Primacy

To begin with a digression, why do we call them œcumenical councils when they only concern the Catholic churches (Eastern and Latin)? The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental churches are not involved. Not to mention the Anglicans and, at least, the mainstream Protestants. I humbly suggest ‘general council’ would be a more appropriate name.

I strongly believe that the Supreme Pontiff is higher in authority than an œcumenical council because he alone can determine if one is held, he alone can determine the matters it discusses and he alone determines its final decrees. Basically an œcumenical council produces what the Supreme Pontiff wants rather than what a majority of the council fathers may want.

I think I should continue to address this matter with my five original points.

An œcumenical council has to be summoned by a pope.
Œcumenical councils in contemporary times are only summoned by the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, no Supreme Pontiff has to have an œcumenical council during his pontificate. If we really had episcopal collegiality I believe that the world’s bishops could ask for a council. I suppose they can and if they did the Supreme Pontiff might summon one but it would still ultimately be his decision.

The agenda for an œcumenical council has to be approved by the pope
This means that an œcumenical council is restricted to dealing with those matters that the Supreme Pontiff wants it to deal with. Therefore, that cannot be considered collegiality if only the head of the œcumenical council can determine what the œcumenical council discusses. There are two very good examples concerning this point. The council fathers at Vatican II wanted to discuss two issues: artificial contraception and priestly celibacy. Pope Paul VI denied them these opportunities.

If the pope dies or resigns during an œcumenical council it is automatically suspended.
I can understand practical reasons for doing this. If the pope has died it would be a mark of respect during the period of mourning. During the conclave to elect the next pope all the cardinals under 80 years old would be absent from the council. As for the head of the body of bishops being absent that is not, I don’t believe, significant other than in a symbolic way. The Supreme Pontiff is normally physically absent from most meetings of the œcumenical council. So as the Holy See is only sede vacante for a matter of a few weeks I don’t believe that practically there would be any real problem in continuing with an œcumenical council. I think the real reason is so that the next Supreme Pontiff is not placed in a position where he has to continue with an œcumenical council.

The next pope may choose to continue the council or not.
This is not a concern. I think it just further points away from true collegiality and confirms that an œcumenical council is completely subject to papal authority. Even if an œcumenical council is temporarily suspended while the Holy See is sede vacante, I believe that it should automatically resume after the election of a new Supreme Pontiff.

**Its decrees have to be approved by the pope and presumably he does not have to approve them.
**This I think is another example that demonstrates that an œcumenical council is truly subject to papal authority. The supreme pontiff can clearly overrule what the majority of the council fathers at an œcumenical council may want.

This being the case, I am never sure whether the Pope is bound by the decisions of an œcumenical council or not. To which you replied: “An Ecumenical Council is not considered Ecumenical unless it has the consent of the Pope. I can’t imagine that a Pope would oppose his own decisions. So I don’t understand the issue here. Perhaps you are referring to a Pope being bound by a past ecumenical council? If that’s the case – Yes, the Pope is bound by all past Ecumenical Councils and cannot act or make decrees contrary to them”.

I think a key statement in your response is “I can’t imagine that a Pope would oppose his own decisions.” Now, I don’t want to do what a lot of people do on these threads and take that one sentence out of the context of your whole answer. But, it does lend some credence to what I am trying to say, which is that the Supreme Pontiff is higher in authority than an œcumenical council because its decisions are his decisions. In other words, the council fathers will only have been able to discuss those topics that the Supreme Pontiff decided they could discuss. Also, the decrees of the œcumenical council will be what the Supreme Pontiff wanted so yes he will approve them because they’ll already meet his approval because he won’t have allowed the œcumenical council to draw up decrees that are contrary to what he wants.

You said: “… Pope is bound by all past Ecumenical Councils and cannot act or make decrees contrary to them”. Can another œcumenical council act or make decrees contrary to them? If you answer this in the affirmative then in practical terms I believe this means the Supreme Pontiff will be the one who amends decisions of a previous œcumenical council.

