The Gospel Call to Christian Unity

I’m currently on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land, a journey which I’ve been sharing on my Facebook page, but it seemed fitting to mark today as the last day of the Week of Prayer of Christian Unity (which is actually an octave and not a week). The Holy Land is an amazing reminder of the universality of Christianity, and we’ve seen Christians praising God in Arabic, Aramaic,  Greek, Armenian, Korean, Polish, Spanish, and Latin over these last few days. But it’s also a reminder that Christians are divided: just today, we visited the Monastery of the Temptation and Jacob’s Well, but weren’t able to celebrate Mass in either location, as they are under Eastern Orthodox control.

In saying this, I don’t want it to sound triumphalist, like I’m saying Catholics are all holy Saints and Protestants and Orthodox are awful for not being part of the Church. What I am saying is that, given that there are Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and other Christians all striving for holiness and conformity to Jesus Christ, it’s an embarrassment and a shame – in fact, a scandal and a sin – that we’re not in full communion with one another. I’m not sure how anyone could hear these words of Jesus and come to any other conclusion (John 17:20-26):

I do not pray for these [Disciples] only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

In other words, the prayer of Jesus’ heart on the night before He was Crucified for us was that we would be “perfectly one.” We’ve betrayed Him by not living out that Christian unity (and again, there’s blame enough to go around: no honest assessment of the Great Schism or the Reformation puts all the blame on one side of the aisle). And what’s more, in betraying Him, we’ve also betrayed our mission: “so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

But rather than pointing fingers and placing blame, I think it’s important to do two things instead. First, recognize that this current state of disunity is unacceptable. Ecumenism is part of the core of Christianity, because it’s a form of fidelity to Christ. Christian unity isn’t a bonus, but a part of what Christ is calling us to. Second, figure out what can be done. And here, I want to appeal directly to my non-Catholic readers. I’m reminded of a story — an urban legend, actually — about a conversation at sea with a U.S. ship that allegedly went something like this:

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States’ Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that’s one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

So if you’re on a collision course, and you find out that the other side is a lighthouse that can’t move, it’s up to you to decide if you want to change or crash. Or to put it in more explicit terms for this discussion, if we’re supposed to be one Church, what is that Church?

It’s not good enough to give a generic answer like “the Christian Church,” if by that you mean that we just stay a big mess of feuding Christians who aren’t in full communion. That’s a non-answer.

And it doesn’t really work to say “the Protestant Church,” because there’s no such thing. There’s no single body of Protestants believing the same thing. Rather, there are several different major denominations, and an untold number of smaller ones, all under the same general umbrella. And this is the cause of a lot of flux within Protestantism. About half of the Protestants in America are no longer in the denomination in which they grew up: some become Catholic, some ceased being Christian altogether, but most simply switched Protestant denominations.

So that leaves you with three options: (1) all Christians everywhere should become whatever denomination you happen to be; (2) we should all be Eastern Orthodox; (3) or we should all be Catholic. The absurdity of suggesting that the problem of denominationalism be solved by having all Christians everywhere convert to, say, Wisconsin Synod Lutheranism, seems self-evident. How likely is it that only you, or only your local church, or only your obscure denomination, has gotten Christianity right? If your denomination can’t be traced back to the time of the Apostles, then it doesn’t appear to be a candidate for the Church described by Christ in John 17.

And it’s also just impossible in another sense. The Catholic Church has declared several teachings as infallible, and is quite explicit about having received traditions which she neither changes nor can change. St. John Paul II, writing on women’s ordination, pointed out “that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” That’s how it is for anything which the Church has received from Christ or the Apostles. We’re stewards of these gifts, not lords over them, so we can’t modify these teachings any more than we can change Scripture. As a result, we’re the lighthouse, a fixed quantity.

But that still leaves the Orthodox. Aren’t they also a lighthouse, but a contrary one? I’d suggest no, for two reasons. First, the Orthodox have previously rejoined the Catholic communion, at least somewhat. At the Council of Florence, the Eastern Orthodox (and later, Coptic Orthodox) delegates agreed:

that the holy apostolic see and the Roman pontiff holds the primacy over the whole world and the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter prince of the apostles, and that he is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him was committed in blessed Peter the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church, as is contained also in the acts of ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons.

The Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaiologos was in attendance for this Council, as was Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch for the Eastern Orthodox. He died shortly before the above-quoted decree, but his successor, Ecumenical Patriarch Metrophanes II of Constantinople, confirmed it. His succcessor, Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory III, also supported this reunion of the Eastern Orthodox with the Roman Catholic Church. Ultimately, the reception of the Council was thwarted by anti-unionist monks in the East, meaning that the situation on the ground was confusing (some Eastern churches prayed for the pope and were in communion with him, some refused). But still, it’s promising. If that did happen once, it can happen, and perhaps more.

Second, there’s the role of the Roman Church. From the earliest days of the Church, the Church of Rome played the role as a sort of Supreme Court in matters of theological controversy, meaning that when local churches would feud on something, they would send the matter to Rome for a decision. We find evidence of this as early as 96 A.D., while the Apostle John is still alive: the Corinthian church sent their internal dispute to Rome, and Pope Clement settled things. In the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), accepted by both the Orthodox and Catholics, the Illyrian bishops mentioned this practice, saying, “Let those who contradict be made manifest. Those who contradict are Nestorians. Those who contradict, let them go to Rome.”

In other words, when the Church was one, there’s no denying that the Roman See, headed by the pope, played some sort of special role overseeing matters in other churches (both in the East and in the West). What that looks like has certainly varied from age to age, but if we’re all committed to ending the scandal of denominationalism, it seems that the unified Church we’re longing for is one with the Bishop of Rome at the head, at least in some sense.

If you’re with me so far, I’d leave you with a very specific, practical proposal: start praying “what’s keeping me from being in complete union with the Roman Catholic Church, and what can I do to change that?” You may conclude that the reason you’re not in complete union is that the Catholic Church is wrong and you’re right, and there’s nothing you can do to change, and nothing that needs changing. Maybe! But I’d urge you to pray it anyway, with an openness that maybe, just maybe, God has a better view of things than you or I do.

154 Comments

  1. Joe, when you go to Church of the Dormition,
    on Friday, pray for unity between East and West. That was my prayer request to you, and I will unite with you in that same prayer.

  2. The quandary over Church unity seems to have been pondered over since the beginning of the Church itself. One of the earliest Christian writings (late 1st or mid-2nd century) that describes the unified nature of One Holy Church is titled “The Shepherd of Hermas”; and it uses various parables, symbols and allegories to describe the qualities that hold it together as a single Church. One metaphor used describes the Church as a tall tower, composed of chisel formed stones which is, and will be, in construction until the end of the world, much as Jesus proclaimed when He said “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Hermas asked many questions about why there were some stones that were seen as lying near by the tower, but not actually used in the construction of the tower itself. And the following quote from the work is the explanation given to him. :

    ” But the tower,” say I, “what is it?”

    “The tower,” saith he, “why, this is the Church.”

    “And these virgins, who are they?”

    “They,” saith he, “are holy spirits; and no man can otherwise be found in the kingdom of God, unless these shall clothe him with their garment; for if thou receive only the name, but receive not the garment from them, thou profitest nothing. For these virgins are powers of the Son of God. If [therefore] thou bear the Name, and bear not His power, thou shalt bear His Name to none effect.”

    “And the stones,” saith he, “which thou didst see cast away, these bare the Name, but clothed not themselves with the raiment of the virgins.”

    “Of what sort, Sir,” say I, “is their raiment?” “The names themselves,” saith he, “are their raiment. Whosoever beareth the Name of the Son of God, ought to bear the names of these also; for even the Son Himself beareth the names of these virgins.”

    “As many stones,” saith he, “as thou sawest enter into the building of the tower, being given in by their hands and waiting for the building, they have been clothed in the power of these virgins. For this cause thou seest the tower made a single stone with the rock. So also they that have believed in the Lord through His Son and clothe themselves in these spirits, shall become one spirit and one body, and their garments all of one color. But such persons as bear the names of the virgins have their dwelling in the tower.”

    “The stones then, Sir,” say I, “which are cast aside, wherefore were they cast aside? For they passed through the gate and were placed in the building of the tower by the hands of the virgins.”

    “Since all these things interest thee,” saith he, “and thou enquirest diligently, listen as touching the stones that have been cast aside. These all, [saith he,] received the name of the Son of God, and received likewise the power of these virgins. When then they received these spirits, they were strengthened, and were with the servants of God, and they had one spirit and one body [and one garment]; for they had the same mind, and they wrought righteousness. After a certain time then they were persuaded by the women whom thou sawest clad in black raiment, and having their shoulders bare and their hair loose, and beautiful in form. When they saw them they desired them, and they clothed themselves with their power, but they stripped off from themselves the power of the virgins. They then were cast away from the house of God, and delivered to these (women). But they that were not deceived by the beauty of these women remained in the house of God. So thou hast,” saith he, “the interpretation of them that were cast aside.”

    ” What then, Sir,” say I, “if these men, being such as they are, should repent and put away their desire for these women, and return unto the virgins, and walk in their power and in their works? Shall they not enter into the house of God?”

    “They shall enter,” saith he, “if they shall put away the works of these women, and take again the power of the virgins, and walk in their works. For this is the reason why there was also a cessation in the building, that, if these repent, they may go into the building of the tower; but if they repent not, then others will go, and these shall be cast away finally.”

    “For all these things I gave thanks unto the Lord, because He had compassion on all that called upon His name, and sent forth the angel of repentance to us that had sinned against Him, and refreshed our spirit, and, when we were already ruined and had no hope of life, restored our life.”

    ************************************************************************************

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html

    citation:

  3. By definition It’s impossible for Protestants and Catholics to be unified. Protestantism completely rejects the Mass. How can those two worldviews ever be unified when the Mass is rejected?

  4. In 96 AD the church was not so unified s to automatically refer to the Pope in rome we had 4 established centers, Carthegene, Alexandra and Antioch, all thinking their way of thinking was the only right one.
    Fast forward and all you can get out of non catholics, is the very bad Popes iike th Borghese and others who sold saintshoos so how can this be a church or even look up to for leadership.
    In other words they have dirtied their copybook too much and so the likes of King Henri the VIII are perfectly justified in not obeying the Catholic church and set up your own outfit with you as a head, seeming as valid at the time no doubt as any other argument.
    And of course, this power struggle for centuries as to who is more important never quite left. Take an Englishman now who knows nothing about religion but he will tell you that Popery is bad (like the EU) the UK version is the only right one. But people of course are to atheistic to even look or want to look at what is what – the few who do convert and I know plenty of priest who just did that. I’m baffled by the rapprochement between Anglicans and Methodist who might become one church again, stronger to take on Catholicism? As there are that many denominations one more r less does not seem to mae a difference to me

    1. It must be remembered that if there are indeed goats among the sheep in the Church, and even a majority of goats at that, Jesus already taught that it would be this way. Even as Judas did not effect the orthodoxy of the other apostles, so too, the weeds inside the Church do not effect the orthodoxy of the wheat in the Church…no matter how few true wheat seeds there actually are. What this means is that the true Church is actually smaller than most people think, but still the rue and holy faith dwells in it.

      At least the Catholic Church has the sacraments, catechism,encyclicals, canon laws, Church history, lives and examples of saints, etc…that clearly direct anyone who truly wants to follow Jesus (i.e.. the sheep), to proceed in the right and orthodox direction.

    2. Hi Al,

      Not only are there goats and weeds in the church. Jesus speaks of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30. Paul in Romans 5:4 speaks about suffering (presumably due to division) helping our hope. Seeing a wound and calling it a wound helps us recognize the good and healthy flesh of the sheep and the safe way the shepherd points.

      1. Very true, Margo. What the Church has that other faiths don’t is a grand history as part of its body. The Catholic Church documents this history, filled with the writings and reflections from the minds of her saints through the centuries. And because we catalogue our great history, even as the early Israelites did, the clear doctrine of those who are ‘sheep’ and ‘wheat’ will always be able to be compared to those who are ‘goats’ and ‘weeds’. And because of this, it is possible that a great majority of Christians would devolve into goats, as the ‘shepherd of Hermas’ , above, notes. But still, a remnant would always be able to follow the true doctrines left throughout the history of the Church. These are the writings, for instance of Sts. Bernard of Clairvaux, Albert the Great, Francis of Assisi, Dominic, Alphonsus Liguori, John Vianney, John Bosco, Francis de Sales, Philip Neri, Louis de Montfort, etc….

        But it seems that Protestants have little interest in their ‘fathers’/ members throughout history. The Catholic Church loves her ‘fathers’/members/saints because they still live in eternity with Jesus in His Kingdom. And this is why we are not ashamed to love them and follow them, even as St. Paul said: ” Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. And all of the saints over the last 2000 + years said basically the same thing. And, this is why the Vatican library holds literally miles of such biographies and writings of saints in it.

        So, no matter how many sheep leave the fold, they will never be able to erase the history of so many ‘true sheep’ of the Lord, or so much of the ‘good wheat which produced 100 fold’. That they indeed did produce abundant fruits is proven in those millions of great Catholic books written through the centuries, and which are now online, also, for all to read and marvel at.

        Best to you always in the Lord.

  5. Hi Joe!

    Hope everybody’s well here – it has been a busy few months in Casa de Irked.

    A quick reply, if I can make myself be brief: I think the heart of the issue here is tied up in what you mean by “full communion.” My experience from the past is that this phrase means something very specific to Catholics – and I think part of the problem of these sorts of conversations is that it does not have the corresponding meaning to Protestants.

    Or, put differently, you say it’s shameful that so many Christians aren’t in full communion, and my first response is, “… Aren’t we?” Because I’m not sure I see the obstacles you evidently do: I would describe myself as in communion with Baptists, with Methodists, with Anglicans, with Lutherans and Presbyterians and Wesleyans, and indeed with the great bulk of those who call themselves “Christians” today. I’d include Catholics and Orthodox in that group (though certainly not all Protestants would) – but my understanding is that this isn’t a perspective you guys return. There are certainly quote-unquote Christians I do not see myself as in communion with – groups like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, say, who don’t hold to the divinity and atoning sacrifice of Christ in anything like the same way – but there’s a pretty extensive family I claim as co-members of the body of Christ. We don’t agree on everything – but I’d honor faithful Christians of all these denominations as members of the same team, doing their best to serve the same Head, and I happily stand united with them in that task.

    So I think that makes these conversations difficult. What, specifically, do you mean when you say that we are “not living out… Christian unity?” What do you see as the necessary conditions for unity?

    So that leaves you with three options: (1) all Christians everywhere should become whatever denomination you happen to be; (2) we should all be Eastern Orthodox; (3) or we should all be Catholic.

    But (1) and (3) are not separate options; (3) is just the instance of (1) where the speaker happens to be Catholic. I’ve made this argument before, but again, we do not pre-concede that the Roman Catholic Church has a status different from that of all other Christian denominations. Indeed, the belief that it does not is rather fundamental to being Protestant.

    1. Hi Irked,

      Hope all has been well en la casa y con su bebe con mucho trabajo, alegria, y felicidad, si?

      So here’s my difficulty. You say: “,,, we do not pre-concede that the Roman Catholic Church has a status different from that of all other Christian denominations” This seems to imply that all denominations have same a similar “status.” So why then, are there denominations if most are somehow quite similar? Why have Protestants turned away from the RCC, then? Or do you not see the early church as Catholic?

      Again you say, “Indeed, the belief that it does not [have any status different from that of most other Christians denominations?]} is rather fundamental to being Protestant.” If Protestants don’t see Catholics as different, it should make no matter what denomination a Protestant joins, right? So why aren’t you Catholic?

      I don’t necessarily need a logical argument. I’m just posing some rhetoric for prayer or thought. Hope you and yours are well.

      1. Hi Margo,

        “Casa de Irked” is about the full extent of my Spanish, alas. (Well, not quite, but enough that I’d embarrass myself trying to do any more.)

        (The bebé is quite well, however – thanks!)

        This seems to imply that all denominations have same a similar “status.” So why then, are there denominations if most are somehow quite similar? Why have Protestants turned away from the RCC, then? Or do you not see the early church as Catholic?

        Denominations (in my view) are something a bit like schools of philosophy – or something like the rabbinical schools of Hillel and Shammai in the time of Christ. Both groups were Jews; both groups were trying to be faithful to the Scriptures; at least one of them was still wrong. Membership in a denomination is a convenient way to advertise that you hold a certain common set of theological understandings, which makes it easier to find other people who share similar views (and so, at least from one’s own perspective, have a more accurate overall understanding of Christianity as a whole). Denominations have no “spiritual existence” – there’s no “Baptists Only” room in heaven – they’re just organizational tools + useful shorthand. There is not, crucially, any obligation to be part of any denomination at all; organization above the church level is voluntary.

        (I want to stress there that this isn’t a claim that all positions are equally good, or that there’s no such thing as more right/more wrong.)

        So, to your actual questions: there exist denominations because we disagree on the fine points of Christianity (to varying degrees), even though there’s a lot of agreement on core salvific truths, and grouping related beliefs under labels is convenient. (This is, functionally, the same reason there exist Thomists and Molinists inside Catholicism.) I don’t view modern Protestants as having “turned away” from the RCC, because I don’t view the RCC as a default option. As you suggest, I don’t see the early church as being meaningfully identical to the modern Roman Catholic Church. (I don’t see it as meaningfully identical to my own denomination, either.)

        If Protestants don’t see Catholics as different, it should make no matter what denomination a Protestant joins, right?

        I’m afraid I don’t understand your argument here. I don’t see Catholicism as a different kind of thing than other denominations (as Joe’s post would seem to suggest it is); that doesn’t mean that some denominations can’t be more correct than others.

        1. Hi Irked,

          Note my Spanish uses only nouns, articles, prepositions, adjectives. The real work involved in verbs is beyond me. You understood enough. Trabajo = work (travail), allegria (allegro/joy), felicidad (felicity/happiness).

          I don’t have any rejoinder to your view of early church, but I know Awlms does, and I trust he his cohorts will weigh in.

          I do question again that if you don’t see Catholicism as different in kind from other denominations, again I ask: Why are there different churches? And why are you not Catholic?

          God bless.

          1. 🙂 That’s pretty funny, Margo. I’m far from a specialist on anything theological or historical. My main specialty is in my simple love for holy people, their works and their writings. I was converted by reading the life of St. Francis, so I have always been attracted to people who have an authentic love for Jesus Christ, and the Church that He founded to spread His teachings.

            Regarding a response, I really don’t see why people neglect the “Shepard of Hermas” as a historical resource dealing with the unity of the Church. It’s almost never brought up, but so many people will use Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, the Didache, and countless other ancient writings for their historical proofs of Church unity.

            ‘The Shepherd’ was seen as a very authentic Christian writing by many of the great Church Fathers(…as Eusebius taught) and was even included into the canon of ancient Coptic scripture. But, even if it is allegorical in nature, it still has a lot to teach about the nature of the Church; and that St. Hermas was supposedly the brother of an early pope, it must have gotten official approval from Rome at a very early date… if not for scripture, then as a very instructive catechetical work.

            So, I encourage all Protestants and Catholics alike to read and digest it. It’s highly spiritual in nature, and teaches a lot on how Christ intended to build a single Church and not a conglomeration of theological diverse congregations. And, as Joe points out, that single Church is obviously the Catholic Church which has transformed Western Civilization for the positive for over 2000 years now.

            Best to all.

          2. Hi Margo,

            I apologize, again, but I still don’t understand the argument you’re making.

            Maybe a metaphor will help. I think the various American political parties are the same “kind” of thing: the Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, etc. are all fundamentally, y’know, groups of folks who have ideas they think are good for the country for various reasons.

            But some of those groups have better ideas than others, and I don’t move from [whatever my political philosophy might be] to [whatever JimBob’s political philosophy might be] because the evidence suggests to me that JimBob’s view of the world is wrong.

            So it is with denominations: they can all be the same “kind” of thing, and some of them can still be more right or more wrong.

            ***

            I still think the questions I asked at the beginning are the vital ones: what do you think full communion actually requires? Because it still seems to me that Joe’s asking Protestants to join you in mourning for a condition we don’t agree exists.

          3. Hi Irked,

            I guess about 95% of the History of Christianity before the Reformation supported and followed the Catholic ecclesiology. It is proven in world art, music, culture, invention, architecture, literature, etc… which still prosodist today in our present culture.The other 5% might include some sort of ancient Protestant imbued ecclesiology, I guess. So, Catholics at least have the nuts and bolts of history on our side, as I mentioned before many times. To be a Protestant is to be a great risk taker in spite of all the historical, cultural and literary proof against it.

            At least that’s my opinion.

          4. Hi Al,

            Sure, and obviously my reading of history and Scripture is different: to me, the majority of the evidence seems to point to an early faith largely alien to the core claims of Roman Catholicism. I think some of our other discussion – the Catholic difficulty in unifying Cyril, for just our most current example, but we’ve certainly discussed others in the past – points to that.

            Or put differently: where we differ is not as to whether history is irrelevant, but whether the history of Christendom is, indeed, on the Catholic side.

          5. Hi Irked,

            My recent comment here was for the other thread we were at…somewhere below.

            Anyway, if we look at the lives and content of the Fathers of the Church, you might indeed find a ‘smidgeon’ of protestantism in one form or another, but really it’s more like a flea on a camel, if you want a reasonable comparison.. The early bishops clearly taught Catholic catechesis, and this is why they were capable of holding synods and councils and promulgating canon laws that would be followed throughout the entire Roman Empire.

            I really don’t know where the Protestants were back then. And your argument that Cyril was indeed one of them falls short considering the fact that he abided by all of the Churches ecclesiastical laws and customs during his time…ie. sacred ordinations, the sacrifice of the Mass, proscribed penances for grave sins committed, and all the other normal Eastern Catholic practices of his times.

            Any person proclaiming boldly the modern tenets of Protestantism, such as the 5 Solae, would probably been rejected as blatant heretics by the Church of His time, not to mention any other time back then. This is probably why it is almost impossible to find any evidence of Protestantism in the early Church; any evidence in art, writings, culture, music, architecture, customs, institutions, etc… There were very many other such groups, the ones that Jerome and Augustine wrote against, but nothing like Protestantism. And nowhere is Protestantism substantially described in Eusebius’ Church history, or any fragments of Hegesippus, or the writings of Origin or Tertullian, wherein we might find Early Christians practicingProtestant type services without the need of consecrated priests, etc.. If they indeed existed, then these groups would have been confronted in writing as all other heretical groups were confronted. So, it is double that Protestantism as we know it existed at all back then.

            If you have any examples of a Father of the Church who is more Protestant than Catholic, and which is proved by the way he led his life, attended Sunday liturgies, wrote treatises, etc… please let me know. So, if Protestanistism is all that the Reformed Churches say it is, then why is there little or no trace of it in actual history? Why does it take 1500 years to make a substantial appearance? Why did it fundamentally evolve out of the Catholic Church, when it should have persisted independently throughout so many centuries?

          6. Hi Al,

            My recent comment here was for the other thread we were at…somewhere below.

            Heh, I wondered.

            I really don’t know where the Protestants were back then. And your argument that Cyril was indeed one of them falls short

            This is the thing that makes these conversations difficult, Al: that’s not a position I’ve taken. I don’t think the early church was either Protestant or Catholic; I think they were different from both our denominations in some fairly important ways.

            One of the things that happens again and again in church history is that new doctrinal statements get worded so as to prune out heresies that have risen to prominence in the last cycle. So, for instance, Nicaea introduces homoousios because no previously-used word cut cleanly enough to divide the orthodox from the Arian. So, likewise, the five “solas” get the precise wording they do in response to what the Reformers see as the abuses of Rome – and even then, that wording evolves for precision as the responses do.

            So no, I don’t find anyone teaching literally word-for-word sola scriptura in the early church, because the teachings SS is trying to slice out (i.e., the claimed equal authority of sacred tradition and Scripture) aren’t yet dominant: there’s nothing there to push against. But when we do find teachers in the early church saying that the only doctrinal teachings to be believed are those proved from Scripture… I mean, that’s pretty darned inconsistent with your position.

            This is probably why it is almost impossible to find any evidence of Protestantism in the early Church

            But that’s not the question; again, no one here disputes that the early Christians were not Protestants. The question is whether they were meaningfully Roman Catholics.

            And whether or not they had a liturgy is not the major factor in that determination.

        2. “There is not, crucially, any obligation to be part of any denomination at all; organization above the church level is voluntary.”

          How then do we find the Apostles joined together at the Council of Jerusalem to resolve the problems relating to the ‘Judaisers’? They didn’t just concede that unity doesn’t matter, and thereby both the Judaisers and St. Paul and recently converted Gentiles were equally correct. Rather, they resolved the controversy decisively, and sided against one party, the Judaisers.

          Yes, this probably caused angst amongst the losing party, but still it is a demonstration how the Early Church operated in all reality. And it continued to operate in this same fashion throughout its history, and even up to the present day.

          If organization above the Church level was only voluntary, it would obviate the need for Church synods, councils, canon laws, common sacraments, common catechesis, etc… But Church history teaches differently. All of these things were instituted and developed exactly FOR the purpose of maintaining the Church’s doctrinal and sacramental unity. To be merely optional would destroy any true path to such unity, which is exactly where the Protestant denominations are at in our present time, as compared to the highly unified Catholic Church.

          The hermeneutic you propose appears to be completely contrary to what really took place in Church history. It would have put so many heretical Christian groups on an equal footing with the true and ‘universal’ Church back then, making all of the apologetical efforts against of the early Church Fathers against such heresies a mere waste of time and energy.

          But, fortunately that’s not how Church history happened. The true history is that Jesus Christ gave his Church authority to make important decisions regarding ecclesiology and Church unity. Therein, the Church decided that territorial jurisdiction would be provided to bishops and archbishops. Canon laws were established to maintain order between the bishops. And both regional and ecumenical councils were called to let the bishops have a voice in their own future.

          Catholics put trust in this great ecclesiastical history of the past 2000 years. I figure the majority of Protestants just do not. At least Church history is on our side. Ecclesiastical unity is, and always has been, an important objective to strive for.

          1. Hi Al,

            A quick note right at the start:

            They didn’t just concede that unity doesn’t matter

            Nor have I. “Unity doesn’t matter” is not what anyone is saying. Instead, I’ve asked for people’s understanding of what “unity” requires; so far, no one’s taken me up on that.

            I’m happy to engage the rest of your post, but not while we’re opening with undefined terms. What do you understand to be required for unity? Why?

          2. Hi Irked,

            I think the Church herself defined the nature of it’s unity in the 4th and 5th centuries with this ecclesiological definition: It is “one, holy, universal (catholic), and apostolic”. Each of these terms has it’s own meaning and significance, which are typically taught in Christian Catechetical courses.

            As I know that you are familiar with some of Cyril of Jerusalems ‘Catechetical Lectures’, I think that it is a good place to understand these fundamental qualites inherent in the Church. And, it is also noted in this work, that Cyril places much emphasis on defending oneself against heresy. In the 10th paragraph of his ‘Prologue’ to the Lectures he writes:

            “Attend closely to the catechisings, and though we should prolong our discourse, let not thy mind be wearied out. For thou art receiving armour against the adverse power, armour against heresies, against Jews, and Samaritans434, and Gentiles. Thou hast many enemies; take to thee many darts, for thou hast many to hurl them at: and thou hast need to learn how to strike down the Greek, how to contend against heretic, against Jew and Samaritan. And the armour is ready, and most ready the sword of the Spirit: but thou also must stretch forth thy right hand with good resolution, that thou mayest war the Lord’s warfare, and overcome adverse powers, and become invincible against every heretical attempt.”

            *********************************************
            So, we note that the difference between orthodoxy and heresy was a topic to be well understood by the early Christian catechumens (and consequently to the faithful at large), and these particular lectures were provided to strengthen the true and faithful Christian against such ‘anti-catholic’ doctrines, practices and teachings.

