1 Clement & Papal Infallibility

A lot of Catholic apologists (I’m Catholic but I don’t consider myself an apologist) use 1 Clement to support the Catholic belief in papal authority and infallibility. I’m not looking to challenge the doctrine; I’m curious about how good a defense it actually provides. I’ve read the letter and I have some concerns that it isn’t a big help in supporting the doctrine.

  1. I understand that Clement is writing to a church other than Rome where he is bishop but Paul felt that he had the authority to correct wayward churches and he was not a bishop of any church. Also, around the same time as Clement, Ignatius of Antioch wrote to a series of churches. His letters seem to be more encouraging than corrective but, if I remember right (it’s been a while since I read his letters), he did bring up some points also. At any rate, he felt that he had the authority to write to these churches.

  2. Even if 1 Clement does support papal authority, does it support papal infallibility? They are not the same. Obama has presidential authority but no one, not even his supporters, believe he is infallible. (He may think he is but that’s another issue.) What I see in 1 Clement is a Bishop of Rome speaking of truths that were already known but being disobeyed. Of course that is what a pope does 99.9% of the time but, unless Clement tells the Corinthians that they must listen to him because he is infallible, I don’t see how it can be used to support that doctrine.

Again, let me emphasize, I am not challenging the doctrine, just how well 1 Clement supports it. Please, no posts that don’t address that issue. I’m not interested in discussing whether or not it’s true or any other evidence pro or con. I’m looking for light, not heat.

Although Clement is in a way corroborative, I would think that the relevant documents from Vatican I would be more useful here. God’s truth is timeless, and it matters not when man discovers it, or more fully understands it. Non-Catholics will scream over this late development, or understanding, but neither can they show the Trinity or the hypostatic union being known, understood or clearly taught in the scriptures.

Since 1870, no one on earth has been able to defeat the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Should be easy, with 266 of them to scrutinize, right? Ah, but so few understand the limitations of the doctrine.

Thank you but this is exactly the discussion I didn’t want to get into. I am only concerned with whether or not 1 Clement provides evidence for the doctrine. I’m not interested in proving it or disproving it, only if this one document helps.

Sorry if I derailed. Why not contact some of those apologists who claim it as evidence?

1 Clement is certainly good for showing that the (very) early Church did believe in authority and that authority came from apostolic succession and the laying on of hands.

Pope Clement’s style was that of an extremely gentle persuasion. It’s hard to see authority because he isn’t much concerned with establishing it *per se *(and unless it was under dispute, why would he?) : he is sincerely trying to focus on the issue and bring about a healing of the schism.

The authority, however -and this is something you might see even to this day practiced - is there, just gently so. Clement sends two representatives (today they would be legates) who were to deliver to the Corinthians his letter. Notice at the end of that letter he basically concludes by saying,

(I paraphrase) ‘And once you have done what I have described should be done in this letter, please kindly return to me my legates so they can tell me the good news that all is again well at the Church in Corinth’.

I am working from memory but it is there in the final paragraphs. Clement’s legates didn’t have armed Imperial guards or some Christian mob backing them up to restore order: Christian communion at this time rested almost entirely on good-will and fidelity, which is no doubt why Pope Clement spends so much time quoting scripture to refresh the mind of the faithful at the Church in Corinth of our transcendent and noble vocation. Clement knows as the Church knows to this day that the word of God has a powerful way of brining Christians back to their Christian faith and, so to speak, senses: this is why scripture quotations are used in the liturgy to prepare us for the sacred mysteries and dispose us for divine worship and gratitude. That is, he used the scripture quotes not merely as an authority to prove his points, but also to get the squabbling Corinthians out of thinking in petty terms and back into thinking like faithful servants of our Lord and Saviour: he has to be gentle because that’s his best route for healing the schism. He has no way of actually forcing them outside, perhaps, of excommunication, which who knows if such a thing would be successful in restoring unity or was, at that point in Pope Clement’s judgement, complete overkill and totally unnecessary.

And as far as we know, it worked; in fact, we are told that the Corinthian Church strongly believed that Clement’s letter(s) should be used in their Church’s readings along with the writings of the Apostles.

1 Clement is good for proving apostolic succession and real authority in the early Church. His letter shows how things were set-up and were properly understood to work by Apostolic ordinance for the Church after them.

