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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

of the Authority of the Bishops of Rome in the First Three Centuries

History shows us that the Fathers and Bishops, during the first eight centuries, have given to Holy Scripture the same interpretation that we have just set forth. If the Bishop of Rome had by divine right enjoyed universal authority in the Church, if, as the successor of St. Peter, he bad been the vicar and representative of Christ, the necessary centre of the Church, there is no doubt that these prerogatives would have been recognized by Christian antiquity, the faithful guardian of the Faith and of Divine Institutions. Though the Church suffer, after the lapse of ages, some decline on her human side, that is to say, in the men that govern her, and form part of her, it will not be assumed that this decay appeared at the outset. It is natural and logical to go back to the beginnings of an institution to become acquainted with its true character; it is there we find the necessary starting-point from which to trace its development, its progress, or lapses, age by age. If we prove that the primitive Church did not recognize in the Bishop of Rome the authority which he now assumes, that this authority is only an usurpation dating from the ninth century, it must necessarily be concluded, that this authority is not of Divine origin, and that consequently, it is the duty of every Church and all the faithful to protest against it, and combat with it.

Now we can affirm, after deep and conscientious study of the historical and doctrinal remains of the first eight centuries of the Church, that the Bishop of Rome has no ground for claiming universal authority, that such authority has foundation neither in the Word of God nor the laws of the Church.

The first document by which the partisans of the Papal sovereignty justify themselves, is the letter written by St. Clement in the name of the Church at Rome to the Church at Corinth. They assert, that it was written by virtue of a superior authority attached to his title of Bishop of Rome.

Now, it is unquestionable, 1st. That St. Clement was not Bishop of Rome when he wrote to the Corinthians. 2d. That in this matter, he did not act of 'his own authority, but in the name of the Church at Rome, and from motives of charity.

The letter signed by St. Clement was written A.D. 69, immediately after the persecution by Nero, which took place between the years 64 and 68, as all learned men agree. Many scholars, accepting as an indisputable fact that the letter to the Corinthians was written while Clement was Bishop of Rome, assign its date to the reign of Domitian. But Clement only succeeded Anencletus in the See of Rome, in the twelfth year of Domitian's reign, that is to say, A.D. 93, and held this See until A.D. 102. The testimony of Eusebius leaves no doubt upon this point. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book III. chaps. xiii., xv., xxxiv.

Now, it may be seen from the letter itself that it was written after a persecution; if it be pretended that this persecution was that of Domitian, then the letter must be dated in the last years of the first century, since it was chiefly in the years 95 and 96 that the persecution of Domitian took place. Now, it is easy to see from the letter itself, that it was written before that time, for it speaks of the Jewish sacrifices as still existing in the temple of Jerusalem. The temple was destroyed with the city of Jerusalem, by Titus, A.D. 70. Hence, the letter must have been written before that year. Besides, the letter was written after some persecution, in which had suffered, at Rome, some very illustrious martyrs. There was nothing of the kind in the persecution of Domitian. The persecution of Nero lasted from the year 64 to the year 68. Hence it follows, that the letter to the Corinthians could only have been written in the year 69, that is to say, twenty-four years before Clement was Bishop of Rome.

In presence of this simple calculation what becomes of the stress laid by the partisans of Papal sovereignty, upon the importance of this document as emanating from Pope St. Clement?

Even if it could be shown that the letter of St. Clement, was written during his episcopate, this would prove nothing, because this letter was not written by him by virtue of a superior and personal authority possessed by him, but from mere charity, and in the name of the Church at Rome. Let us hear Eusebius upon this subject:

"Of this Clement there is one epistle extant, acknowledged as genuine, . . . . which he wrote in the name of the Church at Rome to that of Corinth, at the time when there was a dissension in the latter. This we know to have been publicly read, for common benefit, in most of the churches, both in former times and in our own; and that at the time mentioned, a sedition did take place at Corinth, is abundantly attested by Hegesippus." Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book III, chap. xvi.

Eusebius, further on, recurs to the letter of Clement, and again remarks that it was written in the name of the Church at Rome. Ibid. chap. xxxviii. He could not say more explicitly, that Clement did not in this matter act of his own authority, by virtue of any power be individually possessed. Nothing in the letter itself gives a suspicion of such authority. It thus commences: "The Church of God which is at Rome, to the Church of God which is at Corinth." The writer speaks of the Ecclesiastical Ministry, in relation to several Priests whom the Corinthians had rejected most unjustly; he looks upon this Ministry as wholly derived from the Apostolic Succession, attributing neither to himself nor to others any Primacy in it.

There is every reason to believe that St. Clement draughted this letter to the Corinthians. From the first centuries it has been considered as his work. It was not as Bishop of Rome, but as a disciple of the Apostles, that he wrote it. Without having been charged with the government of the Roman Church he had been made Bishop by St. Peter, and had been the companion of St. Paul in many of his Apostolic visitations. It may be, that he had worked with St. Paul for the conversion of the Corinthians. It was natural, therefore, that he should be commissioned to draw up the letter of the Church of Rome to a Church of which he had been one of the founders. And so, Clement speaks to them in the name of the Apostles, and above all of St. Paul, who bad begotten them to the faith. Even had he written to them as Bishop of Rome, it would not be possible to infer any thing from this in favour of his universal authority. St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenæus of Lyons, St. Dionysius of Alexandria, have written letters to divers churches, not excepting that of Rome, without thereby pretending to any other authority than that they possessed as bishops, to do God's work in all places.

Nothing can properly be inferred, either from the letter itself or from the circumstances under which it was written, that should make this proceeding on the part of the Corinthians appear in the light of an acknowledgment of any superior authority in the Bishop or the Church of Rome; or this answer in the light of an authoritative act. The Corinthians addressed themselves to a Church where dwelt the fellow-labourers of St. Paul, their father in the faith; and that Church, through Clement as her organ, recommended peace and concord to them, without the least pretension to any authority whatever.

Thus, in the intervention of Clement, no proof can be found to support the pretended authority of the Bishops of Rome. Clement was the deputy of the clergy of Rome in that affair, chosen because of his capacity, his former connection with the Corinthians, his relation with the Apostles, and the influence he had for these various reasons. But he did not act as Bishop of Rome, much less as having authority over the Church of Corinth.

In the second century the question concerning Easter was agitated with much warmth. Many Oriental Churches wished to follow the Judaical traditions, preserved by several Apostles in the celebration of that feast, and to hold it upon the fourteenth day of the March moon; other Eastern Churches, in agreement with the Western Churches, according to an equally Apostolic tradition, celebrated the festival of Easter the Sunday following the fourteenth day of the March moon.

The question in itself considered was of no great importance; and yet it was generally thought that all the Churches should celebrate at one and the same time the great Christian festival, and that some should not be rejoicing over the resurrection of the Saviour, while others were contemplating the mysteries of his death.

How was the question settled? Did the Bishop of Rome interpose his authority and overrule the discussion, as would have been the case had he enjoyed a supreme authority?

Let us take the evidence of History. The question having been agitated, "there were synods and convocations of the Bishops on this question," says Eusebius, Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book V. chap. xxiii. "and all unanimously drew up an ecclesiastical decree, which they communicated to all the Churches in all places. . . . There is an epistle extant even now of those who were assembled at the time; among whom presided Theophilus, Bishop of the Church in Cesarea and Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem. There is another epistle" [of the 'Roman Synod] "extant on the same question, bearing the name of Victor. An epistle also of the Bishops in Pontus, among whom Palmas, as the most ancient, presided; also of the Churches of Gaul, over whom Irenæus presided. Moreover, one from those in Osrhoene, and the cities there. And a particular epistle front Bacchyllus, Bishop of the Corinthians; and epistles of many others who, advancing one and the same doctrine, also passed the same vote."