            In no way, do we find your attitude towards Christian ecclesiastical unity in such writings as St. Cyril provides; as even this single quote, above, proves. There was always a distinct difference between ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ in the early Church, and the multitudes of writings of the Church Fathers, such as is found with St. Cyril, Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and many others… spend countless pages defining these differences, and over many centuries.

          3. Al,

            So – if Margo’s link is read as synonymous with Joe’s usage of the word “unity” – there’s the fundamental problem. Margo’s post (and your reading of “one,” I assume) state that unity requires a singular temporal organization. Protestants don’t agree; we see Christ’s command as urging us to share the mind and will of God, and so to be unified with each other by having the love and the thoughts and the priorities of the Lord. Doubtless we all fail at that task – but it’s not a task that is clearly aided or hindered by whether we’re Roman Catholic.

            And that’s my fundamental issue with blog posts of this sort. They look compelling – but only to those already in the RCC. For someone who does not already share that definition of unity, the whole premise falls apart; “Start by conceding that Roman Catholicism is necessary,” they say, “and now don’t you see how wrong you are not to be Catholic?”

            In no way, do we find your attitude towards Christian ecclesiastical unity in such writings as St. Cyril provides; as even this single quote, above, proves.

            But I agree with Cyril’s quote: you should study the teachings of the church, and they are good defenses against challenges you’ll face. I rejoice that we have, in the modern day, such an incredible wealth of teachings to aid us in our understanding of the faith: catechisms, creeds, summas, commentaries, systematic theologies, all of it! I just also agree with Cyril when he says that the only doctrinal teachings that matter are those proved from the Scriptures.

            There was always a distinct difference between ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ in the early Church

            And, indeed, there still is a distinct difference between orthodoxy and heterodoxy; the truth is singular. What of it?

          4. “indeed, there still is a distinct difference between orthodoxy and heterodoxy; the truth is singular. What of it?”

            Well, it might not be a big deal to many, including yourself, but it certainly was a big thing for any who sought to become Christians back in the 1st millennium A.D. And the reason why, is that the Early Church was very particular in whom they would allow to be baptized. So, if you read the first chapters of Cyril’s lectures you will note that without consent to all the things being taught him by the bishops catechists, the catechumenical candidate would be denied their baptism, and of course, all of the other sacraments also. In this sense it was not the Bible that was the ‘door’ necessary for salvation, but the bishop and his acceptance of a catechumen into the Church. This is to say, that anyone who desired such enterance, was required to meet the conditions demanded by their own particular bishop of the territory or city that they lived in (even as our friend Craig is undergoing at this very time). This, of course, demanded more than mere doctrine. It demanded a scrutinization of the moral character of the candidate, his intentions, his understanding of the catechetical lessons, his diligence in not missing lessons, his promise to fulfill what the Church demanded of him in the future until the end of his life; such as, attending the Eucharistic liturgies, marriage restrictions regarding pagans, proscribed fasts at various times of the year, penances to be complied with after committing serious sins, specific prayers to be prayed at various times during the liturgical year, not to mention many other ecclesiastical customs and duties the catechumen was required to fulfill.

            So, if you think it might be merely the Word/Bible that was to be understood and conformed to, this was only part of the requirement needed to secure one’s salvation in those early centuries of Christianity. And this is why the said ‘Lectures of St. Cyril’ are instructive for understanding the mind of the early Church of those times.

            So, again, it was not only the Bible (…listening to it being read in the weekly liturgies), that was essential for the Christian back then. It was EVERYTHING that the particular bishops taught and demanded of them on a continual basis. The sheep were required to obey their pastors (bishops)in all ecclesiastical matters, or be excommunicated from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by of Christ.

            The Early Church demanded a comprehensive faith that involved the Christians entire life, and entire soul. And, it is the same today, for any who are serious Catholic or Orthodox Christians.

          5. Well, it might not be a big deal to many, including yourself

            But it is a big deal to me; I just don’t see that it’s relevant to our conversation. Neither of us is pro-heresy as a concept, or denies that there’s such a thing as the truth.

            So, again, it was not only the Bible (…listening to it being read in the weekly liturgies), that was essential for the Christian back then.

            Your original quote has Cyril showing that the teachings of the church are useful and valuable; in this sentence, though, you’ve switched to “essential.” Those are different things, and they require different proofs. If you’d like to present a quote from Cyril saying they are essential for some purpose (and to what purpose!), I’m open to that.

            But the only quote on the subject you’ve presented so far, I agree with. You should listen to the church, and to the wise teachings of elder Christians, as they are a great aid in defending against heresy. Many Protestants agree!

            It was EVERYTHING that the particular bishops taught and demanded of them on a continual basis.

            So, suppose I said the following: “Don’t give absolute credence to anyone on matters of doctrine, even a bishop or patriarch, unless they prove their claims from Scripture.” Would Cyril agree or disagree with that claim?

          6. Of course it is crystal clear. Protestants don’t seek unity in that [which] “…requires a singular temporal organization.” Obviously, since that church didn’t begin until 1500 years after Christ. A big break.

          7. “So, suppose I said the following: “Don’t give absolute credence to anyone on matters of doctrine, even a bishop or patriarch, unless they prove their claims from Scripture.” Would Cyril agree or disagree with that claim?”

            I think the problem here is the definition of ‘doctrine’.

            There are so many things that the Church practiced back in 500 AD that really had almost nothing to do with scripture, but were essential for a person to be admitted to baptism and the other sacraments, that I think that Cyril could in no way agree to that statement, above, because he himself taught many such things that have no basis in scripture.

            For instance, if a catechumen started the course of catechesis, but then decided to travel to Egypt during the Easter season, he would not be baptised due to the interruption of his catecheital instruction. Consequently, he would need to start the catechetical program over again in the following year. So, he chose of his free will not to continue the mandated study under the bishops catechists, he would remain a catechumen. And, further, if he did the same the following year, and chose again to travel to Egypt for the paschal season, He would again be refused baptism.

            Note that, these items are no where to be found in scripture, but have still an impact on ones salvation. It is sort of like the parable of the rich man who Jesus asked to: ” go sell all that you have, give it to the poor and come follow me”. Obviously, this rich youth had other plans for his comfortable life, and so walked away sad. And the same can happen with people who value worldly things over sacred things. They might choose a worldly endeavor over completing the courses of Catechism that the bishop says is necessary for the reception of baptism and the other sacraments.

            Again, these conditions are not found in the scriptures explicitly, but rather as examples and parables that need to be extrapolated from Christ’s examples and parables. And this is what the Church does regarding parables, as much of what Jesus taught was not taught explicitly as a philosopher in Athens might have taught.

            Regarding Cyril, it is clear that he taught countless lessons that had nothing to do with scripture. Heresies that he was warning against inhis era were not even considered or dreamed of during the apostolic age. Hence, the wise Christian needs to be able to understand and interpret times and places, and how the Church can develop, change and respond, so as to address new ecclesiological or sociological changes as they occur in each new generation. This is what we find in the entire history of the Church, and it obviously continues to this very day.

            For instance, can anyone imagine how St. Paul, or the Gospel authors, would have considered the implications and morality of human genetic manipulation? For instance, the combining human genes with those of animals? Or of mass scale human cloning?

            It takes a current Church with the gifts of wisdom from the Holy Spirit to address such modern ethical dilemmas. Thus the need for a competent Church to do so, which we indeed find in the current Catholic Church, headed by the Pope; and moreover, with the aid of various ecclesiastical institutions to study such modern wonders, such as we find with the current Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Church of Christ is a living Church; and it needs to be able to respond to every trick, or attack, of satan that occurs in the world until the end of time. Bu we still have the promise of the Lord that ” The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it”.

            Best to you in the Lord.

          8. Hi Al,

            There are so many things that the Church practiced back in 500 AD that really had almost nothing to do with scripture, but were essential for a person to be admitted to baptism and the other sacraments, that I think that Cyril could in no way agree to that statement, above, because he himself taught many such things that have no basis in scripture.

            And yet my statement is just restating Cyril’s actual words: “For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures.”

            I know this isn’t the first time I’ve brought this up, but I still don’t see that you can fit this into your understanding of his theology – and from your own statement, it seems like you can’t! You’ve said in the past that this should be looked at as an “off the cuff” statement, or something Cyril doesn’t really mean – but I think consistency demands that we believe him on this point. And that’s something of a problem for the view you’re presenting here.

            By contrast, I’d say that we can harmonize Cyril quite nicely on this point: he can say that extra-biblical teachings are useful (as he does) without saying they’re a prerequisite for salvation (as he does not, at least that has been shown so far). Which, again, I affirm – and which in any event seems to me to be at some remove from the actual point. The question at hand is not primarily sola Scriptura, but whether the Protestant view of unity must necessarily be in error. I don’t see that you’ve shown that it is.

            Note that, these items are no where to be found in scripture, but have still an impact on ones salvation.

            So here’s the other equivocational issue I have: it seems to me that we’re jumping back and forth between “things that inhibit formal membership in the church” and “things that inhibit salvation.” You’d find at many Protestant churches that someone who doesn’t complete the membership class doesn’t get to be a member; the guy who skips town for the second half of the class can attend church, but he’s not going to join the church until he commits. That seems a lot like the situation you’ve described.

            But his membership or lack thereof in the local church doesn’t prevent him from coming to Christ; that the local pastor may not be persuaded of his salvation (and so may not baptize him yet) does not hold him back from the Cross. My limited understanding of Catholicism is that, post-Vatican Two, you’d say the same thing: that someone not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who disagreed with his bishop, may yet be saved.

            So while we perhaps disagree on the full significance of membership in a church body, I think we still agree that there’s a difference between “registration on the rolls” and salvation. It seems to me that your discussion conflates the two – or at least, I cannot tell where you move from the one to the other.

            Regarding Cyril, it is clear that he taught countless lessons that had nothing to do with scripture.

            If you’d like to show me a quote where Cyril teaches a doctrine he does not believe to be proved from Scripture, I’m open to that, but again, that has to actually be presented before I’ll yield the point.

          9. Hi Irked,

            You said ” If you’d like to show me a quote where Cyril teaches a doctrine he does not believe to be proved from Scripture, I’m open to that, but again, that has to actually be presented before I’ll yield the point.”

            Have you ever encountered the following doctrines taught by Cyril in his lectures in the scriptures? and, as I said, there are very many other non- scriptural teachings :

            1. “We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time:  whereas if thou fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism428:  for only the heretics are re-baptized429, because the former was no baptism.“(Cyril Prologue no.7)

            2. “Let thy feet hasten to the catechisings; receive with earnestness the exorcisms:  whether thou be breathed upon or exorcised, the act is to thee salvation. “ (ibid. no. 9.)

            3. “Even so without exorcisms the soul cannot be purified”. (ibid. no. 9)

            4. “Let me give thee this charge also.  Study our teachings and keep them for ever.  Think not that they are the ordinary homilies; for though they also are good and trustworthy, yet if we should neglect them to-day we may study them to-morrow.  But if the teaching concerning the laver of regeneration delivered in a consecutive course be neglected to-day, when shall it be made right? ” (ibid. no.11)

            ********************************************

          10. Hi Al,

            1. “We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if thou fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism

            But that’s not a non-Scriptural teaching (in Cyril’s view); he literally says that the reason you can’t be rebaptized is Ephesians 4.

            2. “Let thy feet hasten to the catechisings; receive with earnestness the exorcisms: whether thou be breathed upon or exorcised, the act is to thee salvation… Even so without exorcisms the soul cannot be purified”

            I read that, yes, and then I read a sentence later when he says, “and these exorcisms are divine, having been collected out of the divine Scriptures,” emphasis mine.

            So Cyril says that both his teachings (as per my quote) and his exorcisms (as here) are proved from or taken from the Scriptures. He further says that the truths which come from the Scriptures bring salvation by faith (as per p. 8, “Say not, How are my sins blotted out? I tell you, By willing, by believing.”). That’s a biblical doctrine: it’s Romans 10:13-17, if nothing else.

            Let me fold (4) in here, too, because this is all one big related thin: Your argument seems to be that Cyril urges people to obey his teachings, and therefore he must tell people to obey extrabiblical doctrines. But that only applies if Cyril thinks his teachings are themselves truths not found in Scripture: if he thinks they’re just explanations of things proved from Scripture, then he’s still just urging obedience to the Bible. And – per p. 8 and the quote I provided – that seems to be exactly what he does think.

            (An analogy: suppose I say, “Listen to me, now, because this doctrine will bring you life: follow Christ and repent of your sins.” Am I teaching you that salvation comes by something extrabiblical, by obeying me? Well, no – I’m only telling you to listen to me as I repeat something already in Scripture. And if I say further, “But you should only listen to me, or anyone, where we prove our case with the Bible,” I’ve made that about as clear as I could.)

            So I have no objection here, and I’d like to return again to the relevant question: why must the Protestant understanding of unity be mistaken?

          11. This question is adequately addressed in the link that Margo, above, provided. But to sum it up, Protestants have a different understanding of what it means to be: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, as taught by the 1st Council of Constantinople in 481 AD. And in particular they lack apostolic succession through valid ordinations and the laying on of hands.

            If we read Eusebius’ Church history, an attention is given to the fact that the the succession of bishops through ordinations in their various dioceses was an important part of Early Church doctrine and ecclesiology; and in the present Catholic Church, it still is today. So the Catholic Church maintains the continuity with the Church of the early ages, whereas the Protestants adhere to a hermeneutic of ‘rupture’ with the age old tradition of apostolic succession via the sacrament of ‘holy orders’.

            Of course there are many other items to add, but this is a big part of the cause of disunity between Catholics and Protestants in modern Christianity today.

          12. Hi Al,

            But to sum it up, Protestants have a different understanding of what it means to be: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic

            Right, exactly. That’s what I said in my opening post – we understand “unity” differently, and the rest of this argument falls apart if the appeal is not to a definition we share. If, from my perspective, our unity is a matter of our shared love of Christ… well, then, what has my presence or absence from the Catholic Church to do with anything?

            I think for the Catholic appeal to proceed along these lines, it has to open by showing that the RCC’s understanding of unity must necessarily be correct – or everything else is a non-starter.

        3. Hi Al,

          My recent comment here was for the other thread we were at…somewhere below.

          Heh, I wondered.

          I really don’t know where the Protestants were back then. And your argument that Cyril was indeed one of them falls short

          This is the thing that makes these conversations difficult, Al: that’s not a position I’ve taken. I don’t think the early church was either Protestant or Catholic; I think they were different from both our denominations in some fairly important ways.

          One of the things that happens again and again in church history is that new doctrinal statements get worded so as to prune out heresies that have risen to prominence in the last cycle. So, for instance, Nicaea introduces homoousios because no previously-used word cut cleanly enough to divide the orthodox from the Arian. So, likewise, the five “solas” get the precise wording they do in response to what the Reformers see as the abuses of Rome – and even then, that wording evolves for precision as the responses do.

          So no, I don’t find anyone teaching literally word-for-word sola scriptura in the early church, because the teachings SS is trying to slice out (i.e., the claimed equal authority of sacred tradition and Scripture) aren’t yet dominant: there’s nothing there to push against. But when we do find teachers in the early church saying that the only doctrinal teachings to be believed are those proved from Scripture… I mean, that’s pretty darned inconsistent with your position.

          This is probably why it is almost impossible to find any evidence of Protestantism in the early Church

          But that’s not the question; again, no one disputes that the early Christians were not Protestants. The question is whether they were meaningfully Roman Catholics – and whether or not they had a liturgy is not the major factor in that determination.

    2. My mother-in-law was brought up in the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. She married an Englishman and went to live in England. The deal was that if the lived in England they would attend the Church of England. She was mightily annoyed that the CoE would not admit her to Communion until she had been confirmed. So I don’t understand how a non-Anglican can be in communion with an Anglican. However, my local CoS minister wants Hindus, Moslems and atheists to attend Communion services in his church. But at the end of the day Communion between people of different Churches is meaningless unless they agree about what it means. And what about people from grape-using churches receiving Communion in churches which only use wine? How is that supposed to work? “Will those of you who want to receive grape juice join Queue 1. Will those of you who want to receive wine join Queue 2. And will those of you who want to receive the Blood of Christ join Queue 3.”

      1. Hi Mike,

        I’d like to distinguish a point, if I may: I would say that I’m in communion with anyone who claims Christ as Lord and believes that God raised him from the dead. Any Christian is welcome to take communion at the church I attend, whether or not they’re a member, from the same denomination, etc.: there’s one body and one table.

        Some other churches may not share this view, and may not see themselves as in full communion with me; my Catholic brothers, for instance, seem to be in that category. Given their starting axioms, that’s a reasonable position – but I don’t think it’s fair to then turn to Protestants and say, “Isn’t it tragic that we aren’t in unity?”

        1. Irked,

          I wish it were as simple as you make it out to be. From the beginning, the Church has had to weigh issues of inclusion with the responsibility of guarding the deposit of faith.

          Thus the Didache tells us “But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord;…”

          If someone had come into their assembly and said, “I’ve accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and I believe your requirement of baptism is divisive and un-Christian,” do you believe they would have had a valid claim? Or did the Church have a responsibility to safeguard the teaching of the Apostles?

          At that point in Church history, they didn’t have to add “and they have to believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ” as that was assumed of those baptized.

          Behind every teaching or practice is love for others, willing them good. In this case, it would be irresponsible and unloving to allow anyone and everyone to partake of the body of Christ.

          I Corinthians 11:27-30 (YLT)

          27 so that whoever may eat this bread or may drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, guilty he shall be of the body and blood of the Lord:

          28 and let a man be proving himself, and so of the bread let him eat, and of the cup let him drink;

          29 for he who is eating and drinking unworthily, judgment to himself he doth eat and drink — not discerning the body of the Lord.

          30 Because of this, among you many [are] weak and sickly, and sleep do many;

          1. Hi Shane!

            do you believe they would have had a valid claim?

            Yes. I believe they’d be disobedient on the matter of baptism, intentionally or otherwise, but pedobaptists still eat from the same table as credobaptists; there is one Lord and Savior of both.

            Can I point to what seems to me to be the irony in these conversations? This isn’t the first time I’ve raised my original argument, and the conversation seems to run inevitably something like this:

            The Catholic says, “Isn’t it tragic the way the church is in disunity? Protestant, don’t you bear some of the responsibility like this? Shouldn’t you abandon your rebellious beliefs in the service of unifying the church, as Christ commands you?”

            I reply, “I don’t agree that we are disunited or out of communion – or at least, I don’t think it goes both ways. You’re welcome at our table – it’s just that we aren’t allowed to eat from yours.”

            The Catholic says, “It’s right and proper, and indeed for your benefit, that you are barred from our table; we have to cling to the truth, even if it forces us to be separate from you.”

            And the irony is, I agree! That is the correct prioritization: the call to unity does not override the call to obedience to Christ’s truth, because the call to unity is grounded in our mutual unity to Christ who is that Truth.

            But what I am pleading for, my dear brothers and sisters, is a recognition that truth matters to us as much as it does to you: that it is no more appropriate for you to ask us to abandon what we see as God’s truth in the name of unity (by joining with Rome) than it would be appropriate for us to ask you to do the same (by opening your table). Unity that is not united first to God’s truth is no obedience! My hope is that you would agree that, reading Scripture as we do, our appropriate response is to reject Roman authority – and that, until we are persuaded that our reading of the truth is wrong, it would be – as you say – “irresponsible and unloving” for us to do anything else.

            Can you see why Joe’s original post causes me such consternation, in light of that?

  6. If I were to witness the reunification of the “two lungs of the Church” in my lifetime I would die a very happy man indeed. We’ve been apart long enough thank you very much, no thanks to the various questionable acts committed towards each side by the other party… but like I’ve pondered before — when (not if) we do reunify, which calendar do we use, Gregorian or Julian?

  7. Where shall we start for sincere efforts for unity? I think we need to resolve the doctrinal issue of the Reformation, which I see as the Doctrine of Justification. Thankfully, our churches have already found common ground on that. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

    Joe might be tired of me bringing up this document.
    The Methodist World Councill and the World Communion of Reformed Churches have both agreed to this document. This is a great place to start looking for genuine Christian unity.

    1. Hi Rev. Hans,

      Interesting document. Released in 1999 with great hope, both Catholic and Lutheran scholars point to remaining problems, particularly in the mediation of grace. The fear of Catholics seems to be that the unique mediation of Christ isrendered ‘fruitless’ if human cooperation in wanting/willing/acting for the grace is denied. The fear of Lutherans seems to be that Christ’s unique mediation is compromised by any “function, form of worship or piety, office or person…looks like a pretender.” – C.J. Peter, “A Moment of Truth of Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue,” Origins 17, No. 31 (1988): 541.

      In La communion ecclesiale, 253, Cogitatio Fidei 218. Paris: Cerf, 2000, Lutheran scholar A. Birmele suggests the difference is in our understanding of God or of human beings before God. These “… could be the result of different choices regarding justification.” Our different conceptions of justification flow therefrom.

      Charles Morerod in “Ecumenism and Philosophy” suggests the problem stems from whether one includes metaphysics in theology. Too deep and still too problematic for most (me) of us to figure out.

      God bless.

    2. Yes, its an interesting document. I’ve read it. It is divided into sections which state where there is agreement. Then the Lutherans give their interpretation of the ‘joint’ statement and the Catholic Church gives its interpretation. Then there is the Vatican statement about the ‘Joint Statement’. This pours a certain amount of cold water on the extent of agreement and sets out clearly where the Catholic Church disagrees with the Lutherans. After reading all of that I was left wondering how much actual agreement there is.

  8. When you say ‘there is no such thing as “The Protestant Church” ‘, true… sort of, in Germany, you have for instance in the past “The Old Prussian Union”, basically the emperor united german lutherans and reformed christian, now, true, there were those who rejected the union, and you still have some lutheran churches that were stand alone, but still, if you look today you see the LWF (Lutheran World Federation), that seeks unity with both Reformed Churches and the Catholich Church, which makes me happy 🙂
    I like your article, but I think most of us would like to see the unification of the Church by bishops and clerics overcoming theological and social problems, signing a document, and that’s it. Not by converting each individual to the Catholic Church, step by step.
    As a orthodox, I have to say, you will see a lot of stubborn clerics and lay people, that almost seem to rejoice in Church disunity, which is plain wrong

    1. Craig, Craig, Craig.

      No one’s saying anyone has to become Roman Catholic to achieve Christian unity. Just becoming Catholic will do.

      God bless,
      Duane

        1. Believe it or not, I am moving to a town with a Ukrainian Catholic Church. So, while for msot converts they have to search far and wide for such a communion, in my case they would be near my door. But again, I am Orthodox, so geography is not the determining factor here 🙂

      1. Orthodox believe they are the Catholic Church, as the Roman Catholic Church believes they are the Catholic Church. Roman is just a way of differentiating between both of their claims.

        The problem with what Joe poses in the OP is simple. Should we be in communion with Rome? Most definitely. Is Rome preeminent among the churches and has primacy to enjoin other churches through example and to settle disputes? Yes.

        So, why not just rejoin Rome? One problem. Rome went into schism. If Rome went into schism, one does not repair the schism by leaving the Church to join a schismatic body to begin with.

        On the flip side of the token, if Orthodoxy is in schism, then Rome does not do well by joining a schismatic body (to be fair, this is why Rome, consistently with her historical ecclesiology, only allowed the Orthodox to rejoin Rome under condition that they submit to her, not the other way around.)

        I have videos on the subject, I cannot address it simply on a comment, but my thinking is that neither side can guarentee they are right. I find the Orthodox case more plausible (obviously) or I would become Roman Catholic.

        But being that I realize the issue is presuppositional ultimately (one must presuppose an epistemology to discern which ecclesiological model is correct), I do not think the RCs are absurd in their conclusions–obviously, neither or the Orthodox.

        I would like to see a status quo that existed for at least 900 years in recorded history–the East had their ecclesiology and Rome had hers, both really meant it and believed it, and yet they remained in communion. In other words, Rome would make every claim she makes now but the East simply allows her to uphold this in her own jurisdictions.

        This seems very close to what Rome has already with the Melkites, who tacitly have not adopted many of Rome’s latter doctrines by walking out on all of the councils (so I hear, I am not some sort of expert.) So, why not become Melkites then? Again, if Rome is the actual church that went into schism, one does not rejoin the Church by entering a schismatic one, even if you retain all your prerogatives.

        Ultimately, the cause of the schism is ecclesiological. It did not become a problem until Rome did more than intellectually assert their ecclesiology, but actually imposed it by force (Norman conquests in italy kicking out eastern bishoprics in Italy and then the Crusades doing the same in Antioch, Jerusalem, and eventually Constantinople.) All of this begs the question–if Rome intellectually asserted an ecclesiology, but never actually was able to employ it for any real period of time for 1,000 years, is it genuine?

        I am not so sure. I am obviously edging towards no.

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. Hi Craig,

          You say,
          “Rome went into schism.” As a RCC, this is news to me. Perhaps it is all in one’s perspective? Irked claimed above that Protestant denominations do not see the RCC as different from others; he claims that Protestants did not “turn away” from the RCC. So to hear that the Orthodox see Rome as the source and the reason for our differences is interesting. Personally, if I alone were the RCC, I’d be hurt and angry.

          1. Quick clarifying note: what I said is that I don’t see modern Protestants as turning away from RCism, because it doesn’t really make sense to treat it as a “default” in the 21st century.

          2. Hi Margo,

            Yes the Orthodox do believe Rome went into schism, and the formal split that happened in the thirteenth century they see as the culmination of Rome’s errors. Obviously, if they did not believe Rome was in error, there would be no reason to not be in communion. In his studies, Craig has made the determination that, while there is blame to go around, the Orthodox argument is stronger than Rome’s. I disagree with Craig, but I am happy that he is moving to a Church that has Apostolic Succession, and believes in all seven sacraments.

          3. Margo,

            My apologies. It is not my intent to be disrespectful. Just as Rome thinks Orthodox went into schism, Orthodox believe it was the other way around. Perhaps Joe disagrees, but their argument historically has merit (but my credibility factor is low, so take it with a grain of salt.) I am still learning.

            Pray for me, a sinner.

            God bless,
            Craig

          4. Hi All,

            A re-reading of Joe’s article shows at least 2-3 times where he acknowledges that there is fault on all sides, and he suggests that blaming one side is fruitless. Yet here is ample evidence that we either didn’t read Joe’s article, didn’t accept his reasoned argument (because he himself is RCC, ergo; he is simple-minded or incapable of presenting a coherent thesis filled with reasons) or we are so sinful that we are misnomered Christian.

            My statement is inflammatory. Have a go, guys. I’m off to other realms.

        2. The term “schism” carries with it a finger pointing connotation, that doesn’t exist with a neutral term “split”. Finger pointing is meaningless without a basis to ground its orientation. Without such distinction, unity has no preference and disunity like entropy increases. That’s why the keys in Peter’s (Rome’s) hands is significant in making unity more than just something on Jesus’s wish list.

          1. I know you dont mean anything by it but an appeal to the see of peter as the principle of unity is essentially a passive aggressive way of saying it is impossible for rome to schism and that the fault lies with the other party by default. Again if the presupposition is true the assertion holds up but the Orthodox have a different presupposition.

          2. Craig: Maybe “finger pointing” wasn’t the best term, but you have captured the essence of my point. If schism really implies “fault” and the Orthodox have a stronger principle of unity that trumps the Chair of Peter and makes Rome the schismatic, I’d like to know what it is. If Jesus didn’t really provide a practical means/principle for maintaining unity, then He was just wistfully musing about it. My gut says that disunity is a scandal and the sooner the differences that divide us are resolved, the better. Perhaps we’ll find that the differences are far less substantial than 1000 years of squabbling has justified.

