Catholic Legends And How They Get Started: An Example

Dispelling the Myths in James White's Legends: A Response
(Just Who Is Being Disingenuous Here, James White or Scott Windsor?)

The large gap that exists between Roman Catholic historical scholarship and Roman Catholic apologists is a large one indeed. One often finds the historians admitting what the apologists will not regarding the truths of history that are so often utterly contradictory to later Roman dogmatic claims. This is especially true regarding such modern doctrinal developments as the Marian dogmas and the infallible Papacy.

Over the past few years Roman Catholic apologists have been producing a great deal of written material of varying levels of quality. Books and magazines of this nature gain a wide audience. As in so much of our modern culture, many readers are willing to simply accept at face value whatever is said without performing any first-hand testing of the quality of the data being presented, let alone the conclusions that follow. The result has been a growing body of "Catholic legends," claims or concepts that are being presented as absolute fact by large numbers of Catholics who simply do not know better.

James begins by impuning the integrity of not only Catholic apologists, but also most, if not all, Catholics who read and accept what these apologists have written. The gauntlet has been laid out. Let us just see who is promoting "legend" and who is presenting the Truth regarding history and the Catholic Church.

A glowing example of how these "urban legends" get started can be seen in the way in which Karl Keating’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism is treated by Catholic readers starved for some kind of an answer to the Evangelical position. If it appears in the pages of C&F, it must be true! And so highly questionable statements of dubious historic integrity (easily challenged by anyone familiar with the historic sources) end up being repeated as pure fact by those who implicitly trust their sources.

On page 217 of Catholicism and Fundamentalism we find a paragraph that has given rise to two of these "Catholic legends," ideas that are utterly without merit, historically speaking, but are now a part of the "lore" that makes up the majority of Catholic apologetics. Just as the medieval Church built its power on the back of spurious documents and forged decretals, modern Roman Catholics find a means of propping up their faith in supposedly historical dogmas through this kind of writing:

As Christians got clearer and clearer notions of the teaching authority of the whole Church and of the primacy of the Pope, they got clearer notions of the Pope’s own infallibility. This happened early on. In 433 Pope Sixtus III declared that to assent to the Bishop of Rome’s decision is to assent to Peter, who lives in his successors and whose faith does not fail. Cyprian of Carthage, writing about 256, asked: "Would heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors can come?" Augustine of Hippo summed up the ancient attitude when he remarked, "Rome has spoken; the case is closed."

We have often seen amateur Catholic apologists confidently asserting that Cyprian believed in the infallibility of the bishop of Rome, or that Augustine took the word of Rome as the final authority. Surely that is Keating’s intention, given the context, in citing both patristic sources. But, as all students of church history know (and as Roman Catholic historians have admitted for a very long time), neither early father would have agreed with the use of their words by Keating. In fact, Keating could never defend the veracity of his research against a meaningful criticism. Let’s look briefly at Cyprian and Augustine and see how this Catholic legend is just that: legendary.


Cyprian did indeed speak of the "seat of Peter," in Latin, the "cathedra Petri." It was also very central to his view of church unity and authority. No one who broke unity with the cathedra Petri was truly in the Church. All of this is quite true. And beyond this, Cyprian spoke highly of the Roman see when defending Cornelius as a result of the Novationist schism in Rome. He rebuked those who rejected Cornelius’ position as the bishop of Rome. Despite this, Cyprian sent a sharp rebuke to Cornelius when he gave audience to men who had been deposed in North Africa.

But it is just here that we learn how important it is to study church history as a discipline, not as a mere tool to be used in polemic debate. We can assume out of generosity that when Mr. Keating wrote his book he actually believed that when Cyprian spoke of the "cathedra Petri" that Cyprian understood this phrase as a modern Roman Catholic would. That is, he may well have assumed that the "seat of Peter" was understood by everyone back then to refer to the bishop of Rome. However, all students of church history know differently. Cyprian (and the North African church as a whole for the span of centuries) believed the "chair of Peter" referred to all bishops in all churches across the world. Cyprian, for example, claimed to sit upon the "cathedra Petri" as did all bishops. For example, he wrote in Epistle XXVI:

Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honor of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: 'I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I 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: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers (emphasis added).

This fact is recognized by Roman Catholic historians. Johannes Quasten, Catholic patristic scholar, commented, (Patrology, vol. 2, p. 375), "Thus he understands Matth. 16, 18 of the whole episcopate, the various members of which, attached to one another by the laws of charity and concord, thus render the Church universal a single body." And a little later Quasten cites the words of an African Synod, led by Cyprian, which said:

No one among us sets himself up as a bishop of bishops, or by tyranny and terror forces his colleagues to compulsory obedience, seeing that every bishop in the freedom of his liberty and power possesses the right to his own mind and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. We must all await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who singly and alone has power both to appoint us to the government of his Church and to judge our acts therein (CSEL 3, 1, 436).

"Just as the medieval Church built its power on the back of spurious documents and forged decretals..." I have already answered James on this point, and he ignores the Truth on this issue. Please see my page entitled: The Papacy and the Early Fathers wherein the "False Decretals" are dealt with and James is answered. James is aware of this page, so he is either deliberately not reading it so as to avoid dealing with it, or he is being deliberately deceptive in his continued allusion to "forged decretals."

James does not refute Keating's use of Cyprian in the least, and in fact further down admits the importance of the cathedra Petri! He attempts to downplay the role of Peter's seat by emphasizing that the Church is run by all the bishops but in doing so he fails to recognize what he just said!

  1. The Church IS run by all the bishops! Yes, even today this is still true! And, what's more, where does HIS "church" fit in with this succession of bishops?
  2. The True Church IS in union with the cathedra Petri! If they are not in union with this seat, then they are not "truly" in the Church!

The fact that Cyprian offers strong criticism to the Bishop of Rome does not downplay the signifigance of the role the Bishop of Rome plays. Many popes were criticized, as was even St. Peter!

Perhaps the most damaging fact to James' position here, that he seems to overlook, is that the argument James is using here against Keating demands that one be in communion with one of the bishops in succession (from the Apostles). So, let us ask James, to which bishop in valid succession from the Apostles, does the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church belong? I, for one, would be very interested to see this line of succession acknowledged and documented - for if it cannot be shown, then truly James is the one being disingenuous in using THIS citation from St. Cyprian.

Then Dr. White brings up the often quoted: "Roma locuta est, causa finita est" which is, at least in part, what spurred this webpage from Dr White. Well, this too has been answered, likely on the page that sent you here:

Quasten then comments:

From these words it is evident that Cyprian does not recognize a primacy of jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over his colleagues. Nor does he think Peter was given power over the other apostles....No more did Peter claim it: ‘Even Peter, whom the Lord first chose and upon whom He built His Church, when Paul later disputed with him over circumcision, did not claim insolently any prerogative for himself, nor make any arrogant assumptions nor say that he had the primacy and ought to be obeyed’ (Epist. 71, 3).

Quasten goes on to note that Cyprian did see Rome as an important see, however,

…even in this letter he makes it quite clear that he does not concede to Rome any higher right to legislate for other sees because he expects her not to interfere in his own diocese ‘since to each separate shepherd has been assigned one portion of the flock to direct and govern and render hereafter an account of his ministry to the Lord’ (Epist. 59,14).

