, because the Lord has said to Peter, "Upon this rock will I build My Church," "to thee have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom;" or, "Whatsoever thou shalt have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens," you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter, what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord, conferring (as that intention did) this (gift) personally upon Peter? What, now, (has this to do) with the Church, and) your (church), indeed, Psychic? For, in accordance with the person of Peter, it is to spiritual men that this power will correspondently appertain." >>

And what does this tell you? First of all, at the time he wrote this (c. 220 AD), Tertullian (as our critic admits) was a Montanist heretic. That is, he did not recognize any Divinely-appointed Church hierarchy or episcopal succession. Rather, not unlike a modern-day Protestant Pentecostal, for Tertullian and his fellow-Montanists, truth was discerned through "spiritual ecstasies" and other such displays of emotionalism, and not through any sort of authority or reasonable understanding of the Faith. A man only possessed "Apostolic authority" if that authority was accompanied by "miracles," omens, or other "spiritual signs." And, as Tertullian saw it, this was unfortunately not the case when Pope Callistus I issued his decree allowing adulterers and fornicators to receive the sacrament of Confession more than once in their lifetime (a once-in-a-lifetime reception of Confession had been the Church's original discipline, going back to the time of the Apostles).

Yet, as Tertullian himself illustrates for us, Pope Callistus (here as early as 220 AD when the Church was still a persecuted, illegal, underground society, with no money or worldly power) was claiming the Petrine authority to "bind and loosen." And given that Tertullian is writing, not in Rome, or even in Italy, but across the sea in Roman North Africa (Carthage), this shows that Pope Callistus' claim to "bind and loosen" was not limited to the Roman church, but to all the churches of the world -- which is why we Catholics may receive Confession more than once in our lifetimes today. This was the event that changed the original discipline.

<< Tertullian objected to the idea that a church could claim divine prerogative merely because the said they had some type of lineal connection to Peter. >>

Tertullian was a heretic, and no orthodox Christian listened to him.

<< Tertullians opinion was that the promises to the church were for those who were spiritually competent. >>

He was wrong. He also believed that the "age of Christ" was SUPERCEDED by "the age of the Holy Spirit," and followed the faith of the heretic Montanus, who claimed to be the "Holy Spirit incarnate." Montanus also claimed to be a "true Apostle," by the way; and Tertullian believed that he was. So, you're saying that we should take this guy seriously? I don't think so.

<< Divine judgment was the Lords, not man jurisdiction. >>

Not according to Christ in Matthew 18:17-18.

<< The church, he concluded, consisted of those who were spiritually joined to the Lord, not merely that of a "number of bishops". >>

Again, Tertullian was a heretic. For him, being "spiritually joined to the Lord" meant some very "interesting" things.

<< In this statement we find the foreshadowing of virtually all of the controversy that would surround the question of Roman primacy for the next few centuries. The question is whether God is apathetic towards questions of character and orthodoxy. Are the ordinances and the offices in a church still valid, regardless of whether that church has become completely heretical, or even if the antichrist himself were leading it? Most of the church fathers in the first three hundred years would affirm that the validity of a church does rest to a degree on its orthodoxy and holiness. Tertullian, being a contemporary of Callistus, the alleged embezzling, heretical bishop of Rome, would likewise agree. Hippolytus also split with Rome on the same principle, since he could not stomach what Callistus was doing to the church. >>

Who Died and Made You Pope?

Okay. A couple things: First of all, we Catholics would certainly agree that the orthodoxy of a church is essential to its validity. However, this begs the question: Who has the authority to determine whether a church is orthodox or not? Sola Scriptura Protestantism, with its recourse to the Bible alone, certainly cannot answer this question, given that there are at present thousands of separate Protestant denominations and sects -- all with the same Bible, yet all interpreting it differently, and so denying each others' complete or partial orthodoxy. So, this being the case, who on earth has the authority to judge what is orthodox? Well, the Bible itself tells us for those of us with eyes to see.

First of all, in John 14:16-17 and 16:13, Jesus promised that His Church would receive the Holy Spirit, Whom He calls "the Spirit of TRUTH." And He promises that this Spirit of TRUTH will "REMAIN" with His Church "ALWAYS ...LEADING IT to ALL TRUTH." So, according to Christ's promise (assuming one takes Christ seriously), HIS Church will NEVER lack the guiding Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of TRUTH. This is why 1 Tim 3:15 calls THE CHURCH "the pillar and foundation of the TRUTH" -- because this Church has received the Spirit of Truth, Who is promised to REMAIN with her always. Now, all this being the case, how then do we recognize or identify Christ's Spirit-guided Church amidst all the illicit imitators? Well, Matthew 16:18-19 gives us that answer:

"You are PETER (Rock), and UPON THIS ROCK I will build MY Church. ... I will give to YOU (Peter) the KEYS of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatsoever YOU bind on earth (e.g. dogmatic doctrine) shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever YOU (Peter) loose on earth (e.g. non-dogmatic doctrine) shall be loosed in Heaven."

And so, of all the thousands of "churches" in the world today, which one can claim succession, or even a mere connection, to the Apostle Peter? It is only the Catholic Church, and none other.

So, according to face-value BIBLICAL principles (principles adhered to by all orthodox Christians for the first 1,000 years of Church history), it is the Catholic Church and her Papacy that possesses the ultimate authority to judge what is orthodox and what is not. And, even if we Catholics are wrong, at least this is our objective standard for determining Christian orthodoxy. NOT ONE Protestant church possesses such an objective standard, but each of them relies COMPLETELY upon personal SUBJECTIVE standards for orthodoxy -- i.e. their individual pastor's interpretation of the Bible.

In the opening section of his essay, our critic poses the question: "Who died and made you an Apostle?" Well, an even more important question must be asked of him: "Who died and made you Pope, with the rightful authority to judge what is orthodox and what is not?" At least we Catholics can point to the source of our Pope's authority. We also openly claim that his official teachings are protected by the Holy Spirit, and thus infallible. However, any Protestant "champion of orthodoxy" possesses neither of these things. So, he's betting his own soul, and the souls of his entire flock, upon his own admittedly-fallible personal opinions. He is also openly denying the Biblical promises of Christ in regard to His Church and its authority. Very scary indeed.

Donatism, Hippolytus, Callistus

As for the issue of holiness -- that is, the personal holiness of a particular church's ministers -- to say that orthodoxy is determined by the presence, or the lack of, personal holiness is the heresy of Donatism, which taught that a priest only validly administered the Sacraments if he himself was without sin. Now, not only is this (as St. Augustine pointed out) contrary to basic Catholic sacramental theology, which teaches that the priest is merely the instrument of Christ, and that Christ Himself is the true administer of the Sacraments through His priests (thus the sacramental grace Christ wishes to give a Christian is not obstructed by the priest's personal sinfulness), but Donatism is also a completely unbiblical claim, especially when it comes to Church authority. Take, for example, what Christ says to the people in Matthew 23:1-3:

"The scibes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the Chair of Moses (i.e., the teaching authority of Israel). Therefore, do and observe all things, whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice."

Here, Christ gave us a very simple principle to follow when legitimate authority is concerned. A Christian must always be obedient to legitimate authority, even when it is unjust or sinful. And why? Because all authority, both in the Church and in the outside secular world, comes from God (see John 19:11). In the quote above, Jesus Himself (Who IS the Word of God, let's not forget) tells us that the scribes and Pharisees have legitimate authority, and so the people must obey them in all things. Yet, in the same breath, Jesus tells the people that they should not follow the Pharisees' personal example of holiness, because they are hypocrites who do not practice what they preach.

According to the Lord, hypocrisy does not erase orthodox doctrine or legitimate teaching authority; and anyone who says it does is a nonbiblical, Donatist heretic. See also John 11:49-52, where the Holy Spirit speaks through the High Priest Caiaphas BECAUSE he is the legitimate High Priest, and even though he is a corrupt sinner who desires to put Jesus to death. In short, God is faithful to the offices He establishes, even if a particular occupant of that office is not. Protestantism denies God's fidelity.