          3. John,
            An appeal to the see of Peter is passive-aggressive? So we are to deny the see of Peter in an argument??? The appeal is passive aggressive? I SEE.

            Long ago and far away, some heard John the Baptist’s words and some heard Jesus’ words in a similar vein. Look where that led. Praise God and have mercy on all Christians.

            Found this quite interesting: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15179a.htm

            Al’s post as well as this site above point to Rome as the holder of keys (scripturally based) and Rome as reconciler of dispute (also scripturally based). There is more addressed in the website above.

          4. Margo, again my intention is not to offend, but to point out that by asserting that speaking of schism is fingerpointing on one hand but then saying that Rome cannot be in schism because of the Pope is essentially fingerpointing. Now, it may be factually correct fingerpointing from your perspective, but it is still fingerpointing!

            As for the visible principle of unity, I would actually go as far as to agree that Rome is that principle. However, Orthodox do not believe that the Church ceases being the Church because the Bishop who ought to be fulfilling that role as principle of unity is in schism. The Scriptures speak of many hierarchal arrangements (owner and slave, husband and wife, parents and children) and none of us assert that it is possible for the one who ought to be submitted to have had abrogated his responsibilities or to have completely forfeited them due to sin.

            Again, the idea that God would intend there to be a principle of unity but then allow him to be outside the Church for 1000 years is an awful long abandonment of God’s original intention for the Church. I am sympathetic why Roman Catholics would see that this just does not sound right, or is in fact impossible. I do not agree, but I sympathize with your feelings on it.

            God bless,
            Craig

          5. Craig: You indicated that the Orthodox has some alternative principle that trumps Rome’s claim. I’d really like to know what that is. To agree that the Chair of Peter is the principle, but then assert that it’s effectively broken contradicts/denies its key unifying charism.

          6. To claim that “Rome went into schism” (your words) is finger-pointing. We don’t use that language. We describe the Eastern and Western Churches as in schism. And that makes all the difference. You may see it as you wish. We are NOT the passive aggressive party here. But you may see it as you wish.

          7. John, Orthodoxy’s principle of unity is the Bishop of Rome historically. So, right now we don’t have the same principle, the Ecumenical Patriarch essentially is the back up 1st baseman.

          8. Any principle of unity necessarily has to be able to discriminate between competing and sometimes contradictory assertions with regard to faith and morals. When exercised, it’s going leave some having to swallow their pride and assent on faith, hopefully leading to a better understanding later; or to leave them to effectively deny the principle to justify schism. You can’t acknowledge the keys being with Rome and at the same time claim Rome somehow abrogated them. By the principle , that’s the kind of call reserved to the key holder.

  9. I have to agree with Craig on this one. And you all know how much I hate doing that. Rome’s doctrine (which I agree with, and to my view can be substantiated biblically and historically), is that orthodoxy flows from her. By the very nature of this doctrine, Rome can never be the cause of a formal split, since she cannot fall into error. In Catholic Church theology, any split between Rome and other sees would be caused by rejection on those sees parts of some aspect, or in the case of the EO aspects, of what Rome formally teaches.

    All this is another way of saying, while both sides made mistakes, Rome herself views the East as the major cause of the schism. This can be seen in the Council of Florence. Fingerpointing to assign blame where blame is due (and there is no animosity in the fingerpointing) is not a bad thing.

    1. Sed contra, can an objection be made that Rome departed from Rome, i.e. mutated doctrine and/or praxis to an extent such that the East was compelled to cleave the bond with the West?

      1. Sure that argument can be made. I do not think it’s valid, based on Christ’s promises. I think the argument that many EO use saying: “Yes, that may be Rome’s understanding all along but that was never our understanding.” is weak, and does not hold up historically either.

        1. Another thing that doesn’t help at all is the old disdain for Eastern Churches which reenter communion with Rome. There’s actually a pejorative term for them: “Uniate”.

    2. Ok, so Craig is right in logic and principle. We’re left with what is prudent and what is wise in Implementation, understanding of intent, concern for consequence, and placing blame. That and a dime and a dollar buys what?

      God bless the mess.

  10. Margo provided in a link, above, a good description of how the various denominations view Church Unity, and how those views differ from the Catholic perspective. Here is a short excerpt from it:

    “….most Protestants think that the only union necessary for the Church is that which comes from faith, hope, and love toward Christ; in worshipping the same God, obeying the same Lord, and in believing the same fundamental truths which are necessary for salvation. This they regard as a unity of doctrine, organization, and cult. A like spiritual unity is all the Greek schismatics require. So long as they profess a common faith, are governed by the same general law of God under a hierarchy, and participate in the same sacraments, they look upon the various churches — Constantinople, Russian, Antiochene, etc. — as enjoying the union of the one true Church; there is the common head, Christ, and the one Spirit, and that suffices. The Anglicans likewise teach that the one Church of Christ is made up of three branches: the Greek, the Roman, and the Anglican, each having a different legitimate hierarchy but all united by a common spiritual bond.

    True notion of unity

    The Catholic conception of the mark of unity, which must characterize the one Church founded by Christ, is far more exacting. Not only must the true Church be one by an internal and spiritual union, but this union must also be external and visible, consisting in and growing out of a unity of faith, worship, and government. Hence the Church which has Christ for its founder is not to be characterized by any merely accidental or internal spiritual union, but, over and above this, it must unite its members in unity of doctrine, expressed by external, public profession; in unity of worship, manifested chiefly in the reception of the same sacraments; and in unity of government, by which all its members are subject to and obey the same authority, which was instituted by Christ Himself. In regard to faith or doctrine it may be here objected that in none of the Christian sects is there strict unity, since all of the members are not at all times aware of the same truths to be believed. Some give assent to certain truths which others know nothing of. Here it is important to note the distinction between the habit and the object of faith. The habit or the subjective disposition of the believer, though specifically the same in all, differs numerically according to individuals, but the objective truth to which assent is given is one and the same for all. There may be as many habits of faith numerically distinct as there are different individuals possessing the habit, but it is not possible that there be a diversity in the objective truths of faith. The unity of faith is manifested by all the faithful professing their adhesion to one and the same object of faith. All admit that God, the Supreme Truth, is the primary author of their faith, and from their explicit willingness to submit to the same external authority to whom God has given the power to make known whatever has been revealed, their faith, even in truths explicitly unknown, is implicitly external. All are prepared to believe whatever God has revealed and the Church teaches. Similarly, accidental differences in ceremonial forms do not in the least interfere with essential unity of worship, which is to be regarded primarily and principally in the celebration of the same sacrifice and in the reception of the same sacraments. All are expressive of the one doctrine and subject to the same authority.”

    From: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15179a.htm

    1. Hi Al,

      Thanks for your posting some of that link. Both your posting and the link itself are great.

      Best of God’s blessing to you and yours.

  11. Hi Margo,

    There is a point that needs to be clarified, I think. Craig is correct in principle and logic, based on the facts thathe chooses to accept, or give some facts more weight than others. You can be correct in principle and logic, and still be in error, if you choose to ignore facts or interpret the facts in a wrong way. Just like if you choose to interpret Scripture in a light contrary to the way the Church interpret’s Scripture.

    Unity with the east, is above our pay grade. All you and I can do is present the teachings of the Church in a charitable way (which I admit I constantly fail to do), and pray for unity. I have no doubt, if we all sincerely prayed for unity, the reunification will happen.

    1. Hi Duane,
      And I have not been so very charitable since I took the blame personally. My bad! I was struck by how woefully absurd we all are in taking Joe’s admonitions seriously. He admonished that we not place blame. And here we all were doing that.

      So. Deep breath, take Jesus in, let Satan out. As Irked suggested, unity needs to be defined so we all know what we talk about. And as the New Advent article relates, there is a difference between the object of faith and the habit of faith. We also need to consider the “mark” of unity before we look personally askance at one another. The “mark” is the wounded and limping bride whom I love.

  12. Craig, I am Catholic but I am genuinely interested in learning more about the Orthodox view of how Rome went into schism. I don’t want to argue, just to learn. I realize that this is outside the scope of this post; perhaps you can write about it on your blog? Or maybe you have already? Thanks.

    1. Daughter, I want to be respectful to Joe here (something that I am guilty of not always being in the past), so I prefer not to evangelize the Orthodox position (I have touched on it in a Youtube video, though the entirety of my thought on the matter is pretty long winded–I have written about 40 pages on it, I’m not sure what will come of my book).

      That being said, I think I can offer this neutral observation:

      -The Roman Catholic ecclesiology is ancient. An exegetical argument can be made from the Scriptures, we have a 2nd century example of a Pope exercising his authority, were have a 3rd century example of another Pope doing the same thing and citing Matt 16:18 as his authority, we have a 4th century example of a Pope explicitly ascribing supremacy to the Roman see, and by the 5th century I think that it is pretty clear that 90-95% of what we consider to be the modern Papacy and its prerogatives being communicated by Pope Leo I. My own priest disagrees, thinking this is too positive of an assessment of the Roman case, but this is my honest historical assessment in a few words.

      -The Orthodox ecclesiology is ancient and visibly more widespread in the early Church. An exegetical argument can also be made from the Scriptures, we have Eusebius recording that bishops resisted Pope Victor’s view of ecclesiology in the 2nd century, we have examples of the same in the third century, but after that point in time what we see is a back-and-forth. Bishops will appeal to Rome as a last resort–other than when they didn’t. We have even western fathers like Augustine speculating that a party (i.e. the Donatists) can appeal to a plenary council if they disagree with a western council headed by a Pope. We also have the east taking western statements of supremacy (i.e. 6th century formula of Hormisdas) and then applying the statement to themselves (which in effect undoes the force of the formula).

      In short, what we are left with is that both sides can appeal to Scriptures and antiquity. Rome can make a stronger legal case and its ecclesiology is neater and tighter. This makes sense given the cultural tradition of the Latin world which was more legal and practical than the Greek philosophical tradition. To this day Rome’s approach to things is more practical and reductionist (i.e. a RC fasts for 1 hour before a Mass, Orthodox fast from the night before–and their liturgy is considerably longer too.) We can even see this in the eastern and western liturgies–the eastern being more Jewish and high fa-looting (lacking a better word), and the western very austere and to-the-point.

      From this I make two observations. The RC approach is consistent with the Latin philosophical tradition and the culture it had arisen from. The eastern approach is more idealistic and unyielding with little regard to practicality of systematizing things–which is why Orthodox continue the 1st century tradition of fasting on Weds and Fris, still have menorahs on their altars, and etcetera. They are more intent upon keeping things the way they are and not changing from their traditions–pragmatism be damned.

      Obviously both of our faiths have developed in time (West arguably much more so which is why they have a serious theology of doctrinal development, while the Orthodox Church really can’t get much past the epistemology of Saint Vincent de Lerins–something that makes it difficult to address developments in doctrines pertaining to grace, the Trinity, and even the intercession of the saints and prayers for the dead.) But, Orthodoxy is definitely more of a time capsule. It is simply how they operate.

      In the end, i conclude several things. The Orthodox/Roman Catholic ecclesiological divide is in fact epistemological. If one has an epistemology sympathetic to the Latin cultural tradition, then you arrive at a doctrine of the Papacy fairly quickly. If one has an epistemology sympathetic to Hellenistic thought (which, by the way, would have included 1st century Judaism) then the Orthodox ecclesiology makes much more sense. It does not hurt the Orthodox case that their ecclesiology was more explicitly taught and held to for 1,000 years–though an argumentum ad populum may only go so far.

      The Roman case today is the same as it always was–logical and practical. How can we have consensus if no Bishop has a final say? How can we ignore the fact that every Apostolic church has fallen into captivity at some point (all of the Apostolic Orthodox world fell into Turkish hands) while Rome proved immune to this? Must we glean nothing from history? Must we glean nothing from the Old Testament that there is one high priest that is a type of Christ, and just as a Bishop is a type of Christ, a Bishop of Bishops would likewise serve this function? The Roman argument ultimately is a compelling logical argument–we must ask ourselves whether being logical and consistent in of itself proves its veracity–or is simply sticking to the traditions of our forefathers, perhaps without a strict logical appeal, sufficient?

      In the end of the day, I think that being charitable to both sides, either the Apostles never taught the Papacy in the East but the Spirit (leading the Apostle Peter into all truth) taught the doctrine in Rome–or the doctrine in Rome arose as a sort of innovation predicated upon Rome’s central role in early Christianity and her primacy (which is different than supremacy).

      I don’t know the answer to the preceding and I don’t think we can honestly get a perfect answer from the Scriptures or tradition. This is why the schism has persisted so long.

      Join me in praying for unity.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. What do both sides have invested in the status quo that need to be sacrificed for the sake of unity? I suspect they are the kind of things unhealthy for the Body of Christ and well worth the effort to heal. I’m right with you on prayer!!

        1. John in short what is that steak is papal Supremacy

          As I detailed this is a tradition that did not exist in the east but was Central to Western thinking at the very least in the second century

          I honestly cannot see either side caving on this

          1. Craig: “Papal Supremecy” is a bit of a loaded term; however, I don’t see the substance of the charism at stake or threatened. I’m talking of the unhealthy things we hold in our hearts and minds that prevent productive dialog and real progress toward clearing away the barriers to unity.

      2. Craig, thank you. Let me see if I understand. The Orthodox view is that the bishop of Rome went too far with his claims about his God-given role. He went so far with his claims about his role that the eastern Church could not go along with these claims in good conscience. Is that a good summary?

          1. OK so, you’re saying that Rome committed a schismatic action. You are also saying that one’s epistemology will lead to the conclusion regarding which side is in schism. That is why you said that we can’t really know (at least, I think you said it. Can’t find it now). Do I have it about right? Again, just seeking clarity here, not a dispute.

          2. Daughter, in short Orthodox believe Rome committed schism in

            1. Evangelizing Christians who were already in communion with the pre-schism Church, simply because they had adopted eastern rites and had eastern Bishops (i.e. the Slavs and Bulgarians)
            2. Replacing traditionally Byzantine Bishops in Italy during the Norman conquest and forcing their congregations to adopt western rites (unleavened bread, filioque, etc)
            3. When Bishop of Constantinople (nominally*) responded by supposedly closing western monastaries, this resulted in an excommunication for him and in effect all the east. This excommunication was upheld by the next Pope and responded in kind by eastern Bishops (the Bishop of Antioch tarried, as did the anyone geographically out of the loop i.e. the slavs)
            *http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/byz.2005.29.1.39?needAccess=true&journalCode=ybyz20
            4. When the crusades occurred in the 1090s, the Roman Catholics made good on their excommunication by replacing traditionally eastern Bishops with Latin-speaking ones by force.

            When the Great Schism is debated, most people would not say the literal mutual excommunication, an even that Rome started, was a real schism. It may seem odd to us, but there are degrees to schism. Names can be removed from dipychts (sp?) and one can refuse communion on paper, but this does mean there is a real schism. Schism means John Q. Layman when he attends an Orthodox or RC church on vacation gets refused communion because he does not belong to one or the other. Where the rubber hits the road is when laymen get affected by the political machinations of Bishops.

            So, from the Orthodox viewpoint, the schism was very obviously initiated by Western Christians. They were evangelizing people that were already evangelized and replacing their Bishops as early as the 9th century. Then they did the same thing in Italy. Then they excommunicated the East. Then, just to show you they were really serious, they invaded your historically Christian city (Antioch and Jerusalem had succession for 1,000 years at that point) and replaced your Bishop as if he was illegitimate and outside of the Church.

            At some point, you realize the West is no longer in communion with you and that is explicitly their intention.

            This is why I stress epistemology so much in this discussion. Literally the only way Rome would not be in schism is if it is ecclesiologically impossible for the Pope to enter into schism due to his supremacy. So, when a Pope literally kicks out Bishops from slavic lands so they can be replaced with Germans, or Italian-Greek lands so they can be replaced with Italians or Germans, or Middle Eastern lands to be replaced with Western Europeans–there is nothing schismatic in this if ecclesiologically a Bishop of Rome can interfere in this fashion by design and this is what Christ intended and the Apostle(s)* taught.

            *It would be sufficient that Peter alone bequeathed this tradition to the Roman church.

            However, if it would appear amiss for a Roman Bishop to do these things and not to be conducting the sin of schism, it would be for good reason. We have canons that forbid Bishops from interfering outside of their sees (but not councils, which historically DID interfere with individual sees). We have writings from saints and church history which show that plenty of the church fathers did not believe in Supremacy (even if they believed in Primacy and other Roman prerogatives.) Hence, the Orthodox epistemology is historical and likewise informs a historical ecclesiology.

            I hope this helps.

            God bless,
            Craig

            P.S. There is debate over whether or not eastern Christians were re-baptizing and kicking out western monks. I don’t necessarily accept all the Orthodox apologetics on this issue (though I personally doubt the former yet accept the latter.) Likewise, Byzantine Bishops did not find their way into Italy by mistake before the Normans used the Pope to replace them. Obviously they were installed during Justinian’s conquest five centuries previous (Justinian likewise installed Popes, so this would not be very strange for the day.) So, the Church has seen “schismaticy” things from both sides for centuries. I think ultimately, the difference is that the West pursued the policy of replacing Bishops so strongly, that it was no longer merely in the realm of politics (i.e. Justinian, whose choices were political but otherwise caused no issues of doctrine in Italy) but it crossed over into ecclesiology.

            Justinian’s choices of Bishops did not break down charity between Christians and lead to them communing separately. Western ecclesiological practice from the 9th century on had the opposite effect. When this effect was obvious, the West did not stop their policy. So, what might have began as a relatively minor “Tear” (the english word for “schism”) tore all the way through due to such policies for the next few centuries.

            Due to the protracted nature of the schism, and the means employed which were by no means novel (as Justinian did some of the same ecclesiological things), I personally don’t feel like shaking my fists at Roman Catholics. The West was not being unreasonable, especially if one takes into account that the doctrine of Roman Supremacy is at the very least from the second century. Nevertheless, I still find it tragic and it is why I find myself Orthodox and not Roman Catholic.

          3. You are welcome.

            As for your question, it is my historical interpretation that the West refused communion first as a matter of policy. We must remember priests in the middle ages might not commune strangers without confession, it was not the 21st century after all. That being said, the West was replacing Bishops and forcing the congregations to adopt western norms, so this is consistent with the “convert or die” approach to religion that was typical in the West. Interestingly enough, there is no analogue for this in Orthodox history (not that there has been force exerted on Bishops and on religious groups that refused to pay taxes/follow Byzantine Law.) So, the east never ran into the issue of what to do with western congregants that refused their norms simply because the east never historically evangelized the west (because they were already Christian) nor did they take over Bishoprics and change liturgical practices. The west cannot say the same is true for them in either case.

            Again, I am not trying to bash RCism. If the Bishop of Rome has supremacy, there is no contradiction in the western approach, though as a matter of method we may say it is not the best.

            God bless,
            Craig

  13. Regarding Church unity, Protestants should consider carefully these particular quotes from the Church Fathers throughout the centuries:

    1. St. Cyprian, 258 AD: “There is one Church and one see, founded by the Lord’s voice on Peter. No other altar can be set up, no new priesthood made, except the one altar and one priesthood. Whoever gathers elsewhere scatters.”

    “Do they think the Christ will be with them when they are gathered up, who are gathered outside the Church of Christ? . . . They cannot remain with God who will not be of one mind in the Church of God.”

    “He who leaves the see of Peter, on which the Church is founded, can he trust that he is in the Church? The Church is founded on one.”

    2. Optatus of Milevis, c. 370 AD: “How can you pretend to have the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, who sacrilegiously fight against the see of Peter by your presumption and impudence?”

    3. Philip, Papal Legate at Ephesus, 431 AD: “There is no doubt, indeed it is known to every age, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, column of faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the Kingdom from Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, that to him was given power of forgiving and retaining sins, who (Peter) to this time and always lives and judges in his successors.”

    4. St. John Chrysostom, 407 AD: “[N]o human power can part what God has united. It is said of husband and wife: Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh [Gen. II: 24.]: Therefore what God has joined together, let no man put asunder. [Matt. XIX: 6.] Thou canst not, O man, dissolve the nuptial tie: how hopest thou to divide the Church? . . .

    “Believe me, O man, there is no power like the power of the Church. Cease thy battling, lest thou lose thy strength; wage not war with heaven. When it is with man thou warrest, thou mayst win or lose; but when thy fighting is against the Church, it is impossible that thou shouldst conquer, for God is above all strength. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? [1 Cor. X: 22.] God founded, God gave firmness: who shall be so bold as to pull it down? . . . The Church is stronger than heaven itself: Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. [Matt. XXIV: 35.] What words? Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [Matt. XVI: 18.]

    Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, Who made His Militant Church a monarchy.

    St. John Chrysostom, 407 AD: “By these words: ‘Feed My lambs and My sheep’ (John 21), Christ committed His flock not only to Peter, but to his successors as well.”

    St. John Chrysostom, 407 AD: “[Peter] The first of the Apostles, the foundation of the Church, the coryphaeus of the choir of disciples.”

    5. Bishop of Arles, 440-461 AD, to Pope Leo I: “Through blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, the most holy Roman Church should hold sovereignty over all the Churches of the whole World.”

    6. Council of Sardica, 344 AD, to Pope Julius: “It seemed best and most proper that the priests of the Lord should refer from every province to the head, that is to the see of Peter.”

    7. Can. #44 of “Canons of Nicea,” (Arabic edition, 5th Century): “As the Patriarch has power over his subjects, so also the Roman Pontiff has power over all patriarchs as Peter had over all the princes of Christendom and over their councils, because he is the Vicar of Christ over redemption, over the Churches, and over the people committed to him.”

    8. Pope Siricius, 385 AD: “We bear the burden of all who are laden; or rather the blessed apostle Peter bears them in us, who, as we trust, will protect us the heirs of all his government.”

    9. Legate for Pope Leo I at Ephesus, 431 AD: “The order of truth remains; blessed Peter, keeping the strength of the rock, does not abandon the helm of the Church. Whatever we do rightly is his work, whose power lives in his see. In the person of my lowliness he is seen, he is honored, in whom remains the care of all pastors and of the sheep of their charge. His power does not fail, even in an unworthy heir.”

    10. St. Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna, c. 450, to Eutyches: “I exhort you in all things, honored brother, to attend obediently to what is written by the most blessed Pope of the Roman city; for St. Peter, who lives and reigns in his own see, will help those who seek the truth.”

    11. Optatus of Milevis, c. 370: “You cannot deny that you know that the episcopal throne was set up by Peter in the city Rome . . . in which one throne the unity is kept by all, that the other apostles might not each set up his own, that he would be a schismatic and a sinner who should set up another against the one throne.”

    Optatus to the Donatists: “By your presumption and insolence you fight sacrilegiously against the throne of Peter.”

    12. St. Ambrose, c. 397: “Where Peter is, there is the Church; where the Church is, there is no death, but eternal life.”

    13. St. Jerome, c. 420, to Pope St. Damasus: “I speak with the successor of the fisherman and disciple of the cross. I, who follow none but Christ as first, am joined in communion with Your Holiness, that is with the See of Peter. On this rock I know that the Church was built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Whoever is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the deluge comes. I know nothing of Vitalis, I defy Meletius, I care nothing for Paulinus. Whoever does not gather with you scatters; for whoever does not belong to Christ is of Antichrist.”

    14. Emperor Valentinian III, 423-455: “We must defend the faith handed down by our fathers with all care; and we must keep the proper reverence due to the blessed apostle Peter incorrupt in our time also. Therefore, the most blessed Bishop of the Roman city, to whom ancient right has given the authority of the priesthood over all, shall have his place, and power to judge about the faith and about bishops.”

    15. All the Fathers at Chalcedon, 451 AD (spoken on the occasion of the reading of Pope St. Leo the Great’s famous Tome addressed to the Council): “This is the faith of the fathers; this is the faith of the apostles! We all believe so; the orthodox believe so. Anathema to him who does not so believe! Peter has spoken thus through Leo!”

    Citation: http://catholicism.org/st-peter-and-church-unity.html

    1. Hi Al,

      So as I’ve said before, I don’t really like arguing with copy-pastes, and I definitely can’t run down fifteen quotes and respond meaningfully to them. Pick one, and let’s talk about it; if we finish that, we can keep going on others.

      1. Hi Irked,

        I used copy and pasted because these are historical quotes from competent and authoritative ‘Fathers’ and ‘Church Councils’. And, it is particularly mean’t to show the continuity of Catholic thought on Christian unity throughout various centuries of Church History. Because the topic is “The Gospel Call to Christian Unity” I thought these quotes on unity might benefit not only you, but the other readers here as well.

        Do you have any similar quotes from the same time period demonstrating how Christian unity should be fostered by doing away with the Mass, or removing the altars built into the basilicas for the celebration of the Eucharist; or maybe, how bishops don’t need particular territories/dioceses for them to govern, being that it is perfectly fine to have multiple bishops each with their own particular doctrines in any one city or area, even as it is today throughout the Protestant world? That is, that Christian unity can be fostered and advanced by…world wide Church ‘disunity’ as demonstrated with world wide Protestantism?

        Actually, much credit should be given to the Catholic Church throughout the centuries for AT LEASTTRYING to maintain unity via the multitudes of synods and councils called, and for the development of canon laws that were formulated and promulgated so that all the various Churches throughout the world could agree to abide by, and so be on the same page regarding Doctrine, Liturgy and Church governance.

        Why don’t Protestants do the same? Why are they satisfied with 15 different denominations, each teaching different doctrines within a one mile radius in pretty much any large city? So, if people have a complaint against the size and organization of the Vatican, maybe they might consider that it was created exactly for the purpose of fostering world wide Christian Unity; and for the billion or more Catholics out there, it still does a great job at attaining and maintaining this goal.

        1. Hi Al,

          I used copy and pasted because these are historical quotes from competent and authoritative ‘Fathers’ and ‘Church Councils’.

          Yes, and in context, a number of these historical quotes are being misused to imply statements the particular fathers don’t actually believe. Pick one, and let’s see if it really says what it’s being presented as saying.

          1. We simply cannot know, these X-number of years later, what the particular fathers don’t [didn’t] actually believe. What we do have for edification is the words they spoke.

            It is a matter of discernment, reliance on tradition and authority of those more knowledgeable than we alone, judged against our individual and collective wisdom together with other gifts of the Holy Spirit, and Scripture, that we “know” what the particular fathers SAID and how we may best interpret those words.

          2. Hi Margo,

            We simply cannot know, these X-number of years later, what the particular fathers don’t [didn’t] actually believe. What we do have for edification is the words they spoke.

            I might hedge on the wording a bit, but I think I broadly agree. My argument is that looking at these specific quotes in the context of the fathers’ full words – as Al often urges! – makes that meaning a lot clearer. I can’t really do that for fifteen of them, but I’m happy to make the inquiry for one or two, if there’s one he (or you!) would suggest.

          3. Hi Irked,

            In the link I provided, in the first paragraph before the quotes provided were given, there is this statement from the author:

            “Anyone who discounts these proofs as being “made up” has the moral obligation to show that these passages are fraudulent, or that the Early Church believed something entirely different than what is being proposed here.”

            So, as these were researched by the same author who provided them, I’ll leave it at that.

            But if you want about another two to three hundred other quotes on the same subject and from one of the sub-links provided by this author, see his other link:

            http://www.cin.org/users/jgallegos/contents.htm

            Needless to say, I generally accept these quotes, even if a few of them might not be in context. The sheer volume of them that are available gives an adequate proof of the Church’s overall ‘mind’ on the subject. Please take a look at this link, above, as it has a great wealth of info. for any Christian curious about the ‘ Faith of our Fathers’.

          4. Al,

            I’m not calling them made up. I’m calling them misrepresentative and taken out of context.

            I’m asking you, if you’re persuaded that these quotes are representative, to engage me on that subject: to choose one of them as a starting point, so we can work from there without my having to write fifteen separate responses, and show that the father in question believed that church unity was grounded on submission to the supremacy of the Roman bishop.