It is evident that Eusebius speaks of the letter of the Roman synod in the same terms as of the others; he does not attribute it to Bishop Victor, but to the assembly of the Roman Clergy; and lastly, he only mentions it in the second place after that of the Bishops of Palestine.

Here is a point irrefragably established; it is that in the matter of Easter, the Church of Rome discussed and judged the question in the same capacity as the other churches, and that the Bishop of Rome only signed the letter in the name of the synod which represented that Church. The partisans of the Papal authority affirm that it was Victor who commanded the councils to assemble. This assertion is altogether false. Among the Roman theologians who make this false assertion, we will particularly name Darruel in his work entitled Du Pape et de ses Droits. This book sums up all the errors and exaggerations of the Romish theologians.

Several Oriental Bishops did not conform to the decision of the others. Polycrates of Ephesus, above all, protested against it. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book V. chap. xxiv. Then a lively discussion arose between him and Victor, Bishop of Rome, who seemed to think that the Bishop of Ephesus would be alone in his opinion, and advised him, in consequence, to ask the opinion of the other Bishops of his province. Polycrates complied, and those Bishops declared themselves in favor of his opinion; he wrote thus to Victor, who threatened to separate them from his communion.

This did not move Polycrates; he replied vigorously, saying to him particularly. "They who are greater than I have said 'we ought to obey God rather than men.' Upon this Victor, the Bishop of the Church of Rome, forthwith endeavoured  ; Euseb.loc.cit. to cut off the Churches of all Asia, together with the neighboring Churches, as heterodox, from the common unity. And he published abroad by letters, and proclaimed that all the brethren there were wholly excommunicated." Thus Eusebius.

It is difficult to believe that the partisans of the Roman pretensions can find in these words of Eusebius and in the conduct of Victor any proof in favor of their system. Without much effort, they might find in them a proof to the contrary. The expression of Eusebius, that "Victor endeavoured," etc., must first be noticed. It is clear that those who endeavour have not in themselves the power to do that which they have in view, otherwise the act would follow the will. Victor, however, did all he could in order that this excommunication should be recognizedhe even pronounced it; but that act remained but an attempt, and had to be ratified by the other Churches in order to be valid. Victor did not have, then, as Bishop of Rome, the power to excommunicate other Churches, since the effect did not follow the sentence which he believed himself entitled to give in the name of the Western Churches, because of the importance of his See.

The Bishops, who would have submitted to his sentence, if they had recognized in him the Head of the Church, invested with universal authority, not only did not obey him, but strongly censured his conduct.

"But this," adds Eusebius, "was not the opinion of all the Bishops. They immediately exhorted him," [Victor] "on the contrary, to contemplate that course that was calculated to promote peace, unity, and love to one another."

Thus, instead of believing that unity consisted in union with Victor, the bishops exhorted him to observe better the true notions of unity. Many went even further. "There are also extant," continues Eusebius, "the expressions they used, who pressed upon Victor with much severity. Among these also was Irenæus, who, in the name of those brethren in Gaul, over whom he presided, wrote an epistle in which he maintains the duty of celebrating the mystery of the resurrection of our Lord only on the day of the Lord. He becomingly also admonishes Victor not to cut off whole churches of God who observed the tradition of an ancient custom." Irenæus endeavored to show to Victor that differences in practice, of which, he gives divers examples, are not inconsistent with Unity of Faith. "And when," adds Eusebius, "the blessed Polycarp went to Rome in the time of Anicetus, and they had a little deference among themselves likewise respecting other matters, they immediately were reconciled, not disputing much with one another on this head. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe it, because he had always observed it" [a certain custom] "with John the disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the Apostles with whom he associated; and neither did Polyearp persuade Anicetus to observe, who said that he was bound to maintain the practice of the presbyters before him. Which thing being so, they communed with each other; and in the church Anicetus yielded to Polyearp the office of consecrating." And thus, though following different usages, all remained in the communion of the Church. "And not only to Victor, but likewise to the most of the other rulers of the churches, he sent letters of exhortation on the agitated question." Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book V. chap. xxiv.

Thus Victor could not, of his own authority, cut off from the Church, in fact, those whom he had declared excommunicate; the other Bishops resisted him vigorously, and St. Irenæus, the great divine of the age, made war in his letters upon those which Victor had written to provoke the schism.

This discussion, invoked by the partisans of Papal pretensions in their favor, falls back upon them with all its weight, and with a force that can not in good faith be contested.

Anicetus did not invoke his authority against Polycarp, nor did Victor against Irenæus and the other Bishops. Polycarp and Irenæus reasoned and wrote as equals of the Bishop of Rome in Episcopal authority, and recognized but one ruleancient tradition.

How were the Churches reünited in a common practice? Eusebius thus relates that happy result, which certainly was not due to the Bishop of Rome: Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book V. chap. xxv.

"The Bishops, indeed, of Palestine, Narcissus and Theophilus, and Cassius with them, the Bishop of the Church at Tyre, and Clarus of Ptolemais, and those that came together with them, having advanced many things respecting the tradition that had been handed down to them by succession from the Apostles, regarding the Passover, at the close of the epistle use these words: 'Endeavor to send copies of the epistle through all the Church, that we may not give occasion to those whose minds are easily led astray. But we inform you also, that they observe the same day at Alexandria which we also do; for letters have been sent by us to them and from them to us, so that we celebrate the holy season with one mind and at one time.'"

Nevertheless, many Churches preserved the tradition of the Churches of Smyrna and Ephesus, and were not on that account regarded as schismatics, although Victor had separated himself from their communion.

The partisans of the Papal system attach much importance to the influence exercised by the Bishop of Rome in the question of Easter and some other matters: they transform that influence into authority. This is an untenable paralogism. It is not to be wondered at that the Bishop of Rome should have enjoyed from the first a high influence in religious questions; for he filled the first See of the West, and as Bishop of the Capital of the Empire, he was the natural link between East and West. It was then understood that the Catholic Church was not exclusively in any country; that the East possessed no more universal authority than the West. This is why certain heretics, born and condemned in the East, sought protection in the West, and above all at Rome, its representative. Thus it is, that even some saintsas Polycarp of Smyrnawent themselves to Rome to confer with the Bishop of that city upon religious questions.

But it is not possible conscientiously to study these facts from reliable documents without eliciting this truth: that the influence of the Bishop of Rome did not arise in an universal authoritythat it did not even have its source in an authority recognized by all the Western Churches, but was simply derived from the importance of his See.

Rome was the centre of all communications between different parts of the Empire. The faithful crowded thither from all quartersfor political business or private interestsand thus her testimony as an Apostolic Church was strengthened by the faithful who came thither from all parts of the world, bringing the witness of all the Churches to which they severally belonged.

