Saturday, February 16, 2008

Papal Primacy by Klaus Schatz

I’ve mentioned this book for some time now, and I wanted to take a large number of quotes from it in order to not only show that the vast majority of the early church did not accept Papal Primacy but also to answer the arguments of Roman Catholic apologists who argue that they did. Lastly, as Schatz shows, the original church structure in ancient Rome was not that of one head bishop for a city but that of many bishops (testifying to the equality of a presbyter and a bishop) ruling over their respective house churches in the same city.

[I will note that if the publisher feels that I am quoting too much of this book, then please leave a comment in the combox of the latest post and I will edit this post leaving only the most important quotes.]

All quotes are taken from Klaus Schatz, Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1996).

“The further question whether there was any notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime, if posed in purely historical terms, should probably be answered in the negative. That is, if we ask whether the historical Jesus, in commissioning Peter, expected him to have successors, or whether the author of the Gospel of Matthew, writing after Peter’s death, was aware that Peter and his commission survived in the leaders of the Roman community who succeeded him, the answer in both cases is probably ‘no.’” (pp.1-2)

“If we ask in addition whether the primitive Church was aware, after Peter’s death, that his authority had passed to the next bishop of Rome, or in other words that the head of the community at Rome was now the successor of Peter, the Church’s rock and hence the subject of the promise in Matthew 16:18-19, the question, put in those terms, must certainly be given a negative answer.” (p. 2)

“Nevertheless, concrete claims of a primacy over the whole Church cannot be inferred from this conviction. If one had asked a Christian in the year 100, 200, or even 300 whether the bishop of Rome was the head of all Christians, or whether there was a supreme bishop over all the other bishops and having the last word in questions affecting the whole Church, he or she would certainly have said no.” (p. 3)

“However, he [Clement of Rome] is not named as the author of the letter; instead, the true sender is the Roman community. We probably cannot say for certain that there was a bishop of Rome at that time. It seems likely that the Roman church was governed by a group of presbyters from whom there very quickly emerged a presider or “first among equals” whose name was remembered and who was subsequently described as “bishop” after the mid-second century.” (p. 4)

[On the letter, 1 Clement:]
“But it would be going too far to deduce from this that the Roman church had formal authority or precedence over other churches, as was too hastily done by Roman Catholics in the past. First, even if this admonition calls on the authority of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, it remains within the context of the universal fraternal solidarity of Christian churches, even though it is spoken to a sister church that had gone astray.” (p. 5)

[On Ignatius of Antioch’s “Letter to the Romans”:]
“However, this kind of juridical-constitutional interpretation can scarcely correspond to the ideas of Ignatius’s contemporaries.” (p. 6)

“It is within this context that we can discover, beginning in the late second century, the first attempts on the part of the Roman church to assume responsibility for the whole Church. We can observe on the one hand that these first initiatives encountered resistance and ended in failure. Rome did not succeed in maintaining its position against the contrary opinion and praxis of a significant portion of the Church. The two most important controversies of this type were the disputes over the feast of Easter and heretical baptism. Each marks a stage in Rome’s sense of authority and at the same time reveals the initial resistance of other churches to the Roman claim.” (p. 11)

“In the course of this controversy Stephen must have claimed to be the successor of Peter in the sense of Matthew 16:18. This is the first known instance in which Matthew 16:18 was applied to the bishop of Rome.” (p. 13)

“Firmilian’s letter is a sustained polemic against Stephen and his arguments in favor of the validity of heretics’ baptism. The seventeenth chapter contains the expressions “who contends that he has the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were established” and “who claims that through succession he has the see of Peter,” both directed against the Roman bishop. These claims are rejected, but not formally because in principle no individual bishop, not even the bishop of Rome can make such a claim. Instead, the appeal to Matthew 16:18 is said to be unjustified in this instance because Stephen, by recognizing heretics’ baptism, is “introduce[ing] many other rocks,” that is, he is betraying the unity of the Church and thus acting contrary to the sense of Matthew 16:18 (and thus of the Petrine succession).” (pp. 13-14)

[On Cyprian’s letter to Pope Stephen:]
“Instead he writes to Stephen that he does not desire to impose his own position on anyone because every bishop is independent in the governing of his church and is answerable to God alone.” (p. 14)

