Define "Supremacy"


#1

Dear all,

What is the non-Catholic definition of papal supremacy? It is not in the language of the Catholic. We admit to papal primacy, but do not see it as supremacy. As far as I can tell, non-Catholics polemicists and apologists give “supremacy” the primary connotation of “dictatorship.” Let me propose my personal understanding of papal primacy, and I hope to get clarifications, additions, contradictions, discussion, etc. on the issue. Understand that this is my personal understanding.

Papal primacy means that the Pope is First Among Equals. He is equal to all other bishops as a bishop; all bishops are equal to him as bishop. He is equal to all other Patriarchs as a Patriarch; all other Patriarchs are equal to him as Patriarch. In these categories, he has primacy of honor only, and his prerogatives are the same as any other bishop or Patriarch in their particular jurisdictions. These common prerogatives are obtained de jure divino and are not from the consent of any other bishop or Patriarch with respect to other bishops or Patriarchs. However, Patriarchs do have a disciplinary prerogative over those bishops under them in order to ensure the unity of faith.

The Pope has another prerogative that no other bishop has. This prerogative is exercised in extenuating circumstances for the good of the Church. And this prerogative, like all other prerogatives of bishops, but in this instance particular to the First Among Equals, is obtained de jure divino, not from the consent of any other bishop or Patriarch. The nature of this prerogative is to ensure the unity of the faith universally, where the Patriarch does so in his jurisdiction, a bishop in his diocesan jurisdiction, and a priest in his parish jurisdiction. In cases of doctrine and morals, for the unity of the faith, the Pope can juridically impose a sentence, and his sentence will be infallible, and this not by consent or approval of the rest of the Church, but by the special provenance of God for the Petrine office. The sentence will be theologically infallible without the consent of the Church, but for the sake of the unity of the Church, the sentence will need the agreement of all the other bishops. No doubt, the Pope exercises this prerogative only as circumstances permit or dictate, and not ordinarily (that is, it is to be exercised extraordinarily). This prerogative is considered “ordinary” not because it can be exercised whenever he chooses (since it should be exercised extraordinarily), but simply because it is directly from God and not from the consent of the Church. The common prerogatives of all other bishops are regarded “ordinary” for the same reason (as well as the fact that they can so choose to exercise it whenever they wish, a factor missing from the definition of the “ordinary and universal papal jurisdiction”). In all circumstances, the Pope is bounded in his decisions by Sacred Tradition.

(continued)


#2

(continued)

I liken the special papal prerogative (which no other bishop) has to the emergency powers that may be given to the President who can declare martial law and suspend the normative exercise of all other powers for the good of the Country. Except the constitution of the Church, being divine, and not human, dictates that such emergency powers are obtained not from a human body (political or ecclesiastical, as Congress grants such emergency powers), but from God Himself. Basically, it is God Himself Who has given the charge – the responsibility and authority – to the Pope, to be the primary confirmer and strengthener of his brethren in such cases when the universal Church needs such solicitude.

Given all the foregoing considerations, I want to ask the following questions: Why can it not be said that the President of the U.S. is a “dictator” since he possesses a prerogative identical to the Pope? When a bishop corrects or deposes a priest in his jurisdiction, why is it not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? When a Patriarch corrects or deposes a bishop in his jurisdiction, why is that not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? When a Council deposes or corrects a Patriarch or bishop, why is that not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? These are the questions I must ask in order to comprehend the apparent inconsistencies in the Orthodox rhetoric. Can anyone answer these latter questions? And if such questions can be answered, can that person show why such rationalizations cannot be applied to the papacy?

Theotokos, pray for our peace.

Greg


#3

[quote=GAssisi]Papal primacy means that the Pope is First Among Equals.
[/quote]

Can you substantiate this?

On another thread a Catholic contributor pointed out that this was rejected by modern Catholic ecclesiology…

See
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?=325027&postcount=10


#4

[quote=GAssisi]When a Patriarch corrects or deposes a bishop in his jurisdiction, why is that not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy
[/quote]

A Patriarch does not have such authority.

Only the collegial authority of the Synod of bishops to which a bishop belongs may depose him. A patriarch may call a Synod to consider the matter of deposition but the decision is not his.

When a bishop corrects or deposes a priest in his jurisdiction, why is it not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy?

Every (Orthodox) priest knows that his priesthood derives from his bishop and that he is functioning as the deputy of his bishop. The priesthood is not his personal possession which he can carry around and exercise as he feels. Nor is the relationship between a bishop and his priest a "jurisdictional " one - it is an organic one created by the bishop choosing to lay his hand on the priest and delegate to him *some * of his episcopal powers.


