Teachings of Various Church Fathers.
Facts combine with doctrinal evidences to
prove that the Papacy enjoyed no universal authority during
the first three centuries of the Church; to prove that the
bishops of Rome had in ecclesiastical affairs only such
influence as was necessarily derived from the importance and
dignity of their see; the only one in the West,
which was generally recognized as apostolic.
Moreover, the Church of Rome was the mother
of many other churches, over which she exercised a certain
authority, as we learn from the sixth canon of the first
œcumenical council held at Nicea a.d.
There has been a great deal of discussion
upon this famous canon, in which the Roman theologians have
endeavoured to see an argument in favour of their opinions.
They have called in evidence all the
manuscripts in order to find some that should favour their
views; and they have, in fact, found some which serve them
admirably, by reason of certain additions, which would be
very satisfactory if they were only authentic. For instance:
"Since, then, the holy synod has confirmed the primacy
of the Apostolic See, which is what is due to the merit
of St. Peter, who is the prince of the whole episcopate
(literally, of the episcopal crown) and to the dignity of
the city of Rome."
This is certainly a beautiful preamble for
the sixth canon of Nicea; but it is unfortunate that the
forger should betray himself, even by his style,
We give it as a specimen of its kind:
Cum igitur sedis apostolicæ primatum, sancti Petri
meritum qui princeps est episcopalis coronæ et Romanæ
dignitas civitatis, sacræ etiam synodi firmavit auctoritas.
It is only necessary to have read two pages of the
Ecclesiastical Remains of the Fourth Century, to discover at
first sight the fraud, and be persuaded that this ambitious
and uncouth verbiage is of a much later age. which
cannot be antecedent to the date of the manuscript itself,
namely, the middle ages. In a Roman manuscript, at the head
of the sixth canon, we read: "The Roman Church always had
the primacy." These words, which we might otherwise adopt;
are copied from the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, and in
no wise belong to those of Nicea any more than this other
formula interpolated in another manuscript, "Let the Roman
Church have the primacy forever." All these additions were
unknown in the ninth century, since the author of the Fausses Décrétales, who was then living, and who would
not have failed to profit by them, has given the canons of
the early councils, according to Dionysius Exiguus. This
learned man, who made his collection of the canons at Rome
itself, died in the first half of the sixth century.
According to Cassiodorus, he had a perfect acquaintance with
Greek; his version, consequently, deserves entire
confidence, and in it we find none of the preceding
additions; but it is thus we find the sixth canon of the
"Let the ancient custom be preserved, that
exists in Egypt, Lybia, and Pentapolis, that the Bishop of
Alexandria have authority in all these countries, since that
has also passed into a custom for the Bishop of
Rome. Let the churches at Antioch and in the other provinces
preserve also their privileges. Now, it is very evident,
that if any one be made bishop without the concurrence of
the metropolitan, the great council declares that he may not
be bishop," etc., etc.
The object of this canon was to defend the
authority of the Bishop of Alexandria against the partisans
of Meletius, Bishop of Lycopolis, who refused to recognize
it in episcopal ordinations.
The object of the sixth canon, therefore,
was merely to confirm the ancient customs respecting these
ordinations, and, in general, the privileges consecrated by
ancient usage. Now, according to an ancient custom,
Rome enjoyed certain prerogatives that no one contested. The
council makes use of this fact in order to confirm the
similar prerogatives of Alexandria, Antioch, and other
But what were the churches over which,
according to custom, the Church of Rome exercised a right of
Ruffinus designates them
This writer, who wrote his Ecclesiastical History in the
fourth century, who was born at Aquileia and dwelt at Rome,
must have known the extent of the jurisdiction of the Roman
Church in his times. Now, what does he understand by the suburbicarian churches? It is known that from and after
Constantine's reign, the Church was divided in dioceses and
provinces like the empire itself. A diocese was then a union of several provinces, and a
province was a section of a diocese. The words have changed
their sense, and at this time an ecclesiastical province is
composed of several dioceses. From this undeniable
fact, we know the suburbicarian churches; they are
those which existed in places of the same name in the fourth
centuryŚthese places being those that were dependent upon
the diocese, or the prefecture of RomeŚthat is to say, the
ten provinces called "Sicilia, Corsica, Sardinia, Campania,
Tuscia, Picenum Suburbicarium, Apulia cum Calabria,
Bruttium, Samnium, Valeria." Northern Italy formed another
diocese, of which Milan was the prefecture, and was not
dependent upon Rome. The diocese of Rome did not call itself
Italy, but the Roman Territory. This is why St.
Athanasius St. Athanas. Ep. ad Solit.
calls Milan the metropolis of Italy, and Rome the
metropolis of the Roman Territory. In the fourth
century, therefore, the jurisdiction of the Roman bishops
extended only over southern Italy and the islands of
Corsica, Sicily, and Sardinia.
When the Fathers of the Church speak of the
see of Rome as the first of the West, they do not intend to
speak of its universal jurisdiction, but of its greatness as
the only apostolic episcopate of these countries.
The provinces which the Council of Nicea
subjected to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Alexandria
formed the diocese of Egypt, just as those subject
to the Bishop of Rome formed the diocese of Rome. It makes a
comparison between them that perfectly agrees with the
commentary of Ruffinus. The sixth and seventh canons of the
Council of Nicea may be considered as the legal
origin of the patriarchates; the title was not yet in use,
but the order was established. According to the
principle admitted by the first general council, the number
of patriarchs was not limited to four; we are even given to
understand that beside the four great apostolic churches of
Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, there were others
which enjoyed similar privileges. The bishops of these
churches did not obtain the title of patriarch, but they
enjoyed other titles that raised them above the simple
metropolitans, such as exarch and primate.
