The Church Fathers on Papal Infallibility

I was curious about what the early church fathers said about the dogma of papal infallibility and the primacy of the roman pontiff. So like any college student would do when we have a question, I googled it, and looked around for reliable sources. But all that came up in google where several sites explaining the dogma of infallibility from either catholic, orthodox, or protestant standpoint. Each site explaining why their denominations stance on papal infallibility was right and everyone else was wrong.

Could anyone point me in a direction where I can read the writings of the early church fathers on papal infallibility and the supremacy of the Roman Pope? I would prefer places where there is just the writings of the fathers directly translated into English with no person or denomination giving their ‘spin’ on the writings of the fathers, twisting words to support their position. (If such sources exist)

Thank you!
-E

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).*

**ECF – The Supremacy of Peter

Origen**

“*f we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter . . . a great difference and a preeminence in the things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles]. For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens” (Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248]).

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.’ And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which 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 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 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 [A.D. 251]).

Ephraim the Syrian

“Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the Holy Church. I betimes called you Peter [Kefa, or Rock, in the original text], because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they would wish to build upon what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of the kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures.”

John Chrysostom

He saith to him, “Feed my sheep”. Why does He pass over the others and speak of the sheep to Peter? He was the chosen one of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the head of the choir. For this reason Paul went up to see him rather than the others. And also to show him that he must have confidence now that his denial had been purged away. He entrusts him with the rule [prostasia] over the brethren. . . . If anyone should say “Why then was it James who received the See of Jerusalem?”, I should reply that He made Peter the teacher not of that see but of the whole world. [St. John Chrysostom, Homily 88 on John, 1. Cf. Origen, “In Ep. ad Rom.”, 5:10; Ephraem Syrus “Hymn. in B. Petr.” in “Bibl. Orient. Assemani”, 1:95; Leo I, “Serm. iv de natal.”, 2].

“God allowed [Peter] to fall, because he meant to make him ruler of the whole world, that remembering his own fall, he might forgive those who should slip in the future”

Pope Leo I

“Although bishops have a common dignity, they are not all of the same rank. Even among the most blessed apostles, though they were alike in honor, there was a certain distinction of power. All were equal in being chosen, but it was given to one to be preeminent over the others. . . . [So today through the bishops] the care of the universal Church would converge in the one See of Peter, and nothing should ever be at odds with this head” (ibid., 14:11).

Eucherius, Bishop of Lyons (ca. 440)

“First He committed to him [Peter] the lambs, then the sheep; because H constituted him not only shepherd, but the shepherd of shepherds. Therefore, Peter feeds the lambs, he feeds also the sheep; he feeds the offspring, he feeds also the mothers; he rules both subjects and prelates. He is the shepherd, therefore, of all, because, besides lambs and sheep, there is nothing in the Church.” (Serm. De Natal. SS. Apost. Petri et Pauli) in Charles F.B. Allnatt, ed., Cathedra Petri – The Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, (London: Burns & Oates, 1879), 45-46.*

I’m not sure there’s a full collection of works of the Church fathers dedicated simply to this issue. Their writings were generally much broader and addressed a variety of topics. What I’ve found helpful is to take given quotations and then to look up the full text that’s being cited. It’s easy to do, without getting additional commentary.

Saint Optatus
Bishop of Miletus

tertullian.org/fathers/optatus_01_book1.htm

Peace

The pope’s primacy is one of protection. He does not lord it over his brother bishops, but rather serves them. Vatican I emphasized papal primacy. Vatican II reminded us that this primacy exists within the context of the episcopal college he leads, not in a vacuum. From the Catechism, drawing on the documents of the Council:

895 “The power which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church.” But the bishops should not be thought of as vicars of the Pope. His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope.

There’s been development of doctrine on this matter of course. Our Lord did, however, promise St. Peter that his faith would not fail…the faith is secured by the Lord’s own promise in the see of St. Peter. (Luke 22:32)

I must defer to the linguists among us for clarification.

However, I’m kinda partial to the quote by John Chrysostom, an Easter Father, btw, who wrote:

If anyone should say “Why then was it James who received the See of Jerusalem?”, I should reply that He made Peter the teacher not of that see but of the whole world.

Can you give us the context of this quote about Jerusalem of st John? Did he discuss primacy among Apostles, or primacy among bishops?