“Who is this coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with *myrrh * and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?” ~ Song of Solomon 3:6


#5

Dear Father,

Thank you for the response. I can perhaps substantiate it in a negative sense. Namely, I have never read any rejection of the phrase primus inter pares in any official statement by the Catholic Church. I suppose the phrase can be interpreted to mean more than one way. So it is not in regards to the phrase, really, but to the interpretation. I think the only definition that would run counter to Catholic doctrine would be if one uses the phrase in such a way to mean that the Pope does not have immediate and ordinary universal jurisdiction over the entire Church in such extenuating circumstances as I’ve stated.

I hope to get a further discussion regarding the questions I asked.

God bless,

Greg

P.S. Your link was bad.


#6

[quote=GAssisi] I can perhaps substantiate it in a negative sense. Namely, I have never read any rejection of the phrase primus inter pares in any official statement by the Catholic Church.
[/quote]

Well, that won’t wash. There are a million things which anybody could say which have never been officially rejected - “the Popemobile is made of crypton.”

Unless you can provide positive teaching from the Pope or the Magisterium that the Pope is “first among equals” I think we are obliged to reject the notion as accepted Roman Catholic doctrine.

I hope to get a further discussion regarding the questions I asked.

I think that until it is determined whether your belief that the Pope is “first among equals” is Catholic teaching or not, this thread is rather bogged down in uncertainty.

Your link was bad.

Annoying. It is Message #10 in the thread
*Bartholomew is considered “first among equals” among Orthodox *
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=23921


#7

Dear Father,

The deposition of bishops by their Metropolitans or Patriarchs was a common practice in the Patristic Age. The canons were clear on what reasons a bishop may be deposed, and a Metropolitan or Patriarch did not need a Synod to make this determination, though a Synod would normally invariably be included in the process due to the appeal by the deposed bishop. Perhaps it changed later on or was simply a concurrently valid practice in the Church which is no longer practiced by the Orthodox. No big deal. In any case, why cannot the decision of a Synod be regarded as dictatorial? There have certainly been dictatorial oligarchies in history. What makes the prerogative of a Synod NOT dictatorial, while the prerogative of the Pope dictatorial. What is the rationale?

Your explanation of the relationship between bishop and priest is pretty standardly Catholic (or Orthodox, from your perspective). I don’t see any disagreement. Still, the basis of your charge that the papal prerogative is dictatorial is (I assume, and here you must give further explanation of your position or correction of my assumption) that the latter presumes that the other bishops gain their prerogatives from the Pope, as a priest does from his bishop. In this case, I must ask again, why is not the correction or deposition of a priest by his bishop not regarded as dictatorial when by the same standard, it is regarded as dictatorial for the Pope?

In any case, your assumption that the papal prerogative means that the other bishops gain their prerogatives from the Pope is not contained in the canons or decrees of Vatican I or Vatican II, so I must wonder where you have obtained this fantastic myth (once again, I require clarification of your position on this point if this is not in fact your position).

God bless,

Greg


#8

Dear Father,

Thank you for the link, once again. It helps clarify matters — a bit. First, let me reiterate (or clarify) my position. I said that “First Among Equals” is valid only up to the level of bishop or Patriarch. On these levels, he is indeed equal to all other bishops and Patriarchs, and they to him. But on the level of the peculiarly Petrine prerogatives that are exercised extraordinarily, the Pope, as I admitted, has no equal. Given my clarification, I would not have any disagreement with Hesychios.

Still, I wonder how these special prerogatives can be regarded as “dictatorial” if the President of the United States is not regarded “dictatorial” despite the emergency powers that may be given to him. Father, does the United Kingdom have anything akin to the powers granted to the President of the U.S. in cases of emergency?

Further, I do not see any justification for you to ask me to provide proof positive for valid use of the title “First Among Equals” in Catholicism. We moreso than Orthodox (only insofar as we tend to define things more than the Orthodox) abide by the dogmas of our Church. So unless YOU can provide any anathema or restriction to the use of that phrase by Catholics — Please do not be put off by your refusal to admit that the title “First Among Equals” can be used validly be Catholics. Let us continue this conversation which I pray will be enlightening for me, as well as any who wish to join in the discussion.

God bless,

Greg

P.S. Just to assuage your questioning heart, check out CCC:1555 thru 1560, containing pertinent excerpts from Lumen Gentium and Fidei Donum (Pius XII), where it states that all bishops are vicars of Christ, that the office of bishop is the highest order in the Church, that all bishops are entrusted with solicitude for the entire Church, and that their prerogatives are by divine institution as successors of the Apostles.