As for the issue of Pope (Saint) Callistus being "guilty of embezzlement" in his youth, and before coming Pope -- our critic apparently is not familiar with recent scholarship (beginning in the 1930's), which proved conclusively that such stories were part of a smear campaign against Callistus by his Papal rival (and the Church's first antipope) Hippolytus, who our critic also mentions above. Here, once again, our critic neglects to tell us the full story, so as to give the impression that Callistus was a bad guy and that he was some kind of "heretical rebel" in regard to established Christian orthodoxy. However, here's what was REALLY going on.

Hippolytus, a zealous conservative, was a Greek scholar from Lyon (in Gaul), where he studied under St. Irenaeus, and so was very respected. He settled in Rome when Callistus' predecessor, Saint Zephyrinus, was Pope and, even then, started to criticize the church hierarchy, accusing Pope Zephyrinus of being "lax" in regard to sinners because this Pope would accept them back into the Church before their death beds. Yep, Hippolytus was very strict, whereas the Roman church (seeing how its huge flock, surrounded by worldly temptations, could not be held to the same strict standards of early times) began to move toward mercy (i.e. Christ's teaching about forgiving a sinner "seventy-times-seven times"). Hippolytus would hear none of this, however, and maintained (like Tertullian) that the Roman bishops had no right to tamper with Apostolic discipline.

Then something else happened. Pope Zephyrinus got sick and was dying. Many of the Roman presbyters, who revered Hippolytus, expected Hippolytus to become the next Pope (and so restore the strict Apostolic discipline in terms of repentence). Yet, before he died, Zephyrinus publicly named his deacon Callistus as his successor; and so Callistus became the next Pope, outraging Hippolytus and his disciples.

And, when Callistus took Zephyrinus' mercy toward penitents one step further (allowing them to receive the sacrament of Confession as many times as necessary -- "seventy-times-seven times"), Hippolytus hit the roof. Withdrawing from Rome with his disciples to the suburban town of Pontus (where the biblical Priscilla and Aquila were from: Acts 18:2), he proclaimed himself to be the true successor of Peter, and so became the first antipope. All the stories about Pope Callistus' supposedly "shady past" come from this time, and are not factual history. Yet, even if they were, do we judge St. Paul by his "shady past"?

As for Hippolytus, he eventually became a saint and martyr himself, after being reconciled with Callistus' successor, Pope Pontian. Both he and Pontian died for the Faith together while in exile on the island of Sardina.

Origen's View of Peter

Our critic goes on to say:

<< Origen was alive during Callistus bishopric as well. He wrote several times on the verses in Matthew that would eventually be used to support Petrine primacy. He said in his Commentaries chapter 11 that: "But if you suppose that upon that one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? .For in this place these words seem to be addressed as to Peter only, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," etc; but in the Gospel of John the Savior having given the Holy Spirit unto the disciples by breathing upon them said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," etc. ..And if any one says this to Him, not by flesh and blood revealing it unto Him but through the Father in heaven, he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches, to every one who becomes such as that Peter was. For all bear the surname of "rock" who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught." Origens assessment is that the promises to Peter are for everyone who confess Christ as Lord, just as Peter did. >>

This is classic. And it illustrates both our critic's habit of citing things out of context (Origen is NOT speaking about Church authority above, but about grace and so is certainly not addressing the controversy involving Callistus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus) and also his typical Protestant "either-or" mentality, as opposed to the Catholic "both-and" mentality, which was the cultural mentality of Origen, and indeed of all the Fathers. For example, St. Augustine himself, in his Sermon 229, says something very similar, writing:

"Why have I wanted to make this little introduction? In order to suggest to you that in Peter the Church is to be recognized. Christ, you see, built His Church not on the man, but on Peter's confession. What is Peter's confession? 'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.' There's the Rock for you. There's the foundation. There's where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer." (St. Augustine, Sermon 229, Sermons Volume 6)

So was this said in regard to Church authority or a denial of Papal primacy? Not at all. For, St. Augustine also writes:

"....Why! a faggot that is cut from the Vine retains its shape. But what use is that shape if it is not living from the root? Come, brother, if you wish to be engrafted in the Vine. It is grievous when we see you thus lying cut off. Number the bishops from the See of Peter. And, in that order of fathers, see whom succeeded whom. This is the Rock which the proud gates of hades do not conquer. All who rejoice in peace, only judge truly." (St. Augustine, Psalmus Contra Pertem Donati)


"For, if the order of the succession of bishops is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter, to whom the Lord said: 'Upon this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." For to Peter succeeded Linus, to Linus Clement .... To Julius Liberius, to Liberius Damasus, to Damasus Sircius, to Sircius Anastasius." (St. Augustine, Epistle 53)

In these two quotes, unlike his quote from Sermon 229, Augustine is speaking about Church authority. In Sermon 229, he is speaking about an individual Christian's confession of faith which, in a sense, also makes him such a rock. So, we are dealing with a CATHOLIC "both-and" mentality, and not a Protestant "either-or" mentality. Augustine in no way denied the primacy of Peter or Peter's individual office of "Rock" in the context of Church authority. And neither did Origen, who also writes:

"Look at [Peter], the great foundation of the Church, that MOST SOLID ROCK OF ROCKS, upon whom Christ built the Church [Matt. 16:18]. And what does our Lord say to him? 'Oh you of little faith,' he says, 'why do you doubt?'" [Matt. 14:31] (Homilies on Exodus 5:4 [AD 248])

or another translation of the above:

"See what the Lord said to Peter, that great foundation of the Church, and most solid Rock, upon which Christ founded the Church..." (Origen, In Exodus Hom v, 4 tom ii)


"Upon him (Peter), as on the earth, the Church was founded." (Origen, Ep ad Rom lib v c 10, tom iv)


"Peter, upon whom is built Christ's Church, against which the gates of hell will not prevail." (Origen, T. iv In Joan tom v)


"[I]f we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter....a great difference and a preeminence in the things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles]. For it is no small difference that Peter received the Keys not of one Heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens." (Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [AD 248]).

So, I rest my case with Origen. However, our critic makes an additional claim regarding him, saying:

<< In Chapter 14 of the same commentary Origen says that all who make the confession of Christs Lordship are "Peter's" and can "bind and loose" accordingly. He then says: "But when one judges unrighteously, and does not bind upon earth according to the Word of God, nor loose upon earth according to His will, the gates of Hades prevail against him; but, in the case of any one against whom the gates of Hades do not prevail, this man judges righteously.. But if he is tightly bound with the cords of his sins, to no purpose does he bind and loose. .and if any one who is not a Peter, and does not possess the things here spoken of, imagines as a Peter that he will so bind on earth that the things bound are bound in heaven, and will so loose on earth that the things loosed are loosed in heaven, he is puffed up, not understanding the meaning of the Scriptures, and, being puffed up, has fallen into the ruin of the devil." According to Origen, character counts. The promise that the "gates of Hades will not prevail" is not a blanket promise to a church at a certain geographical location, as many Romanists assert today, but it is a promise for those who are righteous before God. >>

First of all, as I stated above (and as our critic himself points out, by identifying this quote as from chapter 11 of Origen's same commentary), Origen is NOT talking about Church authority here, but about individual grace as it is given to a Christian. So, the conclusions drawn by our critic from the quote above are completely non sequitur.

Secondly, Origen died before the heresy of Donatism was dogmatically condemned by the Church in the early 5th century. Thus, even if Origen was applying a Donatist-like teaching to Church authority (which he objectively was not), he would have been wrong, and this statement would have been condemned universally by the Church. Needless to say, a great many of Origen's teachings were condemned by the Church as heretical in nature by the sixth century Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II, which is why he is not known as "Saint Origen" today. For example, would our critic agree with Origen that punishment in hell is only temporary? Would our critic agree with Origen that Christ's death on the Cross redeemed the fallen angels too? Would our critic agree with Origen that Lucifer (aka the Devil) will one day be restored to his "rightful place" in heaven as prince of all the angels? If not, then he should not be so quick to cite Origen as his "orthodox authority."

St. Cyprian of Carthage

Our critic goes on:

<< Apparently, the issue came to a head with the split over heretical baptism and Cyprian of Carthages condemnation of Stephen of Rome. >>

Please allow me to chime in. St. Cyprian of Carthage NEVER formally condemned Pope Stephen of Rome. I defy our critic to produce one piece of evidence that he did.