Such is the sense of a passage of St. Irenæus, of which the Roman theologians have made the strangest misuse. St. Iræneus, In Hæres. Lib. III. cap. iii. This great theologian, attacking the heretics who sought to corrupt the faithful at Rome, establishes against them the Catholic rule of faith, preserved everywhere and always." But," he adds, "as it would be very tedious to enumerate in such a work the succession of all the Churches, we will trace that of the very great and very ancient Church and known of all, which was founded and established at Rome by the two very glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul; which possesses a tradition that comes from the Apostles as much as the Faith declared to men, and which has transmitted it to us through the succession of her Bishops; by that, we confound all those who in any manner whatsoever, either through blindness or bad intention, do not gather where they should; for every Church, that is to say, the faithful who are from all places, are obliged to go toward that Church, because of the most powerful principality. In this Church, the tradition of the Apostles has been preserved by those who are of all countries." We must quote the text of St. Irenæus, that it may be compared with our translation, "Quoniam valde longum est, in hoc, tali volumine omnium eccelesiarum enumerare successiones; maximæ et antiquissimæ et omnibus cognitæ, a gloriosissimis duobus apostolis Petro et Paullo, Romæ fundatæ et constitutæ Ecclesiae, eam quam habet ab Apostolis Traditionem et annunciatam hominibus fidem, per successiones Episcoporum pervenientem usque ad nos, indicantes confundimus omnes eos, qui quoquomodo, vel per coecitatem et malam sententiam præterquam oportet colligunt. Ad hanc enim Ecclesiam, propter potentiorem principalitatem, necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam, hoc est eos, qui sunt undique fideles; in qua semper ab his qui sunt undique, conservata est ea, quæ est ab Apostolis, Traditio."

The Romish theologians choose a bad translation of this passage, in order to find in it an argument in favor of the papal sovereignty. Instead of saying that the faithful of the whole world were obliged to go to Rome, because it was the Capital of the Empire, the seat of government, and the centre of all business, civil and political, they translate convenire ad by the words, to agree withwhich is a misinterpretation; they make potentiorem principalitatem refer to the Church of Rome, and they see in this its primacy, whereas these words are only used in a general manner, and nothing indicates that they do not solely designate the capital and principal city of the Empire. Again, they translate, maximæ, antiquissimæ, by greatest and most ancient, without reflecting that they thus attribute to St. Irenæus an assertion manifestly false; for, granting that the Church of Rome was the greatest of her day, she could not certainly be called the most ancientevery one knew that a great number of churches had been founded in the East before that of Rome. Moreover, their translation does not make the author say in conclusion, that the Apostolic tradition has been preserved at Rome, by those who were of all countries(ab his qui sunt undique,) as the text requires, but like Pius IX, in his Encyclical Letter to the Christians of the East, "In all that the faithful believe," not reflecting that this is a misconstruction, and that they are thus attributing nonsense to the good Father.

In the text as we render it all things hang together. St. Irenæus after having established that only the universal Faith should be received, points out to the heretics of that city the Church of Rome, as offering to them an evidence the more convincing that Apostolic tradition had been there preserved by the faithful of the whole world.

How then could St. Irenæus, whose purpose it is to give the universal Faith as the rule for private belief, and who enlarges precisely upon this point in the chapter from which the text is taken, logically say what is attributed to him by the Popes and their theologians? He would then have argued thus: It is necessaryto adopt as the rule the belief of all the churches; but it suffices to appeal to that of the Church of Rome, to which there must be uniformity and submission, because of her primacy. St. Irenæus never expressed so unreasonable an opinion. He lays down as a principle the universal Faith as a rule, and he points out the Faith of the Church of Rome as truethanks to the concourse of the faithful who assembled there from all parts, and who thus preserved there the Apostolic tradition. How did they preserve it? Because they would have protested against any change in the traditions of their own churches, to which they were witnesses at Rome. St. Irenæus does not give the pretended Divine authority of the Bishop of Rome, as the principle of the preservation of tradition in the Church of that citybut logically, he attributes that preservation to the faithful of other Churches who controlled her traditions by those of their own Churches, and who thus formed an invincible obstacle to innovation.

It was natural that the Bishop of the Capital of the Empire, precisely because of the faithful who there gathered from all parts, should acquire a great influence in religious matters, and even occasionally take the lead. But all the monuments, as also the circumstances attending, those transactions in which he took part, show that he enjoyed no authority superior to that of the other Bishops.

It is clear that all discussion relative to this text of St. Irenæus turns upon the sense to be given to the word convenire. If this word signifies to agree with, we must conclude that the venerable writer thought it all must necessarily agree with the Church of Rome, and without that it is impossible to be in the unity. If the word means to go, all the Ultramontane scaffolding will fall of itself, for it can not reasonably be affirmed that all the faithful must of necessity go to Rome, even though the Church established in that city should be the first and principal Church, the centre of Unity. It follows that the sense of this word should be determined in so evident a manner that there remain no doubt in respect to it.

We have already remarked that the preposition ad determined the sense of itwe can add many others to this already conclusive proof.

If we possessed the Greek text of the passage in question, there is no doubt there would not be the uncertainty resulting from the Latin word. But Eusebius and Nicephorus have preserved for us other fragments of the primitive text. Now it happens that in these fragments the good Father uses expressions which the Latin translator has rendered by the word convenire, and which have no meaning, except just this one of goingwhether together or separately.

In the second book, chapter xxii., (Migne's edition, col. 785,) St, Irenæus says: "All the priests who have gone to Asia, to John, disciple of the Lord, bear witness to it."

Greek Text: ὶ ἱ ῦ, ἱ ὰ ὴ Ἀ Ἰῃ ῷ ῦ ῇ .

Latin translation: "Omnes seniores testantur qui in Asia apud Joannem discipulum Domini convenerunt."

In the third book, 21st chapter, (Migne's edition, col. 947,) speaking of the Septuagint interpreters of Scripture, St. Irenæus says of them, "Being assembled at Ptolemy's house," etc.

In Greek: " ὲ ὐῶ ἐὶ ὸ ὐὸ ὰ ῷ ῳ."

The Latin translator renders this "Convenientibus autem ipsis in unum apud Ptolemæum."

The Benedictine Massuet, editor of St. Irenæus's works, pretends that St. Irenæus must have used in the text in question, the words ὸ ὴ ῶ Ἐ. And he pretends that ὸ is the same thing as .

Although this opinion were unimpeachable, such erudition would be worth nothing, for we must content ourselves with supposing that the good father has used the word . It would seem to us more natural and logical to look for the unknown word among the known words, which the translator renders convenire. Now from that study, it should appear that St. Irenæus did not use but ό, which has the sense of a running together toward a place, or of ό, which has an analogous signification, since, in the Greek texts that have been preserved, he has used these words to express the idea for which the translator used convenire.

In general, the translator of St. Irenæus gives to the word convenire the sense of to go, and not to agree with. Why then give it this sense in the famous text in question, when in the text itself the preposition ad gives the idea of direction toward a place, and the adverb undique gives that of departure from all places other than Rome where the faithful were found?

Nothing is wanting to prove that it is impossible to give to the words of St. Irenæus the sense attributed to them by the Romish theologians. The good father then has simply said that, the concourse of Believers from all countries, drawn to Rome by the necessities of their business, because that city was the first and most powerful of the Empire, contributed to preserve there the Apostolic tradition, because those Believers carried there the Faith of the Churches to which they belonged.

It is certain that Rome, in her position as an Apostolic Church, had a very great authority during the first centuries, and Tertullian is right in calling her as a witness against the heretic to whom he said, "Thou hast Rome, whose authority is close at hand. Happy Church! to whom the Apostles gave all the doctrine with their blood!" (De Præscrip. c.xxxvi.) But cannot an Apostolic Church bear witness to the Faith against heresy without enjoying universal and divine authority?

