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The Papacy:

Its Historic Origin and Primitive Relations with the Eastern Churches

by Abbé Guettée

Source: http://reocities.com/heartland/5654/orthodox/essays.html

The Papal Authority Condemned by the Word of God

The Church, according to St. Paul, is a temple, a religious edifice, of which the faithful are the stones. You are, said he to the faithful of Ephesus, (2:20-22,) built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Thus, according to St. Paul, the Church is the society of all the faithful of the Old as well as of the New Testament; the first, instructed by the prophets, and the second, by the apostles, form together a spiritual habitation, having for its foundation Jesus Christ, waited for by the one as the Messiah, adored by the other as the Divine Word clothed in humanity.

The prophets and apostles form the first layers of this mystic edifice. The faithful are raised on these foundations and form the edifice itself; finally Jesus Christ is the principal stone, the cornerstone which gives solidity to the monument.

There is no other foundation or principal stone than Jesus Christ. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, (1 Cor. 3:11,) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Paul gave to the Corinthians this lesson, because among them many attached themselves to the preachers of the Gospel, as though they had been the corner-stone of the Church. I have learned, said he to them, that there are contentions among, you. . . . Every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?

Peter himself could not be, according to St. Paul, regarded as the corner-stone of the Church, as the first vicar of Jesus Christ, any more than himself or Apollos. Peter and all the other apostles were only in his eyes the ministers of Jesus Christ, the first layers of the mystic edifice.

St. Paul also compares the Church to a body, of which Jesus Christ is the head, and of which the members are the pastors and the faithful.

Christ, said he, gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the, faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love.

There is then but one Church, of which Jesus Christ is the head; which is composed of the faithful as well as the pastors, and in the bosom of which the pastors work in the various ministrations which are, confided to them to develop the Christian life, of which charity is the sum.

Do we perceive, in these notions of the Church, a monarchy governed by a sovereign pontiff, absolute and infallible?

Now this Church which St. Paul regards as the depository of divine instruction—this Church as extended in its unity as in its universality—it is this that he calls the pillar and ground of the truth. (I Tim. 3:15.)

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:1, et seq.)

St. Peter, then, whom the Roman theologians would make the absolute prince of the Church, knew but one chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. As for himself, he was the colleague of the other apostles by his priesthood; he speaks neither of his primacy nor of his sovereignty. He does not raise himself above the other pastors of the Church, whom, on the contrary, he addresses as his equals and his brethren; justifying himself solely in giving them counsel, in that he was a witness of the sufferings of Jesus Christ and also of his future glory, which had been revealed to him upon Mount Tabor.

We have not met in Holy Scripture any text relating to the subject we are now considering, where Jesus Christ is not regarded as the sole held of the Church, nor in which the Church is not represented as a whole, one and identical, composed of the faithful as well as the pastors.

It can not be disputed that these pastors have received from Jesus Christ the powers necessary to govern well the Church. Furthermore, it can not be denied that these powers given to the apostles were also transmitted to their legitimate successors; for the Church and the body of pastors should, according to Christ’s word, be perpetuated for all ages. Before leaving the earth, Christ said to his apostles: Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28:19, 20.)

Jesus Christ is then perpetually with the body of the pastors of the Church. It is to them he has said in the person of the apostles: He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me. It is still to them he says: Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosoever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins ye retain they are retained.

This power, given in a general manner to all the apostles, had been promised to St. Peter previously, and in the same terms. This is one of the proofs that the Popes bring, to support their theory of a special and superior power that Peter had received from Jesus, and that has been transmitted to them; but they do not remark that the power was given to all, that it was not promised to Peter personally, but to all the apostles in his person. This is the observation of St. Cyprian, and of the greater number of the Fathers of the, Church. Other texts are also cited to support this theory. We will consider them. Here is the first:

Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matt. 16:18, 19. It will here be remembered that both the text and its application lose nearly all their power when translated into English. In French, the word stone and the Christian name Peter are both rendered Pierre.

If we believe with the Popes, this text proves that St. Peter and the bishops of Rome, his successors, have been established by Jesus Christ as the corner-stone of the Church, and that Error, figured by the gates of hell, shall never prevail against this stone or rock. Hence, they draw this result, that they are the sovereign heads of the Church.

If this reasoning be true, it follows that St. Peter, to the exclusion of the other apostles, was established as corner-stone of the Church, and that it was not merely a personal privilege to him, but that it has passed to the bishops of Rome.