Dear brother Matthew,

[quote=]To begin with a digression, why do we call them œcumenical councils when they only concern the Catholic churches (Eastern and Latin)? The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental churches are not involved. Not to mention the Anglicans and, at least, the mainstream Protestants. I humbly suggest ‘general council’ would be a more appropriate name.
[/quote]

I believe several Popes in the 20th century have used that terminology. That notion is popular here in ECF. Personally, I accept Florence, Trent, V1 and V2 as Ecumenical.

[quote=]An œcumenical council has to be summoned by a pope.
Œcumenical councils in contemporary times are only summoned by the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, no Supreme Pontiff has to have an œcumenical council during his pontificate. If we really had episcopal collegiality I believe that the world’s bishops could ask for a council. I suppose they can and if they did the Supreme Pontiff might summon one but it would still ultimately be his decision.
[/quote]

Can you give a good reason – canonically or practically - why the Pope would not summon one if the bishops asked for it? If not, then your statement is illogical, n’est pas? The Pope acts with the body, not apart from it. The error in your reasoning is in your last statement, “it would still ultimately be his decision.” The Canon gives him the administrative prerogative to summon a Council. It does not give him the prerogative to deny the request of his brother bishops to summon one. This canon is based on the decrees of V1 against caeseropapism – the encroachment of the secular authority in the affairs of the Church, which was a real, palpable concern at V1. So this canon has nothing to do with the Pope’s authority in relation to his brother bishops, but rather in relation to the secular State.

[quote=]The agenda for an œcumenical council has to be approved by the pope
This means that an œcumenical council is restricted to dealing with those matters that the Supreme Pontiff wants it to deal with. Therefore, that cannot be considered collegiality if only the head of the œcumenical council can determine what the œcumenical council discusses. There are two very good examples concerning this point. The council fathers at Vatican II wanted to discuss two issues: artificial contraception and priestly celibacy. Pope Paul VI denied them these opportunities.
[/quote]

Actually, a council agenda is drawn up by a committee of bishops. Contentious issues are determined by vote whether they should go on the agenda. The Pope just gives his “rubber stamp” to what the committees approve.

If the issues of contraception and celibacy were not discussed, it was because it was a contentious issue that did not obtain a majority vote from the bishops. I’ll believe your version of the events at V2 if you can demonstrate that a majority of the bishops wanted it, and the Pope said “no.” Actually, I’ve read about this canard that the Pope just said “no” to the propositions, but only from non-Catholic and liberal Catholic sources. Is that where you are getting your info? The actual truth is:

As far as celibacy is concerned, when word got out that the Council was going to consider permitting married deacons, the news media spread unwarranted gossip that it was going to consider married priests. In fact, the issue of married priests was not even on the original Council agenda to begin with. When the gossip first reared its ugly head, the episcopal conferences of France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Scandinavia reacted very strongly. For example, the French bishops issued the following statement to the press on November 15, 1963:
Since some bishops are in favor of conferring the diaconate on married men, the public has been assured by fantastic stories that the Church is progressively moving toward a married priesthood. Realizing the confusion which such news can create in people’s minds, the French episcopate declares unanimously that these assertions are completely false.

To give you a better gauge on the matter, the Council was not scheduled to discuss the topic of the priestly ministry until October 13, 1964. There was actually only a handful of bishops from Latin America who, because of the sensation caused by the media, were intending to bring up the matter for debate on the Council floor. Knowing this, another group of Latin American bishops, headed by Cardinal de Barros Camara of Brazil, requested the Pope to put a stop to the proposition. The Pope acceded and sent a letter to the General Assembly requesting the bishops not to bring up the topic for public debate, but to submit their comments privately to the Council Presidents. However, the letter did not get read until after the seventh vote on the schema on priestly celibacy had already been taken (in other words, the matter had already been debated**). The vote was 1,971 to 16 in favor of maintaining the law of celibacy for the Latin Rite – to repeat, before the Pope’s letter was read.