#9

Originally Posted by GAssisi
"Papal primacy means that the Pope is First Among Equals. He is equal to all other bishops as a bishop; all bishops are equal to him as bishop. He is equal to all other Patriarchs as a Patriarch; all other Patriarchs are equal to him as Patriarch. In these categories, he has primacy of honor only, and his prerogatives are the same as any other bishop or Patriarch in their particular jurisdictions. These common prerogatives are obtained de jure divino and are not from the consent of any other bishop or Patriarch with respect to other bishops or Patriarchs. However, Patriarchs do have a disciplinary prerogative over those bishops under them in order to ensure the unity of faith.

[quote=Fr Ambrose]Can you substantiate this?

On another thread a Catholic contributor pointed out that this was rejected by modern Catholic ecclesiology…

See
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?=325027&postcount=10
[/quote]

Dear Greg,

Do we understand that you cannot substantiate your assertion, that *the Pope is First among Equals? *

It seems very weird. I’d love to know where you learned that. You says it’s just your own opinion, but it must have come from somewhere - is it something you’ve been ‘taught’ from your Church sources?

If it’s only your opinion then your antagonism against us is inexcusable.


“Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.” ~Genesis 37:25


#10

[quote=GAssisi]Given all the foregoing considerations, I want to ask the following questions: Why can it not be said that the President of the U.S. is a “dictator” since he possesses a prerogative identical to the Pope? When a bishop corrects or deposes a priest in his jurisdiction, why is it not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? When a Patriarch corrects or deposes a bishop in his jurisdiction, why is that not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? When a Council deposes or corrects a Patriarch or bishop, why is that not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? These are the questions I must ask in order to comprehend the apparent inconsistencies in the Orthodox rhetoric. Can anyone answer these latter questions? And if such questions can be answered, can that person show why such rationalizations cannot be applied to the papac
[/quote]

It is very easy to answer the question of why the papacy is a “dictatorship” and how it differs from the American presidency, the patriarchal office and the episcopal office.

The papacy’s self-definition is one which satifies the criteria of “dictatorship.”

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful."402 "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."403

Dictatorship!


#11

Father: Based on his epistles, I could define Paul’s authority the same way. He exercised full and complete authority over his particular churches, and was not to be hindered by any local elders or parishoners.

If by it you mean that the laity must obey the Pope, then you are correct. It is a dictatorship. The Church never has been a democracy and never shall be. (As Christ gave Peter the keys, and the bishops the power to bind and to loose. Also recall that the Apostle commands us to obey and submit to the presbyters of the Church).


#12

Fr: What is a priestmonk?

and you are an orthodox what?


#13

[quote=MrS]Fr: What is a priestmonk?
[/quote]

A priestmonk is a monk who has been ordained to the priesthood. Also called a hieromonk.

Generally speaking, the bulk of monks are not ordained priests. A monastery will have enough monks ordained as are needed to keep the quite demanding cycle of daily Services going.

and you are an orthodox what?

Well, I am an Orthodox Christian, first and foremost.

I am also an Orthodox Irishman but I live in New Zealand. An Orthodox monk in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, a parish priest in the city (I don’t in fact live in a monastery, haven’t done for about 18 years.)


#14

[quote=twf]Father: Based on his epistles, I could define Paul’s authority the same way. He exercised full and complete authority over his particular churches
[/quote]

Glory be! You are saying that Paul exercised an authority identical to that of Peter! Of course the Orthodox would broaden that out a bit and say that it was not only Paul who had the same authority as Peter, but all the Apostles and all their successors.


“I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.” ~Proverbs 7:17


#15

Father: Not quite. Don’t get me wrong, Peter was the chief, as the Fathers and Scripture attest, but Paul certainly did exercise extraordinary authority as an apostle. My point was that the authority given to the Pope is really nothing that foreign if one considers the Apostles. Paul and the 12 had authority superior to that of an ordinary bishop. So many characteristics distinct to the papacy today may also have been possessed by the Twelve and St. Paul. This can be seen in the apparent universal jurisidiction (more or less) of the Twelve, their special commission by Christ Himself, and the fact that Paul seems to exercise authority over other bishops (men who in fact are also referred to as apostles, but apparently of a lesser fashion) such as St. Titus and St. Timothy. You may be interested in newadvent.org/cathen/01626c.htm, the article on the office of apostle.

In fact, even the charisma of infallibility is given to the Twelve and St. Paul by the Encyclopedia, it seems.

(The Catholic position is that the bishops as a whole are successors of the Apostles, and thus individually do not possess the full authority of an apostle, with the exception of the Bishop of Rome who does in most regards; however, even the Pope lacks certain apostolic powers, such as inspiration).

In Christ,
Tyler


#16

Father Ambrose, just in case you miss my post in the other thread, Chronia polla! (many years) and may you have a blessed feast day today :slight_smile:

Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, pray for us and save us.


