Peter, Rome, Popes, and Feudalism

Friends,

A main Catholic apologetic point is that the Church Fathers interpret Matthew 16:18ff in a supremacist Petrine Roman sense. In reality, there was a very big split right down the middle about this - as an objective reading of the sources will show. I’m not sure the Fathers understood the fulness of what was meant by our Lord. They certainly disagreed about it.

I’ve had many problems believing that the Popes of Rome are special enough to warrant the privileges we grant them. I don’t know if anyone here is aware of Gregory the Great’s “there is no universal bishop” letter (here), and his less-well-known letter where he says that Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome all form one Chair of Peter - upon which three bishops sit (here). This is a conciliar, episcopal vision of the Church. It seems to clash violently with what we understand about the Papacy today.

Some Orthodox have argued that papal supremacy came from a misguided understanding of what it means to be “Peter” - influenced by Feudalism. Essentially, they say that modern Roman Catholicism emerged because of the collapse of Byzantium’s moderating influence on the West. Once the Popes became able to crown kings and emperors to protect themselves, it “went to their head”. It seems like a natural and plausible explanation…

Combine Gregory’s convictions with the change in the attitudes of Popes over the centuries, and something strange seems to emerge. Between the days when they were under the Byzantine Emperors, vs. the days that they crowned the Frankish Emperors, the Popes “changed” somehow. It’s hard to put my finger on it. Nicholas I was a very different pope - with very different conceptions of authority - compared with Gregory I. One was iron-fisted, whereas the other insisted that there isn’t even any such thing as a universal pope. Which one was correct?

“For if your Holiness calls me Universal Pope, you deny that you are yourself what you call me universally.” Gregory appears to be refuting the idea that there is only one “pope” (bishop): him. All bishops are true bishops, and the Holy Catholic Church so teaches.

and his less-well-known letter where he says that Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome all form one Chair of Peter - upon which three bishops sit (here). This is a conciliar, episcopal vision of the Church.

How is this a “conciliar, episcopal vision of the Church” if only three such bishops comprise this council/authority? What about all of the other bishops? And should we only go with these three today as the authority; would that satisfy you?

It seems to clash violently with what we understand about the Papacy today.

How so? Does not the Holy Catholic Church have councils?

Some Orthodox have argued that papal supremacy came from a misguided understanding of what it means to be “Peter” - influenced by Feudalism.

Of course they do. But where is the authority in the Eastern Orthodox (non-Catholic) Churches? When was the last time they definitively settled an issue? IMO, they have neither a papacy nor true councils.

I think that you have hit on something well worth pursuing…but also that needs to be pursued carefully. The papacy has changed over time. Yes indeed it has. There are many reasons for this and I am no scholar on the matter but will offer my poor thoughts.

In this kind of study one must be careful to keep matters, and writings, in the context of the time in which they occurred. This is particularly true when one considers the great distances involved in trying to promulgate the faith universally.
Another factor - especially as it applies to the Bishop of Rome and his temporal authority - is to remember that after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west, the Church was the organization that stepped up to try to fill the void. The people looked to the Church and the Church tried to respond.
This had good effects but also bad ones. It tended to complicate the ability of the Pope to act as spiritual leader. Because ambitious people are naturally drawn to the center of authority, such people ended up seeking positions of authority in the church…yet for all of that there were many good popes and God continued to protect His Church’s teachings.

All of that said…I can see some of your points about the evolution of the Papal office over time and I sincerely hope that Catholics will keep an open mind as the RC and the EO reach out to each other in dialogue.

Peace
James

They are, and here’s why:

1. Is Jesus a king?
2. Did He re-establish the office of the Royal Steward?

In ancient times, a king might choose a second in command (known as the royal steward or prime minister) who literally wore a large key as a symbol of his office and who spoke with the authority of the king. The prophet Isaiah confirms this:

Isaiah 22:20-22
"In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”

In the passage above, God is speaking to Shebnah, an unfaithful steward serving King Hezekiah. God is telling Shebnah that he is about to be replaced by Eliakim, and this confirms the existence of the office, the key worn as a symbol of the office, and the continuation of the office in perpetuity – despite the change of office holder. In other words, the office of the royal steward continued even when the man who held the office died or was replaced by someone else. God Himself passes the key from one steward to the next.

