Papacy Debate. Chris' Rebuttal #1
In my opening statement I sought to paint a picture of the role of the
Papacy in the first millenium, as well as in the second millenium.
Before we can evaluate if the modern role of the Papacy is a legitimate
development from the early Church, we need to get a picture in our mind
about what exactly the Papacy's role was then, and what it is now, and
how it developed over that time.
It seems worth refreshing our memories again, what the positions
are from my opening statement. Orthodoxy doesn't deny that the Bishop
of Rome had primacy in the early church. We don't deny that the see of
Rome was one of the sees with a special relationship with Peter. We
don't deny that as Christendom's top bishop, people from all over the
place took an interest in his opinion on various issues (just as they
did with other Patriarchs). We don't deny that Patriarchs, and
especially the top Patriarch often took a hand in resolving disputes.
What Orthodoxy denies is firstly that the bishop of Rome has
supremacy. That is, we deny that he has any jurisdiction of actual
power outside of his immediate locale. We deny that the Bishop of Rome
is immune from heresy, and thus we deny that if he in heresy that we
ought to commune with her. Therefore we deny that the top bishop is a
symbol of unity when he is in heresy. The top bishop can be a symbol of
unity only if he is orthodox. We deny that he has any unique role in
the approval of an ecumenical council, beyond that of being an
important bishop. We deny that he has any unique role in preserving
tradition, and we deny that he is first bishop because of Peter. And of
course, we deny that he is infallible.
The question at hand then, is not whether Scott has established any
facts that we agree on, but rather whether he has established the
points we disagree on.
Recall from my opening statement that I established from the
council of Nicea, the Synod of Carthage and numerous other sources that
the bishop of Rome was to keep to his own jurisdiction. I suggest the
reader refresh his memory from the opening statement. I established
that it never crossed the mind of the early church that no pope could
be a heretic, that there were heretical popes and that the Eastern
church didn't hesitate to break communion with and anathemetize
heretical popes. I suggest the reader revisit the cases of Vigilius and
Honorius. I established from the statements of the fifth ecumenical
council that the fathers present were only willing to hold the pope as
primate (first bishop) if he confessed an orthodox confession. That
statement, combined with the demotion of Alexandria from second to
third see, as well as Chalcedon's statement of why Rome has primacy,
established that Rome's primacy was revokable. I established that the
East didn't wait for Rome before defining the faith, and I quoted the
second ecumenical council in saying that they had already canonically
settled the issue before even consulting the pope. And I established
that there is no evidence that Rome has historically done as well as
the east as a preserver of tradition. I established from the fourth
council that the Church considered Rome first because of its secular
status. And I established that infallibility was a novelty unknown to
the early church.
In short, I documented my position from the Fathers.
However Scott has barely even touched on the role of the papacy in
either the early or modern church. His presentation seems to be limited
to the bare facts of whether the Bishop of Rome is a successor to Peter
and whether he has authority of some description. Even if we granted
all that, Scott would still lose the debate because he has not
mentioned the development of the papacy. The thesis of this debate
presupposes that there is development, so I presume Scott will not
dispute that it exists. But he has not touched upon what that
development is, or whether it is legitimate, which is the actual topic.
Scott starts out by pre-supposing that Pope Benedict XVI is the
current and valid successor to St. Peter's See, and the valid Patriarch
of the Latin Church, and says he feels safe in assuming I will
recognize these facts since apostolic succession in general is
something we both agree on.
Unfortunately, Scott doesn't know as much about the Eastern
traditions as he has made out. There are two theories of valid
succession, the so-called Cyprianic view and the Augustinian view. The
Cyprianic view is essentially that valid orders, succession and
sacraments are a function of the mystical body of Christ, which must of
necessity be One. The true church and true succession are not something
that can be separated. On the other hand, the Augustinian view is that
they can be separated. If orders are bestowed with proper form and
intent, then they are valid, regardless of how the Church feels about
Eastern Churches have always generally held to the Cyprianic view.