Yet, he continues:

<< Cyprians letter on Unity, written before Stephens bishopric during the Novatian controvesy, is considered a proof text by many Catholic scholars as to the primacy of Rome in the 3rd century. This is problematic since there are actually two recensions of the same letter. In the one preserved at Rome, there is a statement that declares that: Certainly the other apostles were what Peter was, but Primacy is given to Peter, that it might be shown that the church is one and the chair is one. Some scholars have thought this to be a forgery or interpolation. The majority of scholars today allow that it may have been in Cyprians first version of the letter, but he himself amended the letter afterwards, to remove any undue distinction to Rome above the other churches. >>

Oh, really? Well, our critic should be familiar with the fact that such ancient manuscripts are frequently discovered to have several original, yet incompatible, versions. And this includes different versions of the inspired Scriptures themselves (e.g. the two alternate, and irreconcilable, endings of the Gospel of Mark). This was simply one of the problems writers faced before the invention of printing (i.e. they had little control over their various drafts). As for the story behind the alternate versions of St. Cyprian's "On Unity," here's how it goes:

See John Chapman on Cyprian and the Papacy for more

About the time of the opening of the annual council of Carthage in AD 251, two letters arrived from Rome. One of these, announcing the election of a pope, St. Cornelius, was read by Cyprian to the assembly; the other contained such violent and improbable accusations against the new pope that he thought it better to pass it over. But two bishops, Caldonius and Fortunatus, were dispatched to Rome for further information, and the whole council was to await their return -- such was the importance of a papal election. In the meantime another message arrived with the news that Novatian, the most eminent among the Roman clergy, had been made pope. Happily two African prelates, Pompeius and Stephanus, who had been present at the election of Cornelius, arrived also, and were able to testify that Cornelius had been validly set "in the place of Peter, " when as yet there was no other claimant.

It was thus possible to reply to the recrimination of Novatian's envoys, and a short letter was sent to Rome, explaining the discussion which had taken place in the council. Soon afterwards came the report of Caldonius and Fortunatus together with a letter from Pope Cornelius, in which the latter complained somewhat of the delay in recognizing him. Cyprian wrote to Pope Cornelius explaining his prudent conduct. He added a letter to the confessors who were the main support of the antipope, leaving it to Cornelius whether it should be delivered or not.

He sent also copies of his two treatises, "On Unity" and "On the Lapsed" (one had been composed by him immediately after the other), and he wishes the confessors to read these in order that they may understand what a fearful thing is schism. It is in this copy of "On Unity" that Cyprian appears most probably to have added in the margin an alternative version of the fourth chapter. The original passage, as found in most manuscripts and as printed in Hartel's edition, runs thus:

"If any will consider this, there is no need of a long treatise and of arguments. 'The Lord saith to Peter: 'I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; to thee I will give the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and what thou shalt have bound on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and what thou shalt have loosed shall be loosed in Heaven.' Upon one He builds His Church, and though to all His Apostles after His resurrection He gives an equal power and says: 'As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost, whosesoever sins you shall have remitted they shall be remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins you shall have retained they shall be retained', yet that He might make unity manifest, He disposed the origin of that unity beginning from one. The other Apostles were indeed what Peter was, endowed with a like fellowship both of honour and of power, but the commencement proceeds from one, that the Church may be shown to be one. This one Church the Holy Ghost in the person of the Lord designates in the Canticle of Canticles, and says, One is My Dove, My perfect one, one is she to her mother, one to her that bare her. He that holds not this unity of the Church, does he believe that he holds the Faith? He who strives against and resists the Church, is he confident that he is in the Church?"

The substituted passage is as follows:

"....Upon one He builds His Church, and to the same He says after His resurrection, 'feed My sheep'. And though to all His Apostles He gave an equal power yet did He set up one chair, and disposed the origin and manner of unity by his authority. The other Apostles were indeed what Peter was, but the primacy is given to Peter, and the Church and the chair is shown to be one. And all are pastors, but the flock is shown to be one, which is fed by all the Apostles with one mind and heart. He that holds not this unity of the Church, does he think that he holds the faith? He who deserts the chair of Peter, upon whom the Church is founded, is he confident that he is in the Church?"

These alternative versions are (like the alternate endings of the Gospel of Mark) given one after the other in the chief family of manuscripts which contains them, while in some other families the two have been partially or wholly combined into one. The combined version is the one which has been printed in many editions, and has played a large part in controversy with Protestants. It is of course spurious in this conflated form, but the alternative form given above is not only found in eighth and ninth-century manuscripts, but it is quoted by St. Bede the Venerable, by St. Gregory the Great (in a letter written for his predecessor Pelagius II), and by St. Gelasius; indeed, it was almost certainly known to St. Jerome and St. Optatus in the fourth century. The evidence of the manuscripts would indicate an equally early date.

Every expression and thought in the passage can be paralleled from St. Cyprian's habitual language, and it seems to be now generally admitted that this alternative passage is an alteration made by the author himself when forwarding his work to the Roman confessors. The "one Chair" is always, in Cyprian, the episcopal chair, and Cyprian has been careful to emphasize this point, and to add a reference to the other great Petrine text, the Divine commission in John 21. The assertion of the equality of the Apostles as Apostles remains, and the omissions are only for the sake of brevity. The old contention that it is a Roman forgery is at all events quite out of the question. What is also out of the question is the idea that Cyprian's statements about the "one Chair" were later removed due to his conflict with Pope Stephen three years later. And why? Because here in his "On Unity," St. Cyprian is NOT speaking about the authority of Rome when he refers to the "Chair of Peter," but rather about the teaching authority of THE CHURCH ITSELF, just as Matthew 23:1-3 speaks of the "Chair of Moses" to refer to the teaching authority of Israel.

Cyprian's basic ecclesiology (which is thoroughly Catholic) runs like this:

(a) On the local level, the "one Chair" is held by the local bishop.

(b) Yet, on the regional level, the "one Chair" is held by the regional bishop (or metropolitan, which was Cyprian's office as Bishop of Carthage: Metropolitan of all Africa and Numidia).

(c) Yet on the universal level, the "one Chair" was held by Peter's actual successor at Rome. This was the "PRINCIPAL CHURCH," as Cyprian calls it, in which "SACEDOTAL UNITY has its source" (Epistle 59:14). Rome was, for Cyprian, the "WOMB AND ROOT OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH," and the Bishop of Rome held the "PLACE OF PETER." He held the "one Chair" in the universal sphere, for communion with him was "COMMUNION WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH."

Again, see John Chapman on Cyprian and the Papacy for more detail

The Controversy of St. Cyprian and Pope Stephen

And Cyprian's dispute with Pope Stephen over Baptism by heretics affected none of this. In fact, the two versions of "On Unity" already existed before Stephen even became Pope!

<< Cyprian consequently, at least for the latter part of his ministry, rejected the premise that the Roman church had primacy among the apostolic churches. >>

Wrong. Cyprian's dispute with Pope Stephen, like Polycarp's dispute with Pope Anicetus a century earlier, had to do with regional episcopal sovereignty (i.e. the right of a particular church to maintain its own traditional disciplines), and not over Rome's universal dogmatic authority.

<< Particularly in light of the events surrounding the conflict with Stephen of Rome, several years later, it is highly unlikely that Cyprian would hold to the primacy of Peter. Stephen had ruled that heretics who wanted to enter the catholic church would be received as if they had been in the church all along. >>

That's not what Stephen ruled. Rather, he ruled that Baptism performed by heretics, or within heretical Christian groups, was sacramentally valid, PROVIDED that the correct Baptismal formula ("I Baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit") was used. Cyprian was denying this, and maintained that such people needed to be re-Baptized. I wonder which position our Protestant author believes in?

<< Whatever baptism they had received, apparently whether it had been with the Montanists, Sethians or other Gnostics, was considered valid. >>

No, once again, our critic is mischaracterizing both Stephen's teaching and the historical context. The heretics in question here were the followers of anti-pope Novatian (aka the "Novatian" heretics), who believed that some sins (such as denying Christ under threat of death) could not be forgiven. This was a heresy; and Cyprian was saying that anyone baptized in the Novatian communion had to be re-baptized in the Catholic communion. Stephen decreed otherwise. What's more, Stephen clearly ruled that the Trinitarian formula had to be maintained. Thus, he did not permit baptisms administered by non-Trinitarian heretics.