It can be used to show that Pope Clement was exercising authority in Corinth: what he asked in his letter isn’t really or ultimately a simple request. He expects them to do it and send back his legates safe and sound telling him they did restore order as he outlined was proper for the Church; that, however, takes some thinking and work. It is not so good for proving infallibility unless you connect it to the fact that the Corinthians thought his letter(s) were, in effect, divinely inspired and suitable for use in the liturgy or readings right alongside the Apostles’ own letters; but, of course, it only hints or points to infallibility.

i have never read 1st Clement but the quotes I’ve read that are supposed to support Papal Infalibility haven’t really impressed me.

Ireneaus against heresies book 3 chapter 3 written about 180 ad has always been what I see as really nailing it.

" by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at*** Rome*** by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

  1. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric…etc…" He then names the next 13 or so Popes.

From an article on the subject of papal authority by former Catholic priest and apostate Joseph McCabe.
…] I have examined at length all the evidence for this early period in a recent and larger work, A History of the Popes (1939) and several other volumes and need say here only that the “Letter of the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth,” though not unchallenged, is the decisive document. Catholic writers quite falsely represent it as an assertion of his authority by Pope Clement in the last decade of the first century and make him base his authority on St. Peter. On the contrary, the letter is written in the name of the Roman community, not of its bishop, and is a friendly appeal from one church to another. It states that Paul came to Rome and was martyred there, but it does not even say that Peter ever came to Rome, much less died there. The one or two non-Catholic historians who have admitted the presence of Peter at Rome seem to have overlooked this most important fact. …]

ETA: PM me for a link to the full article.

My responses:

Firstly: our witness (Saint Ignatius of Antioch) says that it is to the Roman Church that all the other churches must be in accord (see above quote by another poster).

Obviously, whomever is in charge of or representing that Church would thus have the authority of that Church. Thus there is nothing strange at all in the letter being written on behalf of (representing) the whole “community” or the Roman Church. Be that as it may, the letter-carriers who were sent to deliver the letter and also report back were reporting back to a single individual; namely, the writer, presumably Pope Clement himself.

Secondly: of course it is a “friendly appeal”. Why on earth should it be hostile? By what reason should it read like a declaration of war? Notice that, though friendly, the letter is quite stern on the seriousness of the issue and especially firm on the maintenance of proper order (succession) in the Church.

Redundant if the fact were already known and famous and probably beside the point because it was not the “pre-eminence” of the Roman Church in question or at issue.

Indeed, the Corinthians themselves already sent their concerns and problems to Rome; now had they failed to do this or bypassed it, then perhaps we might have expected a letter from the Roman Church explaining Rome’s “pre-eminence” or reminding of the importance of Peter or whatever. That, however, is not at all at issue. Naturally, the Roman Pontiff or representative of the Roman Church (who can speak for that Church) is concerning himself only with the delicate and important matter of the schism at hand. No need to raise secondary issues that might only spark more squabbling or controversy.

Or, actually, as regards mentioning specifically Saint Paul, I am wondering whether or not this was done because -unless I am mistaken- was it not Saint Paul who founded the Church in Corinth or organized it? Was he at least not there for a while? I may be mistaken; but if so, then Pope Clement is clearly reminding them of their origins and, moreover, uniting that or connecting it to the Roman Church’s. No doubt the point is to remind the Church at Corinth of the honourable life and heroic death of the Apostle in part to get them to compare themselves and their own recent conduct against that of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The full article details other instances when the authority of the Roman bishop was apparently not recognized by other bishops in the first few centuries of the church’s existence.

Noted but the topic has to do specifically with 1 Clement.

It’s clear that Clement does exercise authority. That’s not my concern. My question, I guess, boils down to how is the authority Clement exercises any different than the authority exercised by Paul or, to a lesser degree, Ignatius of Antioch. Especially Paul. He was correcting everyone and he was not even a bishop much less pope.

Do you see my issue?

There’s a big difference between authority and infallibility. Obama has authority. I don’t think too many people, apart from himself, believe he’s infallible. :slight_smile: All bishops have authority. The Bishop of Rome has authority over all churches. So why did Paul and Ignatius feel they had the authority to correct other churches. (Again, not so much Ignatius but especially Paul.)

Hmmm. McCabe has a point at least in part of the statement you quoted. Here’s the opening of 1 Clement:

The Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

It does indicate that he is writing as a representative of the church at Rome rather than as an authority in his own right.

I do disagree with him about Peter in Rome. Just because 1 Clement doesn’t mention his presence there, other documents provide sufficient proof.

It’s not so much what Ignatius said that I’m interested in here; it’s the fact that he believed he had the authority to say anything.

It seems there was a small church at Corinth when Paul first arrived. In 49 AD Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome and some settled in Corinth. This included some Jewish believers such as Aquila and Priscilla. See Acts 18.