Valid succession is a really a question of valid Church. Since
Orthodoxy considers Rome's status as a valid church highly
questionable, it considers the Pope as a valid bishop equally as
A problem for Rome is that the Papacy doesn't really fit into the
Augustinian model. There are anti-popes both now and in times past with
valid orders according to the Catholic reckoning of such things, who
have been appointed as Bishop of Rome with correct form and intent. The
Papacy is the one ecclesiastical office where Catholics have to fall
back to a kind of Cyprianic model, where the true holder of the office
is dependant on what the true Church recognizes.
All of which means that Orthodoxy would consider the proposition
that the Pope holds any kind of valid orders, to be highly questionable
at best, let alone recognizing Benedict as the "Patriarch of the Latin
Church". There would be some Orthodox who would express that sentiment,
but it would not be the standard position.
The second problem with recognizing Benedict XVI as the "current
and valid "successor of Peter, "rightfully sitting in Peter's see", is
that as we have seen in my opening statement, Peter has more than one
see. At the very least Antioch historically has been regarded as
Peter's See and Peter's Chair, and Pope Gregory also regarded
Alexandria as Peter's see. However, for Scott to win this debate, it's
not enough to prove that Benedict is one current successor of Peter, he
must prove he is the only successor.
Scott spends a great deal of his opening statement discussing
Peter. However he assumes what he has to prove in that he has not
demonstrated that bishops of Rome are the sole successor to Peter.
According to the early Church, there are a number of ways of
understanding succession from Peter. The most basic understanding is
that everyone in the Church can be a successor to Peter and be the
He denied not to His disciple the grace of this name; that he
should be Peter, because he has from the rock 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" ~St Ambrose, Commentary in Luke VI.98, CSEL
"For though we do not retain the body of Peter, we do retain the faith
of Peter, and retaining the faith of Peter we have Peter" ~Chrysostom,
On the Inscription of the Acts, II.
The second level of understanding is that all bishops are successors of
Peter. To refresh our memory, all apostles have the same dignity and
power as Peter:
"But if you think that the whole Church was built by God upon Peter
alone, what would you say about John, the son of thunder, or each of
the apostles? Or shall we venture to say that the gates of hell shall
not prevent against Peter but shall prevent against the other apostles
and those that are perfect? Are not the words in question 'the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it' and 'upon this rock I will build my
Church' said in the case of all and each of them?" ~Origen, Com. in
To all the apostles after His resurrection He gives equal power
(parem potestatem) and says "As the Father hath sent me, even so I send
you: " ~Cyprian, De Unitate 4.
"But you say that the Church is founded upon Peter although the
same thing is done in another place upon all the apostles, and all
receive the kingdom of heaven, and the solidity of the Church is
established equally upon all" ~Jerome, Adv. Jovianum, 1:26
"This is, upon the rock of the confession. Paul was equal in honour to Peter" ~Chrysostom, Hom. Liv. in Matt. xvi. 2.
"To all the apostles after His resurrection He gives equal power and
says, 'As the Father sent Me so I send you.'" ~Cyprian, De Unitate, 4.
Peter and John were equal in dignity and honour. Christ is the
foundation of all - the unshakable rock upon which we are all built as
a spiritual edifice. ~Cyril of Alexandria to Nestorius.
[Peter & Paul were]: "The presidents of the Churches" ~Cyril of Alexandria Catech. vi, 15
In light of this, it is not surprising that all bishops are successors of Peter:
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" ~ Cyprian, Ep. 33.1.
"In the administration of the Church each bishop has the free
discretion of his own will, having to account only to the Lord for his
actions. None of us may set himself up as bishop of bishops., nor
compel his brothers to obey him; every bishop of the Church has full
liberty and complete power; as he cannot be judged by another, neither
can he judge another." ~Cyprian's opening address to the Council of
Nor is the Church of the city of Rome one thing, and the Church of
all the rest of the world another. Gaul and Britain, and Africia, and
Persia, and India, and all barbarian nations, adore one Christ and
observe one rule of charity. If authority is looked for, the world is
greater than the city. - Jerome.