<< Moreover, Stephen demanded that all other bishops follow his lead, even though there was no apostolic precedent in recognizing heretical baptism as valid. >>

First of all, there was a precedent for this in the Church, given that the Church had long recognized the ability of even non-Christians to administer Baptism under certain situations -- such as when a novice Christian awaiting Baptism was locked alone in a cell with a non-Christian, pending execution by the imperial government. Under these conditions, the Church had always taught that a willing non-Christian may serve as the administer of sacramental Baptism IF he or she used the proper, Church-approved baptismal formula (the Trinitarian formula: Matt 28:19).

What's more, Stephen's ruling WAS willingly accepted by every bishop in the Church, with the sole exception of Cyprian and of Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia, whose local church followed a discipline of re-baptism similar to Cyprian's African discipline. Indeed, in order to support his case, Cyprian was FORCED TO turn to Firmilian in far-off Cappadocia, because no other metropolitan bishop agreed with his view! Rather, all the prominent bishops who Cyprian would reasonably have turned to (given a so-called "heretic" on the episcopal throne of Rome) sided with Pope Stephen. This included the Bishop of Alexandria (who presided over the second See), the Bishop of Antioch (who presided over the third See), the Bishop of Ephesus (who was the successor of St. John and the metropolitan of Asia Minor), the Bishop of Aelia (aka Jerusalem, where James once ruled as bishop), etc. All of these Sees and Bishops were in accord with the authority of Rome.

For example, consider the witness of Bishop St. Dionysius of Alexandria. Unlike Cyprian, Dionysius of Alexandria accepted Stephen's teaching; and we know of seven letters from him on the subject, two being addressed to Stephen's successor, Pope Sixtus II (257-8). In one of these, St. Dionysius asks for instruction in the case of a man who had received baptism a long time before from heretics, and now declared that it had been improperly performed. Dionysius had refused to renew the Sacrament after the man had so many years received the Holy Eucharist. So, he asks for the Pope's judgement on the matter.

<< Cyprian publicly chided Stephen for making such rash assertions as to his authority, as well as his doctrinal errors. >>

Really? And when did Cyprian ever directly do this? Why did he chide Stephen to his face or rebuke him by name?

<< Cyprian even convened a council in Carthage to address some of Stephen's errors. In the document "Concerning the Baptism of Heretics" the combined council of African bishops (87 total) unanimously declared their contempt for Stephen's audacity and presumption. They agreed that : "Neither does any of us set himself up as a 'Bishop of Bishops", nor does by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since each bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can be no more be judged by another than he can judge another." >>

Here again, our critic, anachronistically, casts the bishops of Africa as Protestant-like crusaders against "Popery." However, that's not what was going on at all. Rather, like I said, Cyprian and his fellow African bishops were arguing for their own episcopal sovereignty -- the right to enforce their own traditional disciplines within their own dioceses. And here once again is the fuller story:

First of all, what needs to be understood is that there was a persistent problem in the African church, whereby dissident Christians would sail across to Rome every time their bishop said something they disagreed with. In this, Rome -- more often than not -- protected the refugees, thwarting the governance of the African church, overturning African discipline usually in matters that the Romans had no knowledge of, and in cases where the Africans eventually turned out to be right! So, Cyprian saw the African discipline of re-baptizing heretics as merely another example of this. He was wrong, of course. Yet, he didn't know that at the time.

Yet, with the election of Pope Stephen (AD 254-257), the Church was faced with a crisis in the wake of the Novatian schism -- the schism created by antipope Novatian, which rocked the entire Church, both East and West. So a serious question was being debated: Are those who were baptized by heretical Christians (like Novatians) truly baptized, or did they need to be re-baptized?

Rome, under Pope Stephen, ruled that such Baptisms were valid. As Pope Stephen put it: If Peter baptizes, it is Jesus baptizing; if Judas baptizes, it is Jesus baptizing. However, St. Cyprian refused to accept this. In his usual passionate style, he asked: Can anyone not within the Church dispense the Living Water?!! And so, Stephen and Cyprian conflicted. This is how their conflict came about:

A certain African bishop named Magnus wrote to ask Cyprian if the baptism of the Novatians (who had refused to re-admit apostates to communion) was to be respected (Epistle 69). Here, Bishop Magnus (who held the LOCAL "Chair of Peter") is appealing to Cyprian, his metropolitan (who held the REGIONAL "Chair of Peter").

Cyprian's answer to Magnus is clear. He denies that the Novatians are to be distinguished from any other heretics. Later, we find a letter in the same sense, probably of the spring of 255, from a council under Cyprian of thirty-one bishops (Epistle 70), addressed to eighteen Numidian bishops; this was apparently the beginning of the controversy.

It appears that the bishops of Mauretania did not follow the custom of proconsular Africa and Numidia, and that Pope Stephen sent them a letter approving their adherence to the Roman custom. This can only imply that the churches of Mauretania disputed the teaching of their metropolitan at Carthage (i.e. Cyprian), and went over his head -- appealing to Rome, which held the UNIVERSAL Chair of Peter (cf. Epistle 59:14).

Cyprian, being consulted by a Numidian bishop, Quintus, sent him Epistle 70, and replied to his difficulties (Epistle 71). The spring council at Carthage in the following year, 256, was more numerous than usual; and sixty-one bishops signed the conciliar letter to the Pope, explaining their reasons for re-baptizing, and claiming that IT WAS A QUESTION UPON WHICH BISHOPS WERE FREE TO DIFFER!

THUS, the Africans assumed that they were merely dealing with an matter of local (or regional) discipline -- NOT with a doctrinal issue of the Church. And so, they saw it as belonging to the sphere of LOCAL, episcopal sovereignty.

This, however, was not Pope Stephen's view, and he immediately issued a decree, couched apparently in very peremptory terms, that no "innovation" was to be made (this is taken by some scholars to mean "no new baptism"), but the Roman Tradition of merely laying hands on converted heretics in sign of absolution must be everywhere observed, on pain of excommunication.

This letter was evidently addressed to the African bishops, and contained some severe censures on Cyprian himself.

Cyprian writes to Jubainus that he is "defending the one Church, the Church founded on Peter," and asks: Why then am I called a prevaricator of the truth, a traitor to the truth? (Epistle 73:11). To the same correspondent, he sends Epistles 70, 71, 72. In these, Cyprian claims that he makes no laws for others, but retains his own liberty -- a reference to his LOCAL episcopal sovereignty.

So, at this point, Cyprian is genuinely upset by Pope Stephen's condemnation of him, and is trying to find a way out of it. Notice how he does not, as yet, challenge the teaching of Stephen, but is merely trying to make the Baptism issue one of local discretion.

But thereafter, responding to Bishop Pompeius, who had asked to see a copy of Pope Stephen's rescript, Cyprian writes with great violence:

"As you read it, you will note his error more and more clearly: in approving the Baptism of all the heresies, he has heaped into his own breast the sins of all of them; a fine tradition indeed! What blindness of mind, what depravity!"

This is Cyprian's most direct condemnation of Stephen's teaching (made in a private letter to Pompeius); yet one which never questions his authority.

And, he continues, classifying Pope Stephen's position with words like "ineptitude" and "hard obstinacy" -- this when the same Cyprian had declared earlier how bishops were free to disagree on the matter; and when IN THE VERY SAME LETTER he tells Pompeius how a bishop must never be quarrelsome, but meek and teachable. So Cyprian is clearly divided and imbalanced at this time. What is obvious, however, is that he believes Pope Stephen to be a heretic, and Cyprian cannot reconcile his allegiance to Rome as the universal "Chair of Peter" with what (for Cyprian) now seems to be a departure from Sacred Tradition.

In September 256, a yet larger council assembled at Carthage. All the attending African bishops agreed with Cyprian; and curiously, Pope Stephen was not mentioned -- a very interesting fact, considering that they believed Stephen to be the one in error. Yet, they did not challenge the authority of Rome! (Why not?) Rather, they merely attempted to circumvent it.

It's clear that Cyprian did not wish the responsibility to be all his own. Without specifying his intended target (which was obviously Stephen), he declared that "neither does any of us make himself a bishop of bishops," and that "all must give their true opinion." (more on this below) This last line ("all must give their true opinion") clearly implies that some African bishops were obedient to the Roman decree, even if they personally disagreed with it.