            How early are you willing to gamble on that? Are you confident that the writings of John Chyrsostom will bear it out, in 400? How about Cyprian, in 250? Give me a subject we could actually theoretically cover.

          5. My problem Irked, is that I never thought that those quotes would have drawn so much controversy, and if I did I would not have offered them. I thought I was doing the commenters here a favor to find them for their personal interest and review. And this is why I noted that Catholics might not be as critical regarding sources as Protestants are, because we believe these Fathers to be on our side, being wholly Catholic in their theology. And, if they might have deviated slightly one from another, and at various times and centuries, still they held the orthodox Catholic faith to the much larger degree. If this was not so, most of them would have never been declared canonized ‘saints’ of the Church.

            If I had more time, I’d take you up on your offer to scrutinize some of these quotes, but already, I have spent too much time already answering objections. I think if these quotes were brought up about 2 days ago I wouldn’t have had a problem looking into them more deeply, but I am actually involved in a big evangelization project at a local college campus and can’t spend too much time doing research at this time. The evangelization project hardly involves apologetics but is almost wholly kerygmatic in nature. But the students, have responded in a surprisingly positive way.

            If you want, when I am ‘fresh’ and less busy, maybe we can bring the same topic up again, using the same quotes, and we can dig into them as you want? I just don’t have the time right now.

            Best to you.

          6. In my experience, I’ve seen supposed “Catholic killer” quotes thrown out by Protestant apologists before, usually cherry picked snippets directly copied from someone else apparently without scrutiny. In every case I checked, it was clear from reading the context that the writer was actually supporting the Catholic position. When my findings were fed to the apologist, it was cognitive dissonance…either completely ignoring the facts or coming up with some unreasonable reinterpretation or rationale to justify their position. It seems they had so much invested in their own belief system that no amount of evidence/reason was enough to convince them otherwise.

        1. But Margo, I already did present my idea. I provided many quotes, and obviously I think some, or all of them, must be perfectly legitimate. They are provided from scholarly sources. Moreover, I provided a link to the sources so they might be followed up on….and wherein a reader can find another 100-200 other similar quotes saying basically the same thing. So, even if a few of these quotes indeed were not correct, or out of context, the sheer number provided in the link gives the over all ‘mind of the Early Church’ on the topic of Church Unity provided through the See of Peter.

          1. Hi Al,

            I know you provided many ideas, and those supported by authorities, scripture, tradition, etc. The point was that Irked doesn’t like too much of such. He seems to prefer one quote at a time, and he says he won’t respond to TMI.

            The ‘rules’ and style of each of you inherently present an ocean of difference. I was trying to make light of that. 🙂

            Best to you and Irked and yours in the Lord.

          2. I guess Catholics just put more trust in their sources of theological information, be it our bishops or ancient Christian history. 🙂

            Thanks be to God that we don’t all don’t need to be our own popes, bishops, priests and ecumenical councils.

            Jesus in His Mystical Body is a highly trustable source. Even He Himself put great trust in it, even to the end of the world. So, who am I to doubt? It’s not exactly the highest of Christian virtues… 😉

            Best to you in the Lord.

          3. I guess Catholics just put more trust in their sources of theological information, be it our bishops or ancient Christian history.

            Oh, come off it. You pasted a page of someone else’s apologetics, with no context for the quotes given, and have ignored my requests to engage on the actual substance of it. I can post two pages of someone else’s rebuttals, if we want the conversation to completely break down into warring hyperlinks – but I would rather talk with you and consider the evidence person-to-person.

            If you don’t want to talk about the evidence, fine, but don’t snipe at me for it.

  14. You know what is more important than unity? If this site had a way for us to preview how the post will look before we post, unity will follow sooner rather than later. I post, read my post, and then kick myself for numerous punctuation errors. I have decided my punctuation errors hurt Christian unity.

    When I kick myself, am I being literal, or metaphorical? Or do I just not understand? I will tell you this, my foot now hurts.

    1. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the Vatican to develope an app for automatic cloud artifical intelligence to correct our spelling errors. It can also run it through the Vatican Library data base to red tag all of our mistaken and heretical statements in case we want to make corrections. If not, it could recommend a good priest for recommended confession. The priest could use the same App to see if we’re lying. Instead of Watson or Siri…it could be called ‘Aquinas’. 🙂

      I better tweet Pope Francis. Maybe he’ll get going on it.

  15. Irked,

    For some reason, Al seems to be hesitant to delve into one particular example from the list he gave. I can tell you that one of the evidences that held water for me on my way to the Church was St. Jerome’s appeal to Pope Damasus (link below) in an effort to gain clarity about the true bishop of Antioch and also a doctrinal matter. If anyone would have appealed directly to scripture to argue the doctrinal matter, I certainly believe it would have been Jerome. But in fact, he appeals to the “chair of Peter”. The whole letter is astounding, but I remember reading these words in particular, “As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built!” and the light bulb going off…any authority I might grant to the Vicar of Christ would simply be bowing a knee to Christ himself. That I could live with. It’s served me well, but more importantly, it’s served the Church pretty well (with a few bumps along the road, I’ll admit) for 2,000 years.

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001015.htm

    1. Hi Shane,

      It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I can’t get too deep into research at the present time, as I’m doing other evangelization projects right now and the comments here are already interfering with the other stuff that I’m doing. Irked himself appealed to time by suggesting to study just one quote, but after making so many comments in the last few days, I’ve already gone on too long. Actually, I was intending with the quotes I provided to bow out of the conversation not thinking that I would need to defend them. As Catholics we trust other Catholics when they grab quotes from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent site, etc…

      I noted above to Irked that we can dig deeper into these sources in the future. I have confidence in Catholic scholarship on such things, so it’s not like I’m afraid of what I’ll find. I just need the time to pay attention to other items. I spent about 8 hours yesterday printing up materials from ‘The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ’ for an evangelization project I’m working on, and too much apologetic discussion takes time away from this more important endeavor (..more important for many religiously ignorant people/students who know very little about the Life and Words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that is.).

      Best to you, and all, in the Lord.

      1. I might note that it is Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.’s 1930 version of the ‘Public Life’, above. Not to be confused with other Protestant works with the same title.

    2. Hi Shane,

      Sorry for the slow reply – and thanks for the response!

      So, to be transparent, I’m of a little bit of two minds here. First, it’s a good quote! It’s solid and expressive, and sits well in the context of the letter. You persuade me that it’s plausible that Jerome – Jerome in particular – held something recognizable as kind to the modern view of the supremacy of the papacy.

      And to a certain extent, that’s exactly what I would expect, I guess. Like, I’m obviously not going to argue that the Roman church today doesn’t believe in papal supremacy; given that I believe it’s not an original doctrine, then, it has to enter the church at some point. Either that happens all at once in some absurd way – everyone wakes up and hey, let’s submit to the bishop of Rome today! – or it has to happen by degrees. There have to start being examples sooner or later, in other words: even if not everybody is persuaded in 400, it makes sense that some influential people would be.

      And in that context, Jerome – writing more than two hundred years after Victor I made assertions of authority, and around the time the church fuses to an empire centered in Rome – makes absolute sense as a point of saying, “Yes, here’s an example of this idea spreading prominently in the church.” But again, we’re talking now about a period some four hundred years after Christ – the period from then to the earliest Reformers is maybe half the two thousand years that usually get referenced in these debates.

      (There’s a risk of my playing dirty pool, here, where I just dismiss any solid examples as, “Oh, sure, so-and-so believed it, but no one else did,” no matter how many people you bring up. So I would stress here that I believe there are earlier examples of fathers that argue against the position of papal supremacy – Cyprian, or Tertullian, say – and that I think there’s reason to believe Jerome’s words here are a shift from what comes earlier.)

      But sure, I think most folks concede that papal supremacy was well on its way by 400. And yet… even then, I have questions about Jerome’s position. In his 146th epistle, Jerome writes to those who say that deacons and presbyters are of equal rank; apparently, these other folks base their argument on the traditions of the Roman church. (Jerome, interestingly – and in what’s probably a debate for another day – is pretty clear that “bishop” and “presbyter” are traditionally the exact same rank.) In response, Jerome writes, emphasis mine:

      “It is not the case that there is one church at Rome and another in all the world beside. Gaul and Britain, Africa and Persia, India and the East worship one Christ and observe one rule of truth. If you ask for authority, the world outweighs its capital. Wherever there is a bishop, whether it be at Rome or at Engubium, whether it be at Constantinople or at Rhegium, whether it be at Alexandria or at Zoan, his dignity is one and his priesthood is one. Neither the command of wealth nor the lowliness of poverty makes him more a bishop or less a bishop. All alike are successors of the apostles.

      “2. But you will say, how comes it then that at Rome a presbyter is only ordained on the recommendation of a deacon? To which I reply as follows. Why do you bring forward a custom which exists in one city only? Why do you oppose to the laws of the Church a paltry exception which has given rise to arrogance and pride?”

      Clearly Jerome sees Rome as the capital of Christendom, as it is of the empire – but just as clearly, he thinks the bulk of the authority lies outside that capital, and that all bishops are alike in dignity and… bishop-ness. In genuine curiosity: would a modern Catholic say that the authority of the bishop of Rome is less than the authority of the church outside Rome?

      And Jerome himself is infamously independently-minded on the subject of the canon; whatever the beliefs of Damasus and various churches, he’s not shy about arguing that they’re mistaken on a pretty core question of faith and morals. Again, it’s hard for me to rectify that with a modern view of the papacy.

      Is that a sufficiently convoluted answer? I guess what it comes down to is, I can readily believe that Jerome held something in the neighborhood of “papal supremacy” – but I’m not sure his weighting of the authority would tip as much towards Rome as it seems to today, and I’d in any event argue that there’s good evidence that this is a change in opinions.

      any authority I might grant to the Vicar of Christ would simply be bowing a knee to Christ himself. That I could live with. It’s served me well, but more importantly, it’s served the Church pretty well (with a few bumps along the road, I’ll admit) for 2,000 years.

      So here’s where I leave you, I think. I have no beef with the concept of a papacy, or the idea of Christ designating an apostolic succession; as far as the idea goes, I find it sort of comforting. But I can’t rectify the doctrines that result with what I see in Scripture; the evidence just does not bear out the claim.

      And if papal supremacy is a mistake – if infallibility is a myth, if the doctrines built on sacred tradition are in fact built on nothing – can you see how differently things would look from the outside? How, far from the papacy serving the church well, it becomes the thing that drags it further and further into error? I’m not asking you to agree with that position – but does it make sense why Protestants might be a bit horrified?

      Again, thanks for the conversation!

    1. Sure, sounds good!

      So, Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage. Cyprian, who yes, absolutely wrote that first quote Al attributes to him upthread – and then pointedly revised the document so as to make it clear that he was not assigning special authority to the bishop of Rome. In context, it certainly makes sense that Cyprian would not want to leave the impression he was conceding authority to Rome; this is the same guy who, when he disagreed with the ruling of Stephen I regarding the lapsed, called a conference specifically to declare Stephen’s ruling in error. At that conference, Cyprian declared:

      “Neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another.”

      – said declaration itself echoing the language of Tertullian (whom he elsewhere praised), where “bishop of bishops” was the term used to mock the pretensions of the bishop of Rome. This is the same Cyprian who said that the seat of Peter is filled collectively by the bishops:

      “Our Lord whose precepts and warnings we ought to observe, determining the honour of a Bishop and the ordering of His own Church, speaks in the Gospel and says to Peter, I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Thence the ordination of Bishops, and the ordering of the Church, runs down along the course of time and line of succession, so that the Church is settled upon her Bishops; and every act of the Church is regulated by these same Prelates.”

      So, that guy. I think the evidence demands that Cyprian doesn’t believe in anything like the modern view of Roman primacy.

      1. Hi Irked,

        One question and a couple of comments before I give a reply to your comments.

        Are you saying St. Cyprian never believed in papal supremacy, or that he may have held it at one time, but changed his mind?

        What you said about Catholic doctrines and can we see why Protestants are leery to accept them. Nope. You can truly say that about any doctrine, including ones that most Protestants accept, like the Trinity, or the canon of the New Testament…. In the end, it always comes down to authority. Did Christ establish a Church with the authority to bind and loose, and if yes, where is that Church now? Any Church that has changed a dogma, loses any claim to be that Church?

        1. Hi Duane,

          Are you saying St. Cyprian never believed in papal supremacy, or that he may have held it at one time, but changed his mind?

          I don’t see that there’s any meaningful evidence that he ever believed in it; it looks to me like he made statements that were read in that way and later edited to correct that misapprehension. I’ll admit to being less certain of that point than that he ultimately concluded the doctrine was false, but (as Margo said) to some extent we have to speculate on unspoken motivations.

          What you said about Catholic doctrines and can we see why Protestants are leery to accept them. Nope. You can truly say that about any doctrine

          But I didn’t say Protestants were leery to accept papal supremacy; I actually said just the opposite, that I would find it a comfort to be able to believe in such a thing. What I said is that I (and by extension other Protestants) cannot believe in it – that the weight of the evidence argues against it – and that, for someone who sees it as a false doctrine, the picture of its effect on the church is far different.

          In the end, it always comes down to authority. Did Christ establish a Church with the authority to bind and loose, and if yes, where is that Church now?

          Yes. All those who sincerely claim Christ as Lord are in it – indeed, they are it.

      2. The link below is valuable in assessing Cyprian’s actions. I read Cyprian’s statements with what I hoped was an open mind during my evaluation of the Church and came to see him in the same light as a few bishops of today. Several “conservative” bishops question Pope Francis’s positions, but none of them question his authority or the necessity of the office.

        https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/will-the-real-st-cyprian-please-stand

        1. Hi Shane,

          So I would take exception with a number of the claims in the article: I would disagree strenuously with its characterization of 1 Clement, for instance, and certainly with its description of Firmilian’s letter. (Firmilian infamously declares that Stephen “vainly pretend[s]” to the authority of the apostles; how is it not a denial of his authority to call it a pretense?) Perhaps those are other arguments for another day – but the author uses them as grounding to assume a default position of papal supremacy, and I do not find that grounding plausible.

          But it seems to me that the article’s core problem is that it says, in effect, “Let’s disregard Cyprian’s words in analyzing this question.” Surely not! The authors claim there is an “ambiguity” in his writings, but they’re really quite clear: he explicitly denies the idea of a “bishop of bishops,” and he defines the inheritance of the “chair of Peter” in a way inconsistent with the article’s continuing usage. (The article seems to acknowledge this, initially, but then drops it by the midpoint.) The remainder of the piece seems to be inference in contradiction with Cyprian’s actual public statements – and I would appeal back to those statements again.

          Would any Catholic today declare that there is no bishop of bishops?

          Several “conservative” bishops question Pope Francis’s positions, but none of them question his authority or the necessity of the office.

          Sure, but that’s not really the question, right? There’s no debate as to the position of the Catholic Church of today – the question is whether that is indeed the original Christian faith.

  16. St. Cyprian, in Letter 51.8, writes about Cornelius’ ordination to the see of Peter. In this letter there are many details regarding his understanding of the nature and essential characteristics of both episcopal ordinations and universal ‘Church Unity’. It is a very pertinent quote to our topic of discussion. Highlighted in CAPS is a reference to the dignity of “Peter’s place”. He says it is a ‘sacerdotal throne’:

    “8. I come now, dearest brother, to the character of Cornelius our colleague, that with us you may more justly know Cornelius, not from the lies of malignants and detractors, but from the judgment of the Lord God, who made him a bishop, and from the testimony of his fellow bishops, the whole number of whom has agreed with an absolute unanimity throughout the whole world. For — a thing which with laudable announcement commends our dearest Cornelius to God and Christ, and to His Church, and also to all his fellow priests — he was not one who on a sudden attained to the episcopate; but, promoted through all the ecclesiastical offices, and having often deserved well of the Lord in divine administrations, he ascended by all the grades of religious service to the lofty summit of the Priesthood. Then, moreover, he did not either ask for the episcopate itself, nor did he wish it; nor, as others do when the swelling of their l arrogance and pride inflates them, did he seize upon it; but quiet otherwise, and meek and such as those are accustomed to be who are chosen of God to this office, having regard to the modesty of his virgin continency, and the humility of his inborn and guarded veneration, he did not, as some do, use force to be made a bishop, but he himself suffered compulsion, so as to be forced to receive the episcopal office. And he was made bishop by very many of our colleagues who were then present in the city of Rome, who sent to us letters concerning his ordination, honourable and laudatory, and remarkable for their testimony in announcement of him. Moreover, Cornelius was made bishop by the judgment of God and of His Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the suffrage of the people who were then present, and by the assembly of ancient priests and good men, when no one had been made so before him, when the place of Fabian, that is, WHEN THE PLACE OF PETER AND THE DEGREE OF THE SACERDOTAL THRONE WAS VACANT; which being occupied by the will of God, and established by the consent of all of us, whosoever now wishes to become a bishop, must needs be made from without; and he cannot have the ordination of the Church who does not hold the unity of the Church. Whoever he may be, although greatly boasting about himself, and claiming very much for himself, he is profane, he is an alien, he is without. And as after the first there cannot be a second, whosoever is made after one who ought to be alone, is not second to him, but is in fact none at all.”

    **************

    Note again he term “sacerdotal throne”. A throne is commonly understood to be used to rule and declare judgements from.

    And sac·er·do·tal is defined as:

    “adjective
    relating to priests or the priesthood; priestly.
    THEOLOGY
    relating to or denoting a doctrine that ascribes sacrificial functions and spiritual or supernatural powers to ordained priests.”

    Putting it together we have St. Cyprian’s written definition and description of ‘Peters seat’/’Peter’s place’. It is: A SACERDOTAL THRONE.

    …..Seems a lot like the present papacy, and ‘seat of Peter’, to me!

    Best to all.

    1. Al,

      Sure. Cyprian believed that the bishop of Rome sat on the seat of Peter. As you’ll note in my posts upthread, we can document that Cyprian believed all bishops sat on the seat of Peter, regardless of their domain.

      1. Hi Irked, of course the quotes you provide are subject to interpretation.

        You cite Cyprian as saying:

        “every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another.”

        He might have said that, but we know that the early bishops of the Church indeed judged each other in multiple instances. For example, consider Paul of Samosata who lived at roughly the same time as Cyprian and was the Bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268. He was condemned for promoting monarchianism a nontrinitarian heretical doctrine. And there were obviously various other heretical bishops in the early Church who also were condemned for their unorthodox teachings. And, Cyprian himself resisted Novation in many ways, but especially through writing against him. So, this also was a form of judging a fellow bishop to be either heretical, a fraud, or both. Very many of the early heresies were promoted by, or fought between, ordained bishops, as is easily found in Eusebius’ Church History.

        So, I think your quote needs to be read in light of the conditions required of a Catholic bishop back then, and primarily that of not promoting, or allowing in their dioceses, heretical doctrines or dogmas.

        1. Al,

          He might have said that, but we know that the early bishops of the Church indeed judged each other in multiple instances.

          But we aren’t debating whether everyone in the world agreed with Cyprian; they didn’t. We’re debating Cyprian’s view. For determining Cyprian’s view, the relevant facts are about Cyprian.

          And, Cyprian himself resisted Novation in many ways, but especially through writing against him.

          But Cyprian doesn’t say bishops can’t argue, or think each other are idiots, or even heretics. He just says they don’t have authority over each other’s episcopates. It seems like you’re arguing with a position I’m not taking.

  17. Hi Irked,

    You said:

    So, that guy. I think the evidence demands that Cyprian doesn’t believe in anything like the modern view of Roman primacy.

    Maybe not. But that he believes in some form of Papal Supremacy and Infallibility there can be no doubt from his writings.

    1.) In the Marcian controversy, he wrote Pope Stephen in epistle 67 imploring Stephen to depose Marcian of Arles, and instruct the bishops of Gaul to elect another in Marcian’s place. What Cyprian is asking Stephen to do, is in fact in direct conflict with what Cyprian says Stephen has the authority to do. If Stephen has no more power than another bishop, as you say that Cyprian believes, then how can Cyprian believe that Stephen has the authority and the power to depose Marcian?

    2.) The Spanish bishops Basildes and Martial had been condemned by other bishops in their province, and two other bishops appointed in their place. Basildes and Martial appealed to Stephen and he reinstated them to their former bishoprics. Cyprian writes Stephen to reconsider his position, and tells Stephen that he has been deceived by the facts that Basildes and Martial presented Stephen. He never says Stephen does not have the authority to meddle in another bishop’s diocese. How very strange Why didn’t Cyprian just tell Stephen that he does not have the authority to reinstate Basildes and Martial, if as you say Cyprian believes that Stephen does not have greater authority than other bishops?

    3.) Perhaps the most telling case that shows that Cyprian acknowledges that there is Papal Supremacy, is when he says this:

    After all this, they yet in addition, having had a pseudo-bishop ordained for them by heretics, dare to set sail and carry letters from schismatic and profane persons to the chair of Peter, and to the principal Church, whence episcopal unity has taken it’s rise.

    Now it is obvious that Cyprian must see Rome as holding a higher place than Carthage, as he states that they went from Carthage to the See of Peter. If he believes that all the bishops are of the same foundation, wouldn’t they be going from the See of Peter, to the See of Peter? Even in Cyprian’s eyes, Rome is the Chair of Peter in some way differing than Carthage is.

    Furthermore, Cyprian calls Rome the principal Church. Some Protestant scholars have said Cyprian meant principal, as meaning first in time, or most ancient. But this is obviously false, as the Church at Jerusalem was the first. Clearly, Cyprian means this as Tertullian defined it: that which is over anything, as the soul is over the body. So the principal Church is the ruling Church. Just in those simple words, Papal Supremacy is clear in Cyprian. But wait, there’s more.

    4.) Another telling case that shows that Cyprian acknowledges that there is Papal Supremacy, is in the case of Fortunatus. When Fortunatus appealed the judgment of a synod of African bishops against him, he appealed to Stephen. Telling is Cyprian’s response. He responds Fortunatus does not have the right to appeal to Rome, because Fortunatus is not a priest, based on the fact that Fortunatus was ordained by heretics. Clearly, Cyprian feels that if Fortunatus has been ordained by orthodox bishops, he would have a right to appeal to Stephen. And if he has the right to appeal to Stephen, then clearly Cyprian believes Stephen has the right to overturn a decision made by a synod of bishops.

    Clearly, when looking at what Cyprian wrote and how he acted overall, in context, it is clear that he acknowledged a form of Papal Supremacy.

    The doctrine of Infallibility: Jesus points to Papal Infallibility and Papal Supremacy.

    1.) Jesus said: 1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.

    Clearly, those who sat in the chair of Moses had the ability to teach infallibly, for Jesus teaches his followers to do whatsoever they tell you. Jesus would not have told his followers to do this if the possibility existed for those who sat in Moses seat to teach sin. Is the seat of Peter in the New Covenant going to be less than the chair of Moses in the old? Clearly not, so the charism of infallibility must be part of the new office.

    2.) Jesus said: I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    This one is so easy, a child can see it. Can error exist in Heaven? Nope. Did Jesus say WHATEVER Peter binds, shall be bound in Heaven. Yup. Since there can be no error in Heaven, the whatever that is bound or loosed, must be protected by the Holy Spirit. So simple.

    And now this excerpt from a paper by Dr. Scott Hahn. Notice the Protestant scholars who admit that Peter’s office is based on Is. 22, and that what the Old Testament office entails :

    Albright goes on in his commentary to speak about the keys of the kingdom that Jesus entrusted to Peter. Here’s what he says, “Isaiah 22, verse 15, undoubtedly lies behind this saying of Jesus. The keys are the symbol of authority and Father Roland DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household in ancient Israel. In Isaiah 22 Eliakim is described as having the same authority.”

    Now let’s just stop here and ask, “What is he talking about?” I think it’s simple. Albright is saying that Jesus in giving to Peter not only a new name, Rock, but in entrusting to Simon the keys of the kingdom, He is borrowing a phrase from Isaiah 22. He’s quoting a verse in the Old Testament that was extremely well known….

    What’s happening here? Well, in verse 19 it says, “I will thrust you from your office and you will be cast down from your station and on that day I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe and will bind your girdle on him and will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah; and I will place on his shoulder the key of the House of David.”

    Now the House of David is like, you know, the House of Bourbon. It’s a dynastic reference. The House of David is the Davidic kingdom, the Davidic dynasty. We know this because David has been dead for hundreds of years when this is happening in Isaiah 22, “I will give you the key of the House of David. He shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open. He will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.” Look at all of the symbols of dynastic authority that are being given to this individual. First of all, an office. Second, a robe. Third, a throne and fourth, keys, the key of the House of David, these royal keys.

    Now, what is going on here? I’ll just summarize it in rather simple terms. Hezekiah was at the time, the king over Israel. He was the son of David, hundreds of years after David had died. He was in the line of David and also he was ruler over the House of David. Now all kings in the ancient world had, as kings and queens have these days, cabinet officers, a cabinet of royal ministers. Like Margaret Thatcher is the Prime Minister, so there are other ministers under the Queen in Great Britain. Hezekiah, as King, had as his Prime Minister before Shebna who proved unworthy. So he was expelled, but when he was expelled, he left an office vacant. Not only did you have dynastic succession for the king, but you also have a dynastic office for the Prime Minister. When Shebna is expelled, there is an empty office that needs to be filled and that’s why Eliakim is called to fill it.

    Now, Eliakim is a minister in the cabinet, but now he is being granted the Prime Minister’s position. How do we know? Because he is given what the other ministers do not have, the keys of the kingdom, the key to the House of David. That symbolized dynastic authority entrusted to the Prime Minister and dynastic succession. Why? Because it’s the key of David; it’s the House of David.

    Let me go back and try to simplify this even further. I’ll read the quote. Albright says, “In commenting upon Matthew 16 and Jesus giving to Peter the keys of the kingdom, Isaiah 22:15 and following undoubtedly lies behind this saying.” Albright, a Protestant, non- Catholic insists that it’s undoubtable that Jesus is citing Isaiah 22, “The keys are the symbol of authority and DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority as that vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household of ancient Israel.” In other words, the Prime Minister’s office.

    Other Protestant scholars admit it too, that when Jesus gives to Peter the keys of the kingdom, Peter is receiving the Prime Minister’s office, which means dynastic authority from the Son of David, Jesus, the King of Israel, but also an office where there will be dynastic succession….

    He goes on to say some other things. “It is of considerable importance,” Albright says, “that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are discussed, the symbol of the keys is absent, since the saying applies in these instances to a wider circle. The role of Peter as steward of the kingdom is further explained as being the exercise of administrative authority as was the case of the Old Testament chamberlain who held the keys.”,/strong>

    Now, what he means there is that nowhere else, when other Apostles are exercising Church authority are the keys ever mentioned. In Matthew 18, the Apostles get the power to bind and loose, like Peter got in Matthew 16, but with absolutely no mention of the keys. That fits perfectly into this model because in the king’s cabinet, all the ministers can bind and loose, but the Prime Minister who holds the keys can bind what they have loosed or loose what they have bound. He has, in a sense, the final say. He has, in himself, the authority of the court of final appeal and even Protestants can see this.

    In fact, I found this quotation in Martin Luther from 1530, years after he had left the Church, “Why are you searching heavenward in search of my keys? Do you not understand, Jesus said, ‘I gave them to Peter. They are indeed the keys of heaven, but they are not found in heaven for I left them on earth.'” This is Jesus talking, “‘Peter’s mouth is my mouth, his tongue is my key case, his keys are my keys. They are an office.'” Luther even saw it, “‘They are a power, a command given by God through Christ to all of Christendom for the retaining and remitting of the sins of men.'” The only thing that Luther won’t admit is that there was succession after Peter died, which is exactly what the keys denote, given their Old Testament background.

