I’ve outlined in another post what Roman Catholics have traditionally believed about the papacy, things which I believed in my early years (the 60’s and the 70’s) – and it’ll be useful to recap them here:
1. The pope is the chief bishop, primate, and leader of the whole Church of Christ on earth.
2. He has episcopal jurisdiction over all members of the Church.
3. To be a member of the Catholic Church, a man must be in communion with the Pope.
4. The providential guidance of God will see to it that the Pope shall never commit the Church to error in any matter of religion.
(Source, Adrian Fortescue, “The Early Papacy”)
These four items are things that are said always to have been believed – and Vatican 1 etched them into stone, so to speak. But these thing are said to have been believed back into the earliest days of the church. From the beginning, according to some.
Fortescue goes on to state that the underpinning, further, revolves around these three foundational elements:
But all of this depends on something else, he said. "All of this depends further on three more theses, into which we cannot enter here." (Pg 51)
These three theses that he did not touch are:
1. "That our Lord gave these rights to the Apostle St. Peter."
2. "That St. Peter must have a successor in them."
3. "That his successor is the Bishop of Rome."
Ratzinger tried to defend these three theses in his “Called to Communion.” And some time ago, I started to get into this and analyze it – it is a genuinely weak set of arguments, given what we know today.
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Peter Lampe’s work (which we know as “From Paul to Valentinus: Christians in Rome During the First Two Centuries”) was first published in Germany in 1987. This work was not a first-of-a-kind work by any stretch. It was sort of a tying together of a lot of disparate threads of thought, which had started more than half a century prior. Here is a summary of some of the major efforts that I’ve found:
In 1927, James Shotwell and Louise Loomis compiled virtually every document that had been used in support of the papacy from the first five centuries of the church (“The See of Peter,” New York and Oxford: Columbia University Press, ©1927, 1955, 1991). These were grouped roughly into “three distinct sets of texts on the ascendancy of the Papacy within the Roman Catholic Church.”
Without going into detail, the vast majority turned out to be, at best, a “curious and less respectable set of documents, the popular apocryphal literature, which grew up around the figure of Peter almost as soon as reliable records began, literature sprung from misconceptions and confusions or else frankly fictitious.”
In the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, a Lutheran theologian named Oscar Cullmann wrote a major study, “Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr” (the first English translation Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1953). In this work, Cullmann analyzed both the theological claims of the papacy (and provided major exegetical studies of Matthew 16:17-19 and related texts). As well, he analyzed the historical literature in tremendous detail, in order to ascertain Peter’s role in the early church, as well as the concept of “succession.” He concluded among other things:
The original Church was led by [Peter], and he led it only in its earliest period. For as soon as the foundation for this leadership is laid, Peter will give it up. Another, James, will take it over in Jerusalem, while Peter will concentrate entirely on his missionary work and will do so, indeed, in a subordinate role under James.There is more to this, and I’d love to publish it some time.
This later subordination of Peter under James is a fact important in every respect. It confirms first of all that the leadership of the Church by Peter also has its significance for us chiefly as a starting point. [This is a point that Cullman has been making throughout: the fact that Peter is "first" is a unique fact. There is no "successor" to Peter. Any leadership role that was given to Peter, any primacy, was completed by this time. It was non-continuing in any way.].
James is the actual head of the Church from the moment that Peter dedicates himself completely to missionary work. The memory of that fact was steadily retained in the whole of Jewish Christianity, which took an interest in the ancient traditions. According to Hegesippus, “The brother of the Lord, James, takes over the leadership of the Church with the Apostles. (Citing Eusebius E.H. II, 3, 4).
Particularly important is the fact that the Pseudo-Clementina, which are friendly to Peter, clearly subordinate Peter to James. Peter has to “give an accounting” to James, “the bishop of the holy Church.” To him Peter sends his public addresses, and [Pseudo-]Clement calls him [James] “Bishop of Bishops,” “leader of the holy church of the Hebrews and of the churches founded everywhere by God’s providence. [Pseudo-]Clement traces Peter’s commission to him [Clement] back to a commission that James gave to Peter. These late reports thus agree with what we can learn concerning James from the letters of Paul and the book of Acts.
[In other words, any "Petrine succession" to Clement came through a commission to James. This document, by the way, was one of the documents that was widely believed for hundreds of years, known as the "Pseudo-Isidore Decretals."]
It will not do, however, to make some such objection as that Peter went to Rome just at that time in order to “transfer” the primacy from Jerusalem to that place. In reality Peter does not leave Jerusalem in order to transfer the primacy elsewhere; he leaves rather to spread the Gospel. But the significant thing, as said, is that in relation to the new leadership at Jerusalem he does not continue in some superior position, as though James were only his substitute, or were only Bishop of the church at Jerusalem, already sunk to the position of a local church. He rather subordinates himself to the authority of James as the central government. (Cullman, “Peter,” 224-226).
