St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine on Matthew 16:18 and the Papacy

In yesterday’s post, I stated my intention to set the issue of whether or not Peter was the “Rock” in Matthew 16:18 aside to have a more fruitful discussion on Christ’s promises in that passage. It didn’t quite work out that way in the comments, which have almost all been about … whether or not Peter was the “Rock.” Nevertheless, there was at least one good question asked. Namely, what to make of St. John Chrysostom’s exegesis of the passage:

“Having said to Peter, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonas, and of having promised to lay the foundation of the Church upon his confession; not long after He says, Get thee behind me, Satan. And elsewhere he said, Upon this rock. He did not say upon Peter for it is not upon the man, but upon his own faith that the church is built. And what is this faith? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

St. Augustine agrees: in his earlier writings, he argued that the rock was Peter, but later, changed his mind.  These men, while a minority view among Church Fathers,  are some of the most brilliant minds Catholicism has ever produced, and some of the holiest Saints. So what to make of this?

I. Understanding What This Is (and Isn’t) About

First, I think that we need to put things into perspective.  As I’ve mentioned recently, the same St. John Chrysostom, while Bishop of Antioch, also wrote this:

It is a prerogative of the dignity of our city [that is, Antioch] that, from the beginning, it received as master the prince of the apostles. In fact, it was a just thing that this city – which was glorified by the name of “Christians” before the rest of the earth – should receive as shepherd the prince of the apostles. When we received him as master, however, we did not keep him forever but rather yielded him to the royal city of Rome. Therefore, we do not hold the body of Peter, but we hold the faith of Peter as we would Peter himself. As a matter of fact, as long as we hold the faith of Peter, we have Peter himself.

So Chrysostom is quite clear that the authentic faith is Petrine, and by extension, Roman.  No denier of the papacy was he, readily acknowledging that Peter was “the prince of the Apostles,” and that he went from being the master and shepherd of Antioch to the “royal city of Rome.”

In other words, St. John Chrysostom isn’t denying Peter’s earthly headship: he doesn’t say that since we can all hold the faith of Peter, we’re all equal with the Apostles; or that because the Apostles (besides Judas) all held the faith of Peter, they were all his equals.  No, St. John Chrysostom simultaneously affirms that we can all affirm the faith of Peter, and yet there are some (shepherds and Apostles) who are placed over us as “masters,” and within the ranks of even the Apostles, one man stood as “prince of the Apostles.”

With St. Augustine, you’ll find the same belief.  One need only read the canons of the Council of Carthage from 417 A.D., in which Augustine and the other North African Fathers met, to see their respect for, and submission to, “the Apostolic See” (Rome) and the “holy and most blessed pope.”  Or read Augustine’s own writings, in which he speaks of the same.  Rome stands in a place of authority, capable of settling disputes authoritatively.

It’s important that we’re clear what the Fathers were claiming, and what they weren’t.  Protestants use these passages to say things that the Fathers they’re quoting would have been shocked and appalled by, and which run against the teachings of these very same Fathers.  That’s a shallow and ineffective way of approaching the Fathers.

II. Is Matthew 16:18 About Peter or Everyone?

With that in mind, the issue at hand is much, much narrower.  No question about Peter’s primacy, only about whether Jesus means to refer to Peter (as a man) or Peter’s faith as the Rock.  The best answer to this is that it’s both.  Peter is chosen as a man because of his faith.

We see both of these characteristics in the passage.  Simon declares who Jesus is (Christ: that is, the Anointed One) in Mt. 16:16.  Jesus responds by blessing him for this declaration of faith in Mt. 16:17, and proceeds to tell Simon who he is (Peter: that is, the Rock).  Both titles, Christ and Peter, become so tied to the individual that they’re treated as proper names.

In that light, it’s quite sensible to say that the Church is built upon Peter and Peter’s faith.  Most of the Church Fathers seem to agree on this point, as well: the two I cited above are something of outliers, in thinking it has to be one or other other.