    One of the greatest reformed Biblical scholars of this century, Herman Liderboss, a European scholar, in his Matthew commentary says, this is going back. I should have read this a few minutes ago. But he says, “The slight difference between these two words, petra and petros, has no special importance. The most likely explanation for the change from petros, Peter, masculine, to petra is that petra was the normal word for rock, because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name; however, Simon was not called Petra but Petros. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that He was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the Church. The words “on this rock,” petra, indeed, refer to Peter. Because of the revelation he had received and the confession it had motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future Church.”

    One of the top Evangelical, non-Catholic scholars in America, Professor Donald Carson of the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in his book, God With Us, Themes from Matthew says, “Jesus was simply using a pun to say that Peter is the rock on which Jesus would build His Church.” Now Dr. Carson is no Catholic Apologist. He would try to set up arguments against the Catholic faith, I’m sure; but he’s sincere and, I think, also respectable as a scholar in insisting upon the obvious evidence in the conclusions.

    This has led an Evangelical Protestant German scholar, Gerhardt Meier, who wrote a famous book that conservative Protestants frequently refer to, “The End of the Historical Critical Method”. In his article, “The Church and the Gospel of Matthew,” Gerhardt Meier says on pages 58 through 60, “Nowadays, a broad consensus has emerged which, in accordance with the words of the text applies the promise to Peter as a person.” This is a Protestant speaking now. “On this point liberal and conservative theologians agree,” and he names several Protestant theologians from the liberal to the conservative side. “Matthew 16:18 ought not to be interpreted as a local church. The church in Matthew 16:18 is the universal entity, namely the people of God. There is an increasing consensus now that this verse concerning the power of the keys is talking about the authority to teach and to discipline, including even to absolve sins.” Professor Gerhardt Meier is a Protestant with no interest in supporting the Catholic claim but, as an honest scholar, admits that Peter is the one that Jesus is giving His power to. “Peter is the rock and the keys signify, not only disciplinary power to teach, but even to absolve sins. With all due respect to the Protestant Reformers, we must admit that the promise in Matthew 16-18 is directed to Peter and not to a Peter-like faith. As Evangelical theologians, especially, we ought to look at ourselves dispassionately and acknowledge that we often tend unjustifiably toward an individualistic conception of faith. To recognize the authenticity of Matthew 16:17 and following demands that we develop a Biblically based ecclesiology or doctrine of the church.”

    Gerhardt Meier is showing, as an honest scholar, that the church which Jesus speaks of is a universal church, not just a local congregation, another favorite ploy of anti-Catholic apologists. He says, “No, the church He’s talking about is the one, holy, Catholic Church, the universal church and the rock on which it will be built is Peter, not Peter’s confession and the keys that Jesus gives to Peter are keys not only to teach but even to absolve sins.” He’s not saying, “We all should become Catholics, but what we should honestly do is to grant the Catholics the point. Because if we are honest in interpreting the Bible, we have to admit these conclusions.”

    Another Lutheran professor, a professor of scripture and theology at Concordia Seminary in Hong Kong, Torg Forberg wrote an article entitled, “Peter, High Priest of the New Covenant.” Forberg insists that Jesus is the ultimate High Priest in the New Testament, but he says, “Peter is presented as some kind of successor to the High Priest in tradition used by the final redactorate, Matthew 16:13-19. Peter stands out as a kind of chief Rabbi who binds and looses in the sense of declaring something to be forbidden or permitted. Peter is looked upon as a counterpart to the High Priest. He is the highest representative for the people of God.” This is Protestant testimony.

    Elsewhere I found in The Interpreter’s Bible, “The keys of the kingdom would be permitted to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority, unlimited power, total. Post- apostolic Christianity is now beginning to ascribe to the Apostles the prerogatives of Jesus.”

    St. Cyprian points to Papal Infallibility when he said about those who sat in the chair of Peter: where faithlessness can have no access. (epistle 55 to Cornelius). Clearly the concept of infallibility is right there in the writings of Cyprian.

    Having read much of St. Cyprian, to my mind it is clear that he was fine with and believed in papal supremacy and infallibility, urging Stephen to exercise that supremacy, until Stephen used his supremacy to tell Cyprian he was wrong.

    Sorry for the length of this reply.

    1. This first point should read: 1.) In the Marcian controversy, he wrote Pope Stephen in epistle 67 imploring Stephen to depose Marcian of Arles, and instruct the bishops of Gaul to elect another in Marcian’s place. What Cyprian is asking Stephen to do, is in fact in direct conflict with what you say Cyprian says Stephen has the authority to do. If Stephen has no more power than another bishop, as you say that Cyprian believes, then how can Cyprian believe that Stephen has the authority and the power to depose Marcian?

    2. Hi Duane,

      So I’m going to try to reply to at least some of this, but I’d like to register two structural objections first.

      One, I don’t see that you’ve done anything to directly address the evidence I brought forward. I’m happy to try to give my understanding of the examples you cite, but I’m unhappy at the thought that this might turn into a debate purely on the evidence you present, with the evidence I presented never again mentioned. I do think these quotes and actions by Cyprian demand an explanation, if the Catholic is to make the case that he believed in infallibility; what is that explanation?

      Two, the length of your piece is much increased by the over-a-page-long verbatim citation of Scott Hahn. I fundamentally do not believe that these conversations are well served by turning into proxy wars between theologians who are not present. I can quote passages from Catholic scholar Robert Eno similar in length that support my claim re: Cyprian – and where would we be then? There are scholars from various faith traditions on all sides of these questions; I do not think we are well served by relegating the debate to dueling secondary sources, particularly when we both have the primary sources readily available. I’m particularly sensitive here to the relative amounts of time required: it’s a much faster process to simply paste in someone else’s argument than it is to compose a specific reply, and in a format like this one, that suggests it’s possible to “win” a discussion simply by continuing to post someone else’s missives, regardless of their strength or relevance. Would it be possible, going forward, to focus on arguing in our own words, rather than asking our opponents to take it up with Hahn or Eno?

      ***

      So. To your actual argument:

      If Stephen has no more power than another bishop, as you say that Cyprian believes, then how can Cyprian believe that Stephen has the authority and the power to depose Marcian?

      This is the letter that opens “Cyprian to his brother Stephen” – a greeting between equals. That’s a theme that continues in the following sentences, where he speaks of “our fellow bishops.” We see it as well in his switch to “we” at the end of that paragraph. That’s not a royal “we” – Cyprian used “me” just a moment before. Rather, it’s a statement that Stephen’s responsibilities are the same as Cyprian’s own: “which matter, dearest brother, it is our business to advise for and to aid in, since we who consider the divine clemency, and hold the balance in governing the Church, do thus exhibit the rebuke of vigour to sinners,” emphasis mine. There’s no concession of authority here – “we,” bishops including both Rome and Carthage, hold the balance in governing the church.

      In that context, the remainder of the letter is an appeal for political support: you, as bishop of the most famous and influential church, write to these guys so that they’ll get rid of Marcian. One can argue perhaps argue from this that Cyprian thinks “big bishops” have authority over “little” – that would fit well with the sixth canon of Nicaea, some seventy years later, which similarly divides the world into “big bishop” spheres of influence – but there’s pointedly no concession between author and recipient. Rome is not over all.

      Cyprian writes Stephen to reconsider his position, and tells Stephen that he has been deceived by the facts that Basildes and Martial presented Stephen. He never says Stephen does not have the authority to meddle in another bishop’s diocese.

      On the contrary, he says precisely that. In his Epistle 67 (at least per New Advent’s numbering? I’m not sure if that differs from the numbering you use above), he writes:

      “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.”

      Note that first phrase. Cyprian says that, Sabinus’s ordination having been properly performed, Stephen’s intervention cannot rescind that ordination. He also says, yes, that Stephen is deceived – but that’s coupled with the claim that the rightful bishop’s ordination cannot be taken back in this way.

      (More, again, look at the description there: Stephen our colleague. Not our superior – but one on the same playing field as us, that is is, as Cyprian. This is one powerful bishop writing regarding what he sees as the meddling of another – and meddling himself, yes, but “meddling” is not the same as “having authority over.”)

      Now it is obvious that Cyprian must see Rome as holding a higher place than Carthage, as he states that they went from Carthage to the See of Peter. If he believes that all the bishops are of the same foundation, wouldn’t they be going from the See of Peter, to the See of Peter? Even in Cyprian’s eyes, Rome is the Chair of Peter in some way differing than Carthage is.

      In some different way? Perhaps so; it’s certainly plausible that Cyprian believed that the bishopric of Rome was literally held by Peter, and so the bishops of Rome were titular inheritors in a very literal way. But “different” does not imply “more authoritative,” and as I showed, Cyprian believes that all bishops inherit the authority of Peter.

      We see that Cyprian does not believe Rome to have any higher authority in the subsequent sentences: “Unless perchance the authority of the bishops constituted in Africa seems to a few desperate and abandoned men to be too little, who have already judged concerning them, and have lately condemned, by the gravity of their judgment, their conscience bound in many bonds of sins. Already their case has been examined, already sentence concerning them has been pronounced.” In other words, the judgment is done – it was done by Carthage – and only a “desperate and abandoned” man would think there was some higher court of appeal.

      (Note as well Cyprian’s focus is on the impressiveness of the church of Rome – the people of the church, and not their leaders, for “these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access.”)

      So the principal Church is the ruling Church.

      That hardly follows. I can identify the principal church in my hometown; it’s an order of magnitude larger than the others. That doesn’t mean it rules; it just means it’s politically influential on the others. One can be principal without having formal command.

      4.) Another telling case that shows that Cyprian acknowledges that there is Papal Supremacy, is in the case of Fortunatus.

      I’m going to have to ask for a quote or something here. I don’t doubt the existence of an epistle along these lines, but running them all down without numbers or quotations is slow work.

      ***

      That’s three passages that do not demand what you ask of them – and that can be made straightforwardly consistent with Cyprian’s words elsewhere. What would you say of those words?

      1. Hi Irked,

        What you brought forward, I agree that that is the position held when he wrote that letter. But this is why I specifically asked you did St. Cyprian ever believe in some form of Papal Supremacy. The weight of the evidence I think without a doubt gives a resounding yes.

        You said:

        This is the letter that opens “Cyprian to his brother Stephen” – a greeting between equals. That’s a theme that continues in the following sentences, where he speaks of “our fellow bishops.” We see it as well in his switch to “we” at the end of that paragraph. That’s not a royal “we” – Cyprian used “me” just a moment before. Rather, it’s a statement that Stephen’s responsibilities are the same as Cyprian’s own: “which matter, dearest brother, it is our business to advise for and to aid in, since we who consider the divine clemency, and hold the balance in governing the Church, do thus exhibit the rebuke of vigour to sinners,” emphasis mine. There’s no concession of authority here – “we,” bishops including both Rome and Carthage, hold the balance in governing the church.

        There is nothing in this passage that hurts the theory of Papal Supremacy. First off, calling someone a brother bishop does not imply equals. They are brother bishops, both charged with governing the Church. Cyprian governs his diocese. And as a bishop with a diocese, Stephen’s responsibilities are the same as Cyprian’s in his diocese. But does Stephen also have universal responsibilities outside his diocese that are unique as bishop of Rome? What Cyprian asks Stephen to do in deposing of other bishops makes the answer without a doubt yes. Cyprian in this passage does not even say they are equals. You are reading something into it that is not there.

        You said:

        In that context, the remainder of the letter is an appeal for political support: you, as bishop of the most famous and influential church, write to these guys so that they’ll get rid of Marcian. One can argue perhaps argue from this that Cyprian thinks “big bishops” have authority over “little” – that would fit well with the sixth canon of Nicaea, some seventy years later, which similarly divides the world into “big bishop” spheres of influence – but there’s pointedly no concession between author and recipient. Rome is not over all.

        Ahhh no. In the Marcian affair, the neighboring bishops write to Cyprian for advice as to what to do, as a response from Rome has not been forthcoming. Cyprian believes they should depose Marcian.
        1.) Now under the theory that all bishops are equal in governance, as you would have me believe, why doesn’t Cyprian tell them that they have no right to meddle in Marcian’s diocese? If he truly believed at this time what he wrote later, that is the logical answer.

        2.) Cyprian repsonds not by giving advise to those bishops. Instead he writes to Stephen advising him to tell the bishops to depose Marcian, not advise. His letter doesn’t say Stephen should advise. No it says Stephen should tell them to do something, which flat out shows Cyprian does not believe Stephen has equal authority.

        3.) You totally misread the sixth canon. It is not addressing Rome’s sphere of influence at all.

        You said:

        “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.”

        Note that first phrase. Cyprian says that, Sabinus’s ordination having been properly performed, Stephen’s intervention cannot rescind that ordination. He also says, yes, that Stephen is deceived – but that’s coupled with the claim that the rightful bishop’s ordination cannot be taken back in this way.

        Again, you misread what is being stated. Stephen cannot rescind an ordination that is validly performed. We agree. But that is not what is in question. Deposing a bishop is not the same as rescinding an ordination. Deposing a bishop has nothing to do with the ordination of said bishop. Do you understand? So what you have posted has nothing to do with whether Stephen can depose a bishop.

        You said:

        We see that Cyprian does not believe Rome to have any higher authority in the subsequent sentences: “Unless perchance the authority of the bishops constituted in Africa seems to a few desperate and abandoned men to be too little, who have already judged concerning them, and have lately condemned, by the gravity of their judgment, their conscience bound in many bonds of sins. Already their case has been examined, already sentence concerning them has been pronounced.” In other words, the judgment is done – it was done by Carthage – and only a “desperate and abandoned” man would think there was some higher court of appeal.

        Oh really? Think logically. If this were so, than the logical response of Cyprian pertaining to the two Spanish bishops that Stephen reinstated would be: “Stephen, you don’t have the authority to reinstate what a synod of bishops had ruled pertaining to those bishops.” Instead he tells Stephen he was deceived. How could Stephen reinstate those bishops, and Cyprian’s only reply is you are deceived, instead of you don’t have the authority? And you do not address the gist of what I said in the case of Fortunatus. Cyprian’s argument was not that priests do not have the right to appeal to Rome. His response is clearly they do. His argument is that Fortunatus does not have the right because he is not really a priest, having been ordained by heretics. Cyprian’s argument would be an argument against something that could never happen if priests did not have the right to appeal to Rome. And why would anyone appeal to Rome if Rome could not overturn decisions made in other dioceses? But clearly Rome could, based on the Spanish bishops and Fortunatus.

        You said:

        That hardly follows. I can identify the principal church in my hometown; it’s an order of magnitude larger than the others. That doesn’t mean it rules; it just means it’s politically influential on the others. One can be principal without having formal command.

        That is good for the way you define principal Church. But how they define it? We know Ireneaus defined it as the ruling Church. Tertullian seems to do the same. I find it hard to believe that Cyprian, who called Tertullian the master, would somehow define it differently.

        You said:

        That’s three passages that do not demand what you ask of them – and that can be made straightforwardly consistent with Cyprian’s words elsewhere. What would you say of those words?

        I think I have debunked what you have stated.

        I did not quote Hahn though in any real sense. I quoted Protestant scholars who address that in giving Peter the keys, he is investing in Peter the same authority that was given in Is. 22. And those Protestant scholars admit that the authority in Is. 22 is supreme. Eno does not address this passage, to my knowledge, nor did you.

        1. Duane,

          But does Stephen also have universal responsibilities outside his diocese that are unique as bishop of Rome? What Cyprian asks Stephen to do in deposing of other bishops makes the answer without a doubt yes.

          Cyprian plainly says what he’s asking Stephen to do: “advise for and aid in” the matter of heresy, just as Cyprian himself is doing. Nothing here suggests that Cyprian believes Stephen has “universal responsibilities” beyond those of Cyprian himself.

          1.) Now under the theory that all bishops are equal in governance, as you would have me believe, why doesn’t Cyprian tell them that they have no right to meddle in Marcian’s diocese? If he truly believed at this time what he wrote later, that is the logical answer.

          Right, that’s the contradiction at the heart of Cyprian’s theology: he doesn’t think any bishop can judge another, but he’s not… quite… sure what to do when one bishop is clearly heretical. His argument in this letter seems to be that the company of bishops can judge the man: “Therefore thus says the Lord, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my flock at their hands, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall they feed them any more: for I will deliver them from their mouth, and I will feed them with judgment. Since therefore the Lord thus threatens such shepherds by whom the Lord’s sheep are neglected and perish, what else ought we to do… For although we are many shepherds, yet we feed one flock… let him not so act as if he himself were to judge of the college of priests, since he himself is judged by all the priests.”

          2.) Cyprian repsonds not by giving advise to those bishops.

          We don’t actually know that. We don’t have any advice from him to the bishops, but we can’t make the positive assertion that he did not give them his instruction – that would certainly have been consistent with his statements that “we” must advise them. Cf. Wikipedia: “Doubtless only part of [Cyprian’s] written output has survived, and this must apply especially to his correspondence, of which some sixty letters are extant, in addition to some of the letters he received,” emphasis mine.

          3.) You totally misread the sixth canon. It is not addressing Rome’s sphere of influence at all.

          It literally does. Alexandria has influence in its sphere, as is customary in Rome, and likewise in Antioch.

          Again, you misread what is being stated. Stephen cannot rescind an ordination that is validly performed. We agree. But that is not what is in question. Deposing a bishop is not the same as rescinding an ordination.

          Ah, I see your point. He does not specifically say that Stephen cannot depose a bishop; he says merely that Stephen’s actions don’t matter to what’s happening here, because the ordination is intact. That’s… true as far as it goes, but it’s also an argument from silence: “He doesn’t specifically deny that Stephen could depose bishops, so he must have believed Stephen could depose bishops” is pretty thin.

          I think this ties in with…

          If this were so, than the logical response of Cyprian pertaining to the two Spanish bishops that Stephen reinstated would be: “Stephen, you don’t have the authority to reinstate what a synod of bishops had ruled pertaining to those bishops.”

          So, I don’t know whether you’ve ever worked in a highly political field – not in the sense of national politics, but the kind of thing where there are highly placed people, with whom you sometimes strongly disagree, and whose help you might need somewhere down the line. Maybe you do, or have!

          I work in a moderately political field myself, and one of the things that comes of that is that you don’t directly antagonize people whose help you might want later unless (a) you have to, or (b) you have absolutely had it with them and don’t care anymore. (Both still happen with some regularity.)

          But, from the historical records we have, being a powerful bishop in the early centuries seems to have been fairly political. There are good practical reasons not to declare, “That powerful bishop over there can’t do that!” even if you don’t think he can; it’s likely to deep-six any chance you have of getting him on your side in the next debate. It’s much better, practically, to limit your criticism as best you can: “He’s a long way off, and people are lying to him, and he just doesn’t know the facts on the ground” might tick him off, sure, but “He can’t do that” gets people to retrench.

          (We see that Cyprian sometimes gets to that point anyway.)

          All of that to say: none of these arguments from silence are compelling to me. No, Cyprian does not go out of his way to antagonize Stephen (here); yes, he plays things very respectfully in his direct correspondence with the man. Lack of direct condemnation is not proof that he believes differently here than he does in the places where he offers exactly that direct condemnation.

          That is good for the way you define principal Church. But how they define it? We know Ireneaus defined it as the ruling Church. Tertullian seems to do the same.

          I am concerned that this will broaden the scope of our debate beyond what we can manage, but Tertullian laughs himself silly at the idea that the bishop of Rome has any special authority. I do imagine that Cyprian is very well aware of Tertullian’s view of Rome, though.

          1. Follow-up thought: we agree, from what you said, that for at least some significant part of his life, Cyprian rejected papal supremacy.

            In response to that, I could say something like the following: We do not see that Cyprian ever recanted (or was called to recant) this view, nor that he was excommunicated – despite Catholic claims that the doctrine is already firmly established, coming down from the apostles. (Indeed, we see that somehow he got a whole passel of bishops to be cool with it.) Therefore, we can conclude that this was not contrary to church doctrine at the time; wouldn’t Stephen have excommunicated him for it if he could?

            That’s an argument from silence, sure, although I think a pretty decent one. It has answers that look a lot like what I said: perhaps these records were lost, or perhaps it was politically inconvenient to declare theological war on the whole African church. But my point is that arguments from silence cut both ways; judging by positive statements, Cyprian rejected papal supremacy, and we do not know that he ever believed otherwise.

    3. To the rest:

      1.) Jesus said: 1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.

      Clearly, those who sat in the chair of Moses had the ability to teach infallibly

      Your reading, then, is that Christ is saying here that the scribes and the Pharisees were infallible in their teaching, then? That it is necessarily not true (as some argue) that Christ is being sarcastic here; nor (as I’m personally persuaded) that “the seat of Moses” is the Law itself, and so “whatsoever they tell you” from that chair – plausibly, from the seat in the synagogue from which the Law was read – is only and exactly their recitation of the Scriptures?

      Okay. How then does Christ condemn the teaching of the Pharisees in Mark 7, when he decries the Corban rule as “nullify[ing] the word of God?” Was that not a by-your-reasoning infallible teaching of the Pharisees?

      What of their teaching, described later in the same chapter you cite, that to swear by the gold in the temple is greater than to swear by the temple itself? Isn’t that an infallible teaching, by your rule? Doesn’t Christ mock it as nonsense? Does Christ’s description of these men as “blind guides” seem consistent with the idea that he intends all their teaching to be seen as infallible? Surely not!

      2.) Jesus said: I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

      This one is so easy, a child can see it. Can error exist in Heaven? Nope. Did Jesus say WHATEVER Peter binds, shall be bound in Heaven.

      But this authority of binding and loosing is not given to Peter alone; it’s given to all those disciples present in Matthew 18. (And that’s a group that’s certainly not limited to just the Twelve, even; at a minimum, we know there were children present when he spoke.) Whatever this authority of “binding and loosing” is, it is not constrained to Peter – nor is there any indication that it is uniquely heritable from Peter.

      And now this excerpt from a paper by Dr. Scott Hahn. Notice the Protestant scholars who admit that Peter’s office is based on Is. 22, and that what the Old Testament office entails:

      As note before, I’m not going to engage long copy-pastes at length. Briefly, I find Dr. Hahn’s contention that the keys, plural, of Matthew 16 are identical with the key, singular, of the house of David to be unpersuasive.

      St. Cyprian points to Papal Infallibility when he said about those who sat in the chair of Peter: where faithlessness can have no access.

      This was said of the people of the church of Rome, on the basis of Paul’s praise of them. Inasmuch as Paul’s praise is coupled with correction, I doubt either he or Cyprian inferred infallibility from it.

      ***

      To return the challenge, then, let me ask a simple question. Suppose I’m a member of the church of Galatia, and someone comes to me: an angel, perhaps, or an apostle, or even Peter himself. Suppose this person teaches something that is contrary to the one gospel I have received, once for all: at the least, that as best I can judge, in the light of the Spirit’s guidance, it is contrary to that gospel. What is my proper response?

      1. Hi Irked,

        You said:

        Your reading, then, is that Christ is saying here that the scribes and the Pharisees were infallible in their teaching, then? That it is necessarily not true (as some argue) that Christ is being sarcastic here; nor (as I’m personally persuaded) that “the seat of Moses” is the Law itself, and so “whatsoever they tell you” from that chair – plausibly, from the seat in the synagogue from which the Law was read – is only and exactly their recitation of the Scriptures?

        Okay. How then does Christ condemn the teaching of the Pharisees in Mark 7, when he decries the Corban rule as “nullify[ing] the word of God?” Was that not a by-your-reasoning infallible teaching of the Pharisees?

        What of their teaching, described later in the same chapter you cite, that to swear by the gold in the temple is greater than to swear by the temple itself? Isn’t that an infallible teaching, by your rule? Doesn’t Christ mock it as nonsense? Does Christ’s description of these men as “blind guides” seem consistent with the idea that he intends all their teaching to be seen as infallible? Surely not!

        Look up what Chair of Moses was in the time of Christ.

        You said:

        But this authority of binding and loosing is not given to Peter alone; it’s given to all those disciples present in Matthew 18. (And that’s a group that’s certainly not limited to just the Twelve, even; at a minimum, we know there were children present when he spoke.) Whatever this authority of “binding and loosing” is, it is not constrained to Peter – nor is there any indication that it is uniquely heritable from Peter.

        Look up the Greek behind the wording. The you in Peter is not addressed individually to the Apostles. It is a collective you with the Apostles. It is as if he gave Peter one dollar in Matthew 16, that Peter can use whenever he wants. And in Matthew 18 he gives the Apostles and Peter one dollar collectively (not to each an individual dollar), to be used in unison with Peter.

        You said:

        his was said of the people of the church of Rome, on the basis of Paul’s praise of them. Inasmuch as Paul’s praise is coupled with correction, I doubt either he or Cyprian inferred infallibility from it.

        Nope. Cyprian specifically ties it to the Chair of Peter, simply saying that those who occupy it are Roman. But he is saying no error can come from the Chair of Peter. He is not talking about the Roman people, as Paul had done. So my point stands.

        You said:

        As note before, I’m not going to engage long copy-pastes at length. Briefly, I find Dr. Hahn’s contention that the keys, plural, of Matthew 16 are identical with the key, singular, of the house of David to be unpersuasive.

        Certainly your right. All I can do is give you the information, and point out when you are wrong.

        You said:

        To return the challenge, then, let me ask a simple question. Suppose I’m a member of the church of Galatia, and someone comes to me: an angel, perhaps, or an apostle, or even Peter himself. Suppose this person teaches something that is contrary to the one gospel I have received, once for all: at the least, that as best I can judge, in the light of the Spirit’s guidance, it is contrary to that gospel. What is my proper response?

        What does Jesus say to do when you have a question dealing with faith and morals? What system did Jesus set up to answer that question? And what if you are telling yourself what you want to hear, and are not being guided by the Spirit at all? What response should the Judaizers have had to the Council of Jerusalem? Should they have followed what they believed, or submitted to the council? I will just say this much, under your paradigm, you are your own shepherd. That’s a dangerous place to be in. But this does show the major differences between Protestants and Catholics. Catholics truly believe that because it is Christ that founded the Church, and promised that the Spirit would guide the Church into all truth, that it cannot teach error. At it’s core, Protestants do not trust the Church. They trust themselves.

          1. Hi Irked,

            You said:

            Because “Marcian does not yet seem to be excommunicated by us,” that is, by being “judged by all the priests,” as he says later in the piece. Rome is clearly influential in this process; it’s not clear that Stephen’s is the only vote that counts.

            He’s not the only voice that counts. But clearly those bishops did not want to excommunicate Marcian and then have Stephen reinstate him, which is clear he has the authority to do, so they want a response from him, telling them what to do, not advising, just as Clement told Corinth what to do.

            You said:

            Let the ancient customs prevail. What are the ancient customs? That the Bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction. Why should we let this custom prevail? Because “the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome.” The parallel here is between what is customary for the Bishop of Alexandria, and what is customary for the Bishop of Rome.

            No. the parallel here is what the council will recognize, based on what Rome recognizes.

            You said;

            I don’t think your reading is sustainable.

            Oh it’s sustainable. On a new reply at the end of this blog I am going to post a short article for everyone. The read is fascinating. I know you do not like copy and paste, but….

            You said:

            Rebuke, advice, and instruction within the church does not have to flow from monarchical power; influence isn’t a binary thing.

            Agreed. But that doesn’t mean that monarchical power does not exist. Cyprian clearly advises Stephen to do something that Cyprian does not have the authority to do, which is tell those bishops to depose Marcian.

            1.) Cyprian does not tell those bishops to depose Marcian. Ergo, he does not have authority over them.

            2.) Cyprian advises Stephen that he should tell those bishops to depose Marcian. Ergo, Cyprian does not have authority over Stephen, as he can only advise him, and he believes Stephen has authority over those bishops, as he wants Stephen to tell them to depose Marcian.