But there is more, much more, from Roman Catholic writers. Michael Winter writes in St. Peter and the Popes (Wesport: Greenwood, 1960, pp. 47-48):

Cyprian used the Petrine text of Matthew to defend episcopal authority, but many later theologians, influenced by the papal connections of the text, have interpreted Cyprian in a pro-papal sense which was alien to his thought.....Cyprian would have used Matthew 16 to defend the authority of any bishop, but since he happened to employ it for the sake of the Bishop of Rome, it created the impression that he understood it as referring to papal authority...Catholics as well as Protestants are now generally agreed that Cyprian did not attribute a superior authority to Peter.

Let me first begin with pointing out that just because one Catholic writer or even two, or a dozen may assert this about St. Cyprian this does not make it so. Further, we do not reject the fact that all bishops were "equals" in their jurisdictions. This fact has also been pointed out to James on numerous occaisions - and yet he states "we" are disingenuous! But let us look at other quotes from other Early Fathers. Is St. Cyprian the ONLY source for the Catholic position on the Papacy?
A.D. 190/210 St. Clement of Alexandria: "Nor does the kingdom of heaven belong to the sleeping and the lazy; rather, the violent take it by force. On hearing these words, the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute, quickly grasped and understood their meaning." [Who is the Rich Man That is Saved? qtd in Jurgens 436]
So, are we not seeing that St. Clement saw a "pre-eminence" in Peter's see?
A.D. 244 Origen: (Speaking about Peter) "Look at the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church! And what does the Lord say to him? ‘O you of little faith,’ He says, ‘why did you doubt!’ (Matt. 14:31)" [Homilies on Exodus, qtd in Jurgens 489]
And yet another Early Father (prior to St. Cyprian) supports the fact that the Church is built on St. Peter. And then we come to St. Cyprian, James does not mention the following statement of St. Cyprian:
A.D. 251 St. 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. And to you I will give the keys to the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven.’ | first edition | And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His Own Authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair.’" [The Unity of the Catholic Church, qtd in Jurgens 555-556]
Hmmmm, James, is this not just a bit more convincing? Let's look at yet another from St. Cyprian:
A.D. 254 St. Cyprian of Carthage: "You have written also that on my account the Church now has a portion of itself in a state of dispersion. In truth, the whole people of the Church are collected together and made one and joined to each other in an indivisible harmony. They alone have remained outside who, were they within, would have to be ejected. And the Lord too, in the Gospel, when the disciples abandoned Him while He was speaking, turned to the twelve and said, ‘And do you too wish to go away?’ Peter answered Him saying, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the word of eternal life: and we believe that you are the Son of the Living God.’
There speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, teaching in the name of the Church and showing that even if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws because it does not wish to obey, yet the Church does not withdraw from Christ. The people joined to the priest and the flock clinging to their shepherd are the Church.’" [Letter of Cyprian to Florentius Pupianus, qtd in Jurgens 587]
Oh my! St. Cyprian is declaring (again) that it was indeed St. Peter, upon whom the Church is built! And yet again we are shown the emphasis on the people clinging to their shepherd, and would be those people who are "The Church."
Now let's move on to another contemporary of St. Cyprian's time, St. Ephraim:
A.D. 306 / 373 St. Ephraim: "Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because on you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build what is false, you the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you will I give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My Institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of My kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all My treasures!" [Homilies, qtd in Jurgens 706]
Again we see Simon/Peter being named as the one upon whom the Church is built. The evidence is overwhelming that the Early Father definitely interpretted Matthew 16:18 so mean that truly St. Peter was chosen by Christ to be the foundation upon which He would build His Church. Again, who is being disingenuous in light of all this evidence (that James surely has seen in the past)?

Robert Eno, another historian, writes in The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Michael Glazer, 1990), p. 58, "The Chair of Peter...belongs to each lawful bishop in his own see. Cyprian holds the Chair of Peter in Carthage and Cornelius in Rome....You must hold to this unity if you are to remain in the Church." And finally, Jesuit Klaus Schatz writes in Papal Primacy, p. 20, "Cyprian regarded every bishop as the successor of Peter, holder of the keys to the kingdom of heaven and possessor of the power to bind and loose. For him, Peter embodied the original unity of the Church and the episcopal office, but in principle these were also present in every bishop."

But there is more. Cornelius’ successor, Stephen, was an arrogant prelate. Full of himself, he sowed discord amongst the churches. Cyprian severely reprimanded him, as did others. When Stephen attempted to meddle in the affairs of the North African churches, including overturning the deposing of one Basilides, who then went to Rome to attempt to find assistance in his cause, Cyprian and the North Africans rejected his attempts. Cyprian wrote,

Neither can it rescind an ordination rightly perfected, that Basilides, after the detection of his crimes, and the baring of his conscience even by his own confession, went to Rome and deceived Stephen our colleague, placed at a distance, and ignorant of what had been done, and of the truth, to canvass that he might be replaced unjustly in the episcopate from which he had been righteously deposed.

Deceived the bishop of Rome? The source of infallible and apostolic truth could be deceived about the orthodoxy of a man so as to improperly guide the church in regards to its leadership and teaching? How could such be? Obviously, the church of this day had no concept of an infallible Pope, nor any concept that the bishop of Rome was the universal head of the Church. Any reading of the correspondence between Cyprian and Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea (such as Epistle LXXIV, wherein Firmilian accuses Stephen of numerous errors, including transmitting false "tradition"), makes it very clear: neither believed as Karl Keating would like his readers to think they did.

Now we noted above that at the time Karl Keating wrote Catholicism and Fundamentalism, it is quite possible he was ignorant of the situation. He may, like so many other Roman Catholic apologists, have assumed that "chair of Peter" always meant the Roman bishop. He had probably never read much of Cyprian for himself, and was just going on what others had told him. But, the fact of the matter is, that is no longer an excuse. In the years since the publication of the work, Keating has been shown his error, multiple times. And yet his book, and his organization, continues to promote the myth that Cyprian was a believer in Papal infallibility. A glowing Roman Catholic myth.

Yes James, the Bishop of Rome can be deceived. The Bishop of Rome can make mistakes. Again you fall into the errant concept that the Pope is "impeccable." The only time the Pope is protected by infallibility is:
  1. When he is presenting a teaching to the entire Church (not just a portion of it);
  2. When he is teaching on a matter of Faith or Morals;
  3. When he pronounces the penalties for going against said teaching.
All three of these need to be in place before a teaching from the Pope can be infallible. Again, this is a FACT that has been pointed out to James MANY times in the past. For him to continually imply this standard of impeccability is truly disingenuous.

Augustine’s Sermon 131

Even less excusable is the constant use of Augustine’s comments in Sermon 131, quoted by Keating as "Rome has spoken; the case is closed." Keating puts these words in quotes, indicating that Augustine actually said this. He places it in the context of Papal Infallibility. It is clearly his intention to communicate to his readers that Augustine 1) said these words, and 2) was speaking about the subject in his sermon.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Augustine never said what Keating quotes. In fact, here is the actual Latin text of the final section of Sermon 131 from Migne, PL 38:734:

Jam enim de hac causa duo concilia missa sunt ad sedem apostolicam; inde etiam rescripta venerunt; causa finita est: Utinam aliquando finiatur error.

