This document puts on record an extended discussion
between myself (a Traditionalist lay
Catholic affiliated to the Roman Jurisdiction) and an e-friend (a Chalcedonian-Orthodox
cleric). It starts out with a debate about the meaning of Our Lord's statement
to Simon Peter that "upon this rock I will build my Church" and then broadens
out into a wide-ranging discussion of Papal Primacy and Jurisdiction as
it has been, currently is and might be in a Re-Unified Church (a cause
dear to both our hearts).
Why is this an important issue?
From one point of view this question is of no significance at all. The
role of St Peter and then of the pope - who may or may not be his "successor"
- is hardly central to the Gospel Messagee! On the other hand, "The Papacy"
is the single issue that distinguishes "Catholics of the Roman Jurisdiction"
from all other folk who profess to follow Jesus; so it is one major issue
that stands in the way of unity. So far as Catholic-Orthodox relations
are concerned, it is the core issue at dispute. If this issue were to be
resolved, there is some hope that all the others
would fall into place. Ironically, Catholics
argue that the papacy is in theory all about the sustenance of Church
Unity; while Orthodox argue that
it has in practice done a great deal to destroy Church Unity.
How did this document come to be written?
The original essay was elicited by the following
question from my Chalcedonian-Orthodox clerical friend:
"Just for interest's sake, some time
ago you referred to some scruples you had over my poor treatment of Roman
jurisdictional primacy from the Fathers. I didn't raise the issues then,
cause I was just too busy, but I must admit that I am confused about this.
is very clear to me that the Fathers interpret
16:18-19] not in the RC way, but
precisely in the way I suggested in the Homologia (with reference to the
"Petra" in the desert, the primacy of Peter's confession etc.) Of
course, my reference to the Rock in the Dome of the Rock, etc., is mine,
but it is entirely plausible too.
Please tell me why you think the Fathers
teach Roman jurisdictional primacy."
He was referring to some comments of mine on the
following (generally most excellent) passage that he had previously authored:
31. Today, in the Islamic Mosque
called the "Dome of the Rock" is the "sakhra" which is the rock upon which
the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Yahweh was built. David had purchased
a threshing floor from Ornan the Jebusite [2
Sam. 24:18-25] upon which he set up an "Altar
of burnt offering" and called the place "the house of Yahweh God" [2
Sam. 22:1]. Solomon built the first Temple
of Yahweh on this very same location [2 Chr.
3:1]. The Temple of Zerubbabel and Herod,
often mentioned in the Gospels, also, was built on this very same location.
In Rabbinical tradition, a rock, known as the "eben sh’tiyyah" (the foundation
stone) protruded in the Holy of Holies. "Yahweh
is: our Rock (sela) and Fortress, our Stronghold and our Place of Refuge"
18:2]; our Rock (tsur) [Ps.
18:31, 46; 28:1; 62:2];
Rock (sela) and Rampart" [Ps. 31:3; 42:9];
and "our Sheltering Rock (sela)"
[Ps. 71:3]. In Rabbinical tradition, the "rock"
of Numbers 20:8 followed the people of God in their sojourn in the deserts.
Saint Paul knew of this tradition: "…they
drank from the spiritual rock [petra] which followed them, that rock (petra)
was Christ" [1 Cor 10:4].
Speaking of Jesus Christ, Saint Peter and Saint Paul call Jesus "a
stumbling stone (lithos), a rock (petra) to trip people up"
[1 Pet. 2:8; Rom. 9:33].
32. In His discussion with the Pharisees
about the Temple, Jesus remarks about Himself: "'Now
here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple'"
[Matt. 12:6]. Jesus Christ, in His Person,
is the fulfilment of the symbolism of the Old Testament Temple and He is,
in fact, "greater" than the Temple. After cleansing the Temple of ungodly
practices at Passover, Jesus challenged the Jews: '"Destroy
this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up." …He was speaking of
the Temple that was His Body'" [John
2:20-22]. In fact, Saint John points out that
in heaven the Temple is God Himself: "…the
Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the Temple" [Rev.
21:22]. Furthermore, Saint Paul teaches
that the Church is “His Body”, and that in this Body of Christ is found
fullness of Him who is filled" [Eph. 1:23].
The Church is also the reality and fulfilment of the Temple of the Old
Testament: “Do you not realize that
you are a Temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you?... you are
that Temple” [1
Cor. 3:16-17]. Again Saint Paul writes to
the Corinthian Christians: "…that is
what you are – the Temple of the Living God"
[2 Cor. 6:16]. Jesus Christ Himself is the
"Cornerstone" of this Temple, the structure that "grows
into a holy Temple in the Lord.... a dwelling place of God in the Spirit"
33. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew [16:13-19],
we read of the dialogue between Jesus and Saint Peter: "'Who
do people say the Son of Man is?'" And of
Saint Peter, Jesus asks directly: "'…who
do you say I am?'" To which Saint Peter replied:
'"You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God"'.
Jesus, having given the name "Petros" (Greek) or "Cephas" (Aramaic) -
meaning “rock” - to Saint Peter already [Mark
3:16; Lk. 6:14; John 1:42], replies: '"Simon
son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because it was not human agency that
revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you:
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the
underworld can never overpower it"'. Clearly,
Jesus was referring to the rock upon which the Temple was built, which
is Himself as revealed to Saint Peter in his confession of Jesus as the
Messiah and the Son of God. Jesus’ promise to Peter was that he would build
His Church on Himself, the Rock, and that Saint Peter the "rock" was witness
to this that very moment in time. Whereas as the Temple of the
Old Testament was built on a literal rock that can be seen to this day,
the Temple of the New Testament is built on the Rock which is Jesus Christ
34. God our Father is the Head of Jesus
Christ [1 Cor. 11:3],
and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church [Eph.
4:15, 5:23; Col. 1:18] which is "His
Body, the fullness [pleroma] of Him who is filled, all in all"
[Eph. 1:23]. It is through Jesus Christ, as
Head of the Church, that the Church “grows
with the growth given by God” [Col.
2: 19]. Jesus Christ is also the High Priest
of our Christian Faith [Heb. 5:10],
the Shepherd "poimen"
and Guardian of our souls [1 Pet. 2:25],
the Great Shepherd "poimen"
[Heb. 13:20], and the Chief Shepherd "archipoimenos"
Pet. 5:4]. We confess Jesus Christ
as the Head of the Church, and the only Person who defines the authenticity
of our faith and the validity of our ecclesiastical organizations. Although
we honour the ancient Apostolic Sees of Constantinople, Rome, Canterbury
and the autocephalous Sees of the Oriental Orthodox communities, our faith
is defined in terms of the orthodox worship of God “in
spirit and truth” [John
4:23], and not in terms of "this mountain"
or of "Jerusalem" [John 4:21].
Our ecclesiastical communion is, first and foremost, with Jesus Christ,
the Head of the Church, and then with each other in the Holy Apostolic
42. It is with particular reference to
the founding of His community [Matt. 16:18]
earth that Jesus grants Saint Peter primacy among the Apostles:
"I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on
earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed
43. The community of Jesus is called the
"ekklesia" in Greek and refers to "an assembly called together". In Hebrew
it is called the "qahal" and refers to the chosen and sacred assembly of
believers [Acts 7:38; Exod. 12:16; Lev. 23:3;
Numb. 29:1; Deut. 4:10]. It is this Community
of Jesus, the Church, that will be characterized by the Rite of Bread and
Wine, the new seal of the relationship between God and His Qahal [Matt.
26:26-29]. This Divine Authority, the
Keys of the Kingdom, is also vested in the Church, as the "community" of
Jesus Christ [Matt. 18:18],
and hence Peter's Apostolic Primacy in the Church is a Primacy that
recognizes that the entire Church is mandated to witness to Jesus Christ
and perpetuate His ministry on earth.
44. However, this Mandate is the special
task of the Apostles, since it is to them that Jesus entrusts His Community,
His Church, His new Kingdom: "You are the
men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials; and now I confer a Kingdom
on you, just as my Father conferred one on me: you will eat and drink at
my Table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to judge the twelve
tribes of Israel" [Lk.
22:28-30]. Not all people are part of this
Kingdom or "in" the truth. In fact, most people do not know the truth of
redemption. It is in the Church that the truth of redemption is proclaimed.
[Haaike Barnard: A proposed Homologia for the
I must first remark again, that - as a Catholic of
the Roman Jurisdiction - I find the above text generally of an excellent
tone and most orthodox in intent and meaning. In particular, its Trinitarian
emphasis on God the Father, Son (and Spirit) as the true rock on which
the Church is based is most needful. I note the fact that it affirms that:
Saint Peter played a foundational
role in the founding of the Church, he, too, was a "rock", but a mere reflection
of the Rock, Jesus Christ Himself!
Which is, after all, exactly what a "Roman" Catholic
should wish to assert. Beyond this, it is a question of discernment, interpretation
and application. It is clear that Jesus no more handed out a codex of canon
law than that he handed out either a New Testament or manual of theology.
The implications of the Petrine Primacy for the collaborative ministry
of the Apostles was yet to be worked out.
Jesus grants Saint Peter primacy among the
Apostles: "I will give you the keys of
the Kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven;
whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven".
The point at issue between Haaike and myself is
really just his phrase "Clearly, Jesus was
referring to the rock upon which the Temple was built, which is Himself
". My initial response to this is:
For completeness, it must be pointed out that Jesus
does not simply give the "Keys of the Kingdom"
to St Peter, but also to the Church as a Whole [Matt
18:15-20]. Hence, this mandate must not be
seen as a uniquely Petrine office: just as a general mission which St Peter
participated in, and was called to exercise, in a particular and special
manner: as "First among Equals", if you like; depending on what one might
mean by this phrase!
This is not at all "clear" to me. It seems
rather (at least in English translation) that the use of "this" in conjunction
with the word "rock" implies the "rock" that has "just been mentioned",
that "rock" being "Petrus".
The fact that Haaike then immediately asserts that "Saint
Peter played a foundational role in the founding of the Church" serves
in any case to grant the theological point, unless all that he means to
indicate is a role not different in basic character from that of
the Evangelist Mark or the second Apostle Simon.
of the Fathers
The first thing to be said is that the Fathers have four messages for us
regarding this passage. One set focuses on the idea that it is Peter's
Faith in Christ that is foundational for the Church, a second that it is
Christ Himself that is foundational (this is the group that Haaike is familiar
with), a third that it is the office of Apostle (and then bishop) that
is foundational, and a fourth that it is Peter himself who is foundational.
Some fathers - such as John Chrysostom - belong to more than one set.
Of course the first and fourth sets could easily be grouped together,
except that protestants typically wish to say that the first group of fathers
are not interested in "the faith of the Apostle Peter" but only "faith
itself, as incidentally evidenced by Peter". My business in this essay
is not controvercialism with protestants but congenial conversation with
an Orthodox friend. For this reason there is no need to review the testimony
of the first three sets of Fathers. I happily
acknowledge their existence and the validity of the doctrine that they
propose. Anyone interested in these wider issues should study this
excellent on-line Masters Thesis. from which much of the following
material is extracted.
was personally - on account of his faith - constituted the foundation of
the Church's Unity
For once the voices of Latin and Greek Fathers are conjoined and in harmony.
Two of the greatest fathers of the Church, Jerome and John Chrysostom,
vie with each other in their insistence that the Apostle Peter was given
a real primacy of Jurisdiction over the affairs of the Apostles, and also
that this mission was passed on to the popes of Rome.
"It is to the successor of the fisherman
that I address myself, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader
save Christ, so I communicate with none save your Beatitude, that is, with
chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the Rock on which the Church is built.
This is Noah's ark, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the
flood overwhelms all." [St
Jerome: "Ep. xv" (to Pope Damasus (376)]
"'But you say, the Church is founded upon Peter,'
and replies: "Although the same is done in another place upon all the Apostles,
and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength
of the Church is made solid upon them all equally, yet one of them is
elected among the twelve, that by the setting up of a head the occasion
of schism may be removed." [St Jerome:
"As Plato was
prince of philosophers, so is Peter of the Apostles upon whom the Church
is founded in massive solidity, which is shaken by no surge of floods nor
[St Jerome: Dialogue
Against Pelagians I, 14]
for related texts from Jerome, with an extensive commentary.
that head of the Apostles, the first in the Church, the friend of Christ,
who received the revelation not from man but from the Father....
this Peter, and when I say Peter, I mean the unbroken Rock, the unshaken
foundation, the great apostle, the first of the disciples, the first
called, the first to obey."
In many of his writings, Tertullian affirms that
Peter is himself the "rock"
of [Matt 16:18].
[St. John Chrysostom: De Eleemos III, 4]
"Peter .... the foundation of the faith,
the base of the confession, the fisherman of the world, who brought back
our race form the depth of error to heaven, he who is everywhere fervent
and full of boldness, or rather of love than of boldness."
[St. John Chrysostom: Hom de decem mille talentis,
"The first of the apostles, the foundation
of the Church, the coryphaeus of the choir of the disciples."
[St. John Chrysostom: Ad eos qui scandalizati
"He saith to him, 'Feed
My sheep'. Why does He pass over the others
and speak of the sheep to Peter? He was the chosen one of the Apostles,
the mouth of the disciples, the head of the choir. For this reason
Paul went up to see him rather than the others. And also to show him that
he must have confidence now that his denial had been purged away. He
entrusts him with the rule over the brethren .... If anyone should
say 'Why then was it James who received the See of Jerusalem?' I should
reply that He made Peter the teacher
not of that See but of the
whole world." [St. John Chrysostom: Hom
88 in Joann 1]
for many other similar texts from Chrysostom, with an extensive commentary.
"Was anything withheld from the knowledge
of Peter, who is called 'the rock
on which the church should be built’ …
?" [Tertullian: "Prescription Against Heretics"]
Tertullian wrote this in about A.D. 199, during the
orthodox period of his life. Later, he wrote
"Peter alone do I find married, and through
mention of his mother-in-law. I presume he was a monogamist; for the
church, built upon him, would for the future appoint to every degree
of orders none but monogamists. As for the rest, since I do not find them
married, I must presume that they were eunuchs or continent."
Interestingly, this text was written in about A.D.
208, shortly after he converted to Montanism. Even though he is now associated
with a heretical sect, Tertullian still affirms a Petrine interpretation
of [Matt 16:18].
[Tertullian: "On Monogamy 8"]
St Cyprian of Carthage ( - 258
AD) wrote extensively on the subject:
to thee that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not overcome it. I will give to thee the keys
of the kingdom of heaven. And what thou shalt bind upon earth shall be
bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed
also in heaven'.
It is on one man that He builds the church
and although He assigns a like power to all His apostles
after the resurrection, saying: 'As the Father
hath sent me, I also send you. Receive ye the Holy Spirit: if you forgive
any man his sins, they shall be forgiven him; if you retain any man's sins,
they shall be retained', yet in order that
the oneness might be unmistakable,
He established by His own authority a
source for that oneness
No doubt the other apostles were all that Peter was,
endowed with equal dignity and power, but the start comes from him alone,
having its origin in one man alone.
in order to show that the church of Christ
Indeed this oneness of the Church is figured in the
Canticles when the Holy Spirit, speaking in Our Lord's name, says:
is my dove, my perfect one': to her mother
she is the only one, the darling of her womb. If a man does not hold fast
to this oneness of the Church, does he imagine that he still holds the
faith? If he resists and withstands the Church, has he still Confidence
that he is in the Church, when the blessed Apostle Paul gives us this very
teaching and points to the mystery of Oneness saying: 'One
body and one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one Faith, one
Baptism, one God'? Now to this oneness we
must hold to firmly and insist on - especially we who are bishops and exercise
authority in the Church - so as to demonstrate that the Episcopal power
is one and undivided too. Let none mislead the brethren with a lie, let
none corrupt the true content of the faith by a faithless perversion of
[St Cyprian of Carthage: "One the Unity of the
Church 3" - second version: the "Textus Receptus"]
"And He says
to him again after the resurrection:
my sheep.’ It is on him that He builds the
church, and to him that He entrusts the sheep to feed. And although He
assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet
For an extended discussion of the fascinating relationship between these
two versions: both of which were plausibly penned by Cyprian, but in different
political circumstances; see the relevant part of the
on-line Masters Thesis to which I have already referred.
He founded a single chair,
thus establishing by His own authority the source
and hallmark of the [Church's] oneness. No doubt the others were all that
Peter was, but
a primacy is given to Peter, and it is
made clear that
So too, even if they are all shepherds, we are shown
but one flock which is to be fed by all the Apostles in common accord.
there is but one Church and one Chair.
If a man does not hold fast to this oneness
of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds to the faith? If he deserts
the chair of Peter, upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence
that he is in the Church?
It is on one man that He builds the Church,
and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles after His resurrection,
saying: ‘As the Father hath sent me, I do send you … Received ye the Holy
Spirit: if you forgive any man his sins, they shall be forgiven him; if
you retain any man's, they shall be retained, yet
in order that the oneness might be unmistakable,
No doubt the other Apostles were all that Peter was,
endowed with equal dignity and power, but the start comes from him alone,
in order to show that the Church of Christ is unique."
He established by His own authority a source
for that oneness
having its origin in one man alone.
[St Cyprian of Carthage: "One the Unity of the
Church 3" - first version: the "Primacy Text"]
"Now the foundations of this Church are
on the holy mountains, since it is built upon the foundation of the apostles
and prophets. One of these mountains was indeed Peter, upon which rock
the Lord promised to build his Church."
[St Basil: "Commentary on Isaiah" 2.66.]
"You observe that of Christ's disciples,
all of them outstanding and worthy of election, one is called the rock
and entrusted with the foundation of the Church."
[Gregory of Nazianzus: "Theological Discourses"]
"We celebrate the memory of Peter,
who is the chief of the apostles, and together with him the other members
of the Church are glorified; for upon him the Church of God is established.
Indeed this man, in accordance with the title conferred upon him by
the Lord, is the firm and very solid rock upon which the Saviour has
built his Church." [Gregory of Nyssa:
"Panegyric on St. Stephen"]
"only Peter was chosen out of the
whole world to be the Head of all called peoples, of all the Apostles and
of all the Fathers of the Church" [Pope
St Leo I: "Sermo 4, 2"].
