Defending the Papacy with evidence from Church History

Awhile ago I had conversations with an Eastern Orthodox person, who told me that there is no significant historical evidence for the Papacy as the Catholic Church understands it and that the position is completely untenable.

He also stated that unless the Church has universally held a belief, then it cannot be seen as part of the deposit of faith, since divine revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle. (No one can preach a new gospel or something other than what was once delivered to the saints by Jesus Christ).

I believe the evidence for the Papacy from scripture is very clear. It’s also very clear from various miracles that are present in the Catholic Church but not in the Orthodox Church (or at least I haven’t heard of them.) For example, with Our Lady of Guadalupe, why would the Mother of God send someone to a Catholic bishop if he was a heretic and schismatic and not a true representative of the True Church of Jesus Christ?

The only problem is I don’t know how to defend it from the teachings of the Church Fathers and the first seven councils.

After reading on Wikipedia that Saint Peter is actually labeled as the first Patriarch of Antioch, I was reminded of the past conversations with the Eastern Orthodox person. Here are a few questions so I can better defend the Catholic faith.

  1. Can someone please give me quick and strong examples for how the early church viewed the see of Rome that supports the Catholic view? Also if you have the name of a book that does a good job defending the Papacy, I’d appreciate it.

  2. What do you believe the fathers of the First Council of Nicaea believed about the Papacy? I’ve read the document and see no evidence for it within the actual text of the Council. Pope Saint Sylvester was not at the Council. His legates signed it.

  3. What would the implications be if you went back in time to Nicaea and asked each of the bishops at the Council if they believed Peter and his successors had universal jurisdiction over the church (or pick any other papal dogma) and they say that they do not agree, or worse that it is heresy to assert such. Could this be reconcilable with Catholic teaching or is this impossible?

  4. In my conversations with the Eastern Orthodox person, he said that because Saint Peter was also the Patriarch of Antioch that if we accept Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16, a case could be made to give Antioch the primacy. How does a Catholic respond to this assertion?

  5. How does a Catholic respond to this quote by Pope Gregory I which on the surface seems to reject the Primacy of the Pope?

“Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others.”

  1. How do you respond to someone who says that people who rejected Papal infallibility before its definition could have been “good Catholics” but a few centuries later they would be labeled as heretics, if they remained obstinate in their belief, knowing it is the teaching of the church?

  2. Also on an unrelated note, what is the earliest clear evidence for the “filioque” clause being part of the apostolic tradition? Keep in mind that the Second Council of Lyons states that the Filioque is the “unchangeable and true belief of the orthodox fathers and doctors, Latin and Greek alike.”

  3. How do you respond when an Orthodox person says “the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to all the apostles and not just Saint Peter.”?

  4. Did any of the first seven Ecumenical Councils appeal to Papal authority? If not how is this possible?

  5. How does one respond to the objection that Saint Peter was not the bishop of Rome (because allegedly there is no historical evidence for it)?


Keep in mind this quote from vatican I

For the holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter
not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine,
but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.
Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren

The important thing here is that it says that the Catholic teaching of the Popes was “embraced by **all **the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for **they knew very well **that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error.”

daves-ahumbleservant.blogspot.com/2013/08/early-church-fathers-not-so-short.html
[You can find more example here on CA (click “Library” and type in Papacy or Pope, etc.) ]

Jimmy Akin’s “Fathers Know Best” and William Jurgens’ “Faith of the Early Fathers” series give abundant evidence listed by topic.

  1. What do you believe the fathers of the First Council of Nicaea believed about the Papacy? I’ve read the document and see no evidence for it within the actual text of the Council. Pope Saint Sylvester was not at the Council. His legates signed it.

What would my opinion matter, and why would it matter that a Pope, by His authority, delegated legates to sign for him?

  1. What would the implications be if you went back in time to Nicaea and asked each of the bishops at the Council if they believed Peter and his successors had universal jurisdiction over the church (or pick any other papal dogma) and they say that they do not agree, or worse that it is heresy to assert such. Could this be reconcilable with Catholic teaching or is this impossible?