The third way in which the early church understood a succession
from Peter, was the bishops of cities that had a peculiar relationship
with Peter such as Antioch and Rome. So we find various quotes saying
that Antioch is the Chair of Peter, or Rome is the Chair of Peter.
Let's refresh our memory from the opening statement:
Dioscurus, however, refuses to abide by these decisions; he is turning
the see of he blessed Mark upside down; and these things he does though
he perfectly well knows that the Antiochean metropolis possesses the
throne of the great Peter, who was the teacher of the blessed Mark, and
first and coryphaeus of he apostles" -- Theodoret, Epistle 86
Now, sometimes we find a Church father saying that there is only "one
Chair". Cyprian for example, says that there is only one Chair. But
that one Chair is the Church's entire episcopate, not the Bishop of
Rome. Recall what Gregory said:
Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the
principality itself the See of the Prince of the apostles alone has
grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one. For
he himself exalted the See in which he deigned even to rest and end the
present life [Rome]. He himself adorned the See to which he sent his
disciple as evangelist [Alexandria]. He himself established the See in
which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years [Antioch].
Since then it is the See of one, and one See, over which by Divine
authority three bishops now preside, whatever good I hear of you, this
I impute to myself. (Gregory the Great, Book VII, Epistle XL)
To assume that Cyprian was talking about the Bishop of Rome, would
make Cyprian inconsistent with himself. Remember he said that no-one is
"bishop of bishops" and that all the apostles had "equal dignity and
power". Remembering also, that Cyprian's interpretation of Mt 16 and
the keys is that "the Church is settled upon her Bishops; and every act
of the Church is regulated by these same Prelates".
Now Scott has spent a great deal of his opening statement
discussing Peter. However what he hasn't established is that we must
believe in a fourth level of Petrine succession over and above these
three. And he needs to prove that this succession is held by the bishop
Church Father Quotes
Scott has provided a great number of Church Father quotes which do little more than speak in glowing terms about Peter.
It's my contention that the authors of these quotes had no
intention of making any kind of statement about papal primacy. For
example, Scott provides a full seven quotes from John Chrysostom.
Recall that Chrysostom was baptised and ordained in 370 AD by a Church
not in communion with Rome. He didn't come into communion with Rome
until by accident, so to speak, when he was somewhat forcibly appointed
to the See of Constantinople in 398 AD. He died in 407 AD. So he spent
three quarters of his ecclesiastical life out of communion with Rome.
It's obvious that communion with Rome was not something Chrysostom
considered of any importance. How rational is it therefore, to cite
Chrysostom in favour of the modern Catholic view of the Papacy as the
centre of unity? Chrysostom has nice things to say about Peter, but it
would make Chrysostom self-contradictory to extrapolate that to Bishops
By my quick count, 33 of the 54 quotes Scott provided do nothing
more than discuss Peter, without relating it at all to the Bishops of
Rome. And there's something very interesting about those 33 quotes,
which is that they are pretty much the 33 earliest quotes which never
mention the Pope in the same breath as Peter.
What about other early quotes from Scott? For example, we have this one:
Rome is called the Apostolic throne. (Athanasius, Hist. Arian, ad Monach. n. 35).
Now I have an electronic copy of Athanasius' History of the Arians, ad Monach. It's also available online.
I put it to Scott, that this quotation is bogus. The closest I can come up with is this:
Thus from the first they spared not even Liberius, Bishop of Rome,
but extended their fury even to those parts; they respected not his
bishopric, because it was an Apostolical throne;
That's quite a bit different, isn't it? Rome is "an" apostolical throne, not "The Apostolic Throne".