The Papal Claims
: first tack
According to Dr Ludwig Ott:
"The doctrine of the Primacy of the Roman
Bishops, like other Church teachings and institutions, has gone through
a development. Thus the establishment of the Primacy recorded in the Gospels
has gradually been more clearly recognized and its implications developed.
Clear indications of the consciousness of the Primacy of the Roman Bishops,
and of the recognition of the Primacy by the other churches appear at the
end of the first century.
St Maximus the confessor (580-653
AD), a theologian-monk who was born in Constantinople and widely travelled
in the Eastern Empire, wrote:
In the name of the Roman community, St. Clement
of Rome sends a letter which is pervaded by the consciousness of his responsibility
for the whole Church, to the community of Corinth, in which he urgently
exhorts the dissidents to submit to the presbyters and to penance. However,
the letter contains neither a formal statement of the Primacy, that is,
an express invocation of the pre-eminence of the Roman Church, nor juridical
St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch and therefore
himself a successor of St Peter, elevated the Roman community over all
other communities using in his epistle to it a solemn form of address.
Twice he says of it, that it is the presiding community, which expresses
a relationship of superiority and inferiority
Magn. 6, I]:
presides in the place of the district of the Romans';
the 'overseer of love'.
In discussing the matter
of Apostolic succession, St. Irenaeus designated the Roman Church as:
"the greatest and most ancient church known to
all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter
and Paul - that church which has the Tradition which comes down to us after
having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because
if its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful
in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have
maintained the Apostolic Tradition." [Against
St. Ambrose says: 'Where
Peter is there the Church is' [Enarr.
in Ps. 40, 30].....
St. Augustine says of the Roman Church that 'the
pre-eminence of the Apostolic See was always present in her' [Ep.
43, 3, 7]." [Ott
"For the extremities of the earth, and
all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly
towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it
were to a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance
of our fathers, according to what the six inspired and holy Councils have
purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol of faith.
For from the coming down of the Incarnate Word among us,
all the churches in every part of
the world have possessed that greatest church alone as their base and foundation,
seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our
Saviour, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it possesses
the Keys of right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and
only religion to such as approach it with piety, and shuts up and locks
every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High"
"There was no purer or better placed Constantinopolitan
than Saint Maximus - so of course he got into trouble, first with the Monothelatites,
then with Emperor Constans II, to whose Typos he would not subscribe. He
could count on Latin-speakers to be on his side,
first in Africa whither he fled, then in Rome. By exalting the authority
of the Bishop of Rome in the universal Church, he was rhetorically enhancing
the power of his
defender." [MS (Nov.
From the earliest days, the holders of
the See of Rome claimed that Peter lived and worked on in his successors.
As did pope Boniface I, and many others after him:
Pope St. Stephen I (254-257); St Cyprian's opponent
in the controversy regarding the (re)baptism of heretics, maintained, according
to the testimony of Bishop Firmilian of Caesarea, that he possessed "the
succession of Peter, on which the foundations of the Church are erected."
by Cyprian, Ep. 75, 17].
Pope Siricius I (384-399 AD) ardently defended the authority of the
Bishop of Rome:
"In view of our office, we are not free to dissemble
or keep silent, for our zeal for the Christian religion ought to be greater
We bare the burdens of all who are
heavy laden, or rather the blessed apostle Peter bears them in us, who
in all things, as we trust, protects and defends those who are heirs of
At the beginning of your page, you have observed
that many who were baptized by the wicked Arians are hastening to the catholic
faith, and that they wish to be rebaptized by one of our brethren: this
is illegal … Up to now, there have been enough mistakes of this kind. In
all priests must keep the above rule
who do not wish to be torn away form the solid apostolic rock upon which
Christ built the universal Church.
We have explained, as I think, dearest brother, all
the matters of which you complained, and to every case which you have
referred, by our son Bassian the presbyter,
to the Roman Church, as to the head
of your body,
we have I believe returned adequate replies."
[Pope Siricius: "To Himerius" Dz 87]
"... it is clear that this Roman Church
is to all churches throughout the world as the head is to the members,
and that whoever separates himself from it becomes an exile from the Christian
religion, since he ceases to belong to it's fellowship."
[Pope St. Boniface: Ep. 14, 1 (418-422 AD)]
"....there must be no withdrawal from our judgement.
For it has never been allowed that that be discussed again which has once
been decided by the Apostolic See."
[Pope St. Boniface: Ep. 13 (418-422 AD)
of Ephesus, A.D. 431
The papal legate Philip opened the council with the
"No one doubts .... that the holy and
most blessed Peter, chief and head of the Apostles, the pillar of the
faith, the foundation stone of the Catholic Church, received the keys
of the Kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour and Redeemer of the
human race, and that the power of binding and loosing sins was given to
him, who up to this moment and always lives and passes judgement in
[The Papal Legate Philippus, speaking at the
of Ephesus Dz 112].
Pope St Leo I
"As that which Peter believed in Christ
lives for ever, so also that which Christ instituted in Peter lives
[Pope St Leo I: "Sermo 3, 2"].
Indeed, pope St. Leo I desired to have seen and honoured
in his own person:
"Though priests have a like dignity, yet they
have not an equal jurisdiction, since even among the most blessed apostles,
as there was a likeness of honour, so was there a certain distinction of
power, and the election of all being equal, pre-eminence over the rest
was given to one, from which type the distinction between the bishops also
has risen, and it was provided by an important arrangement, that all should
not claim to themselves power over all, but that in every province there
should be one, whose sentence should be considered the first among his
brethren; and others again, seated in the greater cities, should undertake
a larger care, through whom the direction of the Universal Church should
converge to the one See of Peter, and nothing anywhere disagree with its
head." [Pope St. Leo I: Ep. 14]
"him in whom the care of all shepherds
is perpetuated with the guardianship of the sheep entrusted to him"
[Pope St Leo I: "Sermo 3, 4"]
of Chalcedon, A.D. 451
During the second session of the Council, the famous
Tome of Leo was read. In it, Leo affirms the divinity of Jesus (against
Arianism), declares that Jesus had a rational soul (against Apollinarianism),
and upholds the fact that Jesus has two distinct natures that concur in
one person (against Eutychianism and Nestorianism).
"After the reading of the foregoing epistle,
the most reverent bishops cried out: 'This is the faith of the fathers,
this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox
believe. Peter has spoken through Leo. So taught the Apostles. Piously
and truly did Leo teach, so taught Cyril…. Leo and Cyril taught the same
thing, anathema to him who does not so believe. This is the true faith.
Those of us who are orthodox believe."
In session three of the Council, as the fathers are
preparing to anathematize Dioscorus, they say:
hath stripped him of the episcopate, and hath alienated
from him all hieratic worthiness.
the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop
of the great and elder Rome,
and through this present most holy synod
together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious
who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic
and the foundation of the orthodox faith,
Therefore let this most holy and great synod
sentence the before mentioned Dioscorus to the canonical penalties.”
"Yet we do not hesitate to mention that
which is known to the Universal Church, namely, that as the See of Blessed
Peter the Apostle has the right to loose what has been bound by the judgements
of any bishops, whatsoever, and since it has jurisdiction over every church,
so that no one may pass judgement on its verdict, the canons providing
that an appeal should be to it from any part of the world, no one is permitted
to appeal against its judgement." [Pope
St. Gelasius: (492-496 AD) Ep. 26]
I shall not further labour the arguments surrounding the Divine appointment
of St Peter [Ott IV.2.5] and his successor
IV.2.6.1], the Pope of Rome [Ott IV.2.6.2],
as the Chief Ruler of the Church [Ott IV.2.5].
"... Peter's true confession was revealed from
heaven by the Father, and for it Peter was pronounced blessed by the Lord
of all; and he received also, from the Redeemer of us all, by a threefold
commendation, the spiritual sheep of the Church that he might feed them.
Resting on his protection, the Apostolic Church [of Rome]
has never turned aside from the way of truth to any part of error and her
authority has always been faithfully followed and embraced as that of the
Prince of the Apostles, by the whole Catholic Church, and by all the venerable
Fathers who embraced her doctrine, by which they have shone as most approved
lights of the Church of Christ, and has been venerated and followed by
all the orthodox doctors..." [Pope St. Agatho:
(679-681 AD) Mansi XI]
I do not mean to imply by the above that the papal claims are obviously
true or that they represent the consensus of the Fathers. In fact I deny
this! Nevertheless, a clear and arguable case can be made out in support
of the position outlined by Ott, and the process which has most recently
resulted in the Dogmatic
Definition of the Oecumenical
The fact that any Catholic in communion with Rome is bound to accept
Papal Primacy, Universal Ordinary Jurisdiction and Infallibility, does
not mean that they have to accept that these prerogatives have generally
been exercised with due discretion or in accordance with Justice or Charity!
Neither does it mean that the constitutional relationship between the Papal
Office of Unity and the Catholic Fellowship of Bishops is yet at all clear.
I have written elsewhere on the
papal magisterium, the office of Bishop
and some limits to papal authority.
I believe that those Catholics and Orthodox who are not in communion
with Rome have nothing to fear from the orthopraxy of the papal office,
and in fact have much to gain. At present, the Western Church is characterized
caused at root by authoritarianism and a hostility
towards dialogue; whereas the Eastern Church
is characterized by divisions based on jurisdictional disputes. All orthodox
catholics must learn to listen to each other and defer to each other in
The Roman Jurisdiction must learn to value legitimate diversity in practice,
as well as paying it lip service; and the papacy learn how to listen to
charitable but forthright criticism (as St Peter did to that of St Paul)
and admit its mistakes as well as how to proclaim its convictions. The
Eastern Jurisdictions must learn to stop squabbling and accept a common
central authority whose only legitimate business is to maintain
order, defend and proclaim the Apostolic Tradition, and uphold charity
and mutual respect among the Churches of God.
It is my firm belief that the whole manner of governance of the Church
- in both style and substance - is in urggent need of review in order to
bring it into alignment with the mandate of Christ: "Feed
My Sheep", "He who would be a ruler among
you, let him be the servant of all."
An Orthodox response
Your presentation of the four categories is good.
The first evidences provided by Haaike were:
I would have liked to see far more use of the Canons
that were defined in either the "Ecclesiastical Canons of the Holy Apostles"
or of the Ecumenical Councils, since reference to the precedents they lay
down have far more weight in this discussion.
My initial terms of reference were just to disclose Patristic testimony
in support of Peter himself being the Rock on which the Church is built.
Such material as you indicate would have extended the discussion. This
is quite satisfactory, as far as I am concerned: so I respond below.
More use of some fundamental passages in Sts Augustine
and Ambrose (especially), would have been very helpful.
I was more concerned to put forward the teaching of the Eastern Fathers,
as one might have expected them to be less positively inclined in these
matters towards a "Peter-in-person" interpretation of the text in question.
You proceed to provide references from Augustine and Ambrose below. I comment
on them there.
A closer look at Patristic witness to the Roman claim
that the Successors of Peter also bear his universal jurisdictional privilege.
In my mind, the case for the last is exceptionally weak.
Once more, the reason that I did not do this was my initial terms of reference.
I respond below.
I agree that the patristic evidence for contemporary Roman claims is flimsy.
This fact in no way invalidates these claims.
Yes, Peter is also "rock", in reference to Jesus
Christ who is the "Rock", just as we are "Christians" in reference to Jesus
who is the "Christ".
This is an excellent and most wholesome form of words on which all can
I am pleased to discover that Peter wasn't a "Mod"(ernist) but a "Rocker"!
(-: Reference to life-style and musicality conflicts that took place
in the UK in the sixty's :-)
The point here is clear to my Orthodox mind: just
as the Apostolic Office was unique and unrepeatable, so is also the unique
position of Saint Peter in the founding of the Church.
This is easily granted. No-one should even suggest that the pope of Rome
has the same role and position within the Church as did the Apostle
The fact that Rome likes to call itself "the Apostolic See" should not
be taken to signify a claim that the Bishop of Rome believes himself to
have the authority of an Apostle.
Many popes have made it clear that they knew themselves to have very
little power. For example
Pope Adrian VI
"If by the Roman Church you mean its head or pontiff,
it is beyond question that he can err even in matters touching the faith.
He does this when he teaches heresy by his own judgement or decretal.
In truth, many Roman pontiffs were heretics. The last of them was Pope
Blessed pope Pius IX
"I am only the pope. What power have I to touch the
"If a future pope teaches anything contrary to the
Catholic Faith, do not follow him."
Cardinal Ratzinger (now pope Benedict XVI)
"In fact, the First Vatican Council did not in any
way define that the Pope was an absolute monarch! Au contraire, the first
Vatican Council sketched his role as that of a guarantee for the obedience
to the Revealed Word.
The papal authority is limited by the Holy Tradition
of the Faith, and that regards also the Liturgy."
IF there was a need in the infant Church for a centre of unity,
which role Peter fulfilled, by Divine Mandate,
THEN so too there is such a need in the Church today.
Ancient Canon Law
Canons of the Holy Apostles : the principle of Autonomy
Canon 34: "The Bishops of every
country ought to know who is the chief among them, and to esteem him as
their head, and not to do any great thing without his consent; but every
one to manage only the affairs that belong to his own parish, and the places
subject to it. But let him not do anything without the consent of all;
for it is by this means there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified
by Christ, in the Holy Spirit."
I accept these as wholesome law and agree that they should be adhered to.
The fact that no mention is made of any universal Roman jurisdiction is
a very strong indication that the possibility did not occur to the drafters
of these canons!
Canon 35: "A Bishop shall not dare to
confer ordinations outside of his own boundaries, in cities and territories
not subject to him. If he be proved to have done so against the wishes
of those having possession of those cities or territories, let him be deposed,
as well as those whom he ordained."
It does not show that it did not exist objectively,
Although the modern and altogether unwholesome practice of Rome appointing
all bishops is not excluded by these canons, in my view this is a corruption
and should be done away with. It largely produces Bishops who are second-rate
but only that no-one was conscious of it existing.
The first Council of Nicaea
: the establishment of the Patriarchates
Canon 6: "Let the ancient customs
prevail which were in vogue in Egypt and Libya and Pentapolis, to allow
the Bishop of Alexandria to have authority over all these parts, since
this is also the treatment usually accorded to the Bishop of Rome. Likewise
with reference to Antioch, and in other provinces, let the seniority be
preserved to the Churches."
An equality of all the ancient Apostolic Sees is confirmed by this Canon.
There is no mention of Rome, though it may already have been viewed as
"first among equals", as being the "Universal See" with which all other
Sees need to be in communion.
The Council of Chalcedon : the
basis of Primacy
Canon 28: "Everywhere following
the decrees of the Holy Fathers, and aware of the recently recognized canon
of the one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops who convened during
the reign of Theodosius the Great of pious memory, who became emperor in
the imperial city of Constantinople otherwise known as New Rome; we too
decree and vote the same things in regard to the privileges and priorities
of the most holy Church of that same Constantinople and New Rome.
This famous canon - that was specifically repudiated by Rome - confers
upon the Metropolitan of Constantinople the rank of Patriarch (with its
and priorities") and moreover stated that he was second in rank
after the Patriarch of Rome. It does not attempt to confer on Constantinople
any powers or duties that might belong uniquely to Rome by Divine Right,
as indeed it could not do. I suspect that it never occurred to the Chalcedonian
Fathers that Rome had any such powers or duties.
And this is in keeping with the fact
that the Fathers naturally enough granted the priorities to the throne
of Old Rome on account of her being the imperial capital.
And motivated by the same object and aim the
one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops have accorded the like priorities
to the most holy throne of New Rome, with good reason deeming that the
city which is the seat of an empire, and of a senate, and is equal to old
imperial Rome in respect of other privileges and priorities, should
be magnified also as she is in respect of ecclesiastical affairs, as coming
next after her, or as being second to her...."
Rome did not so much repudiate this canon on the basis of what it accorded
Constantinople with respect to Rome, but because:
These two points alone were seen by Rome as being the beginning of an endless
source of squabbling and jealousies. Up until this time, the Bishop of
Constantinople was nothing more than an ordinary Archbishop. The fact that
he presided over the Church of the secular capital was no basis for a claim
to enhanced jurisdiction.
It demeaned the Apostolic dignity of Alexandria and especially Antioch,
contradicting the sixth Nicene canon.
It states that the basis for "privileges and priorities"
the Church is secular prominence.
It must be clearly understood that in practice at this time Rome neither
had ordinary and immediate jurisdiction within any of the other Patriarchates
nor wished to exercise such a power. At this stage of social development,
this would - in any case - have been totally impractical.
Haaike later responded to my comment as follows:
"I disagree almost entirely with your
reading of this canon. I think you are missing the obvious. Let me highlight
by beginning at the end of my quotation from this canon: 'as
coming next after her, or as being second to her...'
The context, clearly, is a visible statement of practical 'primus inter
pares'. The intention with this Canon, for the Church of the East, is:
The result of this accord? Constantinople 'is
equal to old imperial Rome in respect of other privileges and priorities'.
I agree with Roman discontent over the evident 'new
Rome' now replacing 'old
Rome' at the cost of the principle of equality
and autocephaly. No doubt, with the socio-political pressures of the time,
this canon of Chalcedon certainly risked violation of the primus
part in favour of the inter pares part. But, if Rome were so concerned
over the equal status of Antioch and Alexandria, then surely it illustrates
that the last thing on the radar screen of Rome as an equation of primacy
with universal jurisdiction, and that is exactly my point."
to acknowledge the faith primacy of honour of the
Bishop of Rome,
to confer equal privilege and priority to Constantinople
since 'the Fathers naturally enough granted
the priorities to the throne of Old Rome'
due to her key position in the Empire, but the Fathers of Chalcedon 'have
accorded the like priorities to the most holy throne of New Rome'.
To which I reply:
There is no disagreement between us on the interpretation of this canon.
I simply took this as being so obvious as not to be worth spelling out;
as you have now done, so accurately!
Moreover, we agree as to the potential for (then) future evils inherent
in this canon.
My purpose was to highlight the meta-canonical point: that this canon was
wrong in principle, because it sought to justify and establish Church practice
from secular precedent.
To western minds this is a characteristic and endemic flaw of Eastern practice.
Please excuse the criticism here.
On the whole I am more critical of West than East, so I must be allowed
to voice criticisms of your tradition (note the small "t"); which I generally
value more than my own, as well as beating my own side near to death!