As far as artificial contraception is concerned, it was debated at the Council from October 29 through December 4, 1964. The Council voted that artificial contraception in marriage is a sin, 2309 placets to 75 non-placets.

Lesson – stop reading non-Catholic or liberal Catholic sources. :smiley:

CONTINUED**

CONTINUED

[quote=]If the pope dies or resigns during an œcumenical council it is automatically suspended.
I can understand practical reasons for doing this. If the pope has died it would be a mark of respect during the period of mourning…As for the head of the body of bishops being absent that is not, I don’t believe, significant other than in a symbolic way. The Supreme Pontiff is normally physically absent from most meetings of the œcumenical council. So as the Holy See is only sede vacante for a matter of a few weeks I don’t believe that practically there would be any real problem in continuing with an œcumenical council. I think the real reason is so that the next Supreme Pontiff is not placed in a position where he has to continue with an œcumenical council.
[/quote]

The existence of a head bishop is not symbolic. It is an ancient ecclesiological/theological principle established by Christ himself and reflected in the most ancient canons of the Church. It was so important in the early Church that, for example, during the Synod of Constantinople in 553 A.D., the Emperor imprisoned the bishop of Rome until he confirmed the Acts of the Synod (after which it was validly called the 5th Ecumenical Council). The Church is a mystical organ, not a symbolic organ. A body cannot act without its head, nor a head without its body. Until one absorbs the mystical significance of that ancient standard of the Church into one’s understanding of ecclesiology, then one’s conscience will probably always experience conflict over the matter.

[quote=]The next pope may choose to continue the council or not.
This is not a concern. I think it just further points away from true collegiality and confirms that an œcumenical council is completely subject to papal authority. Even if an œcumenical council is temporarily suspended while the Holy See is sede vacante, I believe that it should automatically resume after the election of a new Supreme Pontiff.
[/quote]

And what if half the bishops don’t feel like continuing with the Council, and the other half does? Should the Church suffer and have no coordinating authority? You keep constantly looking at this from the Absolutist Petrine perspective. Try imagining that our bishops are real persons with real powers of decision-making, and perhaps a more balanced view will result.

[quote=]Its decrees have to be approved by the pope and presumably he does not have to approve them.
This I think is another example that demonstrates that an œcumenical council is truly subject to papal authority. The supreme pontiff can clearly overrule what the majority of the council fathers at an œcumenical council may want.
[/quote]

Back up for a moment, brother. I notice that you have been basically quoting the canons to initiate your comments. That’s good. But then you add “presumably he does not have to approve themout of the blue, and then conclude “The supreme pontiff can clearly overrule…” Sorry, brother. That’s a fallacy known as “begging the question” (others might class it as a circular argument). It’s when you assume your conclusion is true before you have even proven it. In other words, instead of basing your conclusion on the premises, you have arbitrarily drawn a conclusion and let that arbitrary conclusion infect your interpretation of the premises. Let’s conduct this discussion on the basis of facts, and not fantasy. Agreed? Can you please restate your point for this portion of our discussion accordingly?

[quote=]This being the case, I am never sure whether the Pope is bound by the decisions of an œcumenical council or not.
[/quote]

Since your “this being the case” is based on a flawed premise (that the Pope can arbitrarily oppose the decision of the rest of the Council), then this should no longer be a concern for you, I would think.