St. Cyprian was right in calling the Church of Rome, "the chair of Peter; the principal Church, from whence sacerdotal unity emanated." (St. Cyp. 55th epis. to Cornelius.) But for all that, did he pretend that the Bishop enjoyed authority by Divine right? He believed it so little, that in his Treatise upon the Unity of the Church, he understands by the "chair of Peter," the entire Episcopate, he regards St. Peter as the equal of the other Apostles and denies his primacy, he makes St. Peter to be the simple type of the unity of the Apostolic College. Further on will be found entire the texts of St. Cyprian and Tertullian. Therefore, it is in a limited sense that he calls the Church of Rome the chair of Peter; he makes her the principal Churchbut that was a fact resulting from her exterior importance. She was the source of Sacerdotal Unity in this sense that Peter was the sign and type of the unity of the Apostolic College. To give any other sense to the text from the letter of St. Cyprian to Cornelius would be to contradict the Treatise on the Unity of the Church, to attribute to St. Cyprian two contradictory doctrines, and consequently to take from him all logic and all authority.

Those who have given such high importance to the text of St. Cyprian, taken from his letter to Cornelius, have forgotten another that so well explains it that it is difficult to understand how they have omitted it. It is that in which he declares that, "Rome should precede Carthage, because of its great sizepro magnitudine sua." Cypr. Ep. 59 ad Cornel. This doctrine agrees with that of St. Irenæus and the other Fathers, who have never mentioned any divine prerogative with which the Church of Rome had been favored.

St. Optatus, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and many other Western Fathers have praised the Church of Rome as an Apostolic Church, and have attached a high importance to her testimony in questions of faith. But not one of them ascribes to her any such doctrinal authority that her testimony would of itself be sufficient to determine questions under discussion. It must even be remarked that St. Augustine sets up the authority of the Oriental churches against the Donatists, and does not mention that of Rome, although she was the Apostolic Church of the West. St. Irenæus would be the only one to sustain that doctrine, if we should receive his text as translated by the Romish theologians.

But we have seen that this interpretation is false, and that he has attributed to the testimony of the Church of Rome a great authority in this sense only: that it had received the Apostolic tradition, and, thanks to the Believers who congregated there from all parts, that tradition had been preserved pure unto his times. Therefore, it was not because the Church of Rome was the principal, the first, the most powerful in Christendom that her testimony was chiefly valuable, but because of the Believers from other churches, who strengthened it by their adherence.

When Constantinople had become the capital of the Roman Empire, St. Gregory Nazienzen said of that Church, what St. Irenæus had said of that of Rome, and with still more formal expressions. "This city," said he, "is the eye of the world. The most distant nations press toward her from all parts, and they draw from her as from a spring the principles of the Faith." (Greg. Naz. 42d dis., 10, col..470, Migne's edit.) The Latin translation of St. Gregory, like that of St. Irenæus, employs the word convenire to express the crowding Of people toward Constantinople. Must we give to it the sense of agreeing with, because this Father calls Constantinople not only a powerful and principal Churchbut the eye of the world, source of faith?

The ninth canon of the Council of Antioch held in 341, will of itself be sufficient to determine the sense of the text of St. Irenæus. The canon reads: "Let the bishops established in each province know that to the bishop of the metropolitan city is confided the care of the whole province, because all those who have business come to the metropolis from all parts. Therefore it has appeared advisable to grant a superior honor to him."

If the faithful were drawn to a mere metropolis to transact their business, how much more to the capital of the empire, which was for them a necessary centre, and in which they must meet from all parts of the empire! Such is the fact established by St. Irenæus, and from it he concludes that the witness of the Church of Rome should suffice to confound heretics.

Finally let us remark, that the chapter of the learned Father only relates to the heretics of Rome, for whom he destined the book; and that will convince us, that it is a strange abuse of the words to give them an absolute sense, making them relate to heretics in general, and to all ages; for he only affirmed that the Roman Church had preserved her apostolic tradition pure to his time, and not, that she would always so preserve it.

The discussion upon the baptism of heretics throws further light upon the question we are examining.

From all antiquity Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book VII. chaps. ii. and iii. it was customary merely to impose bands upon those who had fallen into heresy, and wished to reënter the bosom of the Church. In the third century a grave discussion arose upon this subject. St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, was the first in the West who maintained that baptism should be reädministered to converted heretics. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, who at that time exerted a great influence throughout the Church by reason of his holiness, his zeal and learning, declared himself openly for the Bishop of Carthage, and wrote upon the subject to Stephen, Bishop of Rome. Stephen, persuaded that no change should be made in a tradition handed down from time immemorial, was very much grieved at an opinion which he looked upon as an innovation. St. Cyprian admitted the existence of the custom, but he contended that it was not lawful. He even took advantage of a contrary doctrine that he said his church had preserved, and according to which baptism administered by heretics was regarded as null.

St. Cyprian, having assembled several councils of bishops of the province of Africa, sent their transactions to Stephen, with a letter, Cyprian, Epp. 72, 73, ad. Steph. in which he said, "I believe that I should write to you upon a subject that concerns the unity and dignity of the Church Catholic, and should confer upon it, with a man so grave and so wise as you."

It is not, as one may see, to a superior that he addresses himself, but to an equal whose gravity and wisdom he esteems. He even makes him understand, that he is in error in supporting the custom of the Roman Church. He says: Ibid. "I am persuaded that your faith and piety make that which conforms to the truth agreeable to you. However, we know there are some who will not abandon sentiments with which they have been once imbued, and who maintain particular usages, without interrupting harmony among the Bishops. In such cases we do no violence and impose no law upon any one."

St. Cyprian does not wish here to impose his opinion upon Stephen; but he blames him for preserving that which he regards as a prejudice contrary to the truth.

Stephen rejected the doctrine of St. Cyprian; he further declared that he would not even communicate with him, nor with the Bishops of Cilicia, of Cappadocia and Galatia, who followed the same doctrine. Dionysius of Alexandria Letter of St. Dionysius of Alex. In Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. Book VII. chap. v. wrote to him, to exhort him to peace; telling him that all the Oriental churches, although divided in their opinions, on the doctrines of Novatus, were in most perfect union, and rejoicing in that happy result. He counseled him not to trouble again the Church in regard to the baptism of heretics.

At this stage of the matter Xystus succeeded Stephen. Dionysius of Alexandria hastened to write to him to dissuade him from following the way of Stephen. He says of this bishop: Letter of St. Dion. of Alex. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. Book VII chap. v. "He had written before respecting Helenus and Firmilian, and all those from Cilicia and Cappadocia and Galatia and all the nations adjoining, that he would not have communion with them on this account, because they, said he, rebaptized the heretics; and behold, I pray you, the importance of the matter; for in reality, as I have ascertained, decrees have been passed in the greatest councils of the Bishops, that those who come from the heretics are first to be instructed, and then are to be washed and purified from the filth of their old and impure leaven. And respecting all these things I have sent letters entreating them."

St. Dionysius did not see an act of authority in the letter of Stephen, but an intervention that might throw a new germ of trouble in the Church; it was on this ground that he wished to check him. Instead of troubling the Church, Stephen would have pacified it, if a universal authority had been recognized in him. This consideration suffices to establish the entirely private and personal character, of his letter.