Other parts of Scripture make it clear that Simon is selected as a man, that the title of Rock doesn’t just go to any Christian who accurately declares faith in Christ.  From John 1:40-49,

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

The next day he decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
So Andrew is the first Disciple to call Jesus the Messiah (that is, the Christ).  And Nathanael is the one who first calls Jesus “the Son of God. Both men’s proclamations of faith are almost indistinguishable from the one Simon would later make in Matthew 16:16, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Simon, for his part, doesn’t seem to have said anything noteworthy yet.  Yet it’s Simon who Jesus says He’ll be renaming Peter, not Nathanael or Andrew (John 1:42).  
If the meaning of the name Peter is simply “small rock,” and it’s a title properly given to any Christian, it’s odd that Jesus would rename only one Disciple this.  But if it’s tied to simply recognizing Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, two other Disciples had already done that (to say nothing of John the Baptist, who seems to grasp more than any of the Disciples — see John 1:29-34).
All the evidence suggests that Jesus hand-picked Simon personally to become Peter.  What it was in Peter that lead Him to this choice may be beyond our grasp, but that it was the decision of God Himself seems transparent from the passage. 
III. Conclusion

When Christ says that He’ll build His Church upon the Rock in Matthew 16:18, what does He mean?  The strongest answer from Scripture is Peter (because of his faith), and this has plenty of Patristic Support.  That said, some Fathers claimed it was Peter’s faith or Jesus Himself.  
But bear in mind always that these Fathers didn’t reject the papacy.  On the contrary, you’ll hear these very same men proclaim Peter as the Prince of the Apostles and Shepherd of Rome, and the Apostolic See as head of the earthly Church.  This wasn’t a battle between Catholic and Protestant Church Fathers.  This is a dispute over between Catholic Church Fathers over how to understand a single word in Matthew 16:18.  
I raise this for a simple reason.  If we’re looking to St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine because we’re genuinely seeking to understand how the Christian Church looked, and what these great Saints thought about the form of the Church,  these things matter.  Both men clearly taught and believed in a Church that was distinctively Petrine and Roman in its Catholicism.   If we’re not interested in that, in having the same Faith as Chrysostom and Augustine, who cares what they said?  We’re simply proof-texting Fathers we don’t believe in.  So by all means, the argument raised by Chrysostom and Augustine is an important one.  Is the Rock upon which Christ built His Church Peter or Peter’s faith,or Jesus, or something else?  But in asking and answering that question, we should be thinking with the Church and with the Fathers, not proof-texting them for shallow polemical purposes.


  1. hmm, Chrysostom didn’t come into communion with Rome until 398 and he died 9 years later.

    I think it’s interesting that even if these men believed in the ‘papacy’ they certainly didn’t do so on the basis of Matthew 16. This is quite important when discerning the Matthew 16 supports the papacy.

    What is the probability that Jesus instituted the papacy through his words in Matt. 16 given that these giants at this late in Christianity saw no papacy in this text?

    I think it’d be shocking that such a monumental doctrine was established here and people as learned as Chrysostom and Augustine, hundreds of years after Jesus’ utterances, could dissent without censure or being accused of heterodoxy.

  2. Terrific timing for this post, Joe – I just had a back-and-forth with Joe Mizzi from about this very issue (it was the topic of his most recent newsletter; his claim was that since Augustine by his interpretation didn’t support the papacy then clearly the doctrine of the papacy is wrong).

    I sent this to him. Thanks!

  3. JoAnna, hope I can help!


    It’s not true that “even if these men believed in the ‘papacy’ they certainly didn’t do so on the basis of Matthew 16.”

    That’s one of the things that I’m trying to hammer home. In the very next verse, Jesus tells Peter He’s going to give him (personally, individually) the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. And in the sentence after that, He gives him individually the same power to the bind and loosen sins given to the Church corporate in Matthew 18. So even if Matthew 16 flat-out didn’t have the “upon this Rock I will build My Church” language, it would still establish the papacy.