In spite of the subterfuges of the Romish
theologians, they cannot escape from two consequences of the
sixth canon of the Council of Nicea:
1st. The council declared that the authority
of the Bishop of Rome extended only over a limited
district, like that of the Bishop of Alexandria.
2d. That this authority was only based upon
Hence, it follows that this authority in the
eyes of the council was not universal; that it was
not of divine right. The ultramontane system, being
entirely based upon the universal and divine
character of the Papal authority, is diametrically opposed
to the sixth canon of the Nicene Council.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the
council, by invoking the Roman custom, in confirmation of
that of Alexandria, recognized the legitimacy of the
established usage, and rendered homage to the
dignity of the Roman see; but we must add, that the
prerogatives recognized in it were not those to which it has
since laid claim.
The General Council of Constantinople,
a.d. 381, which is the second
œcumenical council, has well interpreted that of Nicea by
its third canon, "Let the Bishop of Constantinople have
the primacy of honour (priores honoris partes)
after the Bishop of Rome, because Constantinople is
the new Rome."
The Bishop of Rome was, therefore, regarded
as the first in honour, because he was bishop of
the capital of the empire. Byzantium having become the
second capital, under the name of Constantinople, its bishop
became entitled to be second in rank, according to the
principle that had governed the Council of Nicea in the exterior constitution of the Church, and according to
which the divisions of the empire were made the divisions of
The Œcumenical Council of Chalcedon,
a.d. 451, which met a century
after that of Constantinople, throws a new light upon this
point, and thus expresses itself in the twenty-eighth canon:
"In all things following the decrees of the
holy Fathers, and recognizing the canon just read by the one
hundred and fifty bishops well-beloved of God, (third canon
of the second council,) we decree and establish the same
thing touching the privileges of the most holy Church of
Constantinople, the new Rome. Most justly did
the Fathers grant privileges to the see of the ancient
Rome, because she was the reigning
(capital) city. Moved by the same
motive, the one hundred and fifty bishops well-beloved of
God, grant equal privileges to the most holy see of
the new Rome, thinking, very properly, that the city that
has the honour to be the seat of the empire and of the
senate, should enjoy in ecclesiastical things the same
privileges as Rome, the ancient queen city, since the
former, although of later origin, has been raised and
honoured as much as the latter." In consequence of this
decree, the council subjected the dioceses of Pontus, of
Asia, Asia Minor is understood, the
ancient Metropolis of which was Ephesus. The part of Asia
confided to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Antioch is
called the East. and of Thrace, to the
jurisdiction of the Bishop of Constantinople.
The legates of Pope Leo I in the Council of
Chalcedon opposed this canon. It was adopted, nevertheless;
but the Fathers of the council addressed a respectful letter
to Leo, in which, after alluding to the opposition of the
legates, they add: "We therefore beg you to honour our
judgment by your own decrees."
Romish theologians have claimed to see in
this proceeding a proof that the Fathers of Chalcedon
recognized in the Bishop of Rome a supreme authority over
the decisions of the councils, which, they say, would be of
no avail if not confirmed by him. But it is more just to see
in this but an act of great propriety inspired by the love
of peace and harmony. The council would of course desire
that the West should be in concord with the East. The Bishop
of Rome represented the West in the council, being the only
bishop in the West possessing an apostolic see;
again, his see was the first in honour in the
universal Church, and evidently it was proper to entreat him
to acquiesce in the decision of the council. He was not
asked to confirm it, but by his own decrees to honour the judgment which had been rendered. If the
confirmation of the Bishop of Rome had been necessary, would
the decree of Chalcedon have been a judgment, a
promulgated decision before that confirmation?
St. Leo did not understand the letter from
the Council of Chalcedon as do our Romish theologians. He
refusedŚnot to confirm it by his authorityŚbut
simply to admit it. "This decree shall never obtain
our consent," he said. St. Leo,
epis. liii. vet. edit.; lxxxiv. edit. Quesn. And why
did he refuse his consent? Because the decree of Chalcedon
took from the Bishop of Alexandria the second rank, and the
third from the Bishop of Antioch, and was in so far forth
contrary to the sixth canon of the Council of Nicea, and
because the same decree prejudiced the rights of several
primates or metropolitans. Ibid.
In another letter addressed to the Emperor Marcianus,
St. Leo, epis. liv. vet. edit.;
lxxxviii. edit. Quesn. St. Leo reasoned in the same
manner: "The Bishop of Constantinople, in spite of the glory
of his church, cannot make it apostolic; he has no
right to aggrandize it at the expense of churches whose
privileges, established by canons of the holy Fathers
and settled by the decrees of the venerable Council of
Nicea, cannot be unsettled by perversity nor violated by
The Church of Rome has too well forgotten
this principle of one of her greatest bishops.
In his letter to the Empress Pulcheria,
St. Leo, epis. iv. vet. edit. St.
Leo declares that he has "annulled the decree of Chalcedon
by the authority of the blessed Apostle St. Peter." These
words seem at first sight to mean that he claimed for
himself a sovereign authority in the Church in the name of
St. Peter; but upon a more careful and an unbiased
examination of his letters and other writings, we are
convinced that St. Leo only spoke as the bishop of an apostolic see, and that in this character he claimed
the right, in the name of the apostles who had founded his
church, and of the western countries which he represented,
to resist any attempt on the part of the Eastern Church to
decide, alone, matters of general interest to the whole
The proof that he regarded matters in this
light is that he does not claim for himself any personal
authority of divine origin, descended to him from St.
