Early Church Fathers & Papal Primacy

Hi everyone me and my twin brother–sympathetic and interested by the Catholic claim–have recently been studying the proof of Papal primacy from the early Church Fathers.

We have also recently discovered the Eastern Orthodox claim that it was merely a primacy of honour, not authority. Furthermore we have recently read a website which claims that Catholics fail to quote the whole sentence when they use early Church Father quotes as proof of Papal primacy…it then proceeds to give examples to prove Papal primacy was not universally agreed. My twin found this quite convincing.

If interested, here it is:

Can anyone answer these or simply provide any resources to help us on our way in overcoming this issue?

Thank you for your time.

This article is really quite extensive, and the Protestants have worked overtime to try and diffuse the proper meaning understood by Catholics. :smiley: So, while I have not read the whole article, I do remember some words from St. Cyprian that will point you in a good direction.

Protestant controversialists have attributed to St. Cyprian the absurd argument that Christ said to Peterwhat He really meant for all, in order to give a type or picture of unity. What St. Cyprian really says is simply this, that Christ, using the metaphor of an edifice, founds His Church on a single foundation which shall manifest and ensure its unity. And as Peter is the foundation, binding the whole Church together, so in each diocese is the bishop. With this one argument Cyprian claims to cut at the root of all heresies and schisms. It has been a mistake to find any reference to Rome in this passage ( 4Treatise on Unity).
I am pressed for time at the moment, but will check back later to give more details. Meanwhile, I hope this has been helpful to you.

The Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, 2007 Ravenna, wrote: [LEFT]43. Primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent. That is why primacy at the different levels of the life of the Church, local, regional and universal, must always be considered in the context of conciliarity, and conciliarity likewise in the context of primacy.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]Concerning primacy at the different levels, we wish to affirm the following points:[/LEFT]
[INDENT] [LEFT]1. Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]2. While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations.[/LEFT]
[LEFT]44. In the history of the East and of the West, at least until the ninth century, a series of prerogatives was recognised, always in the context of conciliarity, according to the conditions of the times, for the protos or kephale at each of the established ecclesiastical levels: locally, for the bishop as protos of his diocese with regard to his presbyters and people; regionally, for the protos of each metropolis with regard to the bishops of his province, and for the protos of each of the five patriarchates, with regard to the metropolitans of each circumscription; and universally, for the bishop of Rome as protos among the patriarchs. This distinction of levels does not diminish the sacramental equality of every bishop or the catholicity of each local Church.[/LEFT]

USCCB article on Ravenna from 2009:


SCOBA (Orthodox) reaction:…we think that its two assertions do not adequately represent the ecclesiology of either the Orthodox or the Catholic Church. The Orthodox Church’s self-understanding as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is not understood by all Orthodox in exclusivist terms. Throughout the centuries, significant currents within Orthodox ecclesiology have recognized the presence of the Church’s reality outside the canonical, visible boundaries of the Orthodox Church. Also, to assert that “from the Catholic point of view the same self-awareness applies” misrepresents Catholic ecclesiology at and since the Second Vatican Council, in spite of the Ravenna document’s reference to Lumen Gentium 8. Because of apostolic succession and the Eucharist, Vatican II did not hesitate to recognize that the Orthodox constitute “Churches,” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 14) that they are “sister Churches,” and to assert that in their celebration of the Eucharist, the Church of God is being built up and growing.


List of ITC documents:


I recommend 2lungs.com

God Bless

Hi Mercuriel. With reference to the link that troubled you, right in the beginning, the mention of these two “fathers” is an error in itself.

Tertullian: Unlike many church fathers, he was never canonized as a saint because some of his teachings directly contradicted the teachings attributed to the apostles, notably the Apostles Paul and John.
**Origen: **He wrote his trinitarian formula after becoming a Montanist. (A heretical sect) However, unlike many Church Fathers, he was never recognized as a saint by the Church, as several of his later teachings directly contradicted the teachings of the Church.

**Eusebius: **(From your link) Eusebius unambiguously teaches that the rock is Christ. …] However he interprets this to mean that the Church is to be built upon the words or teachings of the apostles and prophets as opposed to their persons… It is in this sense that it can be said that the Church is built upon Peter and the other apostles.