[quote=]I think a key statement in your response is “I can’t imagine that a Pope would oppose his own decisions.” Now, I don’t want to do what a lot of people do on these threads and take that one sentence out of the context of your whole answer. But, it does lend some credence to what I am trying to say, which is that the Supreme Pontiff is higher in authority than an œcumenical council because its decisions are his decisions. In other words, the council fathers will only have been able to discuss those topics that the Supreme Pontiff decided they could discuss. Also, the decrees of the œcumenical council will be what the Supreme Pontiff wanted so yes he will approve them because they’ll already meet his approval because he won’t have allowed the œcumenical council to draw up decrees that are contrary to what he wants.
[/quote]

First of all, yes, you are wrenching my sentence out of context.:smiley: Secondly, your whole argument is a fallacy called begging the question - you are already assuming your conclusion is true before you have even proven it. In other words, instead of basing your conclusion on the premises, it seems you have arbitrarily drawn a conclusion and let that arbitrary conclusion infect your interpretation of the premises. Case in point,

[quote=]You said: “… Pope is bound by all past Ecumenical Councils and cannot act or make decrees contrary to them”. Can another œcumenical council act or make decrees contrary to them?
[/quote]

On matters of Faith and morals, no. On disciplinary matters, yes. (NOTE: you might get a “no” on both points from Orthodox).

[quote=]If you answer this in the affirmative then in practical terms I believe this means the Supreme Pontiff will be the one who amends decisions of a previous œcumenical council.
[/quote]

Remember that your view is premised on an unproven notion that the Pope “does not have to approve” the decrees of the Council. I think your conclusion here is rather — exaggerated, to say the least.

Blessings

CONTINUED

[quote=]If the pope dies or resigns during an œcumenical council it is automatically suspended.
I can understand practical reasons for doing this. If the pope has died it would be a mark of respect during the period of mourning…As for the head of the body of bishops being absent that is not, I don’t believe, significant other than in a symbolic way. The Supreme Pontiff is normally physically absent from most meetings of the œcumenical council. So as the Holy See is only sede vacante for a matter of a few weeks I don’t believe that practically there would be any real problem in continuing with an œcumenical council. I think the real reason is so that the next Supreme Pontiff is not placed in a position where he has to continue with an œcumenical council.
[/quote]

The existence of a head bishop is not symbolic. It is an ancient ecclesiological/theological principle established by Christ himself and reflected in the most ancient canons of the Church. It was so important in the early Church that, for example, during the Synod of Constantinople in 553 A.D., the Emperor imprisoned the bishop of Rome until he confirmed the Acts of the Synod (after which it was validly called the 5th Ecumenical Council). The Church is a mystical organ, not a symbolic organ. A body cannot act without its head, nor a head without its body. Until one absorbs the mystical significance of that ancient standard of the Church into one’s understanding of ecclesiology, then one’s conscience will probably always experience conflict over the matter.

[quote=]The next pope may choose to continue the council or not.
This is not a concern. I think it just further points away from true collegiality and confirms that an œcumenical council is completely subject to papal authority. Even if an œcumenical council is temporarily suspended while the Holy See is sede vacante, I believe that it should automatically resume after the election of a new Supreme Pontiff.
[/quote]

And what if half the bishops don’t feel like continuing with the Council, and the other half does? Should the Church suffer and have no coordinating authority? You keep constantly looking at this from the Absolutist Petrine perspective. Try imagining that our bishops are real persons with real powers of decision-making, and perhaps a more balanced view will result.

[quote=]Its decrees have to be approved by the pope and presumably he does not have to approve them.
This I think is another example that demonstrates that an œcumenical council is truly subject to papal authority. The supreme pontiff can clearly overrule what the majority of the council fathers at an œcumenical council may want.
[/quote]

Back up for a moment, brother. I notice that you have been basically quoting the canons to initiate your comments. That’s good. But then you add “presumably he does not have to approve themout of the blue, and then conclude “The supreme pontiff can clearly overrule…” Sorry, brother. That’s a fallacy known as “begging the question” (others might class it as a circular argument). It’s when you assume your conclusion is true before you have even proven it. IOW, instead of basing your conclusion on the premises, you have let an arbitrary conclusion infect your interpretation of the premises. Let’s conduct this discussion on the basis of facts, and not fantasy. Agreed? Can you please restate your point for this portion of our discussion accordingly?