Peter, but that, on the contrary, he presents himself
as defender of the canons, and looks upon the rights and
reciprocal duties of the churches as having been established by the Fathers and
fixed by the
Council of Nicea. He does not pretend that his church has
any exceptional rights, emanating from another source. But
by ecclesiastical right, he is the first bishop of
the Church; besides, he occupies the apostolic see
of the West; in these characters he must interfere and
prevent the ambition of one particular church from impairing
rights that the cannons have accorded to other bishops, too
feeble to resist, and from disturbing the peace of the whole
Church. After carefully reading all that St. Leo has written
against the canon of the Council of Chalcedon, it cannot be
doubted what he really meant. He does not claim for himself
the autocracy which Romish theologians make the
ground-work of papal authority. In his letter to the Fathers
of the Council of Chalcedon, he only styles himself "guardian
of the catholic faith and of the constitutions of the
Fathers," and not chief and master of the Church by
divine right. St. Leo, epis. lxi.
vet. edit.; lxxx. edit. Quesn. He regarded the canon
of the Council of Chalcedon as wrung from the members of
that assembly by the influence of the Bishop of
Constantinople, and he wrote to the Bishop of Antioch,
St. Leo, epis. lxii. vet. edit; xcii.
edit. Quesn. that he ought to consider that canon as
null, inasmuch as it was contrary to the decrees of Nicea.
"Now," he adds, "universal peace can only subsist upon the
condition that the canons be respected."
Modern Popes would not have written thus,
but would have substituted their personal authority for the
language of the canons.
Anatolius of Constantinople wrote to St. Leo
that he was wrong, in attributing the twenty-eighth canon of
the Council of Chalcedon to his influence; that the Fathers
of the council had enjoyed full liberty; and that as far as
he himself was concerned, he did not care for the privileges
that had been conferred upon him. Nevertheless, these
privileges remained in spite of the opposition of the Bishop
of Rome, and were recognized even in the West. Let us give
one proof among a thousand. It is a letter from an
illustrious Gallican bishopŚSt. Avitus, metropolitan Bishop
of VienneŚto John, Bishop of Constantinople.
Works of St. Avitus, in the
miscellaneous works of P. Sirmond. At the same time
we can perceive in the struggles between the bishops of Rome
and Constantinople respecting the canon of Chalcedon, the
origin of the dissensions which afterward led to an entire
rupture. In principle, Leo was right to defend the canons of
Nicea; but he could not deny that one œcumenical council had
the same rights as another that had preceded it; especially
while it adhered to the spirit that had directed it. The
Nicene Council, in consecrating the usage by which
the Bishop of Rome was regarded as the first in honour
in the Church, had in view not so much the apostolic
origin of his see, as the splendour which he acquired from
the importance of the city of Rome; for many other churches
had an equally apostolic origin, and Antioch, as a
church founded by St. Peter, had priority over Rome. Why,
then, should not the Bishop of Constantinople have been
received as second in rank, Constantinople having become the
second capital of the empire; since the Bishop of Rome was
first in rank, only because of its position as the first
capital? It was well understood that the Council of
Chalcedon had not been unfaithful to the spirit that had
inspired that of Nicea; and that if it had somewhat changed
the letter of its decrees, it had done so in
obedience to the same motives that had directed the first
œcumenical assembly. It sustained itself, moreover, upon the
second œcumenical council, which, without giving to the
Bishop of Constantinople any patriarchal jurisdiction, had,
nevertheless, conferred upon him the title of second
bishop of the universal Church, and that too without any
opposition on the part of the Bishop of Rome, or any other
Bishop in the West.
The twenty-eighth canon of Chalcedon was the
consequence of the third canon of Constantinople. It was the
more necessary to give to a patriarch jurisdiction over the
dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace, that elections and
consecrations occasioned in these dioceses perpetual
struggles between the primates and the metropolitans. The
Council of Nicea having sanctioned the privileges founded
upon usage, every primate and metropolitan pretended to have
some such rights.
It was thus the Bishop of Antioch
endeavoured to stretch his jurisdiction over the isle of
Cyprus; but from time immemorial this Church had governed
herself by her bishops together with the metropolitan. The
case was carried to the Œcumenical Council of Ephesus, which
declared in favor of the Church of Cyprus. Its motive was,
"that it was necessary to beware, lest under pretext of the
priesthood the liberty be lost which Jesus Christ, the
liberator of all men, has given to us, at the cost of his
blood." St. Leo, Epis. xcii. Labbe,
Collec. of Councils. Cabassut. Not. Eccl. p. 209.
This is why the metropolitans of Cyprus
styled themselves as before ßὐ˘´ŕŢ÷ßŰ´Ú (independent) and
did not recognize the jurisdiction of any superior bishop.
The Bishop of Jerusalem was likewise acephalous, or
without chief, according to the seventh canon of the Nicene
Council, and he retained the ancient honour of his see.
Thus Leo was right to pronounce in favour of
respect for canons; but he was wrong in placing disciplinary
canons in the same rank with dogmatic definitions. In fact,
the first may be modified when grave reasons demand it, nay,
should be modified, sometimes, in the letter,
if it be desired to preserve them in spirit; while
definitions of faith should never be modified as to the
letter, much less as to the spirit.
The canons of the first œcumenical councils
throw incontestably strong light upon the prerogatives of
the Bishop of Rome. They are the complement to each other.