Translated, it reads,

. . . for already on this matter two councils have sent to the Apostolic See, whence also rescripts (reports) have come. The cause is finished, would that the error may terminate likewise.

Well, yes, but let's put a modern spin on this using a similar situation. The issue of women priests has been brought to the Apostolic See (Rome) and Rome has answered, the case is terminated. Oh that the femanists would terminate the error and stop promoting this dissent.
Again I must assert (as I did in that clearly St. Augustine said, "casua finita est" or "the cause is finished" and cleary the meaning of "Roma locuta est" (Rome has spoken) is contained in "inde etiam rescripta venerunt" - so AGAIN who is being disingenuous here? We must concede that St. Augustine did not use the words, "Roma locuta est" but it is undeniable that his words MEAN "Rome has spoken."

These comments are in reference to the heresy of Pelagianism, which Augustine had been battling in the church in North Africa. This sermon, delivered September 23, 416, begins, ironically, with an exposition of John 6:53 that is directly contradictory to modern Roman teaching on the doctrine of transubstantiation. Since so few take the time to actually read the contexts of the statements about which arguments are based in patristic sources, I provide the first two sections of this sermon, which show us the direction that Augustine was taking:

We have heard the True Master, the Divine Redeemer, the human Savior, commending to us our Ransom, His Blood. For He spake to us of His Body and Blood; He called His Body Meat, His Blood Drink. The faithful recognize the Sacrament of the faithful. But the hearers what else do they but hear? When therefore commending such Meat and such Drink He said, "Except ye shall eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, ye shall have no life in you; " (and this that He said concerning life, who else said it but the Life Itself? But that man shall have death, not life, who shall think that the Life is false), His disciples were offended, not all of them indeed, but very many, saying within themselves, "This is an hard saying, who can hear it? " But when the Lord knew this in Himself, and heard the murmurings of their thought, He answered them, thinking though uttering nothing, that they might understand that they were heard, and might cease to entertain such thoughts. What then did He answer? "Doth this offend you?" "What then if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?" What meaneth this? "Doth this offend you ?" "Do ye imagine that I am about to make divisions of this My Body which ye see; and to cut up My Members, and give them to you? ‘ What then if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before ?’" Assuredly, He who could ascend Whole could not be consumed. So then He both gave us of His Body and Blood a healthful refreshment, and briefly solved so great a question as to His Own Entireness. Let them then who eat, eat on, and them that drink, drink; let them hunger and thirst; eat Life, drink Life. That eating, is to be refreshed; but thou art in such wise refreshed, as that that whereby thou art refreshed, faileth not. That drinking, what is it but to live? Eat Life, drink Life; thou shalt have life, and the Life is Entire. But then this shall be, that is, the Body and the Blood of Christ shall be each man’s Life; if what is taken in the Sacrament visibly is in the truth itself eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually. For we have heard the Lord Himself saying, "It is the Spirit That quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken unto you, are Spirit and Life. But there are some of you," saith He, "that believe not." Such were they who said, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" It is hard, but only to the hard; that is, it is incredible, but only to the incredulous.

2. But in order to teach us that this very believing is matter of gift, not of desert, He saith, "As I have said unto you, no man cometh unto Me, except it were given him of My Father." Now as to where the Lord said this, if we call to mind the foregoing words of the Gospel, we shall find that He had said, "No man cometh unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." He did not lead, but draw. This violence is done to the heart, not the body. Why then dost thou marvel? Believe, and thou comest; love, and thou art drawn. Do not suppose here any rough and uneasy violence; it is gentle, it is sweet; it is the very sweetness that draweth thee. Is not a sheep drawn, when fresh grass is shown to it in its hunger? Yet I imagine that it is not bodily driven on, but fast bound by desire. In such wise do thou come too to Christ; do not conceive of long journeyings; where thou believest, there thou comest. For unto Him, who is everywhere we come by love, not by sailing. But forasmuch as even in this kind of voyage, waves and tempests of divers temptations abound; believe on the Crucified; that thy faith may be able to ascend the Wood. Thou shalt not sink, but shalt be borne upon the Wood. Thus, even thus, amid the waves of this world did he sail, who said, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The entire sermon is a presentation of the gospel of grace. And to give the proper context to the actual words of Augustine, read the sections that immediately precede his final statements:

8. …Hear what God saith; "Who crowneth thee with mercy and pity." Of His mercy He crowneth thee, of His pity He crowneth thee. For thou hadst no worthiness that He should call thee, and being called should justify thee, being justified glorify thee. "The remnant is saved by the election of grace. But if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. For to him that worketh, the reward shall not be reckoned according to grace, but according to debt." The Apostle saith, "Not according to grace, but according to debt." But "thee He crowneth with pity and mercy;" and if thy own merits have gone before, God saith to thee, "Examine well thy merits, and thou shalt see that they are My gifts."

9. This then is the righteousness of God. As it is called, "The Lord’s salvation," not whereby the Lord is saved, but which He giveth to them whom He saveth; so too the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord is called the righteousness of God, not as that whereby the Lord is righteous, but whereby He justifieth those whom of ungodly He maketh righteous. But some, as the Jews in former times, both wish to be called Christians, and still ignorant of God’s righteousness, desire to establish their own, even in our own times, in the times of open grace, the times of the full revelation of grace which before was hidden; in the times of grace now manifested in the floor, which once lay hid in the fleece. I see that a few have understood me, that more have not understood, whom I will by no means defraud by keeping silence. Gideon, one of the righteous men of old, asked for a sign from the Lord, and said, "I pray, Lord, that this fleece which I put in the floor be bedewed, and that the floor be dry." And it was so; the fleece was bedewed, the whole floor was dry. In the morning he wrung out the fleece in a basin; forasmuch as to the humble is grace given; and in a basin, ye know what the Lord did to His disciples. Again, he asked for another sign; "O Lord, I would," saith he, "that the fleece be dry, the floor bedewed." And it was so. Call to mind the time of the Old Testament, grace was hidden in a cloud, as the rain in the fleece. Mark now the time of the New Testament, consider well the nation of the Jews, thou wilt find it as a dry fleece; whereas the whole world, like that floor, is full of grace, not hidden, but manifested. Wherefore we are forced exceedingly to bewail our brethren, who strive not against hidden, but against open and manifested grace. There is allowance for the Jews. What shall we say of Christians? Wherefore are ye enemies to the grace of Christ? Why rely ye on yourselves? Why unthankful? For why did Christ come? Was not nature here before? Was not nature here, which ye only deceive by your excessive praise? Was not the Law here? But the Apostle says, "If righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain." What the Apostle says of the Law, that say we of nature to these men. "If righteousness come by nature, then Christ is dead in vain."

Here again, I have included not just the first and last sections from Sermon 131 but the entire text of the sermon. James obviously does not want to see the Catholic interpretation of this sermon, but there is no denial of the transubstantiation here, as James states - in fact quite the opposite. For a fuller treatment of this entire text, and comments in context please see my initial response on this subject (which seems to have triggered James' response at:

The final words of the sermon, then, in which we find the key phrase (placed in bold), are in reference to this heresy, this error (Pelagianism), and its denial of grace. I simply point out that throughout the sermon you have had one source of authority cited over and over again: Holy Scripture. No quotations of Popes or prelates, just Scripture. With this in mind, we come to the actual passage:

10. What then was said of the Jews, the same altogether do we see in these men now. "They have a zeal of God: I hear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." What is, "not according to knowledge"? "For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and wishing to establish their own, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." My Brethren, share with me in my sorrow. When ye find such as these, do not hide them; be there no such misdirected mercy in you; by all means, when ye find such, hide them not. Convince the gainsayers, and those who resist, bring to us. For already have two councils on this question been sent to the Apostolic see; and rescripts also have come from thence. The question has been brought to an issue; would that their error may sometime be brought to an issue too! Therefore do we advise that they may take heed, we teach that they may be instructed, we pray that they may be changed. Let us turn to the Lord, etc.