            3.) Those bishops had written Stephen asking him to tell them what they should do. Ergo, they believed Stephen had authority over them.

            Based on just the Marcian affair, I do not see how you can expect me to believe that Cyprian at one time did not believe in papal supremacy. Then when we throw in the cases of the Spanish bishops and Fortunatus, it becomes overwhelming.

            You said:

            On the contrary, Cyprian says that they have gone to the chief church – and it is this church that he describes in glowing terms as being faithful. One can certainly interpret that as referring to the bishop exclusively, but Cyprian doesn’t actually say that.

            So you believe a ruling could come down from Rome without the authority of the Bishop of Rome behind it? Who were those heretics trying to influence who sat in the Chair of Peter? When Augustine later said Rome has spoken, the case is closed, who was it that had spoken and closed the case?

            You said:

            And, again, faithfulness is not the same as infallibility. Cyprian specifically says that Stephen errs – that he is deceived, and so has made a mistake – in his 67th Epistle: “[they have] deceived Stephen our colleague, placed at a distance, and ignorant of what had been done, and of the truth.” We flatly know that Cyprian believes Stephen can err in his judgment; there’s no speculation necessary.

            Yes but the infallibility charism has to do with what is taught on faith and morals, not on whether someone is deposed or reinstated, as I am sure you are well aware of.

            But what was Cyprian referring to in this passage? Heretics were heading to Rome trying to get their doctrine approved, and have Rome teach it. Cyprian is telling the world don’t bother. Something that is untrue will never be accepted and espoused by Rome. No faithlessness means true. By the way, I have seen translations that say no error can come from Rome.

            You said:

            Generally, he suggested people consult the Scriptures: “Have you not read what God said to you?”

            If there is a straight answer to my question here – as I have tried to provide for yours – I am missing it. What should my response be: should I follow an angel or apostle, or what I see the gospel teaching?

            Where does He say consult the Scriptures. I agree He quotes them, and asks have you never read….but where does He specifically say consult the Scriptures? What does He do all the time for people have read the Scriptures, and still not understand? He interprets the Scriptures for them. He does not leave them to draw their own conclusions.

            In Mt.18 He says to take things to the Church. Now I know this pertains to disciplinary action, but what if two people both claiming to have the Spirit espouse opposing doctrines? They cannot both be right, and they might both be wrong. What then Irked? They both believe they have the truth. What does St. Paul say the pillar and foundation of truth is, where we can go to get the truth when we are unsure. What if we think we’re sure, but the shepherds say we are wrong? What then. Should we leave the Church that Christ founded to set up a new community? St. Paul says that’s schism and condemns it.

            You said:

            If you’d like to enter a source in contravention of his views in On Modesty, you’re welcome to do so.

            Not pertaining to this statement, but….Of course Tertullian, and Arias, and Cyprian (during the re-baptism controversy), and any heretic is going to deny papal supremacy in their writings after they had broken with Rome. They don’t believe the doctrine they are espousing is wrong, yet the pope has just told them they are wrong. And when they were in accord with Rome, there was no reason to write about a subject that did not come into play for them until they were on the opposite side from Rome. That is why the Orthodox writer Meyerdorff, who does not believe in papal supremacy, admits there is nothing in the writings of the ECF’s that hurts the Roman argument for papal supremacy. Even when the East was mad at what Victor had done, there is shock at argumentation that what he was doing was wrong, but not that he did not have the authority to do what he did.

        1. Hi Duane,

          Look up what Chair of Moses was in the time of Christ.

          Okay. I find differing interpretations, which range from “Clearly infallible authority!” to “The chair they sat in when they read the law” to “Probably just a figure of speech.”

          Will you answer my questions regarding Christ’s views of the Pharisees’ teachings, now?

          It is as if he gave Peter one dollar in Matthew 16, that Peter can use whenever he wants. And in Matthew 18 he gives the Apostles and Peter one dollar collectively (not to each an individual dollar), to be used in unison with Peter.

          We don’t have any argument about verbs in Matthew 16. But 18 gives this authority to everyone; it’s certainly true it’s to be used in harmony with Peter, but it’s equally true that Peter is to use it in harmony with them. There’s no indication that the authority belongs any more to Peter than to them in the passage, and anything beyond that is pure speculation.

          Nope. Cyprian specifically ties it to the Chair of Peter, simply saying that those who occupy it are Roman. But he is saying no error can come from the Chair of Peter. He is not talking about the Roman people, as Paul had done. So my point stands.

          On the contrary, Cyprian says that they have gone to the chief church – and it is this church that he describes in glowing terms as being faithful. One can certainly interpret that as referring to the bishop exclusively, but Cyprian doesn’t actually say that.

          And, again, faithfulness is not the same as infallibility. Cyprian specifically says that Stephen errs – that he is deceived, and so has made a mistake – in his 67th Epistle: “[they have] deceived Stephen our colleague, placed at a distance, and ignorant of what had been done, and of the truth.” We flatly know that Cyprian believes Stephen can err in his judgment; there’s no speculation necessary.

          What does Jesus say to do when you have a question dealing with faith and morals?

          Generally, he suggested people consult the Scriptures: “Have you not read what God said to you?”

          If there is a straight answer to my question here – as I have tried to provide for yours – I am missing it. What should my response be: should I follow an angel or apostle, or what I see the gospel teaching?

          1. You said:

            Cyprian plainly says what he’s asking Stephen to do: “advise for and aid in” the matter of heresy, just as Cyprian himself is doing. Nothing here suggests that Cyprian believes Stephen has “universal responsibilities” beyond those of Cyprian himself.

            On the contrary, from epistle 66 New Advent, in part 2 St. Cyprian asks Stephen to send a letter to the bishops of Arles, announcing that Marcian is excommunicated. And in part 3 St. Cyprian asks that Stephen send letters to the bishops of Arles instrtucting them to appoint another bishop.

            Clearly, if Cyprian has the same authority, he could do the same. But he advises Stephen to tell those bishops what to do. Clearly that is an implicit acknowledgement of Stephen having authority that no one else possesses. Your brother bishop and big bishop theory fails.

            You said:

            Right, that’s the contradiction at the heart of Cyprian’s theology: he doesn’t think any bishop can judge another, but he’s not… quite… sure what to do when one bishop is clearly heretical.

            But the Church had already had heretical bishops excommunicated by bishops. So your theory fails again. Cyprian has no qualms about Stephen judging other bishops, until Stephen judged him.

            You said:

            It literally does. Alexandria has influence in its sphere, as is customary in Rome, and likewise in Antioch.

            Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also.

            This says the council recognizes that the bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction over Egypt..because Rome recognizes the ancient tradition that the bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction. Which tells us that even if the tradition were ancient, if Rome decided not to recognize the bishop of Alexandria, then the council wouldn’t. We have solid evidence that this is the way the canon is meant as we have letters from the Roman emperor showing that this is how he understood that canon.

            Furthermore, there were many other bishops in Egypt, Libya…., and yet the bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction over them. How odd.

            You said:

            He doesn’t specifically deny that Stephen could depose bishops, so he must have believed Stephen could depose bishops” is pretty thin.

            Not thin at all. He flat out advises Stephen to tell the bishops to depose Marcian. If he doesn’t have the power, this advice is useless.

            You said:

            All of that to say: none of these arguments from silence are compelling to me. No, Cyprian does not go out of his way to antagonize Stephen (here); yes, he plays things very respectfully in his direct correspondence with the man. Lack of direct condemnation is not proof that he believes differently here than he does in the places where he offers exactly that direct condemnation.

            Except in that letter, he advises Stephen to do something that he would later deny Stephen had the power to do. If we did not have that letter from Cyprian to Stephen concerning Marcian, your argument would carry weight. But since we do have a letter where he clearly advises Stephen to tell, not ask, those bishops to do something, your argument is gone with the wind. Cyprian held to a heretical view on re-baptism. What is the pope to do when a bishop teaches heresy? Not interfere, and leave the flock under a heretical bishop? Cyprian is human, he could recognize error, but not when it was in him. That was the problem. In this matter he was no different than Marcian.

            You said:

            I am concerned that this will broaden the scope of our debate beyond what we can manage, but Tertullian laughs himself silly at the idea that the bishop of Rome has any special authority. I do imagine that Cyprian is very well aware of Tertullian’s view of Rome, though.

            He laughed himself silly after he had separated from the Church and joined a heretical sect. What was his view before, that is the question?

          2. Duane,

            On the contrary, from epistle 66 New Advent, in part 2 St. Cyprian asks Stephen to send a letter to the bishops of Arles, announcing that Marcian is excommunicated.

            Because “Marcian does not yet seem to be excommunicated by us,” that is, by being “judged by all the priests,” as he says later in the piece. Rome is clearly influential in this process; it’s not clear that Stephen’s is the only vote that counts.

            But the Church had already had heretical bishops excommunicated by bishops.

            Must Cyprian necessarily agree with everything the church has previously done?

            This says the council recognizes that the bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction over Egypt..because Rome recognizes the ancient tradition that the bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction.

            That is not what it says. “Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also.”

            Let the ancient customs prevail. What are the ancient customs? That the Bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction. Why should we let this custom prevail? Because “the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome.” The parallel here is between what is customary for the Bishop of Alexandria, and what is customary for the Bishop of Rome.

            This isn’t just my opinion. Here’s CatholicCulture saying the same thing, at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=1355: “Canon Six of the Council also acknowledged the rights of the Roman See over the whole of Italy, and the Fathers suggested that the exercise of these rights by the Bishop of Rome over Italy was a precedent that should serve as a good example to the Bishop of Alexandria and, partially, also to the Bishop of Antioch.”

            Or here, here’s the translation from Jesuit scholar Norman Tanner: “The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome.”

            I don’t think your reading is sustainable.

            Not thin at all. He flat out advises Stephen to tell the bishops to depose Marcian. If he doesn’t have the power, this advice is useless.

            That’s not true. I don’t believe that, let’s say, Billy Graham has authority over me. If Billy Graham came to me and said, “You need to do such-and-such,” I’d still be likely to do it, because a respected and wise Christian’s instruction is valuable even where it isn’t strictly determinative. If I didn’t, other people might fairly reply, “Dude, Billy Graham told you to stop doing what you’re doing; what’s it going to take?”

            (If Billy Graham is a bad example, substitute as you like; I think the principle works independent of the person.)

            Rebuke, advice, and instruction within the church does not have to flow from monarchical power; influence isn’t a binary thing.

            He laughed himself silly after he had separated from the Church and joined a heretical sect. What was his view before, that is the question?

            If you’d like to enter a source in contravention of his views in On Modesty, you’re welcome to do so.

            I note you have still declined to answer my question re: a Galatian Christian.

      2. Hi Irked,

        You said:

        Your reading, then, is that Christ is saying here that the scribes and the Pharisees were infallible in their teaching, then? That it is necessarily not true (as some argue) that Christ is being sarcastic here; nor (as I’m personally persuaded) that “the seat of Moses” is the Law itself, and so “whatsoever they tell you” from that chair – plausibly, from the seat in the synagogue from which the Law was read – is only and exactly their recitation of the Scriptures?

        Okay. How then does Christ condemn the teaching of the Pharisees in Mark 7, when he decries the Corban rule as “nullify[ing] the word of God?” Was that not a by-your-reasoning infallible teaching of the Pharisees?

        What of their teaching, described later in the same chapter you cite, that to swear by the gold in the temple is greater than to swear by the temple itself? Isn’t that an infallible teaching, by your rule? Doesn’t Christ mock it as nonsense? Does Christ’s description of these men as “blind guides” seem consistent with the idea that he intends all their teaching to be seen as infallible? Surely not!

        Except in these two passages that you cite, they must not be teaching from the Chair of Moses. Think about it. Why even mention the Chair of Moses if such a teaching authority did not exist? Jesus wants to condemn the Pharisees? Condemn then. There can only be one reason to mention the Chair in this context, to show that there in did indeed exist two types of teaching, one which you had to follow, and one which you didn’t. If you could just pick and choose what teachings to follow, there is no reason to mention a Chair of Moses at all. But Jesus does, and He specifically says to follow it. The Pharisees at certain times must have invoked such a teaching authority. The Jesus being sarcastic theory can be used to ignore any number of His teachings.

        On a side note, Jesus also condemns the Pharisees not because their teachings were wrong when they quoted the law, but because they taught to obey the law but had no love of the law.

        You said:

        But this authority of binding and loosing is not given to Peter alone; it’s given to all those disciples present in Matthew 18. (And that’s a group that’s certainly not limited to just the Twelve, even; at a minimum, we know there were children present when he spoke.) Whatever this authority of “binding and loosing” is, it is not constrained to Peter – nor is there any indication that it is uniquely heritable from Peter.

        But Peter is the only one he gives the keys to. Who else does He give them to?

        You said:

        To return the challenge, then, let me ask a simple question. Suppose I’m a member of the church of Galatia, and someone comes to me: an angel, perhaps, or an apostle, or even Peter himself. Suppose this person teaches something that is contrary to the one gospel I have received, once for all: at the least, that as best I can judge, in the light of the Spirit’s guidance, it is contrary to that gospel. What is my proper response?

        Remember, he wrote that to a whole community at Galatia, not an individual. Did the whole Church decide that this person is teaching a different gospel, or just you? If you take your concerns to the church at Galatia, and if they are in doubt, they forward to the hierarchy as Paul and Barnabas did which led to the council of Jerusalem.. But let’s say the church at Galatia determines you are wrong, then you submit, and realize you are the one who is wrong. Otherwise, it is you who are in schism.

        Now, some questions for you.

        Let’s say you are an early Christian at the Council of Jerusalem, but you believe that the Gentiles should be circumcised, as we know many did as there was much debate. After the ruling that Gentiles need not be circumcised, do you submit to the ruling of the Apostles, or do you reject that teaching, leave and form a new community, one that teaches Gentiles must still be circumcised, and call yourself the true Church?

        We know such a community came into existence shortly after that council. They rejected the Apostle’s teaching on Gentile circumcision. There is an ECF who said 1 John 2:19, is specifically about this community. Yet they considered themselves followers of Christ. How should the Apostles have treated them? Should the Apostles act as if what they did in separating themselves from the rest of the Church as okay? And is what the founders of that community did okay in the sight of Jesus?

        1. Duane,

          Except in these two passages that you cite, they must not be teaching from the Chair of Moses.

          I beg your pardon?

          Christ’s words are that the people should “do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.” Your words are that “Jesus would not have told his followers to do this if the possibility existed for those who sat in Moses seat to teach sin.” Christ says that the Corban rule is a sinful teaching: that by it, they “nullify the Word of God,” by teaching children not to honor their parents.

          That’s pretty unavoidably “those who sit in Moses’s seat” teaching sin.

          If your intended point is that only some of what the Pharisees said counted as coming from Moses’s seat – well, I agree: my presented interpretation is that Christ was speaking only of the Pharisees’ presentation of the canonical Law. It seems like you’re claiming there’s some category of extrabiblical teachings which the Pharisees made, which were not in the Law, which did not include the Corban rule, and which were infallible.

          Is that accurate? Because if so, that’s a positive claim – this category exists, it is infallible, and it justifies the papacy – and it needs to be proved. It’d be perfectly circular to say, “Such a category must exist, because of this passage, and so this passage must be discussing such a category.”

          What positive proof do you have of two categories of extrabiblical Pharisaic law: one including the Corban rule (and fallible), and the other infallible? Do you have evidence that the Pharisees themselves viewed the Corban rule in this way?

          There can only be one reason to mention the Chair in this context, to show that there in did indeed exist two types of teaching, one which you had to follow, and one which you didn’t.

          To be sure, I concur; the former were the things that came, via the Pharisees, from Moses – and thence from God.

          The Jesus being sarcastic theory can be used to ignore any number of His teachings.

          In fairness, while I don’t hold this theory myself: most of those cases don’t involve Christ saying, in effect, “Make sure you listen to everything said by these guys. Who are blind guides. And hypocrites. And are totally wrong about these specific doctrines. And are blocking you from the kingdom of heaven, and are themselves probably condemned to hell.” This passage… does.

          There’s a certain plausibility to it.

          On a side note, Jesus also condemns the Pharisees not because their teachings were wrong when they quoted the law, but because they taught to obey the law but had no love of the law.

          Christ specifically condemns their extrabiblical teachings and their attitudes as being mistaken. Obviously he doesn’t condemn their direct quotations of the Law – but then, Protestants don’t really have a problem with saying that people repeating the clear messages of Scripture are conveying infallible truth. It’s the argument that they have any other authority with which we have a problem.

          Remember, he wrote that to a whole community at Galatia, not an individual. Did the whole Church decide that this person is teaching a different gospel, or just you?

          Let’s say my church agrees with me – maybe I see it first, but we’re pretty promptly a community of believers in accord on this. Does it change anything?

          If you take your concerns to the church at Galatia, and if they are in doubt, they forward to the hierarchy as Paul and Barnabas did which led to the council of Jerusalem.

          And Peter, as you see it, is the head of that hierarchy, correct?

          So, in Galatians 1-2, Paul would say, “But if Peter teaches contrary to the gospel you have received, you should abandon what you understand to be the gospel?” That’s consistent with his statement that they should reject anyone teaching in opposition to it, apostles included? With his immediate example of Peter leading people astray on this matter?

          After the ruling that Gentiles need not be circumcised, do you submit to the ruling of the Apostles, or do you reject that teaching, leave and form a new community, one that teaches Gentiles must still be circumcised, and call yourself the true Church?

          You submit to the gospel, as best it has been revealed to you at that time. If we’re at the Jerusalem council, that probably means that the clearest revelation is what’s right now being taught by the same people who are universally declaring that Gentiles don’t need to be circumcised.

          But if those men later teach against the gospel of grace they now proclaim – even if they be angels or apostles – let them be accursed!

          1. Hi Irked,

            You said:

            Heh. Well, since you ask: originally, “first among equals” was used –

            – and I’ll just quote Wikipedia, here –

            I actually meant primacy of honor, got confused with first among equals. I never use Wikipedia as it can be edited by anyone. I would have you note that the theory first among equals is a theory that if one looks at Church history, absolutely makes no sense. We see several instances of the various Patriarchs appealing for a decision to Rome. If they are truly equal, why did they appeal to Rome? Nor do we see various Roman emperors, including ones in Constantinople, act as if the Bishop of Rome was equal, as they also appealed to Rome to intervene in the Byzantine Patriarchy.

            You said:

            Or at least one of them must be mistaken about what submission entails – or some combination of the two factors. But two people can both genuinely desire to faithfully serve their master while still making more-or-less good-faith errors in understanding their master’s commands.

            I thought Jesus said the Gates of Hell would not prevail. In your above statement, good faith errors can only lead to teachings that are false. Under such a system, the Gates of Hell have prevailed.

            You said:

            Arius was certainly in severe error; to what extent his efforts were in good faith, and to what extent “genuine attempts at obedience founded on profound mistakes” count as “submission,” isn’t really my call to make.

            So it was okay to reject the Council of Jerusalem if you were a Christian in those early days, as long as you felt you were making a genuine attempt to follow the Gospel?

            You said:

            I beg your pardon?

            Christ’s words are that the people should “do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.” Your words are that “Jesus would not have told his followers to do this if the possibility existed for those who sat in Moses seat to teach sin.” Christ says that the Corban rule is a sinful teaching: that by it, they “nullify the Word of God,” by teaching children not to honor their parents.

            That’s pretty unavoidably “those who sit in Moses’s seat” teaching sin.

            Except, were they sitting in Moses seat when they taught the Corban rule? Show me that they were. If you cannot, you have a problem on your hands. This is the only place that Jesus mentions the Chair of Moses, yet he says do whatever in relation to that Chair. He seemingly is drawing distinctions between the teachings of the Pharisees, one that his listeners, who had heard him condemn the teachings of the Pharisees at other times, would have understood.

            You said:

            What positive proof do you have of two categories of extrabiblical Pharisaic law: one including the Corban rule (and fallible), and the other infallible? Do you have evidence that the Pharisees themselves viewed the Corban rule in this way?

            I never said there were two categories of extrabiblical law. I did say that Jesus pointed to an instance of where the Pharisees taught with the charism of infallibility. Are you saying that Jesus would tell his listeners to do whatever the Pharisees taught in a certain instance, knowing that there was the possibility that in that certain instance the Pharisees would teach error?

            You said:

            In fairness, while I don’t hold this theory myself: most of those cases don’t involve Christ saying, in effect, “Make sure you listen to everything said by these guys. Who are blind guides. And hypocrites. And are totally wrong about these specific doctrines. And are blocking you from the kingdom of heaven, and are themselves probably condemned to hell.” This passage… does.

            There’s a certain plausibility to it.

            Was Nicodemus a hypocrite? Was Paul after his conversion? Not sure that the Pharisees were that bad, after all Jesus also said this about them: “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. Does this mean they will enter the kingdom of God after the tax collectors and prostitutes? It sure seems that way.

            You said:

            Christ specifically condemns their extrabiblical teachings and their attitudes as being mistaken. Obviously he doesn’t condemn their direct quotations of the Law – but then, Protestants don’t really have a problem with saying that people repeating the clear messages of Scripture are conveying infallible truth. It’s the argument that they have any other authority with which we have a problem.

            Actually, Christ seems to only condemn those Pharisees who were of the school of Shammai. He seems to have positive interactions with those Pharisees who were of the school of Hillel.

            Who decides what is the clear message of Scripture? In fact, who decides what is Scripture at all? I know of a “Christian” church in my city that rejects the letters of Paul, as uninspired. I know of churches right across from each other where one says abortion and homosexuality are clearly sins, and the other church says they are clearly not. Luther thought sola fide was clear in Scripture. It is so clear that no other ECF found sola fide in Scripture.

            Were all the commandments of God written down? Would it be okay for a Jew to reject a commandment of God that was not written down, or was tradition binding on them also?

            You said:

            Let’s say my church agrees with me – maybe I see it first, but we’re pretty promptly a community of believers in accord on this. Does it change anything?

            Not really. What does the Church hierarchy at Jerusalem say? What if they hold a council and say that it is you and your church that is in error? What then?

            You said:

            And Peter, as you see it, is the head of that hierarchy, correct?

            So, in Galatians 1-2, Paul would say, “But if Peter teaches contrary to the gospel you have received, you should abandon what you understand to be the gospel?” That’s consistent with his statement that they should reject anyone teaching in opposition to it, apostles included? With his immediate example of Peter leading people astray on this matter?

            Hmmmm. Seemingly Jesus says that Peter could never lead people astray. Whatever you bind…..a Divine guarantee that Peter will never lead people astray on faith and morals.

            What guarantee did Christ give you that your interpretation of the received Gospel is not wrong? You may think someone is preaching a different Gospel, but if your reading of the Gospel is at odds with the Church’s reading, it is you that is wrong. That is why Jesus says take it to the Church. The Church is protected, and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against her. Christ makes no such guarantee to you.

            You said:

            You submit to the gospel, as best it has been revealed to you at that time. If we’re at the Jerusalem council, that probably means that the clearest revelation is what’s right now being taught by the same people who are universally declaring that Gentiles don’t need to be circumcised.

            But if those men later teach against the gospel of grace they now proclaim – even if they be angels or apostles – let them be accursed!

            See the problem? Jesus says if you reject the Apostles, you reject Him. And yet we know a community came into existence right after the Council of Jerusalem, that rejected the teaching of the Apostles, yet felt they were following Christ. So what do you do when your interpretation of the received Gospel, and what the Apostles teach clashes? What system did Christ set up to let us know when we are wrong? Oh yeah, He said take it to the Church. Jesus never says that we will necessarily like what that Church tells us, but He does promise to protect her.

            Under your system, you have usurped the keys that were given to Peter for yourself. If the Church teaches something you don’t like or agree with, you say it is un-Scriptural. You have made yourself the only one that can bind or loose you. I can show you millions of other Christians like you.

            Not sure if we are making progress at all here.

            1.) You have not shown me that that passage of Cyprian’s was taken out of context. Nor have you shown to me that Cyprian did not at one time believe in papal supremacy, as I have been able to demonstrate that he wrote Stephen specifically asking Stephen to interfere in another diocese.

            2.) You have not shown me that Cyprian did not at one time extend the concept of infallibility to Rome, as he says no faithlessness can gain access to Rome. Faithlessness means you cannot trust.

            3.) You have not shown to me that Jesus did not also point to infallibility in the OT with His Chair of Moses statement.

            4.) You have not shown to me that Jesus did not point to papal infallibility when He told Peter whatever you bind on Earth…., as there can be no error in Heaven.

            I am sure I have not persuaded you with my arguments either.

            I pray all is well with you,

            Duane

          2. Hi Duane,

            I actually meant primacy of honor, got confused with first among equals. I never use Wikipedia as it can be edited by anyone.

            Eh, it’s a lousy final court of appeals, but it’s a great starting point; statistical investigation shows it’s error-prone to about the same extent as any other encyclopedia. I don’t think we’re really contesting the historical usage of “first among equals,” though, and since that was the phrase I actually used and got challenged on, I’m still delighted at the irony.

            I would have you note that the theory first among equals is a theory that if one looks at Church history, absolutely makes no sense.

            On the contrary, I think it makes a great deal of sense, and I think many of the claims of “final appeals to Rome” are (as I’ve argued with Cyprian) considerably overstated.

            I thought Jesus said the Gates of Hell would not prevail. In your above statement, good faith errors can only lead to teachings that are false. Under such a system, the Gates of Hell have prevailed.

            All Christians do not have to be entirely correct about all doctrines for Christ’s words to be true. If you want to assert that “Some Christians sometimes make theological errors” is inconsistent with this statement, you would have to actually make that case.

            So it was okay to reject the Council of Jerusalem if you were a Christian in those early days, as long as you felt you were making a genuine attempt to follow the Gospel?

            What I said is that it’s not my place to judge the heart of Arius the man (as distinct from Arianism, the doctrine). I don’t think this question follows from that response, and I’ve already answered the same question elsewhere.

            Except, were they sitting in Moses seat when they taught the Corban rule? Show me that they were. If you cannot, you have a problem on your hands.

            So I’m starting to feel like we’re talking past each other. I think “sitting in Moses’s seat” is coextensive with teaching the Law of Moses: that is, that Christ’s words only apply to reading the Old Testament. You sit in Moses’s seat when you speak Moses’s words. That fits well with his condemnation of their doctrines here and elsewhere, and it makes the answer to your question, “No, obviously not; the Corban rule doesn’t come from the Torah.” I don’t see that this raises any problems for my perspective.

            So when you say…

            He seemingly is drawing distinctions between the teachings of the Pharisees, one that his listeners, who had heard him condemn the teachings of the Pharisees at other times, would have understood.

            … I say sure, because in my view there’s an obvious split: the Law, as read by the Pharisees, versus everything else.

            But in your view, there’s a third category: the Law, the infallible words from the seat, and everything else. And that’s a multiplication of entities; more, it’s a multiplication that your argument for papal authority absolutely hangs upon. If you’re going to establish that third category exists – that this passage cannot plausibly be read as I read it – you need proof, and so far you have not offered any.

            I mean that pretty literally: you have not offered any evidence for its existence, beyond saying, “This must be what he’s talking about.”

            I never said there were two categories of extrabiblical law. I did say that Jesus pointed to an instance of where the Pharisees taught with the charism of infallibility.

            If the Pharisees sometimes teach infallibly, and sometimes don’t, and both cases go beyond the Law of Moses, and the people can clearly tell which is which… that’s two categories of extrabiblical law.

            Was Nicodemus a hypocrite? Was Paul after his conversion? Not sure that the Pharisees were that bad

            I mean, these are Christ’s words, taken from the same passage you quoted! You blind guides! You hypocrites! You fools, you whitewashed tombs, you brood of vipers: how will you escape being condemned to hell? You cross land and sea to make a single convert, and when you do, you make him twice the son of hell that you are!