The vote of each bishop was therefore given in a short speech, and the minutes have come down to us in Cyprians correspondence under the title of "Sententiae Episcoporum."

Now, most anti-Catholic sources will end the story right there -- as if Cyprian snubbed the authority of Rome, and the matter was ended. However, that's not the case at all. At the close of the council, the African church sent a delegation to Rome for Pope Stephen to ratify the findings of the council. Why would a bunch of supposed "anti-Papal" "proto-Protestants" do that I wonder?

However, the messengers sent to Rome with this document were refused an audience with Pope Stephen, and even denied all hospitality by the Pope. And when they returned incontinently to Carthage, ONLY THEN did Cyprian look for support in the East.

With Alexandria, Antioch, and the other provinces siding with Rome, Cyprian wrote to the famous Bishop Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia, sending him the treatise "De Unitate" and the correspondence on the baptismal question. By the middle of November, Firmilian's reply had arrived, and it has come down to us in a translation made at the time in Africa. Its tone is, if possible, more violent than that of Cyprian:

"But how great is his (Pope Stephens) error, how exceeding his blindness, who says remission of sins can be given in the synagogues of the heretics, not abiding the foundation of the one Church, which was first established by Christ on a Rock, may hence be understood that to Peter alone Christ said: Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and again, in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the Apostles, saying, Receive the Holy Spirit. The sins you forgive they are forgiven, the sins you retain, they are retained. The power, therefore, of forgiving sins was given to the Apostles and to the churches which they, sent forth by Christ, founded, and to the bishops who, by vicarious ordination, have succeeded to them... And here, in this matter, I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so prides himself on the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession of Peter, upon whom the foundations of the Church were laid, introduces many other rocks (the heretics), and sets up the new building of many Churches, while by his own authority he maintains that there is Baptism among them. Stephen, who proclaims that he occupies by succession the Chair of Peter, is moved with no kind of zeal against heretics." (Firmilian's Epistle to St. Cyprian, Epistle 75)

Now while Bishop Firmilian clearly thinks that Pope Stephen is in error, he does not dispute that Stephen holds the Chair of Peter or that he is Peters successor. He questions, perhaps, if Stephen deserves to hold this office, but he never denies that Stephen does. He merely thinks Stephen is misusing his Papal authority. And Firmilian, don't forget, is writing from far-off Cappadocia in Asia Minor.

After this, however, we know nothing more of the Baptismal controversy. St. Cyprian was martyred less than two years later, his name being included soon after among the venerated martyrs in the Roman Eucharistic Liturgy, thereby indicating that some kind of reconciliation occurred between him and Rome (which maintained its dogmatic position against re-Baptism, and does so to this day).

Again, see John Chapman on Cyprian and the Papacy for more detail

Our critic also "slips in" a line that must again be refuted:

<< One of Cyprians fellow bishops, Firmilian, (bishop of Caesarea) wrote a scalding letter to Cyprian regarding Stephens viewpoint. Firmilian agreed with Cyprian and the other bishops that Stephens decision to recognize the validity of heretical baptism was divisive to the church, and Stephen of Rome was in very great error. >>

(Emphasis above is mine). In this statement, our critic wishes to give the impression that Cyprian and Firmilian held the majority position among the bishops throughout the universal Church. However, as I illustrated earlier, this was FAR from the case. Rather, it was merely Africa and Cappadocia against all the other churches, in all the other provinces, of the Roman Empire (i.e. Italy, Gaul, Spain, Britain, Mauretania, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Armenia, Cilicia, Bithynia, Pontus, Galatia, Asia, Thracia, Macedonia, Achaea or Greece, Illyria, Panonia, Moesia, Rhetia, etc). Big difference.

<< It is also clear that the church universally rejected the novel claim by Stephen to primacy over the rest of the bishops. >>

This is profoundly incorrect (see above). Our critic needs a history tutor.

<< Stephens most significant supporters, of course, were from Rome, who helped try to persuade the other bishops throughout the empire that Stephen was correct. A number of the bishops from the Council of Carthage eventually capitulated and sided with Stephen. >>

Although our critic now admits part of the truth, he then puts his own anti-Catholic spin on it. Here what he fails to grant (yet which any reasonable historian will acknowledge) is that the churches in the East that accepted Stephen's decree operated, like Rome and Carthage, according to their own Apostolic Traditions and disciplines. They would not, and could not, accept a total novelty, even if it came from Rome. Rather, being right-minded bishops who understood the Faith comprehensively (i.e. Cyprian was only a Christian for three years before becoming Bishop of Carthage), they could see how Stephen's ruling was a defense of Apostolic teaching and the sacramental integrity of Baptism, and not a departure from it.

<< Some seventy years later when the question was raised at the Council of Nicea, it was ruled that certain groups would be allowed to enter the church without being re-baptized, but that the followers of Paul of Samosota (who had a deficient view of the Deity of Christ) would have to be re-baptized. >>

Right! Because the followers of Paul of Samosota (a heretical third century bishop of Antioch) were Monarchians who denied the Catholic belief in the Trinity! Yet, as I said before, Pope Stephen never taught than non-Trinitarian heretics were validly Baptized. Rather, his teaching addressed the Novatians, who did accept the Trinity and Baptized according to the Trinitarian formula. In the East, however, most heretics were non-Trinitarian Gnostics (e.g. the Monarchians, the Sabellians, the Arians, etc); and this is why the Council of Nicaea took the time to re-examine Pope Stephen's old decree and make sure that it was applied correctly. That's all.

<< This ruling from the Council suggests that Cyprian, at least to a degree, was right, inasmuch as he was calling for the re-baptism of those whose beliefs previously were outside the parameters of the apostolic rule of faith. >>

Wrong. The act of Nicaea suggests no such thing. No one in the Church, not even the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers, subscribed to Cyprian's view. Cyprian was simply off-base and incorrect. He taught that ALL heretics (not merely non-Trinitarian ones) outside of the Catholic Church remain unbaptized -- and this would, of course, apply to modern Protestants, given his view. However, fortunately for the Protestants, this is not what the Catholic Church teaches or believes; nor did it ever teach any such a thing. True sacramental Baptism can take place outside the institutional limits of the Catholic Church.

Augustine on Peter, the Rock and the Papacy

<< Much is being made of the verses from Matthew where Jesus renames Peter and states "upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). As demonstrated above, however those verses were construed, it did not insinuate a "Rome-centered" church in the first several centuries of the Christian church. Even some of the Roman Catholic churchs greatest theologians and "doctors" from the first centuries did not see a case for Petrine primacy in those verses. Augustine for example, deals with those verses many times in his writing. In Tractate CXXIV, 24, he says: "He (Peter) represented the universal Church, which in this world is shaken by divers temptations, that come upon it like torrents of rain, floods and tempests, and falleth not, because it is founded upon a rock (petra), from which Peter received his name. For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on this very account the Lord said, "On this rock will I build my Church," because Peter had said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed. I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself also built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus. The Church, therefore, which is founded in Christ received from Him the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Peter, that is to say, the power of binding and loosing sins." Augustine advances the accepted position that the "rock" that the church was built on was Peters confession of Christs lordship. Christ himself is the rock. Moreover the power of "binding and loosing" is vested to the whole church, not merely Peter of his "successors". >>

Well, I've already dealt with St. Augustine in our discussion of Origen above. But, a good quote is worth repeating. Here's what the saintly Catholic Bishop of Hippo has to say about Rome being the Rock:

"...Why! a faggot that is cut from the Vine retains its shape. But what use is that shape if it is not living from the root? Come, brother, if you wish to be engrafted in the Vine. It is grievous when we see you thus lying cut off. Number the bishops from the See of Peter. And, in that order of fathers, see whom succeeded whom. This is the Rock which the proud gates of hades do not conquer. All who rejoice in peace, only judge truly." (St. Augustine, Psalmus Contra Pertem Donati)


"For, if the order of the succession of bishops is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter, to whom the Lord said: 'Upon this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." For to Peter succeeded Linus, to Linus Clement ... To Julius Liberius, to Liberius Damasus, to Damasus Sircius, to Sircius Anastasius."  (St. Augustine, Epistle 53)

and also

"In order of the succession (i.e. the succession of Peter), no Donatist bishop is found. But, unexpectedly, they sent from Africa an ordained man who, presiding over a few Africans in Rome, propagated the title of Mountain Men or Cutzpits." (St. Augustine, Epistle 53)