Rome wasn't concerned with the "equal status
of Antioch and Alexandria" but rather with their rightful Apostolic
status, which was indefinitely greater - as being based on ecclesiastical
grounds - than that of the second secular state capital.
Primacy (of honour) cannot possibly be equated with "universal jurisdiction".
The two are not at all the same thing.
Such an equation is not the issue.
Rome doesn't care about honour; but only duties, responsibilities and the
to discharge them.
Honour should be allocated within the Church - if at all - to any agency
in recognition of the theological mission that it has to discharge.
In all things it should be remembered that all within the Church must
learn to defer to each other: the highest to the lowest as well as the
lowest to the highest. As St Benedict remarks in his rule, sometimes it
is the youngest in the Community who has the word of wisdom, and according
to the Scriptures: "out of the mouths of babes and
sucklings" [Mat 21:16, Wis 10:21, Ps 8:2 (Sepgt)]
forth the true praise of God.
of the Primacy of St Peter to his successors
"Regarding references to Saint Peter
as the 'rock', it must be pointed out that there is almost perfect silence
in the Fathers about the transference of this honour to the Successors
of Peter in Rome. The contemporary consent (based on ancient consent) in
the Eastern Church, is that 'Peter' in the Fathers means 'Peter', and not
'Bishops of Rome'.
Augustine (354-430 AD) recognizes Saint Peter as the 'first
among the Apostles' and as 'the
rock' upon which the Church is built, but
this is not, in any sense, transferred to the Bishops of Rome. The norm
in the Fathers is not to transfer the statements made about Saint Peter
to the Bishops of Rome who are in his cathedra.
Saint Peter receives "the Keys of the Kingdom",
he does so on behalf of the whole Church, as the 'coryphaeus'
(the first of the disciples), who also receives them:
This is fair comment. It is, however, notable that a substantial (but small)
minority of Eastern Christians have continued to "leak west" over time,
re-establishing communion with Rome: largely on Rome's terms.
"Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know,
chose those disciples of His, whom He called Apostles. Among these it
was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing
the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which
he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear,
you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven' [Mt.
16:19]. After all, it isn't just one man that
received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason
for Peter's acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church's universality
and unity, when he was told,
'To you I
am entrusting', what has in fact been entrusted
to all." [St Augustine: "Sermon 295"]
identifies the 'Rock' as Jesus Christ and the 'rock' as Saint Peter, a
symbol of the entire Church. He also,
identifies the 'rock' upon which the Church is built with the confession
that Peter made of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, our God. Saint
Ambrose (c. 339-397 AD) identifies Peter's primacy as one of faith
and not one of jurisdiction over the entire Church. Saint
Hillary of Poitiers (- 367/8AD) echoes the words of Saints Augustine
Bishop Eusebius (a participant
in the Council of Nicaea I, 325 AD) interprets [the rock of ] Matthew 16:18
[as being Christ]. Theodoret of Cyr (393-466
AD) is also clear about the identity of the 'rock' in our text. Cyril
of Alexandria ( - 444 AD) gives his exegesis [of our passage
in terms of the faith of the Apostle]. Bishop
Basil of Seleucia (who took part in the Council of Chalcedon in 451
AD) also identifies the 'rock' upon which the Church is built with the
faith of Saint Peter, and not with Saint Peter as person. This is
confirmed by Paul of Emesa ( - 444 AD). Saint John of Damascus,
the last of the Fathers of the Church ( - 749 AD) concurs."
This is undoubtedly true. I have already pointed out that Jesus give the
of the Kingdom" to the Church as a Whole
18:15-20] as well as St Peter.
This passage is worthy of special study and I shall return to it, below.
Agreed! As I said at the start of this essay, there are four complementary
and co-relative modes of interpretation for this verse: see Appendix
I note however that you have already conceded that: "Saint
Augustine recognizes Saint Peter as the 'first among the Apostles' and
as 'the rock' upon which the Church is built". This is all that
I would wish anyone to agree to!
As a simple matter of elementary logic, no number of snippets from sermons
or "bible reading notes" showing that our text was interpreted on many
occasions in other ways can establish that it should not also be
interpreted in the "Peter-in-person" mode.
I accept that the question as to what is the primary mode of interpretation
may arise, and I would find this difficult to answer.
All that really matters, it seems to me, is the question "is the Peter-in-person"
mode of interpretation orthodox? Once this is answered "yes" then there
is no dispute between us and we should both simply gratefully acknowledge
that we are at one mind on this matter!
|Haaike later responded to my comment as follows:
question of jurisdiction
"As to [Peter being]
'first among the Apostles': there is no doubt! Saint Peter is always mentioned
first in all the lists of the Apostles in the New Testament. He certainly
is first in honour. But, also, certainly not in jurisdiction, and certainly
not in Jerusalem, since James is (not even one of The Twelve, but an Apostle
never the less! [Gal. 1:19]).
Besides, in terms of jurisdiction, it is the trio of Peter, James and John
(as at the Transfiguration) that is called 'pillars' [Gal.
There needn't be any dissonance here between 'primacy'
and 'collegiality', since the former is in terms of honour, and the latter
in terms of jurisdiction. I think a more thorough distinction and understanding
of this difference will enable a discussion such as this one to move forward
in bounds and leaps.
As to Saint Peter 'being' the 'rock': No, this
is only partly true. Remember that this reference to 'Peter' is a derivative
of the word 'rock', as 'Christian' is a derivative of 'Christ'. A 'Christian'
is as little 'Christ' as 'Petros' is 'Petra'. (Hoti su ei Petros,
kai epi taute te Petra oikodomeso…). Peter is also the 'rock', but only
in reference to:
Jesus Christ, the Rock,
his confession of Christ as the Son of God, and,
his position of honour in the Ekklesia as "coryphaeus".
Your suggestion above is that the argument
stops with acknowledging Peter as 'the rock'. My suggestion is that
Haaike later responded to my comment as follows:
this is only a portion of the argument, and validly
so. This needn't be an impasse.
As I said before, Orthodox have no problem with
Patristic statements that, at times, refer to Saint Peter the
person as 'the rock'. I have already qualified
it above, and also add that 'Peter' is 'Peter', not 'Successor of Peter'
in our text [Matt 16:18],
and also (almost without exception!) in the Fathers. There is no visible
tension here between East and West!
The important question is this: is 'Peter' also
'Bishop of Rome as Successor of Peter'. This is where our ways potentially
To which I reply:
"Saint John Chrysostom interprets the Keys of Heaven
that were given to Saint Peter as the authority to teach and preach the
Good News and to extend the Kingdom of God, and not as a primacy of jurisdiction
over the other Apostles:
One of our problems here is the very word "jurisdiction". I doubt for a
moment that it would have ever occurred to the Holy Apostles to apply such
a legalistic term to their collaborative ministry.
The mission and charism that Our Lord bestowed on Blessed Peter
regarding his brother and co-equal Apostles is disclosed to us in the following
"And the Lord said, Simon,
Simon, behold, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift [you] as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee,
thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted,
strengthen thy brethren."
This mission did not mean that Peter would make all the right calls in
matters of tactics, for it is well known that the Apostle Paul - not one
of the twelve - had just reason to criticize and oppose Peter's practice
as regards the judaisers within the Jerusalem Church.
In Jerusalem, all the Apostles yielded procedural precedence to St James
(Apostle - but not one of the Twelve) as Metropolitan of that See; to which
position - after all - they had appointed him! Their business was the Evangelization
of the World, not the settled governance of any local Church.
It was Apostolic practice to abdicate jurisdiction of any local Church
that they founded in favour of native Episcopacy as soon as possible. The
notable exceptions to this rule - as far as I am aware - were St John at
Antioch and St Peter (and St Paul; Apostle - but not one of the Twelve)
in Rome. In both cases, these are the cities in which they "retired".
Given that the Apostolic Synod was held on James' patch, it was seemly
that he should preside at the meeting and act as its spokesman. Even today
it is papal practice not to preside at Synods, even when held in Rome;
and generally not even to attend in person: so as to encourage the others
to speak their mind and allow a consensus to emerge.
I think that we are in agreement regarding the manner in which Peter is
"the Rock" and the context of this qualified identification. I never doubted
but that we would agree on this matter. I hope that this issue can now
be put to rest.
I agree that the real issue is:
"is 'Peter' also 'Bishop of Rome as Successor of
I warmly welcome your use of the word "potentially",
for I see this as an open-ness to the possibility that East and West -
or rather the two of us as unofficial spokespersons for the "two lungs
of the Body of Christ" - might eventually come to a mutual understanding,
consensus and conspiracy on this matter. I am sure that is tiny things,
like the use of such words, that will make all the difference in the end.
The West is wrong about so many things and has so much to learn from the
East. It increasingly acknowledges this, even at the highest levels. What
is also required is for the East to acknowledge that the West might have
a good tack on some things too; and that the East has its own deficiencies.
I have every belief that you, personally, are willing to acknowledge this.
"For the Father gave to Peter the revelation
of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of
Himself in every part of the world; and to mortal man He entrusted the
authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys; who extended
the Church to every part of the world, and declared it to be stronger than
This authority that was held by Saint Peter was also
shared equally by all the Apostles. Saint John [the Apostle],
likewise, held the authority of the Keys of the Kingdom and, like Peter,
he held a universal Magisterium over the Churches throughout the world:
[Saint John Chrysostom: "Homilies on the Gospel
of St. Matthew, Homily 54.3"]
"For the Son of thunder, the beloved
of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the
keys of heaven." [Saint John Chrysostom: "Homilies
on the Gospel of John, Homily 1.1"]
Like Saint Augustine, Saint John Chrysostom interprets
the 'rock' upon which the Church is built as a reference to the confession
of Saint Peter, and not to Saint Peter himself:"
"'And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church’; that is, on the faith of his
confession. Hereby He signifies that many were on the point of believing,
and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd.... For the Father gave
to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that
of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world; and to mortal
man He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the
keys; who extended the church to every part of the world, and declared
it to be stronger than heaven."
[Saint John Chrysostom: "Homilies on the Gospel
of Saint Matthew, Homily 54.2-3"]
"He speaks from this time lowly things, on his
way to His passion, that He might show His humanity. For He that hath built
His church upon Peter's confession, and has so fortified it, that ten thousand
dangers and deaths are not to prevail over it." [Saint
John Chrysostom: "Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew", Homily 82.3]
This is all fine, but as I have already
indicated, Chrysostom also clearly speaks of the rock on which the
Church is built as being Saint Peter himself.
Chrysostom's teaching can be summarized as:
The Church is - in a restricted sense - built upon the person of
because he was granted the grace by God
to see most clearly that Jesus was the Messiah
and be first to make confession of this faith.
"Yes, of course, you are right. This
is where, in my opinion, Western opinion strays. Not only is Peter,
at times, identified with 'the rock', but also his faith, and Jesus
Christ Himself, is identified with 'the rock'. It seems obvious and fair
to me that, given these various identifications, that an inclusive interpretation
is most sensible, one that can somehow resolve the evident conflict between
Peter, on the one hand, and Christ and the
faith of Peter on the
"I sincerely think that the Eastern view is far more
valid since it sees no conflict here. It is the Western view that is in
trouble when 'the rock' is also identified with 'not-Peter-as-person'.
And, as we have seen, this is exactly the case in the Fathers. In this
sense, it is a duo-combination that has 'primacy' in the Church:
Peter-in-person is only the rock because of his faith, which
was itself a charism from God.
Our Blessed Lord said at the Last Supper that He had prayed that Peter's
faith would "not fail" [Lk
This is exactly the sentiment of Saint Ambrose in
reference to Peter who: 'exercised his primacy, that is, the primacy of
confession, not of honour; the primacy of belief, not of rank'."
Peter's confession of Christ as the Son of God.
To which I respond:
I sincerely can't identify the difference that you seem to see between
"West" and "East" here.
Perhaps you are projecting your own ideas of what the western
position is onto the West?
Apologies for my amateur psychology getting mixed-up with my amateur theology
As I have already said, this is not about honour or rank, but of Ecclesiastical
I think that we are in agreement here too.
This train of thought will eventually lead to questions of "infallibility".
I am pretty sure that it is inopportune to pursue this matter for now!
to be learned from the Novation experience
"In the mid 3rd century AD, the See of
Rome attempted to enforce "obedience to Rome" in its controversy with the
Eastern Churches over the Novationists. This insistence was made under
threat of excommunication. However, both Cyprian and several Eastern Bishops
resisted. The Bishop of Rome misapplied our text [Mat
16:18] to himself. Hence, the Council
of Carthage in 256 AD (87 North African Bishops attended) made their opening
statement (in reference to Pope Stephen I):
Haaike later responded to my comment as follows:
“It remains that we severally declare
our opinion on this same subject, judging no one, nor depriving any one
of his right of communion, if he differ from us.
For no one sets himself up as a Bishop
of Bishops, or by tyrannical terror forces his Colleagues to a necessity
of obeying; inasmuch as every Bishop, in the free use of his liberty
and power, has the right of forming his own judgement, and can no more
be judged by another than he can himself judge another.
But we must all await the judgement of our Lord Jesus
Christ, Who alone has the power of both setting us in the government of
His Church, and of judging of our acts therein.”
[St. Cyprian, The Epistles; "The Judgements of
the Council of Carthage on the Question of Baptizing Heretics."]
This was a complex problem situation.
It is not clear that either St Cyprian or St Stephen conducted themselves
well in the matter.
I am pretty sure that St Cyprian was
and that pope St Stephen was
formally heterodox and stubborn to boot,
though well intentioned and in good faith;
correct in his judgement,
but most imprudent in how he strove to promulgate it.
Haaike later responded to my comment as follows:
"Yes, I think you are right in your reading of
the idiosyncrasies of both parties, but you still judge in favour of Rome."
that all the Apostles bear a co-equal jurisdiction and that there is equality
in the ranks of the Holy Apostles, but he also extends this Apostolic Magisterium
to the Office of the Bishops in the Church:
Only in the matter of doctrine regarding the validity of the sacraments
of heretics and schismatics.
"Whatever the issue or its antecedents, I
think this example illustrates an important precedent in the Eastern mind
(remember that several Eastern Bishops concurred with Cyprian!): even before
the first Ecumenical Council, when the Church was still in her baby shoes,
a certain segment in the Church (in this case, the African Church, supported
by Eastern Bishops) did not blink an eye to tell the Bishop of Rome where
to get off.
One would suspect, from their formal response,
that the interference of the Bishop of Rome did not come as too much of
a surprise - maybe the idea of primacy was already well established? -
but that they were very clear on a primitive understanding of autocephalous
jurisdiction, and that the Bishop of Rome was, in their eyes, a good example
of a bad example in these terms."
The Africans and Easterns were wrong on the doctrinal point at issue.
The pope was wrong in the manner in which he sought to preserve Catholic
by bossing people about
rather than by charitable persuasion and winning the argument.
"Our Lord whose precepts and warnings we ought
to observe, determining the honour of a Bishop and the ordering of His
own Church, speaks in the Gospel and says to Peter, 'I
say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto
thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind
on earth shall be bound in heaven.' Thence
the ordination of Bishops, and the ordering of the Church, runs down along
the course of time and line of Succession, so that the Church is settled
upon her Bishops; and every act of the Church is regulated by these same
Prelates." [St Cyprian of Carthage: The
In this sense, the Keys of the Kingdom are also exercised
by the Bishops of the Church.
This is all fine, except that one suspects that Cyprian tended to cut his
cloth in these matters somewhat according to political expediency.
See the relevant part of the
on-line Masters Thesis to which I have already referred.
When it suited him to play up the role of the
Roman See he did so.
When it suited him to play it down
he did just that.
He would have fitted very well into a senior role in the contemporary Vatican!
To Cyprian, then, the 'chair of Peter' [cathedri
Petri], was a sacramental concept that is necessarily present in each local
Church. In this sense, Saint Peter was the model and example of each local
Bishop, who, within his own community exercises Episcopal jurisdiction
and presides over the Eucharist and who possesses "the Keys of the Kingdom"
to remit sins. And since this model is unique, the Episcopate is also unique
[episcopatus unus est] shared, in equal and collegial fullness [in solidum]
by all Bishops."
Indeed they are: good Catholic dogma that.
One of the failings of the contemporary Catholic Episcopate is that the
Bishops fail to see themselves as anything other than "middle management"
They will find it difficult to answer before the Judgement seat of Christ
for this abdication of responsibility.
More excellent sentiments. How can I disagree?
Nevertheless, this does not establish what might be the implied
that the "chair of Peter" is
equally present in every local Church
and that every Bishop participates in this Single
Ideal Form in the
same manner and to the same degree with the same end
"Oh, quite the contrary, I think it is exactly
the implication, as understood also by Canons 34-35 of the Ecclesiastical
Canons of the Holy Apostles. This is not so foreign at all. Orthodox have
practised this way for centuries."
And yet you have Archbishops and Patriarchs.
Also, the Apostolic Canons talk about "head bishops" in each district.
"And yet, the only cathedra of Peter is the one
in Rome, that Peter filled. His primacy cannot be repeated, since there
can, by definition, only be one coryphaeus. The Bishop is to the local
jurisdiction (diocese) what Peter was to the Church, since the local Church
is autonomously 'Church', and yet never on her own. Although it
has its own difficulties and challenges, Orthodoxy knows not of a 'head'
of the Church other than Jesus, not even in the form of a 'temporal head'
such as the Pontiff. The Ecumenical Patriarch does not come even close
to fulfilling a 'Petrine' role, since this would violate the Ecumenical
and Apostolic Canons referred to above. Just as the cathedra of Peter cannot
be repeated, so the local Bishop cannot be in persona Petri."
All I can do is emphatically agree with the positive content of what you
It is all very Catholic.
I must, however, insist that none of it excludes the possibility of a continuing
Certainly the Apostolic
Canons make no such exclusion.
"I think the crux of the matter here
is one of Christology. It is unthinkable to the Orthodox mind that Christ
would have built His Holy Church on a human being, and one that had not
proved to be too faithful to One he confessed as Divine. Peter's role in
the early Church is foundational in every sense of the word, as pointed
out above, but it is unrepeatable. A foundation cannot be laid twice."
