I'm a Protestant who has been wrestling with the idea of Catholicism for a while. I'm getting hung up on the Papacy in the early Church and how it seemed to have developed in scope from limited authority and importance from the 1st and 2nd centuries to central authority towards the 4th and 5th centuries. It bothers me that the Church Fathers quotes in the "Authority of the Pope" tract on this site start out kind of weak and then get stronger in the third century and beyond. Specifically, the history put forth by Hans Kung on this subject I find most unsettling. He seems to describe this development as a series of ruthless power grabs by Rome. I don't agree with Kung on very much theologically, so I should hope that there is solid evidence to answer his claims.
Please help me out here. I would also really appreciate if someone can point me to further, more in-depth reading on the subject.
vwtaylorii: I would want to marshal an inference to the best explanation argument. I suppose there are other ways of going about arguing for my position though. So, I would compare my hypothesis 'There was no Roman monepiscopate until the mid-2nd Century' with its contradiction 'There was a Roman monepiscopate before the mid-2nd Century'. We'd examine various evidences, textual (Ignatius' letters, Clements, Shepherd of Hermas etc. etc.), archeological (1-2nd cent. Churches found in Rome, the catacombs, etc.), or whatever, and see which competing hypothesis best explains them. This would take some time though. Earlier I recommended Peter Lampe's book on Roman Christianity in the first two centuries. In it, he thoroughly examines each document relevant to Roman Christianity of this period, a host of archeological data and concludes thus. So, I'd definitely recommend it again here. I'll see if I can compile a more composite case when I get the chance, for now I'll cite some scholars (Catholic and non-Catholic) who agree:
"As for Peter, we have no knowledge at all of when he came to Rome and what he did there before he was martyred. Certainly he was not the original missionary who brought Christianity to Rome (and therefore not the founder of the church of Rome in that sense). There is no serious proof that he was the bishop (or local ecclesiastical officer) of the Roman church --a claim not made till the third century. Most likely he did not spend any major time at Rome before 58 when Paul wrote to the Romans, and so it may have been only in the 60s and relatively shortly before his martyrdom that Peter came to the capital." - Brown, Raymond Edward., and John P. Meier. Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity. New York: Paulist, 1983. P. 98.
(Note, Brown and Meier who are (were, Brown died) both Catholic are (were) like the Hawking's of NT and Early Church scholarship)
"In the late 2nd or early 3rd cent. the tradition identified Peter as the first bishop of Rome. This was a natural development once the monarchical episcopate, i.e., government of the local church by a single bishop as distinct from a group of presbyter-bishops, finally emerged in Rome in the mid-2nd cent." - Kelly, Joseph F. The Concise Dictionary of Early Christianity. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1992. p. 6.
"Later, as the close of the first and even in the second century, the two terms are still used in like manner for the same office. The Roman bishop Clement, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians says, that the apostles, in the newly founded churches, appointed the first fruits of the faith, i.e., the first converts, 'bishops and deacons.' Here he omits the (presbuteroi), as Paul does in Phil. 1:1, for the simple reason that they are in his view identical with (episkopoi); while conversely, in c. 57, he enjoins subjection to presbyters, without mentioning bishops. The Didache mentions bishops and deacons, but no presbyters. Clement of Alexandria distinguishes, it is true, the deaconate, the presbyterate, and the episcopate; but he supposes only a two-fold official character, that of presbyters, and that of deacons--a view which found advocates so late as the middle ages, even in pope Urban II, A.D. 1091. Lastly, Irenaeus, towards the close of the second century, though himself a bishop, makes only a relative difference between episcopi and presbyteri; speaks of successions of the one in the same sense as the other; terms the office of the latter 'episcopatus'; and calls the bishops of Rome 'presbyters.' The express testimony of the learned Jerome, that the churches originally, before divisions arose through the instigation of Satan, were governed by the common council of the presbyters, and not till a later period was one of the presbyters placed at the head, to watch over the church and suppress schisms. He traces the difference of the office simply to 'ecclesiastical' custom as distinct from divine institution." - Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002. p. 89.
P.S. Schaff's remark about Jerome is fascinating...
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001069.htm - read n. 3.