What if you went back and they unanimously said “Rome has spoken, the matter is settled”? We don’t need to play pretend. We have early historical writings of what they really said. It serves no purpose to pretend they might have believed something they never said, or that they disagreed with something this important yet never felt the urge to argue against it.

  1. In my conversations with the Eastern Orthodox person, he said that because Saint Peter was also the Patriarch of Antioch that if we accept Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16, a case could be made to give Antioch the primacy. How does a Catholic respond to this assertion?

Did Peter divide himself into two people? When Peter went to Rome and died there, did he leave his Office behind?

  1. How does a Catholic respond to this quote by Pope Gregory I which on the surface seems to reject the Primacy of the Pope?

He wasn’t talking about the Primacy of the Pope. (Context is important.)

  1. How do you respond to someone who says that people who rejected Papal infallibility before its definition could have been “good Catholics” but a few centuries later they would be labeled as heretics, if they remained obstinate in their belief, knowing it is the teaching of the church?

Can someone act against God’s Will before he knows what God’s Will is? Can a truth be denied before someone knows it to be true?

  1. Also on an unrelated note, what is the earliest clear evidence for the “filioque” clause being part of the apostolic tradition? Keep in mind that the Second Council of Lyons states that the Filioque is the “unchangeable and true belief of the orthodox fathers and doctors, Latin and Greek alike.”

First clear written evidence from an extra-Biblical source? I don’t know. Does it have to say “filioque”, or is evidence acceptable that talks of the Trinity without using the clarifying terms?

  1. How do you respond when an Orthodox person says “the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to all the apostles and not just Saint Peter.”?

That’s not what Scripture says. Jesus gave the keys to Peter, and Peter alone. The other Apostles were given authority to bind and loose “whatever”, but nowhere does Scripture say that this meant the keys also were handed to them, and no where does Scripture (or any other historical evidence) show anyone other than Peter alone receiving the Keys.

  1. Did any of the first seven Ecumenical Councils appeal to Papal authority? If not how is this possible?

Why must Papal authority be appealed to? Was there some controversy in those Councils where the Pope disagreed with the college of Bishops and he had to correct them? (I’m not being rhetorical here…I know very little of the early councils.)

  1. How does one respond to the objection that Saint Peter was not the bishop of Rome (because allegedly there is no historical evidence for it)?

You give the abundant historical evidence from the ECF’s which show Peter was the Bishop of Rome. (You can find it here on CAF as I mentioned above, or in either of those books I suggested.)

Here are a few of those evidences I mentioned which are here on Catholic Answers:

catholic.com/tracts/peters-primacy
catholic.com/tracts/peters-roman-residency
catholic.com/tracts/the-authority-of-the-pope-part-i
catholic.com/tracts/the-authority-of-the-pope-part-ii
catholic.com/tracts/was-peter-in-rome

Quick Answer: Peter was in Antioch, but when he left for Rome, he took the keys with him.

This argument has been made in this forum recently, and I believe that of ALL the many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many objections that EO raise concerning Catholicism, this is the weakest of them all. Actually, I’m kinda surprised that anyone ever seriously attempts to make the argument.

Jesus gave Peter alone the keys. Orthodox believe that ALL the Apostles got copies somehow, but there is no verse that specifically says that and they know it. Still, they cling to this misunderstanding.

So, here is the argument that Catholics make, and to date, it has not been refuted or disproved by Orthodox or Protestant in these forums (note: there are three questions, the last is specifically for Orthodox who claim authority for their own Patriarchs):

Peter – The Royal Steward

  1. Is Jesus a king?
  2. Did He re-establish the office of the Royal Steward?

In ancient times, a king might choose a second in command (known as the royal steward or prime minister) who literally wore a large key as a symbol of his office and who spoke with the authority of the king. The prophet Isaiah confirms this:

Isaiah 22:20-22
"In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”

In the passage above, God is speaking to Shebnah, an unfaithful steward serving King Hezekiah. God is telling Shebnah that he is about to be replaced by Eliakim, and this confirms the existence of the office, the key worn as a symbol of the office, and the continuation of the office in perpetuity – despite the change of office holder. In other words, the office of the royal steward continued even when the man who held the office died or was replaced by someone else. God Himself passes the key from one steward to the next.