It is not thus.

First of all, Peter was not called the rock of the Church to the exclusion of the other apostles. He was not made the head of it. We see a proof of this in the text of St. Paul, already cited, in which that apostle distinctly affirms that the foundation-stones of the Church are the prophets and apostles, joined together by the corner-stone, which is Jesus Christ.

The title of rock of the Church can not be given to St. Peter without forcing the sense of Holy Scripture, without destroying the economy of the Church, nor without abandoning Catholic tradition. Jesus Christ has declared that he was himself that stone designated by the prophets, (Matt. 21:42; Luke 20:17, 18.) St. Paul says that Christ was that Rock, (1 Corinth. 10:4.) St. Peter teaches the same truth, (1 Pet. 2:7, 8.)

The greater number of tile Fathers of the Church have not admitted the play upon words that our Ultramontanes attribute to Jesus Christ in applying to St. Peter these words, And upon this rock I will build my Church. Launoy, Doctor of the Sorbonne, known for a great number of works on theology and whose vast erudition no one will dispute, has shown the Catholic tradition upon that question. He has demonstrated by clear and authentic texts, that but a small number of Fathers or Doctors of the Church have applied to St. Peter the title of rock, upon which the Church should be built; while the most of them do not apply this to him at all, but understand these words of Christ In quite a different manner. His collection of Letters may be consulted, which are the treatises of a savant of the first order. In order to be convinced that their interpretation is most just, it is only necessary to recall the circumstances under which Jesus Christ addressed to St. Peter the words so much abused by the Roman theologians.

He had asked of his disciples, Whom do men say, that I the Son of man am? The disciples replied, Some say John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. But whom, replied Jesus, say ye that I am? Simon Peter, answering him, said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered him and said, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, etc.

These words mean nothing but this: I say unto thee, whom I have surnamed Peter because of the firmness of thy faith, I say to thee that this truth that thou hast professed is the foundation-stone of the Church, and that Error shall never prevail against it.

As St. Augustine remarks, it was not said to Simon, Thou art the rock, (la pierre,) but thou art Peter, (Pierre.) The words of St. Augustine deserve to fix the attention. It is not, said he, upon thee as Peter, but upon that rock which thou hast confessed. Ce n’est pas, dit il sur toi qui es pierre, mais sur la pierre que tu as confessée . . . tu es pierre, et sur cette pierre que tu as confessée, sur cette pierre que as reconnue en disant, Thou art Christ, etc., sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon église, I will build thee upon myself, I will not be built upon thee. Those who wished to be built upon men said, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, that is to say, of Peter; but those who did not wish to be built upon Peter, but upon the Rock, they said, I am of Christ. In the French language the name given to the man having the same designation as that of the thing, there is an amphibology which is not found either in Greek or Latin. In these languages the name of the man has a masculine termination, while the name of the thing has a feminine, rendering it more easy to perceive the distinction that Christ had in view; moreover, it is easy in these two languages to remark, by the aid of the pronoun and the feminine article that precedes the word la pierre, (the stone,) that these words do not relate to the masculine substantive which designates the man, but to another object. Besides, the Greek word ὄôé has not been sufficiently remarked, which in Latin is exactly rendered by the word quia, which means because, (parce que.) In translating thus in French, the amphibology is avoided, upon which is founded all the reasoning of the popes and their partisans.