Haaike later responded to my comment as follows:
I understand, empathize with and affirm your scruples. I think that they
are wholesome. I used to be a protestant, remember!
Nevertheless, what you write reads
like a formal contradiction. You first say that:
"It is unthinkable .... that Christ would have built
His Holy Church on a human being"
and then say:
"Peter's role in the early Church is foundational
in every sense of the word".
Moreover, we have seen that some of the Fathers
say exactly that Jesus did - in a sense - build his Church on Peter!
However you chose to resolve this contradiction (and I am sure that you
will be able to do so), I suggest that a similar resolution will serve
to deal with the matter of papal primacy.
Rome is very clear that the Bishop of Rome is merely the Vicar of Christ:
the "stand-in" head of the Church Militant.
No-one is claiming that the foundation was laid twice, only that the foundational
role of Peter is - somewhat - prolonged in the duty of the Bishop of Rome
to "preside as the overseer of charity" in the commonality of the
Holy Churches of God.
"I think you still underestimate my embedded
thinking here. I call it the 'not only but also' rule of hermeneutics.
My only reference to Peter as 'rock' is that he is also referred to as
'rock', but not only he. His role in the first Church is 'foundational'
in the sense that he is the first to:
The 'foundational' aspect I refer to is this: coryphaeus
cannot be repeated. There cannot be 'many firsts', just as there cannot
be 'many foundations'. His is a unique and unrepeatable 'first' and 'foundation'.
acknowledge Jesus’ Divine Nature,
Regardless of this: it truly is unthinkable that
the Church were built on 'Petros' and not on the 'Petra' which is Jesus
Himself. Clearly 'Petros' has to be modified from the perspective of 'Petra'.
As I pointed out earlier, I think the Western view is exceptionally weak
on the 'not only but also' rule.
I can only refer to what
I have already said.
If "it truly is unthinkable that the Church were
built on 'Petros' and not on the 'Petra' which is Jesus Himself" then
try not to think that the West truly thinks it!
A major problem in talking with protestants is convincing them that Catholics
don't believe any number of horrible things that they have convinced themselves
that we do. Please let this not become a feature of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue!
We should be able to trust each other more than this.
We may be wrong about stuff, but we are no more stupid than you are :-)
I certainly do not believe it! In fact I whole-heartedly repudiate and
anathematize the sentiment.
My only dubium is that I don't like the idea of the Church being "built
on" Jesus (though I admit that this is a scriptural notion); but prefer
the stronger idea that the Church, sacramentally, is Jesus: His Mystical
I note that you have neglected to resolve the formal
contradiction in your words. I am sure that it would be most helpful
for the discussion were you to do so.
is the problem to the Orthodox mind. Our Head is Jesus, and Him alone.
There is no 'head' on earth for the entire Church, except for: 'The
Bishops of every country ought to know who is the chief among them, and
to esteem him as their head, and not to do any great thing without his
consent' (Canon 34 – Apostolic Canons). Headship
in the Church is local and ordinary, not universal and jurisdictional.
Once more you exhibit a formal contradiction in your argument.
You insist that "Our Head is Jesus, and Him alone."
Then you say that "Headship in the Church is local
Both of these sentiments are well-meaning, wholesome and orthodox.
However, as expressed, they are paradoxical. The reason being that the
types of "headship" are different.
We both know that there is a practical need for effective governance in
the Church. There is no need to argue this.
I have learned that no argument is foreclosed
until the entire Apostolic precedent, in all its diversity, has been heard
and accounted for. I agree with your reasons for why Rome thinks the way
she does. It is all about 'she only' and 'Divine Mandate'. In terms of
the former, she is in hot water, as I pointed out above. In terms of the
latter, I think she confuses 'Peter' with 'Successors of Peter'.
Do we really agree as to our understanding of Rome's reasons for thinking
the way she does?
It would help if you would express this yourself - not to indicate that
you agree with it; but just in order to establish that you do understand
what Rome's basic motivation is.
For my part, I suppose that at root, the concern that the Eastern Church
has is that:
Rome's claims would turn what should be a Commonwealth into an Empire
and do so on the basis of hubris rather than grace; human politicking rather
than Divine Mandate.
But I shan't presume that the argument stops
here, either. I suggest another confounding variable to this discussion:
Why are we only referring to Rome in a discussion of Petrine primacy. We
know that Saint Peter's first cathedra was in Antioch! Surely, then, the
'primacy' should stem from both these Seas?"
of honour does. As I have said this was one of the grounds on which the
pope of Rome refused to ratify the twenty-eighth
canon of Chalcedon.
As far as I know, the pope of Antioch has never claimed
the kind of authority that the pope of Rome has claimed from early days.
If Peter had ended his days in Antioch, perhaps things
would have been different.
Nevertheless, I do accept that all of the ancient
Apostolic Patriarchates have a special role as expert witnesses to the
Apostolic faith, and that this role should be recognized both in canon
law and dogmatic definition.
The Roman agenda
"I suggest, in this discussion, that
we try to understand more clearly why Rome has presumed the Petrine Office
to be in succession too, and that we investigate her possible political
agenda in this regard.
This is indeed the way forward.
You have expressed the question accurately and in a manner that does not
foreclose the argument.
I shall be contending that Rome has so presumed because in faith She has
The latter suggestion is not meant to be offensive,
since it may be possible that that period after the fall of the Western
Empire required the Bishops of Rome to take a far more prominent position
in the Western Church (one that we know for certain was the saving grace
of the terrible chaos that followed the Fall).
it is a necessary and constitutive aspect of the Episcopal Magisterium;
and one that only She is in a position to fulfil;
and this by Divine Mandate (or, legalistically: "Right" or, better said,
There were no possible grounds for offence and none was taken. The political
machinations of the papacy are legion and a matter of public record. Some
have been wholesome and others utterly despicable. In many of them there
has ben a distinct tendency to mix-up "religion and politics", something
that JP-II was happy to condemn in others while committing this indiscretion
many times himself. Leaders of many of the Eastern jurisdictions have committed
similar follies. All this is a matter of human contrariness - something
that I've just been reading about [Num 14].
[Regarding my introductory comments on the papal claims]
I am well aware of the fact that Rome thinks so, but it helps little to
quote Rome in support of Rome. I am not aware of Patristic consent here,
except for a few lone voices who may have thought so. Also, often, seeming
instances in support of current Roman thinking lacks adequate reference
to the larger context of the Father's writing [cf. Cyprian]."
This is, again, fair comment.
However, the fact that the Fathers do not say something does not imply
that it is false.
Catholic Counter Response
The present papacy
I will next describe the Petrine Ministry as it has come to be understood
in the Western Church. According to this understanding, the Bishop of Rome
Ordinary of Rome:
Primate of Italy:
The centre of fellowship for the local Roman Church.
The first preacher of the Gospel in the local Roman Church.
The governor of the local Roman Church [Ott IV.2.9],
with personal responsibility for its welfare and
with direct jurisdiction over all its members.
In practice these responsibilities are delegated to others.
The primary means by which the Romans maintain fellowship with the Universal
Patriarch of the Western Church:
First among equals among his brother bishops,
With some jurisdiction over them
and pastoral responsibility for their welfare.
In practice, this role is naturally subsumed into the next.
Oecumenical Vicar of Christ.
President and usual convenor of their synods
In practice, the Western Church rarely - if ever - holds Patriarchate wide
Ratifier of all Archiepiscopal appointments
Unfortunately, the Pope has obtained the power to appoint all Bishops.
Adjudicator of all doctrinal or disciplinary disputes arising either
between his brother bishops in the Patriarchate
or between them and the clergy and laity that they govern.
With appeal to an Oecumenical Council.
Unfortunately, in practice, this role is subsumed in the next.
In the pre 1960's Church, the Pope was often portrayed as an Absolute Monarch,
though he rarely behaved in such a manner. More recently, the papal office
is generally portrayed in cosy, friendly, consensual terms. Unfortunately,
both Pope Paul VI: regarding both hormonal contraception
and the imposition of the Novus
Ordo Missae, and Pope John Paul II: most especially regarding "women
priests", tended to act imperiously.
The first governor of all Christians.
With direct authority over every Catholic of every
Patriarchate [Ott IV.2.7].
He may exercise this authority of his own initiative, not only at
the request of some other person.
Papal decisions over-ride all other rulings on the specific matter
in question [Ott IV.2.7].
Fortunately, the Pope hasn't got the time to become involved in most matters
of local concern!
Executive President of the world wide fellowship of Bishops [Ott
Usual Convenor of Oecumenical Councils.
Ratifier of all Oecumenical Councils and of all their individual
decisions: doctrinal and disciplinary [Ott IV.2.13.3].
Final adjudicator in doctrinal and disciplinary disputes [Ott
In matters of discipline, no other authority can dispute his ruling.
Able to exercise the Infallible ExtraOrdinary Magisterium on his own
initiative [Ott IV.2.8].
It is necessary then, for the Church to recognize that any such exercise
was consonant with Tradition, or else "the Pope"
would be revealed as a heretic, no true Pope and be denounced and
Spokesman for the Episcopal College [CCC 880-883].
Able to exercise the Infallible ExtraOrdinary Magisterium on their behalf,
either at their request or his own initiative: but in
either case with their consent [Ott
This course of action prevents the Pope from departing from communion with
This was the mode of action employed in the definitions of:
"The Pope has no authority from Christ
in temporal matters, in questions of politics.... His authority is
ecclesiastical authority; it goes no further than that of the Church herself.
But even in religious matters, the Pope is bound, very considerably,
by the divine constitution of the Church. There are any number of things
that the pope cannot do in religion. He cannot modify, nor touch in
any way, one single point of the revelation Christ gave to the Church;
his business is only to guard this against attack and false interpretation.
We believe that God will guide him that his decisions of this nature will
be nothing more than a defence or unfolding of what Christ revealed.
The Pope can neither make nor unmake a sacrament;
he cannot affect the essence of any sacrament in any way. He cannot touch
the Bible; he can neither take away a text from the inspired Scriptures
nor add one to them. He has no fresh inspiration nor revelation.
His business is to believe the revelation of Christ,
as all Catholics believe it, and to defend it against heresy.... The
Pope is not, in the absolute sense, head of the Church; the head of the
Church is Jesus Christ our Lord.... The Pope is the vicar of
that head, and therefore visible head of the Church on earth, having authority
delegate from Christ over the Church on Earth only.... If the Pope
is a monarch, he is a very constitutional monarch indeed, bound on all
sides by the constitution of the Church, as this has been given to her
[Adrian Fortescue (1874-1923): "The Early Papacy
to the Synod of Chalcedon in 451", pp. 27-28]
The future papacy
The following response to my initial essay was sent to me by a Catholic
"The consensus of the Fathers is the
essential starting point of any theological investigation. I very much
recommend 'The Pope and the Council' by Ignaz von Döllinger and any
works you can find by Vladimir Soloviev on the subject. The former shows
that there is no historical basis for infallibility or the way the power
of jurisdiction was exercised from about the time of Charlemagne. The latter
tried to establish the basis of the Petrine Ministry by stripping away
the medieval and 19th century developments (and distortions).
As I hope will be manifest in what follows, I generally agree with these
However, as Soloviev argues, it is fitting
that the Pope should be a symbol of the Church's Unity, and that all Catholic
and separated Churches should look to him as to a Primate of Honour, the
most senior of all the Patriarchs, based on the establishment by Christ
of the Church on Peter's faith (since Peter recognized Christ's divinity
after having been asked by Christ for his profession of faith).
My own opinion is that the Church of the future,
in order to reassimilate Orthodoxy and orthodox Anglicanism, will have
to adopt one or several Synodal structures and enlarged criteria for membership
of the Universal Church. The Ultramontanist 'military' model of the Church,
in my reckoning, should be put into the history books and we all need to
learn from that unfortunate experience.
However, we should avoid exaggerated anti-papalism
as found in many of the Eastern Orthodox and low-church Continuing
Anglican jurisdictions. With my Anglican background and convictions, I
remain attached to the 'via media' way of thinking that underpinned Newman's
The present pope has himself floated similar ideas:
"The image of a centralized state which
the Catholic church presented right up to the council does not flow only
from the Petrine office, but from its strict amalgamation with
the patriarchal function which grew ever stronger in the course of history
and which fell to the bishop of Rome for the whole of Latin Christendom.
The uniform canon law, the uniform liturgy, the uniform appointment of
bishops by the Roman center: all these are things which are not necessarily
part of the primacy but result from the close union of the two offices.
For that reason, the task to consider for the future will be to distinguish
again and more clearly between the proper function of the successor of
Peter and the patriarchal office and, where necessary, to create new patriarchates
and to detach them from the Latin church. To embrace unity with the pope
would then no longer mean being incorporated into a uniform administration,
but only being inserted into a unity of faith and communion, in which the
pope is acknowledged to have the power to give binding interpretations
of the revelation given in Christ, whose authority is accepted whenever
it is given in definitive form.....
Haaike, in turn, responded as follows:
In the not too distant future one could consider
whether the churches of Asia and Africa, like those of the East, should
not present their own forms as autonomous 'patriarchates' or 'great churches'
or whatever such ecclesiae in the Ecclesia might be called in the future."
[J. Ratzinger: "Primacy and Episcopacy" in
"Das neue Volk Gottes" (1969) trans J. A. Komonchak]
"I like this suggestion. It is sensible
and accounts for all the dissonances between East and West. I would personally
have no problem with a model such as this one. Whether Rome will be all
that excited about divorcing her 'primacy' from 'universal jurisdiction'
is another story entirely! Also, I am not too convinced that the Eastern
Bishops would not want to return the favour of millennia of exclusion!
I am not convinced that the Eastern Bishops are
engaging with sincere intent in the acknowledgement of the primacy of Peter's
Sea. It seems, to me, nothing more than words on crumpled, dusty paper.
It is only when the movement 'toward' comes from both sides, that terra
incognita will be crossed. But, let me raise again my point about Antioch.
What about the Petrine Succession from Evodius in Antioch? How do we assimilate
this into a discussion of unity and reassimilation? Or is it not important?"
You should understand that I am trying to present the Western position
in the most accommodating way that I can, subject to the reality condition
(excuse the physics-speak) of my understanding of what has been dogmatically
defined or is otherwise so entrenched in the West that it is unbelievable
- to me - that it could be negotiated awaay.
I might, personally, be willing to go further: but what is the point if
- in the end - Rome wouldn't?
I otherwise refer to my previous
It should be manifest that any human association requires some means of
maintaining its unity. It is the experience of many clubs and societies
as well as the multifarious denominations of Western Protestantism and
jurisdictions of Eastern Orthodoxy that where there is no commonly accepted
focus of unity; or where that focus is without any disciplinary authority,
than disunity will certainly result. Sadly, human beings are naturally
quarrelsome and contrary.
Thus even if no means had been provided for this purpose by the express
will of Our Lord, it would have been necessary for the Church to devise
some scheme - commanding initial widespread common assent to achieve this
end. In fact the development of the territorial Episcopate, ecclesiastical
provinces and the Patriarchal division of the Universal Church are all
human inventions intended to help the maintenance of due order within and
charity between the Holy Churches of God.
Now, in fact, Our Lord did make explicit provision for the sustenance
of unity and order in His Church. First, He gave the Church the Most
Holy Oblation of the Eucharist; a communal meal and communion sacrifice
in which the unity of the Mystical Body of
Christ is both shown forth and nourished. Second, He gave the Church
the Apostolic Episcopate; which office
has the special responsibility of maintaining communion and fellowship
among the local congregations that together constitute the Church Catholic.
Finally, as key-stone of the arch, He gave the Church the Papacy; with
the mandate of maintaining due order and charity among the Episcopate.
Now, many of those estranged from Roman communion make one or other
of the following objections:
the existence of the papal office, as a matter of Divine Mandate rather
than human invention, can in no way be established from the testimony of
it is not clearly of Apostolic Tradition, and
it cannot be constitutive of the Church
To which I reply:
the manner in which the Bishop of Rome has in fact exercised the office
that he claims for himself has frequently been uncharitable, savouring
more of the character of a megalomaniac
than a Catholic Pastor;
it is not safe to submit to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome.
I grant that the existence of the papal office cannot
be established from the Fathers.
I grant that the Bishop of Rome has sometimes misused
his office and even recently has sought to extend his powers and rights
of initiative ever further, seemingly without any limits in view.
Nevertheless, there is a clear theoretical need for
such an office.
This theoretical need is demonstrated by the continual
schism and dispute characteristic of those Christian communities which
do not admit of Papal Jurisdiction.
This fact alone strongly recommends the existence
of such an office, even if only as a matter of human expedient.
The fact that the Roman Bishop has claimed, since
the Divine Mandate to exercise just this office
suggests that the Divine Wisdom did not fail
what human wisdom finds no difficulty in inventing.
The exact responsibilities and corresponding powers
involved in the papal office is only becoming clear over time, as is the
manner in which the papal ministry should properly be exercised.
As we have already read,
St Augustine teaches that:
Nevertheless, the misuse of supposed powers does
not mean that the powers do not exist.
The time is overdue when the extent and limits of
the papal office be clarified, as also its relationship with the Universal
A faltering and inadequate start was made in this
process by the Vatican Synod of 1963-1965.
".... only Peter .... was given the privilege
of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church,
which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear,
you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven’
.... this is the reason for Peter's acknowledged pre-eminence, that he
stood for the Church's universality and unity"
This expresses most exactly the particular role that Peter was given by
Christ: that of - when necessary - being the accredited representative
and spokesman - the foreman, ambassador or pontiff - for the whole Church,
and its centre and focus of unity.
Haaike later responded to my comment as follows:
"There is no solution here, my brother.
'Peter' is 'Peter', and he isn't among us anymore. Note the emphasis on
'only' Peter; this excludes 'Successor of Peter'. I think a more sensible
way forward is in mutual accommodation: The East has to learn and
define 'primacy' in a manner that truly honours the Sea(s) of Peter, and
the West has to learn and define 'collegiality' in a manner that truly
honours the Holy Succession that is shared equally by all Bishops in communion
with each other."
