(What follows is a posting I made over at the "Catholic Answers Forum" with regard to a link someone posted. The link led to a Roman Catholic apologetics website, with all sorts of "proof texts" which supposedly justified the innovative and divisive teachings of Catholicism regarding the Papacy. Some spelling errors on my part have been fixed.)
|(this text caption was written by a Roman Catholic at the C.A. Msg. Forum)|
Roman Catholic... All Christian Churches where loyal to the successor of Peter at least at one time.
Check the quotes out here:
It would be far too time consuming to go through each citation, so I will simply take one of the documents listed at that address and give some examples of what I mean.Peter's Successors
This list is itself a very tangled web of things which either need
to be given a historical context, or the citations are used in such a way as to misrepresent the intentions of their authors.
First, some history...
St.Constantine issued the Edict of Milan
in 313 A.D., which legalized Christianity. Afterward, he showered the Church with all sorts of privileges. He also moved
the Imperial capital from Rome to the previously minor city of Byzantium
which was renamed "Constantinople" and "Nova Roma" or "New Rome." This created some uneasiness for the Bishop of Elder Rome.
This anxiety became much more pronounced however, after the Second Ecumenical Council
, whose third canon clearly states that the See of Constantinople was to have the "second rank" on the basis of being the "New Rome"
, with the obvious implication in it's wording that Old Rome's pre-eminance was in some wise conditioned by it's being the Imperial City at one time. The Council of Constantinople was called in 381 while Damasus was Pope, hence the timing of this passage is quite understandable...
|"Likewise it is decreed: . . . [W]e have considered that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven' [Matt. 16:18-19]. The first see [today], therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it" (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).|
This decree is quite a departure from older statements both within Italy and abroad about Rome's honour and privileges, as will be shown later.
Pope Damasus' words here, sadly, are a case of "Church politics"
. Rome obviously was not unique in involving itself in such affairs - this has always been a temptation within the Orthodox Church, as jurisdictional shoving matches still exist to this day...so this is nothing unique. It's fallen human nature at work.
Rome for a very long time refused to acknowledge or approve of the third canon. Yet, this didn't seem to phase anyone else in the Church, as it was received everywhere else. However, Rome did
eventually recognize this canon - centuries later, during the Crusades, when it was able to install a Latin Bishop
in the See of Constantinople in the year 1215 A.D. (said canon was also recognized yet again by Rome during the re-union attempt at the Council of Ferrara-Florence in A.D. 1439) IOW., when it suited Rome's purposes, the canon was recognized (however long after the rest of Christendom acknowledged it's force.)
What is most curious about Damasus' decree is not simply what it asserts, but what it fails to mention - this is the first time the Roman Church's honour is asserted solely on the basis of a "Petrine" connection - no connection is made to St.Paul who was at least
as important to the founding of the Church in Rome. You even see this change within the relatively limited selection of "proof texts" chosen by the author of the tract. Another change was from emphazing the importance of the Roman Church
, and instead conferring this upon the person of the Bishop of Rome himself - as if he was in some kind of unique dynasty, specially empowered by providence.
With regard to St.Cyprian (who is cited in the tract), anyone remotely familiar with his life and thought (and with the Council in Carthage he presided over, which concilliarly rebuked Pope Stephen for his meddling in North African Church affairs) should realize that this cannot be interpreted as an apologia for exaggerated Papal claims. This, like many of the other passages on the page in question (and others like them) are a case of people reading things into
what various Fathers have said without even realizing what they've done. For many Roman Catholics, any
reference to St.Peter or his importance is taken to automatically apply to the Pope - even when there is nothing in the text they're citing to warrant this interpretation.
The reality is that for the Fathers in general, St.Peter is viewed as the "type" of the Priesthood (specifically the Episcopate, which is simply the fullness of the Priesthood). All Bishops are understood by them to be "in Peter", since they are all pastors of souls. St.Peter was the first to receive the promise
of the Priesthood (though in truth, all of the Apostles in fact received
this power together), and he was the first to lead the infant Church of Jerusalem. He was the first to preach publicly in Christ's Name, and the first to work miracles. He was very likely also the first to preside at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and the first to "do" what Christ had enjoined upon all of the Apostles. Ultimately, this was all because he was the first
to confess the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, even if he was quite likely not (at the time) fully aware of the deep significance of the words which he had uttered (which our Lord said were given to St.Peter by God the Father, as a revelation, and were not a result of his own intuition.)
