These are excerpts from reading material Q&A
You claim, of course, that the Pope is supreme head of this organised hierarchy. Yet urns it not the Emperor Phocas who first gave the Pope his title and universal jurisdiction? History records this as having happened in 607 A.D.
It does not. It records that, at the request of the Pope, the Emperor made it illegal for any other Bishop to usurp the title which had always belonged to the Bishop of Rome. To forbid others to take a title which has ever been the rightful possession of one is not to confer the title upon that one. And if the Pope did not possess universal jurisdiction until 607, how could St. Clement, third successor of St Peter as Bishop of Rome, write to the Christians at Corinth, “If any disobey the words spoken by God through us, let them know that they will entangle themselves in transgression and no small danger, but we shall be clear of this sin.” Thus the fourth Pope demanded obedience under pain of sin from Christians living abroad. Again, how could St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in Gaul, and who died in the year 202, say that all churches were subject to, and must agree with the Church at Rome, because St. Peter had founded the Church there, and the Bishops of that city were his lawful successors, beginning with Linus? Irenaeus died over 400 years before the date you give. The Council of Ephesus in 431, embracing all Bishops and not even held at Rome, decreed, “No one can doubt, indeed it is known to all ages, that Peter, Prince and Head of the Apostles and Foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from Christ our Redeemer, and that to this day and always he lives in his successors exercising judgment.” This was 176 years earlier than the date you give.
Does Scripture show that Peter was even aware of or openly claimed supreme power?
Since none of the Apostles disputed it, St. Peter had no need to insist upon it. All knew that Christ had said to him, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Matt. XVI., 18. And again, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and do thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” Lk. XXII., 32. They knew, too, that Christ’s commission to St. Peter to feed both the lambs and the sheep of the flock included themselves. Jn. XXL, 15-17. Implicitly St. Peter claimed his right by being the first to announce the Gospel after Pentecost, by conducting the election of Matthias as an Apostle in place of Judas, by presiding at the Council of Jerusalem, etc. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians L, 18, that he went to Jerusalem to see Peter, and stayed there fifteen days with him. Why to Peter rather than to any other of the Apostles? And why does he add that, having gone to Jerusalem, he also saw James? He does not say that he went to see such Apostles as were at Jerusalem, or that he went to see James, and also happened to see Peter whilst there.
Yet did not James preside at the Council of Jerusalem, although Peter was present?
He did not. St. Peter presided. Acts XV., 7, says, “After much disputing Peter rose up and said”; he then solved the question. Verse 12 tells us that after Peter had spoken all held their peace. James then spoke in support of Peter’3 decision, as much as to say, “Peter is right. I too think that the Gentiles should not be disquieted.” St. Jerome remarks, concerning this incident, “The whole multitude held their peace, and James the Apostle together with all the priests passed over to the judgment of Peter. . . . Peter was the prime mover in issuing the decree.” St. John Chrysostom wrote, “See the care of the teacher towards his subjects! He has the first authority in the discussion because to him all were committed.”
But if all this he so, why did Paul boast that he resisted Peter to the face?
St. Peter was supreme head of the Church and infallible in his doctrinal teaching, but it does not follow that he would not be indiscreet in some act of administration. Now no doctrinal error was involved in this particular case. St. Peter indiscreetly ceased to eat with the Gentiles because of the presence of some Jews. But to cease from doing a lawful thing for fear lest others be scandalized is not a matter of doctrine. It is a question of prudence or imprudence. St. Paul did not act as if he were St. Peter’s superior. Nor did he boast. To show the urgency of the matter, he practically said, “I had to resist even Peter—to whom chief authority belongs.” And his words derive their full significance only from the fact that St. Peter was head of the Apostles. St. Cyprian, who lived in the third century, knew of this passage and certainly understood Christianity. Yet he did not perceive any objection against St. Peter’s supremacy in this case. He writes, “Peter, whom the Lord chose to be first and upon whom He built His Church, did not proudly assert the primacy he possessed, nor despise Paul who had once been a persecutor of the Church; but he accepted meekly, giving us an example of patience.” St. Hilary, in the fifth century, says, “Both Paul and Peter are to be admired; Paul because he did not fear to point out the right practice to his superior; Peter because, knowing that all acknowledged his primacy, he had too much humility to resent any reproach offered to himself.”
Christ said, “Upon this rock,” meaning Himself not Peter.
That is erroneous. In Jn. I., 42, we find Christ saying to Peter, “Thou art Simon . . . thou shalt be called Cephas, Which is interpreted Peter.” Christ had a special purpose in thus changing his name to Cephas or rock, a purpose manifested later on as recorded by Matt. XVI., 18, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Let us put it this way. Supposing that your name were Brown, and I said to you, “They call you Brown, but I am going to call you Stone. And upon this stone I shall build up a special society I have in mind to establish,” would you believe that I was alluding to you, or to myself? Now Peter’s name was Simon, and Christ changed it to Peter, or in the original Aramaic language, Kepha, which was the word for rock or stone, and which was never used as a proper name in that language. Thus He said, “Thou art Kepha, and upon this Kepha I will build my Church.” In modern English it would sound thus, “Thou art Mr. Stone, and upon this stone I will build my Church.” The word could not possibly refer to Christ in this text
I have heard it said that St. Peter never was in Rome.
You may have heard that stated, but you have never heard any proof advanced in its favor. It is simple history that St. Peter went to Rome about the year 43 A.D., went back to Jerusalem after a few years for a short time, and then returned to Rome until his death, save for very short absences. He died about the year 67, during the reign of Nero. Papias wrote, about 140 A.D., “Peter came and first by his salutary preaching of the Gospel and by his keys opened in the city of Rome the gates of the heavenly kingdom.” Lanciani, the eminent archaeologist, wrote, “The presence of St. Peter in Rome is a fact demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt by purely monumental evidence.”
Did not the selection of the Gospels to be regarded as Canonical depend upon the various Councils?
The selection of the Gospels depended upon the authoritative decisions of the Catholic Church, decisions formulated in her official Councils, and always to be approved by the Pope. And it is the authority of the Pope which alone counts in the final analysis. Above all, such matters are not dependent upon the authority of “various” Councils, when you wish to include false gatherings of recalcitrant bishops whose proceedings have been repudiated by the Church, and whose decisions have been declared null and void. The authority of Councils can be cited only when those Councils have been authorized by the Holy See, and when their decisions have been approved and sanctioned by the Pope. Under these conditions, the decisions of Councils are quite reliable.
Matthew Tindal says that no good ever came of any Council, and that if all the accusations and libels were extant which the bishops hurled at each other, few would have reason to boast of the First Oecumenical Council.
Matthew Tindal was a rationalist, and an enemy of the Christian religion. His verdict, therefore, is prejudiced. But any man who says that no good ever came of any Council stands self-condemned. He is talking obvious nonsense. As for the First ecumenical Council, if the accusations and libels of the bishops are not extant, information concerning them is wanting, and to hazard a guess is valueless. The First ecumenical Council of Nicea, in 325 A. D., was a Council of the utmost importance to the Church, and did immense good. That it condemned heretics is not surprising, since it was convened for the purpose of safeguarding the truth against false teachings. And that the heretics who were condemned should have taken their condemnation badly is not surprising. They were not men of outstanding patience and virtue.