    St. Augustine, for example, pointed to Matthew 16 in support of the papacy in Sermon 295, saying, “Among these, Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church. Because of that representation of the Church, which only he bore, he deserved to hear ‘I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.’” So he’s still using Matthew 16 in support the papacy, but not the part about the Rock.

    Having said that, I do agree with what I think you’re saying: the question of “Who or What is the Rock?” shouldn’t be the only point of inquiry for discussing the papacy. It’s not as if the Catholic Church’s claims about the papacy revolve around this one word in Matthew 16, and around it being interpreted as Peter individually.

    Surely, if Jesus is saying that He’s going to build His Church upon Peter, that’s enormous evidence in support of the papacy, so I can see why it draws this sort of attention. But in my own opinion, there are easier ways of establishing Petrine headship. For example, in Luke 22:24-32, Jesus shows that true Christian headship is manifested in service towards others, and then tasks Peter (individually) with serving the other Apostles. That not only establishes what we call the papacy, but shows what it’s supposed to look like.

    Or look at Jesus’ demand that Peter love Him “more than these” in John 21. He’s asking Peter to go beyond any other Apostle. That should tell us something. Or look at the response to the Temple Tax, in which Jesus speaks of Peter and Himself as “We,” the only time God ever spoke of Himself with a mortal in first-person plural.
    Or look at the angel’s words in distinguishing “the Disciples and Peter,” or St. Luke’s words in distinguishing “Peter and the Eleven,” and Peter’s place at the top of every list of Apostles (with Judas at the bottom).

    But beyond all of this, remember that early Christianity wasn’t like it is today, with converts randomly picking up a Bible or Christian book in a bookstore and figuring out for themselves what Christianity is or ought to be. No: the early Church was an organized community of believers with an unambiguously clear structure. No one denies, for example, that Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo, or that Chrysostom was Patriarch of Constantinople. These are just historical facts, not deductions from Scripture.

    Likewise, new Christians were probably aware of the papacy before ever reading Scriptural texts supporting the doctrine: it was just part of what Christianity was, just like the episcopacy of Hippo or patriarchate of Constantinople.

    God bless,


  4. To me the central question isn’t about the “rock”, but about the “keys” and there really isn’t much wiggle room there – Jesus gives the keys to Peter and, when set against the backdrop of the Davidic Kingdom (Matthew’s main theme in his Gospel) it’s clear that he’s setting him up as Prime Minister in His Kingdom.

  5. Thanks for the reply Joe:

    hmm, I guess I don’t want to derail the topic. But, just briefly, I guess I don’t think Jesus’ giving Peter the keys, or Augustine’s statement above indicate the establishment of or belief in the papacy.

  6. Stevo,

    No problem. As for the Keys, here’s what I wrote on the subject before:

    There are three things to note. First, this blessing is never given to any of the other Apostles, or anyone else. Second, the power Peter possesses is parallel to the power that Jesus Christ Himself holds in Heaven (Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7). And finally, the giving of the Keys has some serious implications. Look at Isaiah 22:20-24, in which God says:

    20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

    In giving Eliakim the Keys to the House of David, God is making him palace administrator (something like prime minister), and giving him the ability to speak and act on behalf of the House of David. We see this in 2 Kings 18:18, for example, when the Assyrians arrive: “They called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them.” So they call for the King (Hezekiah), and Eliakim shows up with his secretary and recorder. When Peter receives the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, then, he’s got the ability to speak and act on behalf of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church.

    The only thing I’d add to the above is that Augustine believes that Peter can act (for lack of a better term) in persona Ecclesiae in a unique way: that he individually embodies the whole Church. And he’s clear that this is different from what the other Apostles enjoyed.

    In Christ,


  7. Stevo,

    Thanks for sharing that. I read the first five posts, and while I think you lay out an interesting argument (that if the papacy was established in Matthew 16, we should see it in Luke’s parallel account), I don’t think it works in practice.

