St. Irenaeus [AD 140-200]


Irenaeus used Rome’s succession as a “most complete demonstration” [PG 7: 849-51] of how teaching authority, and the mark of truth, is based on apostolic succession. His train of thought is that every Church is bound to agree with that Church because of its “more powerful principality.” Irenaeus said that those “who stand aloof from the principal succession” must be considered “suspect, or as heretics, or of bad doctrine...” [Adv. Haer. IV, 26] Irenaeus chooses the succession at Rome alone and apart from the rest. If this “principal succession” is not that of Rome where is it? Also consider that those who stand aloof from it must be considered “suspect, or as heretics, or of bad doctrine.”


In the passage brought up by my opponent he says that it, “would be changed into a teaching on Roman Primacy through a careful mistranslation” which smacks of deliberate deception.


Actually the portion of the text he brings attention to presents no problem for the Catholic. Render that portion of the passage, “go to” or “meet at”, as he asserts it should be. It doesn’t matter either way.


The bigger problem he needs to deal with are the words propter potentiorem principalitatem.


For to this church on account of the more powerful principality (propter potentiorem principalitatem) it is necessary that every church convene(“go to” or “meet at”), that is the faithful from all sides, in which, always, that which is the tradition from the apostles has been preserved by those who are from all parts. [PG 7: 848-9]


The important point here is the reason for convening. It says, “on account of the more powerful principality.“ So regardless of whether it is rendered as “go to” or “meet at” the reason is the issue. Considering this I ask how exactly does this translation of convenire go to the extreme of “condemning” Roman Primacy? I also ask what does it mean to “go toward that church?“ What is the reason for this “going toward” if not because Rome has the “more powerful principality?“


Council of Sardica [A.D. 343]


It is a myth to assert that Sardica addressed jurisdiction at a mere local level and that there was no Eastern representation at the council. Eastern bishops who did not attend the council were Arian schismatics.


I showed no less than 20 Eastern provinces subscribing to the council of Sardica [I forgot to include Palestine in my opening]. These canons are excepted by the ancient Greek and Syriac Church.


I reiterate that the Eastern Council of Trullo [A.D. 692; aka “Quinisext”], in Canon 2, accepted Sardica’s canons 350 years later.


... if he[the bishop of Rome] judges that the case[of a bishop] must be reconsidered, let it be reconsidered and let him appoint judges; if however he concludes that the case is not such that it ought to be rehashed, whatever he shall have decreed shall stand confirmed. Does this please everybody? The council answered: “It does.” [Canon 3; Sardica; Mansi 3:23]


... when a bishop has been deposed by the judgment of the bishops living in neighboring places, and has proclaimed that his case must be handled in the city of Rome, after the appeal of him who apparently has been deposed, in no event may another bishop be ordained to replace him in his see unless the case shall have been determined by the judgment of the bishop of Rome. [Canon 4; Sardica; Mansi 3:24]


Council of Nicea [A.D. 325; 1st Ecumenical] and Canon 6


About A.D. 305 or 306 Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis[in Egypt] had challenged the authority of his superior, Peter of Alexandria, by performing illicit ordinations. Peter convened a council in which Melitius was deposed.


The Council of Nicea not only had to deal with Arianism but had “Melitianism” to deal with as well. This is the problem Canon 6 of Nicea addresses.


Canon 6 proclaims that Alexandria possesses authority, similar to that of Rome, over other provinces. Alexandria and Rome are, like my opponent had mentioned, “Patriarchal Sees.”


There are ancient Latin versions of Canon 6 which begin:


The Roman Church always had the primacy. Let the ancient customs prevail in Egypt, Libya...[etc]. [Mansi 2: 669-72]


Canon 6 in the Ancient Prisca[an ancient Latin collection] version is listed under the title:


 On the Primacy of the Roman Church.”  [PL 56: 758-9]


The Coptic Church is an Eastern Church in Egypt. Here is a Coptic Recension of Canon 6:


Let the ancient laws be observed, notably those concerning Egypt, Libya and the Pentapolis, so that the bishop of Alexandria should have authority over all these provinces, because it is a law established by the bishops of Rome... [Cited in Macarios, Georges, Histoire de l’Eglise d’Alexandrie depuis Saint Marc jusqu’a nos jours. Cairo 1894, 76; cf. DTC 11: 2254]


St. Cyprian[A.D. 200-258] and Pope St. Stephen[A.D. 254-257]


My opponent commented that the council of Carthage “nullified” the decisions of Pope Stephen.