What had been the result? Was he obeyed, as he would have been had the Bishop of Rome had supreme authority? Was his separation regarded as breaking the unity of the Church? Assuredly not! St. Dionysius of Alexandria acted in this affair as St. Irenæus did in the question of Easter; he declared openly for those who differed with the Bishop of Rome, while to the latter he addressed earnest prayers for the peace of the Church. St. Cyprian assembled a new council of the bishops of Africa, who confirmed their first opinion; and he consulted with Firmilian, in order to oppose the entire Church against the Roman Church in this question.

Firmilian answered St. Cyprian in a letter, that will show the belief of Oriental Christendom touching the authority of the Bishops of Rome. Firmilian to St. Cyp. among the letters of the latter. Seventy-fifth letter. Edit. Baluzereviewed by the Benedictines.

"Firmilian to his brother in the Lord, Cyprian, greeting:

"We have received by our very dear deacon Rogatian, whom you have sent to us, the letter, beloved brother, that you have written us; and we have rendered thanks to God, that while being thus separated in body, we are united in spirit, as if we were dwelling, not only in the same country, but in the same house; which may well be said, since the spiritual house of God is one. In the last days, says the prophet, the mountain of the Lord, and the house of God, placed on the summit of the mountains, shall be manifested. Reünited in this house, we there enjoy the bliss of unity. It is what the psalmist asks of the Lordto dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. Whence, and from another passage, appears the happiness of the saints in being united: Oh! how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to live together in unity. In fact, union, peace, and concord confer a very great felicity, not only to faithful men who know the truth, but to the angels of heaven themselves, who according to the divine word experience joy when a sinner repents and returns to the bond of unity. This would not be said of the angels who inhabit heaven, if they also were not united to us, who rejoice over our union; as, on the other hand, they are grieved when they see hearts and minds in division, not only as though they did not invoke the same and only God, but as if they would not speak to or hear each other. But in this we may be grateful to Stephen; for, by his violence, he has put your faith and wisdom to trial; yet if we have an advantage because of him, it is not to him that we owe it. Truly, Judas for his perfidy and treachery which he so criminally employed toward his Saviour, should not be regarded as the cause of the great blessings that the passion of the Lord procured for us, in delivering the world and all people. But for the present we will pass over what Stephen has done, fearing, lest in remembering his audacity and insolence, we experience too much grief at his bad actions."

This preamble of Firmilian's letter demonstrates that he was very far from placing the centre of unity in the pope. In his eyes, Stephen was but a bishop, full of audacity and insolence, because he had dared to separate himself from the communion of those who had another belief from his own upon the question of the baptism of heretics; and he even goes so far as to compare him to Judas. Nor must it be forgotten that Firmilian was one of the holiest and wisest bishops of his time.

The principle of unity he placed in God; he says, "As it is but one and the same Lord that dwells in us, he joins and knits together his own among themselves, by the bond of unity, in whatever place they may be."

As for the Church of Rome, which it is sought to impose upon us now as the centre of unity, he thus speaks of her:

"Those who are at Rome do not observe all the things which were given at the beginning, and it is in vain that they pretend to support themselves upon the authority of the apostles: it is thus, that, upon the day for the celebration of Easter, and upon a great number of other mysteries of religion, there are diversities among them and that they do not observe all that is observed at Jerusalem; likewise in other provinces, many varieties are encountered according to the diversity of places and tongues; yet they are not separated for all that from the peace and unity of the Church Universal."

The Church of Jerusalem was the model church, according to Firmilian; she was the mother of all the others, and the purest type after which all the others should form themselves. As for the Church of Rome, she could, like any other private church, be cut off from unity. This is why he declared so energetically against Stephen, who had dared to break peace with the bishops of Africa; who slandered the Apostles Peter and Paul, by pretending to follow their traditions. "I have reason," he said, "to be indignant at the manifest folly of Stephen, who, on the one hand, glories in his episcopal seat, and pretends to possess the succession of Peter, upon whom the foundations of the Church were placed, and who, on the other hand, introduces other stones, (Pierres,) and constructs new buildings for other churches, by asserting, upon his own authority, that they possess the true baptism. . .

Stephen, who boasts of possessing the see of St. Peter by succession, shows no zeal against the heretics. . . You, Africans, you may say to Stephen, that having known the truth, you have rejected the custom of error; but for us, we possess at the same time, truth and usage; we oppose our custom against that of the Romans; our usage is that of truth, preserving, since the beginning, that which Christ and the Apostles have given to us. . . Yet Stephen does not blush to affirm, that those in sin can remit sins, as though the waters of life could be found in the house of the dead. What! dost thou not fear God's judgment, when thou showest thyself favorable to heretics against the Church! But thou art worse than all the heretics; for when those among them, who have recognized their error, come to thee to receive the true light of the Church, thou then comest in aid of their errors, and extinguishing the light of the truth of the Church, thou gatherest around them the darkness of the night of heresy. Dost thou not understand that an account of these souls will be demanded of thee in the day of judgment, since thou hast refused the waters of the Church to those who were thirsty, and hast caused the death of those who wished to live? And yet thou art angered! Look at thy folly, who darest to attack those who fight against falsehood for truth's sake! Who is it, that is most righteously angry with another? Is it he who agrees with the enemies of God, or rather, he, who for the truth of the Church, declares himself against those who agree with the enemies of God? . . What disputes, what discussions thou preparest for all the churches of the world! What grievous sin thou hast committed in separating thyself from so many flocks! Thou hast killed thyself; do not deceive thyself; for he is truly schismatic who renounces the communion of the unity of the Church! While thou thinkest that all others are separated from thee, it is thou who art separated from all others." Thus Firmilian speaks to the Bishop of Rome, and no one dreamed of taxing him with wrong, even among those who differed with him concerning the baptism of heretics. Some Ultramontanes have contested the authenticity of Firmilian's letter; but the most learned among them agree, with the learned of all the schools, to regard it as authentic. The strongest reason that Barruel alleges to contest its authority, is that Firmillan could not have written such a letter, since, according to St. Dionysius of Alexandria, he was reconciled to the pope before the letter could have been written. If Barruel had been a little more learned, he had known that in the letter of St. Dionysius of Alexandria to Stephen, the letter to which he alludes, he does not say that the whole church was in peace upon the subject of the baptism of heretics, since the discussion was just beginning; but that he only says, Stephen would be wrong to trouble the church by this discussion, when she was in the enjoyment of peace after the troubles created by Novatus. The other pretended proofs of Barruel are still more feeble, and do not deserve discussion. We only say that he has displayed an extraordinary audicity in in confronting thus the most illustrious scholars of every school, who admit this letter as authentic, without any dispute.

St. Dionysius of Alexandria without openly taking part against the Bishop of Rome, endeavored to lead him to the idea of rebaptizing. It is to this end that he displays his doubts in regard to a man whom he had admitted to the communion without rebaptizing him, and who, nevertheless, scarcely dared to participate in the body of the Lord, because he had only received baptism among, the heretics, and with guilty words and rites. "Brother," Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book VII. chap. ix he wrote to Xystus, "I have need of your counsel, and I ask your opinion on an affair that has presented itself to me, and in which, indeed, I am afraid I may be deceived." It is not to a superior he addresses himself, to ask a decision, but to an equal, to a brother, in order to know his views, that he may himself come to a determination. We ask every man in good faith, is it thus that the Bishop of Alexandria would have written to the Bishop of Rome, if the latter had enjoyed an authority universally acknowledged to terminate dogmatic or disciplinary discussions?