    After all, Mark and John don’t mention the Virgin Birth, or the Beatitudes, or the Lord’s Prayer, John’s Gospel includes all manner of significant events not recorded in the Synoptics, and you can compile list of countless seemingly-significant events that are omitted in any One of the Four Gospels. After all, if a single Gospel included every important event, there would be little need for three others.

    Beyond that, there’s at least a hint that this was such a well-known account that there was no need for Luke to recount it. Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14, John 1:42, and Acts 10 all recount the fact that Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. In Galatians 2, Paul refers to him as both Petros and Cephas. So the events of Matthew 16 are at least alluded to by all four Gospels and Acts and the Pauline epistles. Very few other events can make that claim.

    And given how critically important name changes are in Scripture (the closest parallel here being Genesis 17:4-8), as well as the meaning of Peter’s name, I think the earliest New Testament audiences would have grasped that this name change was an important thing, even if only Matthew explains the exact wording connected to it.

    Let me put it analogously. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Catholics are right, and that the name Peter would have been recognizable to the first century Christians as what we would now call a papal title: that they would hear that Jesus named Peter “Rock” and understand that He was placing him in leadership, and at the foundation of the Church.

    If that’s right, Matthew 16:18, Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14, and John 1:42 all tell the readers that Simon was named pope by Jesus. The exact events and the manner in which He did so are important details, but secondary, just as the details of Benedict’s election to the papacy is dramatically less important than the fact that he is, in fact, the pope. If that’s right, then the fact that only St. Matthew recounts the details of God’s election of Peter is only mildly surprising — certainly, no more so than the omission of the Beatitudes or the Lord’s Prayer (particularly this last one, since we know from the Didache that this prayer was critically important to the early Christians).

    God bless,


  8. I have a discussion scheduled with my pastor this Friday. My purpose will be to tell him that I am withdrawing my membership from his Protestant congregation. His purpose will be to convince me otherwise. This blog post should aid me before I walk into his study!

  9. What if you are exactly right Joe about Peter? But his successor, which is to say the Vicar of Peter, the Vicar of God is through…the See of Antioch?


  10. @Joe: Wow! I can’t believe a CATHOLIC actually thinks the confession of faith given by Peter is the rock! Now if you could only understand the ‘keys’ that were given were for all whom confess ‘Jesus is Lord’ to bind devils and loosen the saints from Satan’s grip. An example: Didn’t Paul give believers handkerchiefs for casting out demons? They had faith. What happened to the ones without faith whom used the handkerchief? They were beaten naked by the demon-possessed man. (Oh, how the Word is nigh!)

  11. Michael I’m not sure I can agree with you that Christ handing the keys over to then called Peter is symbolic for all of mankind. It seems to be a historical account of Jesus conversing with Simon. He addresses only Peter during 17-19, and then addresses the rest of the disciples in line 20. If the Keys were suppose to apply to all, why then wouldn’t Jesus address all the disciples, or give a sermon for that matter. It seems to me that Christ was speaking to Peter when he said “you.”

    Joe great citation of the importance of God changing names!

    “No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.” GN 17:5

  12. Joe:

    I’ve been reading more Chrysostom, and I have to say that it seems like the quotation you give in this blog post still doesn’t support the notion of the papacy. He seems to consistently identify Peter’s confession of faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God as “the Rock,” and not Peter.

    In light of this, the quotation you posted seems to simply reflect Chrysostom’s interpretation of Matthew 16:18. “Peter’s faith” then would refer simply to the confession of faith Peter made in Christ. Nothing more.

    Calling Peter the prince of the apostles, moreover, fits right into his interpretation of Matthew 16:18.

    I just don’t see your religion’s notion of the papacy in the quotation you give…


  13. Michaeladdison said:

    “@Joe: Wow! I can’t believe a CATHOLIC actually thinks the confession of faith given by Peter is the rock!”