Cyprian’s position, that those baptized by heretics who then came into the Church needed to be baptized again, was very common in the Eastern and African Church at the time. Pope Stephen held to the traditional practice of the Church which considered these baptisms as being valid and the imposition of hands should be used for acceptance into the Church. Cyprian recognized that his own position on rebaptism was not based on the traditional practice of the Church, yet believed that the custom of the Church was simply wrong and should yield to reason. Cyprian and Stephen were going opposite directions on a one way street. Pope Stephen resisted Cyprian and stood fast on the practice of the Church stating, nihil innovetur”--  “let there be no innovation!”.


The council of Carthage [A.D. 256], under Cyprian, ruled in favor of “rebaptism” and wrote to Pope Stephen:


... we force no one, nor do we lay down a law, since each prelate has the right of his free will in the administration of the Church, and will give an account of his actions to the Lord. [Ep. 72. CSEL 3: 778]


Cyprian believed that the council of Carthage had every right to rule as it did in this matter. He also believed that he had no right to enforce his view on any other bishop and vice versa. St. Jerome spoke on the matter:


Blessed Cyprian... condemning the baptism of heretics, sent [the acts of] an African Council on this matter to Stephen, who was then bishop of the city of Rome, and the twenty-second from Blessed Peter; but his attempt was in vain. Eventually the very same bishops, who had laid down with him that heretics were to be rebaptized, returning to the ancient custom, published a new decree. [Contra Lucif., 23. PL 23: 186]


Ultimately, and in the end, Pope Stephen and the Tradition of the Church prevailed over St. Cyprian and his council of 256. The Latin Father Vincent of Lerins sums it up this way:


Agrippinus [Cyprian] of venerable memory, who was once bishop of Carthage, first of all mortals, against the divine Canon, against the rule of the Universal Church, against the opinion of all his fellow priests, against the custom and institutions of the elders, thought that rebaptism ought to be practiced... Then Pope Stephen of blessed memory, bishop of the Apostolic See, together indeed with the rest of his colleagues but more than the others, resisted, thinking it fitting, I think, that he exceed all the rest as much by the devotion of his faith as he did by the authority of his place. What happened in the end? What force was there in the African Council or decree? By God’s gift, none. Everything, as if a dream or a story, was trampled upon as if useless, abolished, superseded... [PL 50: 645-6]


The council of Arles[France; A.D. 314] contains this canon on rebaptism:


Canon 8. Regarding the Africans, who use their own law to rebaptize, it has been enacted that if anybody comes to the church from heresy, let them ask him the Creed: and if they see that he has been baptized in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, let the hand be imposed upon him only, that he may receive the Holy Spirit. But if the person questioned does not answer with this Trinity, let him be baptized. [Mansi 2: 472]


Julius Again


Pope St. Julius[337-352] restored Athanasius to his see. In the text I provided in my opening statement Julius said it was necessary for the Eusebians[Arians] to go to Rome first “that what is just be decreed from hereIf the Eusebians had a problem with Athanasius they were to go to Rome first because these were the “ordinances” of Paul and the Fathers. The Eusebian depositions had to be referred to and agreed upon by Rome according to Pope Julius not because of a Primacy of Honor but because “we have received from the blessed apostle Peter” and they were the ordinances of Paul and the Fathers. In other words, it is the Sacred Tradition of the Church to do so.


Sozomen and Socrates are the greatest Byzantine historians writing in the early 400s. They clearly stated Pope Julius’ prerogative in this matter.


Sozomen: “because it is a law that actions taken without the consent of the bishop of Rome are invalid.” [HE III, 10]


Socrates: “it is unlawful to legislate for the churches without the consent of the bishop of Rome” [HE II, 17]


Another example of Papal Jurisdication


During the mid 7th century Constantinople had fully embraced heresy. A council had convened which accepted the ecthesis, which stated Christ had “one will”. Constantinople had become Monothelite.


During this time Pope Honorius[A.D. 625-638] had died and his successor Severinus[A.D. 640] was being prevented by the emperor from taking his place as Bishop of Rome. Severinus sent legates to Constantinople to try to encourage the emperor not to prevent his consecration from taking place.