[quote=]This being the case, I am never sure whether the Pope is bound by the decisions of an œcumenical council or not.
[/quote]

Since your “this being the case” is based on a flawed premise (that the Pope can arbitrarily oppose the decision of the rest of the Council), then this should no longer be a concern for you, I would think.

[quote=]I think a key statement in your response is “I can’t imagine that a Pope would oppose his own decisions.” Now, I don’t want to do what a lot of people do on these threads and take that one sentence out of the context of your whole answer. But, it does lend some credence to what I am trying to say, which is that the Supreme Pontiff is higher in authority than an œcumenical council because its decisions are his decisions. In other words, the council fathers will only have been able to discuss those topics that the Supreme Pontiff decided they could discuss. Also, the decrees of the œcumenical council will be what the Supreme Pontiff wanted so yes he will approve them because they’ll already meet his approval because he won’t have allowed the œcumenical council to draw up decrees that are contrary to what he wants.
[/quote]

First of all, yes, you are wrenching my sentence out of context.:smiley: Secondly, your whole argument is, again, begging the question. Case in point, “Since the Pope is an absolute monarch, the Council Fathers will only have been able to discuss those topics that the Pope decided, and therefore the Pope is an absolute monarch” or “since the Pope is an absolute monarch, the Council won’t be able to draw up decrees unless the Pope wants them, therefore the Pope is an absolute monarch.” Again, I ask that we conduct this discussion based on reality, not fantasy.

[quote=]You said: “… Pope is bound by all past Ecumenical Councils and cannot act or make decrees contrary to them”. Can another œcumenical council act or make decrees contrary to them?
[/quote]

On matters of Faith and morals, no. On disciplinary matters, yes. (NOTE: you might get a “no” on both points from Orthodox).

[quote=]If you answer this in the affirmative then in practical terms I believe this means the Supreme Pontiff will be the one who amends decisions of a previous œcumenical council.
[/quote]

Remember that your view is premised on an unproven notion that the Pope “does not have to approve” the decrees of the Council. I think your conclusion here is rather — exaggerated, to say the least.

Blessings

Ecumenical councils are called by emperors. :wink:

I often read from all quarters of the globe that the U.S. is a cultural colonialist. So, there is still one potential emperor left. If we just had another Catholic U.S. President, then a new Ecum. Council can be called!:thumbsup: An Orthodox U.S. President would do as well, but the fact that we already had a Catholic President in the past, and the fact that Catholicism is (IIRC) the single largest “denomination” of Christians in the U.S., makes a Catholic U.S. president more likely.

:smiley:

Dear Brother Mardukm

Thank you very much for answering my questions in depth. It is quite clear that you’re much more knowledgeable on this subject than I am.

I think, however, that there is an area where we’re not going to agree. I believe collegiality in the Latin Catholic Church is no more than a mere notion. I don’t think true collegiality exists although I greatly wish it did.

Thank you again

Matthew

Dear brother Matthew,

Oh we can agree on that point, brother. The Latin Church is definitely more centralized than the other Catholic Churches. But one shouldn’t automatically think that such a paradigm automatically exists outside the Latin Church (or that it would be tolerated – much :)).

Have you ever heard of the terms auctoritas and potestas? In short, auctoritas is authority through respect or moral persuasion, while potestas is authority through law. Both exist throughout the Catholic Church with respect to the Holy Father, and they are both equally valid. But whereas potestas predominates in the Latin Church, it is auctoritas, our love and respect for the Holy Father, that predominates among the Eastern and Oriental Churches.

As a Latin, if you let your obedience to your Patriarch be ruled by love and respect, rather than by obligation, then perhaps you will acquire more peace of mind in the process.

Blessings,
Marduk

Some local councils too.

