EARLY CHURCH FATHERS ON PAPAL INFALLIBILITY
As men received clearer understanding of the teaching authority of the church and the primacy of the Pope, they also got a clearer understanding of the Pope’s infallibility.
Pope Clement I
“Owing to the sudden and repeated calamities and misfortunes which have befallen us… Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret… If anyone disobeys the things which have been said by him [God] through us [that you must reinstate your leaders], let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger… You will afford us joy and gladness if being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy…” (Letter to the Corinthians 1:1, 58:2-59:1,63:2[A.D.80]).
Clement declares that God is speaking through him.
Irenaeus of Lyons
“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (Against Heresies 3:3:2 [189 AD]).
Why must other churches agree with the Church of Rome if that Church is teaching error?
**Cyprian of Carthage **
"the Lord says to Peter; ’I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven’ [Matt 16:18-19])…On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were also what Peter was *, but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built can he still be confident that he is in the Church? (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).
“Would heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors can come?" (Epistulae 59 (55), 14, [256 AD]).
Pope Sixtus III
“all know that to assent to [the Bishop of Rome’s] decision is to assent to St. Peter, who lives in his successors and whose faith fails not.”(433 AD)
St. Clement, c. 99, stated in a letter to the Corinthians: “Indeed you will give joy and gladness to us, if having become obedient to what we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will cut out the unlawful application of your zeal according to the exhortation which we have made in this epistle concerning peace and union” (Denziger §41, emphasis added).
St. Clement of Alexandria wrote on the primacy of Peter c. 200: “…the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute…” (Jurgens §436).
The existence of an ecclesiastical hierarchy is emphazised by St. Stephan I, 251, in a letter to the bishop of Antioch: “Therefore did not that famous defender of the Gospel [Novatian] know that there ought to be one bishop in the Catholic Church [of the city of Rome]? It did not lie hidden from him…” (Denziger §45).
St. Julius I, in 341 wrote to the Antiochenes: “Or do you not know that it is the custom to write to us first, and that here what is just is decided?” (Denziger §57a, emphasis added).
It is apparent, then, that an understanding among the Apostles was written down in what became the Scriptures, and rapidly became the living custom of the Church. From there, a clearer theology could unfold.
St. Siricius wrote to Himerius in 385: “To your inquiry we do not deny a legal reply, because we, upon whom greater zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent than upon the whole body, out of consideration for our office do not have the liberty to dissimulate, nor to remain silent. We carry the weight of all who are burdened; nay rather the blessed apostle PETER bears these in us, who, as we trust, protects us in all matters of his administration, and guards his heirs” (Denziger §87, emphasis in original).*