            That is the passage you cite to establish that Christ believed they had some sort of special infallibility? Everything he has to say is on the subject of how wrong they are!

            Who decides what is the clear message of Scripture? In fact, who decides what is Scripture at all?

            God does. Everything else is just a fallible attempt to imitate his conclusions.

            >Let’s say my church agrees with me – maybe I see it first, but we’re pretty promptly a community of believers in accord on this. Does it change anything?

            Not really.

            Okay, so that question was a red herring, and the answer doesn’t actually matter to our debate. Cool. Let’s get back to my actual question; here it is again: “So, in Galatians 1-2, Paul would say, ‘But if Peter teaches contrary to the gospel you have received, you should abandon what you understand to be the gospel?'” I’m looking forward to the answer.

            What does the Church hierarchy at Jerusalem say? What if they hold a council and say that it is you and your church that is in error? What then?

            Then you cling to the gospel. The way Paul told you to in Galatians 1-2.

            … I don’t see that there was an answer there. Do you have an answer? If Peter had come to the church in Galatia and said, “Act against the gospel you were given,” what should they have done?

            Should they appeal to a council? Can any council have a higher authority than the didactic teaching of Peter himself on the subject of faith and morals?

            Should they follow Peter? Isn’t that exactly opposite of what Paul says in these passages?

            Or should they follow the gospel?

            Hmmmm. Seemingly Jesus says that Peter could never lead people astray. Whatever you bind…..a Divine guarantee that Peter will never lead people astray on faith and morals.

            We are cycling back around to earlier arguments again. Whatever “binding and loosing” means, it was authority given to many more than just Peter.

            And, in point of fact, Peter did lead people astray on moral issues: we have that described explicitly in Galatians. “The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray,” emphasis mine. That is literally the thing you said could not happen.

            And, again, there’s no answer to my question here.

            What guarantee did Christ give you that your interpretation of the received Gospel is not wrong?

            See, that’s a fascinating response: it’s answering a question with a question again, instead of just answering the question. The question is still there, whatever I say!

            But to your question, my answer is, “Neither Peter nor I were generally guaranteed to never make doctrinal errors in our interpretation of the gospel; we’re fallible human beings.” We are nonetheless responsible to obey the gospel as best we understand it, and we trust that the gospel is perspicacious enough that it’s meaning is possible to discover, even where I’m too dense or stubborn or sinful to accede to that meaning.

            You may think someone is preaching a different Gospel, but if your reading of the Gospel is at odds with the Church’s reading, it is you that is wrong. That is why Jesus says take it to the Church. The Church is protected, and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against her. Christ makes no such guarantee to you.

            So make that concrete: if Peter comes to me and teaches counter to the gospel, what do I do? Do I follow Peter? Is that the teaching of Galatians 1-2?

            So what do you do when your interpretation of the received Gospel, and what the Apostles teach clashes?

            As I answered you, that’s a self-contradictory scenario, because at the time of the Jerusalem Council, the universal teaching of the apostles – the same men who are speaking with one voice in that council – is the record of the gospel; there are as yet no new Scriptures. There is no gospel to cling to other than what they are teaching.

            But that isn’t true today!

            Under your system, you have usurped the keys that were given to Peter for yourself. If the Church teaches something you don’t like or agree with, you say it is un-Scriptural.

            No, that’s a fundamental misrepresentation of my position. Rather, if a church teaches something that’s contrary to Scripture, I say it’s contrary to Scripture. The New Testament is full of examples of people doing precisely that.

            1.) You have not shown me that that passage of Cyprian’s was taken out of context. Nor have you shown to me that Cyprian did not at one time believe in papal supremacy, as I have been able to demonstrate that he wrote Stephen specifically asking Stephen to interfere in another diocese.

            Your claim is that we must believe Cyprian implicitly held different beliefs than those he later expressed explicitly: that, in effect, Cyprian was a hypocrite on the issue of authority. I think I’ve pretty clearly shown that one can read, “Hey brother, we should tell these guys what they need to do,” without any implicit, “Because you have full authority over them,” which requires no hypocrisy on his part.

            2.) You have not shown me that Cyprian did not at one time extend the concept of infallibility to Rome, as he says no faithlessness can gain access to Rome. Faithlessness means you cannot trust.

            He echoes the words of Paul on the subject of the Roman church as a whole, yes. You give those words meaning that Paul did not; I don’t see that I can offer much argument beyond, “That’s not what Paul was saying; why would we think it’s what Cyprian was saying?”

            3.) You have not shown to me that Jesus did not also point to infallibility in the OT with His Chair of Moses statement.

            I pretty clearly have: Jesus flatly states that the Pharisees err. You’ve offered no positive evidence for the belief in a category of Pharisaical teaching separate from both the reading of the Torah, on the one hand, and the Corban rule, on the other. The existence of such a category is a positive claim on your part; the burden of proof is yours.

            4.) You have not shown to me that Jesus did not point to papal infallibility when He told Peter whatever you bind on Earth…., as there can be no error in Heaven.

            Again, the burden of proof here is yours, to establish papal authority follows necessarily from that passage. I’ve pointed out that, factually, Christ gives this authority to his followers at large, and not just Peter; you’ve made claims that they can only use it in conjunction with Peter, but you have not substantiated them beyond mere assertion.

            I am sure I have not persuaded you with my arguments either.

            Indeed.

            I pray all is well with you,

            Yep, things are really good here! Hope they are with you, too, and thanks for the conversation.

          3. This is what I get for reaching for a big word without proofreading: I said perspicacious when I said perspicuous, and when I really should have said clear.

  18. Hi Irked,

    Since this article is about unity, do you believe it is possible to have true unity with another entity, and not be submissive to that other entity in certain aspects, especially if that other entity is the source of unity, as St. Cyprian calls Rome? Do you believe St. Cyprian believes unity is possible without submission?

    1. Hi Duane,

      That’s kind of two different questions; let me see if I can answer both. I think A and B can be in union with each other in at least two ways:

      1) A is in submission to B. That’s the model of, say, marriage: wives, to your husbands, as the church to Christ.

      2) A and B are both in submission to some third party, C. That’s the model of Christianity: wives, to your husbands, as the church to Christ.

      So yes, it’s absolutely possible to have true unity without another Christian without being in submission to them, provided you are both in submission to Christ. I would assume the underlying principle here is one which we agree, given that there isn’t a strict hierarchy among all individual Catholics – and yet presumably all individual Catholics are still to be in unity with each other.

      Would you reject that mode of unity?

      1. Okay Irked,

        After such things as these, moreover, they still dare — a false bishop having been appointed for them by heretics — to set sail and to bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to the throne of Peter, and to the chief Church whence priestly unity takes its source; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access. (Epistle 54, 14)

        In this passage Cyprian shows that Rome is above Carthage, as he calls it the chief Church. Notice he says the throne of Peter is at Rome, and that priestly unity comes from the Roman Church. How can Cyprian have unity with the Church, when he does not submit to the source? It would be like me saying I have unity with Christ, but refuse to submit to His sovereignty.

        1. In this passage Cyprian shows that Rome is above Carthage, as he calls it the chief Church.

          Above in what sense? In authority, as you assert? In reputation? In influence? Is Rome king, or merely first among equals, or something else altogether?

          How can Cyprian have unity with the Church, when he does not submit to the source?

          By their mutual submission to the Savior who was their high priest. As I said.

          1. Hi Irked,

            You said:

            first among equals, or something else altogether?

            What did first among equals mean in the classical Latin? I can tell you this much, it was not interpreted the way it is interpreted today.

            You said:

            By their mutual submission to the Savior who was their high priest. As I said.

            Whenever two entities both claim to be submitting, yet have opposing doctrines, at least one of them must not be submitting. The Church as a whole followed Stephen’s teachings on re-baptism, as did many African bishops, changing how they had voted at a synod, to submit to Stephen. Cyprian did not.

            Arius thought he was submitting to Jesus. In your view, was he?

          2. Duane,

            What did first among equals mean in the classical Latin? I can tell you this much, it was not interpreted the way it is interpreted today.

            Heh. Well, since you ask: originally, “first among equals” was used –

            – and I’ll just quote Wikipedia, here –

            “as an honorary title for those who are formally equal to other members of their group but are accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to their seniority in office. Historically, the princeps senatus of the Roman Senate was such a figure and initially only bore the distinction that he was allowed to speak first during debate.”

            But as time passed and Rome degenerated from being a republic (as its laws declared) to an empire, the term came to be used of the Roman leader who improperly laid claim to increasing amounts of authority, with the usage of the title ultimately ending as something that would have been unrecognizable to those who originally intended merely to convey respect.

            One might suggest… some possible relevance?

            Whenever two entities both claim to be submitting, yet have opposing doctrines, at least one of them must not be submitting.

            Or at least one of them must be mistaken about what submission entails – or some combination of the two factors. But two people can both genuinely desire to faithfully serve their master while still making more-or-less good-faith errors in understanding their master’s commands.

            Arius thought he was submitting to Jesus. In your view, was he?

            Arius was certainly in severe error; to what extent his efforts were in good faith, and to what extent “genuine attempts at obedience founded on profound mistakes” count as “submission,” isn’t really my call to make.

  19. To all,

    I know this is off topic, but a fascinating read on Canon VI on the council of Nicaea explained by Father James Loughlin.

    Ta archaia ethe krateito ta en Aigupto kai Liboe kai Pentapolei, hoste ton Alexandreias episopon panton touton echein ten exousian, epeide kai to en te Rome episkopo touto sunethes estin. Homoios de kai kata Antiocheian kai en tais allais eparchias ta presbeia sozesthai tais ekklesiais

    Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. [1]

    “Those holy and venerable Fathers of Nicaea,” said St. Leo I the Great,” [2] who, after having condemned to eternal infamy Arius and his blasphemies, enacted a series of church canons destined to have force to the end of times are not dead; for, both here at Rome and throughout the whole world they are judged to be still living in their immortal decrees.”

    We feel this undying influence of the three hundred and eighteen bishops just as vividly today, though nearly sixteen centuries have passed since they met in Bithynia, as St. Leo did fourteen hundred years ago. Of the twenty canons which they promulgated, not one has grown entirely obsolete; for the majority of them relate to things of catholic and fundamental interest, and the few which were enacted for the protection of assailed individual rights or the extirpation of local abuses have in them a germ of immortality.

    Canon VI is an instance of this latter class. The main object of the decree is to confirm the time-honored privileges of the See of Alexandria. From time immemorial the bishops of that city had claimed and exercised supreme jurisdiction over the churches of Egypt and the neighboring provinces. They received the appeals of the bishops from the sentence of their metropolitans; convened and presided over provincial synods; they ordained a if necessary, deposed bishops; in a word they were, in the phraseology of a later age, patriarchs. Whatever may have been the source of this authority, there is no record of its having been contested by any of the Egyptian bishops before Meletius of Lycopoli, raised the standard of rebellion.

    This Meletius, as we learn from Socrates, [3] having been degraded by St. Peter of Alexandria in consequence of many heavy charges, the most grievous of which was that during the persecution he had denied the faith and sacrificed, would not submit to the sentence of his superior; and not content with renouncing all allegiance to the Alexandrian See, he arrogated an equal right with the patriarch to ordain bishops and convene synods throughout Egypt. By attaching to his cause all the disaffected elements through the country, he sowed religious dissension in every parish, and soon was leader of a numerous and devoted faction, which obtained quite a formidable accession of strength by coalition with the partisans of Arius. Indeed the desire of putting an end to the Meletian schism was one of the chief motives which impelled Constantine, “with the advice of the clergy,” to convoke the Nicene Council.

    The great synod decreed “that the ancient order of things in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis must be maintained, to wit, that the Bishop of Alexandria should have authority over all these provinces.” And lest similar disorders might arise in Antioch or elsewhere, the Council enacted furthermore “that all the churches should keep their ancient standing.”

    The decree thus far is perfectly clear and reasonable; but it is not, to use St. Leo’s term, diaionizon. Its importance has not survived the ravages of time. Many an age has rolled by since those brilliant luminaries of ancient Christendom — Alexandria, Antioch, Heraclea, Caesarea, Ephesus — were extinguished. They were undoubtedly grand and princely in the day of their strength, but their greatness was of men and shared the inevitable fate of human things. Of what importance, save to the antiquary, are now those old patriarchates with their accessories of high prerogatives, august state, and far-stretching boundaries? If it was permitted to those ancient princes of the Church to revisit these mortal scenes, their self-esteem would probably be less mortified by finding that every vestige of their patriarchdoms has been swept away, than by perceiving how wonderfully well the Church of Christ gets along without them. And upon turning their eyes Romeward and beholding the “Bishop of Old Rome” seated upon the Rock of Peter as firmly and serenely as ever, it is possible they might recall St. Leo’s prophetic words: “A Church that is built upon any other foundation than that Rock which the Lord bath laid shall sooner or later come to grief.” [4]

    This canon, therefore, owes its perennial interest to its incidentally alluding to the Roman Pontiff; for any scrap of ancient parchment upon which his name has been written cannot fail to interest Christians so long as the Vicar of Christ shall have friends or enemies. The importance of the document before us is greatly enhanced by the fact that it was the very first utterance by the Universal Church on the subject of the prerogatives of the Bishop of Rome. The Nicene Synod was the first of the Ecumenical councils, and was, consequently, the first occasion which offered itself to the Catholic Church of speaking in a corporate and official manner. Hence the historian and the controversialist turn eagerly to learn what the first of councils had to say about the chief of bishops.

    Now if we sincerely desire to know what the Council really said, we must first of all discard translations and comments, and allow the canon to speak for itself. The endless controversies which our canon has given rise would, in great part at least, have been avoided if this course had been pursued. Indeed, one of the main objects of this paper is to convince theological students, by an apt illustration, how necessary it is to study ecclesiastical documents in their authentic source and original dress of language. There is an impression abroad that in this day of elaborate translations there no longer exists a necessity for submitting to the drudgery of acquiring dead languages and poring over barbarous glossaries, and very many prefer the more facile method of transcribing the assertions of their predecessors to the laborious task of hewing their own inferences out of the original text. Now a translation is necessarily a poor substitute for the original; for if it were faithful and perfect in other respects, it must, like a false diamond, be lacking in weight and lustre. [5]

    Besides, whoever quotes from a translation quotes at second-hand, for a translation is nothing but the translator’s expressed opinion of the sense of his text; and, in consequence, is essentially an inference. And then, no matter how adequately the translator may have, himself, seized the meaning of his text, there will still remain room for doubt whether the words lie has selected adequately embody that meaning. But what assurance have we that the version we are to rely upon is faithful? Will the fact of its being generally received as such vouch for it? Certainly not. An error, be it ever so common, is an error still; and an erroneous translation is all the more dangerous for having obtained universal currency, because one is the less inclined to suspect it.

    Now applying these remarks to the subject we have taken in hand, let us put the question to prominent writers: What said the Council of Nicaea regarding the Roman Pontiff?

    First. The Protestant historians and controversialists, with a few honorable exceptions, will reply that whereas the Bishop of Rome, from being a simple bishop, like any other, had succeeded, before the date of the Council, in imposing his authority upon the bishops in his vicinity, the Council thought it proper to permit him to retain his usurped dominion; a course which they are free to deplore, since it encouraged the “ambitious Pontiff” to persevere in his fixed design of enthralling the Christian world.

    Hear Calvin on the subject:

    “In regard to the antiquity of the primacy of the Roman See, there is nothing in favor of its establishment more ancient than the decree of the Council of Nice, by which the first place among the Patriarchs is assigned to the Bishop of Rome, and he is enjoined to take care of the suburban churches. While the Council, in dividing between him and the other Patriarchs, assigns the proper limits of each, it certainly does not appoint him head of all, but only one of the chief.” [6]

    Second. Now turn to those Catholic writers of the Darras and Rohrbacher stamp, who seem to think that the office of the historian is to copy bodily the assertions of his predecessors. According to these slashing authors, the Synod declared, totidem verbis, that “the primacy has always resided in the Church of Rome (Canon of the Council of Nicaea). Let the ancient custom, then, be vigorously maintained….for so the Roman Bishop orders.” [7]

    To tell the truth, I have less sympathy with the second class of unscrupulous writers than with the first. Protestant writers, when they undertake to combat the Papacy, are struggling “with the sun in their eyes.” Their position is obviously disadvantageous and paradoxical, and it is not to be marvelled at if they should grow desperate. But a Catholic writer, who is full certain that Truth and Catholicism are synonyms, ought to make every endeavor to find out the truth, and when he has found it to present it to his readers unvarnished; for every victory gained by our adversaries over the indolent stragglers from our ranks is accounted as a triumph over our sacred cause.

    II. Now let us approach this famous document, and translate it as we should a passage from Thucydides:

    ENGLISH: “Let the ancient usage throughout Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis be strictly adhered to, so that the Bishop of Alexandria shall have jurisdiction over all these; since this is also the custom of the Bishop of Rome. In like manner, as regards Antioch and the other provinces, let each church retain its special privileges.” (Canon 6)

    GREEK: Ta archaia ethe krateito ta en Aigupto kai Liboe kai Pentapolei, hoste ton Alexandreias episopon panton touton echein ten exousian, epeide kai to en te Rome episkopo touto sunethes estin. Homoios de kai kata Antiocheian kai en tais allais eparchias ta presbeia sozesthai tais ekklesiais….

    Confining our attention to the clause (epeide….touto sunethes), let us at the outset assure ourselves that our translation faithfully represents the original. The term (sunethes), according to Hedricus, denotes consuetus, familiaris, and is translated by Liddell and Scott, habitual, customary. The phrase (sunethes tini estin) is equivalent to the well known Latin expression familiare or consuetum est mihi: it is my custom. It cannot be rendered, “It is the custom of others regarding me.” Hence Hefele’s rendering, “There is a similar custom for the Roman Bishop,” is evidently incorrect. (Da auch fnr den r-mischen Bischof em gleiches VerhSltniss besteht, Conciliengeschichte, volume i, page 389, new edition).

    In fact, Hefele was influenced by the old version of Dionysius the Less, who has rendered the clause thus: Quia et Urbis Romm Episcopo parlis mos est. This is unsatisfactory; for there is no equivalent for parilis in the Greek text, and there is no equivalent in the Dionysian version for the Greek (touto). The earliest Latin version — that which was read in the Council of Chalcedon — is more to the point: Quoniam et Romano Episcopo hmc est consuetudo; which coincides with our own. Protestant writers have also rendered the text as we have done, though naturally they strive afterwards to blunt the edge of it. Thus Sheppherd [8] translates it: “Since this is also the Roman Bishop’s custom.” Neander: [9] “Since this is the custom also with the Roman Bishop.” Schaff: [10] “Since this also is customary with the Bishop of Rome.” We are justified, then, in assuming that our translation is a faithful reproduction of the text; [11] and may safely make it the basis of our further remarks.

    III. After having determined with the greatest possible precision what the Council said about the Roman Pontiff, our next step is to investigate the meaning, the scope and bearing, of the words of the canon. “Let the ancient usage throughout Egypt, etc., be adhered to, so that the Alexandrian Bishop shall rule these provinces; because this is also the Roman Bishop’s custom.” Now it is plain that Bonifacius and Nicolaus, as quoted above, were quite correct in affirming that the Synod made no enactment of any kind in regard to the Roman Pontiff. This canon neither grants new privileges to the Apostolic See, nor confirms any existing ones. For some reason or other, the Council did not think it necessary to legislate upon the Bishop of Rome. It strengthened the hands of the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, and of the Exarchs of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace. In Canon VII. it conceded a Patriarchate of Honor to the Bishop of the Holy City; but it did not DARE exercise, in any way, a legislative authority over the city of St. Peter. Hence, Calvin’s rhetoric evaporates like dew before the sun. The Council does not “divide between the Roman Pontiff and the other Patriarchs,” but adduces the authority of the former as a reason for admitting the claims of the latter. But whence did Calvin derive his information about those “suburban churches” which the Pope was “enjoined to take care of?” There is no trace of this in the canon. The wily heresiarch knew well enough that he was not quoting “the decree of the Council of Nicaea,” but Rufinus’s corruption of that decree.

    Rufinus wrote a History of the Church in continuation of the immortal work of Eusebius, and inserted in it a Latin translation of the Nicene Canons. But his character of rhetorician did not permit him to give the decrees to his readers in the plain, unambitious style of the good Fathers of the Council. He was fain to embellish them and give them a high-sounding, antithetical form. The result of his lucubration upon our canon is the following sententious effusion: “Et ut apud Alexandriam, et in Urbe Roma vetusta consuetudo servetur, ut vel ille Egypti, vel hic Suburbicarum Ecclesiarum sollicitudinem gerat.” [12]

    Now this “translation” ought to be brushed aside as undeserving of notice, and it is pitiable to see how much time and pains have been wasted by eminent scholars upon the barren task of determining what Rufinus meant by his “suburban churches.” What did he mean by his whole translation? Did he understand it himself? As every one knows, Rufinus was the prince of bunglers. He was notoriously ignorant, and just as rash and stubborn as he was unskilful. His knowledge of the Greek was scanty, having been picked up without system or teacher. As for his Latin, the above specimen convinces us that he richly deserved St. Jerome’s contemptuous criticisms. [13] It must be remembered, moreover, that shortly before writing his history he had been excommunicated for heresy by Pope Anastasius. Hence, we cannot expect to be assisted by Rufinus in our investigation of this subject. Let us return to the text.

    The kernel of the difficulty is the demonstrative (touto), this. “This is the custom of the Roman Bishop.” What does this refer to? “Let the Bishop of Alexandria retain his ancient sway over these three provinces, for this is also the Roman Bishop’s custom.” According to Bellarmine and others, (touto) refers to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and is to be expounded thus: “Let the Bishop of Alexandria continue to govern these provinces, because this is also the Roman Pontiff’s custom; that is, because the Roman Pontiff, prior to any synodical enactment, has repeatedly recognized the Alexandrian Bishop’s authority over this tract of country.” [14]

    This exposition is unpalatable to the adversaries of Roman supremacy; hence they offer us a different interpretation. They make (touto) refer to patriarchates in general and expound the sentence as follows: “Let Alexandria have jurisdiction over these provinces, because the Roman Bishop has also a Patriarchate.” “It illustrates the sort of power by referring to a similar power exercised by the Roman prelate in his province.” [15]

    IV. Although this second exposition might strike the reader at first sight as being possibly, correct, yet I trust I shall be able to prove that it is inadmissible; and that Bellarmine’s is the only unexceptionable interpretation.

    Let me, at the risk of being tedious, state, first of all, my understanding of the passage. The supremacy of the Bishop of Alexandria had been contested by the Meletian bishops. They had, asked him, if not in words at least in facts, upon what warrant he based his claim to rule over and depose his fellow-bishops. If he had a title let him produce it. Now the Alexandrian prelate had no written document of any kind to produce. The Council of Nicaea, therefore, came to his assistance, by decreeing that the Patriarch’s [16] authority must be respected, and that for two reasons: first, because it was (archaia), immemorial, aboriginal; and second, because it was sanctioned by constant recognition on the part of the Roman Pontiff. Two very good reasons.

    The first argument in favor of this interpretation is drawn from the grammatical structure of the text. (a) Take the pronoun (touto) and see what it obviously refers to. Surely to this subject in hand, to wit, the ancient privileges and boundaries of the Alexandrian Patriarchate. It seems impossible, without quibbling, to refer the (touto) to anything else. The only objection which can be urged against this is the (kai), also. What is the use of the (kai) in this interpretation? This objection is readily answered. The (kai) introduces a new and stronger reason why the Patriarch’s authority should be respected. “Let the custom prevail, not only because it is ancient, but especially because it has Roman usage in its favor;” or, “Since even the Roman Bishop constantly recognizes it.” (b) The word (sunethes), customary, is intelligible in our interpretation, but in the alternative it becomes absurd. “It is customary with the Bishop of Rome to recognize the Bishop of Alexandria as Patriarch,” is clear and sensible; but, “It is customary with the Bishop of Rome to be a Patriarch,” is devoid of sense.

    A second argument in support of our interpretation is elicited by considering the logical sequence of the passage. “This is the Roman Bishop’s custom,” is the Council’s reason for supporting the Alexandrian claims. If it is a reason, we must reverentially presume that it is a valid one. The ancient fabric of the Patriarchate was tottering; the Nicene Fathers prop it up with this clause, which, therefore, contains a reason strong enough to sustain a Patriarchate. Now imagine Meletius demanding wherefore Lycopolis should be subject to Alexandria? If the Council be made to answer: “Because Tusculum is subject to Rome,” would it not appear a “lame and impotent conclusion?” Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis must obey the Bishop of Alexandria; because this (not Egypt, etc., but Campania and the islands) is the Roman Pontiff’s custom! [17] Besides, granting that Rome’s possessing a Patriarchate were a valid reason why Alexandria also should have one, would it be a sufficient reason why the Alexandrian Patriarchate should extend just so far and no further? If so, then the following ratiocination must be considered sound: ” Let the Alexandrian Bishop have jurisdiction over three provinces, because the Bishop of Rome is also a patriarch.” Should any one rejoin that the reason why Alexandria happened to rule three provinces instead of two or four, was that this was the ancient custom, I answer that his reason is different from that of the Council, which tells us that “Alexandria shall rule these three because this is the Roman Bishop’s custom.”

    Now take Bellarmine’s view of the canon. “Why shall Meletitis and all the other bishops of Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis acknowledge the supremacy of the Patriarch?” Because the Bishop of Rome has time and again recognized the authority of the Alexandrian Bishop over these provinces. “Where are the documents to prove this?” asks Meletius. “Documents are not necessary,” says the canon, “custom has force of law. Has not the Bishop of Rome, ever since he sent Mark to found churches in Egypt, held the Bishop of Alexandria responsible for purity of faith and strict observance of discipline in that part of the world?” [18]

    What could Meletius reply to this? If he and the Council admitted the Catholic doctrine of Papal supremacy his mouth was closed. Here was a reason strong enough to sustain not Alexandria merely but, “in like manner, Antioch and the other great eparchies;” their authority was sanctioned by the Vicar of Christ. But if we assume that the Bishop of Rome was, in the opinion of the ancients, a simple bishop, like any other, what weight would his recognition of Alexandrian claims then carry with it? None at all. The Meletian would answer, “What care I for the favor or displeasure of a bishop a thousand miles away? What right has the Roman to recognize any one’s jurisdiction in Egypt? Antioch is nearer to me than Rome, and so are Carthage and Ephesus but the bishops of Antioch, and of Carthage and of Ephesus know very well they have no right to meddle with things in Egypt After having thrown off the tyrannical yoke of an Egyptian is it probable that I shall be swayed by the opinion of a Latin?

    We are now led to the threshold of a third argument which I shall forthwith proceed to develop. The Council was evidently desirous of establishing the Patriarchates on the firmest possible foundation. Hitherto the Bishop of Alexandria or of Antioch,

    As one secure Sat on his throne, upheld by old repute, Consent, or custom. But “old repute” can uphold a throne so long as things go smoothly; but if there be no “strength concealed” within, the throne will fall to the ground at the first touch of a skeptical hand. Now, knowing as we do, that, so far as divine right was concerned, the Bishop of Lycopolis was the peer of the Bishop of Alexandria, upon what principle of ecclesiastical law could the latter base his claim to judge and depose the former? In other words, what was the original source of that patriarchal authority which the Alexandrian wielded? Every Catholic must answer that, whereas, per se, the bishops are mutually independent within their proper jurisdiction, they, of divine right, have no other superior than the successor of St. Peter, and, in consequence, a bishop who shall claim any legitimate sort of precedence or authority over a fellow-bishop, must of necessity found his pretension upon the expressed or tacit consent of the Roman Pontiff.

