Rome always enjoyed a primacy of honor, because it was the ancient seat of Roman government, the resting place of Saints Peter and Paul, and for hundreds of years a bastion of orthodox teaching.
In the third century passages which had been previously applied to all bishops, or understood differently, began being applied, by the some in the church in Rome, to only the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. We already went over Matthew 16:18 - And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Some other passages are:
Luke 22:31-32: And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail: and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
John 21:15-17: So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs."
He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My sheep." He said to him a third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You."
Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."
From Pope Damasus (366-384) on, the majority of the bishops of Rome, with few exceptions, built on these passages to establish a code of canon law giving them divine right to a total authoritarian rule over the Church. And they began acting as not just moral and religious leaders, but secular ones as well. They took on aspects of the imperial rule that they saw around them.
For example, they began responding to requests for guidance in the same manner a Roman emperor would respond to one of his colonial governors. They began referring to their see as 'apostolic' and adopted the imperial 'We' in reference to themselves, where before all had been brothers.
*The Papacy and the Ecumenical Councils*
The seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church (325 - 787) offer clear evidence against papal claims - nowhere in their canons or creeds do you find any supporting evidence for supreme juridical authority resting in Rome. It is precisely because of their importance that Rome insists that her authority was always superior to theirs, as the following document from the Second Vatican Council states:
There never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor. And it is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke such councils, to preside over them and to confirm them. (Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium: 22)
W.H.C. Frend, Emeritus Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Glasgow University offers a contradictory view:
In both East and West the decision of a council rather than the fiat of the Pope was the supreme instance of Church government...In the East they were confronted by a theory of Church government which had a place for Episcopal authority, but none for Roman Primacy.
A slightly more amplified contradiction is offered in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church:
The Seven Ecumenical Councils were all called together at the commandment and will of the Princes; without any knowledge of the matter on the part of the Pope in one case at least (1st Constantinople); without any consultation with him in the case of 1. Nice, so far as we know; and contrary to his expressed desire in at least the case of Chalcedon, when he only gave a reluctant consent after the Emperor Marcian had already convoked the synod. From this it is historically evident that Ecumenical Councils can be summoned without the knowledge or consent of the See of Rome.
Some highlights of papal involvement from the Councils:
1. The First Council of Nicea (325) - Summoned by Emperor Constantine to address the Arian heresy, without any recorded consultation with the pope.
2. The Council of Constantinople I (381) - Called by the Emperor Theodosius without the knowledge of the pope. It was presided over by St. Meletius, Bishop of Antioch, who was not in communion with Rome. The council, in addition to declaring the Holy Spirit equal in divinity to the Son, not only confirmed the Nicene Creed, but substantially amended and amplified it to produce the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The council's third canon granted the bishop of Constantinople precedent of honor over all bishops except the bishop of Rome. Leo Donald Davis comments, "Though the canon was not directed against Rome, no notice was taken of the claim of its bishop to a primacy among bishops based on his succession from Peter, head of the Apostles." British historian Henry Chadwick observes, "Although it conceded that Rome was the first See of Christendom, it implied that Roman primacy depended on the city's secular standing." This council was declared ecumenical at the Council of Chalcedon (451). Rome belatedly recognized it as such in the sixth century and only accepted its canons at the Second Council of Lyons (1274).
3. The Council of Ephesus (431) - This is the council I discussed in the last post, where the council fathers, ignoring the pope's excommunication of Patriarch Nestorius, tried him themselves. It was only after the council declared him guilty of heresy that the council formally excommunicated him. The pope's excommunication of Nestorius could not bind the Church; only a general council was invested with that authority.
4. The Council of Chalcedon (451) - Called by Emperor Marcian to condemn the heresy of Monophysitism (Christ has only one nature - divine), declaring that Christ has two distinct natures (human and divine), and is therefore true God and true man. The council was summoned against the express wishes of Pope Leo, who had 'begged the Emperor to defer the holding of the synod to a more peaceful time.' With the council already convoked, Leo bowed to the emperor's wishes.
Pope Leo submitted a 'Tome' which he considered an authoritative statement of Christological and Trinitarian doctrine. It was accepted only after it was scrutinized by the Church Fathers. In fact, some claimed that Pope Leo's Tome was tainted with Nestoriansim. The council clearly had the last word in declaring orthodox doctrine, not the bishop of Rome. For proof, one only needs to read Canon 28 produced at this council:
'We also do enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her, so that, in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to him.'