The twenty-eighth canon of Chalcedon contains nothing less
than the doctrine we defend, even though the opposition of
the West, in the person of the Bishop of Rome, should strip
it of its œcumenical character as certain theologians
maintain; for it is well to notice that St. Leo did not
protest against it as opposed to the divine and
universal authority of the see of Rome, for which he
only claimed an ecclesiastical primacy, but simply
because it infringed upon the sixth canon of Nicea, in
brining down the Bishop of Alexandria to the third rank of
the episcopate, and the Bishop of Antioch to the fourth.
It is, therefore, incontestable that at that
period the Bishop of Rome did not possess universal
authority in the Church by divine right.
This is still more evident, from the part
that the bishops of Rome took in the councils. One fact is
certain, that they did not convoke the first four œcumenical
councils, that they did not preside over them, that they did
not confirm them.
We will prove this for each of the Councils.
Here is what Eusebius relates of the
convocation, presidence, and confirmation of the First
Œcumenical council of Nicea: Euseb. Life
of Constantine, Book III. chap. v. et seq.
Constantine declared that he must prosecute
to the utmost this war against the secret adversary who was
disturbing the peace of the Church.
Resolved, therefore, to bring as it were a
divine array against this enemy, he convoked a general
council, and invited the speedy attendance of bishops
from all quarters in letters expressive of the honorable
estimation in which he held them. Nor was this merely the
issuing of a bare command, but the Emperor's
condescension contributed much to its being carried into
effect: "For he allowed some the use of the public means of
conveyance, while he afforded to others an ample supply of
horses for their transport. The place, too, selected for the
synod, the city of Nicea in Bithynia (which derived its name
from Victory) was appropriate to the occasion. As
soon, then, as the imperial injunction was
generally made known, all with the utmost celerity hastened
to obey it." . . . . . . "The number of bishops exceeded
two hundred and fifty, while that of the presbyters and
deacons in their train, and the crowd of acolytes and other
attendants was altogether beyond computation.
"Of these ministers of God some were very
distinguished by wisdom and eloquence, others by the gravity
of their lives and by patient fortitude of character, while
others again united in themselves all these graces. There
were among them men whose years demanded the tribute of
respect and veneration. Others were younger, and in the
prime of bodily and mental vigor; and some had but recently
entered on the course of their ministry. For the maintenance
of all a sumptuous provision was daily furnished by the
"Now when the appointed day arrived on which
the council met for the final solution of the question in
dispute each member attended to deliver his judgment in the
central building of the palace. On each side of the interior
of this were many seats disposed in order, which were
occupied by those who had been invited to attend, according
to their rank. As soon, then, as the whole assembly had
seated themselves with becoming gravity, a general silence
prevailed in expectation of the Emperor's arrival. And first
of all, three of his immediate family entered in succession,
and others also preceded his approach, not of the soldiers
or guards who usually accompanied him, but only friends, who
avowed the faith of Christ. And now all rising at the signal
which indicated the Emperor's entrance, at last he himself
proceeded through the midst of the assembly like some
heavenly messenger of God. . . . As soon as he had advanced
to the upper end of the seats, at first he remained
standing, and when a low chair of wrought gold had been set
for him, he waited until the bishops had beckoned to him,
and then sat down, and after him the whole assembly did the
"The bishop who occupied the chief place
in the right division of the assembly then rose, and,
addressing the Emperor, delivered a concise speech."
This account shows that it was the Emperor
who convoked the council, and gave formal orders to that effect, and that he occupied the place
of president in the assembly. Doubtless he had no
ecclesiastical right to convoke this council; yet
while the direct intervention of the emperors in the
convocation of councils in the first centuries does not
prove that they had any ecclesiastical rights, it proves, at
least, that the Church did not then possess any central
power that could call all the bishops together. Otherwise
the Christian emperors would have addressed that authority,
and every thing undertaken by them without that authority
would have been null and void.
The bishop who occupied the highest place in
the Nicene Council had only the first place on the right
of the Emperor. Constantine was placed in the
middle, at the end of the hall, and upon a separate
seat. What bishop occupied the first place, Eusebius does
not say; which leads one to think it was himself. The
historian Socrates maintains, in fact, that it was really
Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine. This bishopric was
one of the most important of the East, and the first in
Palestine since the destruction of Jerusalem.
In the commencement of his
Constantine, Eusebius thus expresses himself: "I myself
have recently addressed eulogies to the victorious prince,
seated in the assembly of God's ministers." If these words
are not a demonstrative proof, they nevertheless give great
probability to the statement of Socrates.
But whether it be Eusebius of Cæsarea, or
Eustathius of Antioch, as Theodoret affirms,
Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. Book I. ch. vii.
or Alexander of Alexandria, as Niectas Nicet. Thesaur. fid orthodox, Book V. ch. vii.
maintains, after Theodore of Mopsuestia, is of small
account. Thus much is certain, that the envoys of the Roman
Bishop did not preside. This is a fact admitted by all
historians worthy of credence. We must come down to Gelasius
of Cyzieus to learn that the Bishop of Rome presided at the
Council of Nicea in the person of Hosius of Cordova, his
deputy. In the first place, Hosius was not the delegate of
the Bishop of Rome; he takes this title neither in the Acts
of the Council nor elsewhere. The Bishop of Rome was only
represented by the priests Vitus and Vincent, and not by
Hosius. Thus, even if Hosius had presided over the Council,
this fact would prove nothing in favour of the pretended
authority. But it is certain that Hosius had not that
honour, and that the ecclesiastical presidence of
the assembly was in the Bishops of the great Sees of
Alexandria, Antioch, and Cæsarea of Palestine, while the
Emperor himself had the civil presidency.