In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus inherits the throne of his father, David.

Luke 1:31–33
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

We also read the following:

Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The passage quoted above from Matthew tells us that Jesus named Peter as His royal steward and gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven" as the symbol of his authority to speak in His name. Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end. Peter died as a martyr as Jesus foretold, but the successors of Peter have taken his place in the perpetual office that Jesus established in His royal court.

In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

Jesus specifically referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter, and Peter received authority from Jesus to speak universally in His name. To do so faithfully, Peter must not teach error; therefore, Peter (and his successors who hold the office of the Royal Steward - also known as the Bishop of Rome) are protected by God through the charism of infallibility.

  1. Therefore, if Jesus, our eternal king, established Peter as His first Royal Steward in a perpetual office, then despite the existence of other, lesser stewards (patriarchs who have their own legitimate areas of authority) don’t Peter’s successors, the Bishops of Rome, continue to serve in that office today?

You could say, “True. So what?”

  1. Also on an unrelated note, what is the earliest clear evidence for the “filioque” clause being part of the apostolic tradition? Keep in mind that the Second Council of Lyons states that the Filioque is the “unchangeable and true belief of the orthodox fathers and doctors, Latin and Greek alike.”

Both the East and West have modified or clarified the Creed. Here’s the scoop:

Filioque – Why it’s Okay to Add it to the Creed

AD 325 – Nicaea
AD 381 – Constantinople I
AD 431 – Ephesus
AD 451 – Chalcedon
AD 1438 – Florence

The Council of Ephesus (431) prohibited the making of new creeds. It stated:

It is not permitted to produce or write or compose any other creed except the one which was defined by the holy Fathers who were gathered together in the Holy Spirit at Nicaea. Any who dare to compose or bring forth or produce another creed for the benefit of those who wish to turn from Hellenism or Judaism or some other heresy to the knowledge of the truth, if they are bishops or clerics they should be deprived of their respective charges, and if they are laymen they are to be anathematized. (Definition of the Faith at Nicaea)

Note that Ephesus referred to the creed as composed by the Fathers at Nicaea (325), not as modified at Constantinople in 381. This is significant because the final portion of the Nicene Creed, which deals with the Holy Spirit and contains the filioque clause, was not composed until the First Council of Constantinople (381). If the prohibition of Ephesus undermined the modern Catholic creed, it undermines the Eastern Orthodox creed no less, since the Eastern Orthodox version includes the material on the Holy Spirit as written at Constantinople I. It is inconsistent for the Eastern Orthodox to cite Ephesus about the filioque clause when all of the material on the Holy Spirit was added to the creed that was formulated at Nicaea.

Ephesus’s prohibition of making a new creed in addition to the Nicene prompted questions about the status of the material added by Constantinople I. How this material was to be regarded was settled at the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451), which stated,

Therefore this sacred and great and universal synod . . . decrees that the creed of the 318 fathers is, above all else, to remain inviolate. And because of those who oppose the Holy Spirit, it ratifies the teaching about the being of the Holy Spirit handed down by the 150 saintly fathers who met some time later in the imperial city–the teaching they made known to all, not introducing anything left out by their predecessors, but clarifying their ideas about the Holy Spirit. (Definition of the Faith).

Edicts of an ecumenical council are binding on Christians, but they are not binding on another ecumenical council unless they are pronouncing a matter of faith or morals. Later ecumenical councils can revise or modify disciplinary policies of their predecessors. Since the prohibition on making a new creed was a disciplinary matter, it could be changed by later ecumenical councils.

According to Chalcedon, it was permissible for the Fathers of Constantinople I to include the material on the Holy Spirit in the Creed of Nicaea; they were not adding substance but clarifying what was already there. Yet if this option of making clarifying notations to the creed was permissible for them, it would be permissible for others also.

Thus, the Ecumenical Council of Florence (1438-45) had the authority to add “filioque” legitimately as a clarification of the manner of the Spirit’s procession; therefore, the Creed was changed, and the council ruled that the addition of the words “and the Son” was valid.