#17

Greg,

Can you give me a historical background on how this “First among Equals” came about since from the Bible it was clear Peter was the leader?


#18

[quote=GAssisi]Given all the foregoing considerations, I want to ask the following questions: Why can it not be said that the President of the U.S. is a “dictator” since he possesses a prerogative identical to the Pope? When a bishop corrects or deposes a priest in his jurisdiction, why is it not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? When a Patriarch corrects or deposes a bishop in his jurisdiction, why is that not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? When a Council deposes or corrects a Patriarch or bishop, why is that not called “dictatorship,” as some would style the papacy? These are the questions I must ask in order to comprehend the apparent inconsistencies in the Orthodox rhetoric. Can anyone answer these latter questions? And if such questions can be answered, can that person show why such rationalizations cannot be applied to the papacy
[/quote]

The supremacy/dictatorship of the Pope of Rome is enshrined in contemporary Canon Law. There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff - this is one more characteristic of a dictator and one which distinguishes the Pope from the American President.

Canon 331 states: “The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome. He is the head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the universal Church here on earth. Consequently, by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power.”

Canon 332-1 answers: “The Roman Pontiff acquires full and supreme power in the Church when, together with episcopal consecration, he has been lawfully elected and has accepted the election.”

Who is the authentic interpreter of Canon law?
Canon 16-1 says, “Laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator and by the one to whom the legislator has granted the power to interpret them authentically.” Pope John Paul II was the legislator at the time of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, meaning he and his successors are the ones qualified to interpret it. Restricting interpretation of laws to one man is a very typical feature of dictatorships.

Canon 333- 3 says, “There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff.”
This is a very notable feature of all dictatorial systems, including those within living memory.

Canon 338-1 states: “It is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff alone to summon an Ecumenical Council, to preside over it personally or through others, to transfer, suspend or dissolve the Council, and to approve its decrees.”
One man *alone * has power to convene, dissolve, approve or not approve any and all Council decrees! In what Eastern European countries have we found this thinking implemented in our life time?


#19

Dear Aris and Father,

I gave my reasons for believing the title primus inter pares is applicable to the Pope in a P.S. in post #8. As also noted, this designation only goes as far as the Patriarchal level. Beyond that, the Pope, by divine appointment, has no equal.

Father, thank you for your concise presentation of the reasons you feel the papacy is dictatorial. Here are my own grounds for believing the papacy is not dictatorial despite your reasons:

  1. The example of Scripture: religious monarchies were evident in OT times, and it was the standard set up by God. God used such monarchical forms as a sort of divine rule for the sake of the theological (and at that time, political) unity of Israel. Especially poignant is the episode between Korah and Moses, of which I think about every time I hear non-Catholics (Orthodox and Protestants) complain about the prerogatives of the Pope.

  2. The Pope is always bound by Sacred Tradition. So it cannot be said that the Pope ever acts alone even in theory. He has the voices of the Church of the ages behind him.

  3. No example can be found of a Pope making an ex cathedra statement about doctrine/morals without the conference or confluence of his fellow bishops.

  4. Not all monarchies are dictatorships – history attests to that fact - so it is incumbent upon naysayers of the papacy to prove that simply because the Pope obtains certain prerogatives by divine appointment which is shared by monarchy, then the papacy is a dictatorship.

  5. All powers are suspended in a time of grave national crises and given to the President alone. Why should a democracy subject itself to such a system, why should it be enshrined in its constitution? If such a thing can be acceptable for secular affairs, how much more acceptable and even necessary is it for spiritual affairs which is more important? How could non-Catholic priests and ministers living in democratic states be willing to make such a mental adjustment for secular affairs, yet refuse it in matters more important? I would like an answer to this question, Father, or Prodomos, or any other non-Catholic.(continued)


#20

(continued)

But in response to the canons you quoted:

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful."402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”

This is not the same as saying the Pope can exercise his power on a whim. And you have yet to show me an instance where the Pope has done such a thing in the history of the Church.

Canon 332-1 answers: “The Roman Pontiff acquires full and supreme power in the Church when, together with episcopal consecration, he has been lawfully elected and has accepted the election.”

This canon demonstrates that the Pope is bounded by the canons of the Church. It is far from proving dictatorship.
Who is the authentic interpreter of Canon law?
Canon 16-1 says, “Laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator and by the one to whom the legislator has granted the power to interpret them authentically.” Pope John Paul II was the legislator at the time of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, meaning he and his successors are the ones qualified to interpret it. Restricting interpretation of laws to one man is a very typical feature of dictatorships.
This canon specifically states that the Pope can grant this power to someone else, and implies that he will. Far cry from saying that the Pope restricts this power to himself or that only he alone has such an interpretive authority.

(continued)


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.