    Ever read the catechism? Catholics believe both. Just as most of the fathers believed both. Peters confession and Peter himself are the rock. Why does it have to be either or? One flows from the other, and are inseperable.

    CCC 552 plainly states:

    552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Christ, the “living Stone”, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.

  14. Joe,

    Your first response to my argument is to point out that many significant events are not contained in each of the 4 Gospels. This, along with some examples, is intended to support your statement that “I don’t think it works in practice.” I think by “it” you mean the general reasoning that if an event concerning Jesus is significant, then it will be recorded by Jesus’ biographers.

    However, I don’t think any of my premises rely on this reasoning.

    Luke is unique among the Gospel writers because he declares his historical intentions: Lk. 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2.

    Licona points out in The Resurrection of Jesus; 2010, p. 204: “It is clear that ancient biographers varied in the liberties they took pertaining to their use of embellishment and invention…Because the commitment to accuracy and the liberties taken could vary greatly between biographers, identifying the canonical Gospels as bioi will take us only so far. Each Evangelist will need to be judged by his performance.”

    I don’t the Gospels to the same expectation. I hold Luke to this standard because of his claims.

    John tells us his authorial intention was to elicit faith: Jn. 20:30-31. As far as I know, neither Mark nor Matthew identify their intentions.

    So, I don’t think my premises rely on the reasoning your first response is intended to refute.

    Your second argument is that we have reason to think Luke wouldn’t have recorded Matt. 16:18-19: it was widely known. This is a direct objection to (2).

    I believe you’re understanding me to be arguing that if Luke didn’t record this event, then it probably didn’t happen. You respond accordingly by providing multiple attestation to Peter’s name change, consequently, the event was so well known Luke probably wouldn’t have need to record it.

    However, I’m not questioning whether the event took place or was well known. Rather, my argument is concerned with whether this event (which did take place) involved the institution of the papacy and whether it was understood as such by Jesus’ community.

    If it involved the institution of an ecclesiastical office, then it would’ve been understood as such, and if it was understood as such, then Luke would’ve recorded it.

    Further, most of Luke’s Gospel is a record of well known events, I’m not sure why this would be an exception.

    Finally, I want to address your use of Augustine and Chrysostom.

    Augustine’s Sermon 295 explicitly contradicts your use of it a little after your quotation:

    [beginning immediately after your citation ended] “After all, it isn’t just one man that received the keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, ‘To you I am entrusting,’ what has in fact been entrusted to all. I mean, to show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit;’ and straigtaway, ‘Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained’. This refers to the keys, about which it is said, ‘whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven’.”

    For most of Chrysostom’s life, he and Rome were not in communion with each other. It was during this time that he produced his homilies and commentaries. So, these citations from his homilies about Peter can’t support the papacy since these were penned when he wasn’t in communion with Rome. Cf. Chadwick, Henry. The Church in Ancient Society: from Galilee to Gregory the Great. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Chapter 44.

  15. Stevo,

    “However, I’m not questioning whether the event took place or was well known. Rather, my argument is concerned with whether this event (which did take place) involved the institution of the papacy and whether it was understood as such by Jesus’ community.”

    Here’s where the example of the Our Father is important. It was undeniably important to the early Christian community, as the Didache attests, yet St. Luke only records part of the prayer (and probably from a more informal setting than what St. Matthew records). So even holding Luke to a separate standard than anyone else, it seems that he was comfortable not going into great detail where the content was well known.

    As it is, Matthew 16:17-19 is primarily important to Catholics because the papacy is something contested. In a world in which there were no feuds about the papacy, the passage would be of significantly less import. If Luke is operating in a context in which the papacy is presumed, it’s not hard to believe that he’d find it less important to spell out, particularly given that he acknowledges that Simon became the pope, Peter.

    On Augustine, that doesn’t contradict what I said, it confirms it. I said that “Augustine believes that Peter can act (for lack of a better term) in persona Ecclesiae in a unique way: that he individually embodies the whole Church.”