A second Catholic correspondent
replied to this as follows:
"The present Pope Benedictus XVI has
said that the Papacy can be redimensioned in order to make it acceptable
to the Eastern Orthodox. He has shown himself - in theory - favourable
to decentralization and to recognizing the rights of local Ordinaries and
Churches, presumably also with the Eastern Orthodox in mind. What Haaike
writes is the absolute truth: unless the Pope is willing to give up the
idea of universal, ordinary jurisdiction, then there is no hope of union
with the Eastern Orthodox. If the Pope insists on maintaining universal
ordinary jurisdiction then there can only be the hope of universal eastern
subjection, as in the case of the eastern rite catholic churches. Does
the Pope realize this, or is it all just rhetoric, after all?"
[BDF (Oct 2005)]
To which I respond [Haaike's counter responses
What you say, Haaike, positively is true, and what you propose is helpful.
However, you must appreciate that no amount of "honour" will help anything.
I suspect that as the matter of "collegiality" (horrible Novus Ordo term
- spit it out: yeuch!) is pursued furtherr, your difficulties will resolve
you accept that history teaches us that some kind of "Mission to preserve
Unity" is required, as a matter of expediency, in the Church?
Can you accept that the Bishop of Rome might be mandated to exercise such
If so, can you bear to consider the possibility that this was always -
in point of fact - the Divine Intention?
If so, all that we are then arguing about is the sad history of human frailty
If it can once be admitted that in principle:
then the way in which these matters are understood could be subject
to a huge amount of nuance.
Rome cannot give up on her claim to "universal ordinary jurisdiction" without
admitting that she has been totally wrong all along, and I don't believe
that she was.
Rome has certain duties to perform
and the reserve authority necessary to effectively discharge them
and this by Divine Mandate
"Yes, you are right, and this is the reason why
she clings so resolutely to this uncanonical claim, in my view. The Roman
Church, like the Eastern, is not very good at confessing their sins in
public, and yet they demand it from their flock."
If she does then in effect there is nothing
left apart from the ability to make ex
cathedra definitions: and this ability is fraught with great
difficulty, in my view.
"Yes, another good point. From my perspective,
this is exactly the dilemma Rome is in: admit[ing]
we were wrong about jurisdictional primacy [implies]
admit[ting] that we really don't have any
claim to infallibility or the convocation of 'Oecumenical' Councils. Something
she would never do. Don't forget the inscription on the frieze just below
the dome of St. Peter's: TU ES PETRUS..."
Of course papal
infallibility (as it is usually understood) is no more acceptable to
the East than is the claim to "universal ordinary jurisdiction".
Rome has "universal ordinary jurisdiction" by Divine Right:
in which case She can't "give it up"
(though she can and should moderate its use by exercising the virtues of
prudence and temperance and charity);
"Good point. I would just like to see solid reasons
for this, either from Scripture or from the Fathers. Perpetuation
of perceived tradition is of no help here."
If the second case be true, then Rome is totally wrong on the central matter
of the papal claims and the East will be totally vindicated.
She doesn't have it at all:
in which case she hasn't got anything to give up, apart from a false claim
based on conceit!
"The East, as far as I know, just want the ancient
practice of co-equal and national jurisdiction to be honoured, and the
primacy of faith of Rome to be honoured too. Orthodox do not have much
faith in Rome, as I must add. She has changed the Creed of Nicaea, against
Chalcedon and Nicaea II's express prohibition. Rome does as she pleases.
That's her nature."
The change to the Nicene creed was uncanonical, imprudent, uncharitable
It was opposed by a number of popes.
I do think that the Western form of words is, however, orthodox.
The Eastern criticisms - though correct in positive content - are irrelevant
as in fact none of them relate to the actual theological significance of
the change. I have written on this elsewhere.
Any settlement of reconciliation between East and West would have to involve:
a sincere admission of fault on the part of the West (this is more general
than the papacy: sometimes popes - as the "most Eastern" western bishop
have ineffectively tried to resist the general Western pressure; just as
the Patriarch of Constantinople - as the "most Western" of the eastern
bishops has sometimes ineffectively tried to resist the more general Eastern
a statement of repentance and change of heart.
enforceable canonical limits on papal initiative; with the proviso that
all canons give way to the good of the Church in the case of emergency.
a recognition on the part of the East that Rome does have a Mission to
maintain Catholic Order and the jurisdictional and dogmatic powers necessary
to fulfil this role: and all this by Divine Mandate.
As a third Catholic correspondent put it to me:
"There is little that the Church of Rome could
do better, for the good of the universal Church and of the world, than
to admit that it has made serious mistakes. And I am not talking about
ethics, and about 'sin', and I am certainly not suggesting anything like
pope John-Paul II's half-baked apologies. I mean, simply, hamartiai, intellectual
mistakes of judgement. If there was a sinful motivation, as seems clearly
to have been the case in the aggressive extension of the Bishop of Rome's
jurisdiction, then that should be admitted and confessed too. How much
better the world would be! It would be like Springtime!"
[MS (November 2005)]
I believe that the real issue is how "universal ordinary jurisdiction"
should - and should not - be exercised. Within the Church the question
of charitable exercise of power should be more significant a matter than
the exact powers that are to be exercised. If only people would focus more
on mutual respect and love and listening to each other's concerns; then
issues of primacy and precedence and power would fade into the background,
where they belong.
To which Haaike responded
"We have reached a stalemate here. This is typical
of discussions like these. You are Roman, and you uphold the Roman case.
I am (by grafting in) Orthodox, and I uphold the Orthodox case. To you
the 'issue' how the 'universal jurisdiction' of Rome can be upheld, to
me the 'issue' is still when will Rome learn to relinquish this claim.
There is, as I said before, no resolution to this conflict. There is no
possibility of having Rome's unfounded claims matched with those of the
East. They cannot both be right."
My second Catholic corespondent then replied:
"I cannot help but agree with nearly everything
you write in response to my short intervention. When I wrote that 'Rome
might consider redimensioning
the Papacy', my observations on universal ordinary jurisdiction were
rhetorical. I am aware that this has been defined as dogma at the First
Vatican Council [the anathemas after Ch 3
(Dz 1825) and Ch 4 (Dz 1831) of Session
IV], and therefore, (supposedly) cannot
be changed. It is an irreformable decision, and supposedly
reflects a logical development within the Depositum Fidei.
Which is why I asked the question, is the Pope's
willingness to redefine the Papacy to make it acceptable to the East merely
I believe that your juxtaposition of two instances of "supposedly" alongside
one of "is", is significant. I follow up on this important bivocalism below.
The Pope knows too that universal ordinary jurisdiction
is defined and irreformable.
I don't think so. I think that he is sincere.
He knows too that the great majority of the Eastern
Orthodox never will accept such a dogmatic definition. What then can be
redimensioned? You say, the exercise of the Papal claims of universal ordinary
jurisdiction and infallibility. That would be marvellous.
Does he? Is it? See below.
Realistically speaking, Haaike's last
affirmation seems to be the only plausible one: that the two standpoints
are irreconcilable, and either one party or the other must admit to being
wrong in order to achieve organic union. However, I should think and hope
that this point of Papal universal ordinary jurisdiction and infallibility
would not in the future need to be a hindrance to achieving all other imaginable
kinds of unity, especially unity at the Altar of Sacrifice."
[BDF (Nov 2005)]
But would the Eastern Orthodox accept even this?
What historical examples since the eleventh century
schism can be brought forth to make any promise of 'redimensioning of the
What guarantee would there be that the successor
to the present Pontiff would exercise the promised restraint in applying
his divine prerogatives?
I then responded to Haaike as follows:
It seems to me that this is part of the problem. Both East and West agree
that if a clear basis for some debate can be found in the Scriptures or
the Fathers, the this is the way to proceed. The problem is that sometimes
this turns out not to be possible. In which case one either has an impasse
or one has to find another way. When the Scriptures and the Fathers are
either equivocal or it is thought that they cannot be taken at face value,
then one has to use other tools.
The best argument in favour of the papal claims is not from "proof
texts" in the Bible or the Fathers, but from the manifest need within the
Church for an effective guardian of Catholic Order. A role that the pope
of Rome has played (with various degrees of success) down the years. A
role that no other agent has ever even attempted to play.
A proposed settlement
What follows is an outline of what might result from the process of "re-engineering
the papacy" that I believe to be very necessary:
The only patriarchs of the Church to be those of
Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Moscow. The number of
patriarchs may be varied by the decision of an Oecumenical Council.
There will be one incumbent of each Patriarchal See.
The multiplicity of rites will be accommodated, as necessary, by each rite
based group of bishops being organized as a synod with a presiding Metropolitan.
The appointment of each Patriarch is to be the business
of the Jurisdictional Synod of Bishops (or a sub-set of "Electors": in
the Roman case, the Cardinals), and is subject to ratification (even in
the Roman case) by all the other Patriarchs (but not Jurisdictional Synods)
who each have a veto. In every case, the other Patriarchs have the absolute
right to attend, speak and vote at the election of their peer (even, or
perhaps most especially, the Pope of Rome), or to send legates to act on
Every Patriarchal See or Jurisdictional Synod has
immediate and extraordinary jurisdiction within its canonical bounds, with
the following limits.
While all archiepiscopal appointments are made by
the responsible Patriarch or Jurisdictional Synod, no Patriarch has the
right to interfere in the appointment of ordinary Bishops. These are to
be elected by local chapters in consultation with the local Primate and
representatives of the Provincial Bishops.
No Patriarch has power to directly command any member
of another Patriarchate.
No Patriarch may be deposed by any authority other
than the corresponding Jurisdictional Synod.
Any Patriarchal See shall be deemed vacant if all
the other Patriarchs agree that its putative occupant is either a heretic
in bad faith or has neglected to implement a legitimate judgement of the
Each Patriarch shall regularly convene a legislative
Synod of the Bishops of his Patriarchate.
No canon of an Oecumenical council - whether doctrinal
or disciplinary - shall be considered binding until all of the Patriarchs
ratify it. This belongs to the pope of Rome by Divine Right and to the
other Patriarchs by concession of positive law.
The Patriarch of Constantinople is recognized as
having the responsibility for safeguarding the interests of the Eastern
Church. All pan-Eastern issues (e.g. Canon Law, Liturgy as far as these
are shared or similar) are to be dealt with by his curia. This with no
prejudice to the rights and dignity of the Sees of Antioch, Alexandria,
Jerusalem and Moscow.
The Patriarch of Constantinople acts as honorary
Patriarch for all autocephalous Eastern Jurisdictions and has the right
to intervene in their affairs when he believes there to be an emergency.
Doctrinal disputes should ideally be resolved locally,
and only in extreme cases should reference be made to the Holy See. Within
the Patriarchate of Rome, doctrinal disputes are normally resolved by the
Cardinal Prefect of the Holy Office, acting as the delegate of the Roman
The Holy See is the servant and guardian of Catholic
Unity, not the ground, basis or essence of it.
The Roman Patriarch shall regularly convene a Synod
of the Patriarchs and Archbishops of the Universal Church.
The Roman Patriarch may not be deposed by any authority.
The Holy See has immediate and universal appellant
by Divine Right.
It is incumbent upon any Ordinary Authority to implement
a judgement of the Holy See, even if it is contrary to their previous decision.
This by Divine Right. It is the business of the relevant Patriarchal authorities
to police this.
There is no appeal from a judgement or decision of
the Holy See, not even to an Oecumenical Council.
Nevertheless, a subsequent pope or Oecumenical Council
may vary the application of such a judgement.
The Holy See may respond to dogmatic issues placed
before it non-infallibly, either by solemn declarations intended to either
express or invite consensus or to persuade by argument. Alternately, it
may respond through disciplinary measures.
In normal circumstances, the pope of Rome should
consult widely with the Universal Episcopate before proceeding to any definition
of some dogmatic issue. The results of that consultation should then be
published. If a consensus of the Ordinary
Magisterium is manifest, the pope of Rome may infallibly declare it,
speaking in an extraordinary way on behalf of the fellowship of bishops.
In abnormal circumstances, the pope of Rome
define - of his own initiative - some disputed dogma. In doing
he risks being denounced a heretic by the
other Patriarchs, or by some number of other Bishops, or by the Church
as a Whole.
Orthodox review of the discussion
"What I appreciate about this discussion
so far is that we both avoid getting trapped in the specifics and minutest
detail of perspectives and arguments. It enables this discussion to proceed
to very rudimentary exploration and definitions of reconciliation between
perspectives that are grossly simplified as 'Eastern' and 'Western'. It
is the task of a discussion such as this to 'build upward', and not to
'drill downward' where we only get stuck in petty word quibbling and acrobatic
semantics. I think one only does this when:
So, in the spirit of 'building upward' I shall resist
the temptation of responding to the smaller detail of your responses to
my responses. I am going to try to summarize my proposed solution from
both my own arguments, and the things that I have learnt from yours."
one's intention is not sincerely focused on the generation
of mutually accommodating solutions – we are playing in the same team after
one's argument is so weak that nothing constructive
and integrating can possibly emerge from it,
when one's only intention is to 'hold ground' and
thus preserve the status quo.
This is entirely satisfactory and agreeable.
From the Fathers
"Jerome and Chrysostom jointly have the
solution - primacy is defined in terms of the need for a 'head' whose primary
purpose is the avoidance of schism (Jerome),
as well as in terms of the need for this 'head' to be 'the mouth of the
Apostles' by being the 'teacher of the world' (Chrysostom).
I am very comfortable with the 'primacy of Peter' being conferred to the
Sea of Peter - including his successors; but whether it is Rome or Antioch,
I am still not certain!
the unity of the Church becomes visible in the primacy of one person. And
so he suggests that the 'origin'
of the Apostolic mandate is 'in one man alone',
Peter, so that the Church's 'oneness might
be unmistakable', and yet the 'like
power' is also 'assigned
to all the Apostles'. Primacy, then, is
defined in terms of unity and equality. It is because the Church is
one, and because the Apostles are equal and all share one mandate, that
the primacy of Peter can speak on behalf of the Church, from the Church,
and not to the Church, without the Church. I think the parallel here
should link to the Apostleship of Jesus [Heb
3:1]. This is also the context in which I
described Peter as 'foundational':
his is the first confession of Jesus' Divinity,
his first faith in Christ represents the faith of
all those who would follow,
all Christians trace their 'lineage of faith'; to
Peter, so he is the first Christian,
Peter is Peter, and he cannot be repeated, he
is the first, there is no Christian before him."
This is entirely satisfactory and agreeable.
See below on the "Peter is foundational"
the Apostolic Canons and the Councils
Apostolic Canons honour autocephalous jurisdictions, with earthly 'headship'
in terms of geographical need. This 'headship' is representative
of the whole Church (cf. Cyprian).
At local level, too, a 'primus inter pares' model is suggested (Metropolitan-Ordinaries).
This model can be built upward so that, finally, the interface is: Ecumenical
Patriarch-Patriarchs. In addition, the Councils are clear: whatever definition
arises for 'primacy' it can never be at the cost of 'equality', where the
latter is defined quite simply as: 'We have oikonomia to decide our own
matters for ourselves, with or without the Ecumenical Patriarch'. When
there is sufficient breach of unity (in faith), then the Patriarchs mandate
the Ecumenical Patriarch to speak on behalf of the Church."
This is almost entirely satisfactory, but the basic theoretical point still
From the Scriptures
"Jesus is the Petra (the 'big Rock')
on which the Church is built [1Cor 10:4; 1Pet
2:8], and Peter is the Petros (the 'little
rock') on which the Church is built
Peter is 'foundational' because he is unrepeatable. The Church is not built
on Peter, but on Christ, because the Church is built on the Petra and not
on the petros. But, petros is 'like' the Petra because he is 'the first'
to believe in Jesus' Divinity. Nobody before him did. Finally, in his confession,
the Mystery of the Ages was revealed; not by flesh and blood, but by our
Father in heaven. This is the beginning of an entirely new dispensation,
and Peter was the first to recognize this, but not the only one! From God
our Father, to Peter, to the Church. Peter is the coryphaeus, not the emperor.
His faith is in the Petra, who is the Rock, and by comparison with the
Petra, his own faith and person are only petros. I hope this addresses
what you suppose to be a 'fundamental contradiction' in my words.
of his "brethren"
"Generally, I really like your conclusions
and suggestions. It makes enormous progress in the current state of affairs.
It accommodates well, and is a sincere possibility. But, to me, the fundamental
flaw is that you still suggest that Rome should retain some kind of 'Divine
Veto'. This makes Rome the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. It defies
the Oecumenical precedents, the sentiment of the Fathers, as well as the
Clearly Rome, from an early age, associated herself
with 'Peter' in more than just in terms of 'honour'. And as you said,
'Rome doesn't care about honour'. Rome wants to be boss. Quite simply:
Rome needs to learn the modify her 'primus' in terms of 'inter' and 'pares'.
Her Latin, in this case, is a bad as mine. And as for the East, she needs
to dump the idea that Constantinople is the honourable See of Peter. Her
Latin is, of course, really, really bad, so she doesn't seem to understand
'primus' at all.
fully with you that there is great need for a 'mouth' that represents the
Church and its visible unity.
But this is only representative, and
not jurisdictional. I'm not entirely sure why you want to reconsider 'jurisdiction'
in this discussion. I use it simply in terms of the way it applies to the
'ordinary' exercise thereof by the Bishop. The Pope is not the 'Bishop
this ['mouth'] should be the Bishop of Rome,
as See of Honour (for all the reasons I already alluded
I am totally unconvinced, though, that there is
any valid case to be made for jurisdictional primacy for the Bishop of
Rome as 'Bishop of Bishops'. Whether or not there has been a progressive
'organic' understanding of this alleged meaning of 'primacy' is totally
irrelevant. The Orthodox will never accept the Roman Councils as Oecumenical
because they were not consulted in the discernment of the faith. These
Roman Councils are, therefore, fundamentally flawed and unrepresentative.
So, there is no other representative source (neither the Councils, nor
the Fathers) to validate this claim. Rome will not rescind these Councils
and Constantinople will not accept them.
But, I suspect that if any significant progress were
going to be made, it would come from Rome, and not from the East.
This is overly negative, pessimistic and defeatist.
It behoves us to have hope and be positive.
I suggest a practical way forward below.
I sincerely think that your reference to Rome's 'Divine
Right', as opposed to the others' only following 'by concession of positive
law', is unacceptable and invalid. Rome has no such 'Divine Right', but
only collegial honour. Big difference to me.
It does seem that I am making all the concessions and that you are not
moving at all.