In Holy Scripture the Rock is frequently spoken of in a figurative sense. This word always signifies Christ, and never, directly or indirectly, St. Peter. The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. It is then with good reason that the immense majority of the Fathers and Doctors have given to the passage in question the interpretation that we claim for it—always referring either to Jesus Christ, or to faith in his divinity the word rock, which the Saviour used. This interpretation has the threefold advantage of being more conformed to the text, of better according with other passages of Holy Scripture, and of not attributing to Christ a play upon words little worthy of his majesty. Among the Fathers who have given this interpretation to the famous passage, "Tu est Petrus," we will name St. Hilary of Poitiers, The Trinity, sixth book; St. Gregory of Nyasa, Advent of our Lord; St. Ambrose, book 6, on chapter ix. of St. Luke and on 2d chapter of Epistle to the Ephesians; St. Jerome upon the 18th verse of the 16th chapter of St. Matthew; St. John Chrysostom homilies 55 and 83 upon St. Matthew, and lst chapter Epistle to the Galatians; St. Augustine, Tracts 7 and 123 upon St. John, 13th sermon upon the words of the Lord, taken from St. Matthew, 1st Book of the Retractions; Acacius, homily pronounced at the Council of Ephesus; St. Cyril of Alexandria, 4th book upon Isaiah, 4th book of the Trinity; St. Leo I, Sermons 2d and 3d, upon his elevation to the episcopate, sermon upon the Tranfiguration of our Lord, sermon 2d upon the nativity of the apostles Peter and Paul; St. Gregory the Great, 3d book, 33d epistle; St. John Damascene upon the Transfiguration. ¶ This interpretation of the Fathers was preserved In the West until the era when Ultramontanism was erected into a system by the Jesuits in the 16th century. It will suffice to prove this to cite Jonas of Orleans, 3d book on the worship of images; Hincmar of Rheims, 33d essay; Pope Nicholas I, 6th letter to Photius; Odo of Cluny, sermon upon the see of St. Peter; Rupert, 3d book upon St. Matthew and 12th book upon the Apocalypse; Thomas Aquinas, supplement Q. 25, art. 1; Anselm, upon the 16th chapter of St. Matthew; Eckius, 2d book of the primacy of St. Peter; Cardinal de Cusa, Catholic Concordance, 2d book, chapters 13 and 18.

As for the few old writers who admitted this play upon words, it must be remembered that none of them interpreted the text in a manner favorable to the Papal sovereignty, nor drew from it the exaggerated consequences of this system. These consequences are diametrically opposed to the whole of their doctrine.

It is true that Christ addressed himself directly to Peter; but it is only necessary to read the context to see that he did not, thereby give him a title to the exclusion of the other apostles. In fact, after having pronounced the words we have quoted, Jesus Christ, still addressing himself to Peter, added:

I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. In the two parts of this text, Christ simply made two promises to Peter; the first, that the Church should be so firmly established in the faith in his personal divinity, that error should never prevail against that truth; the second, that he would give to Peter an important ministry in the Church.

It is not possible to sustain the doctrine that the power of the keys was granted exclusively to St. Peter, for Jesus Christ gave it to all of them at the same time, employing the same terms that he had used in promising, it to St. Peter, (Matt. 18:18;) moreover, he promised to all the apostles collectively, and not only to Peter, to be with them to the end of the world.

According to St. Matthew, (Matt. 28:18, et seq.,) Jesus approached his disciples and said to them: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; go ye . . . . teach all nations, etc . . . . and I am with you alway, unto the end of the world.

We read in St. John, (John 20:21, et seq.,) As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. After having said these words, he breathed upon them, and said to them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Evidently Christ gave to his apostles collectively the prerogatives he had promised to Peter. The promise made to Peter has been realized in respect to the whole body of pastors, which proves that Christ only spoke to Peter as representing, his colleagues, as being a type of the apostolic body.It is thus this text is interpreted by Origen, upon St. Matthew; St. Cyprian, Of the Unity of the Church; St. Augustine, Tracts 50 and 118 upon St. John, sermon 205 upon the Nativity of the Apostles Peter and Paul; St. Ambrose upon 38th Psalm; St. Pacian, 3d letter to Sempronius.

But, it may be asked, should we not conclude that what was addressed to Peter alone under such solemn circumstances, was the bestowal of prerogatives in a special and superior manner?

It must be remarked, that nowhere in the Gospel is it seen in respect to Peter alone, that any such promise made to him has been realized. Peter received this power only with the other apostles. But, if in the designs of Christ there was to be in the Church a supreme and absolute head, this institution would have been of sufficient importance to cause a particular mention in the sacred volume, of some occasion when Jesus Christ delegated superior powers to this supreme chief. On the contrary it is seen that special assistance for the preservation of revealed truth, as well as the power of the keys, was given to Peter only collectively with his fellow-workers in the apostleship.

St. Paul knew no more than the evangelists of superior powers having, been conferred upon St. Peter. Beside the texts that we have already quoted, we read in the Epistle to the Galatians, (2:7, 8, 9,) that Paul ascribes to himself, among the Gentiles, the same power that Peter had among the Jews, and that he did not regard Peter as superior to James and John, whom he calls, like Peter, the pillars of the Church. He even names James, Bishop of Jerusalem, before Peter when he gives them their title of pillars of the Church; he believed so little in any authority of Peter, that he withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

When the apostles assembled at Jerusalem, Peter spoke in council only as a simple member of the assembly, not even the first, but after many others. He felt himself obliged in presence of the other apostles-some old disciples and some faithful followers-to renounce publicly his opinion upon the necessity of circumcision and other Judaical ceremonies. James, Bishop of Jerusalem, summed up the discussion, proposed the resolution which was adopted, and acted as the veritable president of the assembly. (Acts 15:7.)