All Bishops do this, and indeed when diocese' began to grow large enough so as to be divided up into "parishes" led by Presbyters acting on behalf of their Bishop, so they did as well. And this is why so many Fathers will break into praise of St.Peter and consideration of his significance outside of any
discussion of the Pope of Elder Rome.
That after the time of Pope Damasus you'll find Latin Christians who prop up the authority of their Patriarch with similar rhetoric (ex. St.Jerome) should not be surprising - in many ways it is reminiscent of the embarrassing "I'll out-Pope-you!" stuff you see time to time (esp. in the first millennia when this shoving match was going on) about the Ecumenical Patriarch being the "successor of St.Andrew 'the first called'
", since it was a common belief that the Church in Byzantium was founded by the Apostle St.Andrew. While all of this nonsense was a source of contention and bickering, all was well so long as it stayed on that level. Unfortunately, toward the close of the first millennia this tolerable status quo was shattered, when the Popes began going well beyond bombastic attempts to shore up their canonical rights with floral references to St.Peter, and began to outright teach that they did in fact have immediate and universal jurisdiction throughout all of Christendom. This did not simply go well beyond any of the canons relating to Rome's rights which everyone
agreed to, but even against what one could even imagine being entertained by Popes like Damasus or St.Gregory who were obviously very intent on not being "shoved to the side" by the Patriarch of the Imperial City.
Indeed such ideas are utterly contrary to the thought of St.Gregory the Great. When the Patriarch of Constantinople received the title "Ecumenical Patriarch", it was translated into Latin as "Patriarcha Universalis" or "Universal Patriarch". This incensed the saintly Pope not because he was thinking "hey, that's my schtick!" but rather because he rejected such an office as even being possible. While this was all a misunderstanding due to a misleading translation, St.Gregory's thoughts on the topic are 100% Orthodox. In his letter to then Ecumenical Patriarch St.John the Faster, he writes...
|"Consider, I pray thee, that in this rash presumption the peace of the whole Church is disturbed, and that [the title of Ecumenical Patriarch] is in contradiction to the grace that is poured out on all in common; in which grace doubtless thou thyself wilt have power to grow so far as thou determinist with thyself to do so. And thou wilt become by so much the greater as thou restrainest thyself from the usurpation of a proud and foolish title: and thou wilt make advance in proportion as thou are not bent on arrogation by derogation of thy brethren... |
"Certainly Peter, the first of the apostles, himself a member of the holy and universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John-what were they but heads of particular communities? And yet all were members under one Head... "...the prelates of this Apostolic See, which by the providence of God I serve, had the honor offered them of being called universal by the venerable Council of Chalcedon. But yet not one of them has ever wished to be called by such a title, or seized upon this ill-advised name, lest if, in virtue of the rank of the pontificate he took to himself the glory of singularity, he might seem to have denied it to all his brethren..."(Book V, Epistle XVIII)
To the Patriarchs Eugolios and Anastasius (of Alexandria and Antioch respectively) he wrote...
|"This name of Universality was offered by the Holy Synod of Chalcedon to the pontiff of the apostolic see which by the Providence of God I serve. But no one of my predecessors has ever consented to use this so profane a title since, forsooth, if one Patriarch is called Universal, the name of Patriarch in the case of the rest is derogated. But far be this from the mind of a Christian that any on should wish to seize for himself that whereby he might seem in the least degree to lessen the honor of his brethren..." (Book V: Epistle XLIII)|
And most strikingly, he wrote the following to the Emperor on this topic (it really bothered him that
|"Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others." (Book VII: Epistle XXXIII)|
This says nothing of course, of the further powers later Popes would claim for themselves over the centuries (after the schism), which would have been utterly unimaginable to anyone - the "power of the two swords", that the Pope is superior to even Ecumenical Councils and can be "judged by no one", or that the Pope could be "personally infallible". Such notions would have simply made St.Gregory the Great weep.