Dear Brother Mardukm

Perhaps I should have been clearer in my post; I was solely referring to the lack of collegiality in the Latin Catholic Church not to any of the Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental, or Assyrian churches.

I hope that my obedience is based on love and respect

Thank you for your concern but I am not as worried over this issue as you appear to assume.

Regards

Matthew

:thumbsup:

Mardukm,

Where do you get your information on the councils you discuss? You seem to be extremely well informed! Do you know all of this by memory, or do you refer to sources?

Dear brother Dcointin,

Before I joined the Catholic communion, I tried to leave no stone unturned, so I investigated every possible argument that I was aware of against the Catholic Church, most of them I knew by heart already since I had imbibed them through the years. I had to make sure, I’m sure you understand. So I read many, many, many things from Catholic sources.

When today I read someone repeating one of these old arguments, I immediately realize there is already an answer, so I just go look it up in my sources.

For the particular issue in this thread, my sources are:

Xavier Rynne, The Fourth Session, Faarrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, 1965)

Ralph Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, Hawthorn Books (New York, 1967).

For the First Vatican Council:

Dom Cuthbert Butler, The Vatican Council, The Newman Press (Maryland, 1930).
I got this particular book at a library sale for 50 cents about 7 years ago, before my translation. I can only say in hindsight that discovering that book at a library sale was a mysterious work of God in my life. I’ve seen it on Amazon for $50. It was this book which really helped to dispel the myths about the papacy and the Vatican Council that is so often repeated by non-Catholic polemicists.

Blessings,
Marduk

I strongly believe that the Supreme Pontiff is higher in authority than an œcumenical council because he alone can determine if one is held, he alone can determine the matters it discusses and he alone determines its final decrees. Basically an œcumenical council produces what the Supreme Pontiff wants rather than what a majority of the council fathers may want.

custom essay

Mardukm,

It seems to me that the issue of Papal infallibility comes down to whether or not it is an extension of the Church’s infallibility. If it is not, i.e. if the Pope promulgates a dogma without necessarily being asked to by the Church or having its agreement (which of course you argue that he does not), then it would be giving the Pope improper authority and I could not agree with it. If it is, however, then I would be willing to consider it. I realize that in the two cases in which this infallibility was exercised, i.e. the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, he promulgated beliefs which were universal in the Catholic Church and therefore he cannot be said to have acted alone. My concern, however, is again that his promulgations are in themselves infallible and do not therefore do not require the consent of the Church, which separates the Pope’s infallibility from that of the Church. I simply don’t see another way to understand it if we take the decree of Vatican I at face value.

I would like to discuss more the primacy of the Pope, and perhaps that would lead me to see the issue of infallibility in a different light. Do you see the Pope understanding of the nature of the Papacy as having changed throughout the centuries, or to have always been the same? Do you believe that the east ever recognized the Pope as the head of the Church? Do you see the Pope as possessing a unique office different than that of other bishops?

I’m never quite sure why the Immaculate Conception is frequently cited as an example of the Pope exercising papal infallibility. Wasn’t the dogma of the Immaculate Conception promulgated before Vatican I issued its decree on Papal Infallibility. I was always under the impression that papal infallibility had been used once in 1950 by Pius XII when he decreed the dogma of the Assumption.

Dear brother Matthew,

Dude. I thought this thread was about Primacy. Now you want to talk about infallibility? Oh well, it’s your thread.:smiley:

Papal infalliblity was exercised several times in the history of the Church before V1. Scholars disagree on the list, but the following are basic:

  1. St. Peter in his promulgation of the most important ecclesiastical doctrine of the Church - that the Gentiles had no impediment to join the Church.
  2. The Tome of Pope St. Leo
  3. The encyclical of Pope St. Agatho to the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
  4. Pope Benedict XII’s Benedictus Deus on the Beatific Vision.
  5. Pope Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus.