Is this because to you - at base - your Byzantine Orthodoxy is orthodox
and my Roman Catholicism is heretical?
On which sad basis (which contrary position I repudiate), there is certainly
no way forward.
I beg you to 'lighten up' and believe that there is a positive outcome
to be discovered here, if only all sides will engage together and listen
to each other's concerns.
I beg you to adopt the stance that we are friends and comrades in a common
endeavour, building a bridge from opposite sides of a ravine.
I know that in the end it doesn't matter a hoot that you and I might personally
come to some agreement: but - who knows - in God's good providence our
work might become a basis on which others who can speak with authority
Your hope that the Ecumenical Patriarch should have
'the right to intervene' will be booted by the Orthodox faster than you
can suggest it.
Indeed, and I acknowledge that this is a core point of the argument.
It seems to me that to focus on this now is to put the cart before the
When it is opportune to discuss this point, the perspectives of both West
and East may have shifted so much that it will look entirely different
It is vital not to come to premature judgement on the most contentious
His position is nothing more than one of honour as
the 'mouth' and the 'face'. Your suggestion that not even an Oecumenical
Council can appeal a Papal judgement changes nothing, then. This is a perpetuation
of Rome-as-boss. Additionally, the 'ex cathedra' heresies that are potentially
part and parcel of the Papal 'Divine Right' are just insensible. My suggestion
is the old one: 'Primus + Inter + Pares'.
There is a manifest need for more effective governance in the East.
The Eastern Jurisdictions must somehow get their houses in order and learn
to stop squabbling. Just as the West has somehow got to learn to have open
discussion and dialogue without this automatically turning into an excuse
for the promulgation of heresy.
Rome will not care in the slightest how this objective is achieved, as
long as it is achieved.
Mine was only a suggestion how this might be achieved, intended to
distance Rome from the problem.
It is not helpful for either of us to describe dogmatic statements made
by either the pope of Rome or by Synods of any jurisdiction as "heresies".
This is how division is cemented and maintained.
It may be that certain statements were misguided and wrong.
Certainly there have been many intemperate and injudicious and inconvenient
and contradictory Synodical and Papal decrees. Many of the positive teachings
of Florence have been reversed by subsequent Conciliar and/or papal commentary.
I will refrain from speaking similarly of the decrees of any post-Nicaea
II Eastern Synods; but I suppose that you will grant some similar concession:
after all you don't believe that any of them are infallible, so they could
all be wrong!
to). But, is this possible? I don't think so.
By the way, this is nothing new to Orthodoxy.
The 'Oecumenical Patriarch' fulfils this role. He is the 'head', the 'face'
and the 'mouth', but he does not and cannot interfere in the jurisdictions
of the other Patriarchs. He is, very simply, 'primus inter pares'. The
same is true for the Church of England. Don't forget that Rome has experimented
(at least once!) with autocephaly in her ranks (Utrecht), and she horribly
reneged on her own mandate. It is just too foreign to Rome to have Primacy
and Equality at the same time. For her the former excludes the latter.
Rome will insist that all the
post-Nicaea II formulations be accepted by the East as Oecumenical,
(including Toledo!), and this simply will not happen. The Orthodox will
simply reply: 'How can they be Oecumenical if we weren't there?'
The 'Oecumenical Councils' of the Roman Church are, of course, an unqualifiably
insurmountable obstacle to unity between East and West.
In all fairness, the Orthodox seem to cope reasonably
well with this balance. Only problem is, it should be Rome that is the
'Primate General', and not Constantinople.
But then again, what does Constantinople
do now that the Church has been irreparably torn in two?
In my view, too, the qualification 'Oecumenical'
that is added to the post-Nicaea II Roman Councils is just as unacceptable
as the qualification 'Oecumenical' that is added to the title of the Patriarch
of Constantinople. Neither East nor West has any business calling anything
'Oecumenical' that is not in direct reference to the first seven Councils
of the undivided Church!
I must admit that I am far less willing or able
to be hopeful of a 'reassimilation' –as great as the idea is!
In my view, the schism is permanent.
Once more, I detect a certain fatalism and lack of hope.
We must believe that to God, all things are possible!
Only our lack of faith and commitment stand in the way of His grace.
We must be as wily as serpents in forwarding His work.
On the other hand, I must express a certain scepticism regarding your evaluation
that "the Orthodox seem to cope reasonably well with
So, my suggestion is this: the Roman jurisdiction
(the entire RCC) become an autocephalous member of the current 'Oecumenical'
Patriarchate, and the Pope the authentic Oecumenical Patriarch. His is
the honour of being the mouth and the face of the undivided Church. He
has no extraordinary 'Divine Right' anymore than any other Patriarch has.
He can live in Rome if he wants to, or he can move to San Francisco where
he may just learn to be more inclusive. I suggest, however, that he lives
in Jerusalem, where this whole story started anyway. And, when someone
asks him to 'judge' a matter, he would defer the judgement to James."
Ho! Ho! Fat chance, as well you know.
I would point out that whoever you meant by "James", would by virtue
of the dispensation you suggest in effect become "Pontifex Maximus".
A Catholic response: further proposals
for a settlement
will respond in a positive spirit to the above. What I am seeking to preserve
is not a unique Roman Veto but rather Roman Independence of Action. I believe
that all the Patriarchs (and perhaps other bishops) should have a right
of veto on certain issues: let's not get bogged down on what criteria would
be applicable and how these would be applied and by whom! There is no place
in the Church for any "king of kings", because there are no "kings" for
there to be a "king of". I entirely agree both with your critique of any
such idea, and with the terms in which it is expressed. It is enormously
welcome - though not unexpected - that you agree that
is great need for a 'mouth' that represents the Church and its visible
unity". I am content to take this as a "yes" to my previous
question: is there a need within the Church for "some kind of 'Mission
to preserve Unity'", as a matter of expediency?
As far as disciplinary (jurisdictional) matters goes, I think that what
Rome must insist on is that:
the pope of Rome be acknowledged as the final judge of appeal:
if he sees something going seriously wrong somewhere he doesn't have
to wait to be asked to intervene
after all, in any system, some authority has to have the final word;
if there is no last court of appeal, then conflict is built into the system
once it be granted that some agency must fulfil this role, it becomes apparent
that there is none other in prospect.
it is the obligation of all to abide by and implement his judgements:
simply because the party being wronged may be in no position to appeal!
this all according to the constitution of the Church, and not positive
What exactly is it that you wish to exclude by your assertion: "The
Pope is not the 'Bishop of Bishops'"? It could help the discussion
along enormously, were you to clarify this.
for else the first point means nothing.
If you look at my WebPage on the Definition
of Doctrine, you will see that I sketch out a theory that is all about
process and dialogue. In effect, the pope of Rome can only act legitimately
when he does in fact act:
on behalf of
and in the name of
and on the authority of
and as spokesman of
and as representative of
and as ambassador for,
but also as foreman (as lead violinist of an orchestra) of
the Universal Fellowship of Bishops.
He can do so
in two ways, as a matter of logic:
Ordinarily: by inviting them to express or form a consensus; proposing
what this might be (as in the Tome of Leo I); and facilitating the process
of coming to a consensus; as chairman. I am not aware of any pope
ever acting in any other way than this. Certainly this was the way in which
the two Marian Definitions were made.
Extraordinarily: by expressing his own judgement as to what their
consensus will turn out to be: as executive president. This should
only be done in extremis, perhaps as some kind of rallying call! The only
time that I am aware that a pope might have been thought to have attempted
to do this was the recent botched
attempt to close-down discussion of the ordination
If he gets the second call wrong, he will certainly be denounced as a manifest
heretic or schismatic by the Fellowship of Bishops, would thereby be revealed
to be no pope at all (because he is not even a Catholic!), and his supposed
definition of no account whatsoever.
"And in this second way the Pope could be
schismatic, if he were unwilling to be in normal union with the whole body
of the Church, as would occur if he attempted to excommunicate the
whole Church, or, as both Cajetan and Torquemada observe, if he wished
to overturn the rites of the Church based on Apostolic Tradition." [Francisco
Suarez, S.J. (1548-1617 AD)]
This is what I meant when I said above that the exercise of the Extraordinary
Magisterium was fraught with great difficulty.
Now we come to another huge issue,
which - however - I am very hopeful of resolution: the question of Oecumenical
Councils. It is, in fact, a wider one than you recognize; for I would want
to see at least the 'Oriental Orthodox' (i.e. the supposed "monophysites")
and perhaps also the "Nestorians"
included in a final settlement.
This not because I want to go back on Chalcedon (!) but just because I
suspect that either
at that time, there was something of a confusion in Christology; and lots
of people took umbrage at things that were never meant to be understood
as they were in fact understood
or subsequently the Copts et al have come back into line with Christological
In either case, it behoves both Rome and Constantinople to sort
out this horrid mess as soon as possible.
The general problem is this:
which various groups have historically subjectively recognized to be "Oecumenical"
which other substantial groups, such as:
"The Syrian-Orthodox Coptic East";
"The Byzantine-Orthodox East";
"The Roman-Catholic West" or
"The Protestant West"
either played no part in or did not ratify.
What objective status can/should be accorded to these Synods?
I have written about this issue at greater length elsewhere.
It seems to me that:
No Synod that was not open to all the Bishops in Apostolic Succession
and to which they were not invited (at least implicitly) can be accounted
as Oecumenical at root.
No Synod that was not attended by Bishops that were representative
- in some real sense - of all parts of thhe Church can be accounted as Oecumenical
No Synodal canon or decree unratified by the pope of Rome (and perhaps
any patriarchate) can be accounted as valid.
On this account:
Only Nicaea I can be fully accounted as "Oecumenical at root" without
Constantinople I only gained "honorary Oecumenical status" by later
accreditation at Chalcedon.
Ephesus scrapes in as "Oecumenical at root"; its rejection by the
"Nestorians" raises a little doubt.
Chalcedon certainly fails; because of the huge schism that followed.
No subsequent Synod can be accounted "Oecumenical at root", because of
the lack of participation of the "Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox", until
the Union Council of Florence; which - unfortunately - was not ratified
by Constantinople; causing it to fail my third test.
Hence, Rome cannot "insist that all the
post-Nicaea II formulations be accepted by the East as Oecumenical"
at root. Neither can Constantinople insist that Chalcedon is Oecumenical
This is a mess. It will only be cleared up by a subsequent Union Council
trawling through and passing its judgement on all the decrees and canons
of all the Synods that any interested party wants to have considered for
In effect there is a pressing need for a huge amount of house-keeping and
Rome has no grounds on which it can evade the necessity of this process.
This is a process in which the East would have the upper hand, politically;
as Rome has the most to loose here, in human terms.
It is a process which - in fact - Rome would gain from enormously, as it
would be the means in which the two lungs of the Church started to breath
together again at last.
This would not have to be done piecemeal. The first point to be made should
be that all synodical decrees can only be rightly understood and interpreted
in the light of and in accordance with Apostolic Tradition.
Ephesus would just need a nod from the "Nestorian Church", on the basis
of an explanatory gloss.
Chalcedon (and so Ephesus) and Constantinople II + III similarly; from
the Syrians, Copts and Abyssinians.
I am sure that Nicaea II would then be ratified by acclamation.
It shouldn't be too difficult to reach a synthesis of Constantinople IV
All the Lateran Synods I - IV plus Lyons I could then be assigned to oblivion
as being non dogmatic anyhow.
The council of Vienne be
condemned as an entirely wicked enterprise. This would please me greatly,
because of its apparent
condemnation of Platonist anthropology!
Lyons II, Constantinople
VI, and Florence should
then be considered together and an extensive commentary of them written.
Lyons II and Florence only propose positive teaching and do not contain
anathematized canons; so could then be accredited as Oecumenical but non-infallible.
I think that Constantinople VI may contain anathemas; if so these would
have to be reviewed. This is all about the "essence" and "energies" of
God and is somewhat controversial.
The mess represented by
Constance and then Basel-Ferrara-Florence regarding the relationship between
the papacy and Oecumenical Councils would have to be cleared up any-how
in the Union Settlement. This settlement would serve as interpretative
commentary on these synods and would determine the exact status of each.
V, Trent and Jerusalem I + II should then be considered together. As far
as I can judge, Lateran V
is uncontroversial and Trent
and Jerusalem II are
in substantial accord. Jerusalem
I is more problematic, most of the theses it condemned as characterizing
"the West" are fine - as they don't do so; but the idea that anyone should
be condemned for using a particular calendar or for believing that Our
Lord used unleavened bread at His Last Supper is simply draconian!
The teaching of Vatican I
will in any case be central to the Union Settlement, so it should be possible
to ratify this Synod subject to an interpretative commentary.
Vatican II is non dogmatic
and so - unfortunately - could be ratified with ease. Personally, I would
like to see it rejected along with the Synod of Vienne!
I know nothing of any "Oecumenical Council of Toledo"!
A smaller, but related problem is the matter of papal definitions. I have
written about this matter extensively elsewhere.
The only papal decrees that need concern us are: "Unam
Sanctum", "Ineffabilis Deus" and "Munificentissimus Deus"
Clearly they all fail the strongest tests of infallibility, because they
were all done in appearance with the consent of the Universal Episcopate:
but in fact, only on the basis of a consensus of the Western Church.
It may be that the interpretation of the doctrine of "Unam Sanctum" that
propose would recommend itself to the Union Council; if not then this
decree would simply have to be dismissed as invalid. Certainly the face
value meaning of this papal definition is entirely unacceptable to the
contemporary Western Church! It would be very convenient to the modern
Vatican to have good grounds for invalidating this decree.
The two Marian definitions could either be nuanced or put aside for
future business. The papal definitions being seen as definite expressions
of the clear consensus in the Western Church, which await the considered
and deliberate response of the East.
Healing the Spiritual
pneumonia in the Body of Christ
Put concisely, my argument against Papal universal
jurisdiction is simple: there is no Biblical, Conciliar or Patristic support
for it. The argument, from my side, could rest
right here. This delineates the Roman Catholic view as extra-biblical,
extra-conciliar, and extra-patristical and this,
in turn, captures the resistance I have to Papal universal jurisdiction.
The Papal claims to superiority and to universal
and ordinary jurisdiction over the entire Church have never been submitted
an Ecumenical Council for affirmation, and neither
are they supported in the Holy Scriptures or in the writings of the Fathers
of the Church. So, the Catholic position loses the historical argument.
The only way that the Papal claims can be adequately defended by Roman
Catholics are by defending the Roman concept of the development of doctrine,
something which the
Orthodox regard as highly tenuous, following
the sentiments of the early Church Fathers, and perhaps best expressed
Vincent of Lerins.
But, let me expound a little in conclusion.
I agree with all of the above.
The Vincentian Test
What is needed, above all, is clarification of the
meaning of “primacy” in this discussion. Where “primacy” is interpreted
“superiority”, then the single most important
obstacle to unification between East and West has been identified.
not Patristic, I think the “Vincentian Test”
is of great value in this discussion: The term "Catholic", in the
era of the Fathers
and the era of the Ecumenical Councils and the
Creed, meant then, and still does mean today: “that which is universally
held”. As Vincent of Lerins explains:
"Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself,
all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been
believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest
sense 'Catholic' which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing
declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we
follow universality, antiquity, consent .... But what, if in antiquity
itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any
rate a city or even a province? Then it will be his care by all means,
to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council
to the rashness and ignorance of a few .... and whatsoever he shall ascertain
to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these only, but
by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently, persistently...".
When it comes to an evaluation of the idea of Papal
supremacy and universal ordinary jurisdiction, the Roman Catholic claim
fails dismally. Saint Vincent simply points out that a vast consensus is
required to bear witness to the antiquity and universality of the truth.
The current Western conception of the papacy as holding universal and ordinary
jurisdiction over the whole Church is not, and never was, universally accepted
or taught and does not have the consent or approval of the rest of the
Church outside the Roman Patriarchate. And, reading the words of [John
21:16] in retrospect as referring to the current
Roman view is simply anachronistic and dishonest. One would expect, if
they were in support of current Roman thinking, at least some precedent
in the rest of the New Testament, in the Councils and in the Fathers.
But, when it comes to Rome supporting its own claims of an equation of
“primacy” with “ordinary jurisdiction”, the examples
This is overly harsh.
There is some precedent and support for the Roman position in Scripture,
the Fathers and the Councils.
Just nowhere near enough to make out a convincing case!
Please recall the testimony of Irenaeus,
Please recall the declaration of the Fathers
Otherwise, I agree with all this.
are easy to find.
"... And this is the infallibility which
the Roman pontiff, the head of the college of Bishops, enjoys in virtue
of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful,
who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims
a doctrine of faith and morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves,
and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable,
since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised
to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others,
nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgement... The infallibility
promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body
exercises the Supreme Magisterium with the Successor of Peter..."
[Lumen Gentium #25]
This statement, of course, presents the "insurmountable
obstacle" I have often referred to. These terms simply are not, and will
never be, acceptable to the Orthodox. They defy the spirit and understanding
of the New Testament, the Council and the Fathers and, of themselves, are
the impenetrable walls that will have to crumble in the quest for an undivided
Again, I think this is overly harsh.
Please recall that this is not infallible according to anyone.
It would be better to refer to the Dogmatic Constitution of the First Vatican
Council; but never mind!
As I have already indicated, these words (and similar texts) simply cannot
be taken to mean what they seem to mean on a first reading.
Although a Pope "the head of the college of bishops"
can act of his own initiative and without any need for the permission or
approval of others and when he does so "ex Cathedra" he is protected from
error and therefore his acts are infallible and irreformable; nevertheless:
The significance of any such definition is necessarily subject to the interpretation
of the Church-As-A-Whole, as guided and informed by the commentary of theologians
and subsequent Magisterial Acts.
No such definition can ever be in conflict with Sacred Tradition; because
pope has no more ability to modify the Apostolic Deposit of Faith than
If any such definition seemed to be in conflict with Sacred Tradition,
The only means of knowing that what might seem to have been an ex-Cathedra
definition is in fact such is the post-hoc observation that the
Church-As-A-Whole happily incorporates it into the
process of the development of Doctrine.
Viewed in this context, the teaching of both Vatican I and Lumen Gentium
should seem to be quite inoffensive.
It must have been misunderstood.
Tradition must have been misunderstood.