Here the council Fathers are unequivocally stating two important points regarding this bishop of Rome - both of which deny key papal claims:
A. Rome's primacy is not based on a theological premise, such as Matthew 16:18, but on political considerations - she was the ancient seat of Roman government. The earlier ranking of the patriarchal sees reflects this. Rome was ranked first, with Alexandria second and Antioch in third place - this in spite of the fact that Antioch could claim St. Peter as its founder, as opposed to Alexandria, which claims St. Mark. As Byzantine historian Sir Steven Runciman comments, "It could not therefore be said that precedence depended upon the apostolic foundation... Alexandria came next because she was the second city of the Empire, equal in size and wealth to Rome itself." In addition to being the ancient seat of Roman government, Rome was the city where Ss. Peter and Paul were martyred and buried. These two factors gave Rome a special prestige and an honorary primacy, but certainly not a universal authority over the Church.
B. The council Fathers emphatically state, "For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city." Thus the claim that Rome rules by divine right, jure divino, is denied by the council Fathers, who in this canon strongly imply that any particular authority, primacy of honor, or special status enjoyed by Rome is a result of the council's having conferred it.
Furthermore, if the councils have the power to confer a primacy on Rome, they also have the power to retract it, just as Constantinople was moved to second place. The councils, then, have a power to which Rome is subject.
Pope Leo was vociferous in his denunciation of Canon 28, for in addition to denying papal claims, it granted equal privileges to Constantinople. In spite of Pope Leo's refusal to recognize this canon, however, the patriarch of Constantinople continued to exercise the jurisdictional authority the council Fathers invested in him. Canon 28 was formally received into the canonical collection of the Eastern Church at the Council in Trullo in 690. It was finally accepted in the Western Church in 1274 at the Second Council of Lyons.
5. The Council of Constantinople II (553) - Summoned by Emperor Justinian, in opposition to the wishes of Pope Vigilus, to put an end to the Monophysite and Nestorian controversies that were destroying the empire. The council condemned the 'Three Chapters' - texts written by three fifth-century bishops, who were suspected of having Nestorian sympathies. Initially, Pope Vigilus refused to assent to the condemnation. He even wrote a defense of them called the Constitutum. Later, he capitulated and reversed his judgment, blaming the devil for misleading him.
6. The Council of Constantinople III (680) - Convened by Emperor Constantine IV to condemn the Monothelite heresy (that Christ only had one will, divine, thus denying the teaching of the Church, which insists on two wills, human and divine, hence Christ is 'true God and true man'). One of the chief proponents of this heresy was Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople, who sought and found support in Pope Honorius. There is evidence, in two letters written by Pope Honorius to Patriarch Sergius, that he not only supported him, but shared the belief in this heresy. Both were condemned by the Fathers of this council, and anathematized as heretics. These condemnations were upheld by all churches, including Rome, through the eleventh century.
7. The Council of Nicea II (787) - Called by the Empress Irene iconoclast controversy and restore the veneration of icons to it's proper place. In the aftermath of this, Charlemagne, King of France, called his own council (Council of Frankfurt, 794), because he felt that the Frankish church was not represented (despite the attendance of papal legates and Pope Hadrian's firm endorsement of the council. Also, he didn't like the fact that a *woman* was exercising power over men. At *his* council, the decrees of Second Nicea were repudiated, and it took centuries for the Western Church to iron out the contradiction and side with the ecumenical council and its own bishop of Rome.
*A Theory of Global Sovereignty*
It was the Gregorian reforms of the eleventh century that successfully projected the supremacy of the spiritual over the temporal order. Pope Gregory VII was the first pope to depose a ruling sovereign, the German Emperor Henry IV, by excommunication. This solemn, ecclesiastical censure, reserved for heretics and schismatics, was now wielded as a political weapon. Henry was reduced to kneeling for three days in penitential sackcloth at Canossa, begging forgiveness and absolution. Thus, Pope Gregory VII felt justified in declaring at the Council of Rome in 1080 that the pope is empowered on earth 'to take away and give empires and kingdoms.'
Pope Gregory VII's agenda for the papacy is contained in his Dictus Papae (statements of the pope) written shortly before he took office:
1) That the Roman Church was founded by God alone.
2) That the Roman pontiff alone is rightly to be called universal.
3) That he alone can depose or reinstate bishops.
4) That his legate, even if of a lower grade, takes precedence, in a council, of all bishops and may render a sentence of deposition against them.
7) That for him alone it is lawful to enact new laws according to the needs of the time, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey or a canonry; and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.
8) That he alone may use the imperial insignia.
9) That the pope is the only one who feet are to be kissed by all princes.
11) That his title is unique in the world.
12) That he may depose emperors.
16) That no synod may be called a general one without his order.
17) That no chapter or book may be regarded as canonical without his authority.
19) That he himself may be judged by no one.
21) That to this see the more important cases of every Church should be submitted.
22) That the Roman Church has never erred, nor ever, by the witness of Scripture, shall err to all eternity.
26) That he should not be considered as a Catholic who is not in conformity with the Roman Church.