Blessings,
Marduk

Dear brother Dcointin,

The agreement of the Church comes before the promulgation of the Decree (if you recall in the Infallibility thread the question I asked you, “where in these two scenarios do you find the consent of the Church wanting?”). You say, “if we take the decree at face value,” but it does not seem to me that you are actually taking it at face value. It seems you are focusing on one single clause, while neglecting the rest of the Decree. Would I be correct in that assumption? Does not the rest of the Decree establish the limits within which papal infallibility is exercised? Where do you find in the Decree - taking the full context of it, not just one, single clause - the idea that an exercise of papal infallibility is a solitary act by the Pope? I hope to get a response from you on this.

[quote=]I would like to discuss more the primacy of the Pope, and perhaps that would lead me to see the issue of infallibility in a different light.
[/quote]

That’s an interesting perspective. Brother Michael (Hesychios) has expressed that his own difficulty with the infallibility is primarily due to his disagreement with the primacy. I know that brother Michael has proposed in the past that the dogma of the infalliblity was established to bolster the dogma of the primacy. Of course, that’s not true because the dogma on the infallibility was not even on the original agenda of the Council to begin with (the old saying - you can lead a horse to water… :D)

I personally don’t see the connection. The infalliblity only concerns the teaching office of the Church, the promulgation of Truth. It has nothing to do with universal primacy. In other words, even if universal primacy did not exist, the Petrine teaching office would still be necessary.

I would also be interested to discuss the connection that you perceive between the primacy and the infallibility.

Do you see the Pope understanding of the nature of the Papacy as having changed throughout the centuries, or to have always been the same?

Yes. I do believe that in the second millenium, a siege mentality came over the papacy due to the constant danger of the secular power encroaching on the rights of the Church. I believe this had the unfortunate effect of carrying over into the Pope’s relations with his brother bishops in both West and East. But I believe this territorial mentality has slowly and surely been diminishing since the beginning of the 20th century.

Do you believe that the east ever recognized the Pope as the head of the Church?

Yes. For example, despite the exigencies of the occasion, the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council called Pope Vigilius their father and head. Further, the Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council wanted to give to the Pope the title of “universal bishop.” The Third Ecum Council called Pope St. Celestine the “guardian of the Faith,” and wrote to him: “For it is your custom to in such great matters to make trial of all things, and the confirmation of the Churches you have made your own. But since it is right that all things which have taken place should be brought to the knowledge of your holiness, we are writing of necessity to inform you…” This certainly reflects the prescriptions of Apostolic Canon 34/35 as well as the prayer of Jesus for St. Peter in Luke 22. And let’s not forget that the council of Sardica recognized the appellate authority of the bishops of Rome as highest court of appeal for the WHOLE Church. These are but a few examples among many.

Do you see the Pope as possessing a unique office different than that of other bishops?

If you mean the office of confirming the brethren in the Faith and the responsibility of feeding the whole Church in the Faith, I would agree that the Pope has a unique office. Can you imagine anyone else having that role? I mean, just as a diocese can only have one visible head, just as a Metropolia can only have one visible head, just as a Patriachate can only have one visible head, so the Church as a whole can only have one visible head. At each level of the hierarchy, there must be a visible source of unity.

In his office as Patriarch of the Latin Church, he is no different from any other Patriarch. In his office as Metropolitan and bishop of Rome, he is no different from any other Metropolitan or bishop.

In other words, his office is only as different from the office of Patriarch as the office of Patriarch is different from the office of Metropolitan, as the office of Metropolitan is different from the office of a local bishop. It is not a different “sacred order” as in the orders of “deacon-priest-bishop.” But it is a different “office” as in the hierarchy of “bishop-Metropolitan-Patriarch-Pope.” Each level has a different (or, rather, more) responsibility than the prior level.

Blessings,
Marduk

I know I was just commenting on what dcointin had said in the post prior to mine about the Immaculate Conception being an example of papal infallibility.