We find in the acts of the last council of St. Cyprian a very significant criticism upon the pretensions which the Bishop of Rome had begun to put forth. After having asked the advice of his colleagues, he speaks thus, "Let each one give his opinion without judging any one and without separating from the Communion those who are not of his opinion; for none of us sets himself up for a bishop of bishops, nor compels his brethren to obey him by means of tyrannical terror, every bishop having full liberty and complete power; as he cannot be judged by another, neither can he judge another. Let us all wait the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has the power to appoint us to the government of his Church and to judge our conduct. Concil. carth. St. Cyprian, pp. 329, 330, Bened. edit.

It is evident that St. Cyprian had in view Stephen, Bishop of Rome, who had dared to declare those out of his communion who thought otherwise than he did upon the baptism of heretics. The Roman Theologians choose to consider these excommunications by the Bishops of Rome as sentences which separated from the Church those upon whom they fell. But the manner in which the sentence of Victor in the Easter question and that of Stephen in the discussion upon the baptism were considered, proves that they were only regarded as personal acts of the Bishop of Rome, and had no other effect than to sever the relations between him and those who the unity of did not share his way of thinking. As for the Church, that remained intact, for the very simple reason that this unity did not consist in an union with the Bishop of Rome, and that those whom he separated from his communion communicated with the rest of the Church. Those only were considered out of the Church, upon whom excommunication was declared by the Church itself in general council, or in particular councils to which the rest of the Church adhered.

The criticism made by St. Cyprian upon the title of bishop of bishops leads one to think that the Bishop of Rome endeavoured even then to assume it, and recalls a remark of Tertullian. Tertull. de Pudicitia, 1.

This learned priest of Carthage said ironically of a Roman bishop whose teaching he censured: "I learn that an edict has been given, even a peremptory edict, the Sovereign Pontif, that is, the Bishop of Bishops has said: 'I remit the sins of impurity and of fornication to those who do penance.' O edict! not less then can be done than to ticket itGood work. But where shall such an edict be posted? Surely, I think upon the doors of the houses of prostitution." . . . Tertullian equally ridicules the titles of Pope and apostolic which had been taken by the Bishops of Rome. Men like Zephyrinus and Callistus his successor, See the work entitled ύ upon the scandal of these two unworthy bishops, which with justice has been attributed to St. Hippolytus, Bishop of Ostia, or to the learned priest Caius. It is certain at any rate that this book is the work of a writer contemporary with the events recorded, and one who enjoyed great authority in the Roman Church. Tertullian reproaches a bishop of Rome with having adopted, owing to the seductions of Praxeas, the heresy of the Patripassians, (Lib. adv. Prax. 1.) The author of ύ attributes this heresy to Zephyrinus and to Callistus, Bishops of Rome at that time. He did not believe, it is evident, in their infallibility. could well appropriate pompous titles that they did not deserve; but the Church, instead of recognizing their legitimacy, and regarding them as emanating from a divine right, censured them by her most learned doctors, and looked upon them as the evil fruit of pride and ambition. St. Cyprian would not have been consistent with himself if he had submitted and declared himself in favour of the pretensions of the Bishops of Rome. In fact, in his Treatise upon Church Unity, he positively denies the primacy of St. Peter himself; he makes that Apostle merely to be the type of unity, which resided in the apostolic college as a whole; and by succession in the whole episcopal body, which he calls the see of Peter. It is only by a series of the strangest of distortions that the Roman theologians understand by this last expression the see of Rome. They can not give such a sense to it without completely forgetting the rest of the text from which this is taken. We will give it as an example among a thousand of the want of good faith of the partisans of popery, when they cite from ancient traditions. After mentioning the powers promised to St. Peter, St. Cyprian remarks that Jesus Christ promised them to him alone, though they were to be given to all. "In order to show faith unity," he says, "the Lord has wished that unity might draw its origin from one only. Here is the explanation of the passage, of which we have already spoken, where St. Cyprian calls the Church of Rome "Source of sacredotal unity." The other Apostles certainly were just what Peter was, having the same, honor and power as he. In some manuscripts, in this place it has been added, "But the primacy has been given to Peter, in order that there might be but one church and one see. Sed primatus Petro datur ut una Ecclesia et cathedra una monstretur." These words could be explained in a sense not Ultmmontane, by that which precedes in St. Cyprian upon Peterhis type of unity; but it is useless to waste time in explaining an interpolated text. Thus it was regarded by the learned Baluze, who prepared the edition of the works of St. Cyprian, published subsequently by the Benedictine Don Maran. When that edition was published, one named Masbaret, professor at the Seminary of Angers, obtained authority from the government to reëstablish the passage. It was at that time thought desirable not to oppose Rome, and the passage was inserted by means of a card. See l'Histoire des Capitulaires, in which notice the observations of Chiniac upon the Catalogue of the Works of Stephen Baluze. All are shepherds, and the flock nourished by all the Apostles together is one, in order that the Church of Christ may appear in its unity."

The see of Peter in St. Cyprian's idea, is the authority of the apostolic body, and, by succession, of the episcopal body; all the bishops had the same honour and the same authority, in all that relates to their order, as the Apostles had the same honor and authority as Peter.

Since St. Cyprian admits this principle, how has it been possible to misconstrue some of his expressions as has been done? Even were it necessary to understand the see of Peter to mean the see of Rome, there would follow nothing favorable to the pretensions of the bishop of that see, since as bishop he would possess no more honor, no more authority than the others; and, as St. Cyprian further proves, the episcopate is one, and the bishops possess it jointly and severally.

But the Bishop of Carthage calls the Church of Rome root and womb of the Catholic Church. St. Cyprian letter 45 to Cornelius. What follows if such expressions were generally employed in his time to designate all the apostolic churches? No one denies the Church of Rome was founded by the Apostlesit was thus a root of the Catholic Church, a mother churchbut not exclusively the rootthe mother of the Church. In fact, Tertullian calls all the apostolic churches wombs and originatorswhich means, "mothers having given origin to others;" Tertul. Præscript, c. xxi. the same divine calls Jerusalemmother of religion, matricem religionis. Tertul. adv. Marcionem Book IV. c. xxxv. The first Council of Constantinople Labbe, Collect. des Conciles. gave to the Church of Jerusalem, the title of mother of all the churches. In Africa the title of matrix or mother was given to all the great metropolitan churches. See Conciles d'Afrique. Same collection. A Gallican bishop of the fifth century, Avitus of Vienne, wrote to the Patriarch of Jerusalem: "Your apostolate exercises a primacy granted to it by God: and it is careful to show that it occupies a principal place, (principem locum) in the Church not only by its privileges, but by its merits." Works of St. Avitus, edited by Father Sirmond. 2d volume of the miscellaneous works of P. Sirmond. Thus it is not surprising that St. Cyprian should give the title of mother churchroot of the church to that of Rome, which had given birth to others, perhaps even in Africa, and whose origin was of apostolic date. Through the Apostles she was, like other apostolic churches, the mother and root of the Catholic Church. Since these qualifications are not given to her in an exclusive manner, they prove nothing in favour of the authority she claims. No one denies that Rome has been one of the most important centres of Christian radiation over the world; no one disputes that she was a powerful, venerable, and apostolic church. But all concurs to prove that her importance did not confer universal authority upon her during the first centuries.

We see that as early as the third century, the Bishops of Rome, because St. Peter had been one of the founders of that see, claimed to exercise a certain authority over the rest of the Church, giving themselves sometimes the title of bishop of bishops; but we also see that the whole Church protested against these ambitious pretensions, and held them of no account.