In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus inherits the throne of his father, David.

Luke 1:31–33
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

We also read the following:

Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The passage quoted above from Matthew tells us that Jesus named Peter as His royal steward and gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven" as the symbol of his authority to speak in His name. Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end. Peter died as a martyr as Jesus foretold, but the successors of Peter have taken his place in the perpetual office that Jesus established in His royal court.

In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

Jesus specifically referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter, and Peter received authority from Jesus to speak universally in His name. To do so faithfully, Peter must not teach error; therefore, Peter (and his successors who hold the office of the Royal Steward - also known as the Bishop of Rome) are protected by God through the charism of infallibility.

**Therefore, if Jesus, our eternal king, established Peter as His first Royal Steward in a perpetual office, then despite the existence of other, lesser stewards (who have their own legitimate areas of authority) don’t Peter’s successors, the Bishops of Rome, continue to serve in that office today? **

JRKH, I appreciate your kind and balanced reply.

The point wasn’t necessarily about authority or a “council”. The point was that one of the Popes did, himself, believe that “Peter-ness” (to coin an adjective) didn’t reside only in Rome. That seems pretty important to me.

By the way, it’s unfortunate that you frame the issue as one of personal satisfaction. I have sincere questions and problems, and it seems to me that you’re treating them as my petty excuses to leave the Church. I am satisfied by simplicity and honesty.

How so? Does not the Holy Catholic Church have councils?

I meant that Gregory’s broader understanding of “where Peter is” and “who Peter is” seems to clash with the exclusive definition we have. Whether Conciliar or Tribunal, it still precludes the idea that “Rome = Peter”.

Of course they do. But where is the authority in the Eastern Orthodox (non-Catholic) Churches? When was the last time they definitively settled an issue? IMO, they have neither a papacy nor true councils.

Orthodox people have told me that they cannot hold an ecumenical council because the Ecumene (the Emperor) no longer exists to call one. They seem to understand the nature of authority, conciliarity, and laity differently from us. My quest is to discover which vision of the Church is the correct one. :slight_smile:

#1 is not disputable,but He is firstly God Incarnate and certainly not firstly a mortal, limited human king. Stewards are needed for those who are absent or weak. Christ is none of those things. The language of keys, however, still needs to be considered.

#2 is very much disputed. I am very familiar with Isaiah 22, and even a little bit sick of hearing about it. Did the actual Papal Fathers from St. Peter to St. Gregory VII (1000 years) ever use it to justify their claims? It seems like a modern invention of apologetics. Silence is sometimes a really important indicator of what people believed.

The Lord applied the same language to all the Apostles in Matthew 18 and in John 20. Although the Keys are absent there, I’ve heard it said that the “keys” (A) & “binding-loosing” (B) are a “B=A” Hebraism. If that’s so, then the whole Church and all the apostles were granted these keys as stewards. I also personally find the “single royal steward” idea tenuous in the context of Christ’s whole teaching in the Gospel about humility, long-suffering, and working with one’s neighbour. “Re-establish” would be the right word, for there was no King of Israel by the time of Christ.

Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end.

That’s a neat association. I’m not sure I find it very convincing, but it’s nice.

Peter died as a martyr as Jesus foretold, but the successors of Peter have taken his place in the perpetual office that Jesus established in His royal court.

And just who are the successors of Peter? That’s probably the whole point of this thread. “Scripture Catholic” and other websites are fine and good, but this is a matter of deep patristic study. I wish it wasn’t so shallow as a few proof-texts and “therefore you are wrong”.