It is a measure of the utter desperation of the Roman position to have to make reference to such things, in our opinion. The topic is not the bishop of Rome nor the authority of Rome. It is obvious, beyond question, that Augustine’s point is that Pelagianism is a refuted error. It is not refuted because the bishop of Rome has refuted it. It is refuted because it is opposed to Scripture. Two councils have concluded this, and the bishop of Rome has agreed. From Augustine’s position, the error has been exposed and refuted. If only those who are in error would come to know the truth! Augustine exhorts his hearers to teach the gainsayers, and pray that they may be dissuaded from their errors.

James seems to imply that the "two councils have concluded this" were Church councils. The African bishops sent two councils or delegations to the Apostolic see (we again note that the African bishops were mindful of Rome's pre-eminence and overall importance to the entire Church in the fact that these councils or delegations were sent in the first place) concerned about the decree from Zosimus - and Rome answered, and St. Augustine would not argue this further - though he hoped the "error" (both the error of Pelagianism and that of the Pope calling Pelagius and Coelistius "orthodox and Catholic") would end also. James' conclusions here are based in a false premise. Clearly the person being "desperate" here is James in his attempt to discredit the Pope and a failed effort to impune the dogma of Papal Infallibility (which, as yet, James has not mentioned in this response, but he soon does and has in the past regarding Sermon 131).

This then is the context and content of Sermon 131 of Augustine (which is, btw, Sermon 81 in the Eerdman’s set, pp. 501-504 of volume VI for those who wish to read the entirety of the work). It is now painfully obvious that to place the words "Roma locuta est, causa finita est" in quotation marks and attribute them to Augustine in the context of Papal Infallibility is simply inexcusable. But, there is more to the situation than that. For history shows us that Augustine would never have uttered such words in the context Keating alleges. How he responded when Zosimus became bishop of Rome and attacked the North African churches for condemning Pelagius proves, to any person even semi-desirous of fairly dealing with Augustine’s position, that Augustine did not view the bishop of Rome as the infallible leader of the Christian Church. But to appreciate fully the depth of the error of Roman Catholic controversialists at this point, we must take a few moments to study the history.

Again, the "full context" of this sermon of St. Augustine's can be found at It has already been admitted that St. Augustine did not use the actual words "Roma locuta est," but the meaning of "Rome has spoken" is quite obviously contained in the context.

James also attempts to discredit anyone who does not take his interpretation of this sermon in stating: any person even semi-desirous of fairly dealing with Augustine’s position," (implying people like myself Steve Ray and Karl Keating are not even "semi-serious" or "fair" in dealing with this).

B.B. Warfield wrote concerning the history of the Pelagian controversy, and especially of Augustine’s response to Zosimus, bishop of Rome:

Soon afterwards two Gallic bishops, — Heros of Arles, and Lazarus of Aix, — who were then in Palestine, lodged a formal accusation against Pelagius with the metropolitan, Eulogius of Caesarea; and he convened a synod of fourteen bishops which met at Lydda (Diospolis), in December of the same year (415), for the trial of the case. Perhaps no greater ecclesiastical farce was ever enacted than this synod exhibited. When the time arrived, the accusers were prevented from being present by illness, and Pelagius was confronted only by the written accusation. This was both unskillfully drawn, and was written in Latin which the synod did not understand. It was, therefore, not even consecutively read, and was only head rendered into Greek by an interpreter. Pelagius began by reading aloud several letters to himself from various men of reputation in the Episcopate, — among them a friendly not from Augustin. Thoroughly acquainted with both Latin and Greek, he was enabled skillfully to thread every difficulty, and pass safely through the ordeal. Jerome called this a "miserable synod," and not unjustly: at the same time it is sufficient to vindicate the honesty and earnestness of the bishops’ intentions, that even in such circumstances, and despite the more undeveloped opinions of the East on the questions involved, Pelagius escaped condemnation only by a course of most ingenious disingenuousness, and only at the cost both of disowning Coelestius and his teachings, of which he had been the real father, and of leading the synod to believe that he was anathematizing the very doctrines which he was himself proclaiming. There is really no possibility of doubting, as any one will see who reads the proceedings of the synod, that Pelagius obtained his acquittal here either by a "lying condemnation or a tricky interpretation" of his own teachings; and Augustin is perfectly justified in asserting that the "heresy was not acquitted, but the man who denied the heresy," and who would himself have been anathematized had he not anathematized the heresy.

However obtained, the acquittal of Pelagius was yet an accomplished fact. Neither he nor his friends delayed to make the most widely extended use of their good fortune. Pelagius himself was jubilant. Accounts of the synodal proceedings were sent to the West, not altogether free from uncandid alterations; and Pelagius soon put forth a work In Defense of Free-Will, in which he triumphed in his acquittal and "explained his explanations" at the synod. Nor were the champions of the opposite opinion idle. As soon as the news arrived in North Africa, and before the authentic records of the synod had reached that region, the condemnation of Pelagius and Coelestius was re-affirmed in two provincial synods, — one, consisting of sixty-eight bishops, met at Carthage about midsummer of 416; and the other, consisting of about sixty bishops, met soon afterwards at Mileve (Mila). Thus Palestine and North Africa were arrayed against one another, and it became of great importance to obtain the support of the Patriarchal See of Rome. Both sides made the attempt, but fortune favored the Africans. Each of the North-African synods sent a synodal letter to Innocent I., then Bishop of Rome, engaging his assent to their action: to these, five bishops, Aurelius of Carthage and Augustin among them, added a third "familiar" letter of their own, in which they urged upon Innocent to examine into Pelagius’ teaching, and provided him with the material on which he might base a decision. The letters reached Innocent in time for him to take advice of his clergy, and send favorable replies on Jan. 27, 417. In these he expressed his agreement with the African decisions, asserted the necessity of inward grace, rejected the Pelagian theory of infant baptism, and declared Pelagius and Coelestius excommunicated until they should return to orthodoxy. In about six weeks more he was dead: but Zosimus, his successor, was scarcely installed in his place before Coelestius appeared at Rome in person to plead his cause; while shortly afterwards letters arrived from Pelagius addressed to Innocent, and by an artful statement of his belief and a recommendation from Praylus, lately become bishop of Jerusalem in John’s stead, attempting to enlist Rome in his favor. Zosimus, who appears to have been a Greek and therefore inclined to make little of the merits of this Western controversy, went over to Coelestius at once, upon his profession of willingness to anathematize all doctrines which the pontifical see had condemned or should condemn; and wrote a sharp and arrogant letter to Africa, proclaiming Coelestius "catholic," and requiring the Africans to appear within two months at Rome to prosecute their charges, or else to abandon them.