Pope Innocent III also had a serious conflict with a European sovereign, King John of England, when John refused Pope Innocent III's candidate to the vacant see of Canterbury. Pope Innocent II placed all of England under an interdict, meaning that all sacraments were suspended. All business dealings are declared invalid, all trading is illegal, and all Christians are forbidden contact. Since he remained stubborn, King John was then excommunicated, and Pope Innocent III appointed the extremely willing King Philip of France to invade England and enforce the sentence. Facing invasion, King John capitulated, surrendered England to the pope, and paid 100,000 gold marks, with the promise to send an annual 1,000 gold marks to the papacy as a vassal. King John was granted back his kingdom, as a fiefdom of the papacy.
The temporal claims of the papacy continued, but inevitably came to a head against a sovereign who was determined to rule his own realm. Philip the Fair, of France, succeeded in humbling Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303), when he attempted to exert his authority over the French government. From that point on, the power of the popes to meddle with national affairs was on the decline.
The idea of a single bishop endowed with the gift of infallibility would have been incomprehensible in the early Church, which looked to the consensus of bishops convened in a general council as the only recognized authority to settle doctrinal disputes. Papal infallibility, as defined by the Roman Catholic Church is:
'This infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining a doctrine of faith and morals extends as far as extends the deposit of divine revelation, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. This is the infallibility with which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren (cf. Lk. 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter. Therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any better judgment.'
The definition makes the following claims:
1. Papal infallibility was conferred by divine right and belongs to 'the deposit of divine revelation', that is, it was there at the very beginning.
2. This scripture confirms papal infallibility: Luke 22:32: 'But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.'
3. The definitions handed down by the pope are, without the consent of the Church, irreformable, and do not 'allow an appeal to any other judgment'.
So. The first claim: Papal infallibility is a divine right, and has been there since the beginning. All the popes (which, in the Roman Catholic Church, is *only* the bishop of Rome), have enjoyed this. One of the first issues one may take with this is that up until 1870, when papal infallibility was defined, none of the popes appears to have *known* that they were infallible, in *any* sense of the word. Catholic apologists recognize this problem, and here's one attempt to explain the conundrum:
'Before the definition of infallibility in 1870, the Popes did not know that they were infallible with the same full certainty of faith as that possessed by later Popes. They were infallible in fact.' - Frs. Rumble and Carry, Radio Replies, vol. 3, p. 96
So. They were infallible, but nobody told them. Historian Brian Tierney has shown through considerable research that papal infallibility made its first appearance very suddenly in the late thirteenth century at the instigation of the Franciscan Order, when Pope John XII revoked their doctrine of evangelical poverty. His predecessor, Pope Nicholas III had issued a Bull entitled Exiit, in which he affirmed as an official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that the Franciscans' assertion that their way of life was the very way of perfection that Christ had revealed to the Apostles. Such a doctrine, if left standing, would pose a major problem for the Church, because the Franciscans taught that the perfect way of life that Christ had shown to Peter and the apostles required to abdication of all dominion, and all usufruct (the right of profit and use from someone elses' property). Umm...I think it can go without further explanation why that would be an issue for the Church, especially at this time?
The Franciscan's defended Pope Nicholas' declaration, on the grounds that it was irreformable, and by that very irreformability, it took on an air of infallibility. Pope John dismissed their arguments on the basis that infallibility would limit the powers of the reigning pope because of the infallible declarations of his predecessors. In March of 1322 Pope John XXII issued a Bull, Extravagantes, in which he maintains the reigning pope's right to annul the judgments of his predecessors:
'Because sometimes what conjecture believed would prove profitable subsequent experience shows to be harmful, it ought not to be thought reprehensible if the founder of the canons decides to revoke, modify, or suspend the canons put forth by himself or his predecessors.'
The idea of papal infallibility was dropped after this, and did not resurface again, seriously, until the sixteenth century.
The second point involves the use of Luke 22:32: 'But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail: and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.' Far from viewing this as pointing to papal infallibility, the Church Fathers are 'deafening in their silence'. Which is not to say that there exists no commentary on this verse, but only that the commentary does not point to it meaning what the Roman Church claims that it means. For example:
''That your faith shall not fail' is understood to mean finally and irrecoverably, for, although it failed for a time, afterwards he was made more faithful. Or in the person of Peter the church is understood, in the faith of Peter the faith of the universal church which has never failed as a whole nor shall fail down to the day of judgment.' - Hugaccio, 13th Century decretist of the Church
''That your faith shall not fail', that is the faith of the church which is your faith, for the church has never failed because it existed even at the Lord's death at least in the Blessed Virgin. The church can be small; it cannot be nothing.' - Medieval decretist, Johannes Teutonicus
The final point, that the pope can hand down definitions that need no approval by anyone else, and that they are binding, is fairly well refuted by reviewing the history of the Church, especially the Seven Ecumenical Councils.