Why is Rome alone equivalent to Peter? Why does Matthew 18 imply singularity of successorship? Why does Irenaeus say that Peter wasn’t the first bishop of Rome, but Linus was appointed as the first by Peter? Why do all the Fathers attest that Alexandria and Antioch were Peter’s Sees as well as Rome? Why did the Petrine Ministry fall on Rome alone - simply because His holy relics are there?

My real fear is that this whole system is built up on a collapse of papal integrity when the popes accepted the domineering, hierarchical ways of this World during the feudal age. That is how it has been presented to me. It has been not a little harmful to my faith. Perhaps it is a legitimate development - and that would be fine - but please don’t tell me that the Papacy of AD 1070 is the same as the Papacy of AD 570 or AD 70.

In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:
[LEFT]"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)
[/LEFT]

If Isaiah 22:22 and Mt. 16:19 correspond, then surely Isaiah 22:22 and Mt. 18:18 correspond as well. If so, what can we say about that?

Jesus specifically referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter, and Peter received authority from Jesus to speak universally in His name.

Didn’t the other Apostles receive that as well? Where do you get that idea?

To do so faithfully, Peter must not teach error;

Presumably you’re referring to the Gates of Hades not prevailing. Since those are the gates merely of death and not of “Hell”, necessarily, it doesn’t follow that error is implied by “Hades”, does it? I understand Hades to mean death and the power against the Gates of Hades to be the resurrection of Christ. Who is reading what into this text?

therefore, Peter (and his successors who hold the office of the Royal Steward - also known as the Bishop of Rome) are protected by God through the charism of infallibility.

This syllogism does not seem adequately supported to me. I wish it was more thoroughly hashed out. If you can answer my questions above, I’ll be very happy**.****
**

I bet you are. You have not answer for it.

Did the actual Papal Fathers from St. Peter to St. Gregory VII (1000 years) ever use it to justify their claims?

St. John Cassian on Peter as Royal Steward

Isaiah 22 shows is that an office existed – that is, the office of Prime Minister to the King of Israel; and Jesus, Who is the promised King and Messiah of Israel, makes Simon Peter His own Prime Minister in Matt 16:18-19.

Even St. John Cassian, a BYZANTINE GREEK and a disciple of St. John Chrysostom, noticed this connection. For, he writes …

“O Peter, Prince of Apostles, it is just that you should teach us, since you were yourself taught by the Lord; and also that you should open to us the gate of which you have received the Key (singular). Keep out all those who are undermining the heavenly House; turn away those who are trying to enter through false caverns and unlawful gates since it is certain that no one can enter in at the gate of the Kingdom except the one unto whom the Key (singular), placed by you in the churches, shall open it.” (John Cassian, Book III, Chap 12, Against the Nestorians on the Incarnation)

Matthew 16:18-19 talks about “binding” and “loosing” and refers to “keys” (plural). Clearly, St. John Cassian is taking his language directly from Isaiah 22 which speaks about the power to “open and shut” and which confers the authority of a “Key” (singular) over the “House” of David (i.e., the Church).

It seems like a modern invention of apologetics.

No, it is a defense offered by modern apologetics since disbelief in the Papacy is itself a modern novelty.

Silence is sometimes a really important indicator of what people believed.

Or simply an indication that there was not NEED to discuss something that was commonly held. But arguments from silence are fallacious, aren’t they?

The Lord applied the same language to all the Apostles in Matthew 18 and in John 20. Although the Keys are absent there, I’ve heard it said that the “keys” (A) & “binding-loosing” (B) are a “B=A” Hebraism. If that’s so, then the whole Church and all the apostles were granted these keys as stewards. I also personally find the “single royal steward” idea tenuous in the context of Christ’s whole teaching in the Gospel about humility, long-suffering, and working with one’s neighbour. “Re-establish” would be the right word, for there was no King of Israel by the time of Christ.

Your’re right. The keys ARE absent in Matthew 18, and this leaves you empty-handed. Along with all the other Apostles. :stuck_out_tongue:

That’s a neat association. I’m not sure I find it very convincing, but it’s nice.

