Bishop of Rome before "Pope"?


#1

I’ve been hearing a lot lately on this subject and am afraid I’m rather uncomprehending.

Was there really a time when the Bishop of Rome was the “first among equals”? If so, how do we fit in the preeminence of Peter? When was the papacy “official”? Was it a position specifically established by Christ, then, or did the bishops themselves, with their apostolic office, create it?

Can someone please give me a brief historical breakdown on this subject?


#2

The first 30 bishops of Rome were martyred. Admittedly, it’s sort of hard to exert any Papal Authority, when you keep getting your head lopped off. You see this in the letter from St. Clement to the Corinthians, where he apologizes for taking so long to respond due to local problems in Rome.

But, as expressed by St. Clement in the 80’s or 90’s, and Pope Victor in the 2nd Century (who ex-communicated the Eastern Church for not following the Western Churches celebration of Easter), you do see the signs of real authority coming from the Roman See. But, as the threat of execution faded away, you see the rise of the True Pope’s position.


#3

I guess the title should be “Pope” before Bishop of Rome.
Peter was already a Pope (although that time there wasn’t the term yet), the head of the apostles, of the Church, before he was a Bishop of Rome. The Roman see became not only “the first among equals” but the head of the whole Church, because Peter became a bishop of Rome and was martyred there as well. The papacy is already official since the Pentecost, the birth of the Church.


#4

What does first among equals mean anyway?

The Pope is a bishop just like all the rest–in that sense he is equal. On the other hand, he is the chief bishop, in that sense he is first.

Think of something like a basketball team. All five players on the court are equal (none are the coach, the trainer, or the ball-boy). But usually one is the captain–he calls the plays and everyone has to follow his lead. If they don’t, they won’t function as a cohesive unit.


#5

18] IX. Jerome says: *If the question is concerning authority, the world is greater than the city. Wherever there has been a bishop, whether at Rome, or Eugubium, or Constantinople, or Rhegium, or Alexandria, he is of the same dignity and priesthood.

  • 19] X. Gregory, writing to the patriarch at Alexandria, forbids that he be called universal bishop. And in the Records he says that in the Council of Chalcedon the primacy was offered to the bishop of Rome, but was not accepted.

21] Also, when for a long time there had been contests concerning the primacy between the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, the Emperor Phocas finally determined that the primacy should be assigned to the bishop of Rome. But if the ancient Church had acknowledged the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, this contention could not have occurred, neither would there have been need of the decree of the emperor.
Read more here.


#6

Concerning the dispute you mention, there was also a large dispute over the Divintiy of Christ and various other issues. That doesn’t mean the Divinity of Christ was not acknowledged or that it was made up.

Concerning these two above, both are wrenched out of context.

Concerning St. Gregory, he was using the phrase “universal Bishop” to mean something other than Pope–that the authority of other bishops is not real or ordinary, but just a delegation from the Pope. In other words, the Pope would be taking the place of Christ–this is why it is called anti-Christ. In so doing, the real Christ-instituted authority of bishops would be denied. We can see this distinction here when he writes concerning the same subject:

"For to all who know the Gospel it is apparent that by the Lord’s voice the care of the whole Church was committed to the holy Apostle and Prince of all the Apostles, Peter. For to him it is said, Peter, do you love Me? Feed My sheep . To him it is said, Behold Satan has desired to sift you as wheat; and I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith fail not. And thou, when you are converted, strengthen your brethren . To him it is said, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever you shall bind an earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven .

Lo, he received the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and power to bind and loose is given him, the care and principality of the whole Church is committed to him, and yet he is not called the universal apostle; while the most holy man, my fellow-priest John, attempts to be called universal bishop. I am compelled to cry out and say, O tempora, O mores!"

newadvent.org/fathers/360205020.htm

Concering St. Jerome, in that letter he is not talking about what you are making him out to say. Here is the whole letter:

newadvent.org/fathers/3001146.htm

He’s simply talking about bishops in various locations, not the successor of St. Peter specifically. Notice, his main distinction is between deacons and priests/bishops. All priests, as members of the same Church, have the same dignity, that is higher than deacons, even if in Rome and other places deacons have certain perogatives. His main point is to say all priests/bishops everywhere have a higher order than all deacons everywhere.

On the other hand, St. Jerome clearly exalts the successor of St. Peter in these letters:
newadvent.org/fathers/3001015.htm
newadvent.org/fathers/3001016.htm


#7

The bishop of Rome is now, and has been since St. Peter, the first among equals. This does not, however, take away from the charism of infallibility. The papacy was instituted by Christ when He gave St. Peter the keys.


#8

I would like to know what Gregory meant by “universal bishop”. In English today “universal” means:

  1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of all or the whole.
  2. applicable everywhere or in all cases; general.
  3. affecting, concerning, or involving all.
  4. used or understood by all.
  5. present everywhere.
    I would rather agree that the Bishop at Rome’s bishopness is and was not applicable everywhere or in all cases or not affecting, concerning, or involving all.

Lo, he received the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and power to bind and loose is given him, the care and principality of the whole Church is committed to him, and yet he is not called the universal apostle; while the most holy man, my fellow-priest John, attempts to be called universal bishop. I am compelled to cry out and say, O tempora, O mores!"