What about Emperor Justinian? The writings of Emperors are not so
readily available for examination. I do find it odd that Scott lists
him as 520-533 AD, because he was born in 482 AD, took the throne in
527 AD and died in 565 AD. He was the previous emperor's close
confident between 518 and 527, but the date range of 520-533 doesn't
make much sense, as he couldn't be referred to as "Emperor" Justinian
Assuming this one is actually real and in context (which we have no
ability to check), I always find it instructive to find out about who
is making the quote. Justinian was the last Latin emperor. He was born
in Italy, and his native language was Latin. He is famous for his
military activities, in particular for his recovery of the Western
Roman empire, including Rome. Now, anyone who knows about politicians,
and Byzantine emperors in particular, knows that they were artful at
flattering people for political gain. Popes played this game right
back. Recall Letter 162 by Pope Leo to the emperor in my opening
statement, where the Pope says that the emperor has "perfect judgment"
and "no error can dilute your faith".
Did Justinian act like the Pope was the spiritual leader of the
world? He refused to sign a peace treaty with Pope Agapetus I, who went
to Constantinople specially for that purpose. But much more
significant, recall that Justinian was the one who kept Pope Vigilius
in chains until he relented. Go back to my opening statement and read
the chapter on the Fifth ecumenical council and how Justinian treated
Pope Vigilius, and tell me honestly if Justinian can be cited as a
believer in the authority of the Papacy. I think not.
What about this one from Theodoret:
I therefore beseech your holiness to persuade the most holy and
blessed bishop (Pope Leo) to use his Apostolic power, and to order me
to hasten to your Council. For that most holy throne (Rome) has the
sovereignty over the churches throughout the universe on many grounds.
(Theodoret, Tom. iv. Epist. cxvi. Renato, p. 1197).
This one looks ok for Scott. That is until we find that it is
another bogus quote. Here is Theodoret's Letter cxvi (116) to Renato,
As you can see, it doesn't say anything much like Scott's quote. It does say this:
For that holy see has precedence over all churches in the world, for
many reasons; and above all for this, that it is free from all taint of
heresy, and that no bishop of heterodox opinion has ever sat upon its
throne, but it has kept the grace of the apostles undefiled.
Ok, so Rome has precedence. Nothing surprising here, the ecumenical
councils said the same. And the reason cited by Theodore for this
precedence is that nobody heterodox has ever sat in Rome. Well great.
But so what? Nothing interesting here. It's not even as impressive as
when the Pope said to the emperor that "no error can dilute your
Things aren't looking good for the Catholic quote factory. How about this one:
If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit,
hastened to the great Peter, to convey from him the solution to those
in Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more
do we, poor and humble, run to the Apostolic Throne (Rome) to receive
from you (Pope Leo) healing for wounds of the Churches. For it pertains
to you to have primacy in all things; for your throne is adorned with
many prerogatives. (Theodoret Ibid, Epistle Leoni)
Epistle "Leoni". That's an odd name for an epistle. Apparently
Scott is referring to Epistle CXIII to Leo. I realise Scott isn't even
claiming to have checked these references, but still...
Here is the translation I have:
If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Ghost,
hastened to the great Peter in order that he might carry from him the
desired solution of difficulties to those at Antioch who were in doubt
about living in conformity with the law, much more do we, men
insignificant and small, hasten to your apostolic see in order to
receive from you a cure for the wounds of the churches. For every
reason it is fitting for you to hold the first place, inasmuch as your
see is adorned with many privileges. Other cities are indeed adorned by
their size, their beauty, and their population; and some which in these
respects are lacking are made bright by certain spiritual boons. But on
your city the great Provider has bestowed an abundance of good gifts.
She is the largest, the most splendid, the most illustrious of the
world, and overflows with the multitude of her inhabitants. Besides all
this, she has achieved her present sovereignty, and has given her name
to her subjects. She is moreover specially adorned by her faith, in due
testimony whereof the divine Apostle exclaims "your faith is spoken of
throughout the whole world". And if even after receiving the seeds of
the message of salvation her boughs were straightway heavy with these
admirable fruits, what words can fitly praise the piety now practised
in her? In her keeping too are the tombs that give light to the souls
of the faithful, those of our common fathers and teachers of the truth,
Peter and Paul.
