Recently I have been thinking about the question of Papal primacy.
I have studied Matthew 16:18 and other passages. I think the most plausible interpretation of Scripture is that Jesus intended Peter to have a special position of leadership among the Apostles. (Although, I am still uncertain about the respective roles of Peter and James the Just.)
But, I think there are three more key elements to the Catholic view, beyond just Jesus appointing Peter to a special position:
*]that this special position was not just one of primacy of honour or primus inter pares, but involved a substantive authority which the other Apostles lacked (without this element, you essentially end up with the Eastern Orthodox position)
*]that it was the intention of Jesus that this office, rather than being purely personal to Peter, would be passed on by him to his successors
*]that while Peter as Bishop had concurrent successors (the Bishops of Antioch, the Bishops of Rome, possibly others), only the line of the Bishops of Rome succeeded Peter as Prince of the Apostles
Now, I don’t believe that any of these three elements can be clearly demonstrated by Scripture alone. Do people agree or disagree with that?
So if one cannot demonstrate them with Scripture, can one demonstrate them by Tradition? Can someone sketch how such a demonstration would proceed? I assume it would be based on a study of the Church Fathers, especially the Apostolic Fathers.
I recently found a Master’s thesis, “Upon This Rock”: an Exegetical and Patristic Examination of Matthew 16:18, by one Brittany C. Burnette (online copy). I found it interesting reading overall. (Although, her description of “Peter” as Simon Peter’s surname I found somewhat jarring, and at points it is rather badly formatted, but I think the latter may be a problem with the copy at that website rather than her thesis itself.) It is written from a Protestant perspective, but she agrees with Catholic commentators that see Jesus’ use of “rock” in Matthew 16:18 as referring to Peter himself, not to Jesus or to Peter’s faith or something else like that. But she then argues that, while Jesus appointed Peter to a special position, there is no evidence in Scripture that Jesus or Peter intended that special position to be passed on to his successors as Bishops of the Church in Rome; furthermore, she argues that the Patristic evidence on the topic is mixed, and thus insufficient to support the Catholic position. Could someone outline a Catholic response to this?