Sunday, November 28, 2010

Scott Windsor (3): Defense of the Papacy from the Early Church

In the process of trying to find some merit in the document known as “The Donation of Constantine,” Scott Windsor also posted something of a popular defense of the early papacy. He posted a “Scriptural defense” of which he said “This one verse alone is enough for one who has The Faith” (and I provided an exegetical commentary on that verse in my previous responses to Scott here and here.)

I’d like to look now at some of his “testimony from the early fathers,” and in particular, the history behind this, his first citation:
Testimony from the Early Fathers:
In 517 the Eastern bishops assented to and signed the formula of Pope Hormisdas, which states in part: ‘The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who said, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church” [Matt. 16:18], should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied.’ (qtd in This Rock, October 1998).
I wonder if the Roman Catholics who parrot these things actually look at the history of them. Probably not; in the firmly convinced Roman Catholic mind, for someone who has “The Faith,” if something says “Peter,” that means “full-blown papacy.” But nothing could be further from the truth.

This incident here should not be something that Roman Catholics are proud to say is a part of the “divine foundation” of the papacy. In fact, while this is a “foundational event” in the creation of a papacy that had jurisdiction throughout the empire, it is not the “great moment in papal history” that it is sold as.

Until this time, it should be noted, that Eastern churches, represented by the other patriarchates, almost universally rejected any notion that Rome had any “jurisdiction” over them whatsoever.

Describing the period from approximately 400-900ad, a period during which the Church was “unified under the papacy,” Klaus Schatz, in his “Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present” (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, ©1996 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.), Schatz points out that “for five hundred years the role of Rome in the imperial Church was determined essentially by the relationships among three entities: the ecumenical councils, the patriarchates, and the imperial establishment.”

Keep in mind that the Roman church had always been marked by a lust for power and expansion.
150 ad: the church at Rome is ruled by a plurality of presbyters who quarrel about status and honor. (Shepherd of Hermas). “They had a certain jealousy of one another over questions of preeminence and about some kind of distinction. But they are all fools to be jealous of one another regarding preeminence.”

235: Hippolytus and Pontianus are exiled from Rome by the emperor “because of street fighting between their followers” (Collins citing Cerrato, Oxford 2002).

258: Cyprian (Carthage/west) and Firmilian (Caesarea/east) both become incensed when Stephen tries to exercise authority outside of Rome. [Stephen is the first pope on record to cite Matt 16:18 in support of his own authority.]

306: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins)

308: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins again).
What genuinely gave bishops of Rome the impetus to expand further was the conversion of Constantine. Eamon Duffy noted that this event “propelled the bishops of Rome into the heart of the Roman establishment. Already powerful and influential men, they now became grandees on a par with the wealthiest senators in the city. Bishops all over the Roman world would now be expected to take on the role of judges, governors, great servants of state (“Saints and Sinners,” New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997, 2001, pg 37). Duffy had previously recounted the story of the young Ambrose (b. 340-397), “fascinated as the women of the family clustered around Liberius (352-366), kissing his hand, and the boy had amused and infuriated his relatives by imitating his stately walk and offering his own hand to be kissed by the womenfolk” (36).

In 324, though, Constantine moved the capital to the East. According to Duffy, he:
“washed his hands of Rome,” and “departed to create a Christian capital in the East. It would fall to the popes to create a Christian Rome. They set about it by building churches, converting the modest tituli (community church centres) into something grander, and creating new and more public foundations, … Over the next hundred years their churches advanced into the city – Pope Mark’s (336) San Marco within a stone’s throw of the Capitol, Pope Liberius’ massive basilica on the Esquiline (now Santa Maria Maggiore), Pope Damasus’ Santa Anastasia at the foot of the Palatine, Pope Julius’ foundation of the site of the present Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Pudenziana near the Baths of Diocletian under Pope Anastasius (399-401), Santa Sabina among the patrician villas on the Aventine under Pope Celestine (422-32).