Also in terms of Peter's own authoritative primacy, Augustine says:

"Peter ... On account of the primacy which he bore among the disciples."  (St. Augustine, Enarratio in Psalmum 108)

And speaking of the authority of the Roman church itself, he says:

The Church of Rome " which the authority of the Apostolic office has always stood fast." (St. Augustine, Epistle 43:7)

And writing to the Pope himself, he says:

"This act, Lord Brother, we thought right to intimate to your holy charity, in order that to the statutes of our littleness might be added the authority of the Apostolic See for the preservation of the safety of the many and the correction of the perversity of some." (St. Augustine to the Pope on Pelagianism, Epistle 175)


"For we do not pour back our little stream for the purpose of replenishing your great fountain, but in the great temptation of these times, we wish it to be approved by you whether our stream, though small, flows from the same head of water as your abundant river, and to be consoled by your answer in common participation of the same grace." (St. Augustine to the Pope, Epistle 177)

And speaking later of this Pope's authoritative decree, he writes:

"And the words of the venerable bishop Innocent to the Council of Carthage ...what is more plain and clear than this sentence of the Apostolic See?" (St. Augustine, Contra Julian 2:4, 6:7)


"...When he answered that he consented to the letters of Pope Innocent, of blessed memory, by which all doubt about this matter was removed." (St. Augustine, Contra Julian 2:3:5)


"Do you think these fathers, viz. Irenaeus, Cyprian, Reticius, Hilary, Ambrose, are to be despised because they belong to the Western Church, and I have mentioned no Eastern bishop among them? What are we to do, since they are Greeks and we are Latins? I think that you ought to be satisfied with the part of the world in which our Lord willed to crown the Chief of the Apostles with glorious martyrdom. If you had been willing to hear blessed Innocent, the president of that Church [Rome], you would have long ago disengaged your perilous youth from the nets of the Pelagians. For what could that holy man answer to the African councils except from what of old the Apostolic See and the Roman Church with all others preservingly hold? ...See what you can reply to St. Innocent, who has no other view than have those into whose council I have introduced you; with there he sits also, though after them in time, before them in rank... Answer him, or rather answer the Lord Himself, whose words he alleges. What will you say? What can you answer? For if you should call blessed Innocent a Manichaean, surely you will not dare to say it of Christ?"  (St. Augustine, Contra Julian 1:4:13)


"To all these letters, he (Pope Innocent) answered in the manner which is right and the duty of the bishop of the Apostolic See." (St. Augustine, Epistle 186)

See John Chapman on Augustine and the Papacy for much more detail

Now, several times above, St. Augustine (like many other Church Fathers) refers to Rome as the "Apostolic See" (meaning the "Chair of the Apostle"). However, at the beginning of his essay, our critic condemns such "Apostolic" language applied to the Bishop of Rome. Yet, interestingly enough, he then cites Augustine as an authority. I find that rather strange.

Our critic then goes on to cite some more quotes from Augustine, in which the Bishop of Hippo speaks of Christ (Sermon 26) and of Peter's confession about Christ (Commentary on John) as the "Rock" of Matt 16:18. However, remember what I said about the Protestant "either-or" mentality vs. the Catholic "both-and" mentality? What's more, our critic happily presents these quotes from Augustine (which he mistakenly thinks support his position), yet completely fails to quote not only what Augustine says about the Church of Rome being "the Rock" of Matt 16, but also what Augustine has to say about Peter personally being the "Rock." For example:

"These miserable wretches, refusing to acknowledge the Rock as Peter and to believe that the Church has received the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, have lost these very keys from their own hands." (St. Augustine, On Christian Combat).


"Among the Apostles almost everywhere Peter ALONE merited to bear the 'Person of the Church.' On account of this very Person (Christ), which he alone of the whole world bore, he merited to hear, "Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock ..." (St. Augustine, Sermon 295)


"In my first book against Donatus (i.e. originator of the Donatism heresy) I mentioned somewhere with reference to the Apostle Peter that 'the Church is founded UPON HIM as upon a Rock.' This meaning is also sung by many lips in the lines of blessed Ambrose, where, speaking of the domestic rooster, he says, 'When it crows, he [Peter], the ROCK of the Church, absolves from sin.' (St. Augustine, Retractations 1:21).

So why did our critic fail to include these quotations? If it was out of ignorance, that can be forgiven.

<< There can be no doubt that Augustine understood the text from Matthew to be indicated that the Lordship of Christ was the rock upon which the church would be built, rather than the man, Peter. >>

Disproven above. St. Augustine interpreted Matthew 16:18-19 in a variety of ways, depending on the point he was trying to make. The modern Catechism of the Catholic Church does the same: see for example CCC 881, 586, 552 which presents the literal interpretation that Simon alone is the rock of Christ's Church, the Church is built on Peter personally; also Peter is the unshakeable rock because of his faith in Christ (CCC 552); the acknowledgement of Christ's divine sonship is the Church's foundation (CCC 442); on the rock of Peter's faith Christ built His Church (CCC 424); and Christ Himself is the rock, the "chief cornerstone" (1 Peter 2:4ff; 1 Cor 10:4; Eph 2:20), the foundation (CCC 756). Likewise, both the Catechism and the great St. Augustine NEVER denied the primacy of Rome as "Rock" or the Bishop of Rome as the "Petrine successor."

See John Chapman on Augustine and the Papacy for much more detail

More Fathers on Peter and the Rock

<< John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD) made a similar case in his Homily LIV on Matthew 14:23. "What then saith Christ? "Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas."."And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church;" that is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby He signifies that many were now on the point of believing, and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd. "And the gates of hell" shall not prevail against it." >>

And St. John Chrysostom also speaks of Peter himself as the Rock, writing:

"...and when I name Peter, I name that unbroken Rock, that firm foundation, the Great Apostle, the First of the disciples ..." (St. John Chrysostom, Hom iii de Paednit).


"Peter, the leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church." (St. John Chrysostom, In illud hoc Scitote)


"Peter ... that Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the Faith, the Foundation of the Confession." (St. John Chrysostom, Hom de Dec Mill Talent)

<< These are far from isolated instances. >>

See John Chapman on Chrysostom and Peter for much more detail

They are far from exclusive instances either, given that the SAME Fathers also speak of Peter himself and of Rome as the Rock.

<< As a matter of fact the majority of references to the verse from Matthew in the early church either affirm that the "rock" is Christ, or Peters confession of Christ. St. Hilary of Poitiers, in his work On the Trinity , Book V, says that: "Next, the Fathers utterance, This is My Son, had revealed to Peter that he must confess Thou art the Son of God, for in the words This is, God the Revealer points Him out, and the response, Thou art, is the believers welcome to the truth. And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built. . This faith it is which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. This faith is the Fathers gift by revelation." >>

Okay. Here are some other quotes from St. Hilary of Poitiers:

"Blessed Simon who, after his confession of the Mystery, was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church and received the Keys of the Kingdom." (St. Hilary, De Trinitate 6:20)


"Peter, the first Confessor of the Son of God, the Foundation of the Church..." (St. Hilary, Tract in Ps 131)


"And in truth Peter's confession obtained a worthy recompense.... Oh! in thy designation by a new name, happy Foundation of the Church, and a Rock worthy of the building up of that which was to scatter the infernal laws of the gates of hell!" (St. Hilary, Commentary on Matthew 16)

There's that CATHOLIC "both-and" mentality again. According to St. Hilary, BOTH Peter's confession AND Peter himself were the Rock. No Father draws a distinction between these things. Such distinctions only occur in the modern Protestant's mind.

<< One could go on. >>

Oh? Well, I'm game. I'm prepared to provide quotes from Tatian the Syrian (170 AD), Tertullian (220 AD), St. Hippolytus (225 AD), Origen (230-250 AD), St. Cyprian (246 AD), St. Ephraim the Syrian (350-370 AD), St. Cyril of Jerusalem (363 AD), St. Optatus of Melivus (367 AD), St. Gregory Nazianzen (370 AD), St. Gregory of Nyssa (371 AD), St. Basil the Great (371 AD), St. Epiphanius (385 AD), St. Ambrose of Milan (385 AD), St. Asterius of Pontus (387 AD), St. Jerome (393 AD), St. Cyril of Alexandria (424 AD), St. Sechnall of Ireland (AD 444), St. Leo the Great (c. 445 AD), and the Fathers at the Council of Chalcedon -- all of whom identify Peter himself as the Rock of Matthew 16:18. So, who else did you have in mind?