After having heard the eulogies of the first
bishop of the assembly, Constantine made an address in which
he said that he had convoked all the bishops to
labor for peace, and he entreated them to secure it to the
Christian world. When he had finished, he invited the
presidents of the council to
speak. There were, therefore, several presidents.
With this declaration before us of Eusebius,
Euseb. Life of Constantine, Book III.
chap. xiii. who was an eye-witnessŚa declaration that
nothing contradictsŚcan it reasonably be contended that the
Council was presided over by the Bishop of Rome, in the
person of Hosius his proxy? What fact can authorize such an
assertion, diametrically opposed to the authoritative and
positive testimony of Eusebius?
This learned historian has accurately traced
the functions of Constantine. From the time the bishops took
the floor, animated discussions arose. "The Emperor,"
continues Eusebius, Ibid. "gave
patient audience to all alike and received every proposition
with steadfast attention, and by occasionally assisting the
argument of each party in turn, he gradually disposed even
the most vehement disputants to a reconciliation. At the
same time, by the affability of his address to all, and his
use of the Greek language, (with which he was, not
altogether unacquainted,) he appeared in a truly attractive
and amiable light, persuading some, convincing others by his
reasonings, praising those who spoke well, and urging all to
unity of sentiment, until at last he succeeded in bringing
them to one mind and judgment respecting every disputed
Constantine convoked the council
and presided over it, These are two facts
which no one in good faith can contest. A third
fact, not less unquestionable, is that it was he who
promulgated its decrees. To establish this, it is sufficient
to translate the following passages of the letter that he
addressed to all the bishops who had not attended the
assembly, "in order," writes Eusebius,
Life of Constantine, Bood III. ch. xvi. and xvii. "to
assure them of what had been done." it is Eusebius himself
who has preserved this letter for us:
to the Churches:
"Having had full proof in the general prosperity of the
empire, how great the favour of God has been toward us, I
have judged that it ought to be the first object of my
endeavours, that unity of faith, sincerity of love, and
community of feeling in regard to the worship of Almighty
God, might be preserved among the highly favored multitude
who compose the Catholic Church: and inasmuch as this object
could not be effectually and certainly secured, unless all,
or at least the greater number of the bishops were to meet
together, and a discussion of all particulars relating to
our most holy religion to take place; for this reason as
numerous an assembly as possible has been convened, at which
I myself was present, as one among yourselves, (and far be
it from me to deny that which is my greatest joy, that I am
your fellow-servant,) and every question received due and
full examination, until that judgment which God, who sees
all things, could approve, and which tended to unity and
concord, was brought to light, so that no room was left for
further discussion or controversy in relation to the faith."
After this preamble, which is of itself
significant, Constantine publishes the decree of the
Council, upon the celebration of Easter. He explains the
reasons for it and recommends its observance. Before
dismissing, the bishops, Constantine again addressed them,
exhorting them to maintain peace among themselves. He
particularly recommends "those in high places not to raise
themselves above their inferiors in rank; for," he adds, "it
belongs to God only to judge the virtue and superiority of
each one." Euseb. Life of Constantine,
Book III. ch. xxi. He gave them some further advice,
and then permitted them to return to their churches. They
all withdrew joyfully, ascribing to the intervention of the
Emperor the peace that had been established between those
who had differed in opinion.
In respect to the most serious question that
had been discussed in the CouncilŚthat of ArianismŚConstantine
wrote of it to Egypt, where the discussion had birth, "confirming,"
writes Eusebius, "and sanctioning the decrees of
the Council on this subject." Euseb.
Life of Constantine, Book III. ch. xxiii.
Thus nothing is wanting in the intervention
of Constantine at Nicea. It is he who convokes the
Council, he who presides, and he who confirms
the decrees. Eusebius, a contemporaneous historian, an
eye-witness of the events, who took part in the Council,
positively asserts it; while subsequent historians, all
worthy of confidenceŚSocrates, Sozomen, and TheodoretŚbear
witness to the fidelity of his recital.
Gelasius of Cyzicus, author of a romance
founded upon the Council of Nicea, who lived in the fifth
century, is the first, as we have said, to make mention of
the Bishop of Rome in the convocation and presidency of the
Council of Nicea. His mistake was propagated in the East,
and the sixth general council in the seventh century did not
protest against it when uttered in its presence. But it will
be admitted that the erroneous assertion of a writer who
entirely contradicts history and the clearest traditions,
cannot be received as truth because a council held at a much
later period did not protest against it, when, even had it
been competent, it was not called to pronounce upon that
question. It is not possible, then, honestly to oppose such
proofs to the multiplied evidences of contemporaneous
writers, and to that of the Council itself, which, in its
letters, never speaks of the intervention of the Bishop of
It is certain that Constantine did not claim
any ecclesiastical rights for himself; that he only
presided at the Council in order to assure liberty of
discussion, and that he left the decisions to episcopal
judgment. But it is nevertheless true that he convoked the
Council, that he presided, that he confirmed
its decrees; that under him there were several bishops
presidents; that the delegates of the Bishop of Rome
did not preside; that Hosius, who the first signed the acts
of the Council, was not the delegate of the Bishop of Rome,
whatever Gelasius of Cyzicus may say, whose testimony is
worth nothing, even by the avowal of the most learned of the
Roman theologians. See the judgement
given by the Jesuit Feller upon this historian: "A Greek
author of the fifth century, who wrote the History of
the Nicene Council, held in 325. This history is
only a novel in the opinion of the
best criticsŚat least, in many respects, he is at
variance with the documents and relations most worthy of
belief." Like a good Ultramontane, Feller affirms that
Gelasius had excellent motives, and it is this which has
made him embellish his history a little. Thus,
according to Feller, Gelasius has lied, but his
falsehoods are excusable because of his intentions,
and because his motives were good. Feller was faithful to
the spirit of his Company.