Serious question. Who is John here?

What Gregory is basically saying is that Peter is not the universal apostle, even considering keys, binding, and loosing. I agree.

He’s simply talking about bishops in various locations, not the successor of St. Peter specifically.

He is talking about the Bishop at Rome. “Wherever there is a bishop, whether it be at Rome or at…he is of the same dignity and priesthood”

On the other hand, St. Jerome clearly exalts the successor of St. Peter in these letters:
newadvent.org/fathers/3001015.htm
newadvent.org/fathers/3001016.htm

He does indeed have kind words for the chair of Peter, but nothing specifically that would contradict his having the same dignity and priesthood as other bishops.


#9

It seems to me that it would be hard (but as noted above impossible) to show the preeminence of the Chair of St. Peter during times when there was few if any who contested the position.

With the rise of more assertive and prevalent dissent, the need for the central authority become more acute and historical documentation to support it becomes easier to find.


#10

I would like to know what Gregory meant by “universal bishop”. In English today “universal” means:

  1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of all or the whole.
  2. applicable everywhere or in all cases; general.
  3. affecting, concerning, or involving all.
  4. used or understood by all.
  5. present everywhere.
    I would rather agree that the Bishop at Rome’s bishopness is and was not applicable everywhere or in all cases or not affecting, concerning, or involving all.

It’s THE PRIDE of being called “universal priest” that St. Gregory condemned.

See the full context of his epistle, do not summarize a passage out of nothing. You don’t interpret afterwards, but you see the context of the time of why he condemned it.

You clearly haven’t read St. Gregory’s epistles, and why he condemned it…

Here’s a letter from Pope Gregory to John, bishop of Constantinople at that time.

*Epistle XVIII.
To John, Bishop.

Gregory to John, Bishop of Constantinople1586.
At the time when your Fraternity was advanced to Sacerdotal dignity, you remember what peace and concord of the churches you found. But, with what daring or with what swelling of pride I
know not, you have attempted to seize upon a new name, whereby the hearts of all your brethren might have come to take offence
*. I wonder exceedingly at this, since I remember how thou wouldest fain have fled from the episcopal office rather than attain it. And yet, now that thou hast got it, thou desirest so to exercise it as if thou hadst run to it with ambitious intent. For, having confessed thyself unworthy to be called a bishop, thou hast at length been brought to such a pass as, despising
thy brethren, to covet to be named the only bishop. And indeed with regard to this matter, weighty letters were addressed to your Holiness by my predecessor Pelagius of holy memory; in which he annulled the acts of the synod, which had been assembled among you in the case of our once brother and fellow-bishop Gregory, because of that execrable title of pride, and forbade the archdeacon whom he had sent according to custom to the threshold of our lord, to celebrate the solemnities of mass with you. But after his death, when I, unworthy, succeeded to the government of the Church, both through my other representatives and also through our common son the deacon Sabinianus, I have taken care to address your Fraternity, not indeed in writing, but by word of mouth, desiring you to restrain yourself from such presumption. And, in case of your refusing to amend, I forbade his celebrating the solemnities of mass with you; that so I might first appeal to your Holiness through a certain sense of shame, to the end that, if the execrable and profane assumption could not be corrected through shame, strict canonical measures might be then resorted to. And, since sores that are to be cut away should first be stroked with a gentle hand, I beg you, I beseech you, and with all the sweetness in my power demand of you, that your Fraternity gainsay all who flatter you and offer you this name of error, nor foolishly consent to be called by the proud title. For truly I say it weeping, and out of inmost sorrow of heart attribute it to my sins, that this my brother, who has been constituted in the grade of episcopacy for the very end of bringing back the souls of others to humility, has up to the present time been incapable of being brought back to humility; that he who teaches truth to others has not consented to teach himself, even when I implore him.

That is why he condemns it, because Bishop of Constantinople clearly has abused the title, to make as if other Bishops are merely delegations, and not real Bishops, as Genesis315 has stated. Read the letter thoroughly, Pope Gregory infact, is actually also exercising his authority as a universal bishop, by setting up an example in humility, instead in pride, the way that John abused it. John had no authority the way Gregory had, that’s why he condemn the title being used by other apostolic see other than Rome. Pope Gregory even quoted Pelagius, his PREDECESSOR, of how Pope Pelagius had annuled the acts of the synod. This is even further prove of the authority of the Pope.