If Jesus is a greater king than Hezekiah, why would His Royal Steward be lesser than that of Pharoah or Hezekiah? THEY had universal authority in their respective kingdoms. So does Peter.

And just who are the successors of Peter? That’s probably the whole point of this thread. “Scripture Catholic” and other websites are fine and good, but this is a matter of deep patristic study. I wish it wasn’t so shallow as a few proof-texts and “therefore you are wrong”.

Patristics? How many quotes from the ECF’s do I need to bury you with to prove your error? Or would I just be “proof-texting” by quoting the lists of the successors of Peter?

Why is Rome alone equivalent to Peter? [edited for space]

All of the apostles had successors, but only one was the successor of the Chief Steward. That happened to be Linus who succeeded Peter in Rome.

And yes, I could bury you with quotes concerning the Primacy of Rome.

My real fear is that this whole system is built up on a collapse of papal integrity when the popes accepted the domineering, hierarchical ways of this World during the feudal age. That is how it has been presented to me. It has been not a little harmful to my faith. Perhaps it is a legitimate development - and that would be fine - but please don’t tell me that the Papacy of AD 1070 is the same as the Papacy of AD 570 or AD 70.

[quote]

No, instead I would show you WHY it is not. And the logic of that is unassailable.

[quote]If Isaiah 22:22 and Mt. 16:19 correspond, then surely Isaiah 22:22 and Mt. 18:18 correspond as well. If so, what can we say about that?

[/quote]

Surely not. Because there is only ONE key-holder as you yourself have already admitted. Luther did, too, by the way.

Didn’t the other Apostles receive that as well? Where do you get that idea?

Yes, each apostle was individually infallible. Only one, however, was given the symbols of the chief steward. You just don’t want to admit that.

Presumably you’re referring to the Gates of Hades not prevailing. Since those are the gates merely of death and not of “Hell”, necessarily, it doesn’t follow that error is implied by “Hades”, does it? I understand Hades to mean death and the power against the Gates of Hades to be the resurrection of Christ. Who is reading what into this text?

Perhaps reading what some scripture scholars have “read into this text” would benefit you.

This syllogism does not seem adequately supported to me. I wish it was more thoroughly hashed out. If you can answer my questions above, I’ll be very happy**.**

**
**

Sounds like another thread to me. Please feel free to start it, and try to limit your self to one question. It makes it easier to discuss.

Thanks. :thumbsup:
[/quote]

What issue have we had that needs settling? Remember this guy and all his cohorts?

You broke it, you bought it. Just because you guys have had all kinds of disturbances and confusion and separation that needed to be “definitively settled” doesn’t mean we have. I’m afraid you are projecting. :wink:

You are very welcome.
If you don’t mind - I have a comment or two on your relies to others…

The point wasn’t necessarily about authority or a “council”. The point was that one of the Popes did, himself, believe that “Peter-ness” (to coin an adjective) didn’t reside only in Rome. That seems pretty important to me.

I meant that Gregory’s broader understanding of “where Peter is” and “who Peter is” seems to clash with the exclusive definition we have. Whether Conciliar or Tribunal, it still precludes the idea that “Rome = Peter”.

I agree with this and even today this idea remains alive and well inside the Catholic Church. I think that the key to understanding this matter is to recognize that all the bishops in the world need to be in communion with each other. This is how we maintain the integrity of the Gospel message and the teachings of the Church.
Bishops maintain considerable authority within their own Bishoprics. Also, there are a number of different “Rites” within the Catholic Church - again with each having considerable authority - - a level of “Peter-ness” to borrow your new adjective. Yet each of these maintain their unity - one with the other.

The Chair of Peter in Rome is the office through which this union is maintained. It is a good model which gives the universal Church a “go-to” spot. The Chair of Peter and the Magisterium.
The papal office is certainly imbued with considerable authority - Scripture is clear on this, but we should be careful in how we interpret this. The authority of the Papal office does not need to stand in opposition to the councilior model. Indeed we see this interaction playing out right now in the Synod currently under way.