So instead of "primacy in all things" we have simply "the first place".
No argument there, Rome held the first place. Instead of "your throne
is adorned with many prerogatives" we have "your see is adorned with
many privileges", which he goes on to list as being in the city which
is "the largest, most splendid, most, most illustrious.. with multitude
of inhabitants". So Rome is a nice city, but it's not exactly a
prerogative of the papal throne. It then also goes on to say that Rome
has "sovereignty" and "has given her name to her subjects" (aka,
"Romans"). Obviously this sovereignty is secular sovereignty where the
members of this sovereign jurisdiction are called "Romans". Theodore is
simply listing all the nice things about Rome the city. He then quotes
Paul's epistle to the Romans about Rome's faith being spoken of in the
Citing Theodoret in such a selective way is clearly misleading.
What sounded like an annunciation of the Apostolic Papal Throne was
found to be nothing more than a statement that Rome is recognised as
the first city of the empire and thereby first Church. Nothing here for
With such terrible quoting, how much should we trust this 15 word
citation from Patriarch Macedonius? With so many quotes so far being
just completely wrong or misleading, I don't know how seriously any of
this can be taken. No doubt under extreme duress, it would be
convenient to put the blame on the pope, but as I very clearly
demonstrated in my opening statement, the East didn't take the Papacy
very seriously during the first seven ecumenical synods. I prefer
measure the truth of what people believe when they are not under
external pressure. When they are just commenting matter-of-factly about
theology, not when they've got an emperor breathing down their neck.
What about these quotes from Maximus the Confessor, who seems to have some nices things to say about Rome?
One thing that should be mentioned is that it is highly
questionable that we should regard him as an Eastern character. He went
to Rome in 645 AD and seems to have spent 13 years there in close
proximity to the Pope and the Western thinking that was going on there.
When he was taken back to Constantinople, the Byzantine authorities
questioned him, and asked "But what will you do," inquired the envoys,
"when the Romans are united to the Byzantines? Yesterday, indeed, two
delegates arrived from Rome and tomorrow, the Lord's day, they will
communicate the Holy Mysteries with the Patriarch."
The Saint replied, "Even if the whole universe holds communion with
the Patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the
writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even
the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another
Gospel, introducing some new teaching." ~The Life of St. Maximus the
Confessor, Boston, 1982, pp. 60-62
So as high an opinion as he may have had of Rome, it did not extend
to believing that it was either immune from heresy, or that he need
stay in communion with it in the face of heresy.
Whelton has this to say: "St. Maximus's support of papal authority
is more apparent than real, becuse when his words are accurately
translated, they contradict a key Roman Catholic teaching regarding
papal supremacy. Maximus advocated a perspective that is the complete
opposite of what Roman Catholic apologists claim. The correct rendering
of the latin so disturbed, that the noted Italian Roman Catholic
historian, Aloysius Vincenzi, called the passage's authenticity into
question over a hundred years ago when he declared it as inconsistant
with Roman Catholic doctrine. The original Latin, for Vincenzi, betrays
its forged character..." Whelton, M., (2006), "Popes and Patriarchs: An
Orthodox Prespective on Roman Catholic Claims", (Concillar Press; Ben
Lomond, CA), pp127-128. He goes on to say that at best, this passage
says that the Pope enjoys a power because it has been conferred by
Ecumenical Councils, not from Jesus.
I haven't read the works of Maximus the Confessor, because they are
not as readily available as other Church Fathers. Has my opponent read
him? I'm sure he hasn't. The situation with Maximus is not as clear as
it might seem with selective quote mining. If you're going to believe
something because of Maximus, let it be because you've actually read
his works in context and know something about his life
Theodore the Studite has some nice things to say about Rome too. So
unusual was this apparently, that he is the only Byzantine iconodule
who was recognized in the West as a saint. In common again with the
more pro-papal quotes, Theodore is embattled with his local Patriarch,
and turns to flattering the Pope.