For these and more see the book Jesus, Peter, and the Keys by Butler/Dahlgren/Hess

See also Joe Gallegos' CorUnum on the Fathers and the Papacy

<< Gregory, in his epistle XXXVIII to Queen Theodelina, encourages her to "make your life firm on the rock of the Church; that is on the confession of the blessed Peter". >>

Well, since I'm not sure which St. Gregory you're quoting here, let me give you both:

St. Gregory Nazianzen has this to say:

"See thou that of the disciples of Christ, all of whom were great and deserving of the choice, one is called a Rock and entrusted with the foundations of the Church." (St. Gregory Naz, T i or 32)


"Peter, the Chief of the disciples, he was a Rock..." (St. Gregory Naz, T ii)


"[Peter], that unbroken Rock who held the keys." (St. Gregory Naz, Poem Moral tom ii)

Also St. Gregory of Nyssa tells us:

"Peter, with his whole soul, associates himself with the Lamb; and, by means of the change of his name, he is changed by the Lord into something more divine. Instead of Simon, being both called and having become a Rock, the great Peter did not by advancing little by little attain unto this grace, but at once he listened to his brother (Andrew), believed in the Lamb, and was through faith perfected, and having cleaved to the Rock, became himself a Rock." (St. Gregory Nys, Homily 15 in C. Cantic).


"Peter ...that most firm Rock, upon which the Lord build His Church." (St. Gregory Nys, Alt Or De S Steph)

<< Jerome, another contemporary of Augustine, is frequently cited by Roman Catholic scholars for his letter to Damasus of Rome, where he states that "As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built!" Yet, in his letter to John (Section CXLVI), he reverses himself as to who the "rock is: "Let us hear the words of the great Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Let us hear the Lord Christ confirming this confession, for "On this rock," He says, "I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." Wherefore too the wise Paul, most excellent master builder of the churches, fixed no other foundation than this For no other foundation can a man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." >>

Well here, our critic proves my point. The Fathers possessed a Catholic "both-and" mentality (as opposed to a Protestant either-or mentality) and spoke of this mystery in a variety of ways. Of course Christ is the true Rock. No Catholic would deny this. But, the Lord makes Peter His vicarious Rock -- His Vicar on earth: The sure Rock of orthodox Apostolic doctrine, which cannot be moved. This is the very nature of the Papacy, whose infallibility comes not from the man occupying the office, but from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

As for St. Jerome, this Catholic understanding is precisely what he subscribed to. For, while He certainly believed that Christ is the true Rock, he also writes:

"Christ IS NOT ALONE IN BEING THE ROCK, for He granted to the Apostle Peter that he should be called 'Rock'. " (Jerome, Commentary on Jeremias 3:65)

I think that proves my point.

<< In conclusion to this point, we can positively say that the case for Petrine primacy is very weak indeed... >>

Yes, if one misrepresents factual history, then yes, the case for Petrine primacy seems "weak" indeed.

<< Historically, James, was the first bishop of the first church, and we are told by the early Church Fathers that even Peter, while in Jerusalem, was subordinate to him.... >>

Oh? And what "early Fathers" tell us this? I defy you to produce one.

<< The whole concept of a papacy, besides being a myth, has clearly opened the door for widespread disorder and falsehood, as proven by the folly of Callistus and Stephen. >>

Okay. Let's see, Pope St. Callistus taught that serious sins, like adultery or fornication, can be forgiven more than once. Does our critic deny this? I seriously doubt that he does.

Also, Pope St. Stephen taught that non-Catholics (that is, Christians who are not in communion with Rome, and who do not believe in things like the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Confession, and Purgatory -- all of which both Stephen and Cyprian clearly believed) can still be Baptized. Does our critic deny this? Once again, I seriously doubt it.

So, given that our critic shares the same doctrinal positions as both Callistus and Stephen (and, indeed, thanks to Callistus and Stephen!), upon what basis does he classify their teachings as "folly" ?

<< While the churches were autonomous and made every effort to maintain communion (i.e. Polycrates and Anicetus) there was unity, although not conformity. >>

This again is a Protestant mischaracterization. There was indeed unity -- DOCTRINAL unity, which DOES NOT EXIST among the thousands of Protestant denominations and sects that exist today. As for "conformity," against which he cites Polycarp and Pope Anicetus (he says "Polycrates," but means "Polycarp" -- Polycrates was bishop of Ephesus in the time of Pope Victor) -- the case of Polycarp and Anicetus was not a DOCTRINAL disagreement, but a LITURGICAL one (i.e. "On what date should the Church celebrate Easter?")

Well, if you look at the Catholic Church today in the year 2002, we are not "conformists" by any means, given that we are a Church composes of over 29 Traditional, Apostolic Rites (29 different Liturgies). Among these are the Roman Rite (familiar to most American Catholics), the Byzantine Rite (the Liturgy of our Byzantine Catholic brethren), the Maronite Rite (the Liturgy of our Maronite Catholic brethren in Lebanon), the Melchite Rite (in Syria and Iraq), the Syrian Rite (also in Syria), the Coptic (Egyptian Rite), the Armenian Rite, the Malankar (India) Rite, the Chaldean Rite (in Iraq and Iran) and the Ethiopian Rite -- all of them equally Catholic and equally in communion with the Bishop of Rome. And, guess what? Most of these Eastern Rites celebrate Easter on a different date than Rome, given that they use the old Julian calendar and not the modern Gregorian calendar. So much for "conformity" in the Catholic Church. We possess DOCTRINAL unity without Liturgical conformity, just like our ancient forefathers.

<< How can the church recant the novel Marian doctrines, if the Pope has declared them "infallibly? >>

It can't. The doctrines that our critic refers to, by which I assume he means Mary's Immaculate Conception and Assumption, are dogmas, and cannot be reversed. What's more, they were in no way "novel," as I illustrated earlier.

See Mark Bonocore's article on the Immaculate Conception, Assumption, and Queenship of Mary

<< The autonomy of the separate apostolic churches provided the checks and balances that helped maintain the apostolic truth. >>

"Checks and balances"? We are not talking about the American Constitution here. Where, pray tell, does Christ initiate a system of "checks and balances" for His Church in Scripture? Rather, He says to Peter, "I give to you the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven." Is our critic a disciple of Jesus or a disciple of Thomas Jefferson?

Indeed, our critic's statement above illustrates a profound difference between the ancient Catholic Faith and modern Protestant heresy in regard to the Church. Catholics believe, like our forefathers, that the Church is more than a human institution, but the Kingdom of God on earth, governed by those whom God himself has called to ministry, and guided by His promised and ever-present Holy Spirit, Who preserves the Church from error, according to Christ's teaching in John 14:16-17 and 16:13. Protestants, on the other hand, believe in a purely human church that is subject to error and not infallibly guided by the Spirit of Truth, but depends entirely on a static written record (the Bible), and upon human intelligence to correctly interpret that static written record. However, this is not what their ancestors believed.

<< In the post-apostolic church, the principle of inter-dependence and autonomy were fully realized. Letters still in existence from church to church show a mutual respect for each other, and there is no evidence of one church ruling over another. >>

I wonder if this guy has ever read correspondence between modern Popes and other bishops. They express themselves in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY!

<< The idea that Rome had pre-eminence amongst the churches was universally rejected by the entire church, excepting, of course, Rome. >>

I've conclusively shown otherwise.

False Decretals and Forgeries?