I think that primacy needs to be addressed before infallibility because the infallibility of an ecclesiastical head such as the Pope makes no sense if it hasn’t been demonstrated that there is indeed such a head. If there is, however, then his relationship to the infallibility of the Church can be discussed, e.g. if he possesses infallibility when speaking as the head of the Church in matters of faith and morals.

I admit that I am focusing on one clause within the promulgation of Vatican I because it’s the one which concerns me the most as an Eastern Orthodox. I realize that it is placed within the context of issues such as the infallibility of the Church, but the issue remains for me that it is explicit that the Pope does not require the consent of the Church in promulgating dogma. The decree seems to be saying two contradictory things, and I think that’s why we’re talking past each other. One the one hand, as you argue, it places the infallibility of the Pope within that of the Church, and when he promulgates a dogma he does so at the request of and on behalf of the Church in accordance with Holy Tradition. On the other hand, as I argue, it states that he does not require the consent of the Church in promulgating dogma, which places him apart from and above the Church. Perhaps you could help me reconcile these two things.

I agree that the understanding of the Papacy in the Catholic Church has changed, but that this is rarely admitted by most Catholics I’ve conversed with. They argue that the Papacy emerged fully formed with St. Peter, and was exercised in exactly the same way throughout history. I tend to approach theology from history, and this claim is just nonsense. I have much more sympathy for the argument that the basis of Papal primacy was present in Holy Scripture and the early Church, and that it developed organically over the centuries as the Church’s governance became more formalized as it responded to historical developments, though I don’t necessarily agree with it. I would say that the development of the Papacy was based on more than its response to secular powers however. For example, one important factor was the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, which left the Papacy as its strongest remaining institution and forced it to take on political negotiations and power which influenced its understanding of its authority. I always found it disingenuous for Catholics to accuse the East of confusing secular and religious authority in the Emperor when the Pope was the head of the Papal States with a standing army (and remains a head of State to this day).

The issue of whether or not the East recognized the Pope as the head of the Church or not, and if so what it understood by this, seems to be the critical one. Eastern Orthodox are willing to agree that the Pope was the first among the bishops (i.e. “protos”), and therefore received greater honor, but not that he possessed greater authority or jurisdiction. The reasons for this honor were not just it’s foundation by St. Peter, but also its foundation by St. Paul, its status as the capital of the Roman Empire, and its reputation for orthodoxy. In the East the secular importance of the city in particular was consider a very important factor in its ranking as demonstrated by canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon (which was rejected by the Pope). It’s true that disputed matters were sometimes referred to the Pope, but they were also referred to other bishops as well because of the honor of their See, not necessarily because they possessed greater authority. I admit that some Eastern fathers speak favorably of Papal primacy and understand it in terms of authority, but there are also those who speak to the contrary, and the evidence seems quite mixed. This is the issue that will need to be addressed in depth during the current Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, and I look forward to seeing if they reach any consensus.

I don’t believe that Peter possessed an office that was in any respect different than that of the other apostles. The exegetical argument most often used is that “Thou art Peter…” (Matt. 16:18) establishes him as the foundation of the Church, but this refers to his confession, not his person, or if to his person, only insofar as he confessed the orthodox faith (remember that he was later called Satan as well). The keys which he possesses the same as those given to the other apostles; Jesus said “I will give to thee the keys…”, which was fulfilled later in Matt. 18:18. The command to “feed my sheep” was a reinstatement of his office as apostle after his denial of Jesus, not the giving of a unique authority; each apostle “shepherds” the flock. Likewise the command to “strengthen thy bretheren” while given specifically to Peter is certainly the responsibility of all apostles to each other, and indeed of all Christians, and can’t be understood on that basis as the establishment of a unique office. While it’s true that Peter often took a leading role and acted as the spokesman of the apostles, this is very different from having a different office, and he shared a special place of honor along with James and John.

I admit that a single visible head of the Church would have practical advantages, I just don’t see this as having been established by Christ or exercised universally in Church history.

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