I would certainly agree that eight centuries after Christ,
Theodore's conception of the papacy has considerably developed compared
to the early Church, and he seems to have moved quite a way towards a
Western conception of the position of the Pope of Rome. However, even
so, Orthodox would not understand his writings as supportive of the
Papal supremacy that would develop later. Theodore sees the Pope as the
first bishop, and wants the Emperor to check his doctrines with Rome.
That and a bit of flattery, but it doesn't amount to more than
Orthodoxy would be willing to conceed anyway.
Orthodox are known on occasion to refer to the Pope as the first
protestant, because like protestants he considers his own interpretive
authority to trump that of the Fathers.
We see the same thing happening here with Scott. He gives us his
interpretation of Mt 16:19, but he can't back up that interpretation
from the Fathers.
Scott has said that Peter was "singled out... to be the keeper of
the keys". For Scott to make milage out of this he has to show that the
keys and the power of binding and loosing are something different,
because we know that Mt 16:19 is spoken of in the future tense, and in
Mt 18:18 all the apostles are given power to bind and loose.
So why would we consider the keys and binding and loosing to be the
same? Scott tells us that the keys symbolize authority, and I agree.
But so does binding and loosing. Scott has to try and prove they are
different AND the same as this other symbol of authority. Recall that I
established from the greatest church fathers that the keys and binding
and loosing are the same thing:
Saint Augustine: "This refers to the keys about which it is said
"whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" - Sermon III/8
Saint John Chrysostom: "The keys of the heavens, that whatever you
shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" - Homily 54.2-3.
Saint Hilary of Poiters: "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" - On the Trinity" Book VI
Saint Jerome: "Elsewhere the same is attributed to all the apostles,
and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the
strength of the church depends on them all alike" - Epistle 146.1
St. John Chrysostom: "For the Son of thunder, the beloved of Christ,
the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of
heaven" - First Homily on the Gospel of St. John
Augustine: "He has given, therefore, the keys to His Church, that
whatsoever it should bind on earth might be bound in heaven, and
whatsoever it should loose on earth might be, loosed in heaven" - City
Augustine: "How the Church? Why, to her it was said, "To thee I will
give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose
on earth shall be loosed in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven." - Homilies on John 1
And let's add another one:
"It isn't just one man who received these keys, but the Church in its unity" - Augustine, Sermon 295
Now if the keys and binding and loosing are the same thing, then
what is unique about Peter? All that is unique is that he was
chronologicallly earlier in receiving the promise (though not the
fulfillment). Peter was first, but not unique. Just like Orthodoxy
teaches. As St Ambrose said, Peter was "first in confession, not in
honor, first in belief, not in rank" (The Sacrament of the Incarnation
of our Lord IV)
How are we to decide among these two interpretations, that Peter was
the unique holder of the keys, or that the keys are the same as binding
and loosing which all the apostles received? Are we going to be
protestants and decide that for ourselves, or are we going to listen to
Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, Hilary of Poiters and other Fathers of
And that's before we also consider the problem that Rome is not
unique in being a successor to Peter, as I also documented and
established from the early Church.
As I predicted, Scott in his opening statement tries to say Peter
and his faith as per Mt 16 cannot be distinguished, contrary to the
church fathers who explicitely distinguished between Peter and his
faith. From my point of view this is very simple: If you can confess
the same thing Peter did, then how are Jesus' words any less applicable
to you? That was St Ambrose' exact point. If you confess what Peter
did, you too are a rock, the same as Peter was. Peter may have been the
first rock, but he is no more or less a rock.