    In the Catholic system, then, “Alexandria, Antioch, and the other eparchies,” were exercising prerogatives which belonged, natively, to the chair of Peter, and we are forced to the conclusion that they and the Council were as sensible of this as we are ourselves. Therefore, the clause in question can bear no other interpretation than this: “Alexandria and the other great Sees must retain their ancient sway because the Roman Pontiff wishes it.” Understood in this sense the (epeide) places the archiepiscopal thrones on the firmest — and indeed the only firm-foundation. Why should we deem the Fathers of Nicaea either less “Roman” than ourselves, or less capable of comprehending their strongest argument in favor of Alexandria? Suppose a parallel case to happen in our own day and country. Suppose that, ages ago, the Roman Pontiff had dispatched to these provinces a missionary with episcopal ordination and unlimited, unwritten jurisdiction. If in course of time the throne on which “as one secure lie sat upheld by old repute” should be shaken by an unruly suffragan, what might we suppose would be the ruling of a plenary Council? The Fathers would probably enact: That the authority of the Bishop of Baltimore must be respected; that it was unnecessary to apply to Rome for a formal recognition of his primacy, since the custom of the Roman Pontiff, invariably to address himself to the churches in these provinces through his medium, was an ample justification of his claim.

    It may be objected that this argument would have no weight with Protestants. What of that? Are we to abandon our old standard of interpretation, our “Catholic analogy,” because, for-sooth, we cannot induce “those who are without” to view things from our standpoint? Let our adversaries prove that our interpretation is false; for the burden of proof is upon them.

    But we have a fourth argument, of which every historian must feel the force. I refer to the establishment of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In my last argument, I took for granted that the only foundation upon which a Patriarchate could legitimately rest was the consent of the Roman Pontiff This assertion we are able historically to make good, by observing a Patriarchate in process of crystallization.

    Shortly after the date of the Nicene Council, the little town of Byzantium was by the genius of Constantine metamorphosed into Constantinople, the New Rome and Mistress of the East. With the magnitude of the city grew the importance and pretensions of its bishop, who now became the emperor’s ecclesiastical adviser, the arbiter of bishops, the chief organizer of missionary expeditions, and the president of politico-ecclesiastical assemblies. A dignitary of such importance seemed to the emperor, the senate, the metropolitan clergy, and the Eastern bishops, [19] to be deserving of the highest honor. Hence the second General Council (AD 381), in its third Canon, decreed that “the Bishop of Constantinople should rank in the Church next after tile Bishop of Rome,” giving as its reason that Constantinople was a new Rome. [20]

    But this canon never obtained the (bebeiosis kai sugkathesis) — the confirmation and consent-of the Roman Bishop, without which even the Byzantine was conscious that his authority was founded on the sand. Hence, in the fourth Council, taking advantage, as St. Leo has remarked, of the prostrate position of the churches of Alexandria and Antioch, [21] the Bishop of New Rome, Anatolius, made a desperate attempt to gain a more solid footing for his Patriarchate. Pope Leo, in anticipation of this, had strictly enjoined his legates “not to suffer the Nicene Decree to be violated.” The Fathers of the Council, however, — some no doubt for political motives, others because they were given to understand that Leo was not so much opposed to the innovation as his legates would have them believe, — granted the Byzantine the desire of his heart. But now the more serious task remained of inducing the Pope to ratify the decision of the Council.

    The Council wrote to Leo, so did the Emperor, so did the Patriarch; all begging the same favor, and all acknowledging that the validity of the act depended on his confirmation. “We make known to you furthermore,” wrote the Fathers of Chalcedon to the successor of St. Peter, “that we have made still another enactment which we have deemed necessary for the maintenance of good order and discipline, and we are persuaded that your Holiness will approve and confirm our decree…. We are confident you will shed upon the Church of Constantinople a ray of that Apostolic splendor which you possess, for you have ever cherished this church, and you are not at all niggardly in imparting your riches to your children. . . Vouchsafe then, most Holy and most Blessed Father, to accept what we have done in your name, and in a friendly spirit (hos oikeia te kai phila). For your legates have made a violent stand against it, desiring, no doubt, that this good deed should proceed, in the first instance, from your provident hand. But we, wishing to gratify the pious Christian emperors, and the illustrious Senate, and the capital of the empire, have judged that an Ecumenical Council was the fittest occasion for effecting this measure. Hence we have made bold to confirm the privileges of the afore-mentioned city (tharresantes ekurosamen) as if your holiness had taken the initiative, for we know how tenderly you love your children, and we feel that in honoring the child we have honored its parent….We have informed you of everything with a view of proving our sincerity, and of obtaining for our labors your confirmation and consent.” [22]

    Anatolius writes to the same purpose: “The holy Synod and I have submitted this canon to your Holiness in order to obtain your assent and confirmation, which I beseech your Holiness not to withhold.” [23]

    And in a later epistle he assures the Pope that “the whole efficacy and ratification of the decree had been reserved to the authority of his Holiness.” [24]

    We have also two letters of the Emperor Marcian to Pope Leo, in which he acknowledges that the Pope’s sanction is absolutely necessary to the validity of the canon.

    “Since it has pleased the Synod to grant the Bishop of Constantinople the post of honour next after the Apostolic See, I pray your Holiness to give assent to this arrangement.” [25] And a few months later he writes endeavoring, with evident anxiety, to hurry on the cautious Pontiff

    “I am puzzled beyond measure to know wherefore your Holiness, although fully informed by the bishops assembled at Chalcedon of the proceedings of the Council, has not yet dispatched us that epistle which must be read in every church, so as to reach the notice of all. This delay has afforded an opportunity to the evil-disposed to suggest a doubt whether your Holiness would confirm the acts of the Synod. Deign, therefore, to send a letter which shall certify the churches and the faithful that the decrees of the Council have been confirmed by your Holiness. Very laudably, indeed, and with a constancy worthy of the Bishop of the Apostolic See, your Holiness has resisted the attempt which was made to disturb the ancient order of things as established by the canons. But you have, no doubt, been apprised of the active machinations of the enemies of the faith, against whom I have been unwilling to proceed because the Council’s exposition of orthodox faith has not yet received your confirmation. I pray your Holiness, therefore, to send us a decretal with all possible dispatch, so that it may become manifest to all that you confirm the Synod of Chalcedon.”

    St. Leo readily assented to the emperor’s request and ratified all the dogmatic decrees of the Council. But he and his successors resolutely condemned this surreptitious canon in favor of New Rome. [26] In consequence the political Patriarchate of Constantinople lacked ecclesiastical confirmation; and this 28th canon of Chalcedon was not admitted into the Greek synodical code until the Eastern Church had become thoroughly saturated with Byzantinism. [27]

    Bring this analogy of a Patriarchate in fieri to bear upon the subject under discussion, and my former argument returns in a new shape. The Nicene Council desired to confirm the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Now the only way of accomplishing this was to show that the Bishop of Rome had “shed a ray of apostolic splendor upon his favored child.” Therefore the clause, “Since this is the Roman Bishop’s custom,” must mean, “Since this is the Roman Bishop’s will as expressed by custom.”

    Another powerful argument in support of our interpretation of this sixth Nicene canon, is that the ancients saw in it a plain and formal acknowledgment by the Fathers of Nicaea of the primacy of the Apostolic See. Indeed, Pope St. Gelasius proclaims it an invictum et singulare judicium. “By what process of reasoning can you persuade yourselves,” he writes to the Eastern bishops, “that the rights of the other Sees will be respected, if due reverence be not paid to the supreme See of Blessed Peter,-that See which has ever been the support and bulwark of all sacerdotal dignity, and to which the unique and irrefragable testimony of the three hundred and eighteen Fathers acknowledges immemorial veneration.” [28] Hence, if we believe Gelasius, the Roman Pontiff’s name was made use of by the Nicene Fathers to serve as a support and bulwark for the privileges enjoyed by “Alexandria, Antioch, and the other eparchies.” The Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian also give expression to this widespread sentiment in their celebrated edict on the subject of the primacy of the Apostolic See. The civil power, they argue, must recognize the Bishop of Rome as Head of the Church, first, because he is the successor of St. Peter, the Chief of Bishops; second, because of the dignity of his city; and third, because his supremacy has been confirmed by the sacred council. [29]

    Now the “sacred council,” so far as we know, had no other occasion of introducing the subject of Roman supremacy than this Alexandrian question, and to this sixth canon, therefore, as all admit, the Emperors were alluding. True, it may be objected that the Emperors’ argument is based not upon the original text, but on the old Latin version, which contained the famous additamentum. “Quod Ecclesia Romana semper habuit Primatum.” (The Bishop of Rome has ever been head of the Church.) [30] It seems quite probable that such was the case, for the edict emanated immediately from the Western Emperor, and at the suggestion of St. Leo. But we cannot suppose, for a moment, that it was the Pope, or any of his clergy, who drew up the document, because the Roman Church would have vehemently denied that any synod did or could confirm its primacy. A score of years before, Bonifacius, in the epistle already quoted from, had expressed the views of the Apostolic See upon the attitude of the Nicene Council regarding the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff. “Non aliquid super eum ausa est constituere.” It follows, that the Latin version had passed the critical examination of the imperial lawyers, who would have been quick to detect an interpolation in the document, had there been one. But they took the additamentum for what it really was — a title; and their understanding of the clause, Episcopo Romano hmc est consuetudo, was the same as the original translator’s, the same as Pope Gelasius’s, the same as Bellarmine’s.

    It has, of course, been insinuated by hostile writers, though somewhat timorously, that the Latin variation was a deliberate interpolation by the Romans with a view of extolling their chief; nay, some have even laid the blame of it upon the “ambitious Popes” themselves. I do not propose to enter largely into the uninvestigable question of determining the intentions of people who lived and died ages ago. The Bishops of Rome have ever been distinguished for scrupulous attention to the genuineness of their documents. From the earliest ages, the fact of a text proceeding ex scriniis Ecclesiam Romanum, was the best witness to its accuracy. The version of our canon which was read by Parchasinus at Chalcedon, is a faithful reproduction of the original. The words Quod, Romana, etc., cannot be called an interpolation, because they were not inter; they were ante; which is equivalent to saying, they were the title prefixed to the canon in the Roman Codex. [31]

    Now, therefore, the inference drawn from the text by the Latin translator was, that it acknowledged the primacy of the Apostolic See. This is all that we can expect to find in this title, and it is all that we seek to find in it. I have no doubt but the author of the translation considered himself justified in giving the canons what he judged to be the most appropriate headings, for the original had none. And what more felicitous heading than this could a Latin have selected? It was pithy and contained the very soul of the decree. “Let Alexandria, Antioch, and the other great Sees retain their privileges, because this is the Roman Bishop’s custom.” To a Latin, the particular privileges of the Eastern churches were a matter of slight moment. The only interesting feature of the canon to him was that the Bishop of Rome’s authority had been made the common basis and foundation of the various prerogatives of the individual churches. Is it not a strong confirmation of our own interpretation to know that it coincides with that of the contemporaries of the Council?

    Dr. Schaff contends that this “interpolation” was rejected by the Greeks at Chalcedon. The only foundation for this assertion is that in the acts of the IVth Council, it is stated that upon the legate’s reading the Nicene Canon as it stood in his codex, Constantine, the Greek secretary, read the same canon without the interpolation from the codex preserved in Constantinople. This is a feeble basis to build such an argument upon. For, first, Baluzius, Ballerini, and Hefele contend that this repetition is not to be found in the manuscripts prior to Photius. But, secondly, if Constantine had read the canon again, for the grave purpose of denouncing a Roman forgery, or of resisting Roman encroachments, he would not have contented himself with a quiet re-reading of the canon. If, therefore, he read it at all, it must have been for the sake of preserving the verbal accuracy of the decree, which cannot but have suffered by the process of a double translation, from Greek into Latin, and from the Latin again into the Greek. Indeed this incident of the Council of Chalcedon does but strengthen our argument; for we now may add that the Greeks themselves admitted that the canon of Nicaea acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope.

    The question then before the Fathers was whether Constantinople should have a Patriarchate. The Pope’s legate maintained that the Nicene Canon forbade any change to be made in the relative standing of the churches. The clergy of Constantinople adduced the Third Canon of the Second Council, which conceded to their master the post of honor next after the Bishop of Rome. “After the debate,” Dr. Schaff tells us, “the imperial commissioners thus summed up the result. From the whole discussion, and from what has been brought forward on either side, we acknowledge that the primacy over all (pro panton ta proteia), and the most eminent rank (kai ten exaireton timen) are to continue with the Archbishop of old Rome; but that also the Archbishop of New Rome should enjoy the same precedence of honor (ta presbeia tes times).” I should be happy to see Dr. Schaff make good his point against Hefele, as it would add new strength to my statement that the ancients understood this sixth Nicene canon to be a clear acknowledgment of the primacy of the Apostolic See.

    V. These five arguments — drawn respectively from the grammatical structure of the sentence, from the logical sequence of ideas, from Catholic analogy, from comparison with the process of formation of the Byzantine Patriarchate, and from the authority of the ancients — seem to me an overwhelmingly abundant confirmation of our understanding of the canon before us. True, a very formidable array of mighty names can be marshalled against us; but the number of these will be decimated by considering how few of the eminent authors who have interpreted the canon in a different sense from ours had consulted the original text. We are not inquiring in this paper whether our interpretation be the most obvious one on the basis of the Dionysian version.

    We started out with asserting the right of investigating the document for ourselves, which, surely, is the most direct method of ascertaining the truth. With Dionysius we are not concerned. His version may have represented to himself the idea which we have extracted from the Greek; in fact, Bellarmine and Baronius have interpreted his translation as we have interpreted the original. But at the outset, not every translator who has seized the true sense of his text embodies that sense clearly in the words he selects. This has probably been the misfortune of Dionysius in the present instance.

    As an appendix to our discussion, I beg leave to suggest to those who still cling to the idea that in the clause, “Since this is also the Roman Bishop’s custom,” the Council meant, “Since it is also the Roman Bishop’s custom to be a Patriarch,” that there is a grave difficulty inherent in this interpretation. To be frank, I do not believe that, in the age of the Nicene Council, the Pope was a Patriarch. When was his patriarchate founded? What were its boundaries? What special prerogatives did the Pope claim or exercise in virtue of this adventitious dignity? The chief office of the ancient patriarchs was to ordain, judge, and depose bishops and metropolitans, and to convoke and preside over synods.

    The Bishop of Alexandria had been, from time immemorial, every inch a patriarch throughout his vast domain. The Bishop of Antioch enjoyed a similar authority throughout the great diocese of Oriens. Their jurisdiction was immediate and ordinary, and there no difficulty in defining its nature and the limits within which it was exercised. If, therefore, the Council had “illustrated the sort of power,” which it accorded to the Bishop of Alexandria, “by referring to a similar power exercised by the “Bishop of Antioch, then the term of comparison would be clearly intelligible; because both were patriarchs, with pretty much the same sort of power and the same extent of territory. But who has ever defined satisfactorily the limits and nature of Rome’s patriarchal sway?

    Protestant writers have circumscribed this “Roman Patriarchate,” some with the radius of a hundred miles, others within the confines of the urban vicariate. [32] Catholic writers are more generous, and make the “Patriarch of Rome” a donation of the entire Western World. But, on both sides, there is difficulty; for the Protestants have to explain how it is we find the Pope exercising great authority beyond the boundaries in which they have hemmed him; whilst the Catholics have to explain how it is that the Roman Pontiffs are not found to have ordained Bishops in Milan, or presided over synods in Carthage. In both cases the patriarchal roes they have made for the Pope do not fit him; the first is entirely too small, the second too large. And as neither party will abandon its unproved assumption, that the Pope was, in the technical sense of the word, a patriarch, the Protestants have to fall back upon the easy doctrine of Papal aggression, and the Catholic controversialists are obliged to contend that “the Pope had authority over the whole West, but did not exercise it equally in all places.” Surely the Pope had authority over East and West, as Head of the Church; but when we ask what particular part of the Church he exercised that authority, in immediately performing in person the routine work, it will not do to make distinctions between the having, and the exercising, of authority.

    The Egyptian Bishops at Chalcedon protested that “nothing could be done by a Bishop of their country without the consent of the Patriarch of Alexandria.” Can anything similar to this be said of the early Western Church ? Not by any means. The various provinces of Europe and Africa were governed by their bishops and metropolitans, and whenever the Pope stepped in it was as the successor of St. Peter, “to whom the care of the whole vineyard had been intrusted.”

    The notion, then, that the Bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, like Jupiter and his two brothers, had divided the world among them, was not conceived at that early day, but was the offspring of schismatical brains in Constantinople. The Patriarchates did not enter into the original constitution of the Church, which existed before them, and has survived them. That interpretation of our canon, therefore, which is adopted generally by Protestants and admitted by several Catholic writers, is founded in error. The Council cannot have illustrated the powers confirmed to the Patriarch of Alexandria by referring to a similar exercise of power by the “Roman Patriarch,” because this latter personage had no existence. Whatever powers the Bishop of Rome exercised beyond the narrow boundaries of his little province — which certainly did not constitute a patriarchate — he exercised in virtue of his “primacy over all.” It ought not to be overlooked, moreover, that the Popes intervened more frequently in the East than they did in the West, because in that turbulent quarter of the globe it more frequently happened that knots were to be cut worthy of the Vicar of Christ. But whenever the emergency called for Papal intervention, the Roman Pontiffs did not pause to consider in what patriarchate their authority was needed. A fuller elucidation of this point is foreign to our present purpose.

    I hope that my readers will not consider that my investigation of this subject has been excessively minute. Should they be inclined to think so, let them take up any of the heterodox historians who have treated of Papal supremacy, and see how prominently this Nicene Canon figures in their pet theory of the gradual aggrandizement of the Bishop of Rome. To that theory it is essential to assume that at the epoch of the Council of Nicaea the authority of the Roman Pontiff was circumscribed by very narrow limits. Unless Protestants make good this assertion, no force of rhetoric can avail to establish their system.

    Never mind, then, their voluminous rhetoric; shake this one column and their oratorical edifice will tumble upon their heads. When the Bishop of Rome first met the assembled Universal Church, was he considered a “Bishop like any other?” Was he a metropolitan “enjoined to take care of suburban churches?” or a patriarch with “proper limits assigned” him by an unsuspecting council? If I have been even moderately successful in my efforts I have demonstrated that the Vicar of Christ at his first emerging from the gloomy atmosphere of the Catacombs into the free open sunlight, had already attained the full measure of his greatness.

    NOTES

    [1] Translation from NewAdvent.org — the rest of the canon deals with matters which do not here concern us. [2] Ep. 106, ad Anatolium. [3] Lib. i., c. 6.

    [4] Nec prmter illam petram quam Dominus in fundamento posuit, stabilis erit ulla constructio. Ep. 104.

    [5] What a world of wisdom is condensed into that little phrase of St. Jerome’s, Hebraica Veritas (the Hebrew Text). And if it be permitted to look at the phrase from a different point of view, how much better it would be if we, spiritual children of Abraham, were as tenacious of the original Veritas as were the carnal seed of the Patriarch.

    [6] Institutes, b. iv., c. 7, Edinburgh version. Dr Alzog (vol. i., p. 664, Cincinnati edition) must have been temporarily laboring under Calvinistic influence, when he informed his astonished readers that this “precedence of rank and authority possessed by Rome was CONFIRMED by the Council of Nicaea (Canon VI.). Not only is this assertion historically false, but it was resented centuries ago by the Roman Pontiffs. The Nicene Synod,” said Bonifacius I., ” did not DARE make any enactment regarding the Bishop of Rome; well aware that no act of man could add glory to him who had received the fuiness of power from the mouth of the Lord.” “Adeo ut non aliquid super eum AUSA sit constituere, cum videret nihil supra meritum suum posse conferri; omnia denique huic noverat Domini sermone concessa.” Ep. ad Episcopos Thessaliae. Compare Nicolaus I. ad Michaelem. ” Si instituta Nicmnm Synodi diligenter inspiciantur, invenietur profecto quia Romanm Ecclesim nullum eadem Synodus contulit incrementum: sed potius ex ejus forma quod Alexandrim Ecclesim tribueret particulariter, sumpsit exemplum.”

    [7] Darras, vol. i., p.387. Compare Rohrbacher (livre xxxi.).

    [8] History of the Church of Rome, p. 63. It is about the only grain of truth I have discovered in his violent diatribe.

    [9] Church History, vol. ii., p. 162. [10] History of the Christian Church, vol. ii., p.275.

    [11] There is an untranslatable grace and force in the article prefixed to [Rome]. It breathes the deepest reverence. Observe that the article is not placed before Alexandria or Antioch, nor, as may be seen in the III. Canon of the Second Council, before Constantinople, whilst it invariably occurs before Rome. “Trifles light as air” often times carry with them a great weight. Compare the little shibboleths Our Saviour, the Blessed Virgin, etc., which in the dialect of the modern Ephraimites the Saviour, the Virgin Mary, etc.

    [12] Hist. Eccl., lib. i., c. 6. For the benefit of those readers who may find it an arduous task to follow our sublime author through the upper air, I shall attempt a translation, though in the process much of the Rufinian froth must go to waste. The Synod decrees also (the rhetorician expects his readers to supply this) “that as well at Alexandria as in the city of Rome the ancient custom be preserved, that either the former (probably he means the Bishop of Alexandria) shall bear the solicitude of Egypt, or the latter (most likely the Pope) of the suburban churches.”

    [13] The saint has exhausted his copious vocabulary of vituperation upon his unfortunate adversary. He compliments his style as slovenly, barbarous, unintelligible, solecistic. “Such is thy skill in the Greek and the Latin, that when thou speakest in Greek the Greeks take thee for a Latin, and when thou speakest Latin, the Latins take thee for a Greek.” Apologia adv. Rufinum.

    [14] Vera expositio est, Alexandrinum debere gubernare illas provincias, quia Romanus Episcopus ita consuevit; idest, quia Romanus Episcopus ante omnem Conciliorum definitionem consuevit permittere Episcopo Alexandrino regimen Egypti, Libym et Pentapolis; sive consuevit per Alexandrinum Episcopum illas provincias gubernare. Bellarmine De Rom. Pont., lib. ii., c. xiii. He says there is no other plausible interpretation.

    [15] Sheppherd ubi supra. ” Since this also is customary with the Bishop of Rome (that is, not in Egypt, but with reference to his own diocese).” This is Schaff’s clumsy paraphrase of the clause. Many Catholic writers of eminence have interpreted the canon in this sense, but for the most part, they were interpreting, not the text, but the Dionysian version; and Dionysius was, no doubt, biased by the Prisca, which had adopted the gloss of Rufinus. The Prisca may be found in the Ballerini edition of St. Leo’s works, vol. iii., p. 498.

    [16] The word Patriarch is of late origin, but must serve in default of an equivalent.

    [17] “Since this also is customary with the Bishop of Rome [that is, not in Egypt, but with reference to his own diocese.]” — Schaff, quoted above.

    [18] When Pentapolis was devastated by the Sabellian heresy, Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, exercised his patriarchal authority in extinguishing the evil. He was in consequence accused at Rome by his enemies as having denied the divinity of Christ. He purged himself of the charge, and was commended by the Roman Pontiff for his zeal. This incident, preserved by Athanasius goes to show that there was a constant flow of intercourse between the two Sees and explains the custom alluded to in the canon.

    [19] “As to the new honors conferred upon my see by the late Council, let me assure your Holiness that I am not to blame in this matter. A man am I fond of retirement and quiet; from my earliest days content with a lowly station. But my reverend clergy are very eager for the advancement of their Church, and the prelates of the vicinity encourage and abet them.” Anatolius to Pope Leo. Opp. S. Leonis, Ep. 132.

    [20] [Ton mentoi Konstantinoupoleos episkopon echein ta presbeia tes times meta ton tes Romes episkopon, dia to einai auten nean Romen].

    [21] Dioseorus of Alexandria had been deposed, and Maximus of Antioch was a creature of Anatolius.

    [22] Opp. S. Leonis, Ep. 98. [23] Ep. 101. [24] Ep. 132. [25] Ep. 100. 232

    [26] Cunsensiones episcoporum. . . . in irritum mittimus et per auctoritatum beati Petri apostoli generali prorsus definitione cassamus.-St Leo to Pulcheria, Ep. 105.

    [27] There is grave reason to suspect that the Acts of Chalcedon have been tampered with by the schismatical Greeks. But since this cannot be fully demonstrated there is no use of making the charge. Even as the documents stand they furnish abundant evidence of the unquestioned supremacy of the Bishop of Rome.

    [28] “Qua ratione vel consequentia aliis sedibus deferendum est, si primm Beati Petri sedi antiqua et vetusta reverentia non defertur, per quam omnium sacerdotum dignitus semper est roborata atque firmata, trecentorumque decem et octo Patrum invicto et singulari judicio vetustissimus judicatus est honor.” Apud Natal. Alexand.

    [29] “Cum igitur sedis apostolim primatum sancti Petri meritum, qui princeps est episcopalis coronm, et Romanm dignitas civitatis, sacrm etiam synodi firmarit auctoritas,” etc. Opp. S. Leonis, Ballerini, ep. xi.

    [30] This variation is found in all the ante-Dionysian versions, as may be seen by consulting the Ballerini-Quesnel edition of St. Leo’s works, vol. 3. Were this the proper place, it would be an instructive and amusing occupation to trace the process of corruption which our canon underwent as it passed through the hands of the successive editors. The additamentum was, doubtless, in the first instance, the title selected by the earliest Roman translator. Next, in the Antiquissima, the Quod was dropped. Then the following editors, thinking it necessary that each canon should have an appropriate title, and believing that the sixth had none, added the words “De Primatu Ecclesim Romanm.” The editor of the Prisca, to make confusion worse confused, introduced the Rufinian jargon into the text, making the canon read thus “De Primato Ecclesim Romanm vel aliarum civitatum Episcopis. Antiqui moris est ut urbis Romm episcopus habeat principatum, ut suburbicaria loca, et omnem provinciam suam, sollicitudinem gubernet. Qum vero apud Aegyptum sunt, Alexandrim episcopus omnium habeat sollicitudinem,” etc. It is important to remember that the only version received by, or emanating from, the Roman Church, was that read by the Pope’s legate at Chalcedon. The others were executed without Roman co-operation, by irresponsible parties in various parts of the West. These interpolations, therefore, can with no more semblance of justice be fathered upon the Roman Pontiffs,-as several Protestant writers have done,-than they can be upon the Nicene Council, as some Catholic authors have sought to do. To the Catholic who expresses indignation at Calvin’s attempt to substitute Rufinus for the Council, and to the Protestant who is equally indignant at what I have termed tile Darras- Rohrbacher substitution of a Latin version for the original canon, I can heartily exclaim, Plus ego!

    [31] “Trecentorum decem et octo Patrum Canmi sextus; Quod Ecclesia Romana semper habuit Primatum; Teneat autem et Aegyptus ut Episcopus Alexandrim omnium habeat potestatem, quoniam et Romano Episcopo hmc est consuetudo. Similiter autem,” etc., ap. Nat. Alex., Smc. iv. Prop ii., Disser. xx. The canon proper begins manifestly with Teneat. Aegyptus probably represented to a Latin mind that large extent of territory which the Orientals divided into Egypt proper, Libya and Cyrenaica.

    [32] Southern and Central Italy and the adjacent islands.

  20. I came across a Lutheran article about the ‘visible church’ and the ‘invisible church’. It said that the invisible church consists of all true believers. It’s invisible because nobody can be sure that anybody else is a true believer. Then it said that the visible church ‘subsists’ (deliberately using a term used by the 2nd Vatican Council) in all the Churches: Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox. I got the impression that because of the way they defined the visible church they didn’t see any great need for it to be united. Well, I suppose that if you are a Protestant you haven’t much alternative but to argue that position. I also came across an article written by a Presbyterian minister who claimed that four passages in the Bible justified people leaving one Church and setting up a new one. No wonder Protestantism just keeps on dividing.

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