I would say, “Prove it.” The EO would quote a Father or two who made statements to that effect to which I would counter with other Fathers who supported Peter alone. But remember, the Fathers are fallible and there is no verse of scripture to support the Orthodox opinion. They hold this view because they must; otherwise, their own Patriarchs have no authority because they are no longer in communion with the See of Rome which was the head of the Pentarchy prior to the Byzantine Schism.

  1. How does one respond to the objection that Saint Peter was not the bishop of Rome (because allegedly there is no historical evidence for it)?

Is the objection that Peter was never in Rome? Both scripture and lots of Fathers say he was. Is it that Peter was not a Bishop? Well, true…he was an Apostle, the predecessor of the Bishop of Rome.

The following is the answer to this common (and reckless) charge. These posts originally appeared in the FidoNet OpenBible conference in the Summer of 1995.

Radio Replies by Fathers Rumble and Carty

1-349. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, refused the title of universal Bishop himself, and blamed John the Faster of Constantinople of this presumption in claiming such a title!

REPLY: Gregory was Pope, and knew that he was Pope. Far from refusing the title, he showed that he was universal Bishop by excommunicating John the Faster, over whom he could not have had such jurisdiction had he not the privilege of being universal Bishop. In his 21st Epistle Gregory writes, “As to what they say of the Church of Christ, who doubts that it is subject to the Apostolic See * ?”

3-364. Was Pope Gregory I in error when he protested against the title of “Universal Bishop,” saying that it was sacrilegious for any man to so call himself?

REPLY: In so protesting Gregory exercised his universal jurisdiction as Bishop of Bishops, not hesitating to condemn John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople.

3-365. Was he unaware of his own universal jurisdiction?

REPLY: He could not have been, since he exercised it. In many of his letters, also, he insists that the bishop of Rome holds the place of Peter, that he is the head of the “Faith,” and “of all the Churches.” And he declares that all the bishops are subject to the Apostolic See.

To understand the sense in which Pope Gregory condemned the expression “universal Bishop,” you must understand the sense in which John the Faster intended it. It has always been Catholic teaching that the bishops are not mere agents of the Pope, but true successors of the Apostles. The supreme authority of Peter is perpetuated in the Popes; but the power and authority of the other Apostles is perpetuated in the other bishops in the true sense of the word.

The Pope is not the “only” Bishop; and, although his power is supreme, his is not the “only” power. But John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople, wanted to be bishop even of the dioceses of subordinate bishops, reducing them to mere agents, and making himself the universal or only real bishop. Pope Gregory condemned this intention, and wrote to John the Faster telling him that he had no right to claim to be universal bishop or “sole” bishop in his Patriarchate.*

From THIS ROCK (December 1992) – the magazine of Catholic apologetics

CATHOLIC ANSWERS, P.O. Box 17490, San Diego, CA 92177

QUESTION: Is it true that Pope Gregory I denied that the pope is the “universal bishop” and taught that the Bishop of Rome has no authority over any other bishop?

ANSWER: No. Gregory the Great (540 - 604), saint, pope, and doctor of the Church, never taught any such thing. He would have denied that the title “universal bishop” could be applied to anyone, himself included, if by that term one meant there was only one bishop for the whole world and that all other “bishops” were bishops in name only, with no real authority of their own. Such a distorted version of the biblical model of bishops is incompatible with Catholic teaching.

But that isn’t to say that the title didn’t – and doesn’t – have a proper sense of which Gregory approved. If meant in the sense that the Bishop of Rome is the leader of all the bishops, the title is correct. If it means he is the only bishop and all the other “bishops” are not really successors to the apostles, it’s false.

What Gregory condemned was the expropriation of the title Universal Bishop by Bishop John the Faster, the patriarch of Constantinople, who proclaimed himself Universal Bishop at the Synod of Constantinople in 588. Gregory condemned the patriarch’s act because universal jurisdiction applies solely to the pope.

Some anti-Catholics cite the following quotations to give the false impression that Gregory was rejecting his own universal authority:

"I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of the Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others" (Epistles 7:33).