    When a priest acts in persona Christi, in speaking the words of consecration, for example, he’s acting individually, but in a distinct sense, Christ is the One acting. The phrase “This is My Body” is only true if Christ is really the one speaking them, simply through the person of the priest. But obviously, that doesn’t mean that any and all of us can consecrate the Eucharist: Christ uses specific representatives or vicars of His own choosing.

    Augustine seems to me to be saying that the Church is the One who exercises the Keys, but through Peter, and Peter alone. In that second part, he’s not renouncing his earlier comment, that “Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church,” or that “that representation of the Church” was one “which only he bore.”

    So the part you quoted seems to me to confirm exactly what I was saying before. Can you show me how it contradicts?

    As for your last claim, I don’t see how that logically follows: members of the SSPX have produced plenty of pro-papal writing while refusing full communion with the pope. It seems to me that he could affirm Petrine primacy while refusing to stay in full communion with the occupant of the Petrine See, as sedevacantists, Eastern Orthodox, and the Society of St. Pius X do (to varying extents) today.

    God bless,


  16. Stevo,

    I’m sure Joe will respond in detail to most of what you say. Let me just point out that for all of Chrysostom’s life, he WAS in communion with Rome. That is to say, he was a priest in the patriarchate of Antioch, which was in communion with all the other patriarchates, including Rome, and became the bishop of Constantinople, which was in communion with Rome. I think you are not understanding what it means to be ‘in communion’, or you are mistaken on the chronology of the Rome/Constantinople relationship.

  17. I have no doubt there were multiple lines of tradition reporting variations of the Lord’s prayer. I believe Luke recorded what he deemed most historically established, though he may still have held the lengthier versions totally acceptable.

    Sure, I can agree that if the papacy was being presumed Luke would have far less incentive to record this.

    I understood your citation of Sermon 295 to be an argument that Augustine believed in the papacy on the basis of Matt. 16:19, specifically the keys. If I’m correct, then I think Augustine contradicts you because he says Peter was just a variable for a value, it was the Church that received the keys, not just Peter individually, personally. I can’t see how such statements could indicate belief in the papacy.

    But, further, take two hypotheses: H1 = Peter was the pope and H2 = Peter was first among equals. (I know H1 could include H2, but I’m using the latter as EO’s might). Which hypothesis does Augustine’s comments confirm? I think it’s clear that Sermon 295 at least confirms each as well, so this can’t [B]confirm[/B] the papacy. What is said of Peter here which couldn’t be said if Peter wasn’t the pope, but was just first among equals?

    As to the SSPX etc., I think you’re operating with a different understanding of ‘schism’ than the early Church did. According to the RCC, what makes a person a schismatic is “if he rejects the authority of the Supreme Pontiff or refuses communion with the members of the Church who are subject to
    him.” – 1917 Code, 1325, 2, 1983 Code, 209, 751, 755.

    Accordingly, you can’t be in schism if you don’t think the bishop of Rome has authority the denial of which results in schism, or that the members of “the” Church are subject to him.

    As the influential 16th century theologian, John De Lugo says, “Neither is someone a schismatic for denying his subjection to the Pontiff on the grounds that he has solidly founded doubts concerning the legitimacy of his election or his power.” (Disp., De Virt. Fid. Div., disp xxv, sect iii, nn. 35-8).

    It’s in this modern sense that the SSPX are said to be schismatic.

    To say Chrysostom was schismatic in this sense is to necessarily presuppose he believed in the papacy. Given that’s what’s under dispute, you can’t use this definition without begging the question.

    Think of the East-West schism. The east certainly did not recognize the bishop of Rome as what Vatican 1 defined as pope. So, I don’t think there is an analogy between Chrysostom and Rome’s schism and the SSPX’s schism with Rome.

  18. thefederalist:

    Chrysostom was baptized and ordained a lector in 370 By Meletius of Antioch who ordained him a deacon in 381. Meletius wasn’t in communion with Rome. Chrysostom was ordained a priest in 386 by Meletius’s successor Flavian who also wasn’t in communion with Rome. Chrysostom ended the schism when he got the bishophric of Constantinople.