This account from B.B. Warfield is essentially the same account I have already provided James at, wherein I stated that Zosimus has been deceived by Coelestius and Pelagius and then issued the decree that they were both orthodox and catholic. James' initial response to that was to scoff at me and accuse me of being disingenuous in my portrayal of the events. By the quote (to the left) that James has now cited, I am vindicated.

At this point I insert the comment of Schaff, who expands upon the content of this letter from Zosimus:

Zosimus, who evidently had no independent theological opinion whatever, now issued (417) to the North African bishops an encyclical letter accompanied by the documentary evidence, censuring them for not having investigated the matter more thoroughly, and for having aspired, in foolish, overcurious controversies, to know more than the Holy Scriptures. At the same time he bore emphatic testimony to the orthodoxy of Pelagius and Coelestius, and described their chief opponents, Heros and Lazarus, as worthless characters, whom he had visited with excommunication and deposition. They in Rome, he says, could hardly refrain from tears, that such men, who so often mentioned the gratia Dei and the adjutorium divinum, should have been condemned as heretics. Finally he entreated the bishops to submit themselves to the authority of the Roman see. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, III:798).

Lest someone mistrust Protestant writers, note this Roman Catholic author, a professor at the Catholic University of America:

Augustine...could see through the entire charade. The pope had neglected to inquire rigorously into the Pelagian’s (Caelestius) understanding of grace; he had been content to accept superficial responses....A second letter from Zosimus to the Africans, Postquam a nobis written in September 417, did nothing to dispel Augustine’s worries. Pelagius had written to the pope once again, thoroughly convincing him of his orthodoxy, and Zosimus had ordered Pelagius’ letters to be read aloud at the papal court in order that everyone could be apprised of his orthodoxy. To the Africans Zosimus ebulliently exclaimed: ‘Would that some of you, dearest brethren, could have been present at the reading of the letters. What was the joy of the holy men who were present; what was the admiration of each of them! Some of them could scarcely restrain themselves from tears and weeping that such men of absolutely correct faith could have been suspected. Was there a single place in which the grace of God or his aid was omitted?’ At the end of his letter, however, the pope lambasted the Africans as ‘whirlwinds’ and ‘storms of the church’ and accused them of judging Pelagius and Caelestius wholly unfairly….In Quamuis patrum written in March 418, he deliberately flaunted his apostolic authority and claimed that no one should dispute his judgment.…"So great is our authority that no decision of ours can be subjected to review....Such is the authority of Peter and the venerable decrees of the church that all questions concerning human and divine laws, as well as all disciplinary matters, must be referred to Rome for ultimate resolution." This was high–flown language indeed and, as far as the Africans were concerned, totally unacceptable (J.E. Merdinger, Rome and the African Church in the Time of Augustine (New Haven: Yale University, 1997), pp. 128-129).

Yes James! Again you have documented MY portrayal of these events as accurate! The point is that Zosimus was deceived when he issued this decree regarding the orthodoxy and catholicity of Pelagius and Coelestius. Catholic apologists do not deny this fact! What James de-emphasizes is the fact that later Pope St. Zosimus realizes he was deceived and reinstates the excommunication of the two heretics.

It is also important to note that in other debates James has denied all claims to papal authority prior to around 400 A.D. - yet here he quotes a source, from the second century, rightly or wrongly that claims such authority! We must also realize that the fact that this is a controversy at all implies that Zosimus' claims are true - for if the Pope didn't have this authority, then why all the hubbub?

Consider the facts objectively for a moment, if the African bishops were indeed "equals" with the Roman see, why were they seeking Rome's approval in the first place? Why were they submitting to Rome's request(s) to send a delegation to Rome to present their case? James has clearly taken a subjective approach seeking only to vindicate his position and he has blinded himself to the overwhelming evidence here that destroys all he is attempting to say against the Apostolic see.

Keep these words in mind: Zosimus was claiming grand authority; Zosimus’ conclusions were clear and unequivocal. I continue with Warfield:

Yes, it IS noted that Zosimus was "claiming grand authority," I hope James has truly noted this fact as well.

On the arrival of Pelagius’ papers, this letter was followed by another (September, 417), in which Zosimus, with the approbation of the clergy, declared both Pelagius and Coelestius to be orthodox, and severely rebuked the Africans for their hasty judgment. It is difficult to understand Zosimus’ action in this matter: neither of the confessions presented by the accused teachers ought to have deceived him, and if he was seizing the occasion to magnify the Roman see, his mistake was dreadful.

It must be noted that Warfield is demonstrating pure speculation here. Warfield's conclusion that St. Zosimus should not "ought" to be deceived is rather presumptuous to say the least. We are supposed to just accept Warfield's interpretation here without any supporting evidence. All the evidence we do have is that Zosimus met with Coelestius and read Pelagius' letter of confession. To take Warfield's position is to accuse St. Zosimus of deliberate deception and to embrace the heresy himself. There is absolutely no evidence that Zosimus ever accepted the heretical views of Pelagianism so the only logical conclusion is that he was indeed deceived. This causes one to question Warfield's objectivity.

Late in 417, or early in 418, the African bishops assembled at Carthage, in number more than two hundred and replied to Zosimus that they had decided that the sentence pronounced against Pelagius and Coelestius should remain in force until they should unequivocally acknowledge that "we are aided by the grace of God, through Christ, not only to know, but to do what is right, in each single act, so that without grace we are unable to have, think, speak, or do anything pertaining to piety." This firmness made Zosimus waver. He answered swellingly but timidly, declaring that he had maturely examined the matter, but it had not been his intention finally to acquit Coelestius; and now he had left all things in the condition in which they were before, but he claimed the right of final judgment to himself. Matters were hastening to a conclusion, however, that would leave him no opportunity to escape from the mortification of an entire change of front. This letter was written on the 21st of March, 418; it was received in Africa on the 29th of April; and on the very next day an imperial decree was issued from Ravenna ordering Pelagius and Coelestius to be banished from Rome, with all who held their opinions; while on the next day, May 1, a plenary council of about two hundred bishops met at Carthage, and in nine canons condemned all the essential features of Pelagianism. Whether this simultaneous action was the result of skillful arrangement, can only be conjectured: its effect was in any case necessarily crushing. There could be no appeal from the civil decision, and it played directly into the hands of the African definition of the faith.

Warfield again is exposing his bias in the adjectives he selects. Phrases like "swellingly but timidly" are not necessary. Again we see him using pure speculation to reach his conclusions.

The synod’s nine canons part naturally into three triads. The first of these deals with the relation of mankind to original sin, and anathematizes in turn those who assert that physical death is a necessity of nature, and not a result of Adam’s sin; those who assert that new-born children derive nothing of original sin from Adam to be expiated by the laver of regeneration; and those who assert a distinction between the kingdom of heaven and eternal life, for entrance into the former of which alone baptism is necessary.

Let us take a moment to note that these councils that James is touting have just stated that baptism provides expiation of Original Sin which is also a teaching that James rejects. This "triad" also points out the absolute necessity for baptism.

The second triad deals with the nature of grace, and anathematizes those who assert that grace aids us not to sin, only by teaching us what is sinful, not by enabling us to will and do what we know to be right; and those who assert that grace only enables us to do more easily what we should without it still be able to do. The third triad deals with the universal sinfulness of the race, and anathematizes those who assert that the apostles’ (I John I.8) confession of sin is due only to their humility; those who say that "Forgive us our trespasses" in the Lord’s Prayer, is pronounced by the saints, not for themselves, but for the sinners in their company; and those who say that the saints use these words of themselves only out of humility and not truly. Here we see a careful traversing of the whole ground of the controversy, with a conscious reference to the three chief contentions of the Pelagian teachers.