"If then he shunned the subjecting of the members of Christ partially to certain heads, as if besides Christ, though this were to the apostles themselves, what wilt thou say to Christ, who is the head of the universal Church, in the scrutiny of the last judgment, having attempted to put all his members under thyself by the appellation of universal? Who, I ask, is proposed for imitation in this wrongful title but he who, despising the legions of angels constituted socially with himself, attempted to start up to an eminence of singularity, that he might seem to be under none and to be alone above all?" (Epistles 5:18)

Predictably, anti-Catholics neglect to inform their audiences that the context of these statements makes it clear that Gregory was not making these statements in regard to himself or to any other pope. He believed the bishop of Rome has primacy of jurisdiction over all other bishops.

Like his predecessors and successors, Gregory promulgated numerous laws, binding on all other bishops, on issues such as clerical celibacy (1:42,50; 4:5,26,34; 7:1; 9:110,218; 10:19; 11:56), the deprivation of priests and bishops guilty of criminal offenses (1:18,32; 3:49; 4:26; 5:5,17,18), and the proper disposition of church revenues (1:10,64; 2:20-22; 3:22; 4:11)

Gregory’s writings show that he regarded and conducted himself as the universal bishop of the Church. He calls the diocese of Rome “the Apostolic See, which is the head of all other churches” (13:1).

He said, “I, albeit unworthy, have been set up in command of the Church” (5:44). He taught that the pope, as successor to Peter, was granted by God a primacy over all other bishops (2:44; 3:30; 5:37; 7:37).

He claimed that it was necessary for councils and synods to have the pope’s approval to be binding and that only the pope had the authority to annul their decrees (9:56; 5:39,41,44).

He enforced his authority to settle disputes between bishops, even between patriarchs, and rebuked lax and erring bishops (2:50; 3:52,63; 9:26,27).

When Gregory denounced John the Faster’s attempt to lay claim to the title Universal Bishop, his words were in accord with his actions and with his teachings. He was unequivocal in his teaching that all other bishops are subject to the pope:

"As regards the Church of Constantinople, who can doubt that it is subject to the Apostolic See? Why, both our most religious Lord the Emperor and our brother the Bishop of Constantinople continually acknowledge it" (Epistles 9:26).

Great thread, can’t wait ti read all of it, don’t have time right now!! God Bless, Memaw

It doesn’t have to say “and from the son” necessarily, it just has to support the concept. I’d prefer extra-Biblical sources, although I am not familiar with any Biblical evidence for it, so provide either biblical or non-biblical evidence if you want. Keep in mind there’s a difference between Jesus sending the Holy Spirit in space and time, from the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son, within the actual Godhead.

I think there is lots of historical evidence for the papacy, and I hope this post and my next ones give you some helpful examples of that.

He also stated that unless the Church has universally held a belief, then it cannot be seen as part of the deposit of faith, since divine revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle. (No one can preach a new gospel or something other than what was once delivered to the saints by Jesus Christ).

That is basically the same as my understanding.

I believe the evidence for the Papacy from scripture is very clear. It’s also very clear from various miracles that are present in the Catholic Church but not in the Orthodox Church (or at least I haven’t heard of them.) For example, with Our Lady of Guadalupe, why would the Mother of God send someone to a Catholic bishop if he was a heretic and schismatic and not a true representative of the True Church of Jesus Christ?

I’ve never thought of that before, that’s very interesting.

The only problem is I don’t know how to defend it from the teachings of the Church Fathers and the first seven councils.

Hopefully I’ll help.

After reading on Wikipedia that Saint Peter is actually labeled as the first Patriarch of Antioch, I was reminded of the past conversations with the Eastern Orthodox person.

Peter was the first bishop of Antioch, and remained as bishop there from ~34 A.D. until he left for Rome. It is my understanding the early Church had 3 patriarchates, Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, and the Sees of Jerusalem and Constantinople were added later as honorary. The reason why Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria were considered the primatial sees of the Church, if my understanding is correct, is because Peter died as bishop of Rome, had been bishop of Antioch and left Evodius to rule it as his legate, and had sent a legate to be bishop of Alexandria – i.e. the Apostle Mark, who was Peter’s disciple.

Here are a few questions so I can better defend the Catholic faith.

  1. Can someone please give me quick and strong examples for how the early church viewed the see of Rome that supports the Catholic view? Also if you have the name of a book that does a good job defending the Papacy, I’d appreciate it.