The apostles then did not consider St. Peter as the foundation-stone of the Church. Consequently the Papal interpretation of the famous text, Tu es Petrus, is as contrary to Holy Scripture as it is to Catholic tradition.

We can not see any serious objection to the manner in which we understand it. Our interpretation necessarily results from the comparison of the various texts of Scripture relating to the same subject.

From a Catholic and traditional point of view it presents every guarantee—in fine, the text considered in itself can receive no other legitimate rendering. From the simple reading of the passage, it appears, that the Saviour’s principal object was to concentrate upon himself and his divine mission the whole attention of his disciples. His divinity is the idea to which evidently his questions and the answers of Peter had reference; the conclusion then should relate to that idea. It is not possible to apply it to Peter, as head of the Church, without pretending that Christ, after having spoken of his divinity, drew from it, as a consequence, the Pontifical power, which is an idea essentially different.

Let us now see if the other texts quoted by the Romish theologians in favor of the Papal authority prove that Jesus Christ has truly established this authority in his Church.

They support themselves upon this passage of the Gospel of St. Luke, (St. Luke 22:31, et seq.,) Simon, Simon, behold; Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Jesus here addresses himself to the apostles in the person of Simon, surnamed Peter. He says that Satan has asked permission to sift them, that is, to put their faith to severe trial. It is necessary to remark the word you, in Latin vos, in Greek ὑíáň. Satan did not obtain the opportunity that he desired. The apostles will not lose their faith in presence of the temptations which they will be made to endure in the ignominious death of their Master. Peter only, in punishment for his presumption, shall yield and then deny his Master. But, thanks to the special prayer of the Saviour, he shall return in repentance, and will thus have a great duty to fulfill toward the brethren scandalized by his fall—the duty of strengthening them, and repairing by his zeal and faith the fault he has committed.

Truly it is impossible to conceive how the Popes have been so bold as to set up this passage of St. Luke in order to establish their system. It must be remarked that these words quoted were addressed by Christ to St. Peter the very day that he was to betray him, and that they contain only a prediction of his fall. St. Peter understood this well, since he immediately replied, Lord, I am ready to go with thee both into prison, and to death; but Jesus added, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

The text of St. Luke’s Gospel is a proof against the firmness of St. Peter’s faith, rather than in favor of it—à fortiori, then, should no deductions in support of his superiority in the matter of doctrine or government be drawn from it. And the Fathers of the Church and the most learned interpreters of Holy Scripture have never dreamed of giving to it any such meaning. Aside from modern Popes and their partisans, who wish at any price to procure proofs, good or bad, no one has ever seen in the words above quoted more than a warning given to Peter to repair by his faith the scandal of his fall, and to strengthen the other apostles whom this fall must shake in their faith.It was not until the ninth century, that any Father or ecclesiastical writer admitted the Ultramontaue interpretation. The obligation to confirm their faith proceeded from the scandal he would thus occasion; the words confirma fratres are only the consequence of the word conversus. Now if one would give to the first a general sense, why should it not be given to the second? It would result then, if the successors of St. Peter have inherited the prerogative of confirming their brethren in the faith, they have also inherited that of the need of conversion, after having denied Jesus Christ. We can not see how the Pontifical authority would gain by that.

The Popes who have found such a singular proof to support their pretensions in the thirty-first and thirty-second verses of the twenty-second chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, have been very guarded in their quotation of the preceding verses.

The evangelist relates that a discussion arose among the apostles, as to who should be considered the greatest among them. The famous words, Tu es Petrus were already pronounced—this should prove that the apostles did not receive them as understood by the Popes of modern times. The very eve before the death of Christ, they were ignorant that he had chosen Peter to be the first among them, and the foundation-stone of the Church. Christ took part in the discussion. This would have been an excellent opportunity for Him to proclaim the power of Peter—moreover, it was time that it should be done, for on the morrow he was to be put to death. Did he do it? Not only did the Saviour not recognize the superiority he is said to have promised Peter, but he gave altogether a contrary lesson to his apostles, saying to them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

In comparing the recital of St. Luke with that of St. Mark, it will be seen that the discussion had been occasioned by the request that the mother of James and John had made of Christ in favor of her children. She had begged for them the first two places in his kingdom Christ did not tell her he had given the first place to Peter, an answer which would have been very natural and even necessary if St. Peter had in fact been invested with a superior authority. The ten other apostles were indignant at the ambitious demand made by James and John through their mother; they agitated among themselves the question of superiority. Christ then gave them the lesson which we have related, and which immediately precedes the text upon which the Roman theologians pretend to support their system. (Matt. 20:20, et seq.)

