Home Forums Everything Else [Orthodoxy] Papal Authority Reply To: [Orthodoxy] Papal Authority


[b:tuvxzb1o][u:tuvxzb1o]About Papal Claims[/u:tuvxzb1o][/b:tuvxzb1o]

What follows is text I had originally posted in response to a user on another forum. Unfortunately, I think I started making a little too much sense, and so the entire thread was simply outright deleted by the Roman Catholic moderator there (on the specific grounds that I was being offensive for calling Roman Catholics “Latins”, and for the post being too long…whether it is or is not too long, I’ll let you decide; though I’m unsure how else such an important topic could be tackled, without some depth.) Frankly, I think this was downright sophistic and dishonest.

[i:tuvxzb1o]([b:tuvxzb1o]NOTE:[/b:tuvxzb1o] all text placed in “quote” captions, was from the user I was replying to)[/i:tuvxzb1o]

[color=DarkSlateGray:tuvxzb1o][i:tuvxzb1o]In a posting made here[/url:tuvxzb1o], a user of this forum discusses his decision to become a Roman Catholic, but solicits an Orthodox Christian view on the topic of St.Peter and the Pope. What follows is my humble attempt at providing such.[/i:tuvxzb1o][/color:tuvxzb1o]

[quote:tuvxzb1o]Christ gave St. Peter the keys to the kingdom and all that.[/quote:tuvxzb1o]

Yes, according to St.Matthew chapter 16. Yet, according to St.Matthew 18:18, this same authority was also extended to the other Apostles. IOW, while it is first promised to St.Peter, it was not limited to him.

Thus, typologically St.Peter is “the first”, [b:tuvxzb1o]not[/b:tuvxzb1o] “the unique”.

[quote:tuvxzb1o]Peter went to Rome and since then there has been a long line of legitimate successors.[/quote:tuvxzb1o]

I have a problem with this not only as an Orthodox believer, but also had a problems with the logic behind this before I ever set foot in an Orthodox Church.

Yes, St.Peter was “the first” – the first to receive the promise of being able to release and retain sins (which all of the other Apostles were later promised, shortly thereafter, and which they all received together according to St.John chapter 20, after the Ressurection). He received this honour of being “first”, because he was the first to confess the divinity of Christ (though it’s not quite clear how deeply understood the words he uttered at the time he said them and what they implied; according to the Lord, this confession was uttered not out of his own virtues or cleverness, but was a revelation of grace).

Alas, we are also told “upon this rock I will build my Church”. According to the majority of Fathers who comment on this passage, it’s [i:tuvxzb1o]fundamental[/i:tuvxzb1o] meaning is that St.Peter’s [i:tuvxzb1o]confession of faith[/i:tuvxzb1o] in Christ the God-Man is the foundation of the Church. There are a minority of commentators who do identify the “rock of faith” with St.Peter here; and this is understandable, given that the name Petros (Greek; though in Aramaic it would have been “Kepha”) means “rock”. However, what most who cite such patristic commentators utterly fail to recognize, is that those Fathers who do interpret the passage this way, do so in a [i:tuvxzb1o]derivative[/i:tuvxzb1o] sense, without undermining the interpretation provided by the majority of patristic witnesses. Why? Because, St.Peter’s “firstness” amongst his brethren (first, not unique!), is derivative of his confession; St.Peter’s significance stands or falls, on the basis of his Orthodox confession of faith. This further makes sense, because if we want to be real sticklers, it is ultimatly not faith unto itself, but [b:tuvxzb1o]Christ Himself[/b:tuvxzb1o] Who is the “foundation” and “rock” of the Church, as we are told in many passages…

[i:tuvxzb1o]For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which [b:tuvxzb1o]is[/b:tuvxzb1o] Jesus Christ.[/i:tuvxzb1o] (1st Corinthians 3:11)

[i:tuvxzb1o]For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.[/i:tuvxzb1o] (1st Corinthians 10:4)

[i:tuvxzb1o]The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. [b:tuvxzb1o]…[/b:tuvxzb1o]For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?[/i:tuvxzb1o] (Psalm 18:2,31)

In other words, St.Peter’s being a “rock” and “foundation” for the Church is derivative – derivative of his confession, which itself points to and rests upon our Lord God & Saviour Jesus Christ. This itself is indicated in the original Greek of St.Matthew 16, where a difference is made between the rock of his faith (“petra” – rock) and his new namesake (“petros” – a stone). And who would deny that any significance St.Peter had was derived from his relationship to Christ and the true faith – unless one wants to pervert Christianity into some kind of weird “St.Peter centered” religion!

And once again, even recognizing that St.Peter is “foundational” for the Church, we also notice yet again [b:tuvxzb1o]he is not [i:tuvxzb1o]unique[/i:tuvxzb1o] in this regard[/b:tuvxzb1o] – for the Scriptures plainly state that the other Holy Apostles (and even the Holy Prophets) are [i:tuvxzb1o]also[/i:tuvxzb1o] foundational in this regard!