The appeal to the civil power, by whomsoever made, was, of course, indefensible, although it accorded with the opinions of the day, and was entirely approved by Augustin. But it was the ruin of the Pelagian cause. Zosimus found himself forced either to go into banishment with his wards, or to desert their cause. He appears never to have had any personal convictions on the dogmatic points involved in the controversy, and so, all the more readily, yielded to the necessity of the moment. He cited Coelestius to appear before a council for a new examination; but that heresiarch consulted prudence, and withdrew from the city. Zosimus, possibly in the effort to appear a leader in the cause he had opposed, not only condemned and excommunicated the men whom less than six months before he had pronounced "orthodox" after a ‘mature consideration of the matters involved,’ but, in obedience to the imperial decree, issued a stringent paper which condemned Pelagius and the Pelagians, and affirmed the African doctrines as to corruption of nature, true grace, and the necessity of baptism. To this he required subscription from all bishops as a test of orthodoxy. (NPNF Series 1:V, xviii-xx).

Again James through Warfield is using pure polemics to make his arguments. Let us look at the points highlighted in red on the left. He claims that Zosimus was "forced" to change his ruling. This is pure conjecture. We know that he at one time, based on false testimonies, Zosimus stated they (Pelagius and Coelestius) were orthodox (and Catholic - Warfield conspicuously leaves out the "Catholic" part), and later - after finding he was deceived, reversed that statement and reinstated the excommunication that Innocent pronounced.

James, through Warfield, then attempts to bring "dogmatic points" into the discussion, but what have we read thus far that is dogmatic? Pope Zosimus' reproval of the African bishops was not a dogmatic statement or stand. It appears that James (through Warfield) again attempts to bring in the dogma of Papal Infallibility - and it just isn't there, and James knows it isn't there, or he's attempting to play dumb on the issue. I'm sorry, but "playing dumb" doesn't work for James in this regard for he has been shown many times what it takes to utilize Papal Infallibility, and surely if he has been guenuinely studying the Catholic teachings on this matter, he cannot claim ignorance to these facts. Again, who is being disingenuous?

James, (through Warfield) attempts to say that Zosimus is "forced" by "the moment" to ultimately reclaim that these two are heretics and reinstate the excommunication of that Innocent had put on them. Again, there is no foundation for the polemical argumentation that is used here.

James (through Warfield) speculates Zosimus "possibly in the effort to appear a leader." Again, this is pure speculation and clearly Zosimus IS the leader, just as Innocent was before him.

James, (through Warfield) then states as fact that Zosimus is acting in "obedience to the imperial decree" which is not substantiated by the facts. Yes, the Emperor sided with the African bishops in this regard, but it has not been shown it was a demand by the Emperor that the Pope submit to his decree. There is nothing here that denies that Zosimus was deceived by the two heretics and later (even if it was through the Emperor and the African bishops) that Zosimus realized this error - and corrected it.

James then (through Warfield) attempts to say that the Pope is conforming to the African decrees. The truths stated by the Africans were Catholic truths, that Zosimus never denied! These fact of the matter is that Zosimus did not know that he had been lied to and thought that the two heretics were indeed orthodox and catholic. Again, to say otherwise is to say that Zosimus was deliberately embracing the heretics and their heresy - and there is absolutely no evidence to this end. Either Zosimus was being disingenuous, or James (through Warfield) is.

We should remember a few vital points. First, Zosimus claimed to have "maturely examined" the issue of the confession of Pelagius and Coelestus. He proclaimed them orthodox and Catholic, and gave instructions to the North Africans based upon his self-proclaimed authority.

The fact is that Pope St. Zosimus DID examine this situation, but based on deceptive testimony, erroneously declared the two "orthodox and catholic" (at least James included "catholic" this time). After realizing he was wrong in this regard, reversed his ruling.

It is also worthy of noting, that if this were merely a self-proclaimed authority then where is the protest from the others regarding this claim to authority? If there truly was no authority here then why be so concerned with a ruling from Rome? In other words, if all bishops are equal in every way, and each has authority over his own diocese, then why would the African bishops be concerned in the least with Rome reproving them? Why would they submit to the demands of Rome to send a defense? The fact that they did send delegations to Rome to defend their positions is proof that they did respect the authority that was truly there and due to St. Peter's see.

Next, the North Africans rejected his instructions.

The instructions were to come to Rome a plead their case - which they did, so this conjecture is completely off-based.

Knowing full well what he intended, the North African bishops, including Augustine, stood their ground upon the basis of Scriptural teaching. If a person today said, "I understand the bishop of Rome says X about such and such a person, and proclaims them orthodox on the basis of a mature examination, but I reject his conclusions based upon Scriptural teaching," would you identify that person as 1) Roman Catholic, or 2) Protestant?

A lot would depend on the situation. Rather than deal in hypotheticals, just in the case we have before us, the African bishops are standing for the Catholic Truth on these matters, hence they were truly representing the Catholic teaching. How can we pretend to judge a situation "based on X?" Nice try to get the reader to think your side is the only logical side, but if one looks at all evidence, your attempt (James) fails.

Third, despite his claims to authority and despite his claim to have "maturely examined" the issue as the bishop of Rome, Zosimus had to do a complete about-face. What changed? RC apologists say Zosimus had just been deceived and he learned of his deception, and that he would have done the right thing from the start had he known all the facts. But it is too obvious that Zosimus came into the situation desirous of flexing his new "muscle" as bishop of the largest see in the West,

It has already been shown that Zosimus had indeed been deceived, and this fact is even attested to by B.B. Warfield. Again, to speculate that he was not deceived is tantamount to saying Zosimus deliberately took the "side" of the Pelagians. It has also been shown that the position Rome held in the Church was already quite well established on at another webpage on this site: wherein several Early Fathers have addressed the point of Peter's (and his successors) position in the Christian Church.

and foolishly and rashly made pronouncements about vital issues (here, the very nature of the gospel, rehabilitating a rank heretic!) and only reversed course by force and not by conviction.

Perhaps, in hindsight, we can judge that this was "foolishly and rashly" decided upon - but hindsight is always "20/20."

I must also object to the statement that the very nature of the gospel is the rehabilitating of a heretic. Allow me to object on two accounts:

  1. The "nature of the Gospel" is to reach out to all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. In other words what the Apostles were commissioned to do was to convert the infidels! Now, is the rehabilitation of a heretic important? Oh yes! By all means! But, to say such rehabilitation is the "very nature of the gospel," is an overstatement, to say the least.
  2. A &heretic" is one who has been validly baptised and assumably was once "in the Church." James has objected to this line of argument so many times, I find it quite ironic that he is now proclaiming it to be the "very nature of the Gospel!" Think about the very language that James has used here: "rehabilitate," in order for one to need REhabilitation, they must have been "habilitated" in the first place!

Next, for those who ask why either side appealed to Rome in the first place, the answer is obvious: the situation pitted the Palestinian churches against the North African churches, and both sides recognized the value of having the only apostolic see in the West on their side. The fact that the North African churches likewise appealed to the Emperor in Ravenna for confirmation of their action no more means they saw the Emperor as the "head of the church" than their appeal to Rome does.

