Papacy Debate

Is the modern role of the Papacy a legitimate development from the early church?
Scott Windsor - in the Affirmative
What follows is my rebuttal of Chris' Opening Statement. I have restricted my rebuttal to the “Conclusion” section, as I will assume he will do with my rebuttal(s). To distinguish my words from Chris' I have made mine in bold and blue font. So without further ado, on with the rebuttal:

Chris wrote:
The claims of the papacy are built on sand.

The claims of the papacy are built upon the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 16:18-19.

Chris wrote:
One has to assume what one wants to prove to find the necessary authority to support the claims of the papacy.

One does not need to assume the authority of the office of St. Peter is endowed with infallibility when we read Matthew 16:18-19. One would have to assume error can be bound in Heaven if Peter or one of his successors could bind error.

Chris wrote:
We saw that it is clearly not a catholic teaching that the true church is defined by unity with the bishop of Rome. We saw the quotation from St Vincent of Lerins and Athanasius where they define identification of the catholic faith in a manner quite independent of any papacy.

The only reference Chris makes to St. Vincent of Lerins is one in silence. Just because he lists ten who were decisive in judging the Nestorian heresy and doesn’t mention Pope Celestius does not mean he didn’t turn to the Pope for unity in other matters. However, was St. Vincent of Lerins silent about the authority of the Pope? By no means! What he silent about Pope Celestine in confronting the Nestorian Heresy? By no means! Let us read what he had to say:

The foregoing would be enough and very much more than enough, to crush and annihilate every profane novelty. But yet that nothing might be wanting to such completeness of proof, we added, at the close, the twofold authority of the Apostolic See, first, that of holy Pope Sixtus, the venerable prelate who now adorns the Roman Church; and secondly that of his predecessor, Pope Celestine of blessed memory, which same we think it necessary to insert here also.

Holy Pope Sixtus then says in an Epistle which he wrote on Nestorius's matter to the bishop of Antioch, "Therefore, because, as the Apostle says, the faith is one,—evidently the faith which has obtained hitherto,—let us believe the things that are to be said, and say the things that are to be held." What are the things that are to be believed and to be said? He goes on: "Let no license be allowed to novelty, because it is not fit that any addition should be made to antiquity. Let not the clear faith and belief of our forefathers be fouled by any muddy admixture." A truly apostolic sentiment! He enhances the belief of the Fathers by the epithet of clearness; profane novelties he calls muddy.

Holy Pope Celestine also expresses himself in like manner and to the same effect. For in the Epistle which he wrote to the priests of Gaul, charging them with connivance with error, in that by their silence they failed in their duty to the ancient faith, and allowed profane novelties to spring up, he says: "We are deservedly to blame if we encourage error by silence. Therefore rebuke these people. Restrain their liberty of preaching." But here some one may doubt who they are whose liberty to preach as they list he forbids,—the preachers of antiquity or the devisers of novelty. Let himself tell us; let himself resolve the reader's doubt. For he goes on: "If the case be so (that is, if the case be so as certain persons complain to me touching your cities and provinces, that by your hurtful dissimulation you cause them to consent to certain novelties), if the case be so, let novelty cease to assail antiquity." This, then, was the sentence of blessed Celestine, not that antiquity should cease to subvert novelty, but that novelty should cease to assail antiquity. (Commonitory, Chapter 32).

So we see St. Vincent uplifting the papacies of both Sixtus and Celestine! This is hardly a good example for Chris to use in opposition to the papacy – and again we must note, in his sole example from St. Vincent, it is an argument from silence – yet it doesn’t take much research to find St. Vincent not only not being silent – but SUPPORTING the papacy!

As for St. Athanasius, considering the fact that he was the Patriarch of Alexandria, it was in his purview to define matters for those whom he was responsible for. It is also no secret that there was tension between him and the Holy See of Rome. Thus, the fact that there isn't much support of the papacy from him is no surprise. Still the fact there was a controversy between St. Athanasius and the papacy in the first place speaks volumes to the fact that the papacy was in existence. This whole episode is indicative of the importance of the See of Rome and it concludes with Rome and St. Athanasius in communion with each other.

Chris wrote:
Even if we were to grant Church Fathers supporting the Roman Catholic position (which we do not grant), at best it would come down to my Church Father versus your Church Fathers. We can't presuppose the authority of a papacy to resolve this, as it would be circular.

The fact is, it's not a matter of “my Church Fathers versus your Church Fathers,” for I am using the same Church Fathers you are using!

Chris wrote:
Scripture cannot come to the rescue.

Scripture does “come to the rescue,” for it explicitly states in the words of Jesus Himself that St. Peter has authority to bind and loose and also promises him the Keys to the Kingdom. Denying the obvious does not help the case of those who would oppose the Church on this.