  19. I am having some difficulty with the statement “…wasn’t in communion with Rome.” applied to leaders of local churches in the first 500 years following Christ’s death. The relationship between Bishops at this time was substancially different than what we think of today as “in communion”. I suspect the intention is to say that some of these early bishops did not uphold the primacy of the Roman Biship but that is quite different than saying not in communion.


    Dcn. Jim

  20. Daniel, that’s not a possibility. Antioch never even claimed this honor for itself, as evidenced by Chrysostom’s writings. Remember, he was Bishop of Antioch, and later of Constantinople.

    Georg, thank you! You’re all too kind.


    My point re: SSPX, etc., was only that it’s possible to both affirm the validity of the Petrine and Roman character of the papacy, without being in full communion with the pope. I think we agree on this point now, but originally, you’d argued that he couldn’t be arguing for the papacy without being in communion with Rome.

    Regarding Augustine’s Sermon 295, I don’t see how it could possibly work if Peter was merely the first among equals. He’s clear that Peter alone can act in this capacity as a representative (and image) of the entire Church. And the Church receives the Keys through the person of Peter.

    The possibly-related binding/loosening power is given to both the Church collectively (Mt. 18:18), and Peter individually on behalf of the Church (Mt. 16:18). Catholics still believe in this: the Church can declare things infallibly through Councils, or through the pope speaking ex cathedra.

    Significantly, this authority is only public in nature. None of the pope’s thoughts or declarations as a private theologian or pilgrim soul possess are protected from error. But in certain contexts, declarations he makes on behalf of the Church, as Her earthly head, are infallible. That understanding comports well (from what I can see) with the notion that the Keys are likewise given to Peter individually on behalf of, and in service of, the Church.

    Perhaps the difference in our view of this statement’s relationship to the papacy is that outside the Catholic Church, it often seems that the papacy is something Joseph Ratzinger simply gets for himself. It’s not. In becoming Benedict, Ratzinger has to die to self and become a servant to the servants of God.

    God bless,


  21. Steve O

    I believe you are wrong concerning the schism in Antioch during the time of Meletious. There was a schism, but Meletious was NOT is schism from Rome. A group of orthodox who thought that Meletious was not strict enough against Arianism were in schism from the Antiochan Church.

    Chrysostom was in communion with Rome his entire life.

  22. Steve O

    I am glad I caught this before your replied. Hopefully you haven’t read my previous comment yet.

    Sorry my previous comment is not totally accurate.

    It is a complicated piece of history and I am not completely clear on it but….

    Steve I believe you are in error in claiming that Maletious, Flavian and Chrystostom were in not “in union with Rome.” Even if we should sort things out and conclude that the schism in Antioch involving Maletious was “Schism from Rome” technically, materially I don’t think that implies that Chrysostom rejected Rome’s authority at any point in his Christian life.

    The schism at question was a local schism of the Antioch Church. It was an intra-eastern and in fact local to Antioch alone. It was not a schism from the Weestern Church or even from the Eastern Church. It was a disagreement about who was the legitimate Bishop of Antioch.

    Constantinople, Rome and Alexandria were all backing one side or the other. Lots of politics and power games. But boiled down, it was a dispute about who gets to be Bishop and which faction gets more prestige and power in Antioch.

    If you have any evidence that Chrystostom or even Meletious or Flavian actually rejected the authority of the Church or Rome, I’d like to see it.

  23. Actually, I stand corrected. Scripture didn’t directly say that those beaten naked used the handkerchiefs or aprons. Yet that mishap didn’t take from my point.
    @ShaneD: 1) Who cares if He said, “you.” Joe still pointed out the ‘rock’ was the confession of faith. That’s what I was addressing. 2) “Why then wouldn’t Jesus address all the disciples?” Didn’t He and all the disciples heal the saints from the dominion throughout ALL the New Testament? Yes.
    @DavidMeyer: Nowhere in the Catechism you used did it directly say that the rock was the confession as Joe has admitted. It leaves it as Peter because of his confession as does every other explanation used by the RCC that I, myself have paid attention to. It doesn’t leave it as just the confession.