In 1969, Daniel William O’Connor published “Peter in Rome,” a critical study designed to look at the question of whether Peter actually ever was in Rome. And the answer there was “yes, but likely only at the end of his life. It is probable that he was martyred and buried there. His bones were never recovered.”
In 1973, there was a major work, “Peter in the New Testament,” subtitled “A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars (© 1973 Augsburg Publishing House. I have a Wipf and Stock reprint). This work was edited by Raymond Brown, Karl Donfried and John Reumann, “from discussions by” about nine different Roman Catholic and Lutheran scholars, as part of “the United States Lutheran—Roman Catholic Dialogue” that was going on, and its topic was “the Role of the Papacy in the Universal Church.
The conclusion of this group was really to have raised more questions than they answered, and at the end, the reader was referred to the second phase of this work, a patristic study “co-chaired by the Ref. Dr. A.C. Piepkorn of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, and by Professor J. McCue of the School of Religion at the State University of Iowa (Iowa City).
I have not been able to track down this work, but a 2004 survey by a Franciscan priest Rev. Adriano Garuti (“Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Dialogue” San Francisco: Ignatius Press) summarizes the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue this way:
In spite of a certain rapprochement (which is unthinkable if it is confronted with the theory of the papacy formulated by the First Vatican Council), it is impossible to overlook the controverted points which still exist, especially concerning the ius divinum and the fullness of the power of the Bishop of Rome (pg 193).Dr. Peter Lampe is a Lutheran scholar who is one of the signatories of the 1998 document that was presented in advance of the “Joint Declaration on Justification,” which strongly suggested that that “Joint Declaration” was a mistake.
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As I mentioned, Lampe’s study came out in 1987. In 1989, the Vatican began its own historical study. The results of this study have not been published, as far as I know. (If they had found something favorable, don’t you think they would be crowing about it? But instead, what came out of that, was the 1995 encyclical, Ut Unum Sint, in which we see the spectacle of a pope asking for theological input on ways “to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”)
Shortly thereafter, the Vatican held a “theological” symposium on the papacy in 1996, and the strongest reassurances for the papacy that came out of that was, “we are aware of development in the papacy” … “Peter was the leader of the apostles” … “the bishop of Rome is [somehow] the successor of Peter, based on the fact that Peter and Paul died in Rome…”
The symposium is characterized by its properly doctrinal nature, aimed at extracting the essential points of the substance of the doctrine on the Primacy, according to the Catholic Church's conviction of faith...In addition, there was a document of “reflections” published, just to keep everyone “on the same page,” that is, “These "Reflections" - appended to the symposium - are meant only to recall the essential points of Catholic doctrine on the primacy…” – this is now what it is essential to believe.
THE PRIMACY OF THE SUCCESSOR OF PETER IN THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH
Reflections of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect
Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop emeritus of Vercelli, Secretary
No longer are the boastful claims made by Fortescue a part of the calculation. As much as possible, historical considerations have been stripped from “what it is now essential to believe”.
Note this paragraph from the conclusion of that theological symposium, written by Ratzinger:
On the basis of the New Testament witness, the Catholic Church teaches, as a doctrine of faith, that the Bishop of Rome is the Successor of Peter in his primatial service in the universal Church;13 this succession explains the preeminence of the Church of Rome,14 enriched also by the preaching and martyrdom of St Paul.Note the bone given to Paul, although Peter and Paul were “Founders” of the church at Rome. Note also that somehow, in some undefined way, it is “the New Testament witness” where this “succession” “explains” “the preeminence of the Church of Rome”.
This “explanation” may be found in Ratzinger’s “Called to Communion,” and I will say here, that it is such a tremendous stretch, that I find it to be laughable. (You may not, but then again…)
The summary of that document is:
13. … it is essential to state that discerning whether the possible ways of exercising the Petrine ministry correspond to its nature is a discernment to be made in Ecclesia, i.e., with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and in fraternal dialogue between the Roman Pontiff and the other Bishops, according to the Church's concrete needs. But, at the same time, it is clear that only the Pope (or the Pope with an Ecumenical Council) has, as the Successor of Peter, the authority and the competence to say the last word on the ways to exercise his pastoral ministry in the universal Church.So, in effect, "nanny-nanny-boo-boo on you."
Nevertheless, there is going to be a “last word” on the papacy; it is forthcoming, and it is going to be the result of these historical studies that these Called to Communion folks are mocking and dismissing right now.