At any rate, who founded the church at the city is irrelevant. Paul wrote to the church at Rome which he did not found and was thriving before he wrote.

That brings up another point. Paul wrote to Rome. That would seem to require a lot of audacity to write a letter to the church where the pope was bishop.

Well, Paul’s original goal was Westward (to Spain) and when he did finally go it was because of his appeal to the Emperor. He also (famously) spoke about taking care personally not to be build on “another man’s” foundation: whatever he was going to do in Rome, it would have been augmented because someone else had already laid the foundation in Rome, presumably Saint Peter. In other words, Saint Paul would not have done in Rome what he might have done in, say, Spain if he had reached there. That difference is important: Saint Paul recognizes that the Church in Rome has already had its foundation laid and this has consequences for Saint Paul’s ministry or activities there.

The Apostles stressed the unity of the Gospel and their mission. Therefore, apparent “overlaps” of authority are not necessarily a sign of a lack of organization but quite probably very much the opposite; that is, a testament to the concord and unity of the Apostles. Thus any attempts to appeal over one Apostle to another would easily be dispensed with by negating the appeal and insisting that the Apostles together are all of them preaching one and the same faith and Gospel.

I am not sure where you want to focus: the Church directly under the supervision of the Apostles or the Church as the Apostles were martyred and how it transitioned?

The Apostles were a unique and permanent class of bishops in the Church: the Church is founded on them forever, as Revelations makes clear. They had and have a unique role and place in the Church. The Bishops, their successors, also have a unique role but they are seen as additions on the foundation of the Apostles: some of them, by their life and work, may either be gold or straw: the Apostles lives and works will not be burned up as they constitute permanently the Church’s foundation. The Apostles laid the foundation; the bishops build-up the edifice; by being united to the bishops, we become part of the Church’s edifice.

1 Clement is good for showing the Church’s insistence on the ordinances of the Apostles and their importance for governing and regulating the life of the Church. It shows a Church that is basically Catholic: we have a structure laid by the Apostles that must be maintained in the life of the Church with certain things or -as we would say today- “Traditions” that cannot be arbitrarily dispensed with.

I think I would point out a few of things:

  1. Ignatious, and Ireneus say that all other churches must agree with Rome. That implies matters of Faith, Morals and doctrine. Now why would all churches be required to agree with Rome on matters of Faith and morals unless That church can not be wrong on such matters? And if that church can not be wrong on these matters then that must mean the head of that church can not be wrong on those matters. Again, it is implicit.

  2. you asked about Paul and Ignatious writting letters to churches not neccesarily under them. First of all my understanding is that the Bishop of Rome has the authority of both Peter and Paul as Irenaeus suggests.second, Lets say that in my parish we are doing some pretty bad things and perhaps my Bishop really isn’t doing anything about it, or we wont listen to him. I would say another bishop could write to us and correct us. A Bishop is a Bishop is a Bishop. Especially Paul was an Apostle which trumps Bishop.

  3. I would say that the full extent of what Jesus meant when he said to Peter what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and what you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven wasn’t realized until vatican 1. And that’s because it wasn’t considered in an eucuminicle council until then

You don’t really think Obamas Infailible do you? :hmmm:

There are a number of factors to consider regarding Clement’s letter to the Corinthians:

  1. Corinth was primarily a Roman colony. The original Greek inhabitants had either been slaughtered or sold into slavery after a failed uprising against the Romans several generations before.

  2. Clement had been a close companion of the Apostle Paul.

  3. There was regular trade between Rome and Corinth, and by extension, regular communication.

Thus, when there was dissention between parties in the church in Corinth, they appealed to a bishop who all parties respected because of his closeness to Paul, who could be readily contacted, and as a fellow Roman could best understand their context. I don’t personally believe that it had anything to do with Clement being a successor to Peter.

Irenaeus uses Rome as the example because that it the Apostolic See that his readers are most familiar with, writing from Lugdunum in Gaul (modern day Lyons in France), but he made it clear from the beginning that his proof could be demonstrated in any of the churchesIt is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about.
Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul
So Irenaeus starts by saying that the heretics can be put to shame by demonstrating the apostolic succession in all the churches, but since that would be tedious, he will demonstrate it with Rome, it being the best known church in the west. Unfortunately the next part has been translated in a manner which does not agree with the sense of his introduction and this has been dealt with extensively by Abbe Guettee in his work on the papacy. Basically the word translated as “agree with” should read “go to”.For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

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