OK, let's do a little bit of what White and Warfield have been doing all along. Put yourself in the place of the African bishops. You know that Pelagius and Coelestius are heretics and you know that to call them "orthodox and catholic" would be wrong. So, when even the highest see of the Church makes such a statement, you take your stand. Now, this most revered of the Apostolic sees challenges you to defend yourself, and you do. Would you not also seek support among your peers? Yes James, the answer is rather obvious in this regard, but the conclusion is not the one you reached if one looks objectively at the situation.

Finally, it is obvious beyond question that Augustine did not take the view that Zosimus was an infallible leader of the Christian Church. If he and the bishops of North Africa had, they would never have acted as they did.

Again, James attempts to bring "infallibility" into the picture, when CLEARLY the grounds for infallibility have not been established, and I reassert that James KNOWS what it takes for something to be declared an infallible statement. This decree from Zosimus has NONE of the marks to indicate it is an infallible statement.

At this point someone might well say, "OK, well, Karl Keating was in error on that. Maybe he hadn’t done his homework." Perhaps so. But many years have passed since his book was published. Surely in that time he has been faced with these facts. His organization, Catholic Answers, publishes a magazine, This Rock, that contains a regular section called "The Fathers Know Best." Surely, in all those years, the people working at Catholic Answers would have to become aware of the historic facts that demonstrate the error of Keating’s assertion in his book. But at the very least, we hope that our readers will continue to bring this issue to his attention and challenge him to correct his error.

Well James, perhaps Karl Keating has nothing to correct here? Perhaps it might just be yourself that has been listening to biased arguments on this subject for all these years? Perhaps if you considered, objectively, the Catholic position on this matter, you might find that it is yourself who has been "in error" for these "many years."

[For even more on this topic, see William Webster’s comments:]

Stephen Ray’s Presentation

But while we can excuse Keating on the basis of possible ignorance of the actual events of history, we cannot do so with Catholic convert Stephen K. Ray. Instead, we must soberly conclude that his treatment of this issue in his 1999 book Upon This Rock (Ignatius Press) is simply deceptive. This work is, in my opinion, the clearest example of the lengths to which a Roman controversialist will go in twisting history so as to support Roman claims. In a work that is without question one of the least accurate and scholarly works I have ever seen on the subject, one that argues in circles constantly, Ray addresses both Cyprian and Augustine’s views. However, given that Ray does not use the tools of a historian, and in fact utterly abandons any kind of scholarly methodology, the result is predictable. He early on exposes how utterly unreliable his work will be in words such as these:

Sometimes silence is more eloquent than words. This is especially true in Church history. We hear so much about what the Fathers say and so little about what they do not say. This is revealing and should play a significant role in our research. (Upon this Rock, p. 12).

Such a methodology is, quite simply laughable. Ray goes on to use this to argue that unless an early Father specifically denies Petrine primacy and succession that this is somehow "relevant" to historical research. It is painfully obvious, to any semi-unbiased reviewer, that Ray is assuming what he seems to know he cannot prove. The grotesquely anachronistic "examination" that follows is glowing evidence of Ray’s inability to accurately handle historical data and to provide any kind of meaningful presentation. Protestant apologist William Webster has thoroughly refuted Ray (see who, in response, has only been able to provide more thorough documentation of his own anachronistic, circular reasoning. Utilization of Ray’s means of thought could provide the basis for any kind of belief in the early church, no matter how far-fetched.

[For more on this subject, see also Stephen Ray's responses at: (This is Steve's direct response to this same article I am responding to).
See also:]

I must admit, when I first read this part dealing with Stephen Ray's book, I was a bit confused and concerned, based on James' take on this. So, I brought out Ray's book. A bit relieved I found that James had taken these statement's of Ray's out of context. Ray's point is that there is no outright denial of the primacy in the Early Fathers, (and there IS support for it!). On the very next page (page 13) Ray shares something from Webster: "No father denies that Peter had a primacy or that there is a Petrine succession..." Now, one would think that with Pope Zosimus (and other's who held the see) claiming this "authority" that if it were truly something novel, someone would have challenged him on that!

So what is so "grotesquely anachronistic" here? James appears to like this word (anachronistic) so much, he uses it here where it does not even apply! James has always liked to use "big words" assumably to impress the weaker reader. Well, to one who understands "big words" it is clear that James' use of "anachronistic" in the above paragraph is misplaced, or doesn't fit... [anachronism comes from the Greek anachronismos, (from ana, against and chronos, time)]. How is this point (the Fathers do not deny the primacy of the Bishop of Rome) to do anything with "time?"

But despite this, Ray’s treatment of both Cyprian and Augustine is not just grossly flawed, it is deceptive. It is obvious Ray knows the truth of the matter, but he either suppresses that truth, or twists it into a shape unrecognizable to anyone who reads the early Fathers for themselves.

First off, there is no "flaw" in Ray's treatment of Augustine. As I have already pointed out both here and on the meaning of "Rome has spoken" is quite clearly contained in the text from Sermon 131.10. To deny that fact after reading the context is just plain disingenuous. Then, to accuse Ray of suppressing and/or twisting the truth and of being deceptive is just plain wrong. If anyone is being deliberately deceptive here, it is James White, for he knows what those words say and mean, and yet he makes these charges against Stephen Ray. Shame on you James!

When dealing with Cyprian he desperately attempts to undercut the reality of Cyprian’s view of the cathedra Petri, and likewise somehow "forgets" to cite the passages we provided above which demonstrate Cyprian’s rejection of Stephen’s meddling in the affairs of the North African Church. Though providing lengthy footnotes, he does nothing but ignore Cyprian’s real doctrine, while attacking William Webster for pointing out the obvious. But our concern is much more with the tremendously deceptive presentation regarding Augustine’s Sermon 131.

Beginning on page 230, Ray provides a completely circular argument, not based upon Augustine, but upon Ray’s desperate need to read into Augustine the concept of Petrine primacy in the bishop of Rome. His citations (as throughout the book) are meant to be relevant only given the assumption of what he is trying to prove, the pre-existing commitment to the modern Roman theory of Petrine primacy. He even takes a pathetically weak shot at my own discussion of Augustine’s view of Matthew 16:18-19 which is so poorly constructed that there is no need to refute it: it stands as its own refutation. But on page 233 we read the following: "Roma locuta est; causa finita est [Rome has spoken; the case is closed]." Look familiar? It should. As we have seen, Augustine never said this. Ray uses the same quotes Keating did: but, he then attaches an almost page-length footnote that shows that he is well aware Augustine never uttered these words! This is the deception. Keating can claim ignorance: Ray has no such excuse. Look at what Ray says:

This popular, shortened version of Augustine’s statement put to rest the contention caused by the Pelagian heretics. The full text of his statement—the exact equivalent of the shortened version above—is, "[On the matter of the Pelagians] two Councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See [Rome]; and from there rescripts [decrees from the Pope] have come. The matter is at an end [causa finita est]; would that the error too might sometime be at an end." (Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers, 3:28).