[On Cyprian’s high praise of Rome under Cornelius and the controversy involving the two Spanish bishops:]
“The issue here was the ‘acknowledgment of a higher authority belonging to Peter’s successors that cannot be adequately described in juridical terms. In principle, the Roman bishop had no greater authority than any other bishop, but in the hierarchy of authorities, his decision took the foremost place.’ On the other hand, Cyprian regarded every bishop as the successor of Peter, holder of the keys to the kingdom of heaven and possessor of the power to bind and loose. For him, Peter embodied the original unity of the Church and the episcopal office, but in principle these were also present in every bishop.
For Cyprian, responsibility for the whole Church and the solidarity of all bishops could also, if necessary, be turned against Rome. There is a striking example of this from the same period involving two Spanish bishops, Basilides and Martial. During the persecution they had not sacrificed to the idols, but like many other Christians they had bribed officials to obtain “certificates of sacrifice” (libelli). As a result, they had lost credibility in their congregations and had been expelled. Nevertheless (in Cyprian’s opinion by misrepresenting the facts) they succeeded in obtaining recognition from Stephen of Rome. Cyprian reacted immediately by calling an African synod to warn the two communities to reject Stephen’s decision and refuse to readmit the two bishops. Unfortunately we do not know how the matter was resolved.” (pp.20-21)

[On the Synod of Sardica which Pope Julius called for and both emperors convoked:]
“The council collapsed at the very beginning. First the eastern, anti-Athanasian bishops should not be allowed to take part, but their demand was rejected. They insisted particularly on the autonomy of East and West, asserting that the West should not interfere in eastern disputes and vice versa.” (p. 24)

“The immediate historical results of Sardica should be distinguished from the longer term effects. Its decisions were not immediately carried out even in the West, let alone the East. The Canons of Sardica, falsely dubbed “Nicean” in Rome from the early fifth century onward, were the initial cells that would slowly germinate throughout almost a thousand years to bloom around 1200 under Innocent III: they were the germs of Rome’s exclusive juridical competence in causae maiores, that is, in everything having to do with bishoprics or bishops (removal, translation to another diocese, resignation, and so on).
It is true that later, when the development of the primacy had gone far beyond Sardica and the “Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals” in the ninth century had introduced a great many more direct rights of interference by the apostolic see, Sardica was adduced to establish a concept primacy that leaned more toward subsidiary and was structured more within the synodal system. After the eleventh century it was practically forgotten. Its fuzzy reasoning in comparison to later theories of primacy, its statement that it was creating a new right (rather than recognizing an existing right resting on Christ’s institution), and finally the fact that we never hear of a single appeal based on its principles – all these factors made Sardica appear to be a most inappropriate witness to the tradition” (pp.25-26)

[On Appeals to Rome by Deposed Bishops:]
“Strictly speaking, Rome is not yet established as a genuine court of appeal because it is not the Roman bishop himself who makes a new decision in the case. Rom is only a reviewing authority to see to it that the appeal (to a different synod) is carried out.” (p. 25)

“The further course of the Arian controversy seems to present the picture of a conflict in which Rome by no means prevailed; in fact, it appears that Rome did not even make an energetic and deliberate attempt to counteract the increasing deviation from Nicea.” (p. 26)

[On Basil’s Opinion of Damasus:]
“Rome often lacked both competence and adequate information about the difficult problems of the East, nor did it have any real ability to carry through on its decisions. The Church Father Basil had something to say about that: he found that Rome too readily gave letters of communion to bishops even if they were separated from each other. He complained especially about bishop Damasus, calling him proud and arrogant, handing down judgments from his high horse without really understanding the complicated relationships in the East: ‘What help is there for us from Western superciliousness?’” (pp. 26-27)

“It remained true, nevertheless, that the Roman church not only exercised no leadership in the East in normal times, but also that serious ecclesiastical divisions and conflicts could by no means be quickly resolved by appeal to Rome.” (p. 27)

[On Chrysostom’s Appeal to Rome:]
“The Roman bishop was not really expected to apply authoritative measures since he was in no position to take such actions in the East, especially against imperial power; instead, the hope was that he would give aid in the form of moral expressions of solidarity and by issuing warnings, writing to other bishops, and requesting new councils. It also happened that the letters were sent to all the important sees in the West at the same time; so when Patriarch John Chrysostom was banished from Constantinople in 404 he wrote to the bishops of Rome, Milan, and Aquileia.” (p. 28)