The value of this pretended proof, after the context is considered, will be appreciated.

They cite still in their favor a passage in the Gospel of St. John, (21:15, et seq.)

Jesus said to Simon Peter: Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him: Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him: Feed my lambs. He saith unto him again, the second time: Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him: Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him: Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time: Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he saith unto him a third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him: Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus said unto him: Feed my sheep.

The Roman theologians argue thus upon this text: Jesus Christ has given to St. Peter in a general manner the care of the pasture of the sheep and lambs; now, the lambs are the faithful, and the sheep are the pastors; therefore, Peter, and in his person his successors, have received a supreme power over the pastors (or shepherds) and over the faithful.

If this reasoning were just, it would necessarily prove 1st. That the function confided to St. Peter was not also given to the other pastors of the Church; 2d. That the lambs signify the faithful and the sheep the Pastors.

Now St. Peter himself teaches us, that all the pastors of the Church have received the ministry of feeding the flock of the Lord. We have already quoted the passage of his first epistle, in which he said to all those who were the heads of different churches, Feed the flock of God which is among you. (1 Pet. 5:2.)

Does the solemnity with which Christ gave that function to Peter imply that he possessed it in a superior manner? Nothing supports this idea. The Fathers of the Church and the most learned commentators have only seen the expiation of his threefold denial in this threefold attestation of love that Christ drew from Peter. Nor did Peter see any thing else, since he was grieved. Had he conceived that Christ therein conceded to him any superior powers, he would rather have rejoiced than have been saddened by the words that were addressed to him; but he was convinced that the Saviour demanded a triple public declaration of his fidelity, before reïnstalling him among the shepherds of his flock, because he had given reason for legitimate suspicions by denying his Master again and again. Christ could only address himself to Peter, because he alone had been guilty of this crime.

Now, do the lambs signify the faithful and the sheep the pastors? This interpretation is altogether arbitrary, there can be nothing found in Catholic tradition to confirm it; on the contrary, tradition formally contradicts it, and it would be impossible to quote one single Father of the Church in its support. Moreover, this interpretation is not conformable to Scripture. The words sheep and lambs are indifferently used in Holy Writ to describe the same object. Thus we read in St. Matthew: I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, (Matt. 10:16,) and in St. Luke: I send you forth as lambs among wolves, (St. Luke 10:3.) The word sheep in Scripture signifies the faithful. We read in Ezekiel, (34:6,) My sheep wandered through all the mountains. Other sheep I have which are not of this fold. St. Peter, addressing himself to the faithful of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, said to them: Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.(1 Pet. 2:25.)

It is not possible therefore to found or give different meanings to the words sheep and lambs, nor to interpret the word sheep in the sense of pastors or clergy.

If we feel obliged to give to the two expressions a different meaning, would it not be more natural to understand by lambs the young members who have need of the most tender care, and by sheep to understand those of maturer age, according to the faith?

Thus the Papal interpretation is so thoroughly divested of foundation, that a commentator upon the Gospels—one who would not be suspected by Roman theologians, the Jesuit Maldonat—speaks of it in this language: We should not reason acutely, in order to discover why Christ employs the word lambs rather than sheep. He who would do this, should carefully consider that he will only appear ridiculous to the learned, for it is incontestable that those whom Christ calls his lambs are the same as those he elsewhere designates as his sheep. (Comment. in cap. xxi. John, § 30.)

St. Peter then was instituted neither the foundation-stone of the Church nor its chief pastor.

It need not be denied, however, that a certain primacy was accorded to this apostle. Although he was not the first, in order of time, chosen by our Lord as disciple, he is named the first by St. Matthew—this evangelist wishing to name the twelve apostles, thus expresses himself: The first Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, etc.(Matt.10:2.) St. Luke and St. Mark also name St. Peter the first, although otherwise they do not follow the same order in naming the others.