19 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 [b:tuvxzb1o]built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets[/b:tuvxzb1o], Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
22 in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Indeed, we read in [i:tuvxzb1o]the Apocalypse[/i:tuvxzb1o], that the Holy Apostles are still (and always will be) the foundation of the Church in a special and exalted way – we read this symbolically in the following passage speaking about the “Heavenly City”…

9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, [b:tuvxzb1o]”Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”[/b:tuvxzb1o]
10 And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,
11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed;
13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.
14 [b:tuvxzb1o]And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.[/b:tuvxzb1o] (Apocalypse of St.John, 21:9-14)

What I particulaly don’t understand though, is the “logic” which connects things said of St.Peter [i:tuvxzb1o]solely[/i:tuvxzb1o] and [i:tuvxzb1o]only[/i:tuvxzb1o] with the Bishops of Rome. This is one area which is not only is not illustrated satisfactorily by Roman Catholic apologists, but is often totally overlooked by those poor souls who take such apologists’ works as gospel – they see a mountain of Patristic references speaking highly of St.Peter, and along with said apologists, simply apply this to the Pope. But there is no reasonable basis for this, not in the least.

a) St.Peter was likely not the “first Bishop of Rome”, as it appears that honour came when he and St.Paul (who is often left out of these discussions, unfairly, since he had at least as much of a role, if not more so, in forming the early Roman Church) appointed a Bishop for the city. They were Apostles afterall, and while they may reside in this or that place, had a God-given authority and mission which spanned the whole world (unlike a Bishop, whoever he may be.)

b) Even if St.Peter were the first Bishop of Rome (which not all of the Fathers agree on, particularly the earlier ones to speak of the traditions about St.Peter’s stay and martyrdom in Rome), where does it follow that some unique dynastic Chrism resides in Rome? People talk of a “dynasty” – what dynasty?! That would imply an order of Priesthood higher than the Episcopate (Bishop) – yet such does not exist, even according to Roman Catholic doctrine. If by “dynasty” one simply means that their episcopal ordination can trace itself back in a chain to a Bishop consecrated by St.Peter, then this can apply to any number of Bishops throughout the world, not simply those residing in Rome – and indeed, strictly speaking those residents of Rome (a man who is elected Pope) may not even have an episcopal ordination which goes back to St.Peter, if he were already made a Bishop of some other city prior to his being elected Pope! Thus, the claim of a “Petrine dynasty” becomes doubly meaningless as opposed to a “Johanine”, “Jacobite” or “Pauline” dynasty. Indeed, St.Paul himself strongly teaches against such distinctions in 1st Corinthians…

12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apol’los,” or “I belong to Cephas,” i:tuvxzb1o]aka. “Peter”[/i:tuvxzb1o or “I belong to Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1st Corithians 10:12-13)

St.Peter in the period immediatly following Pentecost did play a decisive leadership role – which is precisely the “strengthening of the brethren” that the Lord was prophetically speaking of in St.Luke 22:31-32, and is the activity which fulfilled the command for St.Peter to “feed My (Christ’s) lambs (the Apostles and early disciples)” found in St.John 21:15-19. None of this, btw. at all involved St.Peter inheriting some kind of autocratic and singular authority over the Apostles that endures indefinately, or even to [i:tuvxzb1o]always[/i:tuvxzb1o] have the first place of honour and presidency – indeed even a little bit later on, it’s quite clear that St.Peter did not understand his place to be this in any sense, since it is St.James (the Brother of the Lord) and not he who presided over the early “Council of Jerusalem” and issued it’s conclusion.

The only sense then in which it can be rightly said the Popes of old could have embodied St.Peter, is [i:tuvxzb1o]typologically[/i:tuvxzb1o] – that is to say, by being [b:tuvxzb1o]Orthodox in their confession[/b:tuvxzb1o] and being “first” amongst the brethren – and what that “firstness” amounts to in a binding sense for all Catholic Christians (as Orthodox Christianity is the authentic Catholic faith) is detailed in the Holy Canons of the Ecumenical Councils outlining the privileges of Archbishops in pan-Christian affairs (which is what the Pope is – as “Pope” and “Patriarch” are archpastoral titles and honourifics, not grander episcopal orders – the Popes of old were no more “Bishops” than the head of a small backwater diocese was a Bishop.)

Given that there were strong confessor Popes like St.Leo, who submitted a tomos (known in the west as “St.Leo’s Tome”) for the Council of Chalcedon’s inspection and approval (which they did, after careful examination and debate over it’s content), and St.Gregory the Dialogist, and given Rome’s canonical privileges and the exalted Apostolic foundation of their local Church, Orthodox Christians of old were more than happy to recognize the Popes as being “Peter” in that sense. But then again, as St.Cyprian teaches, all Bishops are ultimatly “Peter”.