This post referred you to several Catholic Answers articles where the early Church supports the papacy. If you search through those articles, you’ll find several early supports, among which my favorite are:

Infallibility
[LIST]
*]180 A.D. - St. Irenaeus says that every Church must agree with the Roman See “on account of its preeminent authority” source
*]256 A.D. - St. Cyprian says that “faithlessness could have no access” to the Roman See because it is “the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source.” source
*]367 A.D. - St. Optatus of Mileve says that “anyone who would set up another chair in opposition to [Rome] would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner.” source
[/LIST]
Universal Jurisdiction
[LIST]
*]254 A.D. - St. Cyprian writes to Pope Stephanus, urging him to depose Marcian, bishop of Arles, and appoint a new bishop for France. source
*]342 A.D. - The Council of Sardica rules that no deposition is valid upon appeal unless it has been accepted by the Pope. source
*]451 A.D. - The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon refuses to allow Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria to have a seat at the Council because Pope St. Leo the Great forbade it, who also deposed him through his legates at the Council. The Council of Chalcedon - “We received directions at the hands of the most blessed and apostolic bishop of the Roman city, which is the head of all the churches…that Dioscorus is not to be allowed a seat in this assembly, but that if he should attempt to take his seat he is to be cast out. … Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome…has stripped him of the episcopate, and has alienated from him all hieratic worthiness. Therefore let this most holy and great synod sentence the before mentioned Dioscorus to the canonical penalties.” (Session 1, Session 3)
[/LIST]

I think there are several things that indicate the papal headship at this council. For one, it is my understanding that Pope St. Sylvester specially appointed Hosius of Cordoba (Spain) to lead the council on behalf of Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia says: “The Council of Nicaea lasted two months and twelve days. Three hundred and eighteen bishops were present. Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, assisted as legate of Pope Sylvester.” source In another article, it says, “The actual president seems to have been Hosius of Cordova, assisted by the pope’s legates, Victor and Vincentius.” source

In addition, this article cites evidence that First Ecumenical Council explicitly based its decree about the jurisdiction of various churches on a decision of the Roman Church.

  1. What would the implications be if you went back in time to Nicaea and asked each of the bishops at the Council if they believed Peter and his successors had universal jurisdiction over the church (or pick any other papal dogma) and they say that they do not agree, or worse that it is heresy to assert such. Could this be reconcilable with Catholic teaching or is this impossible?

I want to say that it impossible, because it is my understanding that, according to the classic understanding of doctrinal development as explained by St. Vincent of Lerins, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and Blessed Cardinal Newman, an authentic doctrinal development cannot contradict the previous understanding of any doctrine.

However, even though that’s what I want to say, perhaps I am misunderstanding something. Perhaps a majority of early Christians could be wrong about a position, provided they never asserted it dogmatically, and provided that a significant minority defended the true position. But something about that seems wrong to me.

Since I am unsure myself, I recommend you read St. Vincent of Lerins’ Commonitory, especially Chapter 23 “On Development in Religious Knowledge,” which explains doctrinal development as the Church has classically understood it.

In addition, due to the information I provided in answer to your question #2, I think we have enough data about the papal views of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council that this question is a moot point: they seem to have supported the authority of the pope to decide jurisdictional matters, and to lead a Council through his legates, therefore I think they can be cited on the Catholic side here, and not the Orthodox side.

  1. In my conversations with the Eastern Orthodox person, he said that because Saint Peter was also the Patriarch of Antioch that if we accept Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16, a case could be made to give Antioch the primacy. How does a Catholic respond to this assertion?

I think a Catholic would explain it by saying that St. Peter left a legate in Antioch while he himself ruled the Church from Rome. Therefore, Antioch was under Rome’s jurisdiction by institution of Peter himself. Does that make sense?

  1. How does a Catholic respond to this quote by Pope Gregory I which on the surface seems to reject the Primacy of the Pope?