“It is true that Rome was more modest in its dealings with the East. Here even Leo the Great made no claim to be able to make laws; in the East the pope is only custos canonum, the guardian of the conciliar canons.” (p. 30)

[On Augustine’s Oft *Mis-cited* Quotation:]
“In the case of North Africa it is interesting to note the attitude of a self-confident and organizationally intact Church toward Rome. The saying of Bishop Augustine of Hippo (396-430), Roma locuta, causa finite (“Rome has spoken, the matter is settled”) was quoted repeatedly. However, the quotation is really a bold reshaping of the words of that Church Father taken quite out of context.…Both the context of this statement and its continuity with the rest of Augustine’s thought permit no interpretation other than that Rome’s verdict alone is not decisive; rather, it disposes of all doubt after all that has preceded it. This is because there remains no other ecclesiastical authority of any consequence to which the Pelagians can appeal, and in particular the very authority from which they could most readily have expected a favorable decision, namely Rome, has clearly ruled against them.” (p. 34)

“The African Church was even more determined to defend its jurisdictional autonomy. Councils at Carthage in 419 and 424 forbade any appeals to Rome…The North Africans reacted by providing a court of appeal even for ordinary presbyters from their own bishop’s verdict to the North African council at Carthage. That appeared to satisfy the requirements of justice. In turn they took a firm stand against Roman intervention…” (p. 35)

“Therefore the North African bishops forbade any ‘ultramarine’ appeals. In contrast to Sardica, they applied this prohibition even to bishops. This particular decision had been preceded by a similar case involving a bishop who had fallen out with his congregation but was protected by Rome; at that, even Augustine of Hippo threatened to resign. From now on, the only court of appeal was to be the North African council at Carthage. This case was to be brought up repeatedly in future as an example of resistance by the episcopate of a national Church against Roman centralism.” (p. 36)

[On Leo’s Influence at Chalcedon:]
“The question whether “Peter has spoken through Leo” meant for most of the council fathers the letter of Leo had formal or merely material authority is, in this either-or form, too simply put. Certainly one cannot read out of it an unconditional formal authority, and definitely not an “infallibility” of papal teaching documents. Leo’s letter was by no means accepted without discussion of its content, and it created serious difficulties for some individual fathers. This, in fact, was not contrary to Leo’s instructions, which called for agreement based on discussion and accommodation among the fathers. It is true that he did not consider the rejection of his letter a possible solution, but that was because he was convinced that he was clearly teaching the traditional faith.” (p. 44)

[On the 28th Canon of Chalcedon:]
“Rome’s opposition to the canon was a complete failure as was its objection three centuries later to the separation of Greece and Illyricum. Here it was strikingly clear that Rome could not have its way in questions of Church organization in the East, at least not as long as the common interests of the Byzantine Church were against it. In spite of Roman resistance, Constantinople became the second see, if only because the patriarchs of Antioch and especially Alexandria were weakened by the dominance of monophysitism in their regions. It is true that in times of tension Rome continually repeated its protest against the ecclesial rank of Constantinople (for the last time in the eleventh century under Leo IX), and recalled the unalterable and eternal ordering of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. But that did not change the reality, and when otherwise good relations with Constantinople were in place or had been restored, Rome abandoned its protests and at least kept silence about Constantinople and its rank.” (p. 48)

[On Pope Vigilius:]
“The result was a schism in the West, where the pope was accused of having surrendered Chalcedon. A North African synod of bishops excommunicated the pope, and the ecclesial provinces of Milan and Aquileia broke communion with Rome. (Milan returned to communion only after fifty years; for Aquileia the breach lasted one hundred and fifty years, until 700). The bishops of Gaul also raised objections. The Spanish Church did not separate from Rome, but throughout the early Middle Ages it refused to recognize this council. The authority of the papacy in the West had suffered a severe blow with regard to dogma as well.” (p. 53)

[On Pope Honorius:]
“…for it is an undisputed fact that must be maintained against all attempts to water it down that the council and the subsequent popes clearly condemned Honorius as a heretic. In other words, they were absolutely convinced that a pope could fall into heresy.” (p. 55)