I suggest the reader go back and read Ambrose and Cyprian from my
opening statement showing that anyone who has Peter's confession is a
rock. Lest anyone think this is unique to Cyprian and Ambrose, we can
cite more Fathers that it isn't a man the Church is built on, but the
confession all Christians hold:
"And if we too have said like Peter, 'Thou are the Christ, the Son
of the living God', not as if flesh and blood had revealed it to us,
but by the light from the Father in heaven having shone in our heart,
we become a Peter, and to us there might be said by the Word, 'Thou art
Peter'. For a rock is every disciple of Christ." ~Origen, Commentary on
"Christ, 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, and
there's where the Church has been built, which the gates of the
underworld cannot conquer" - ~Augustine, Sermon 229
"For though we do not retain the body of Peter, we retain the faith
of Peter, and retaining the faith of Peter we have Peter." ~Chrysostom,
On the Inscription of the Acts II
The Alternative - Unity
Recall that I presented St Vincent and an excerpt his treatise "The
Commonitory", as well as Athanasius' comments in the Epistle to the
Catholics as an alternative theory to Papal primacy. This is not to say
that either Vincent or Athanasius never had anything nice to say about
the Pope, or his having a role in the Church. The issue is, which has
not been rebutted, that these important fathers defined the true
Catholic church in a way that is not dependant on there being a papacy.
I strongly suggest that the reader go and read St Vincent's Commonitory
again from my opening statement, and make for yourself a list of how
Vincent defines the true church:
The Authority of Divine Law
The Tradition of the Catholic Church
The Faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.
Universality, antiquity, consent
The soundness of the whole body
Cleave to antiquity
An ancient General Council
What is glaringly absent as a means of discerning the true church is
the papacy. In fact, the Commonitory is completely redundant if the
papacy defines the true church. We could shortcut this entire list and
just look to Rome. Vincent elsewhere cites bishops including the bishop
of Rome, but they are but one witness to the Tradition of the Catholic
We saw this same thing with many other Church fathers. Augustine
for example. While he certainly consulted with his fellow bishops, and
especially his local Patriarch, the Bishop of Rome, Augustine wrote
more than anybody else on the unity of the Church and not once mentions
the Papacy as definitional of unity. What he does mention as the
highest authority is an ecumenical council.
The point is, the early Church defined unity in a way that doesn't
include the papacy. For all the nice things that the Church had to say
about Peter and Bishops of Rome, none of that actually establishes Rome
as an unrevokable centre of unity.
I again draw the reader's attention to the fifth ecumenical council
which predicated its communion with the Bishop of Rome on his making an
orthodox confession. I also draw the reader's attention to the
heretical Popes which cannot possibly stand as a centre of unity.
And I draw attention to Peter withdrawing himself from the gentiles
in the Galatians 2 incident. If the Pope can wrongly withdraw his
communion from you, and Rome doesn't even claim that its decisions on
communion are infallible, then clearly it can't be definitional of the
The Role of Peter
Even if we granted the Bishop of Rome with some peculiar Petrene
authority (which we do not grant for reasons already stated), it would
not follow that Scott has established that the modern Papacy is in
proper exercise of it.
Recall Chrysostom's comment:
But observe how Peter does everything with common consent; nothing imperiiously. ~John Chrysostom, Homily III on Acts 1:12
and compare to Pius IX, who didn't want common bishops witnessing
to tradition because "There is only one: that's me." Compare to the
Eastern Catholic canon law which gives the Pope supreme jurisdiction
from which there is no appeal. Compare to Catholic canon law that "no
mortal may presume to reprehend him, forasmuch as he is judge of all,
and is judged of no one." Compare to the behaviour of the papacy in the
middle ages which caused Nicetas, Archbishop of Nicomedia to comment
If the Roman Pontiff, seated on the lofty throne of his glory wishes to
thunder at us and, so to speak, hurl his mandates at us from on high,
and if he wishes to judge us and even to rule us and our Churches, not
by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary pleasure, what kind
of brotherhood, or even what kind of parenthood can this be? We should
be the slaves, not the sons, of such a Church, and the Roman See would
not be the pious mother of sons but a hard and imperious mistress of
and compare to the words of Jesus himself:
Luke 22:24-26 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which
one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, "The
kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority
over them are called 'Benefactors.' "But it is not this way with you,
but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the
youngest, and the leader like the servant.