In a letter to an abbot St Maximus the Confessor[A.D. 650] describes this event and quotes what the legates had said:


... do not become for us an obstacle unexpectedly, nor use force so as to drive us away or detain us here... the Church and clergy of Rome... the eldest of all the churches under the sun, has the pre-eminence over all. Having undoubtedly obtained this canonically, both from the councils and from the apostles as well as from their supreme principality, because of the eminence of her pontificate she is not bound to produce any writings or synodical letters, just as in these matters all are subject to her, in accordance with priestly law.” Having thus by these words shown no fear, but having disputed with the clergy of the imperial city with all holy and becoming assurance, as firm ministers of the truly solid and immovable rock, that is, the greatest apostolic Church, they seemed to calm them down, and preserving humility and simplicity, they acted with prudence, making known to them at the beginning the firmness and orthodoxy of their faith. [Mansi X, 677-8]


One of the “originators” of Monothelitism, Sergius Patriarch of Constantinople, was succeeded by Pyrrhus who was equally Monothelite. As expected Rome did not recognize Pyrrhus. In regards to this Maximus wrote:


For it is unlawful to name with any praise him who was formerly condemned and cast out by the apostolic see of the city of Rome... Let him hasten to render in all things satisfaction to the see of Rome. When that see is satisfied, everybody will in common proclaim him pious and orthodox... for he speaks in vain if he thinks he is persuading people like me, if he does not satisfy and implore the blessed pope of the most holy city of Rome, that is, the Apostolic See, which from God the Incarnate Word Himself as well as all the holy Councils, according to the sacred canons and definitions, has received and possesses supreme power in all things and for all things, over all the holy churches of God throughout the world, as well as power and authority of binding and loosing. For with this church, the Word, who commands the powers of heaven, binds and looses in heaven. [PG 91: 144]


Maximus reported that in the end Pyrrhus went to Rome, condemned the ecthesis, and united himself to “the holy, Catholic and apostolic church.” [PG 91: 352-3]


Eastern Liturgy and Matthew 16:18,19


Nothing can express better what the Church believes, teaches, and confesses then what is contained in her liturgy. Liturgical practice is the summit of faith expression. Here are examples of St. Peter in Eastern Liturgy:


Syriac text for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul: 


Simon, the chief of the Apostles, ruled over all powers so that he might bind and loose without obstacle. [Cod. de Prop. Fide Syr. 65, fol. 369, tr. in J. David]


He [Christ] saw his [Peter’s] sincere affection, and made him Head of His flock... [He is] Simon, the Head of the Apostles, the Foundation, the Ruler, the Pastor, and the governor of the Church of Christ, to whom his Lord bore witness, saying, “Thou art a rock [kipho], and upon this rock I will build My Church”; to him also the Lord said, ‘Feed the little sheep of My flock, feed My lambs, feed My sheep; graze them in the green fields of faith.’ [Cod. de Prop. Fide Syr. 41, tr. in Benni, 55]


Chaldean text for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul: 


Sing, O Holy Church, sing praises in solemn commemoration of Peter, the chief of the apostles... on whose faith He (Christ) based thy foundations, whom He appointed Leader of His flock, through whom He laid open the portals of His treasures, wherewith He had enriched thy children. [Cod. de Prop. Fide Syr. 41, fol. 375, tr. in Benni, 34-5]


Syriac text for the feast Peter, Keybearer of Heaven:


Our Lord chose Simon Bar Jonah, and set him in the foundation of the Church. He delivered to him the keys of the kingdom, that he might bind in heaven and upon earth. “If thou shouldst bind I will hear thee, and if thou shouldst loose I will not gainsay... I will put in thy hands every power of heaven and earth for thy well qualified administration. [Cod. Vat. Syr. 234, fol. 62, tr. in Benni, 59]


I agree that bishops have the power to “bind and loose” in their own provinces. I agree with the hierarchal structure of the episcopate, but Papal Primacy is not something conjured up by men. A sort of tipping the hat to the “eldest brother.”  A letting the Bishop of Rome “stand first in line.“ Papal Primacy is divine in origin. Established by Christ Himself. The history of the early Church attests to that.


There are many other issues from my opponents opening I would like to address but space constraints prevent me. During the Questions and Answers I challenge my opponent to ask me to give Patristic support on John 21:15-17. I also challenge him to ask me for Patristic support on Matthew 16:18,19 in a separate question. I can more than make the case.