It is my understanding that Pope Gregory explained that the title “universal priest” can mean that all other bishops are merely agents of the pope, and it was this that he rejected: “For if one, as he supposes, is universal bishop, it remains that you are not bishops.” source But I think St. Gregory did believe that the pope had supreme authority, and he made that clear in this quote: “To all who know the Gospel it is clear that by the words of our Lord the care of the whole Church was committed to Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles.” source In other passages he calls the Roman See “head of all other churches” and “in command of the Church,” and writes that the See of Constantinople “is subject to the Apostolic See.” source

  1. How do you respond to someone who says that people who rejected Papal infallibility before its definition could have been “good Catholics” but a few centuries later they would be labeled as heretics, if they remained obstinate in their belief, knowing it is the teaching of the church?

I would respond by saying that I think that parallels the practice of the early Church. It is my understanding that, in early Christianity, if a person believed in something that was later condemned by the Church, the early Church would not consider them a heretic unless he or she refused to accept the Church’s decision. St. Augustine, for example, defended St. Cyprian and his followers on the matter of baptism by heretics, arguing that he would have accepted the decision of the Church if it had been infallibly set forth: “our opinion about baptism is true, yet all who thought differently in the time of Cyprian were not cut off from the unity of the Church, till God revealed to them the truth of the point on which they were in error.” source

Similarly, in the modern Church, we do not ordinarily regard someone as a heretic just because they erred about something before the Church proclaimed a decision. Does that make sense?

I think there is evidence within the Bible that the filioque is part of the apostolic tradition. Revelation 22:1 and Romans 8:9 are, I think, fine supports of the filioque. I also think that John 16:14 and Galatians 4:6 support the view that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. Among the Church Fathers, this article quotes some Church Fathers who supported the filioque. The earliest quote on that page seems to be from Tertullian in reference to the Spirit proceeding “from the Father through the Son.”

  1. How do you respond when an Orthodox person says “the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to all the apostles and not just Saint Peter.”?

First, I would respond by asking for a clarification of terms. For example, I think the keys are a symbol for authority over the Church. Would the Orthodox person agree? I also think that to give someone authority over something implies monarchical power. I would ask them if they agree with that. The rest of the discussion would depend on their answers. If they disagreed with the second assertion, I would back it up by talking about the wisdom of giving one person the gift of authority over the whole Church versus the idea that many fallible people have that authority, which I think is a recipe for doctrinal disunion.

  1. Did any of the first seven Ecumenical Councils appeal to Papal authority? If not how is this possible?

Earlier I cited an article that uses many statements and stories from the first four ecumenical councils to support papal authority. Among the examples that I think are strongest, one is a quotation from a letter of St. Cyril of Alexandria to the heresiarch Nestorius, a letter which was approved by the Third Ecumenical Council and included in its minutes. It says, “if your holiness have not a mind to this according to the limits defined in the writings of our brother of blessed memory and most reverend fellow-minister Celestine, Bishop of the Church of Rome, be well assured then that you have no lot with us, nor place or standing among the priests and bishops of God.” source

I would call that an appeal to the pope’s authority. Also, it appears that this letter from St. Cyril to Nestorius was a result of an earlier letter from Pope Celestine to St. Cyril. In that letter, the pope instructs St. Cyril to depose the heresiarch Nestorius from the see of Antioch in the name of the pope. In that light, I think St. Cyril’s letter doing so is a slam-dunk in favor of the pope’s authority over the other sees of Christendom, and the fact that this deposition was approved by the Council of Ephesus makes it that much more significant.

The Council of Chalcedon is also significant here because its minutes repeatedly refer to the pope as the head of the Church, and because of the quotes I provided earlier where this ecumenical council followed the pope’s instructions to forbid Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria from having a seat at the Council and accepting the pope’s right to depose him.

  1. How does one respond to the objection that Saint Peter was not the bishop of Rome (because allegedly there is no historical evidence for it)?

I think these articles by Catholic Answers give very good historical evidence that St. Peter was the bishop of Rome.

Keep in mind this quote from vatican I

The important thing here is that it says that the Catholic teaching of the Popes was “embraced by **all **the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for **they knew very well **that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error.”

I don’t think I’ve written anything that contradicts it. I hope that helps. God bless!

Just want to say that this thread has a great many good answers to the question asked! Thanks for all the info.

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