Upon many occasions Christ gave to Peter evidences of particular consideration. His surname of Peter, without having all the importance that the Roman theologians attach to it, was nevertheless given to him to signify the firmness of his faith, and for the purpose of honoring him. Ordinarily Peter was always the first to question our Lord, and to answer him in the name of the other disciples. The evangelists use this expression, Peter and those with him, to describe the apostolic body. (Mark 1:36; Luke 8:45; 9:32.) From these facts can we conclude, with the Doctor de la Chambre, That Christ had granted to St. Peter above all his colleagues in the apostolate, a primacy of jurisdiction and authority in the government of the Church? (Traité de l’Eglise, 1st vol.) This consequence is not logical. In the first place it is possible to be first in a corporation without having necessarily jurisdiction and authority—to be, as it is said, first among equals—primus inter pares. Moreover, St. Peter is not always named first in the Holy Scriptures; thus St. John names Andrew before him, (1:44;) St. Paul names him after James, (Galat. 2:9;) he even names him after the other apostles and the brethren of the Lord, (1st Corinth. 9:5.) Peter then was only the first among the apostles as Stephen was the first among deacons. These words are St. Augustine’s, (Sermon 316.) Origen, (upon St. John,) St. Cyprian (71st letter to Quint.) have the same idea. We can affirm that no Father of the Church has seen in the primacy of Peter, any title to jurisdiction or absolute authority in the government of the Church. They would not have been able to draw these conclusions without contradicting Holy Scripture itself.

Christ forbade his apostles to take, in relation to each other, the titles of Master, Doctor, and even Father, or Pope, which signifies the same thing. His words are positive, (Matt. 23:8): Be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon earth, for one is your Father which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Upon comparing these words of the Gospel with the pictures that the Roman theologians make of the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome, it will be easily seen that these theologians are not in the truth.

St. Matthew relates that Peter having interrogated Jesus Christ upon the prerogatives of the apostles, our Lord answers him, saying: Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

If Christ had destined a superior seat to Peter, if he had granted to him a higher position than to the other apostles, would he have said to St. Peter himself that the twelve apostles should be seated upon twelve thrones without distinction?

The conclusion from all this is, that there is in the church but one master, but one lord, one chief shepherd.

Saith Christ: I am the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11.) Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. One is your Master, even Christ. (Matt. 23:10.)

He is seated alone upon the throne of his majesty, in the heavenly city whose wall has twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev. 21:14.) The first pastors are there upon the their seats, judging the tribes of the new people of God. If any discussions arise that can not be amicably settled, they must be carried to this tribunal; not to one alone, but before the whole Church, represented by those ordained to govern it.

There is nothing then in the writings of the New Testament which is even remotely favorable to that sovereign authority that the Romish theologians ascribe to St. Peter and to the bishops of Rome, whom they consider his successors.

It may be even said that Scripture formally contradicts this authority. We have already quoted some words of Christ sufficiently positive. The book of the Acts, and the Epistles contain facts demonstrating that St. Peter did not enjoy any superiority in the apostolic college. In fact, it is said in the Acts, (8:14,) Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Peter was subordinate, not only to the apostolic college, of which he was a member, but to a lesser number of apostles in convention at Jerusalem; since he received from them a mission. In the same book, (11:2-3,) we read that the faithful of the circumcision reproached Peter for mingling with the uncircumcised, and Peter excused himself by relating that he had obeyed an express order of God. Is this the mode in which a chief is ordinarily treated, or that one supreme would act in relation to subordinates? At the council of Jerusalem, (Acts 15:7,) Peter was not presiding, it was James who gave sentence (19th verse,) Peter spoke but in his turn as a simple member. Yet the presidency belonged to him by right, if he had been vested with authority and jurisdiction over the whole apostolic body. St. Paul (Epis. Galatians 2:7, etc.) refutes the primacy of Peter. He affirms that he is his equal, he relates having reprimanded Peter for walking not according to the truth of the Gospel. (14th verse.) Again, he denies this (1 Corinth. 3:4, 5, 22) when he affirms that Peter is but a simple minister like himself, like Apollos, who must not attach the faithful to themselves, but only as ministers of Christ, their only Master. Finally, St. Peter himself denies the primacy with which he has since been invested by Romish theologians, when he addressed himself to the pastors of the churches which he had founded as their colleague. (1 Pet. 1:1.)



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Article published in English on: 6-2-2010.

Last update: 6-2-2010.