So I had this dropped on me today:
The simple fact is, that the Early Church - including the Early Church of Rome - never considered the Church to be a single corporate body united under the supreme and at times infallible authority of the Bishop of Rome. There’s simply insufficient evidence that this was a widespread belief before the 6th - 8th centuries. If there was, we’d have hundreds, if not thousands of patristic testimonies regarding this belief. Instead, we have the same couple-dozen selected excerpts that Catholics keep referencing every single time this argument comes up. This would not have been a minor doctrinal issue to be paved over - it would have been something that defined the Church at its very core and most basic level. And yet, no one can find any more than a couple dozen examples dating from before the 6th - 8th centuries. There’s a historical gap before then that simply can’t be even partially filled by the current examples Catholics are bringing up. It would simply take more than a couple-dozen testimonies to establish that this was a widespread belief in the Church - including in the Church of Rome - up until then. Like I said before, we’d have hundreds if not thousands of testimonies. And those just don’t exist. What we DO find, in hundreds if not thousands of testimonies, is that the Church was a locally-corporate Church, united in faith and doctrine, but with no bishop having direct authority over any other bishop. Which is the exact structure of the Orthodox Church today. What’s more, invoking the Council of Nicaea shows even more ignorance, because if it was a ranking of authority rather than honor you’d think that it would be clearly stated. And yet, no where in the records of the council is such a thing ever stated or even implied. Actually, we see the exact opposite - the Pope being regarded as the first AMONGST EQUALS. What would be the point of including these two words if not to specifically refute an argument about it being a ranking of authority? And if it was, what happened to the other four Church’s? Why didn’t Constantinople become second in command, Alexandria and Antioch third, and Jerusalem fourth? If they had such rightful authority granted to them by the council, they wouldn’t have given it up easily. And yet, they never claimed such authority, and specifically denied having such authority when the Church of Rome arrogantly invented the doctrine of its supremacy.
How exactly would one respond to this?