Does Canon 6 of the Council of Nicea disprove Papacy?

Hi everyone,

I was just curious to know if anyone here has every come across this objection. I was reading through a book by John Meyendorff, who is an Eastern Orthodox writer, and he said the following Canon shows that Rome only had a jurisdiction like Alexandria

Canon 6

Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.

Would this not imply that Rome was not understood to have universal jurisdiction by 325 AD?

No, it is just his fallible interpretation of the canon.

For a more historical perspective and backgrougn to help your understanding…here is an article:

catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=1355

This development in the organization of the Church was sanctioned by the First Oecumenical Council of Nicea in 325. Canon Six of the Council also acknowledged the rights of the Roman See over the whole of Italy, and the Fathers suggested that the exercise of these rights by the Bishop of Rome over Italy was a precedent that should serve as a good example to the Bishop of Alexandria and, partially, also to the Bishop of Antioch. Thus even the supra-metropolitan organization found its basic sanction in the Council of Nicaea. Even Rome adapted itself to the principle that the ecclesiastical organization should follow the political division of the Empire. When Italy was divided into two political dioceses with the capitals of Rome and Milan, Milan became automatically a metropolis with jurisdiction over the North of Italy, and the direct jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome was limited to the provinces of central and southern Italy, called suburbicariae.3

No, not at all. This describes the concept of a Metropolitan, which we still have today. It has nothing to do with the Pope and does not “disprove” anything.

Hey thanks guys

I actually have a book by Francis Dvornick on the Roman Primacy, I just didn’t know he addressed the issue of the canon 6.

First off, why does the canon even mention the Bishop of Rome at all? That in itself seems important.

In any event, there appears to be a translation issue. In addition, it appears to be a case of where one can look at a picture and either see two wine glasses, or a couple kissing.

From this link, with a good treatise on Canon 6:

philvaz.com/apologetics/CouncilNicaeaSixthCanon.htm

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

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

In short, looking at the wine glasses/kissing example, “since this is also the custom of the Bishop of Rome” probably means that the Bishop of Rome customarily recognized the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Alexandria; not necessarily that it referred to the Bishop of Rome’s own (local) jurisdiction.*

Really must take a look at the above link.

*As linked articled notes, the supposed Patriarchy of the Bishop of Rome is never defined as to jurisdiction. Reason: because he isn’t really a patriarch; rather, having jurisdiction over the whole Church. A good link on this issue and Papacy in general.

SPH1,

Thanks for the link. However, I did come across that article some time ago, and just didn’t find it very convincing. I think the Canon is saying the just like Rome has jurisdiction over the surrounding regions of Italy, so Alexandria is to have jurisdiction over surrounding regions.

Actually, I just did an edit before seeing your post with an asterisk at the end on this point.

Rome’s supposed patriarchy is never defined.

In any event, why do you suppose that the Bishop of Rome was mentioned at all?

My own personal opinion would only merit that the Bishop of Rome was not understood to have universal jurisdiction, but would only rule over the regions which are dependent upon Rome politically and economically.

I’ve heard of Catholics in good standing being able to say that it took time for the Roman Bishop to be recognized as having universal jurisdiction over the whole Church. Of course, the presents problems to the Papacy’s continuity with the Sacred Tradition, but someone they are able to maintain it.

This canon implies the Papacy is even above the Council

Q. Why?

A. Because firstly it mentions the existence of certain Bishops authority: Alexandria’s and Rome’s and Antioch’s.
Secondly, it decides what is GOING TO HAPPEN to these Bishops authority, EXCEPT for the Bishop of Romes.

For Alexandria it says “LET the customs PREVAIL…that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these”
For Antioch it says “LET the Churches RETAIN their privileges”.

But for Rome it does not say anything about either abolishing or letting retain Rome’s authority, instead it just acknowledges that it exists saying “since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also”.

The only explanation for why the council didn’t comment on what is to happen to Rome authority is the Bishop of Rome is above an ecumenical council, but the other Bishops are under it.

This means that the Bishop of Rome gave this ancient custom to the Bishop of Alexandria which is why it says “SINCE”, Alexandria has this custom SINCE what is customary for Rome.

The Bishop of Rome has always had Supreme Universal Ordinary Authority over the Church. This includes authority like Alexandria’s, but that is the LIKE custom not the same custom.