You can do the research yourself here:

earlychristianwritings.com/churchfathers.html

St. Chrysostom Volumes
Volume IX. On the Priesthood, Ascetic Treatises, Select Homilies and Letters, Homilies on the Statutes
Volume X. Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew
Volume XI. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans
Volume XII. Homilies on First and Second Corinthians
Volume XIII. Homilies on the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon
Volume XIV. Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and the Epistle to the Hebrews

Off topic posts split into a new thread at Why does Rome not accept 8th Canon of 3rd Ecumenical Council, which gives full independence to the Church of Cyprus?

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. A.D. 315–386)

“[Simon Magus] after he had been cast out by the Apostles, came to Rome.… And he so deceived the City of Rome that Claudius set up his statue, and wrote beneath it, in the language of the Romans, ‘Simoni Deo Sancto,’ which being interpreted signifies, ‘To Simon the Holy God’. As the delusion was extending, Peter and Paul, a noble pair, chief rulers of the Church, arrived and set the error right.… And marvellous though it was, yet no marvel. For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven.”

You cannot then deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the City of Rome was bestowed the Episcopal Cathedra on which sat Peter, the Head of all the Apostles (for which reason he was called Cephas) that, in this one Cathedra, unity should be preserved by all, lest the other Apostles might claim each for himself separate Cathedras, so that he who should set up a second Cathedra against the unique Cathedra would already be a schismatic and a sinner. PP 66-67

THE WORK OF ST. OPTATUS
BISHOP OF MILEVIS
AGAINST THE DONATISTS
WITH APPENDIX
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
WITH NOTES CRITICAL, EXPLANATORY,
THEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL

BY THE
REV. O. R. VASSALL-PHILLIPS, B.A.
BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD
PRIEST Of THE CONGREGATION OF THE MOST HOLY REDEEMER

staycatholic.com/ecf_primacy_of_rome.htm

Basically the same list as what everybody else has posted, but this is a GREAT apologetics website.

I was discussing the matter with another catholic friend of mine (Who knew that the reason of my curiosity was trying to refute the orthodox stance on church leadership), I showed him some of the points from this forum and he added an extra angle to my debate. He said that Papal Primacy is IMPLIED (either directly or indirectly, depending on the passage). So my question is, is that a logical assumption to make, that papal primacy is implied?

Jesus gave specific gifts and responsibilities to Peter that He did not give to anyone else.

He also told all the Apostles that the devil wanted to “sift” them, but He only prayed for Peter (singular). This would seem to indicate that anyone who wants to survive the sifting better get in with the prayer for Peter.

EPR_97 #15
So my question is, is that a logical assumption to make, that papal primacy is implied?

It is much more than “implied” – it is very specific and unassailable, as Christ Himself instituted the primacy:

To St Peter ALONE:
**You are Peter and on this rock I will build MY Church." (Mt 16:18) **
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." (Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later, also to the Twelve]. [My emphasis]

**To St Peter ALONE – Sole authority: **
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

This very clearly then is why Christ established His Magisterium (teaching authority) in St Peter (His first Pope) and his successors who proclaim the truths of faith and morals in dogma and doctrine, and not to everyone who “feels" they want to preach to others:
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18) “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name, He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26) “But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15).
And, behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28: 20).

This is a list of “The Patristic Exegesis of the Rock of Matthew 16:18.” It includes the early theologians explanations of these verses in Matthew. It also includes some quotes that deal with Peter in general. Instead of chronological order it is in alphabetical order (except for Augustine). There are footnotes for the sources. It is lengthy and overwhelming, but it is very helpful. (The compiler is protestant, but this page is just a list of quotes).
christiantruth.com/articles/fathersmt16.html

I am not debating that Peter was placed above the rest of the apostles in one way or another, I am building a counter-argument to show HOW Peter was placed ahead of the other apostles. The orthodox stance is that Peter (and in turn, his see) was the first, but among equals. First yes, but still equal, as opposed to the catholic stance that Peter has total universal primacy, Of being totally higher and not ‘first but equal’.

Actually I am not even sure it is a problem that the successor or Peter has universal primacy, as it is clear in Scripture that Jesus gave him care and feeding of the flock, and strength to confirm his brethren. I think the problem comes from later language and attitudes such as “supremacy” (something that seems counter to Jesus’ teachings on leadership).

I think problems began when the Seat of the Empire was transferred, and the successor of Peter was given the title of “Pontiff” and left in charge of temporal matters in Rome (and eventually all of the West). This conflation of temporal and spiritual powers enabled the successors of Peter to be distracted from the Kingdom, which was their first charge.

Statements such as this from Unam Sanctum:

"Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff. "

Seem to raise the knapp on those who are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

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