You must understand that Pope Gregory I was well known for his humility. He was the first Pope to ever used the title “Servus Servorum Dei”, Servant of servants of God, but this doesn’t mean he denies his authority as a pope, contrary to that, he honors it,** through humbleness**.

continued below…


#11

This is further prove of Pope Gregory’s writting of his authority as Pope,

EPISTLE LXXVII.
TO ALL THE BISHOPS OF NUMIDIA.
Now you requested through Hilarus our chartulary, from our predecessor of blessed memory, that you might retain
* all the customs of past time, which, from the beginnings of the ordinances of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles**, long antiquity has so far retained. And we, indeed, according to the tenour of your representation, allow your custom (so long as it clearly makes no claim to the prejudice of the catholic faith) to remain undisturbed, whether as to constituting primates or as to other points; save that with respect to those who attain to the episcopate from among the Donatists, we by all means forbid them to be advanced to the dignity of primacy, even though their standing should denote them for that position.*

EPISTLE XLI.
TO CASTORIUS,
BISHOP.
Gregory to Castorius, Bishop of Ariminum (Rimini).
We therefore interdict in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and forbid by the authority of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, in whose stead we preside over this Roman Church, that any bishop or secular person hereafter presume in any way to devise occasions of interfering with regard to the revenues, property, or writings of monasteries, or of the cells or vills thereto appertaining, or have recourse to any tricks or exactions: but, if any case should by chance arise as to land disputed between their churches and any monasteries, and it cannot be arranged amicably, let it be terminated without intentional delay before selected abbots and other fathers who fear God, sworn upon the most holy Gospels.

EPISTLE XII.
TO JOHN,
BISHOP OF SYRACUSE.
Further, as to my having caused the sub-deacons to proceed disrobed, this was the ancient usage of the Church. But it pleased one of our pontiffs, I know not which, to order them to proceed in linen tunics. For have your Churches [written to the bishop of Syracuse in Sicily] in any respect received their tradition from the Greeks? Whence, then, have they at the present day the custom of the subdeacons proceeding in linen tunics, except that they have received it from their mother, the Roman Church?


#12

Serious question. Who is John here?

It is clear that you seriously lack knowledge of history. But you should now know who Mr. John is after reading my posts above.

What Gregory is basically saying is that Peter is not the universal apostle, even considering keys, binding, and loosing. I agree.

Refuted above. Read his letters. I doubt he had ever mentioned Paul as the prince of apostles.

He is talking about the Bishop at Rome. “Wherever there is a bishop, whether it be at Rome or at…he is of the same dignity and priesthood”

Well, you definitely should understand the way St. Jerome understands it,

This is from St. Jerome’s commentatory of the epistle of Titus
A priest is then the same as a bishop, and before party-spirit in religious matters arose by the devil’s suggestion, and it was said among the peoples: ‘I am of Paul, I of Apollos, and I of Cephas,’ the Churches were governed by a common council of presbyters. But after each of them came to think that those whom he had baptized were his own and not Christ’s, it was decreed in the whole world that one of the priests should be elected to be placed above the others, and that to him the whole care of the Church should belong, and thus the seeds of division should be destroyed

Although bishops has a same dignity, it doesn’t mean that neither is needed to be elected to be placed above the other, un order to preserve unity.

He does indeed have kind words for the chair of Peter, but nothing specifically that would contradict his having the same dignity and priesthood as other bishops.

Merely kind words?

Jerome, To Pope Damasus, Epistle 15:1-2 (A.D. 375).
*"…I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul…The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold…My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. 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! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.” *

I don’t think I find any Protestant in part of this chair of Peter, which Jerome called “the ark of Noah”. Too bad, St. Jerome thinks Protestants will perish when the flood prevails. Such a kind word indeed.


#13

Christus_Totus, wonderful posts.

In a nutshell (for those of us with limited attention spans):

The good bishop of Constantinople felt that the authority that came with his bishopric was a result of the Secular Authority of the city in which he served - Constantinople.

The Bishop of Rome’s authority came from;
a) Jesus’ words
b) the Apostle Peter settling in Rome.

One thought his authority sprang form this world, the other felt his authority sprang from the next world.


#14

This is all good, but …

If I understand correctly, the papal chair didn’t excercise the same kind of authority it does today in past times. It wasn’t until the legalization of the Christian Faith that the Roman Pontiff was free to excercise his authority and infallibility in a manner even resembling that which takes place today. The bishops, all beeing successors of the Apostles, shared their office and were co-equal. Because of the preeminence of Peter in the Scriptures, and because of his relationship to Rome, the Roman Bishop was chosen to represent the Prince of the Apostle’s office. This leadership role was adopted in order to further unify the Church and make distinguishable her authority via the image of the new Papacy.

Is that right?

Does this mean historically-deep Catholics do not uphold the papacy was specifically instituted by Christ but rather by the bishops at a later time?

Clarification, please!


#15

No, we believe it was definitely instiuted by Christ. And it was exercised before the legalization of Christianity. St. Clement I and St. Victor I are examples of it. The leadership role wasn’t adopted by bishops, it was always there. The Pope’s office is not a delegation by his fellow bishops, but rather one conferred by Christ. He established the Church’s structure of governance by making St. Peter chief Apostle. That same structure did not end with the Apostles only to be re-institured later by the bishops of the world.


#16

But nevertheless the papal office evolved over time, correct?

Clearly in the first few centuries after Christ there was infinitely less chance of excercising papal authority than in the latter days.


#17

Absolutely. The risk of losing one’s head often prevents one from asserting authority.


#18

But John there are thousands of 1-3rd century writings, yet nothing?


#19

If you want to claim a devoloping scenario you must recognize that it is an oak tree from a water melon seed. Problem is the vat 1 said it was known for all ages…


#20

St. Clement and Pope Victor?


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