This document puts on record an extended
discussion between myself (a Traditionalist
lay Catholic affiliated to the Roman Jurisdiction) and an e-friend who
is a Byzantine 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
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 Message. 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
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, because I was just too busy, but I must admit that I am confused
It is very clear to me that the Fathers
[Matt 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, the 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
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
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.
on 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 in
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 IAIAC]
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
Catholic in Roman communion 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 a manual of theology. The implications of the Petrine
Primacy for the collaborative ministry of the Apostles was yet to be worked
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
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; but
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, but also in the original
Greek) that the use of "this" (Greek: "taute") in conjunction with the
word "rock" implies the "rock" that has just been mentioned, which "rock"
being "Petrus" the Apostle.
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 of the other Apostle who was called Simon.
Witness 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
which they propose. Anyone interested in these wider issues should study
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
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
the 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 reply: '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: "C. Jovin."]
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
any storm." [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." [St. John
Chrysostom: De Eleemos III, 4]
In many of his writings, Tertullian
affirms that Peter is himself the "rock"
of [Matt 16:18].
"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."
John Chrysostom: Hom de decem mille talentis, 3]
"The first of the apostles, the
foundation of the Church, the coryphaeus of the choir of the disciples."
John Chrysostom: Ad eos qui scandalizati sunt, 17]
"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
[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
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."
"On Monogamy 8"]
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 our text.
St Cyprian of Carthage
( - 258 AD) wrote extensively on the subject:
say 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
having its origin in one man
No doubt the other apostles were
all that Peter was, endowed with equal dignity and power,
but the start comes from him
in order to show that the Church
of Christ is unique.
Indeed this oneness of the Church
is figured in the Canticles when the Holy Spirit, speaking in Our Lord's
'One 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
the truth." [St Cyprian of Carthage: "One
the Unity of the Church 3" - second version: the "Textus Receptus"]
He says to him again after the resurrection:
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.
It is on him that He builds the
and to him that He entrusts the
sheep to feed. And although He assigns a like power to all the apostles,
He founded a single chair,
thus establishing by His own authority
No doubt the others were all that Peter
the source and hallmark of the
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
there is but one Church and
If a man does not hold fast
to this oneness of Peter,
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
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
in order that the oneness
might be unmistakable,
No doubt the other Apostles were all
that Peter was, endowed with equal dignity and power,
He established by His own authority
a source for that oneness
having its origin in one man
but the start comes from him
[St Cyprian of Carthage: "One the Unity
of the Church 3" - first version: the "Primacy Text"]
in order to show that the Church
of Christ is unique."
"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"
"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"].
Papal Claims : first tack
According to Dr Ludwig Ott: [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 measures.
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.'
the matter of Apostolic succession, St. Irenaeus designated the Roman Church
"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].
"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
all the churches in every
part of the world
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" [P.G. 91]
have possessed that greatest
as their base and foundation,
"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 usually 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
From the earliest days,
the holders of the See of Rome claimed that Peter lived and worked on in
As did pope Boniface I, and many others
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 than anyone's.
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 his government.
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 the future,
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
"...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) Dz 110]
of Ephesus, A.D. 431
The papal legate Philip opened the
council with the following words:
"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 his successors." [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 for ever."
Indeed, pope St. Leo I desired to have
seen and honoured in his own person:
[Pope St Leo I: "Sermo 3, 2"].
"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
together with the thrice blessed and
Peter the Apostle,
who is the rock and foundation of
the Catholic Church,
and the foundation of the orthodox
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
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."
I shall not further labour the arguments surrounding the
Divine appointment of St Peter [Ott IV.2.5] and
[Ott IV.2.6.1], the Pope of
Rome [Ott IV.2.6.2], as the Chief Ruler of
the Church [Ott IV.2.5].
[Pope St. Gelasius: (492-496 AD)
"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 proper 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 by divisions
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 urgent 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. Some critique:
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
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
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 we can agree.
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 Peter!
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 John XXII."
Blessed pope Pius IX
"I am only the pope. What power have
I to touch the Canon?"
"If a future pope teaches anything
contrary to the Catholic Faith, do not follow him."
Cardinal Ratzinger (later 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
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 "yes men".
but at most 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."
A kind of 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
"privileges 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
It states that the basis for "privileges
within 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 more or less
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
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.
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
status, which was indefinitely greater (being based on ecclesiastical
grounds) than that of the second secular state capital.
Primacy (of honour) cannot possibly be equated with "universal
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
power 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
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)]
comes 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"]
Augustine 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
"Keys of the Kingdom" to the
Church as a Whole
[Matt 18:15-20] as well
as to 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
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
Your suggestion above is
that the argument stops with acknowledging Peter as 'the rock'. My suggestion
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 part."
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 text: "And the Lord said,
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift [you] as
wheat: But I have prayed for thee,
that thy faith fail not: and
when thou art converted, strengthen
thy brethren." [Lk 22:31-32]
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
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
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 Peter'?"
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
"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."
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 Peter
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
Peter on the other."
"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.
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?
As I have already said, this is not about honour or rank,
but of Ecclesiastical Mission.
I think that we are in agreement here too.
This train of thought will eventually lead to questions of
I am pretty sure that it is inopportune to pursue this matter
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
materially 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
The pope was wrong in the manner in which he sought to preserve
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
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" and bureaucrats.
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 contention:
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
end in view.
"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
"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 say.
It is all very Catholic.