These churches were a mark of the upbeat confidence of post-Constantinian Christianity in Rome. The popes were potentates, and began to behave like it. Damasus (366-382) perfectly embodied this growing grandeur. An urbane career cleric like his predecessor Liberius, at home in the wealthy salons of the city, he was also a ruthless power-broker, and he did not hesitate to mobilize both the city police and the Christian mob to back up his rule His election had been contested, and he had prevailed by sheer force of numbers – as the Liber Pontificalis puts it, ‘they confirmed Damasus because he was the stronger and had the greater number of supporters; that was how Damasus was confirmed’. Damasus’ grass-roots supporters included squads of the notoriously hard-boiled Roman fossores, [actually a minor order in the church, made up of catacomb diggers generally armed with picks], and they massacred 137 followers of the rival Pope Ursinus in street-fighting that ended in a bloody siege of what is now the church of Santa Maria Maggiore” (37-38).
I’ve heard Roman Catholics say that, “well, it was the highest office in the church, it’s no wonder people would fight about it. First, that’s no excuse, for Christians (1 Tim 3), and second, that’s not the real reason people fought about it. Here, Duffy cites the secular historian Ammianus Marcellinus:
I do not deny that men who covet this office in order to fulfill their ambitions may well struggle for it with every resource at their disposal. For once they have obtained it they are ever after secure, enriched with offerings from the ladies, riding abroad seated in their carriages, splendidly arrayed, giving banquets so lavish that they supass the tables of royalty… (38).
It was noted above that Liberius pranced around prompting women to kiss his hand, and Damasus himself was known as “the ladies’ ear-tickler”.

As a side note, in the discussions of the compulsion of clerical celibacy, Duffy notes that on account of such like Damasus, “an imperial decree in 370 forbade clerics from visiting the houses of rich widows or heiresses” (38).

J.N.D. Kelly, in his “Oxford Dictionary of the Popes,” points out that Basil the Great (d. 379) had a “less than happy” relationship with Damasus and that “like the west generally, [Damasus] failed to understand the new developments and, when Antioch was split between rival bishops, [Damasus] persisted in backing Paulinus, the unrepresentative leader of a reactionary group, instead of Meletius, on whom eastern hopes for unity were centred; …In despair Basil described him as impossibly arrogant.”

Kelly also notes that while “he took no part in the ecumenical council (the second) held at Constantinople in 381, and made no contribution to the constructive détente between east and west which was now under way,” nevertheless ”Damasus was indefatigable in promoting the Roman primacy, frequently referring to Rome as ‘the apostolic see’ and ruling that the test of a creed’s orthodoxy was its endorsement by the pope.” (Kelly 33)

So even by the time of Damasus, while the eastern churches were embroiled in some of the most intensive deliberations over Nicene orthodoxy and the Nicene creed, “pope” Damasus was busy tickling ladies’ ears, promoting his own importance, and fomenting division among the Eastern churches. Damasus is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

9 comments:

Andrew said...

John,
Damasus wasn't acting in his official capacity while he was acting like a gigolo. In all seriousness though I must thank you for doing all of this leg work. Every time I read one of your articles I see a little more of Rome's rotten foundation being washed out from underneath her.

John Bugay said...

Damasus wasn't acting in his official capacity while he was acting like a gigolo.

Andrew, that was genuinely funny, and yet, tragic.

I am so grateful for your feedback on this. I have struggled with this overall topic (why the RCC is so not like the New Testament) virtually all of my adult life, and without sounding too "spiritual" about this, I believe that God has burdened me with this for the purpose of being able to share what I know.

So your affirmation truly means the world to me.

Andrew said...

John,
I am pleased that my feedback is encouraging to you. Your work is most beneficial to me; but it is also a little scary. You see, my mother's entire family is Roman Catholic (excluding her). I have fooled myself into thinking that I could go through life not challenging their RCism at all because some of them (two uncles in particular) seem so "Christ like". I have used the fact that these two uncles may indeed be regenerate as an excuse to not do and say things that I know will alienate some, or all, of my family. I really enjoy their company and I don't want to be the fly in the ointment. I am starting to see the RCC for the devilish illusion that it is though and can now see that if I really love my family I may have to be willing to be disliked by some of them.

Constantine said...

Hi John,

I had just sent you an email that contained the following but it seemed appropriate, in light of your response to Scott to post it now.

The following is from a book entitled, “Catholic Beliefs and Traditions: Ancient and Ever New” by Fr. John F. O'Grady (Paulist Press, 2001). What's fascinating is that Fr. O'Grady has TWO earned doctorates both from Roman Universities and this work has the requisite nihil obstat and imprimatur.


”The study of the New Testament demonstrates that the apostles, in fact, had no successors, nor did the twelve.” p. 119

“Many Roman Catholics assume that after the death of Peter every bishop of Rome was aware of the special authority he inherited as the successor of the chief of the apostles. To explain the lack of any evidence of the exercise of such a universal power, (emphasis added) apologists replied that the circumstances did not merit any intervention...Contemporary theologians are more aware of the lack of conclusive evidence documenting any understanding in the early Church of a universal role for the bishop of Rome. The earliest fathers of the Church cited to support these views, Clement of Rome, Ignatius and Irenaeus, do not offer undisputed evidence and therefore their arguments cannot be used without some reservation.” p. 125

What encouragement to see that the intelligentsia within the Roman Church is starting to get it.

