In some recent posts, our motivations have been questioned. I’m sure we’ve responded to them adequately; but I want to go a bit further and state, as I’ve done before, that I’m interested in knowing “the truth.” You can think of me as an investigative reporter, and when I study the early papacy, [or the Reformation, or any other topic], I’m interested in knowing, with the greatest degree of certainty that our sources can provide, “what they knew, and when they knew it.” What actually happened.
This is vitally important with respect to the early papacy, because, in polemic discussions on this topic, someone like Scott, taking a literalist interpretation of Vatican 1, will say something like “Christ founded a visible church, Peter was the Rock of Matthew 16, Clement mentioned “worthy men,” and therefore, there was an unbroken chain of “popes” down through the centuries.”
In fact, this is a very dishonest summary of the history of those centuries. The Roman Catholic writer Francis Sullivan, in his work From Apostles to Bishops (New York: The Newman Press), painstakingly works through all possible mentions of “succession” from the first three centuries, and concludes from that study not only that “the episcopate [development of bishops] is a the fruit of a post New Testament development], but he interacts with the notion that there is a single bishop in Rome through the middle of the second century, and he flatly dismisses it. [Sullivan, 221-222].
Klaus Schatz, in his Papal Primacy: From its Origins to the Present, not only acknowledges that in the case of the process of the development of “the historically developed papacy” the initial phases of this long process “extended well into the fifth century” (Schatz pg 36)
I concluded my last post with a discussion of the conditions in which bishops of Rome found themselves, and also a fairly lengthy selection about pope Damasus (366-382).
Another Catholic writer, Robert Eno, S.S. (“Order of the Sulpicians,” whose mission it is to teach Roman Catholic seminarians), notes, “From the time of Pope Damasus (366-384), the evidence for the Roman view of itself became abundant. … I might point out that this distinction between what Rome says about itself and what other, non-Roman sources say about Roman authority, is one that must be observed throughout this enquiry.” (“The Rise of the Papacy,” Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier Press, 1990, p 30).
As I’ve pointed out in the past, Roger Collins notes (in the spirit of Eno) that It is no coincidence that the first systematic works of papal history appear at the very time the Roman church’s past was being reinvented for polemical purposes.
Just sayin’. And I’m just sayin’ that, just as the non-existent early papacy was based on pious and not-so-pious fictions, the medieval papacy, too, rests on not-so-pious fictions.
Now is a good time to remind everyone of what Scott provides, in addition to his exegesis of Matt 16:18, as another “early evidence” for the papacy”:
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).
Klaus Schatz explains a bit of this process, from an actual historical perspective:
In the five hundred years from the fifth to the tenth centuries the role of Rome was very different in the Byzantine “imperial Church” and in the West, which after the tribal migrations of the fifth century consisted of a group of independent Germanic kingdoms. Until the eight century, except for the period between 476 and 536 when it was ruled by Odoacer and the Ostrogoths, Rome belonged to the empire governed from Constantinople. The pope was a subject of the emperor, and from the sixth to the eight century the Roman bishop elected by the clergy and people of Rome had to be confirmed by the emperor in Constantinople before he could be consecrated. [And yes, it was the forged “Donation of Constantine” that enabled Rome to break free of this domination].What follows are the years between 325 and 381, when Arianism is defeated and the doctrine of the Trinity defined; following the Council of Constantinople (381), which in which the Nicene Creed was finalized, and the murderer pope Damasus didn’t want to be bothered (except to assert that he was boss). From 381 then, until 451, came the Christological struggles and the council of Chalcedon.
For five hundred years [400-900] 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. The essential features of this set of relationships developed in the middle of the fifth century, with the events of the years 449-451 the crucial turning point. …
For the ecumenical councils, as for all matters that had to be settled at the highest levels, the “patriarchates” came increasingly to be the most important entities. The terms “patriarch” and “patriarchate” emerged in the fifth century and became fixed usage in the sixth. They originated in the triad of principal churches at Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. The sixth canon of the Council of Nicea (325) explicitly confirmed the “ancient custom” that these three bishops were to have ecclesial jurisdiction (not specifically defined) over their own regions. (Schatz 41-42)
Eamon Duffy notes:
In addition to its doctrinal work, the Council of Constantinople issued a series of disciplinary canons, which went straight to the heart of Roman claims to primacy over the whole Church. The Council decreed that appeals in the cases of bishops should be heard within the bishop’s own province – a direct rebuttal of Rome’s claim to be the final court of appeal in all such cases. It went on to stipulate that ‘the Bishop of Constantinople shall have the pre-eminence in honour after the Bishop of Rome, for Constantinople is new Rome’.So during the first two councils, Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381), while the eastern bishops were doing the heavy lifting, bishops of Rome were not present, they were an afterthought, and the pope's alleged "divine institution" was not recognized at all. By councils of bishops.
This last canon was totally unacceptable to Rome for two reasons. In the first place it capitulated to the imperial claim to control of the Church, since Constantinople had nothing but the secular status of the city to justify giving it this religious precedence. Worse, however, the wording implied that the primacy of Rome itself was derived not from its apostolic pedigree as the Church of Peter and Paul, but from the fact that it had once been the capital of the empire. Damasus and his successors refused to accept the canons… (Duffy 34-35).
This is a bit lengthy, and there’s more of it, so I’ll finish it in another installment, Lord willing. But note here that the image of a “unified church under the pope” is far, far from reality.