  24. Paul in the GNW:

    “A proposal was made, probably from
    Italy, that both Flavian and Evagrius should submit their cases to a council which would arbitrate. In fact two councils considered the issue, one at Capua which was less than decisive, and then, on the decision of Pope Siricius, another at Caesarea in Palestine. The synod of Capua had proposed that Theophilus of Alexandria should adjudicate. He preferred to refer the intricate issue to a Greek synod. Flavian, willing to discuss anything other than the legitimacy of his position, refused the summons to both councils, and won over Theodosius to support him. At Antioch he treated Evagrius and his congregation as wilful schismatics to whom no recognition whatever
    should be given; in this rigorist policy he was eloquently supported by his presbyter John, whose brilliant sermons were later to win for him the epithet ‘Golden Mouth’ or Chrysostom (Homily on Ephesians 11, PG 62. 85ff.).” – Chadwick, Henry. The Church in Ancient Society: from Galilee to Gregory the Great. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. p. 430

    “The memory of Meletius himself, though at no time in his life in communion with the see of Rome (to his regret), was to be honoured by inclusion in the Roman Martyrology.” ibid., p. 431.

  25. Michael,

    How am I contradicting the Catechism position at all? You correctly cite their position as the Rock being “Peter because of his confession.” And I said,

    “The strongest answer from Scripture is Peter (because of his faith), and this has plenty of Patristic Support.”

    In Part II, I showed that if you say it’s anyone’s confession, then you’ve got to explain why, in John 1, when John the Baptist, Andrew, and Philip confess Christ, it’s Simon (who said nothing) who Jesus announces He’ll change his name to Rock. If you’ve got an answer for this, I’d love to hear it.

    God bless,


  26. Steve O

    you said “For most of Chrysostom’s life, he and Rome were not in communion with each other. It was during this time that he produced his homilies and commentaries. So, these citations from his homilies about Peter can’t support the papacy since these were penned when he wasn’t in communion with Rome. Cf. Chadwick, Henry. The Church in Ancient Society: from Galilee to Gregory the Great. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Chapter 44.”
    My emphasis added.

    I don’t wan to drag this thread off target further especially since this is a convoluted and ancient bit of history. So I’ll just ask: Do you really believe the circumstances of the schism in Antioch c. 380-410 actually justify the claim that no quote from Chrysotom’s homilies can possibly support the Papacy?

    I would think more the opposite. Despite being unjustly forced into schism, Chrysotom still recognized the primacy of the Roman Bishop and the necessity of unity within the Church and he was successful in healing the schism and restoring both of his predecessors.

  27. @Joe: God is the rock. Just look at the trillion Scriptures that say so. This was an example of the Spirit’s (God’s) work as the Rock: revealing to Peter that Christ is the Son of the Living God. So, the confession is the rock. And we know God can’t fail. Yet Peter failed when he refused to eat with gentile Christians. You’re in agreement that a temporary defeat is prevailing, no? Peter was temporarily defeated. That said, I don’t need to address anything about Simon surnamed Peter as far as his name meaning rock is concerned. It’s irrelevant. 1) His being rebuked by Paul admits Peter isn’t the rock. 2) James having the final statement in the council at Jerusalem admits Peter isn’t the rock. Another example of the ‘trillion’ Scriptures: The apostles and prophets laid the foundation. What, did Peter lay himself? No, it was Christ as the Word testifies. Now what about the statement I made on the ‘keys’? You didn’t address that because all believers were given authority to bind devils and loosen the saints from Satan’s grip. It was those with faith whom brought the handkerchiefs and aprons to loosen the saints from the devil’s grip, and it was those that lacked faith whom got beaten naked, right?

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