Do you see the error here? An interpretation that intends to negate Catholic understanding and teaching. Maybe this is a good place to leave off pointing to the discrepancies in the article, and focus on Catholic truth instead.

Many threads and arguments are available all over this forum relating to the true interpretation, but I rather like this one. In the Old Covenant, we know that God Himself instituted the pattern and worship of the Israelite community, and this prefigured what would be the pattern in the New Covenant. Just as the Israelite community was built on the 12 tribes with Aaron as its priest, the new covenant people of God are built on the 12 apostles. However, one of these 12 were appointed to be Pope, i.e., Peter, as was Aaron.

We find solid identification of this primacy in Numbers, Chapters 16 and 17. Aaron was the only lawful authority appointed by God, yet others in the ranks (Korah and his schismatic band) contested this authority publicly, saying, "The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

Numbers 17: "The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”
6 So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. 7 Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant law.
8 The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.10 The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious.

Numbers 18:7: “Only you (Aaron) and your sons (successors) are to have charge of the priestly functions. Anyone else who comes near must die.” (And Korah and his rebellious band were all killed in punishment for their audacity in assuming a call that was never theirs.)

Hebrews 5:4: "And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was.

May the Lord give you much light about this and remove your doubts. :gopray2:

:slight_smile: and what have you found so far?

And of course the ECF’s told you differently…right?

consider the following explanation #30

be sure to open all internal links within that link

This argument over primacy is an old argument. It was hatched by guess who… ole Satan himself, at the Last Supper, AND settled by Jesus at the Last Supper.

I’ve given answers in different ways on this subject, using many different scripture passages but particularly one from Luke.

#[FONT=Arial]616 , [/FONT]#[FONT=Arial]660[/FONT] , #[FONT=Arial]483 , #84[/FONT] , #[FONT=Arial]86 , #385[/FONT]

All internal links within those links are answers as well and are also operational.

Re: the Ravenna Document,

As an aside, the statement at the top of the document is also important to regard.

(all emphasis mine)

“The following is the original English text of the ‘Ravenna Document’ which was discussed and unanimously approved by the members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church during the tenth plenary session of the Commission held in Ravenna from 8-14 October 2007. Thus, the document represents the outcome of the work of a Commission and should not be understood as an official declaration of the Church’s teaching. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has provided translations of the text in Italian, French and German.”

There is so much early documentation of writings about the Pope having first primacy in the church, at least honor, I honestly don’t see how there could be any reasonable objection to it.

I know that some say that the Pope does not have the primacy of authority. But it is all over the place about his primacy of at least honor…he is first. So that being true, at least about primacy of honor, then how can some break their relationship with him? To me it is just inconceivable…except for reasons that do not click.

The opponents argue and argue and argue about his lack of primal authority, and yet most do not disagree about his primal honor, and still they walk away. How can that show honor?

There certainly is objection taken by non Catholic particular churches and ecclessial communities to the dogma in Chapter III or Vatican I:

Pastor Aeternus – “On the Power and Nature of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff.” Hence we teach and declare that by the appointment of our Lord the Roman Church possesses a sovereignty of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff, which is truly Episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatsoever rite and dignity, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman pontiff. This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and salvation.

Oddly, Pope Benedict wrote in a book while still just a Cardinal that Papal primacy was not widely believed in after the Apostles but before the split between East and West:

“Patriarch Athenagoras spoke even more strongly when he greeted Pope Paul VI in Phanar: ‘Against all expectation, the bishop of Rome is among us, the first among us in honor, ‘he who presides in love’. It is clear that, in saying this, the Patriarch did not abandon the claims of the Eastern Churches or acknowledge the primacy of the west. Rather, he stated plainly what the East understood as the order, the rank and title, of the equal bishops in the Church – and it would be worth our while to consider whether this archaic confession, which has nothing to do with the ‘primacy of jurisdiction’ but confesses a primacy of ‘honor’ and agape, might not be recognized as a formula that adequately reflects the position that Rome occupies in the Church ” pp. 216-217 "The symbolic gestures of Pope Paul VI and, in particular, his kneeling before the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch were an attempt to express precisely this and, by such signs, to point the way out of the historical impasse. In other words, Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of the primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. When the Patriarch Athenagoras on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one who presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the ecclesial content of the doctrine of the primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more.” Principles of Catholic Theology (1982), pp. 198-199:

"In other words, Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of the primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. When the Patriarch Athenagoras on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one who presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the ecclesial content of the doctrine of the primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more.” Principles of Catholic Theology "

And what does “presides” mean? Other translations read “presidency”

Does anyone notice, the Orthodox regardless of stripe, aren’t living even according to the first millenium understanding of those terms

We’d be more than happy to abide by those terms if the papacy properly understood them and we didn’t have theological differences regarding various issues.

