HIstory of the Papacy


#1

I am a Baptist very close to seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. A family member gave me a book by William Webster called The Church of Rome at the Bar of History. In most cases, it is your basic anti-Catholic litany of complaints or charges that melt away upon any kind of scrutiny. However, he makes some rather intriguing (intriguing for me, perhaps not for someone with more knowledge) statements regarding the origin of the belief in the preeminence of the bishop of Rome. As with most books of this type, he doesn’t give sufficient citations to do an independent varification without doing his research all over again, but I was wondering if anyone knows of a response that has been written to this book that might help me decipher the bases (if any exist) of his claims. As you can tell, I’m skeptical of what he’s saying, but I want to clear all doubts.

Thanks for any assistance that can be provided.


#2

I have not read that particular book. I shy away from apologetics and polemics usually. My bad temper just gets in the way too much :frowning:

I did a search on this site for History of the Papacy, and found a few links that might help you a bit. I am not sure if they will address your exact question or not.

catholic.com/search.asp?searchType=file&target=history+papacy


#3

Hey JD,

While this is not overwhelming, scale tipping evidence, I do recall a paraphrase by Augustine, in relation to a decision on Pelagianism matter, where he says “Roma Locuta Est, Causa Finita Est” or “Rome has spoken, the matter is settled.”

The actul phrase comes from Sermon 131.10 of St. Augustine, the Latin is:
jam enim de hac causa duo concilia missa sunt ad sedem apostolicam; inde etiam rescripta venerunt; causa finita est


Translated, it reads,
. . .*** for already on this matter two councils have sent to the Apostolic See, whence also rescripts (reports) have come. The cause is finished.***


What did St. Augustine say? Two councils (from the African bishops) had been sent to Rome (the Apostolic See) and Rome had replied by sending a reports (rescripts – in other words, “had spoken”), and upon that the cause is finished.

When we know that the Apostolic See is Rome, this makes perfect sense.


#4

Here is the classic early reference (ca. A.D. 180) from Irenaeus of Lyons in Against Heresies 3:3:1-3

"But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized AT ROME by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul***,*** that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this church, because of its superior origin [or “preeminent authority”] all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition. [then follows a list of successors to Peter as bishops of Rome]

I first read this as an undergraduate in a secular university. That was the day that I knew that, one way or another, I would have to die Catholic.


#5

To clarify some of my specific questions a bit, I’ll list two of Webster’s claims. He states (citing no authority other than an historian who agrees with him) that Irenaeus mentioned Rome for brevity’s sake; we know this because, “before finishing, he also referred to Ephesus and Smyrna” as being similar to Rome in authority and in transmission of tradition.

Another claim (and he actually has the entire letter in an appendix) is that Gregory, bishop of Rome, in his letter to the patriarch of Constantinople condemns the idea of a bishop superior to others.


#6

A bishop is a bishop is a bishop. *BUT *the unity of the Church requires headship. The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is a delicate thing, and the character of that primacy has developed over time. See paragraphs 874-896 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the short version of what papal primacy is today.

scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

type 874 into the search window and it will take you to a screen where you click on a link that says “enter the CCC at this paragraph.”


#7

[quote=JDHallKY]To clarify some of my specific questions a bit, I’ll list two of Webster’s claims. He states (citing no authority other than an historian who agrees with him) that Irenaeus mentioned Rome for brevity’s sake; we know this because, “before finishing, he also referred to Ephesus and Smyrna” as being similar to Rome in authority and in transmission of tradition.

Another claim (and he actually has the entire letter in an appendix) is that Gregory, bishop of Rome, in his letter to the patriarch of Constantinople condemns the idea of a bishop superior to others.
[/quote]

Irenaeus says he needs to mention only Rome because her faith has been maintained and never been called into question. She has suffered no taint of heresy. He then mentions Clement of Rome’s letter to the Corinthians, admonishing them to leave off heresy and cling to the Apostolic faith. The references to Ephesus & Smyrna are appositives:

Adv. Haer III:4. But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he
tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom,(1) departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,–a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,–that, namely, which is handed down by the Church.(2)

You can access the entire document here: ewtn.com/library/PATRISTC/ANF1-21.TXT


#8

[quote=JDHallKY]I am a Baptist very close to seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. A family member gave me a book by William Webster called The Church of Rome at the Bar of History. In most cases, it is your basic anti-Catholic litany of complaints or charges that melt away upon any kind of scrutiny. However, he makes some rather intriguing (intriguing for me, perhaps not for someone with more knowledge) statements regarding the origin of the belief in the preeminence of the bishop of Rome. As with most books of this type, he doesn’t give sufficient citations to do an independent varification without doing his research all over again, but I was wondering if anyone knows of a response that has been written to this book that might help me decipher the bases (if any exist) of his claims. As you can tell, I’m skeptical of what he’s saying, but I want to clear all doubts.

Thanks for any assistance that can be provided.
[/quote]

Good Day JD Hall

This is a very confusing historical subject that you now struggle with IMO. In so much as it is disscussed from the Historical back round on all sides of the issue.