But if Rome had universal jurisdiction then how could Alexandria be compared off Rome? It would make more sense that because both Rome and Alexandria are political centers that they would enjoy larger jurisdiction than the rest of bishops.

The sentence “since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also” is not comparing Alexandria to Rome but is meaning that “since Rome has gave Alexandria this custom”. If it was comparing them then it would also say after talking of Antioch “since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also” but it didn’t. That’s because Antioch already had authority since Peter and Paul instituted it, but Alexandria did not and was given this custom from Rome

The sentence “since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also” is not comparing Alexandria to Rome but is meaning that “since Rome has gave Alexandria this custom”. If it was comparing them then it would also say after talking of Antioch “since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also” but it didn’t. That’s because Antioch already had authority since Peter and Paul instituted it, but Alexandria did not and was given this custom from Rome

Interesting.

That is a way of looking at it. However, I don’t think that this interpretation is “clear” from the Canon itself. The fact that Antioch was not compared with Rome could be that the Canon already gave the model of Rome for Alexandria, and so it would be assumed for Antioch as well. In fact, it would seem to belabor to point to add again “since such is the custom of Rome also”. It is entirely unnecessary.

There were several instances in the early Church where the Pope was not obeyed on the basis of adhering to the Apostolic Tradition. For instance, Polycarp would not submit to the Bishop of Rome concerning the day of Easter. Polycrates of Ephesus defied the authority of Victor in Rome on the basis of what all the Bishops were saying they received from the apostle John. I believe he was 7th in succession from one of the apostles, and he bears no witness of an early teaching of the Pope’s universal jurisdiction.

From these facts and others, it is undeniable that it took time for the theology for the Papacy to arise as something to claim as " Apostolic".

I believe Jesus started the papacy. True authority will always be challenged. It says “like” not “the same”. It is “like” because the popes authority includes authority over where alexandria has authority over, the greater includes the latter.

I will not accept the view of certain theologians which would makes us nothing more than the Orthodox Church in terms of divinely instituted authority.

Protestants could easily say: we devoped into democacy and independence like your church developed the papacy.

Instead of responding “oh” I would rather respond: Jesus instituted the Papacy with supreme univeral ordinary authority which is what the keys of the kingdom is

I view it like this:

  1. If the papacy is a later development then the Orthodox Church is the true Church and our Holy Father is the AntiChrist for claiming such power.

  2. If Jesus started the papacy then the Catholic Church is the true Church and it is impossible for a Pope to be the AntiChrist.

I take the second option of my view.

And I too must hold to the fact that Jesus begun the Papacy with Simon. However, the historical evidence of this being “known” before the 4th and 5th centuries is a bit difficult to demonstrate. What available documentation we have tells us that there was no one Bishop who had universal jurisdiction. Many Catholic scholars concede this.

And yes authority will always be challenged, but that is not what we are speaking about when it comes to Bishop Polycrates, Bishop in Asia Minor. What we are doing is observing that all bishops in Aisa Minor, who no doubt had succeeded from the Apostle John, were not aware of the universal jurisdiction of Rome. Hence his statement “We must obey God rather than man”.

I think they was aware, as St Iranaeus who written in about 180 A.D. Said: “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 preeminent authority”.

It seems to me like people are disobedient and don’t “not know” that Jesus started the papacy. Using your words, it is true that the truth is sometimes “difficult to demonstrate”

Except for the bishop of Rome, no bishop has authority over any other bishop. For a bishop to have authority over another bishop, it must be delegated from the supreme authority of the Church in some way. Either way you look at it, in this canon, the Council tacitly acknowledges that Rome has by its own right authority over other Sees, and the Council, which was exercising the supreme auithority of the Church, likewise confirms that the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch are authorized to exercise authority over other bishops. Rome is treated as the model and source of superjurisdictional authority to which that of the other patriarchates are derived.

At this time, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch customarily governed the three known parts of the world, Europe, Africa, and Asia, but Rome served as a final court of appeal for anyone in the world. So the custom at the time did not have Rome directly involved with these other regions, but that did not mean it did not have the right to–it just exercised that right when necessary to preserve peace, unity, and orthodoxy leaving the direct governance to the other Patriarchs.

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