<< Besides the obvious benefit of being the church located in the capital city of the Empire, the Roman church had significant help from a very dubious source. Up to the 8th century, the Roman church was still struggling to assert it's authority over kings, as well as the churches throughout Christendom. Her success was mixed. Then, in the ninth century, there was "discovered" a number of documents from the second, third, and fourth centuries referred to today as the Pseudo-Isodorian Decretals. These letters were from the "Popes" of these centuries, affirming their superiority over the other churches, as well as over secular government. One of the documents was a written record of the transference of almost all the land of Italy from Emperor Constantine to the papacy! The papacy paraded these around as proof of the antiquity of the papacy, as well as the popes claim to secular authority and ecclesiastical authority. The western world was convinced. Unfortunately, it was not until the 15th century that it was proven that these documents were all a forgery. They had apparently been produced by the servant of Nicholas I in the 9th century for the very purpose of helping him expand his dominion. In reality, there were no "popes" in Rome at that time in question. There was a bishop of Rome, but he did not wield power in the sense that the papacy would like us to believe. >>

Okay, where to begin? Well, for starters, our critic is correct that the Pseudo-Isodorian Decretals, including the so-called "Donation of Constantine," were 9th Century Frankish forgeries. He is also correct that the medieval Popes cited them as proof of their authority. Yet, guess what? The Popes didn't cite them as proof of their religious authority (because they didn't have to -- no one questioned that). Rather, the Popes cited them in order to validate their POLITICAL authority. Big difference.

What the "Donation of Constantine" stated was that the Emperor Constantine had given the entire Western Empire (including the "islands in the sea") to the Pope of Rome. Now, while this was entirely untrue -- it was very useful if you were a Frankish emperor, crowned by the Pope, who needed to defend his legitimacy against his opposite (Byzantine) Emperor in the East, who was a linear successor of Constantine himself. It was also quite useful if you were a Pope, who (a) needed a Western Frankish emperor to protect him from a potentially schismatic or heretical Emperor in the East (the Byzantine emperors were notorious for arresting or killing Popes who refused to go along with their heresies, as the Eastern Patriarchs would), or (b) wanted to maintain unity among the constantly-warring kingdoms of Western Europe, who only "played nice" when you threatened to take their kingdoms away from them.

This, along with a good ol' case of genuine ignorance, is why the Popes used the "Donation of Constantine" when trying to exert their political authority -- political authority that Popes no longer possess today; and as this discussion so aptly illustrates, political authority that was not possessed in the early days of the Church when men like Clement, and Victor, and Callistus, and Stephen exerted their religious authority.

As for this business of no one buying the Pope's authority until 9th century forgeries were produced, this again is nonsense. For example, consider the words of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great. This is how he addressed the Pope in correspondence:

"Yielding honor to the Apostolic See and to Your Holiness, and honoring your Holiness, as one ought to honor a father, we have hastened to subject all the priests of the whole Eastern district, and to unite them to the See of your Holiness, for we do not allow of any point, however manifest and indisputable it be, which relates to the state of the Churches, not being brought to the cognizance of your Holiness, since you are the Head of all the holy Churches." (Justinian, Epist ad Pap Joan 2 Cod Justin lib I)

and also

"Let your Apostleship show that you have worthily succeeded to the Apostle Peter, since the Lord will work through you, as Supreme Pastor, the salvation of all." (Justinian to Pope Hormisdas, Coll Avell Epistle 196, July 9th, 520 AD)

Please note that these statements by Emperor Justinian refer to the Pope's religious authority, and not his political authority. Given that both Rome and Constantinople (along with many other libraries throughout the Christian world) possessed copies of this correspondence, it makes no sense why the Popes would not use such statements by Emperor Justinian (which were made long before any 9th century forgeries), if they merely wanted to prove their religious authority. However, the "Donation of Constantine" was not used to promote religious authority, but political authority.

Some Eastern Witness to the Papacy

And proof for the Pope's universal religious authority are myriad. For example, consider the words of Bishop Flavian of Constantinople in the wake of the illicit, anti-Roman "Robber Council" of Ephesus (AD 449), which proclaimed the heresy of Monophysitism to be orthodox doctrine.

For this see Mark Bonocore's article The Council of Chalcedon and the Papacy 

Also Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople (466-516):

"Macedonius declared, when desired by the Emperor Anastasius to condemn the Council of Chalcedon, that 'such a step without an Ecumenical Synod presided over by the Pope of Rome is impossible.'" (Macedonius, Migne PG 108:360a [Theophan Chronogr, pages 234-346])

In the eighth century, John VI, Patriarch of Constantinople (715), writes:

"The Pope of Rome, the head of the Christian priesthood, whom in Peter, the Lord commanded to confirm his brethren [Luke 22:31-32]." (John VI, Epist ad Constantin Pap ad Combefis Auctuar Bibl)

And St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople (758-828), writes:

"Without whom (the Romans presiding in the seventh Council) a doctrine brought forward in the Church could not, even though confirmed by canonical decrees and by ecclesiastical usage, ever obtain full approval or currency. For it is they (the Popes of Rome) who have had assigned to them the rule in sacred things, and who have received into their hands the dignity of Headship among the Apostles." (St. Nicephorus, Niceph Cpl pro s imag c 25)

Eastern Greats: St. Maximus and St. Theodore 

Also consider the witness of St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662), considered by the Eastern Orthodox to be among the most brilliant and authoritative of their Fathers, the great opponent of the Monothelite ("one will") heresy. He writes:

"How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter and Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate....even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the Popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome." (St. Maximus, in JB Mansi ed Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, volume 10)

And also

"The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High." (St. Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne PG 90)

And also

"If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God....Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to persuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also all the holy synods, according to the holy canons and definitions has received universal and surpreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world." (St. Maximus, Letter to Peter in Mansi 10:692)

We also have the prominent Byzantine champion of orthodoxy, St. Theodore the Studite (c. 759-826), head of the most influential monastery in Constantinople, who writes to Pope Leo III, saying:

"Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred. [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven." (St. Theodore, Book I, Epistle 23)

And writing to Pope Paschal:

"Hear, O Apostolic Head, divinely-appointed Shepherd of Christ's sheep, keybearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, Rock of the Faith upon whom the Catholic Church is built. For Peter art thou, who adornest and governest the Chair of Peter. Hither, then, from the West, imitator of Christ, arise and repel not for ever. To thee spake Christ our Lord: 'And thou being one day converted, shalt strengthen thy brethren.' Behold the hour and the place. Help us, thou that art set by God for this." (Letter of St. Theodore and Four Abbots to Pope Paschal, Book 2, Epistle 12, Migne PG 99:1152-3)

So St. Theodore recognizes Papal jurisdiction over Constantinople.

And also writing to Byzantine Emperor Michael, he says:

"Order that the declaration from old Rome be received, as was the custom by Tradition of our Fathers from of old and from the beginning. For this, O Emperor, is the highest of the Churches of God, in which first Peter held the Chair, to whom the Lord said: "Thou art Peter ...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (St. Theodore, Book II, Epistle 86)

So Rome's jurisdictional authority over Byzantinum is not only real, but "from the beginning."

And St. Theodore also writes:

"I witness now before God and men, they have torn themselves away from the Body of Christ, from the Supreme See (Rome), in which Christ placed the keys of the Faith, against which the gates of hell (I mean the mouth of heretics) have not prevailed, and never will until the Consummation, according to the promise of Him Who cannot lie. Let the blessed and Apostolic Paschal (Pope St. Paschal I) rejoice therefore, for he has fulfilled the work of Peter." (St. Theodore, Book II, Epistle 63)

And also

"In truth we have seen that a manifest successor of the prince of the Apostles presides over the Roman Church. We truly believe that Christ has not deserted the Church here (Constantinople), for assistance from you has been our one and only aid from of old and from the beginning by the providence of God in the critical times. You are, indeed the untroubled and pure fount of orthodoxy from the beginning, you are the calm harbor of the whole Church, far removed from the waves of heresy, you are the God-chosen city of refuge." (Letter of St. Theodore and Four Abbots to Pope Paschal)

And also

"Let him (Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople) assemble a synod of those with whom he has been at variance, if it is impossible that representatives of the other Patriarchs should be present, a thing which might certainly be if the Emperor should wish the Western Patriarch (the Roman Pope) to be present, to whom is given authority over an ecumenical synod; but let him make peace and union by sending his synodical letters to the prelate of the First See." (St. Theodore the Studite, Migne PG 99:1420)

Shall we go on?

Christus vincit omnia semper

Mark Bonocore

See also Studies on the Early Papacy by Dom John Chapman
And The Primitive Church and the See of Peter by Luke Rivington

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