Orthodox people have told me that they cannot hold an ecumenical council because the Ecumene (the Emperor) no longer exists to call one. They seem to understand the nature of authority, conciliarity, and laity differently from us. My quest is to discover which vision of the Church is the correct one. :slight_smile:

For me - this would point me away from the Orthodox. It makes no sense to me that the Holy Spirit needs an emperor to call a council. The only “Emperor” we need is the King of Kings - our Lord Jesus Christ. He has established His kingdom on Earth through the Apostles and their successors - headed by Peter and His successors. Why should the working of the Holy Spirit be blocked by the lack of a certain “emperor” in a certain place?

And just who are the successors of Peter? That’s probably the whole point of this thread. “Scripture Catholic” and other websites are fine and good, but this is a matter of deep patristic study. I wish it wasn’t so shallow as a few proof-texts and “therefore you are wrong”.

Why is Rome alone equivalent to Peter? Why does Matthew 18 imply singularity of successorship? Why does Irenaeus say that Peter wasn’t the first bishop of Rome, but Linus was appointed as the first by Peter? Why do all the Fathers attest that Alexandria and Antioch were Peter’s Sees as well as Rome? Why did the Petrine Ministry fall on Rome alone - simply because His holy relics are there?

These are good questions and obviously one can build good arguments for different approaches. I will simply offer this. While the Church might have evolved in different ways, the bottom line is that she did not. Because this is the way she evolved, we can be certain that it is the correct way because we believe that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, are leading her.
So while we might ask, “why did it evolve as it did”, and study deeply on that development, we should be very careful to take away from that study anything that looks like the Church got it wrong.

My real fear is that this whole system is built up on a collapse of papal integrity when the popes accepted the domineering, hierarchical ways of this World during the feudal age. That is how it has been presented to me. It has been not a little harmful to my faith. Perhaps it is a legitimate development - and that would be fine - but please don’t tell me that the Papacy of AD 1070 is the same as the Papacy of AD 570 or AD 70.

I won’t tell you this…:thumbsup:
But I will say that the history of the two branches of the Church (RC and EO) show two different problems by what you express above.
Consider…
In the East, the Emperor reigned the Church was able to leave civil matters to him. This freed the Church to minister strictly to the spiritual needs of the faithful. However, by what you conveyed earlier, the EO became so attached to the Emperor that now they are hamstrung because that office no longer exists (they cannot call an ecumenical council).
In the west, there was no Emperor so the Pope and the Church stepped in and tried to fill the void. This might have seemed good in theory, but in practice it presented many difficult problems. Still the Church did a lot of good, and God continued to protect his teachings.
Today, the temporal authority of the Papal office is virtually gone and has been for quite some time. This has allowed the Church to move forward, once again focusing wholly on spiritual matters.

I think that we are highly blessed in this…

As to the matter of mt 16 and Mt 18, my comments above about the authority of the Bishops and they authority of the Church in communion with each other (which necessarily includes the Bishop of Rome) should speak to that matter.
We are ONE Church…and we should tell it to the ONE Church and we should listen to her.

May God bring much fruit from the RC / EO dialogues. Whenever and wherever they occur.

Peace
James

Sure. Nothing in the last 800 years has required any theological development whatsoever. You’re fine.

Or was Soloviev correct when he said that Orthodoxy has ossified?

You broke it, you bought it. Just because you guys have had all kinds of disturbances and confusion and separation that needed to be “definitively settled” doesn’t mean we have. I’m afraid you are projecting. :wink:

Actually, you *were *one of the major disturbances…

Randy Carson, I don’t think our personalities mesh up very nicely. That’s okay… but I find it exasperating to deal with your points when you’re so light-hearted about this. Maybe you are comfortable enough with your faith to be a little sarcastic towards doubters, but I am not that comfortable yet. Please forgive me if I’ve offended you. I also can’t respond to your facts.