What now was the intervention of the Bishop
of Rome in the second œcumenical council? Nothing.
The Council was convoked by the Emperor
Theodosius, (a.d. 381,) who did
not even ask the opinion of the Bishop of Rome. That Bishop,
Damasus, did not even send legates to it, nor did any other
western bishop take part in it. The Council was composed of
one hundred and fifty members, among whom we distinguish
such men as St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St.
Peter of Sebaste, St. Amphilochius of Iconium, and St. Cyril
of Jerusalem. It was presided over by St. Meletius of
For a long time there had been a schism at
Antioch. That city had two bishops, Meletius and Paulinus.
The Bishop of Rome was in communion with the latter, and
consequently regarded Meletius as schismatic, which
nevertheless did not prevent his being regarded as a saint by the Western churches as well as those in the
East. The second œcumenical council was therefore under the
presidency of a bishop who was not in communion with Rome.
Meletius died during the sitting of the council. Those who
were well known for eloquence among the Fathers pronounced
his eulogy. There remains only the discourse of St. Gregory
of Nyssa. The faithful vied with each other in lavishing
marks of their veneration for the holy Bishop of Antioch; he
was regarded by all as a Saint, and when his body was
transported to Antioch the journey was an uninterrupted
After the death of St. Meletius, St. Gregory
Nazianzen presided. The assembly did not recognize Paulinus
as the legitimate Bishop of Antioch, although he was in
communion with the Bishop of Rome, and they paid no heed to
a compromise, by the terms of which the survivor Meletius or
Paulinus was to be recognized as bishop by all the
Catholics. They accordingly chose St. Flavianus to succeed
Meletius, and, excepting the partisans of Paulinus, the
Church of Antioch supported this choice.
St. Gregory Nazianzen having, obtained
permission to resign his see of Constantinople, was
succeeded as president of the council, successively by
Timothy of Alexandria and Nectarius of Constantinople. These
presidents had no relations with the Bishop of Rome.
Nevertheless the council enacted important
dogmatic decrees, and its decisions mingled with those of
the Council of Nicea in the formula of the creed;
moreover, it changed the order of the ecclesiastical
hierarchy by giving to the Bishop of Constantinople the
second place in the Church, and by placing after him the
Bishops of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. It enacted
besides a great number of disciplinary canons which were
adopted by the whole Church. See the
Acts of the Council in Father Labbe's Collection;
Ecclesiastical Histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and
Theodoret; the Works of St. Gregory of Nyssa and of St.
Gregory Nazianzen, etc.
The year following the Council of
Constantinople, the Emperor Gratianus assembled another at
Rome. Paulinus of Antioch was there. He was there sustained
in his opposition to St. Flavianus, who was nevertheless
recognized as the legitimate bishop by the majority of the
provinces that depended upon the patriarchate. The West had
raised an outcry against the East, for having on decided
important matters without the concurrence of the West. But
aside from the legitimacy of Flavianus, all the other acts
of the Council were now concurred in, and the Council of
Constantinople was universally considered as œcumenical,
although neither convoked, nor presided over, nor yet
confirmed by the Bishop of Rome.
In view of such facts, what becomes of the
pretensions of the Bishop of Rome to an absolute autocracy
in the Church? He claims, to-day, that all jurisdiction
comes from him, and here is a council presided by a holy
bishop with whom Rome is not in communion promulgating
dogmatic and the most important disciplinarian decrees; and
this council is one of those which St. Gregory the Great
revered as one of the four gospels. See
Ecclesiastical Histories of Sozomen and of
Theodoret; the Letters of St. Jerrome and of St. Ambrose;
the Collection of the Councils by Labbe.
The third œcumenical council held at Ephesus
(431) was convoked by the Emperor Theodosius II.
and his colleague; both of them signed the letter of
convocation addressed, as was customary, to the metropolitan
of each province. "The troubles of the Church," they say,
See Works of St. Cyril of Alexandria;
Collection of the Councils, by Labbe. Eccl. Hist. of
Socrates. "have made us think it indispensable to
convoke the bishops of the whole world. In consequence,
your Holiness will make arrangements to present yourself at
Ephesus, at the Pentecost, and to bring with you such of the
bishops as your Holiness may judge convenient," etc.
We read in the acts of the council that St.
Cyril was the first, as occupying the place of Celestine,
Bishop of Rome; but as Fleury remarks, Fleury, Eccl. Hist. Book XXV. ch xxxvii. "He might as
well have presided by right of the dignity of his see." This
reflection is quite just. Nevertheless, since the second
œcumenical council had given the second place in the
episcopate to the Bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius might
have disputed the presidency of the assembly with his
antagonist, Cyril. Cyril had, therefore, a good reason to
come to an understanding with Celestine, Bishop of Rome, in
order that the heretic they had assembled to condemn should
not preside over them.