Since the Roman theologians attach so much importance to the testimony of St. Cyprian and Tertullian, we have been obliged to determine the sense of it in a clear and precise manner. To the texts of the great Carthaginian bishop we will add some of Tertullian, which are of high importance, because the Roman theologians have wished to interpret them in their favor.

In his book against Marcion, Tertull. adv. Marcion. Book IV. 5. he expresses himself thus: "If it be proved, to begin with: that is most true which is most primitive; that is most primitive which has been from the commencement; that which was from the commencement was established by the Apostles; it will then be equally unquestionable, that that has been given by the Apostles which has been held sacred by the apostolic churches. Let us see what milk the Corinthians have received of St. Paul; according to what law the Galatians have been corrected; what the Philippians, the Thessalonians, the Ephesians read; what the Romans our neighbors announce, they who have received direct from Peter and Paul the Gospel attested by their blood. We have also the churches nourished by John." . .

The Church of Rome is here assigned its proper place, which is after the apostolic churches, whose foundation was anterior to her own.

Tertullian does not esteem her witness superior to that of others; only he establishes one fact, namely, that the Church of Rome, the only apostolic Church of the West, was nearer than the others, and it was therefore more easy for him and his opponents to ascertain her testimony touching the questions that divided them.

In his book De Prœscriptionibus Tertullian develops the same doctrine of the witness of apostolic churches, and he appeals to that of the Church of Rome in the same manner as in his book against Marcion.

"That which the Apostles have preached," he said, Tertul De Præscript. xxi. "that is to say, that which Christ has revealed to them, I claim by prescription, that it should only be proved by the churches that the Apostles have founded, teaching them, either viva voce, or by their epistles. If this be so, all doctrine that agrees with that of the apostolic churches, mothers and sources of faith, Matricibus et originalibus fidei. is agreeable to the truth."

Further on, Tertullian applies this general principle.

"Let us glance," Tertul De Prescript. xxxvi. he says, "at the apostolic churches, where the sees of the apostles still remain, where their epistles are still read, where their voice still resounds, and their face, as it were, is still seen. Is it Achaia that is near thee? thou hast Corinth; if thou art not far from Macedonia, thou hast the Philippians; if thou canst go to Asia, thou hast Ephesus; if thou dwellest near Italy, thou hast Rome, whose authority is near us. How happy is that church to whom the Apostles have given all its doctrine with their bloodwhere Peter suffered death like his Lord, where Paul was crowned by the death of John the Baptist, whence the Apostle John, after being plunged into boiling oil without suffering any ill, was banished to an island. Let us see what that church says, what it teaches, what it testifies in common with the churches of Africa."

The Romish theologians ordinarily content themselves with quoting that part of the text we have put in italics. They are careful not to call attention to the fact that Tertuillian speaks of the Church of Rome, only after the other apostolic churches, and in the same character; that he appeals specially to her evidence, only because it was the apostolic church nearest to Africa, whose testimony it was most easy to obtain. These observations, the importance and truth of which all will understand, destroy completely the interpretation that these theologians endeavour to give to the few lines they cite. This doubtless is why they ordinarily pass the others over in silence.

The Romish theologians have eagerly collected many causes brought for adjudication to the see of Rome during the first three centuries, and have instanced them as proofs of the superior authority of the bishops of this see over all the Church. Nevertheless, these appeals prove absolutely nothing in favour of that authority. The principal instances upon which they rely are those of Origen, of St. Dionysius of Alexandria, of Paul of Samosata, and of the Novatians. We will examine these cases in the light of authentic historical monuments.

First we will establish a general principle which determines their true character, as well as that of the appeals addressed subsequently to the Bishop of Rome; it is, that an appeal to a see or a bishop is not a proof in favour of its authority. During the first three centuries, frequent intercourse existed between the bishops; and if a discussion arose in one particular church, those who endeavoured to prove to their adversaries that they were wrong, addressed themselves to other bishops, praying them to make known the belief of their churches, so as to condemn those who wished to give force to new opinions. Distant churches were most commonly appealed to, such as could not be suspected of partiality, apostolic churches, or bishops who enjoyed a high reputation for holiness or learning. Those who were condemned in the West appealed to the East, and those who were condemned in the East appealed to the West, and above all to Rome, which was the only apostolic church of that country.

It is very natural that the Church of Rome should not have been excluded from these appeals; but, before alleging these appeals in support of her supreme authority, it would be necessary to show her to have been the only one appealed to, and that her sentences were received as emanating from that authority. We shall see that such was not the case.

Origen never appealed to Rome, notwithstanding many Romish theologians affirm that he did. Condemned at first by the bishops of Egypt, subsequently by several others, and in particular by the Bishop of Rome, he saw fit to justify himself before those who had condemned him. "But he also wrote," says Eusebius, Euseb. Hist. Eccl. Book VI. chap. xxxvi. "to Fabianus, Bishop of Rome, and to many others of the bishops of churches, respecting his orthodoxy." Such is, in all its simplicity, the fact in which Roman theologians have found a proof of the primacy in authority and jurisdiction of the Bishops of Rome. They carefully avoid quoting the text of Eusebius, and have passed over in silence the opinion of St. Jerome touching the condemnations of which Origen had been the object. Jerome, after speaking of the innumerable labours of the learned priest of Alexandria, cries, Ap. Ruff, liv. ii. "What reward has he received for so much toil and sweat? He is condemned by Bishop Demetrius, and, excepting the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phœnicia and Achaia, he is unanimously condemned by all. Even Rome assembled her Senate (that is, her synod) against him; not that he taught new dogmas, not that he held heretical opinions, as those who bark after him like furious dogs would persuade us; but because they could not bear the brilliancy of his eloquence and learning, and because, when he spoke, all the others seemed dumb."

Thus, according to St. Jerome, the clergy of Rome associated themselves in low intrigues against Origen; and, according to Eusebius, this great man wrote to the Bishop of Rome as he wrote to many others to justify his faith.

We ask what this fact proves for the authority of the Bishops of Rome.

The case of St. Dionysius of Alexandria proves nothing more. Many of the faithful, not having understood the teaching of this great bishop against Sabellius and his partisans, went to Rome, and attributed a heretical doctrine to him. A council was then holding in that city. The Roman bishop wrote, in the name of the council, a letter to Dionysius of Alexandria, to ascertain if it were true that he taught the doctrine attributed to him. The Bishop of Alexandria sent to Rome a work he had composed and in which his sentiments were set forth with precision.

Such is the substance of what St. Athanasius and Eusebius wrote on this point. Now, because one bishop asks in the name of a council, for information from another bishop respecting his faith, must we conclude that the bishop who seeks this information possesses authority and jurisdiction over him to whom he writes? It is not only the right but the duty of every bishop to seek to enlighten a brother whom he believes in error, and to hold himself ready to give an account of his own faith. Thus, the bishops of Rome and Alexandria performed an imperative duty; neither of them exercised authority.

Again, because many went to Rome to accuse him, is there, therefore, no reason to say that they recognized a superior authority in this see?