We should continue to pray for Scott.

Peace.

John Bugay said...

Andrew, please email me at johnbugay [at] gmail [dot] com. I'd like to discuss this with you privately.

John Bugay said...

Hi Constantine, I've gotten your email and responded. Thanks for this!

The earliest fathers of the Church cited to support these views, Clement of Rome, Ignatius and Irenaeus, do not offer undisputed evidence and therefore their arguments cannot be used without some reservation.” p. 125


I would say "without some reservation" is very much an understatement.

But you are right, I definitely think that those in the Vatican know the kinds of things I'm talking about, and are definitely in some kind of desperate retreat mode, evidenced by the statement that you did not print here:

“Since both Vatican councils left unanswered the proper interrelationship of the pope, the universal episcopacy and ecumenical councils, further discussion within the Roman tradition seems necessary, and this discussion need not be locked into the authority structures of the past, provided the function of Peter continues in the Church. p. 135

They are looking at that very vague and nondescript "function of Peter" to save them. But what to write into that, that is the question.

john said...

John my initial questions and doubts about the "traditional views" of the Papacy as espoused by the "pop" Roman Apologists which not only includes the small fry like Belisario and Windsor but the "big fish" like Scott Hahn and the whole "Catholic Answers" crew, was when I started reading ROMAN CATHOLIC Academic Historians and Theologians, then when I started reading Protestant Historians and Theologians and "secular" Historians, they said pretty much the same things about the Papacy and its origins and development. At this point I felt like I had been "had" and lied to and I was (and am) angry and upset.

If Rome is wrong about the Papacy then the whole system collapses and none of her dogmas are true when compared to Scripture and the Roman Church is not "Infallible".

Is it any wonder then that Roman Catholic Apologists ceaselessly try to undermine and destroy "Sola Scriptura" and in some cases sound like Godless atheists when they do so, they even attack Scripture even when the debate or discussion has NOTHING to do with Scripture or authority, Catholic apologists usually play that card when they are losing the debate/discussion on something not even related to Sola Scriptura. They know that if their Papacy is proven false and man made then they have nothing more to say.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"my initial questions and doubts about the "traditional views" of the Papacy as espoused by the "pop" Roman Apologists which not only includes the small fry like Belisario and Windsor but the "big fish" like Scott Hahn and the whole "Catholic Answers" crew, was when I started reading ROMAN CATHOLIC Academic Historians and Theologians, then when I started reading Protestant Historians and Theologians and "secular" Historians, they said pretty much the same things about the Papacy and its origins and development. At this point I felt like I had been "had" and lied... "

I think there's a post on Beggars All about "To Be Deep In History..."

Viisaus said...

Late-Victorian era Anglican writer Henry Gwatkin pointed out that bishops could not be literally considered as "successors of apostles" already for the simple reason that the very natures of their missions fundamentally contradicted each other:

http://www.anglicanbooksrevitalized.us/Oldies/Church/gwatkin2.htm

"The change was easy, for the bishop was no successor of the Apostle. The two offices are utterly different. The Apostle is a witness to the world, who preaches from city to city, founding and confirming Churches, but never treating any particular city as more than a convenient centre for the work in hand. The bishop is the resident head of a local Church, whose proper business is just the administration with which the Apostle meddles but seldom and unwillingly. In the main, the one office is preaching the Word, the other serving tables."


Gwatkin also explains:

"We need not assume any Apostolic command to explain the rapid spread of Episcopacy. Given that there was no Apostolic command the other way, the fact is as easily accounted for as the spread of despotism over Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. The Churches must have felt a heavy strain as the last of the Apostles were passing away. The Neronian persecution, the fall of Jerusalem, and the rise of heresies had seemed to usher in the last days, yet the Lord delayed His coming. Meanwhile strong measures were urgently needed to brace up the loose government which remained when the two great Apostles had been cut off. Corinth was one conspicuous object lesson of disorder, and most likely there were plenty more; and even if Clement’s Christian tact availed for the moment, the Church could not long escape the task of working out its own enduring peace. But when the forces of anarchy rise high men always turn to monarchy for help, and the bishop was visibly the strongest centre of unity the Churches could have, at a time when they needed all the strength they could get. A Papacy, for instance, would have been very much weaker. "