JRKH, you have a merciful way of dealing with doubts and responding seriously. I like the way you put your reply. The point about being “hamstrung” on the Orthodox side is pretty important. They would probably say that an Ecumenical Council isn’t all that necessary anymore, given that the Faith was well defined in the Creed by the first seven councils. Anyway, in their opinion, Councils become ecumenical only by recognition from all clergy and laity. I don’t find their approach particularly convincing, especially in light of Rome’s claims to being a “living” community, rather than a mere preserver of facts.

I’ll just have to limp along on my weak faith, as best I can, for now.

A moderator can close this thread if s/he desires to do so.

I deleted that post because I figured it wasn’t constructive to the discussion.

My apologies. I tend to play a little too roughly at times.

Only your last sentence needs more: if you can’t respond to my facts, then there are two possibilities: 1) there ARE non-Catholic responses, but you don’t know them, yet and 2) there are no good responses.

If the latter is the case, becoming Orthodox is a bad idea.

I’ll just have to limp along on my weak faith, as best I can, for now.

As will we all. May God draw us closer to Himself day by day.

However, please know that Catholicism HAS really solid answers for any and all questions raised by those who have doubts.

Feel free to ask as many as you like. That’s why this forum exists. :slight_smile:

Thank you for being graceful about it, sir. :slight_smile:

There are certainly more non-Catholic responses… and I am sick of* them*, too… but they’re not worth making myself sick over. Plausibility is enough for the exercise of Faith… sometimes even implausibility is, too!

I’ve already contacted my confessor and told him that my doubts have been “shattered” and my confidence in the Orthodox ideal “broken” by some knowledgeable Catholics. Hopefully Confession tonight or during the week.

As will we all. May God draw us closer to Himself day by day.

However, please know that Catholicism HAS really solid answers for any and all questions raised by those who have doubts.

Feel free to ask as many as you like. That’s why this forum exists. :slight_smile:

Yes, my doubt was over whether Catholicism actually had any really solid answers - especially for the most obscure subjects which even most priests don’t seem to know anything about.

A few years ago, I was a 98-pound doctrine weakling, but after a bully kicked sand in my face, I started reading and hanging out here, and look at me now!

:whackadoo:

But seriously, I panicked more than a few times when I heard some anti-Catholic arguments the first time. Fear not. The Church has heard it all before even if you haven’t. The answers are there.

Finally, apologetics is kind of a specialty. Given all that priests have to do to keep their parishes running, it’s a lot to ask for them to be on top of EVERY line of argumentation.

:thumbsup:

As a Lutheran, you probably can guess what we think of the Papal office. But I would ask you to rejoice that you that you’re receiving the faith forming Gospel and the life giving Sacraments within the Catholic Church.

So… even if you have doubts about the office, how it’s evolved, and other issues - it may not necessarily have to wound your faith.

We Lutherans would say, in fact, quite the opposite. For if you decide that the papal office is our of bounds - it’s more evidence that God loves His church and keeps it whole despite any problems we humans can create for it.

Read this article in the link I have provided. I am also trying to find an early journey home radio program where the guest converted to RC from I believe Greek Orthodoxy. On the program he quotes several early popes on how they viewed jurisdiction of the papacy. I also read a quote from an early church father (I have been trying to find it) that I thought went something like: if a bishop was not in communion with Rome then he could not have a valid Eucharist. Here is the link to quite an interesting read.

unamsanctamcatholicam.com/history/historical-apologetics/79-history/98-papal-primacy-in-the-first-councils.html

p.s. I know you wanted papal views on the papacy, but you can find numerous early saints quotes on the papacy.

This was one of my own chief concerns in the last few weeks. I wondered whether one can “be saved” even if one isn’t in the “True Church”. We really must use scare-quotes like that today, because of how contentious these terms are. Regardless of all the nonsense, faith in Christ and love of God and neighbour override “political” ecclesiastical boundaries. I appreciate your words of counsel and comfort, friend.