Yet, in keeping with Vatican I that would mean the period of the Eight ecumenical councils:

  1. Nicea I
  2. Constantinople I (local council, accepted at fifth)
  3. Ephesus
  4. Chalcedon
  5. Constantinople II
  6. Constantinople III
  7. Nicea II
  8. Constantinople IV (869)

From Vatican I - Chapter 2. On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs2. For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the Holy Roman See, which he founded and consecrated with his blood [46].
3. Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the Church which he once received [47].

46 From the speech of Philip, the Roman legate, at the 3rd session of the Council of Ephesus (D no. 112).
47 Leo I, Serm. (Sermons), 3 (elsewhere 2), ch. 3 (PL 54, 146).

From Vatican I - Chapter 4. On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman PontiffSo the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith:
*] The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church [55] , cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the apostolic see the catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honour. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the apostolic see preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the christian religion [56] .
55 Mt 16, 18.
56 From Pope Hormisdas’s formula of the year 517 (D no. 171), see above p. 157 n. 1.

For replies to William Webster, Philvaz’s apologetics site is a good one. Here is a link replying to much of Webster’s argumentation on the papacy.

Are you speaking for all the Orthodox?

Every last one? No, of course not. In general, however, Orthodox are willing to give Rome the status as First Amongst Equals as long as it properly understands her role, powers, and limitations. Furthermore, Rome must also uphold correct and orthodox beliefs. As it is currently and has been for the longest time, at least according to us Orthodox, the papacy does not live up to either standard.

I have no hope of any full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox in my lifetime, considering that this was that last published list of of Catholic errors that I know of, from the Orthodox churches (excerpt):Concerning the union of the Eastern Churches with the Church of Rome, the Great Church of Constantinople, in August of 1895, made a reply to the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). … The Orthodox reply was published in the patriarchal periodical Truth. Signatories included Patriarch Anthimos VII of Constantinople (1895-1898), Bishops Nicodemos of Cyzicos, Philotheos of Nicomedia, Jerome of Nicæa, Nathanael of Prusa, Basil of Smyrna, Stephen of Philadelphia, Athanasios of Lemnos, Bessarion of Dyrrachium, Dorotheos of Belgrade, Nicodemos of Elasson, Sophronios of Carpathos and Cassos and Dionysios of Eleutheropolis. … 1. The first innovation was the Filioque (“and the Son”) addition to the eighth article of the Creed.
2. The second innovation cited is the substitution of holy Baptism with affusion (epicusis), where water is poured (ekcew) over the candidate’s head; or, aspersion (rantismos), when water is sprinkled on the candidate’s forehead.
3. The Patriarch of Constantinople reacted by closing the Latin Patriarchate’s church and denying the validity of their Mass of azymes, which was one of the grievances, mentioned by the Latins in their excommunication of the Orthodox.
4a.The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, in concert with the ancient rituals of Rome and Gaul, hold that the precious Gifts are consecrated after the prayer of the invocation (Epiklhsis) of the Holy Spirit by the blessing of the priest, not by “Words of Institution.”
4b. In the Byzantine Liturgy, the priest does not speak in the person of Christ, but prays to God to effect the change.
5. The fifth innovation is that of administering communion in only one kind, excluding the laity from partaking of the chalice.
6. The Orthodox reject the existence of Purgatory and the necessity of punishment for sins that are forgiven.
7. Another erroneous teaching, which is distinctly Latin, accords the privilege to the Virgin Mary of being conceived without original sin.
8. The Orthodox prove by reference to the Fathers and the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils that the Pope was never considered the supreme authority and infallible head of the Church, but only the first bishop in respect of rank, as first among equals, privileges of honor having been accorded to him because he was the bishop of the capital city of the empire.
9. Other novelties introduced at Rome include the use of statues instead of icons. … the Church rejected the veneration of statues, …
10. … Pope Leo IX (1049-1054) reinstituted this practice and began a crusade against the ‘heresy’ of married clergy, which became one of the reasons for his excommunicating the Orthodox, he was defying and denying the authority of the universal Church, contrary to the words of Christ, and setting himself up above the whole Church.
11. ‘He that does not follow, but wishes to overturn and destroy, the customs of the Church decreed by the well ordained Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils, in the observance of Holy Pascha and the Menologion (calendar of the immovable feasts), and wishes to follow the new Paschalia and Menologia of the Pope’s astronomers,…let him be anathema and outside the Church of Christ and the assembly of the faithful…’”
12. [Unction] may also be received by many Orthodox faithful, who may not be ill or in danger of dying, such as during Great Thursday of Holy Week.