We can thus understand why the Bishop of
Alexandria thought fit to appear at the council with the
prerogatives of the Bishop of Rome; but it would be wrong to
conclude that he was the legate of that bishop, who was
represented by two Western bishops and a Roman priest. In
none of the acts of the council does Cyril mention his title
of legate of the Bishop of Rome; and when the discussion was
about him, he called to the chair not the delegates of the
Roman Bishop, but the Bishop of Jerusalem, who was next to
him in rank, since the Bishop of Antioch was not at the
After having read the Nicene Creed, a
dogmatic letter was read from St. Cyril to Nestorius, and
the bishops present adopted it as the expression of their
faith. They next read a letter in which Nestorius set forth
his doctrine: it was condemned. Juvenal of Jerusalem
proposed to read the letter of the very holy Archbishop
of Rome to Nestorius; then was read the third dogmatic
letter of St. Cyril; this was the synodal letter with the
twelve anathemas. It was declared that the doctrine
of the Bishop of Rome and that of St. Cyril were agreeable
to the Nicene Creed.
The testimony of the fathers in the East and
West was then opposed to the errours of Nestorius. There was
read a letter written by the Bishop of Carthage in the name
of the African bishops, who could not be present at the
council, and of whom St. Cyril was the delegate. That was
approved. Finally the sentence was pronounced and signed by
all the bishops. St. Cyril signed thus: "Cyril, Bishop of
Alexandria, I have subscribed, judging with the Council."
The other bishops adopted the same form. It must be observed
that St. Cyril did not sign as representative of the Bishop
of Rome. If he had consented to use the delegated powers of
Celestine, it was simply to be prepared in case Nestorius
should have wished to dispute his precedence. Consequently
that delegation had not the importance that Romish
theologians delight in ascribing to it.
The Bishop of Antioch had not arrived when
the condemnation of Nestorius was pronounced. They pretended
that Cyril was judge in his own cause, against the Bishop of
Constantinople. The Emperor declared in favour of the
latter, and his party claimed that the discussion should be
reöpened. It was at this time that the Bishop of Rome sent
three legates to represent him. They were bearers of a
letter which commenced thus: "The assembly of the bishops
manifests the presence of the Holy Spirit; for a council is
holy and should be venerated, as representing a numerous
assembly of Apostles. They were never abandoned by the
Master whom they were ordained to preach. He taught by them,
and told them what they should teach, and he declared that
it was he who was heard through his apostles. This charge to
teach has been transmitted to all the bishops alike, we all possess it by right of inheritance, we
who announce in the place of the apostles, the name
of the Lord in divers countries of the world, according to
his word: 'Go teach all nations.' You must observe,
my brethren, we have received a general order, and
that Jesus Christ willed we should all execute it
in discharging this duty. We should all participate
in the labors of those to whom we have all
succeeded." A Pope writing thus to a council was very far
removed from the theories of modern Papacy. Celestinus
letter was approved by the assembly, which in its enthusiasm
cried out, "Celestinus the new Paul! Cyril the
new Paul! Celestinus, defender of the faith!
Celestinus, who agrees with the council! The whole
council renders thanks to Celestinus! Celestinus and Cyril
are one! The faith of the council is one! It is that of the
Celestine and Cyril were put in the same
category as defenders of the Catholic faith. Neither had any
authority except through the conformity of their doctrine
with that of the council Instead of considering Celestine as
having inherited a universal authority from St. Peter,
they compare him to St. Paul, the Doctor-Apostle.
The legates examined the Acts of the
Council, and declared that they regarded them as canonical, "since," they said, "the Bishops of the East
and West have taken part in the council, in person or by
proxy." It was not, then, because the Bishop of Rome had
directed or confirmed it.
The council, in its synodical letter
addressed to the Emperor, relies upon the adhesion of
the Bishops of the West, of whom Pope Celestine was the
interpreter, to prove that its sentence against
Nestorius was canonical.
In view of these facts and this doctrine, it
will be admitted that St. Cyril might have presided at the
council without any mandate from the Pope; that if he
rejoiced that he represented Celestine, it was only because
he thereby took precedence of Nestorius, in spite of the
canon of the Council of Constantinople, which gave to
Nestorius the first rank after the Bishop of Rome; and that
the three deputies of the Pope did not go to Ephesus to
direct the assembly or confirm it, but to convey the
adhesion of the Western bishops assembled in council by
It is false, therefore, to say that the Pope
presided at the council by St. Cyril, who in such case would
have been his legate. It is one thing to yield for a
particular reason the honours attached by the Church to the
title of first bishop, and quite another to
delegate the right to preside at an œcumenical
council. The position of legate of the Bishop of Rome did
not carry with it the right to preside, as we see
in councils where the deputies of that bishop were present,
but did not preside. The prerogatives of first bishop
delegated to St. Cyril, gave him precedence over
NestoriusŚin case that heretic had chosen to insist on
presiding over the Council of Ephesus, by virtue of the
third canon of the Council of Constantinople. The Romish
theologians have, therefore, grossly misunderstood the fact,
of which they would make a weapon against the Catholic
doctrine. They have not observed that even after the arrival
of the legates of the Bishop of Rome at Ephesus, when St.
Cyril did not preside at the council, it was Juvenal Bishop
of Jerusalem, who had that honour. The Bishop of Antioch
having taken sides with Nestorius, and not attending the
assemblies, the right to preside fell upon the Bishop of
Jerusalem; since, according to the hierarchy established by
the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople, he was fifth in
order. This fact alone is strong proof against the opinion
that attributes to the Bishop of Rome the right to preside
at councils either in person or by proxy. Had he been
present, and if the council had had no reason for putting
him on his trial, or excluding him, he would without doubt
have presided, in virtue of his ecclesiastical title of
first Bishop; but when he caused himself to be
represented there, his deputies had no right to preside, and
in fact never did preside. The Bishops of Rome themselves
knew so well that they had not this right, that they
oftenest delegated simple priests or deacons, who could not
properly preside in a council of bishops.