It’s usually little things that bother me - such as Irenaeus saying that Linus was the first “episcopus” of Rome, given that state by Peter and Paul. (Against Heresies 3.3.3.) The saint mentions the episcopal office, so what he believed to be the Church government in Rome before Linus is unclear. Even Chrysostom teaches that “some say” Linus was first bishop of Rome, after Peter. The early saints seemed rather unconcerned with exactitude in this matter, being satisfied that the Church remained whole by whatever means.

Thank you for the link. I will read it now.

The “universal bishop” controversy between St. Gregory and John the Faster is a classic non-Catholic objection which misunderstands the context.

John was claiming (or, in reality, what the emperor in Constantinople was trying to claim for him), was that he was the only bishop and that all the other bishops were essentially his representatives. He made the relationship between himself and the other bishops the same as the relationship between a bishop and his priests. Not only was he wrongly claiming for himself the primacy, but he was also destroying the authority of the other bishops.

This is contrary to Catholic doctrine:

[quote=Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum]14. But if the authority of Peter and his successors is plenary and supreme, it is not to be regarded as the sole authority. For He who made Peter the foundation of the Church also “chose, twelve, whom He called apostles” (Luke vi., 13); and just as it is necessary that the authority of Peter should be perpetuated in the Roman Pontiff, so, by the fact that the bishops succeed the Apostles, they inherit their ordinary power, and thus the episcopal order necessarily belongs to the essential constitution of the Church. Although they do not receive plenary, or universal, or supreme authority, they are not to be looked as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs; because they exercise a power really their own, and are most truly called the ordinary pastors of the peoples over whom they rule.
[/quote]

The “universal bishop” controversy is actually a perfect example of the power of the authentic universal primacy being used to preserve, rather than destroy, the authority of the other bishops as the Second Vatican Council describes.

In a letter about the same controversy, St. Gregory affirmed the primacy and distinguished it from what John the Faster was claiming:

[quote=St. Gregory Book V, Letter 20]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, do you love Me? Feed My sheep John 21:17. To him it is said, Behold Satan has desired to sift you as wheat; and I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith fail not. And thou, when you are converted, strengthen your brethren Luke 22:31. To him it is said, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever you shall bind an earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven Matthew 16:18.

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!
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Regarding the second letter, what St. Gregory is referring to here by “three places” is the principle of the three original patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, in that order of primacy, which directly governed the three regions of the universal Church (the three regions of the known world: Europe, Africa, and Asia, respectively), with Rome being the final court of appeal (which is why these Patriarchs were turning to Rome, why Rome was telling them what to do in this case, and why they later submitted to Rome certain synodical acts and patriarchal judgments—see Book VII, Letter 34 and Book VIII, Letter 30 for examples; also see Book IX Letter 59 where St. Gregory says all bishops are subject to his See but they should be treated as equals when there is no cause not to).

Only (perhaps) up to a point. Eventually heresy and schism will endanger a person. And to infer that doctrine has little or no importance, it certainly does as TRUTH always matters. For example, a person who denies the Trinity is in danger (IMO), no matter how much they profess to have “faith in Christ” and love God and their neighbor. In that case, I’d argue that they really don’t have faith in Christ. Basically, I’d say that about all who deny the Holy Catholic Church, because it is a denial that Christ is truly the rock or has been guiding the Church throughout the ages. Those who claim Christ as their “rock” but deny the Church He built can only mean that Christ is head of the Church in a symbolic or figurehead sense.

But as a practical matter, what advantage would you achieve by rejecting the Pope and being only under your local Bishop and whatever Councils you accept? How would your doctrine or practice of faith change?

Your argument does not jive with the historicity of the Church. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, writing toward the end of the 2nd Century, had this to say about the Church in Rome:

“…the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; 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 agree with this church, on account of its preeminent authority**, that is, the faithful everywhere, in so far as the apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere [Against Heresies 3:3:2 (c. A.D. 189)].

Excerpt From: Jimmy Akin. “The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church.” iBooks. itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=9D46E6A9E3F6B7453A4BB714C0FC7677

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