Chris wrote:
We saw that the vast majority of Church Fathers do not support the interpretation necessary for Rome.

No, we saw you pull SOME quotes from the Church Fathers out of context. You did not come close to presenting a “vast majority” and looking at the context of some of the SAME Church Fathers, we found they DO support the papacy!

Chris wrote:
We saw that the Fathers distinguished between the confession of Peter and the person of Peter.

We only saw a FEW of the Church Fathers who make such a distinction and even when they do, one cannot separate the person from his confession! That's a silly ploy used primarily by Protestants who desperately seek to fill the void of authority after leaving the Catholic Church and make excuses for leaving the authority which has been with His Church all along. That line of argumentation has been refuted so many times, even to you Chris, that it amazes me that the argument is still attempted. Let's do it one more time for this audience, shall we?

A man named Simon Bar-Jonah stands before Jesus and when asked, “Who do you say I am?” He answers, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” Jesus responds to this and says, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this unto you, but My Father who is in Heaven.” Then a very significant event happens, God renames Simon to Peter! When God renames someone it is a sign unto something else. Take for example Jacob: Gen 32:28 He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." Likewise, Simon is named Peter, or Cephas, a name which means “Rock,” and then immediately Jesus says, “And upon this Rock I will build My Church.” The context clearly points to Simon, now Peter/Rock and the Rock upon which Jesus would build His Church are both the same.

Chris wrote:
We saw that there is only a clear scriptural warrant for Peter being the head of the college of the Twelve disciples.

Thank you! That confirms my argument of Peter being the Corypheas (Head) of the college of the Apostles – our first bishops!

Chris wrote:
Even were we to grant extending the paradigm to the Bishop of Rome,

As shown in the numerous quotes I provided in my Opening Statement, you (Eastern Christendom) DO grant the extending of the paradigm, there is no “if” here.

Chris wrote:
the model of primacy exhibited by Peter bears no parallel to the claims of the papacy.

Which claims, Chris? The claim to be the head of the college of bishops? You've already given that when you said there is “a clear scriptural warrant for Peter being the head of the college of the Twelve disciples!” The claim of infallibility? Scripture confirms that when Jesus stated Peter could bind or loose whatsoever he chose to. Aren't those the two “big” claims here? Leadership of the bishops and infallibility in that leadership? My Opening Statement was rather short by comparison to your's because the “modern role of the papacy” is pretty much summed up in these two claims. “Sometimes less is more.”

Chris wrote:
The Ecumenical Councils cannot come to the rescue. They are frankly an embarrassment for Rome. The witness of the attendees, which were all the bishops of the East, was to grant equal powers to Constantinople.

This is not a debate about the powers of Constantinople! In fact, with the exception of individual infallibility, the “powers” of EVERY bishop are equal! Every bishop is a “pope” to his jurisdiction. There is no denial that a special “primacy” was given to Peter and extends to the Bishop of Rome, as we can see in the Eastern Fathers quotes I provided with my Opening Statement. Perhaps one of the best quotes from a council is from the Council of Chalcdon in 451 in which they declared, “Peter speaks through (Pope) Leo!”

Chris wrote:
There is no evidence whatsoever that they had more regard for the Bishop of Rome's opinion on any issue than they did their own.

As the previous quote proclaims, to say there is “no evidence whatsoever,” is proven to be false.

Chris wrote:
The behaviour of the early church cannot console the Roman Catholic. When we see how disputes were resolved, when we see how great bishops like Augustine and the African church dealt with Rome, we find no evidence that the Bishop of Rome enjoyed the kind of jurisdiction that Rome claims.

Actually, Chris, most disputes – and especially those which involved other churches between themselves, were resolved by Rome and/or were expected to be taken to Rome for resolution. Funny you should bring up St. Augustine and the African bishops! It was during the Pelagian heresy that St. Augustine that we get the statement “Roma locuta est, causa finita est,” (Sermon 131.10). The first part of that statement is a paraphrased summary from him saying that letters were sent to Rome and a response (rescripts) has come back – in essence, “Rome has spoken.” The second part is an exact quote of St. Augustine's words from that context, literally, “the cause is ended.” So again, your assertion is proven to be false.

Chris wrote:
We then looked at the split of 1054, and how the new found claims of the forged Donation of Constantine, the False Decretals of Pesudo Isidore, together with other Western innovations like the filioque led the Western church being the party at fault in the tragic schism, leaving the Papacy being the party in the wrong.

This is not a debate on the forged documents nor the filioque – so let us not be distracted by such, for that is all they are – distractions. This is also not a debate about whether the pope has ever been “wrong.” That is another distraction. Stick to the point, Chris – leave the fluff behind.