[On the Pope’s Jurisdiction:]
“Instead, in 733 he removed Illyricum and Greece, as well as lower Italy and Sicily, which were still under Byzantine jurisdiction, from the Roman patriarchate and placed them under the patriarch of Constantinople. This action could not be reversed, in spite of all papal efforts from that time until the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-870), not even when peace was otherwise restored to the Church. Even the eastern Church leaders who were otherwise partisans of Rome did not think of acceding to Roman claims in this matter.” (p. 56)

[Concerning the Photius Incident:]
“However the remarkable events that followed showed how little internal acceptance these statements found within the Byzantine Church. Bishops complained to the emperor that he was permitting the church of Constantinople to be subjected to the Roman church as a maidservant to her mistress.” (p. 58)

[On the Council of Constance:]
“This is readily understood also from the fact that John XXIII owed his authority to the very principle to which the fathers of the Council of Constance appealed, namely the emergency power of a council over the pope.” (p. 107)

[On the Council of Basel:]
“The majority remained in Basel and decided to issue a dogmatic definition of strict conciliarism as a general and unconditional superiority of a council over the pope. This was the decree, Sacrosancta, which defined the following to be true:
1. A general council is above the pope.
2. The pope cannot dissolve or interrupt a council, nor can he transfer it to another place.
3. Anyone who denies these truths is a heretic.
Since Eugene IV denied these “truths” he was deposed as a ‘heretic.” (p. 110)


orthodox said...

Lastly, as Schatz shows, the original church structure in ancient Rome was not that of one head bishop for a city but that of many bishops

Shatz doesn't say that, and were he to say it, it would be pure speculation.

Saint and Sinner said...

"The fractionation in Rome favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the 2C, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city…Before the second half of the 2C there was in Rome no monarchical episcopacy for the circles mutually bound in fellowship.
I summarize my view of the sources. Individual presbyters preside over the different house communities in the city, leading the worship and, as bishops, directing the care of the poor in their own house congregation. Each individual congregation therefore also has its own treasury, and ministered by the individual “episcopus” (Apol.1.67)…Both examples from the end of the century illustrate what was customary at least until the middle of the century for each group in the city: each individual group was presided over by its own presbyter-bishop."
P. Lampe, From Paul to Valentinus (Fortress 2003), 397, 400.

"These letters of Ignatius present us with a picture which is completely different from that which we know from other sources. If we compare the two, it appears that the letters of Ignatius must come from a later time…but the solution is a different one: what Ignatius includes in his letters, as often in church history, is not a description of the real situation, but a demand. In fact, matters had taken a completely different course in the churches to which Ignatius addressed in his letters, as their texts show clearly when we examine them more closely. Ignatius is greatly ahead of the actual development; not infrequently it took several generations until the monarchical episcopate was generally accepted."
K. Aland, A History of Christianity (Fortress 1985), 1:12.

“The organization, such as we can reconstruct it, does not resemble the hierarchical arrangement of the clergy described in Ignatius’s Letters. It comes closer to the synagogal structure of Diaspora Judaism, an organizational arrangement that, in turn, closely resembled that in Greco- Roman collegia. Such arrangements were available in Paul’s milieu. No long period of internal development was required for them to emerge.
There is a complete absence of legitimation of any organizational element in these letters. Leaders are not designated as priests, and none of their functions are cultic in character. Instead, they are given the sort of secular designations used in clubs, and their functions are practical and quotidian…Nothing in the letters supports the idea that structure is in the process of creation.
The elements of church structure found in 1 Timothy and Titus are far closer to the elements suggested by the undisputed letters of Paul than to the ecclesiastical arrangements outlined by Ignatius of Antioch."
L. Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy (Doubleday 2001), pp.75-76.

Timothy said...

With all the quotes listed without context or continuity, it difficult to conclude anything.

However, it is not diffcult to understand that the recent meeting of the Catholic and Orthodox Churchs in Ravenna, Italy resulted in a statement that the Bishop of Rome does in fact have primacy. Future meetings will determine what authority primacy confers.

God bless...


Saint and Sinner said...


I'd encourage you to order the book off of Amazon and read through at least the first 80 pages or so.

Nicholas Gulda said...

I would encourage anyone reading this to go to this thread where Schatz responded to an inquirere regarding this book and his views:

Nicholas Gulda said...

Father Schatz I should say