Faustinus, Bishop of Lyons, wishing to have Marcianus of Arles condemned, accused him to St. Cyprian. Did he thereby acknowledge a superior authority in St. Cyprian? Two wicked bishops, who showed in their favour letters from the Bishop of Rome, Letters of St. Cyprian. were condemned by St. Cyprian upon the accusation of the Spanish bishops. Shall we infer that the Spanish bishops acknowledged in Cyprian an authority not only over their church, but superior to that of the Bishop of Rome? The history of the Church affords numerous examples of bishops who appealed to each other, and that without recognizing any authority in those to whom the causes were submitted.

Dionysius of Alexandria, Euseb, Decl. Hist Book VII chap. xxviii. and xxx. Library of the Fathers, vol. xi. himself received complaints against the doctrine of Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, as the Bishop of Rome had received them against his. As that bishop had written to him, he wrote to the Bishop of Antioch, to inform him of the accusations made against him. He addressed himself to Paul in the name of his clergy, as the Bishop of Rome had addressed him in the name of the Roman council. The Bishop of Antioch replied, in order to give explanations; and Dionysius, not finding them sufficiently clear, wrote back to refute them. The bishops of Syria assembled at Antioch to judge Paul. They wrote to Firmilian of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, and to Dionysius of Alexandria, praying them to come and judge with them. Had they thus written to the Bishop of Rome, the Romish theologians would have gloried in the fact, which, nevertheless, would prove nothing more in favour of the jurisdiction of that bishop, than it proves in favour of that of Firmilian or of Dionysius.

The latter could not present himself at the council, because of a serious malady that shortly after laid him in the tomb; but he wrote to the Council of Antioch a letter which was sent to the whole Church by a Second council that terminated the case of Paul of Samosata.

This heretical bishop having wished to continue in the episcopal dwelling, the bishops, in order to have him expelled, wrote to the Emperor Aurelian at Rome, who, says Eusebius, Eusebius Eccl, Hist. Book VII. chap. xxx. "decided most equitably, ordering the building to be given up to those to whom the Christian bishops of Italy and Rome should write."

The second Council of Antioch had written to the Bishop of Rome as well as to the successor of Dionysius in the see of Alexandria. The Church of Italy adhered to the sentence of the council against Paul of Samosata, who was driven from the Church.

It has been wished to find in the decision of Aurelian, a proof in favor of the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome. It is more accurate to say that the Emperor, in the affair upon which he had been consulted, wished to hear the testimony of bishops, who could not be reasonably challenged by either party, because they were not interested to favour one more than another; of bishops whose sentence he himself could easily ascertain, since he lived among them. It must be remarked that the Emperor did not give as final the sentence of the Bishop of Rome; he named him with the other bishops of Italy, and after them; and if he mentioned him in a special manner, it was evidently because of the importance of his see, established in the capital of the empire, and not because he enjoyed any particular authority.

There must truly be great need of proofs in favour of the Roman supremacy, when its supporters look for them in the conduct of a pagan emperor; while all the ecclesiastical details of the affair of Paul of Samosata prove that supremacy had not been recognized by the Church.

The case of the Novatians is not more favourable to their system. The schism of Novatus of Carthage is easily confounded with that of Novatian of Rome. The partisans of Novatian like those of Novatus, affected an extreme rigor toward those whom persecution had overcome. Novatian having established his schism at Rome, as Novatus had done at Carthage, the schismatics of Rome endeavoured to obtain the support of the Church of Africa, as the schismatics of Carthage that of the Church of Rome. From their relations and appeals one might as fairly infer the supremacy of Carthage over Rome. But the Romish theologians endeavour to fix the attention only upon that of Rome; wherefore is easily understood. Their efforts are useless, for facts confound them.

St. Cyprian in several councils severely condemned the opinions of Novatus and Novatian. The first, a most zealous partisan of sentiments which were not less than criminal seeing he was about to be brought to trial, fled to Rome. There he had an understanding with Novatian, who aspired to the Episcopate of that city, and caused him to be proclaimed bishop, although Cornelius was already lawfully elected.

Cornelius and his competitor addressed themselves to the Bishop of Carthage. Cyprian believed in the lawfulness of Cornelius' election; yet he did not admit him at once to his communion, because of the letters of his rival. He called a council of the bishops of Africa, who determined to send two of their number to Rome, in order to learn what had happened there. The result being favourable to Cornelius, communion was established between him and the bishops of Africa.

Novatian still continued to call himself the Bishop of Rome, and renewed his appeals to the Church of Africa. He was foiled by the energy of Cyprian, but nevertheless gained some partisans. At Rome his party was considerable. Cyprian interfered to reëstablish the order of the Church, and succeeded, and Cornelius informed him of the happy event.

Up to this time, it is rather the Bishop of Carthage who influences the affairs of the Church of Rome, than the Bishop of Rome, those of the Church of Carthage. But soon after, the schismatics of the latter city elected a bishop who sought communion with the Church of Rome. This party afterward divided in two portions, each one choosing a bishop; this division weakened them. Not having been able to gain any partisans in Africa, they presented themselves at Rome, to accuse Cyprian, as formerly they bad accused Cornelius before the Bishop of Carthage. The Bishop of Rome permitted himself to be shaken by their calumnies; but he arrived at other conclusions after having received the letters of Cyprian.

Novatian's party existed at Rome after the death of Cornelius. He had partisans in most of the churches. Marcianus, Bishop of Arles, was of the number.

Faustinus, Bishop of Lyons, believed it necessary under these circumstances to appeal for support to the principal bishops of the West, in order to condemn Marcianus. He therefore addressed Stephen, Bishop of Rome, and Cyprian. The latter had written to the Bishop of Rome, to tell him what he ought to do under the circumstances. He was himself too far from the seat of the trouble to give much attention to the case, and he entreated his brother of Rome to write to the clergy and people of Arles, advising them to depose Marcianus.

In all these facts, related exactly after authentic documents, See chiefly the Letters of St. Cyprian. nothing can be seen but an equal intervention by the bishops of Rome and Carthage, in the affairs of the Church, an equal desire to entertain friendly relations between them, and to be in perfect communion. If St. Cyprian praises Cornelius and the Church of Rome for condemning the schismatics of Africa, he had previously blamed them for having hesitated to pronounce between him and the illegitimate bishop who had presented himself at Rome. Happy that his adversaries had not found in that church the support they hoped for, he gave great praise to the Romans, and it was then he wrote that famous passage, which has been so much abused:

"They (his adversaries) dared to embark and carry their letters to the see of Peter, to the principal church from which sacerdotal unity has sprung, not thinking there were the Romans whose faith the Apostle has praised, and to whom perfidy can have no access."

We have explained according to St. Cyprian himself, the expressions from which the Romish theologians would draw such vast conclusions. It only remains for us, therefore, to notice that the circumstances and the context take from them all the importance it has been sought to attribute to them. It was right that St. Cyprian should thank the Church of Rome for declaring in his favour against his adversaries. In order to do this, he recalls the memory of its two foundersof St. Peter, who was the type of unity in the apostolic, and, by consequence, of the Episcopal body; of St. Paul, who had praised the faith of the Romans. It must be observed, it is not to the Bishop of Rome that he gives this praise, but to the clergy and faithful of that Church, who, at his prayer, had read his letters, and before whom he had pleaded his cause. In his eyes the bishop is nothing without his clergy and the faithful, and he grants him no personal prerogative. This text of St. Cyprian, therefore, is contrary, not favourable to the system of a Papal autocracy. Any one will be convinced of this who reads entire the letters of the bishops of Rome and Carthage. They both act only in concert with the clergy of their Church and the bishops of their province; neither assumes any personal authority.




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

Last update: 6-2-2010.