Scott has failed to prove that the role the Papacy claims for herself is in any way comparable to Peter's role in the Twelve.
The Alternative - Ultimate Authority in the Church
Rome today claims that there is no authority outside the Pope, and
furthermore that the Pope can act totally alone in exercising his
There is so much information contrary to this that we cannot repeat
it all. We recall Augustine stating an ecumenical council as the
highest authority. We recall the Third Ecumenical Council ignoring the
Pope's judgment and revisiting all his decisions. We recall the second
council stating that it had canonically decided without the Pope. We
recall the authority of the first council of Nicea before the Pope had
approved it. We recall the East not waiting for Papal approval of the
Seventh council or the council of Trullo. We even recall the Catholic
bishops in 1789 swearing on oath that the Pope is to submit to the
The Alternative - Position of first bishop
Whatever we think of the Bishop of Rome's position in the early
church, it doesn't answer the question of whether that position is
revokable. Peter fell as head of the Twelve by denying Christ three
times and had to be restored. There's no obvious reason to presuppose
that Bishops of Rome can't fall permanently.
I documented the demotion of Alexandria as Second See, and that
Rome accepts this demotion. I documented that the Fifth council
predicated Rome's position as primate on her giving an orthodox
confession. I documented Saint Columbanus expressing that Rome can no
longer "shine as an apostolic star" when it has erred.
The Alternative - Jurisdiction
Recall the canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches:
[The Bishop of Rome] enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal
ordinary power in the Church which he can always freely exercise.
We saw the canons of Nicea restricting Rome's power to Rome. We saw the
Synod of Carthage denying any appeals to Rome. We saw that Antioch
ignored Rome's candidate for the Antioch Patriarchate during the Second
Ecumenical Council. We saw Canon 34 of the Apostles which lists the
primate as the top bishop in the country. In short, what we saw is the
ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church. What we haven't seen in the early
church is the modern canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
In large part, Scott has failed to address the points of dispute.
Orthodoxy is happy to hear nice things about Peter. Orthodoxy,
pre-schism, was happy to consider popes to be one of the successors to
Peter. Orthodoxy was even happy to consider Rome's bishop to be the
first bishop. For Scott to prove what was agreed already, does not
actually win him the debate.
For Scott to make progress in this debate, he must tell us why we
shouldn't accept all that the Fathers taught, and not just the subset
he believes. Why shouldn't we keep Rome's jurisdiction to her own
geographical boundaries as the first council taught? Why shouldn't we
consider the papacy non-essential to a canonical ecumenical council as
the second council taught? Why shouldn't an ecumenical council
reconsider a Pope's decision as the third council taught? Why shouldn't
we be prepared to demote a Patriarchate as the fourth council taught?
Why shouldn't we make Rome's primacy conditional on her orthodoxy as
the fifth council taught? Why shouldn't we consider that popes can
teach heresy as the sixth council taught?
The question is one of who is going to judge who. Is Scott going to
set himself up as judge of Mt 16 over and against the Fathers? Is he
going to judge Popes as to when they speak infallibly? Is he going to
judge who in fact is the valid pope or bishop? Is he going to judge the
ecumenical councils as to how they apply to the papacy?
Or will he submit both himself and the Pope to the judgment of the
Church? As I discussed in my opening statement, the papacy solves
nothing. The most non-concilliar doctrine ever proposed - papal
infallibility, actually puts the burden of judgment back onto the
individual to judge what is infallible, and thus no two Catholics can
now agree on what the Church teaches infallibly.
1 Cor. 1:10-13 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions
among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the
same judgment. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am
of Paul," and "I am of Apollos," and "I am of Peter," and "I am of
Christ." Has Christ been divided?