Consider what Vatican I pronounced about the power and function of the papacy:
Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world….This was no soft-and-squishy doctrine. Adrian Fortescue, writing in his 1920 work, “The Early Papacy: to the Synod of Chalcedon in 451,” made this bold statement: “We have all the evidence we can require that the Catholic Church in the first four and a half centuries did believe what we believe [now] about the papacy” (pg 30). Clement, in his letter [1 Clement], commands the Corinthians to return to the obedience of their lawful hierarchy. He does not advise; he commands. He commands with an authority, one would almost say with an arbitrary tone, that has not been exceeded by any modern Pope.
So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.
Fortescue, who was among other things a writer for the “Catholic Encyclopedia,” was a mainstream writer during that era. And Pius XII demonstrated that statement in spades, by making an infallible pronouncement that all Roman Catholics were to believe, and he let the consequences be known that “It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
Such was the certainty of the papacy in itself, during what Patrick Buchanan referred to as the real Catholic Moment in America.
Yet just 10-15 years later, after all of that certainty, Vatican II was not only tinkering with the infallible papal formula, but making major changes to it. The “command economy” of Rome became one “communion,” the church, “governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, (13*) .... [(13*) Dieitur. Saneta (catholica apostolica) Romana Ecelesia .: in Prof. fidei Trid., 1. c. et Concl. Vat. I, Sess. III, Const. dogm. de fide cath.: Denz. 1782 (3001).]” That citation, 13*, which is given in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, by the way, comes from Vatican I. (It’s fascinating to see how Vatican II cite’s Vatican I, and all the things that they leave out).
Vatican II goes on to describe this “communion” of popes to bishops: Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together…: Let’s go back a bit further and see the picture that Vatican I uses to describe this “communion,” the state of this relationship:
But now, with the bishops of the whole world sitting and judging with Us [i.e., “Me”], gathered together in this Ecumenical Council by Our [i.e., “My”] authority in the Holy Spirit, We [i.e., “I”], having relied on the Word of God, written and transmitted as We [i.e., “I”] have received it, sacredly guarded and accurately explained by the Catholic Church, from this chair of PETER [CAPS in Denzinger], in the sight of all, have determined to profess and declare the salutary doctrine of Christ, after contrary errors have been proscribed and condemned by the power transmitted to Us [i.e., “to Me”] by God.Some day, when I have time, Lord willing, I’ll try to reproduce some of the things that Pius IX actually said about any of the bishops who dared to challenge his program.
The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses .... (from Denzinger, the selection cited by Vatican II.)
Nevertheless, it is said that Vatican II completed the teaching of Vatican I on the subject of the relationship of bishops to popes. There is now an ongoing effort to try to understand the proper role between bishops and popes, because there are some very different looking images put forward.
Karl Barth jokingly referred to Cullmann as “an advisor to three popes.” And there can be no question that Cullmann’s work on Peter was one of a number of scholarly works that, shall we say, provided the impetus to re-explore and even to “reformulate positively” the actual role of Peter vis a vis the other apostles (and hence, the role of “the successor of Peter” vis a vis the successors of the other apostles).
It would seem as if a Protestant work that had the impact that Cullmann’s work had, coulda, woulda, and shoulda been responded to. And yet, here is Cullmann’s own account of the Roman Catholic response to that work:
In … most of the Catholic reviews of my book on St. Peter, one argument especially is brought forward: scripture, a collection of books, is not sufficient to actualize for us the divine revelation granted to the apostles.This, as we have seen, is “The Roman Answer,” no matter what the question is in these discussions. “Scripture, a collection of books, is not sufficient to actualize for us the divine revelation granted to the apostles.”
This is precisely the objection that Michael Liccione makes in his response to Keith Mathison’s piece. Entitled Mathison's Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique, Liccione, in a way similar to the way described by Cullmann, largely ignores Mathison’s work – deliberately choosing to avoid the historical challenges to the Roman position, instead focusing on the “interpretive paradigm”.
And of course, “the interpretive paradigm” comes down to this:
For example, the Protestant has no way, other than fallible arguments, to secure his account of what belongs in the canon, which account, in the case of the OT, runs counter to what the older traditions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy eventually concluded. Therefore, he has no way, other than the use of fallible arguments, to show how the canon should be identified. And if he doesn’t have more than that, then he has no way of making certain that the way he identifies the norma Normans for the other secondary authorities is correct.In other words, “Protestants can’t infallibly “secure” the New Testament canon, therefore, the “interpretive paradigm” put forth by Rome is the correct one.” Liccione throws out thousands of words for the purpose of re-hashing the canon issue.
In my initial response to the Called to Communion discussions about Mathison’s article, I spoke of the need to “take Rome’s claims off the table”. If the Roman Catholic claim to authority does not stand on its own, then no amount of other objections will make it right. I mentioned that these apologetic arguments, from the Roman Catholic side, always seem to boil down to this: “Protestantism has problems; therefore, the Roman Catholic Church is what it says it is.”
Liccione’s article is merely a distraction. Liccione is avoiding the bulk of Mathison’s article – the historical challenges to Rome’s claims – because he cannot make a cogent response to them. And yet, the historical work that’s being done has persuaded official Rome to adjust its theology of the papacy, and of the Roman church itself. It is a slow, laborious process, and some are only being dragged kicking and screaming.
Mathison dealt squarely and thoroughly with “The Church that Christ Founded.” He showed it really to be as much of a fairy tale as “The Great and Powerful Oz,” with fire and smoke billowing. But that Oz, that Roman Catholic Church, is just a hollow image.
The real “Church that Christ founded” us dispersed among Christ’s true believers who “gather in my name,” who understand what Christ has truly done for them (Gal 1:6-9) and who are united by the Holy Spirit. It is a Spirit who “blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
On the other hand,