As we see, Ray knows that Augustine did not say the words he quotes, but, he excuses this misrepresentation by re-translating the term "rescripts" (Latin: rescripta) as "decrees from the Pope." Upon what basis does he do this? We are not told. We know that Innocent responded to the actions of the councils in North Africa. It is pure anachronism to 1) assume the North Africans held to Rome’s view of supremacy, 2) assume that the North Africans felt their actions required "ratification" by the bishop of Rome, and 3) assume that Augustine was basing his statement "the matter is at an end" on the decision of Innocent rather than (as the context shows) the Scriptural arguments he had presented against Pelagianism and the actions of the North African councils. Ray makes no reference to the actual substance of Sermon 131. He never quotes it. And what is worse, he utterly ignores the entire issue of Zosimus and the entire history of what transpired immediately after this sermon was preached!

Well, speaking of "anachronisms" here, James states "We know that Innocent responded to the actions of the councils in North Africa." Hmmmm, wasn't Innocent dead by the time these councils in Africa took place?

Secondly, I have already proven, a number of times, that the meaning of "Rome has spoken" is clearly contained in the words. So, is this a severe distortion here, or a mere rephrasing of the Truth? I have already admitted that the words "Roma locuta est" are not there, verbatim, but the fact that "rescripts" were "sent" from the "Apostolic see" which is clearly the Roman see in this context, then it couldn't be more obvious that "Rome has spoken" on this issue and "causa finita est" the case is closed.

I have to wonder if the reader of this (my response) is as shocked as I am regarding how far James is willing to go in his attempt at character assassination of Stephen Ray! It is my opinion that he is so consumed in this endeavor that he has blinded himself to the obvious truth that Rome did indeed "speak" (through rescripts), and that St. Augustine stated the case is closed. In other words, there was to be no more argument from him on this matter - and there wasn't. Yes, the Emperor also issued a decree against Pelagius and Coelestius, and shortly thereafter Pope St. Zosimus saw the deception he had fallen into and issued a new decree reinstating the excommunication that Pope Innocent issued and condemned the Pelagian heresy.

James White (and company) would like to assume that Pope Zosimus was pressured into this position, but again that is pure speculation. For the sake of argument though, let's assume along with them that this is what happened. Now, don't you find it ironic that so many are so concerned with a decree from the Bishop of Rome?! Putting it in a modern setting, if the Bishop of Tucson were to issue a decree - that decree is binding upon his own diocese, and that diocese alone. Such a decree in the Diocese of Tucson is not much of a concern to me (in the Diocese of Phoenix). Now, if Pope John Paul II, Bishop of Rome were to issue a decree - THAT would concern and/or interest me. Now, jumping back into assuming the minds of St. Augustine and company, the fact that he and the rest are so concerned with a decree from Pope Zosimus is the same as the modern scenario.

Instead, he provides two Roman Catholic citations that utterly ignore the historical context of Augustine’s words. One, from Bernard Otten, is a simply ridiculous assertion that while Augustine never said "Roma locuta est," "its equivalents occur again and again." We have already seen Sermon 131 surely does not do this, so where else do we look for these "equivalents"? We are not told. Another pro-Rome work is cited that inserts the anachronistic idea that the North African bishops felt they had to send the conclusions of their councils to Rome "for ratification," and as normal, we are not given any foundation upon which we can examine the claim. The fact that the North Africans rejected Zosimus’ clear, forceful rehabilitation of Pelagius, which included his insulting the North Africans as "storms of the church" and "whirlwinds" and which came couched within his complete claim of apostolic authority, shows this is not the case. The North Africans rejected his authority and his conclusions. So upon what basis can anyone say they felt the decisions of their councils needed Roman ratification? Indeed, as John Meyendorff points out, barely three years later these same African bishops wrote to Celestine, bishop of Rome, and said, "Who will believe that our God could inspire justice in the inquiries of one man only (i.e., the bishop of Rome) and refuse it to innumerable bishops gathered in council?" (Imperial Unity and Christian Division, 1989, p. 65). Does that sound like these men believed as Stephen Ray assumes everyone must have? Surely not. The facts are clear.

Yes James, the facts are quite clear in this matter. Again I point out that Pope Zosimus requested that the African bishops bring their arguments to Rome - and the African's complied sending not one, but two "councils" or delegations to the Apostolic see (Rome). It would be after these councils were sent that Rome had sent rescripts (or spoken) and the matter was ended.

Myths are Dangerous

I have dialogued with many a Roman Catholic who, upon facing the biblical evidence concerning the gospel of grace, has retreated into an argument based upon the authority of Rome. And when challenged on that, they have reproduced these very Roman Catholic legends, myths, based upon the misrepresentation of men like Cyprian and Augustine. These folks really believe Augustine was a servant of an infallible Pope. He wasn’t. They actually believe someone who lived as early as Cyprian believed the bishop of Rome was the sole successor of Peter. He didn’t. But these legends have been used to provide a foundation upon which the authority claims of Rome are based. And just as generations lived under the lies of forgeries upon which Papal authority was based in the medieval period, so modern people are kept from truly understanding the gospel of grace by an authoritative system that continues to propagate itself on the basis of untruth, whether that comes from ignorant repetition of what one has heard somewhere else, or the purposeful, deceptive twisting of history and the early Fathers.

James White

April 11, 2000

Well James, you close with a statement that you have presented biblical evidence - yet throughout this entire response we seem to be quite void of biblical references! Again you bring up the issue of infallibility, when this particular issue has nothing to do with it. You again bring up "the lies of forgeries upon which Papal authority was based in the medieval period," even after you have been shown evidence that the Early Fathers accepted this authority. You are making the Catholic Church out to be some sort of sinister monster that is eating the souls of Christians by lying to them. I thought you were above this "Jack Chick" mentality.

When you're ready to start being honest with yourself and others, you know how to reach me.

I am also not above correction, if I have "grossly" misrepresented something, I am all ears.


Scott Windsor<<<

May 31, 2000

Added Information:

The preceding article has garnered quite a response from some of Rome's apologists. As these replies demonstrate our oft-repeated assertion that Rome replies with smoke, mirrors, and a liberal dose of ad-hominem, without ever touching the *substance* of what has been said, we provide you with a link to Steven Ray's long reply (we trust the reader will be able to discern its character very early on) and another completely errant attempt by Scott Windsor. Thankfully. Scott provides the text in full of my own article, and the contrast with his response is stark.

June 2, 2000

Added Comments:

My preceding comments garnered the response on the left here from James White.

He accuses us (Steve Ray and myself) of replying with "smoke, mirrors, and a liberal dose of ad hominem..." whereas (above) you can see that there is no "smoke," or "mirrors," and my opinions of labelling White as "deceptive" and/or "disingenuous," are not unfounded and are merely responses "in kind" to like charges from White. I guess, "what's good enough for the goose, IS NOT good enough for the gander!"

As for "without ever touching the *substance* of what has been said..." I think the reader (here at least) can see ALL the "substance" above and realize that White is being disingenuous (yet again). James even admits and is "thankful" that I have provided the "text in full" of his article and with my "stark" contrast.

As for James providing "links" that is not entirely true either, (getting a bit nit-picky here). He provides the URL's but no "links." You're already on my page, so I won't "link" that one, but the "link" to Steve Ray's page is: (An added note, I have yet to see James admit a mistake, but it is noted that upon visiting his page again on November 22, 2000, that both Steve Ray's and my pages are now "linked").

June 2, 2000

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