The "pope" must have fallen into heresy and so ceased to be a Catholic
and so ceased to be the Pope and so the "ex cathedra" definition be no
I personally appreciate the views of the ARCIC:
"Communion with the Bishop of Rome does
not imply submission to an authority which would stifle the distinctive
features of the local churches. The purpose of the episcopal function of
the Bishop of Rome is to promote Christian fellowship in faithfulness to
the teaching of the Apostles."
The ARCIC defines "jurisdiction" as "the authority
of power (potestas) necessary for the exercise of an office" and it proceeds
to accept the "universal immediate jurisdiction" of the Bishop of Rome
as inherent to his office due to his call to serve the unity of the koinonia
"as whole and in each of its parts". This "universal immediate jurisdiction"
should be exercised not in isolation, but in collegial association with
all Bishops, who are equally concerned for the truth and unity of the universal
Church (which is the result of their office and not of their association
with the bishop of Rome). I suggest that this be the point of departure
for an appreciation and definition of the role and function of a potential
Roman primatial Patriarchate.
I don't generally like ARCIC, but I do think that sometimes it comes up
It has done so here, in my view.
This is exactly what I've been trying to say, all along, but in
slightly different words!
Primacy and Jurisdiction
Appeals to the Bishop of
Before the Great Schism, in times of discord and
controversy, appeals for peaceful resolutions and mediation were made to
the Bishop of Rome from all parts of the Christian world. For instance,
in the course of the iconoclast controversy, St Theodore the Studite urged
the emperor to consult the Pope:
"If there is anything in the Patriarch's
reply about which you feel doubt or disbelief... you may ask the Chief
Elder in Rome for clarification, as has been the practice from the beginning
according to inherited tradition".
From an Orthodox perspective it is important to point
out that these appeals to the Bishop of Rome are not to be understood in
juridical terms. As pointed out above, the East didn't seem to mind at
all if the Bishop of Rome thought he was an emperor, as long as he contained
his views to the West. The case was not closed when Rome had spoken, and
the Byzantines felt free on occasion to reject a Roman ruling.
This all depends on what one means by "closed" and "spoken" and the kind
of "rulings" that might be "rejected".
These kind of details are none of our business to determine!
Is the Bishop
of Rome the "Vicar of Christ"?
Although Jesus confers authority on all the Apostles
alike, He still continues to be present with them to the "close
of the age"
[Mat 28:20]. Fundamental
to Orthodox thinking is the fact that Jesus conferred the Kingdom of Heaven
on all twelve of the
Apostles alike [Lk
22:28-30], and He said to them: "…you
will eat and drink at my table in the Kingdom, and you will sit on
thrones to judge" [Lk
22:30]. The "keys
of the Kingdom of Heaven" are both administrative
and magisterial, and have been given, in order, first to Saint Peter [Mat
16:19], and also to the entire community [Mat
18:18]. Primacy, in this sense, is a matter
of sequential order. It is only right that Peter, who represents the faith
of the entire Church as coryphaeus, should receive these keys first. In
this sense, the interface between the "old" and the "new" is embodied in
the persons of Saint John the Baptizer (the last believer of the "old")
and Saint Peter (the first believer of the "new"). Just as Saint John represents
all the hopes and faith of the believers in the dispensation of the Qahal,
so Saint Peter represents all the hopes and faith of the believers in the
dispensation of the Ekklesia. So Christ shares His authority with the whole
Church. He is with the Church, directly, and in person. Although He is
ascended into heaven, He continues to be immediately present and active
in His Church on earth. That is why Orthodox Christians feel that the title
of "Vicar of Christ" is inappropriate. It is a title applied primarily
to the Bishop of Rome but the Second Vatican Council also pointed out that
it belongs to all Bishops (Lumen Gentium # 27). A serious obstacle has
been removed here, as long as Vatican II's new interpretation is held to.
Good. I appreciate that various forms of words can be offensive, even when
they were not intended to be so.
The Apostles were disputing about who would be greatest
in the Kingdom [Mat 20:25-26, Mar 10:42-43,
Lk 22:25-26]. In the Gospel of Saint Luke,
this narrative comes just after the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
If we reflect that the Church
is the "Eucharistic community", founded and held
in being by the act of Holy Communion in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ,
then these words are particularly significant. "You
know", says Jesus, "That
those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and
their great men exercised authority over them. But it shall not be so among
you!" The exercise of authority and power
in the Church is to be utterly different from that which prevails in secular
society. "But whoever will be great among
you, let him be your minister. And whoever will be first among you, let
him be your servant". For the Universal Primate
to be "primus", then, is to be servant, first of all, and not master. Jesus
then refers to His own example: "Even as the Son of Man came not to be
ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
Surely, this gives the context within which "primacy" in the Church should
be defined: a primacy of exousia that is diakonia. The first shall
be last, and primacy means kenosis.
Rome wants to be Boss!
The issue, par excellence, in terms of a definition
of "primacy", is that historically the Popes felt they had the authority
by themselves to act and decree as they pleased, without reference to the
consent of all the Bishops of the Church, and often at great cost to the
unity and common sense of the Church. For example:
Ecclesiologically, it is almost impossible to justify
the juridical independence of the Bishop of Rome from the college of
Defining doctrine and tampering with an Ecumenical
Creed: as abhorrent as the "filioque" may have been to later Popes, the
evidence remains to this day! Contrary to this, is the Eastern view that
the Pentarchy, as unity, expresses the infallibility and universality of
the Church and that it was the Bishops united in Council who interpreted
dogma, and not one person. The "filioque" issue is a good example of the
extent to which an eschewed interpretation of "primacy" could go to enforcing
its views and decrees on the Church.
So long as the conception of the "primacy" and jurisdiction
of the Pope as "universal and ordinary" was confined to the West, the East
did not seem to mind. The tragic acts of the "Great Schism" in 1054 AD
are another good example of the extent to which "primacy" (that is equated
with "supremacy") could affect the visible unity of the Church! Perhaps
the Roman problem is that it confuses "headship" and "primacy" with "supremacy".
Don't forget who acted first in the Great Schism!
Take the "Photian
Schism" of the 9th century AD as another example of Rome's consistent
abuse of primacy. Emperor Michael III deposed Patriarch Ignatius in 858
AD. Pope Nicholas I's delegates took part in the Synod of Constantinople
that deposed Ignatius. Photius was appointed as his successor by the Bishops,
however Ignatius refused to abdicate. Michael and Photius sent an embassy
to Pope Nicholas I. Nicholas was furious and rescinded the Synod's decision
by re-appointing Ignatius and deposing Photius. In 867 AD, Photius objected
to the "filioque", and issued a sentence of deposition against the Pope.
Whatever the intricacies of this event, the fact
remains that Pope Nicholas I interfered in the jurisdiction of an autocephalous
Patriarchate, and he was rightfully put in his place.
What were Nicholas' reasons for interfering?
He was one of the first Popes to openly claim "jurisdiction"
over the Eastern Church, saying, for example, that the Pope has authority
all the Earth, that is, over every Church".
The dispute between Photius and Ignatius gave Nicholas
a chance to try out his assumed ordinary jurisdiction in practice, by exerting
his power to choose or directly influence, the appointment of a Bishop
of an Eastern See, against the clear intention of the 34th
and 35th Apostolic Canons!
The plan backfired, however, when the papal legates
agreed to the decisions of the Synod in Constantinople.
In addition: the Council of Sardicia in 343 AD clearly
recognized the right of appeal to the Roman See, and that the Pope could
order a retrial of a referred matter, but it states that this retrial is
to be conducted by the local Bishops in the area concerned: and not in
Rome, by the Pope himself!
Rome, of course, was not interested in this precedent:
it wanted to be boss, and it would bully if it had to! Pope Nicholas I
did this specifically to demonstrate that he, in his own mind, was not
bound by Conciliar canons, and that he could exercise his jurisdiction
as he saw fit. In 869 AD, a Council was held in Constantinople which anathematized
Photius and condemned the decisions taken in 867 AD. This council is considered
by the Latin Church as the 8th
Ecumenical Council: it is not considered so by the East, as you know.
Bishops of which he is head. More significantly,
what are the ecumenically accepted rights (of diakonia) and limits (of
authority) of the Bishop of Rome within a communion
of local churches who have been judged to be fully Catholic? One of the
most effective and normative means which the Church has for resolving the
conflicts and debates which endanger its unity or threaten to distort its
Gospel is to appeal to the Tradition that is embodied in Scripture, Conciliar
Creeds, Canons and the
Patristic writings. But, as I have already pointed
out, Roman claims fail in all these instances.
My third Catholic correspondent added:
Sadly, this is largely fair comment.
I was already familiar with the Photian Schism. It was a very complex and
It is not a point at issue that many popes have been "control freaks" and
have regularly tried to extend their power in inappropriate ways, contrary
to the wholesome considerations of your previous paragraphs. Not least
John Paul II!
My only real dubium is that I am not sure that pope Nicholas' only motive
was the extension of his own power.
It does seem that Patriarch Ignatius was treated very badly by Emperor
Michael and the papal legates, and it was quite proper (as you have stated)
for him to have recourse to Rome.
For Ignatius' case to have been re-tried by the same Bishops who had originally
deposed him, under the watchful eye of the Byzantine Emperor doesn't seem
- to my liberal heart - in accordance witth Natural Justice.
"So as much as I agree that the conduct
of the Bishops of Rome most of the time has made it look like they "want
to be boss," and are "bullies," that is perhaps too cynical a judgement,
and too historically simple. The Bishops of Rome were strongly encouraged
- forced would be too strong a word - to assert their authority, first
by many Christians around the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity, later by
many throughout Western Europe, precisely because they needed a higher
authority to check the local persons who were bothering them. We might
be pleased to call that the Gambit of Saint
Maximus. See Geoffrey Barraclough: 'The Medieval Papacy', and R.W.
Southern: 'Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages', though they
start at the end of Late Antiquity."
[MS (Nov. 2005)]
The Local Church
and the Church Catholic
The Local Church Manifests the Fullness
of the Church Universal: The Episcopate is of Divine Institution.
Fundamental to an Orthodox rejection of supremacist
papal claims, is a view of ecclesiology. In Orthodox ecclesiology, the
Eucharist is seen as the effectual sign of koinonia,
episkope is seen as serving that koinonia, and "primacy", that is properly
understood and exercised, is seen as a visible
link between all those who exercise episkope within this koinonia. But,
church (a diocese) manifests the fullness of
the Church. The unity of God's Church subsists in fullness in each local
The communion of the local Churches views the
function of overseer of their geographical regions (Metropolitan Bishops)
one of the ways of maintaining the faithfulness
and the unity of the local churches to Christ's Gospel (as provided for
34th and 35th Apostolic Canons).
Essentially, Orthodox Christians do not deny that
the Petrine See is "first" within the Church. They simply believe that
there are limits to what it can do within that role. Patriarchal Sees simply
exist as aids to church governance, and have no Divine institution or mandate.
The Bishop, for example, is never re-ordained to a metropolitan or patriarchal
See, because the Office is still Episcopal, and the "instalment" is merely
"organizational" and representative. The Orthodox affirm that the primacy
of the Bishop of Rome has an ecumenical meaning that was accepted in the
Early Church. This means that when the Bishop of Rome speaks, he is entitled
to be listened to, and given attention by the other Bishops - but it does
not imply uncritical and unconditional acceptance of all he says or decrees.
He has the power to persuade, to bring together in koinonia, and to act
in love among the Bishops - but not to unilaterally force their adoption
of his ideas against their own will and the practice of their canonical
But, if the Church were a universal organism, at
the cost of the local and ordinary organism with the Bishop as its ordinary
"head", then the Church must have as its head a "universal Bishop" who
is the focus of its unity and as the organ of supreme power. Consequently,
this model of ecclesiology makes the necessity of universal primacy an
imperative. This is the kind of ecclesiology which gave birth to the image
of the papacy as defined by Vatican I. But, the Church Fathers acknowledged
that Rome's primacy was only authoritative but not ordinary.
However, the office of Pope, unlike that of all the other Archbishops and
Patriarchs is a part of the Divine Constitution of the Church.
The Pope also has the right to act for the fellowship of Bishops when they
are either unable or unwilling to act themselves.
Whenever he does so, he risks acting "ultra vires" and being denounced
as either a heretic or schismatic.
But the Church is both local and universal.
Here I will invoke your own principle of "not only
Hence the arguments of all three of these paragraphs are true and
the issue before us is how to synthesize them.
Any such reconciliation will involve avoiding use of the word "power",
which you have slipped in again!
is no scriptural support for Roman Universal Ordinary Jurisdiction
In [Mat 16:18-20]
the distinctive features of Peter's ministry are stressed, and his ministry
is that of an Apostle which does
not distinguish him from the ministry of the
other Apostles [Matt. 18:18]. However, it may be possible to accept the
"primacy" of Rome in a qualified sense, even while admitting that the New
Testament offers no sufficient basis for it. Thus, the "Petrine function"
in the Church is necessary for the unity of the Church. It may be executed
by the Pope, as Vatican I suggests, in consultation with but not independently
from all the Bishops of God's Church. What is clear, however, is that the
papacy in its developed form cannot be read back into the New Testament.
It is therefore anachronistic to apply terms such as "pope" or "primacy"
to the place which Peter held within the New Testament.
From an historical perspective, there is no conclusive
documentary evidence from the first century or the early decades of the
second of the exercise of a primacy of the Roman Bishop or to a connection
with Peter, although documents from this period do accord the Church at
Rome some kind of pre-eminence. However, by the time of Pope Leo I, the
Bishops of Rome had developed a role which represented them as the "successors"
and the continuing embodiment of Peter in the Church. Also, the Fathers
express that what Peter was so were all the others (St. Cyprian). A helpful
suggestion is that while Orthodox Christians may believe the Petrine ministry
to be authorized in Scripture and Tradition, both of these sources of revelation
give it very little definition. The only responsible thing to say about
the Petrine ministry in the New Testament is that it speaks of Peter, and
of Peter alone. The transference of "Peter" to "Bishops of Rome" has no
support in either the Councils or the Fathers! In fact, quite the
contrary, the 34th Apostolic Canon is very clear on this matter: the "leader"
is to do nothing without the consideration of all.
This is all fine, except that I would prefer to say that: "The transference
of the petrine mission to the Bishop of Rome has little support
in either the Councils or the Fathers."
Also, it should be taken as read that normally, the Pope of Rome should
nothing without the consideration of all".
and Apostolicity: The roots of modern Roman thinking
I find it helpful, as suggested by some, to look
for the roots of modern Roman thinking on "primacy" in a distinction between
"accommodation" and "apostolicity". The most
ancient reason for the Roman primacy the Church used was accommodation
to the political structure of the Roman Empire. This was even formally
sanctioned by the 4th Canon of the Council of Nicea. The capital cities
of each diocese came to be the seats of the first three Patriarchs (Rome,
Alexandria, and Antioch, in order of honour), who exercised episcopal jurisdiction
over all the other Bishops in their diocese. Again, because Rome was the
capital of the Empire, the Bishop of Rome was given the primacy of honour.
There was not a sense of the supremacy of the Pope over all the other Bishops
in the Church. He was never seen as having a universal jurisdiction, and
he did not pretend to. However, when the capital of the Empire was
transferred to Constantinople early in the 4th century, the Bishop of "new
Rome" very rapidly gained prestige since the Church accommodated itself
again to the existing political situation. From the perspective of "old
Rome", this began to be seen as a threat to the primacy of the Pope. However,
what Rome did not seem to understand was that the East had no thought of
transferring the primacy to Constantinople. The fact that the East still
operated on the ancient principle of accommodation and that the Byzantines
thought of themselves as Romans should have assured Rome of its intention.
Rome's change to the principle of Apostolicity
created some friction between East and West, not to mention the possibility
rival claims, since there were many Apostolic
sees in the East, not to forget the fact that Antioch was the first See
However, by the time the Patriarch of Constantinople's
position in the Church was validated (first in 381 at Constantinople and,
again, at the Chalcedon in 451 AD), Rome began to assert its primacy by
invoking the principle of Apostolicity. This principle asserted the right
to Rome's primacy based on the fact of the Petrine character of the Roman
See (something that no one in the East or in the West ever disputed). After
the fall of the West it was Rome who was the only Church left in the West
that could claim Apostolic origin. Quoting [Mat
16:18] the Bishops of Rome asserted that this
same right was given to every successor of Peter in Rome. This initiated
the change in how the Bishops of Rome viewed their role, function and honour.
Before this time, however, the Apostles were not considered to be the first
Bishops of the cities where they founded Churches. Heading the list of
Bishops were those who were appointed by the Apostles. But, Rome began
to see Peter as the first Bishop of Rome and neglected the fact that Saint
Paul also died in Rome and had a hand in the Roman Church something, of
course, which Antioch could also claim. Besides, Jerusalem had an even
greater right to claim "primacy" based on Apostolicity since all of the
Apostles had originated from there in the first place.
That the East never felt any use for Apostolicity
as a criterion for "primacy" is seen in the fact that it would have been
brought up immediately to challenge Roman claims. It was during the time
of the first Council of Constantinople that Rome began to stress the principle
of Apostolicity. This also coincided with the fall of Rome and with greater
insistence that the Pope has claim to universal and ordinary jurisdiction
over the Church. As Rome tried to interfere in Eastern affairs the East
would wonder why the West was departing from the collegiality of the first
few centuries when the Pope was the first among equals and did not claim
universal jurisdiction or the right to interfere in the affairs of another
What seems self-evident is that the way in which
"primacy" was understood in the undivided Church is significantly different
from the way in which it is now understood by
the Western Church, and that the transition to claims of Roman superiority
most likely was a result of growing fears of isolation in the West where
Rome was the only See with a claim to Apostolicity. The claim to "Petrine
Succession" and Apostolicity only came to the fore once "old Rome" was
replaced by "new Rome". The eschewed Roman "primacy" as "universal jurisdiction"
is, therefore, not supported.
This is fine as far as it goes.
Before passing on to my serious response, I must highlight the fact that
Constantinople now claims to be the See of the Apostle Andrew; so the division:
"accommodation - East"; "apostolicity - West" doesn't hold so neatly!
This account may serve as a good explanation of what elicited the doctrinal
development that you describe well.
