The Primacy of Peter, the Papacy and Apostolic Succession
|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
by Mark Bonocore
The author of an anti-Papal essay starts off by asserting:
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?
Does it indeed?
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:
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:
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:
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
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:
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).
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).
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.
Yep. And the Catholic Church agrees completely.
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
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:
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
Okay. So, what's your point? Catholics do not believe anything like this.
Yes, they do.
No, we don't.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
Really? I can name many Protestant scholars who have explored the subject in detail (e.g. Oscar Cullmann).
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:
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
Is it indeed? Okay, you're on.
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:
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:
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:
Here, Clement speaks on behalf of the universal Church in condemning the Corinthian schism. And, he goes on:
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:
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?
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.
Really? Look at the descending hierarchy in St. Paul's 1 Corinthians 10:12:
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
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:
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:
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:
So Dionysius compares the teaching of Pope Soter to that of Peter and Paul. And, he continues:
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
St. Cyprian of Carthage
See John Chapman on Cyprian and the Papacy for much greater detail.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
St. Ephraim the Syrian
St. Ambrose of Milan
St. Augustine of Hippo
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.
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.
I should hope so, given that it has Gnostic roots.
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.
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
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:
Why would Pope Anicetus have to concede the Mass to Polycarp (a fellow-bishop) unless Anicetus was in some way superior to him?
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, "...it 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."
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:
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:
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.
"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:
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.
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."
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!
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:
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:
Tertullian of Carthage
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 was a heretic, and no orthodox Christian listened to him.
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.
Not according to Christ in Matthew 18:17-18.
Again, Tertullian was a heretic. For him, being "spiritually joined to the Lord" meant some very "interesting" things.
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:
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:
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:
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:
So was this said in regard to Church authority or a denial of Papal primacy? Not at all. For, St. Augustine also writes:
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:
or another translation of the above:
So, I rest my case with Origen. However, our critic makes an additional claim regarding him, saying:
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:
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:
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:
The substituted passage is as follows:
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:
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
Really? And when did Cyprian ever directly do this? Why did he chide Stephen to his face or rebuke him by name?
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:
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:
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:
(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.
This is profoundly incorrect (see above). Our critic needs a history tutor.
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.
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.
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
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:
Also in terms of Peter's own authoritative primacy, Augustine says:
And speaking of the authority of the Roman church itself, he says:
And writing to the Pope himself, he says:
And speaking later of this Pope's authoritative decree, he writes:
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:
So why did our critic fail to include these quotations? If it was out of ignorance, that can be forgiven.
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
And St. John Chrysostom also speaks of Peter himself as the Rock, writing:
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.
Okay. Here are some other quotes from St. Hilary of Poitiers:
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.
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
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:
Also St. Gregory of Nyssa tells us:
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:
I think that proves my point.
Yes, if one misrepresents factual history, then yes, the case for Petrine primacy seems "weak" indeed.
Oh? And what "early Fathers" tell us this? I defy you to produce one.
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" ?
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.
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
"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.
I wonder if this guy has ever read correspondence between modern Popes and other bishops. They express themselves in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY!
I've conclusively shown otherwise.
False Decretals and Forgeries?
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:
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):
In the eighth century, John VI, Patriarch of Constantinople (715), writes:
And St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople (758-828), writes:
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:
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:
And writing to Pope Paschal:
So St. Theodore recognizes Papal jurisdiction over Constantinople.
And also writing to Byzantine Emperor Michael, he says:
So Rome's jurisdictional authority over Byzantinum is not only real, but "from the beginning."
And St. Theodore also writes:
Shall we go on?
Christus vincit omnia semper
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