Chris wrote:
We looked at the history of the Western Church since 1054, and how the forgeries reshaped Western Christendom into a form that became unrecognizable to the East.

The forgeries had little to do with the differences between East and West and it is quite disingenuous to imply here and now that they did. The fact is, the Latin Mass of the West was already in place as was the Divine Liturgy of the East by the time of the 1054 schism. East and West are two distinct cultures with distinct traditions – yet even in the differences we can still see similitudes – at least those who view the two churches objectively can see this. Fundamentally, both churches adhere to all 7 Sacraments. Both churches agree to the Real Presence of the Eucharist (though definitions vary a bit). Yes, POLITICALLY the two churches have grown apart – but SPIRITUALLY they preach the same – but again we're digressing into yet another “fluff” distraction. This is not a debate about how Rome and the East are different – it is about the ROLE of the modern papacy. Back to the point, please, Chris.

Chris wrote:
We saw that the Papacy, far from being an agent for unity has been an agent for schism, causing and failing to heal the schism of 1054.

What “we” saw is a bit different, I'd say. Rome has been the agent for defending the Church against many a heresy.

Chris wrote:
Inventing new teachings like indulgences which ultimately led to the schism of schisms, the protestant reformation.

We are not here to discuss or debate indulgences nor Protestantism, so I will not be distracted into discussing those topics. You bring these up though because of the fact that Rome is the symbol of unity, and to be truly catholic is to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Let us look at a few more quotes from the Early Fathers:

St. Ambrose

“Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia” which means: “Where there is Peter, there is the Church.”

“"[T]hey [the Novatian heretics] have not the succession of Peter, who hold not the chair of Peter, which they rend by wicked schism; and this, too, they do, wickedly denying that sins can be forgiven [by the sacrament of confession] even in the Church, whereas it was said to Peter: ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven’[Matt. 16:19]" (Penance 1:7:33 [A.D. 388]).

Cyprian of Carthage

"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. . . . If someone [today] does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; first edition [A.D. 251]).

"Cornelius was made bishop by the decision of God and of his Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the applause of the people then present, by the college of venerable priests and good men, at a time when no one had been made [bishop] before him—when the place of [Pope] Fabian, which is the place of Peter, the dignity of the sacerdotal chair, was vacant. Since it has been occupied both at the will of God and with the ratified consent of all of us, whoever now wishes to become bishop must do so outside. For he cannot have ecclesiastical rank who does not hold to the unity of the Church" (Letters 55:[52]):8 [A.D. 253]).

"With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source" (ibid., 59:14).


"You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all" (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).

St. Augustine

"If all men throughout the world were such as you most vainly accuse them of having been, what has the chair of the Roman church done to you, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today?" (Against the Letters of Petilani 2:118 [A.D. 402]).

"If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’ . . . [Matt. 16:18]. Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, Anacletus by Evaristus . . . " (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).

Council of Ephesus

"Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod’" (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 431]).

Council of Chalcedon

"After the reading of the foregoing epistle [The Tome of Leo], the most reverend 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! Anathema to him who does not thus believe! Peter has spoken thus through Leo! . . . This is the true faith! Those of us who are orthodox thus believe! This is the faith of the Fathers!’" (Acts of the Council, session 2 [A.D. 451]).
The above quotes from: (Citation added later).

Chris wrote:
And now apparently Rome is claiming that it made a mistake at Chalcedon in 451, and that this schism was really all a big mistake. What a disaster Rome has been as a centre of unity! Far from being a centre of unity, it is the very thing which has caused the break up of Christendom.

I believe first I need to remind you that it is not just Rome making statements at the Council of Chalcedon in 451! This council was the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church! The statements from this council are from and agreed to by East and West, so you err when you state “Rome is claiming...” when you cite Chalcedon in 451.

Second, you're approaching this wrong! Yes, schism is made clear by look at Rome! You see, without the centralized point in Rome, what else do you look to for unity? At the time of Chalcedon (in 451) Eastern and Western Christendom are still united and we see the clear statements from this ecumenical council pointing to Rome and explicitly to Pope St. Leo the Great for this unity. You're not gaining any credibility nor an edge in this debate in referencing Chalcedon!

Chris wrote:
Historian and ex-priest Joseph McCabe observed that the Council of Constance (1414-1418) "'sold' absolution from 'sin' as well as from the purgatorial punishment of sin (a poena et culpa). The Council is rude enough to call it a 'sale.'" (Joseph McCabe, The Popes and Their Church, 1918)

Well, consulting a relatively recent “ex-priest” who has an axe to grind with the authority he formerly adhered to is not very credible evidence. Secondly, in consulting the documents and decrees of this council ( we do not find the word “sold” in there at all nor the word “purgatorial.” The ONLY time the words “absolution” and “indulgences” are used is in the conclusion of the council – wherein the attendees of the council are granted a plenary indulgence, so I find this reference completely without merit.