We see in the modern papacy the story of an apostasy from the Church, following the road first traveled by the Angel Lucifer, who rose as the bright morning-star [Is. 14:12].


From this it makes the Pope not the first, not the last, but altogether out.

My opinion is that union will take place, but little by little by each church depending on the Patriarch. It will be slow, but will happen. There are some Patriarchs who are favorable towards union.

The Episcopal Ordinariate could be a model of this, where the whole parish or bishopric joins the Catholic church as one whole community.

I’m wondering too if some of this discord isn’t from the cold war the west had with Russia. Lots of left over national feelings from that.

The only issues I see as serious on that list are 1, 6 (in that it is held as dogma rather than opinion), 7 (in that it is held as dogma rather than opinion), and 8.

  1. The first innovation was the Filioque (“and the Son”) addition to the eighth article of the Creed.


Dual procession is correct, dual source is heretical.

Dual procession ≠ dual source
JPII explains Greek vs Latin expression of proceeds ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PCCUFILQ.HTM

The Orthodox attack a strawman.

The ROC dwarfs all the other Orthodox churches combined making them the majority of Orthodox. They believe in toll houses … A hugely complex notion of purification of the soul after death.

I’m not saying that Bp Kalistos Ware speaks for all Orthodox, :slight_smile: but he is a well know and respected Orthodox author, who says clearly the IC is NOT your belief, [FONT=Comic Sans MS]However Bp Ware also states that if one is so inclined to believe in the IC he wouldn’t call it a heresy. That’s because[/FONT]

Quote: (all emphasis mine)

The Orthodox Church calls Mary ‘All-Holy;’ it calls her ‘immaculate’ or ‘spotless’ (in Greek, achrantos); and all Orthodox are agreed in believing that Our Lady was free from actual sin. But was she also free from original sin? In other words, does Orthodoxy agree with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed as a dogma by Pope Pius the Ninth in 1854, according to which Mary, from the moment she was conceived by her mother Saint Anne, was by God’s special decree delivered from ‘all stain of original sin?’ The Orthodox Church has never in fact made any formal and definitive pronouncement on the matter. In the past individual Orthodox have made statements which, if not definitely affirming the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, at any rate approach close to it; but since 1854 the great majority of Orthodox have rejected the doctrine, for several reasons. They feel it to be unnecessary; they feel that, at any rate as defined by the Roman Catholic Church, it implies a false understanding of original sin; they suspect the doctrine because it seems to separate Mary from the rest of the descendants of Adam, putting her in a completely different class from all the other righteous men and women of the Old Testament. From the Orthodox point of view, however, the whole question belongs to the realm of theological opinion; and if an individual Orthodox today felt impelled to believe in the Immaculate Conception, he could not be termed a heretic for so doing.

For reference and context (scroll down to “Mother of God”)

If that argument held any water which it doesn’t, then Constantinople would be the new capital city of the empire, because that’s where the emperor moved to, and the bishop of Constantinople would then be the new head of the Church.

We see where that went, a city who couldn’t keep it’s name or identity

Byzantium > Constantinople > Istanbul

Also, see this #30 Jesus Himself squashed the idea of 1st among equals in the upper room at the last supper.

Satan is the one who divides on this issue. Be careful my friend.

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