I must, however, insist that none of it excludes the possibility
of a continuing Petrine Ministry.
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
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
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"
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
We may be wrong about stuff, but we are no more stupid than
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 Body.
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 and ordinary..."
Both of these sentiments are well-meaning, wholesome and
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
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 concluded that:
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
and one that only She is in a position to fulfil;
and this by Divine Mandate (or, legalistically: "Right" or,
better said, "Duty").
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 been 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
[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 is:
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
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 Church.
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.
Vicar of Christ.
President and usual convenor of their synods
In practice, the Western Church rarely - if ever - holds
Patriarchate wide Synods.
Ratifier of all Archiepiscopal appointments
Unfortunately, the Pope has obtained the power to appoint
Adjudicator of all doctrinal or disciplinary disputes arising
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
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
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.
Usual Convenor of Oecumenical Councils.
Ratifier of all Oecumenical Councils and of all
their individual decisions: doctrinal and disciplinary. [Ott
Final adjudicator in doctrinal and disciplinary disputes.
In matters of discipline, no other authority can dispute
Able to exercise the Infallible ExtraOrdinary Magisterium
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
Able to exercise the Infallible ExtraOrdinary Magisterium
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 the Episcopacy.
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
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
His business is to believe the revelation
of Christ, as all Catholics believe it, and to defend it against heresy...
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 cleric:
"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 sentiments.
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
Benedict XVI 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 centre: 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
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 away.
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 the Fathers;
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 clearly 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
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 early times, the Divine Mandate to exercise just this office
suggests that the Divine Wisdom
did not fail in providing 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 Episcopate.
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
‘To 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
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 are incorporated]:
What you say, Haaike, positively is true, and what you propose
However, you must appreciate that no amount of "honour" will
I suspect that as the matter of "collegiality" (horrible
Novus Ordo term - spit it out: yeuch!) is pursued further, your difficulties
will resolve themselves.
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 a mission?
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 and conceit.
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
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 and hubristic.
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
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
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
"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 rhetoric?
I believe that your juxtaposition of two instances of "supposedly"
alongside one of "is", is significant. I follow up on this important bivocalism
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
What historical examples since the
eleventh century schism can be brought forth to make any promise of 'redimensioning
of the papacy' believable?
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, then 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
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
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 their behalf.
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 Holy See.
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
Doctrinal disputes should ideally be
resolved locally, and only in extreme cases should reference be made to
the Holy See.
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
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 may
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 all,
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'
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" issue.
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 features here.
"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
16:18]. 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 Scriptural imperatives.
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.
agree 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 of Bishops'.
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
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 can build.
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
It seems to me that to focus on this now is to put the cart
before the horse.
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 to each.
It is vital not to come to premature judgement on the most
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 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
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
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
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 this balance".
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
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
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
simply because the party being wronged may be in no position
this all according to the constitution of the Church,
and not positive law.
What exactly is it that you wish to exclude by your assertion:
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)
the Universal Fellowship of Bishops.
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
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
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 Orthodoxy.
In either case, it behoves both Rome and Constantinople to
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 the 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 qualification.
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
No subsequent Synod can be accounted "Oecumenical at root",
because of the lack of participation of the "Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox",
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
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
In effect there is a pressing need for a huge amount of house-keeping
and post-hoc accreditation.
Rome has no grounds on which it can evade the necessity of
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 + V.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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 to 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 by Saint Vincent
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
as “superiority”, then the single most important obstacle to unification
between East and West has been identified. Although 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 Councilsm, 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 Church.
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;
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;
the pope has no more ability to modify the Apostolic Deposit
of Faith than anyone else!
If any such definition seemed to be in conflict with Sacred
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 such thing.
I personally appreciate the views of
"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 trumps.
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
the Bishop of Rome
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
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!
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
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
"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
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 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.
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
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
"over 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.
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 unseemly affair.
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 with Natural
"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)]
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, the local church (a diocese) manifests the fullness
of the Church. The unity of God's Church subsists in fullness in each local
Church. The communion of the local Churches views the function of overseer
of their geographical regions (Metropolitan Bishops) as
one of the ways of maintaining
the faithfulness and the unity of the local churches to Christ's Gospel
(as provided for in the 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
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 oikonomia.
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
However, the office of Pope, unlike that of all the other
Archbishops and Patriarchs is a part of the Divine Constitution of the
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 but also".
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
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
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
in either the Councils or the Fathers."
Also, it should be taken as read that normally, the Pope
of Rome should
"do nothing without the consideration
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 of rival claims, since there were many Apostolic sees in
the East, not to forget the fact that Antioch was the first See of Peter!
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 Patriarchate.
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,
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
In the end, it must be determined whether or not 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
It is therefore inevitable that somehow in His gracious providence
He would have made provision for it.
To assert otherwise is gross impiety!
This is all accounted for, as I read it, in your excellent
review of ARCIC's deliberations.
a new definition of "Primacy"
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
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,
includes a "primacy" which does not
subordinate one Church to another.
An important question to be answered
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
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
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 perspective.
agreement" which was first in the
Church of Jerusalem and later in the Church of Rome. For the Orthodox,
the essence and the
purpose of this primacy is to visibly
express and preserve:
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 that primacy.
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 us.
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.
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
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
“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
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:
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,
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
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
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]
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, Tractate 124.5"]
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
belief 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 you 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"]
no 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
For this is the solemn rock of religion,
this, the basis of salvation, this the wall of faith and the foundation
'For 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
to the author of this confession.