To all of this of course more learned Roman Catholics might not have too many objections, save that they’d say something like this…

“Oh, of course the authentic preaching of the faith is tied to St.Peter’s greatness – which is precisely why we believe the Popes are so exalted, because our Lord’s promise to ‘pray for St.Peter’ found in St.Luke’s Gospel that his faith would be firm, applies to the Popes as well; hence, their authority remains in tact, as their faith cannot fail.”

While this reasoning is a little closer to an Orthodox way of looking at the matter, there are two problems with it…

a) There is [b:tuvxzb1o]absolutely no logical reason[/b:tuvxzb1o] to recognize that the Lord’s prayer applies to anyone but St.Peter, despite relatively late attempts by Roman Popes to do just this – indeed the context of the Scriptures in this regard make it pretty clear the “prayer of the Lord” is in reference to St.Peter’s [i:tuvxzb1o]repentence[/i:tuvxzb1o] after he falls away, so that he can in turn fulfill his calling to strengthen his brethren after Pentecost.

b) It is a matter of historical record that the “faith” of the Popes, and the integrity of their public confession [b:tuvxzb1o]has failed[/b:tuvxzb1o]. Pope Honorius was [b:tuvxzb1o]condemned by an Ecumenical Council[/b:tuvxzb1o] for his comprimise and flattery of the Mothelite heresy. Pope Liberius betrayed Orthodox confessors (including the great St.Athanasius), by being cowardly and agreeing to St.Athanasius’ condemnation and making a false peace with thinly veiled Arianism. In the pre-Nicean period, St.Hippolytus speaks of dire problems in the Roman Church and her Bishop, even if Roman Catholic apologists dismiss him as an “anti-Pope” (which is a totally anachronistic title to begin with, but such anchronisms are the bread and butter of Roman Catholic apologetics.) Also, the Popes were less than heroic in the face of Germanic political ambitions and “curious theology” toward the end of the first millenia (which is precisely what set the stage for the later open schism between Rome and the Catholic Church.)

Of course, Roman apologists would go on to say that the above examples of “failures in faith” (and more could be added) somehow “don’t count”. Why? They’d probably say something like this…

“They don’t count, because we say the Pope is only so guaranteed when he defines, with his full authority, matters pertaining to faith and morals – in other words, offering [i:tuvxzb1o]ex cathedra definitions[/i:tuvxzb1o].”

Of course, this evasive run-a-round is an illustration of the novelty, a-historicity, and weakness of the Roman Catholic “rationale” on this topic. It also illustrates the historical comprimises made at the First Vatican Council, which gave the world “Papal Infallibility” as a dogma to begin with.

a) It is irrelevent because the “strengthening of faith” spoken of by Christ, is just that, a strengthening of faith – Christ says nothing about hair splitting qualifications like “when speaking ex cathedra”, nor does He ever talk about “infallibility” for that matter. This has not a thing to do with what He said, so reading that into the matter is just obfuscating. It’s also a way of creating convienient qualifications to get around the obvious fact that the Roman Popes (both pre and post schism) did not always have “strong faith” or a “strong confession” (and indeed, one of them was condemned by an Ecumenical Council as a heretic.)

b) According to many of the papal-maximalists who surrounded Pope Pius IX; the application of St.Luke 22:31-32 was unqualified. As far as they were concerned, if we all saw a white cat and the Pope said it was black, we’d have to question our sanity or ability to comprehend the obvious. Fortunately, such views were somewhat moderated by the fact that a significant part of the “council fathers” were uncomfortable with such exagerations due to their simply knowing better (but being too cowardly to stand up to Pope Pius IX and call him the distorter of truth and reactionary he in fact was), and the fact that there was a conspicuous minority who did have the courage to say this, and vehemently rejected this novelty. In light of all of this, what the Council produced was much more moderate than it could have been (though was still far in excess of what historical facts and Divine Revelation could ever allow.) However, this “moderated” definition, lacked the same exegetical strength that the more extreme view of the high “Ultramontane” Papal-maximalists had of the Popes and their power. Indeed, if you’d like an account of the sad circumstances, and outright bullying which allowed the “dogma of infallibility” to be imposed upon Latin Christians, I suggest you read the relatively brief summary written by Fr. Sergius Bulgakov entitled [i:tuvxzb1o]The Vatican Dogma[/i:tuvxzb1o] which can be read online here[/url:tuvxzb1o].

[quote:tuvxzb1o]They no longer hold the Papacy in the same way.[/quote:tuvxzb1o]

No, I’m afraid it’s the Latin Church which no longer understands the Papacy in the “same way” – indeed, they’ve been meddling with and increasing it’s importance up until relatively recently.

[quote:tuvxzb1o] My reasoning is Christ chose St. Peter so we should follow Christ and choose the Church that maintains direct lineage to St. Peter.[/quote:tuvxzb1o]

And it should be sufficiently clear by now, that this “reasoning” is [b:tuvxzb1o]highly problematic[/b:tuvxzb1o].

[quote:tuvxzb1o]I could easily be overlooking many facts, i’d venture to say mostly to say from the Orthodox side, but if I am, could you please fill me in.[/quote:tuvxzb1o]

Done and done.