“The oldest links in the chain of Roman bishops are veiled in impenetrable darkness. Tertullian and most of the Latins (and the pseudo-Clementina), make Clement (Phil. 4:3), the first successor of Peter; but Irenaeus, Eusebius, and other Greeks, also Jerome and the Roman Catalogue, give him the third place, and put Linus (2 Tim. 4:21), and Anacletus (or Anincletus), between him and Peter. In some lists Cletus is substituted for Anacletus, in others the two are distinguished….Furthermore, the earliest fathers, with a true sense of the distinction between the apostolic and episcopal offices, do not reckon Peter among the bishops of Rome at all; and the Roman Catalogue in placing Peter in the line of bishops, is strangely regardless of Paul, whose independent labors in Rome are attested not only by tradition, but by the clear witness of his own epistles and the book of Acts.” (History of the Christian Church {Saginaw, Michigan: Historical Exegetical ‘Lectronic Publishing, 1996})

the passage by Irenaeus (Adv. haereses, III, iii, 3) reads:

“After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus.”

Irenaeus tells us that Peter and Paul appointed Linus while Peter was still alive. How is such a comment evidence of a papacy? Irenaeus tells us why he thinks the Roman church is important, and a papacy isn’t one of the reasons he gives. If there had been a papacy at the time of Irenaeus, we would expect him to mention it explicitly and frequently. He doesn’t mention it at all. Roman Catholics have found only one passage to cite on this subject from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, and that passage gives non-papal reasons for the prominence of the Roman church, not the Roman bishop. The passage is evidence against an early papacy rather than evidence for it. See the comments in the footnote at:

[/font]http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-61.htm#P7966_2192965

Cont…


#9

The Roman Catholic historian Robert Eno comments:

“The context of Irenaeus’ argument does not claim that the Roman Church is literally unique, the only one of its class; rather, he argues that the Roman Church is the outstanding example of its class, the class in question being apostolic sees. While he chose to speak primarily of Rome for brevity’s sake, in fact, before finishing, he also referred to Ephesus and Smyrna.” (The Rise of the Papacy {Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1990}, p. 39)

The Roman Catholic scholar William La Due explains:

“It is indeed understandable how this passage has baffled scholars for centuries! Those who were wont to find in it a verification of the Roman primacy were able to interpret it in that fashion. However, there is so much ambiguity here that one has to be careful of over-reading the evidence…Karl Baus’ interpretation seems to be the one that is more faithful to the text and does not presume to read into it a meaning which might not be there. Hence, it neither overstates nor understates Irenaeus’ position. For him , it is those churches of apostolic foundation that have the greater claim to authentic teaching and doctrine. Among those, Rome, with its two apostolic founders, certainly holds an important place. However, all of the apostolic churches enjoy what he terms ‘preeminent authority’ in doctrinal matters.” (The Chair of Saint Peter {Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1999}, p. 28)

Here are couple of sources from the Cathoic historain side that may be of use, I do believe they are still in print. There is one other I will track down from an EO point of view that deals with this as well

Peace to u,

Bill


#10

He states . . . that Irenaeus mentioned Rome for brevity’s sake; we know this because, “before finishing, he also referred to Ephesus and Smyrna” as being similar to Rome in authority and in transmission of tradition.

Read the passage in its entirety, and judge for yourself:

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and 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 – that is, the faithful everywhere – inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who are everywhere.

. . .

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time – a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles – that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.

Obviously, Ireneaus singles out Rome for brevity’s sake. But there is a reason why he does this: it is precisely because of her primacy and preeminent authority that he chooses to do so. Otherwise, why not elaborate as much about just the Ephesians, or the Phillipians, or the Corinthians, etc.?

Anyone blind enough to Truth and common sense can make anything he reads say what he wants. Even the devil tried to interpret Scripture to Jesus, and use it against him.


#11

Regarding Saint Gregory the Great:

Another claim (and he actually has the entire letter in an appendix) is that Gregory, bishop of Rome, in his letter to the patriarch of Constantinople condemns the idea of a bishop superior to others.

What Saint Gregory the Great condemned was the title “Ecumenical Patriarch,” or “universal bishop” insofar as he thought it implied that there was only one true bishop, and other “bishops” were bishops in name only.

When the title is properly understood (i.e. as indicating a primacy), then Gregory would have had no problem with it. He openly acknowledged his own primacy over all other bishops. For example, in one of the same letters where he condemns said title, he writes:

When the excellent preacher says, As long as I am the apostle of the Gentiles I will honour my ministry (Rom. xi. 13); saying again in another place, We became as babes among you (1 Thess. ii. 7), he undoubtedly shews an example to us who come after him, that we should retain humility in our minds, and yet keep in honour the dignity of our order, so that neither should our humility be timid nor our elevation proud. Now eight years ago, in the time of my predecessor of holy memory Pelagius, our brother and fellow-bishop John in the city of Constantinople, seeking occasion from another cause, held a synod in which he attempted to call himself Universal Bishop. Which as soon as my said predecessor knew, he despatched letters annulling by the authority of the holy apostle Peter the acts of the said synod; of which letters I have taken care to send copies to your Holiness. Moreover he forbade the deacon who attended us the most pious Lords for the business of the Church to celebrate the sole mnities of mass with our aforesaid fellow-priest. I also, being of the same mind with him, have sent similar letters to our aforesaid fellow-priest, copies of which I have thought it right to send to your Blessedness, with this especial purpose, hat we may first assail with moderate force he mind of our before-named brother con- cerning this matter, wherein by a new act of pride, all the bowels of the Universal Church are disturbed. But, if he should altogether refuse to be bent from the stiffness of his elation, then, with the succour of Almighty God, we may consider more particularly what ought to be done.