However, beneath your words lies the unspoken assumption that it is correct
for the Church to "accommodate" itself to secular norms.
Now there may be occasions where it does no harm for the Church to take
on board some secular practice, but it cannot be a wholesome principle
that the practice of koinonia be automatically conformed to secular arrangements.
In the end, it must be determined whether the "Petrine Ministry" reflects
an organic need intrinsic to the Church.
If it does; if it serves a basic good of the Church, then the "Petrine
Ministry" must be constitutional of the Church.
Our Blessed Lord, in His Infinite Wisdom, must have foreseen this need.
It is therefore inevitable that somehow in His gracious providence He would
have made provision for it.
The contrary is gross impiety!
This is all accounted for, as I read it, in your excellent review of ARCIC's
Towards a new definition
The "primacy" of an authentically Ecumenical Patriarch
fulfils its purpose by helping the Churches to listen to one another, to
grow in unity, and to strive together towards
the fullness of Christian life, worship and witness. It also respects and
promotes Christian freedom and spontaneity without seeking uniformity where
diversity is legitimate. It also does not insist on a centralized administration
to the detriment of the local Churches. Essentially, "primacy" functions
within the acceptable parameters of the Scriptures, the Councils and the
Fathers. Primacy, then, defined in terms of its fundamental meaning, is
not the possession of greater power.
It's neither an ordinary jurisdiction nor a superior
ability to coerce, enforce and subjugate.
Primacy means the opportunity and responsibility
for a wider sphere of service. The idea of "primacy":
I am beginning to wonder if much of our debate is a meta-debate about what
"jurisdiction" means. Within a Christian context, it cannot have any similarity
to the "ability to coerce, enforce and subjugate".
I am thinking of writing an entirely separate essay on "power" and "authority"
and "order" and "jurisdiction".
excludes the idea of ordinary jurisdiction, but it,
includes a "primacy" which does not subordinate one
Church to another.
An important question to be answered is:
You keep on insisting on thoroughly excellent principles, which simply
shouldn't be contentious.
I accept that Roman practice has often infringed these principles in the
past, but I have no wish to defend the mistakes and bad judgement of ancient
popes any more than modern ones.
"What would be the qualitative difference
between a local church which exercises 'primacy' (such as the Church of
Rome) and another local one over which this primacy is exercised? If a
local church were fully catholic, how is it enriched by its relation with
a primatial Church?"
Although the institution of primacy (regional or
universal), from an Orthodox perspective, is taken for granted by the very
fact of its existence, it goes without saying that what is badly needed
is a clarification of the nature and function of all the primacies, and
more specifically of the very concept "primacy". If primacy were defined
in terms of "ordinary jurisdiction", then the question must be asked whether
in the Church there truly is a jurisdiction that is superior to that of
a Bishop and hence the Church of which the Bishop is the "head".
From an Orthodox perspective the answer to this
question must be an unconditional and resounding "no!" In the canonical
and historical life of the Church, the supreme jurisdiction of the Bishop
is conceived of as the foundation and strength of the Church (cf. Ignatius
of Antioch). There cannot be any jurisdiction over the Church, the Body
of Christ; but the function of Synods, Metropolitan Bishoprics and Councils
exercise jurisdiction with and on behalf of the Church. This is the sense
in which we need to understand the universal primacy of the Roman Church.
Orthodox theology rejects a "primacy" that is an "ordinary jurisdiction"
and that transforms Rome into the principium radix et origio of the unity
of the Church.
It is undoubtedly true that the Church, from the
first days of her existence, possessed an "ecumenical centre of unity and
I agree that Rome should not be seen as the "principle,
root and origin" of the Unity of the Church.
Nevertheless, the Roman Pontiff has the Divine Mission to promote and facilitate
the Unity of Christ's Church; and anyone who wilfully separates
themselves from Rome's legitimate agency in this regard has immediately
and automatically degraded their communion with the Church Catholic.
To this extent, communion with the Church of Rome is a litmus test of Catholicity.
However, it is an imperfect test. The fact that pope Paul VI and Patriarch
Athenagoras were able to embrace after lifting and repudiating the ancient
mutual-excommunications shows this.
The sensible teaching of Lumen Gentium confirms this, from a modern Roman
agreement" which was first in the Church of Jerusalem
and later in the Church of Rome. For the Orthodox, the essence and
purpose of this primacy is to visibly express
Its fundamental purpose is to keep the Churches from
isolating themselves into ecclesiastical provincialism. In summary, Orthodoxy
does not reject Roman primacy as such, but simply a particular way of understanding
the visible unity of the Church, and,
the consensus of all churches.
And I think that I smell the aroma of a consensus between the two of
As Orthodox Patriarchs are, themselves, Primary Bishops
among co-equal Bishops, it is possible that the Orthodox Patriarchs could
accept the Successor of Peter in Rome as Primary Patriarch among equal
Patriarchs. This would not give the Patriarch in Rome authority to elect
or depose Patriarchs. Instead, the Patriarch of Rome could serve as mediator
in differences among Patriarchs, but with the permission and within the
confines of the authority acknowledged by the Patriarchs.
Even the most respected Orthodox theologians don't
limit the primacy to one that is only of "honour". There is a unifying
force found in the primacy of Peter that existed in the early Church that
does not currently exist within Orthodoxy. Yet there is a one-sidedness
within Roman Catholicism that needs what the East has to offer. One of
the most positive developments of the role of Peter is that he is seen
as the earthly voice of Christianity and his voice carries a weight that
no Orthodox Patriarch or Synod of Patriarchs could ever match. A redefinition
of "primacy" would benefit both East and West: the former in terms
of having an effective and truly representative "mouth" and "face", the
latter in terms of defining "primacy" as relative to the supreme and ordinary
jurisdiction of all Bishops! All Bishops, including the Pope, are fundamentally
and sacramentally equal. So if any Bishop is to be a "primate", his status
is to be understood as primus inter pares.
Catholics acknowledge that the operation of the Petrine
ministry can adapt to various times and situations and the Orthodox accept
that it exists, hence the two are not all that far apart. What needs to
be clarified is how the Petrine ministry will "adapt", and how the Orthodox
will accommodate this adaptation.
Rome must not insist on a primacy other than that
which was formulated in the first millennium. In Phanar, on 25 July 1976,
when Patriarch Athenagoras addressed the visiting Pope as "Peter's Successor,
the first in honour among us, and the Presider over charity", he was expressing
the essential content of the declarations of the primacy of the first millennium.
Rome shouldn't ask for more.
The Orthodox never really did and still do not deny
the right of primacy to the Pope, provided that he is one in faith with
them. But the objection is to the Pope being a supreme monarch over them
with the right to immediate and universal jurisdiction.
But, there are also theological
and practical differences that will have to be overcome. There are certain
Orthodox practices that are abhorrent to Catholics, such as: divorce, abortion
(in case of a threat to the mother's life), contraception, rejection of
Marian dogmas, purgatory, immense suspicion over the "Uniate Churches",
and the Pope as the "Vicar of Christ".
The East and the West are indeed, as Pope John
Paul II said, the two lungs of the Mystical Body of Christ. In this sense,
a reunification will serve to heal the "spiritual pneumonia" in the Church.
Yes: depending (obviously) on exactly what authority was acknowledged!
Yes: without qualification.
Yes, see the first point.
I think that this will need further discussion. It would be fine to accept
this as the basis for reunion, as long as it was acknowledged that then
the Whole Church should then undergo a sincere and earnest reflect on the
further implications of what had been agreed. I can't simply right-off
"papal infallibility" etc. as mistakes: I honestly don't think that they
were so, when properly understood.
Yes, and I think that this is the correct context within which the previous
point must be resolved.
Indeed. These would be matters for the reconciled Magisterium to give urgent
attention to. None of them should be taken as justification for the perpetuation
of organic disunity. I am sure that some of these issues (and there are
more that you haven't bothered to list) would be simple to resolve once
organic unity had been restored. The world would look like an entirely
different place, after all, and the basis for mutual suspicion be removed.
Others of these issues would simply have to be cordially disputed for a
prolonged period of time. It would give Rome a wonderful opportunity for
going back on the silly teaching on contraception, and that would undermine
the basis for the Roman stance on homosexuality too!
Yes. This is one thing that he was right about.
VI and Athenagoras I
Following is the text of the joint Catholic- Orthodox
declaration, approved by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras
I of Constantinople, read simultaneously (December 7, 1965) at a public
meeting of the Vatican Council and at a special ceremony in Istanbul.
“…Among the obstacles along the road
of the development of these fraternal relations of confidence and esteem,
there is the memory of the decisions, actions and painful incidents which
in 1054 resulted in the sentence of excommunication levelled against the
Patriarch Michael Cerularius and two other persons by the legate of the
Roman See under the leadership of Cardinal Humbertus, legates who then
became the object of a similar sentence pronounced by the patriarch and
the Synod of Constantinople.
One cannot pretend that these events were not
what they were during this very troubled period of history. Today, however,
they have been judged more fairly and serenely. Thus it is important to
recognize the excesses which accompanied them and later led to consequences
which, insofar as we can judge, went much further than their authors had
intended and foreseen. They had directed their censures against the persons
concerned and not the Churches. These censures were not intended to break
ecclesiastical communion between the Sees of Rome and Constantinople.
Since they are certain that they express the common
desire for justice and the unanimous sentiment of charity which moves the
faithful, and since they recall the command of the Lord: "If
you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brethren
has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go first
be reconciled to your brother" [Mat
5.23-24], Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras
I with his synod, in common agreement, declare that:
They regret the offensive words, the reproaches
without foundation, and the reprehensible gestures which, on both
sides, have marked or accompanied the sad events of this period.
They likewise regret and remove both from memory
and from the midst of the Church the sentences of excommunication which
followed these events, the memory of which has influenced actions up to
our day and has hindered closer relations in charity; and they commit
these excommunications to oblivion.
Finally, they deplore the preceding and
later vexing events which, under the influence of various factors - among
which, lack of understanding and mutual trust - eventually led to the effective
rupture of ecclesiastical communion."
"Patriarch Athenagoras spoke even more strongly
when he greeted the Pope in Phanar: 'Against all expectation, the bishop
of Rome is among us, the first among us in honor, 'he who presides in love'.
It is clear that, in saying this, the Patriarch did not abandon the claims
of the Eastern Churches or acknowledge the primacy of the west. Rather,
he stated plainly what the East understood as the order, the rank and title,
of the equal bishops in the Church - and it would be worth our while
to consider whether this archaic confession, which has nothing to do with
the 'primacy of jurisdiction' but confesses a primacy of 'honor' and agape,
might not be recognized as a formula that adequately reflects the position
that Rome occupies in the Church - 'holy courage' requires that prudence
be combined with 'audacity': 'The kingdom
of God suffers violence.'"
[Cardinal Ratzinger, "Principles of Catholic
Theology" (1982) pp. 216-217]
Appendix I : Other Patristic
interpretations of Our Text
of course, he was called Simon; this name of Peter was bestowed on him
by the Lord, and that with the symbolic intention of his representing the
Church. Because Christ, you see, is the petra or Rock; Peter, or Rocky,
is the Christian people." [St Augustine:
you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter's confession. What
is Peter's confession? 'You are the Christ,
the Son of the living God.' There's the rock
for you, there's the foundation, there's where the Church has been built,
which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer." [St
Augustine: "Sermon 229"]
petra [rock] is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ
is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For
on this very account the Lord said:
rock will I build my Church’, because Peter
had said: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of
the living God.’ On this rock, therefore,
He said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For the Rock
[Petra] was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built.
For other foundation can no man lay
than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.
The Church, therefore, which is founded in Christ
received from Him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven in the person of Peter,
that is to say, the power of binding and loosing sins. For what the Church
is essentially in Christ, such representatively is Peter in the rock [petra];
and in this representation Christ is to be understood as the Rock, Peter
as the Church.”
[St Augustine: "Commentary on the Gospel of John,
"He, then, who before
was silent, to teach us that we ought not to repeat the words of the impious,
this one, I say, when he heard, 'But who do
you say I am?' immediately, not unmindful
of his station, exercised his primacy, that is, the primacy of confession,
not of honour; the primacy of belief, not of rank. This, then, is Peter,
who has replied for the rest of the Apostles; rather, before the rest of
men. And so he is called the foundation, because he knows how to preserve
not only his own but the common foundation... Faith, then, is the foundation
of the Church, for it was not said of Peter's flesh, but of his faith,
that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it'. But his confession of faith conquered
hell. And this confession did not shut out one heresy, for, since the Church
like a good ship is often buffeted by many waves, the foundation of the
Church should prevail against all heresies."
[St Ambrose (339 - 397 AD): "The Sacrament of
the Incarnation of Our Lord"]
"Peter therefore did not wait for the
opinion of the people, but produced his own, saying, 'Thou
art the Christ the Son of the living God':
Who ever is, began not to be, nor ceases to be. Great is the grace of Christ,
who has imparted almost all His own names to His disciples. 'I
am', said He, 'the
light of the world', and yet with that very
name in which He glories, He favoured His disciples, saying, 'Ye
are the light of the world'; 'I
am the living bread'; and 'we
all are one bread' [1
Cor. 10:17].... Christ is the Rock, for 'they
drank of the same spiritual rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ'
Cor. 10:4]; also He denied not to His disciple
the grace of this name; that he should be Peter, because he has from the
rock [petra] the solidity of constancy, the firmness of faith. Make an
effort, therefore, to be a rock! Do not seek the rock outside of yourself,
but within yourself! Your rock is your deed, your rock is your mind. Upon
this rock your house is built. Your rock is your faith, and faith is the
foundation of the Church. If you are a rock, you will be in the Church,
because the Church is on a rock. If you are in the Church the gates of
hell will not prevail against you.... He who has conquered the flesh is
a foundation of the Church; and if he cannot equal Peter, he can imitate
[St Ambrose (339 - 397 AD): Commentary in Luke]
that the Son of God is Son in name only, and not in nature, is not the
faith of the Gospels and of the Apostles... whence I ask, was it that the
blessed Simon Bar-Jona confessed to Him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of
the living God?... And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church
is built... that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of
God. This faith is that which is the foundation of the Church; through
this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith
which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall
have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven.... The
very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This
is the Father's revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the
assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
hence judgement in heaven and judgement on earth.... Thus our one immovable
foundation, our one blissful rock of faith, is the confession from Peter's
mouth, Thou art the Son of the living God.” [St
Hilary of Poitiers: "On The Trinity"]
He sent out arrows, and scattered them; He flashed forth lightnings, and
routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations
of the world were laid bear, at Your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of Your
nostrils' [Ps 18:14]....
By ‘the foundations of the world',
we shall understand the strength of God's wisdom, by which, first, the
order of the universe was established, and then, the world itself was founded
- a world which will not be shaken. Yet yyou will not in any way err from
the scope of the truth if you suppose that 'the world' is actually the
Church of God, and that its 'foundation'
is in the first place, that unspeakably solid
rock on which it is founded, as Scripture says: 'Upon
this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it'; and elsewhere: 'The
rock, moreover, was Christ'. For, as the Apostle
indicates with these words: 'No other foundation
can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus'.
Then, too, after the Saviour Himself, you may rightly judge the foundations
of the Church to be the words of the Prophets and Apostles, in accordance
with the statement of the Apostle:
upon the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, Christ Jesus himself
being the Cornerstone'. These foundations
of the world have been laid bare because the enemies of God, who once darkened
the eyes of our mind, lest we gaze upon divine things, have been routed
and put to flight - scattered by the arrows sent from God and put to flight
by the rebuke of the Lord and by the blast from his nostrils. As a result,
having been saved from these enemies and having received the use of our
eyes, we have seen the channels of the sea and have looked upon the foundations
of the world. This has happened in our lifetime in many parts of the world."
[Bishop Eusebius: "Commentary on the Psalms"]
one then foolishly suppose that the Christ is any other than the only begotten
Son. Let us not imagine ourselves wiser than the gift of the Spirit. Let
us hear the words of the great Peter: 'Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the living God'.
Let us hear the Lord Christ confirming this confession, for:'On
this rock', He says, 'I
will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.'
Wherefore too the wise Paul, most excellent master builder of the churches,
fixed no other foundation than this. 'I',
he says, 'as a wise master builder have laid
the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed
how he builds thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is
laid, which is Jesus Christ.' How then can
they think of any other foundation, when they are bidden not to fix a foundation,
but to build on that which is laid? The divine writer recognizes Christ
as the foundation, and glories in this title."
[Theodoret of Cyr (393 - 466 AD): "Epistle To John the Economus"]
that reason divine Scripture says that Peter, that exceptional figure among
the Apostles, was called blessed. For when the Saviour was in that part
of Caesarea which is called Philippi, He asked who the people thought he
was, or what rumour about Him had been spread throughout Judea and the
town bordering Judea. And in response Peter, having abandoned the childish
and abused opinions of the people, wisely and expertly exclaimed: 'You
are Christ, Son of the living God'. Now when
Christ heard this true opinion of him, He repaid Peter by saying:
are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to
you but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and
upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it'. The surname, I believe,
calls nothing other than the unshakeable and very firm faith of the disciple
'a rock', upon which the Church was founded and made firm and remains continually
impregnable even with respect to the very gates of Hell. But
Peter's faith in the Son was not easily
attained, nor did it flow from human apprehension; rather it was derived
from the ineffable instruction from above;
since God the Father clearly shows his own Son and
causes a sure persuasion of him in the minds of his people. For Christ
was in no way deceptive when He said, 'Flesh
and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven'.
If, therefore, blessed Peter, having confessed Christ to be the Son of
the living God, are those not very wretched and abandoned who rashly rail
at the will and undoubtedly true teaching of God, who drag down the one
who proceeds from God's own substance and make him a creature, who foolishly
reckon the co-eternal author of life to be among those things which have
derived their life from another source? Are such people not at any rate
very ignorant?" [St Cyril of Alexandria (
- 444 AD): "Dialogue on the Trinity IV"]<
Christ called this confession a rock, and
he named the one who confessed it 'Peter',
For this is the solemn rock of religion, this, the
basis of salvation, this the wall of faith and the foundation of truth:
no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ
Jesus'. To whom be glory and power forever."
Basil of Seleucia ( c 451 AD): "Oratio"]
perceiving the appellation which was suitable
to the author of this confession.