Chris wrote:
One might well ask how the papacy can be definitional of unity, when Peter himself separated himself from the Church in the Galatians 2 incident. Catholics are fond of making the claim that Peter did not teach heresy in this incident. However even this misses the main point, since Rome how claims that the Pope defines unity of the true Catholic Church. But how can the Pope define unity, when Peter can take himself out of communion with the true church? Whether Peter taught heresy is a minor point compared to the devastating problem that the Church was not defined in Galatians 2 by who Peter had communion with.

This “incident” in Galations 2 deals with Peter withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles, as he had been doing. St. Paul “rebukes him to his face” for doing this. So St. Paul rebukes St. Peter for an action which St. Peter engaged upon. This is not a declaration of St. Peter being out of unity or out of communion with the Church! My opponent is reaching out in desperation for anything which might have remote ties to disunity, however, the claim of the Catholic Church is not that the popes, beginning with St. Peter, would never err and never have to be rebuked! In fact, the example of Galations 2 tells us that we can and even should confront a pope who has erred. In short, this snippet which we are referred to here does not speak against the claim of Rome being a source of unity in the Church.

Chris wrote:
We looked at the Papacy's track record of preserving the Traditions, and we saw that far from being a guardian of the Tradition, the papacy is an agent for innovation.

The role of preserving Traditions does not preclude the pope from recognizing a valid and appropriate innovation to the Church. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. My opponent scores nothing in bringing up this point.

Chris wrote:
In short, Rome is truely a renegade church, in schism from Christendom. The tragic circumstances of greed for power, corruption and forgery has led Rome to forget the collegial tradition of the first millenium church.

Regurgitating the “party line” here does not make for a valid argument, it is merely begging the question (a fallacious argument) and is thus summarily dismissed.

Chris wrote:
"If the Pope should become neglectful of his own salvation, and of that of other men, and so lost to all good that he draw down with himself innumerable people by heaps into hell, and plunge them with himself into eternal torments, yet no mortal may presume to reprehend him, forasmuch as he is judge of all, and is judged of no one." Catholic Canon Law, Decreti, pars i. distinct. xl.can.xi.

Rome says that the Pope has the right to drag you into hell, and you still cannot question him. Ought we go along on this ride? I find it quite reasonable to refuse to unite with a Church which is unable to remove its chief bishop no matter what sins he is guilty of. This was a major problem in the Middle Ages. The protection of the bishop of Rome is enshrined in canon law. "The Supreme Pontiff judges all and is judged by none."

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.

First off, ought you “go along on this ride?” This does not say you should follow a pope into error! IF a pope has so erred and is drawing HIMSELF to hell, and those who blindly follow such an erroneous pope are drawn in as well – this is not Rome encouraging anyone to follow a pope to Hell!

Second, this is not a debate on whether or not YOU should unite with the Church! We are debating the “modern role of the papacy” and whether or not it is a “legitimate development from the Early Church.” Again, a hypothetical scenario of single pope who may fall into error is not a condemnation of the papacy in general, but of THAT POPE.

Thirdly, this statement from Canon Law is not saying a pope is not judged, only that he is not judged by other mortals. Clearly within the statement from Canon Law we see that such a pope plunges himself into Hell – so he IS judged.


The claims of the papacy are founded in Matthew 16:18-19.

Infallibility of the papacy is founded in Matthew 16:18-19.

The claim that St. Vincent of Lerins did not support the papacy was proven to be false and demonstrably so in the further quotations provided in this rebuttal.

The episode of St. Athanasius becomes an example of standing firm in the Faith and does ultimately end with him being in communion with Rome.

Scripture DOES “come to the rescue” of the Catholic thesis here, namely in Matthew 16:18-19.

We have your affirmation that Scripture does indeed support the fact that St. Peter is chosen to be the Corypheas (Head) of the college of bishops.

We saw you bring up St. Augustine and the African bishops, and yet when we looked at what St. Augustine himself had to say – his proclamation is summarized in saying, “Rome has spoken, the case is ended.” (Sermon 131.10).

We saw from the quotes from Sts. Ambrose, Cyprian, Augustine and of Optatus and the Councils of Ephasus and Chalcedon that communion with the See of Peter was critically important to being united with the Church.

Again, I thank my opponent for this opportunity to demonstrate the position of the Catholic Church on the matter of the papacy.

I remain your humble servant in Christ Jesus,

Scott Windsor<<<

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