#12

And again:

For to all who know the Gospel it is apparent that by the Lord’s voice the care of the whole Church was committed to the holy Apostle and Prince of all the Apostles, Peter. For to him it is said, Peter, lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep (John xxi. 17). To him it is said, Behold Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat; and I have prayed for thee, Peter, that they faith fail not. And thou, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren (Luke xxii. 31). To him it is said, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates ofhell shall not prevail against it. And I willgive unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind an earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven (Matth. xvi. 18).

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

Lo, all things in the regions of Europe are given up into the power of barbarians, cities are destroyed, camps overthrown, provinces depopulated, no cultivator inhabits the land, worshippers of idols rage and dominate daily for the slaughter of the faithful, and yet priests, who ought to lie weeping on the ground and in ashes, seek for themselves names of vanity, and glory in new and profane titles.

Do I in this matter, most pious Lord, defend my own cause? Do I resent my own special wrong? Nay, the cause of Almighty God, the cause of the Universal Church.

Who is this that, against the evangelical ordinances, against the decrees of canons, presumes to usurp to himself a new name? Would indeed that one by himself he were, if he could be without any lessening of others,-he that covets to be universal.

And certainly we know that many priests of the Constantinopolitan Church have fallen into the whirlpool of heresy, and have become not only heretics, but even heresiarchs. For thence came Nestorius, who, thinking Jesus Christ, the Mediator of God and men, to be two persons, because he did not believe that God could be made man, broke out even into Jewish perfidy. Thence came Macedonius, who denied that God the Holy Spirit was consubstantial with the Father and the Son. If then any one in that Church takes to himself that name, whereby he makes himself the head of all the good, it follows that the Universal Church falls from its standing (which God forbid), when he who is called Universal falls. But far from Christian hearts be that name of blasphemy, in which the honour of all priests is taken away, while it is madly arrogated to himself by one.

Certainly, in honour of Peter, Prince of the apostles, it was offered by the venerable synod of Chalcedon to the Roman pontiff. But none of them has ever consented to use this name of singularity, lest, by something being given peculiarly to one, priests in general should be deprived of the honour due to them.


#13

And, lest there still be any doubt, here are some words from the Catholic Encyclopedia concerning Saint Gregory’s belief in his authority over the Church:

With regard to the other Western Churches limits of space prevent any detailed account of Gregory’s dealings, but the following quotation, all the more valuable as coming from a Protestant authority, indicates very clearly the line he followed herein: “In his dealings with the Churches of the West, Gregory acted invariably on the assumption that all were subject to the jurisdiction of the Roman See. Of the rights claimed or exercised by his predecessors he would not abate one tittle; on the contrary, he did everything in his power to maintain, strengthen, and extend what he regarded as the just prerogatives of the papacy. It is true that he respected the privileges of the Western metropolitans, and disapproved of unnecessary interference within the sphere of their jurisdiction canonically exercised. . . . But of his general principle there can be no doubt whatever” (Dudden, I, 475). In view of later developments Gregory’s dealings with the Oriental Churches, and with Constantinople in particular, have a special importance. There cannot be the smallest doubt that Gregory claimed for the Apostolic See, and for himself as pope, a primacy not of honor, but of supreme authority over the Church Universal. In Epp., XIII, l, he speaks of “the Apostolic See, which is the head of all Churches”, and in Epp., V, cliv, he says: “I, albeit unworthy, have been set up in command of the Church.” As successor of St. Peter, the pope had received from God a primacy over all Churches (Epp., II, xlvi; III, xxx; V, xxxvii; VII, xxxvii). His approval it was which gave force to the decrees of councils or synods (Epp., IX, clvi), and his authority could annul them (Epp., V, xxxix, xli, xliv). To him appeals might be made even against other patriarchs, and by him bishops were judged and corrected if need were (Epp., II, l; III, lii, lxiii; IX, xxvi, xxvii). This position naturally made it impossible for him to permit the use of the title Ecumenical Bishop assumed by the Patriarch of Constantinople, John the Faster, at a synod held in 588. Gregory protested, and a long controversy followed, the question still at issue when the pope died. A discussion of this controversy is needless here, but it is important as showing how completely Gregory regarded the Eastern patriarchs as being subject to himself; “As regards the Church of Constantinople,” he writes in Epp., IX, xxvi, “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.” At the same time the pope was most careful not to interfere with the canonical rights of the other patriarchs and bishops. With the other Oriental patriarchs his relations were most cordial, as appears from his letters to the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria.


#14

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