The Acts of the Fourth Œcumenical Council,
held at Chalcedon in 451, are not favourable to the Papal
system, whatever may be said by Romish theologians.
The council was convoked by the
Emperor Marcianus, All the documents to
which we refer in this account, may be found in Labbe's
Collection of the Councils. See also, the works of St. Leo.
who gave notice of it to the Bishop of Rome, St. Leo. The
Empress Pulcheria also wrote to him, and said that it had pleased the very pious Emperor, her husband, to
assemble the Eastern bishops in council, in order
to consider the necessities of the Catholic faith. She
entreats him (the Bishop of Rome) to give his consent, in
order that its decisions may be according to rule. It was,
in, fact, just and necessary to demand the adhesion of the
West, so that the council might be œcumenical. St. Leo
replied that the doubts which had been raised concerning
the orthodox faith made a council necessary;
consequently, the Emperor Marcianus and Valentinian his
colleague, addressed letters of convocation to all the
It must be remarked that St. Leo only
consented to the convocation of the council He, therefore,
believed neither in his right to convoke it, nor to
terminate the discussions himself, by virtue of his
authority. His letters to Marcianus, to Pulcheria, and to
the Fathers of the council, leave no doubt of this.
This preliminary fact is of great
Leo had requested that the council should
take place in Italy; but the Emperor refused this, and
convoked it at Nicea and afterward Chalcedon. In nearly all
its sessions the council recognizes having been convoked
by the most pious Emperors, and never mentions the
Bishop of Rome in this connection. A Roman council under
Pope Gelasius, asserts that the Council of Chalcedon was
assembled by the intervention of the Emperor Marcianus, and
of Anatolius, Bishop of Constantinople. The original
conception was in fact theirs; yet, as St. Leo consented to
it, his prerogatives as first bishop were allowed
him, as they should have been. Consequently, he sent to
Chalcedon his legates, who were, Boniface, one of his
fellow-priests of the city of RomeŚas he says in
several of his letters to MarcianusŚPaschasinus, Bishop of
Sicily, Bishop Julian, and Lucentius.
"Let the brethren," said he, in his letter
to the Fathers of the council, "believe that by them I
preside in the council. I am present amongst you in the
persons of my vicars. You know from ancient tradition what
we believe; you cannot therefore doubt what we wish."
As this shows, St. Leo appeals to the old
traditions, and leaves the council to judge all questions
without interposing his pretended doctrinal authority.
But does he use the word
its strictest sense ?
If we attentively examine the Transactions
of the Council, we see that the delegates of the Emperor
occupied the first place; that the assembly had several
presidents; that the legates of the Bishop of Rome and
Anatolius of Constantinople acted simultaneously as ecclesiastical presidents. Such was the case in the
twelfth session particularly; and accordingly a council of
Sardinia says, in a letter addressed to the Emperor Leo:
Int. act. Conc. Chalced. "The
Council of Chalcedon was presided over by Leo, the very holy
Archbishop of Rome, in the persons of his legates, and by
the very holy and venerable Archbishop Anatolius."
Photius, in the seventh book of
Synods, designates as presidents of the Council
AnatoliusŚthe legates of the Bishops of Rome, the Bishop of
Antioch and the Bishop of Jerusalem. Cedrenus, Zonarius, and
Nilus of Rhodes relate the same thing. Ced. Compend. Hist; Zonar. Annal.; Nil. Rhod. de Synod.
On the other hand, in the report addressed
to St. Leo by the Fathers of the Council, we read that the
assembly was presided over by the delegated officers of the
Emperor. We must, therefore, admit that the Council of
Chalcedon was held under the same conditions as that of
Nicea; that the civil authority held the first place there;
and that the bishops of sees since called patriarchal
presided together. We have no difficulty after this in
admitting that the Bishop of Rome occupied the first
place among the bishops in the persons of his legates;
but it is one thing to occupy the first place and another
thing to preside, especially in the sense that
Romish theologians give to this word.
It is an undeniable fact that the
dogmatic letter addressed by St. Leo to the Fathers of
the Council was there examined and approved for this reason:
that it agreed with the doctrine of Celestine and Cyril,
confirmed by the Council of Ephesus. When the two letters of
St. Cyril were read, in the second session, the "most
glorious judges" and all the assembly said: "Let there
now be read the letter of Leo, most worthy in God,
Archbishop of Royal and Ancient Rome." At the close of the
reading the bishops exclaimed: "Such is the faith of the
Fathers; this is the faith of the Apostles! We all believe
thus! Anathema to those who do not thus believe ! Peter has
spoken by Leo. Thus taught the Apostles. Leo teaches
according to piety and truth; and thus has Cyril taught."
Some of the bishops having raised doubts as to the doctrine
contained in St. Leo's letter, it was determined that after
five days, they should meet at the house of Anatolius,
Bishop of Constantinople in order to confer with him,
and receive further explanations. If such a commission had
been given to the legates of the Bishop of Rome, there is no
doubt that the Romish theologians would draw numerous
conclusions from it in favour of their system. But the
legates were only called upon by Anatolius to explain
certain Latin words that seemed obscure to those who doubted
and who, after the explanation of the legates, gave their
adherence with the others to Leo's letter. All that was done
in this council in the matter of this letter proves, in the
most evident manner, that it was not approved as coming
from a bishop having authority, but rather because it
agreed with traditional teachings. It suffices to glance
through the Transactions, to find abundant evidence
of this. Some Romish theologians can see nothing but these
words, "Peter has spoken by Leo," as if that expression
could have an Ultramontane sense, placed as it is in the
midst of other exclamations, and taken with a host of other
declarations, which give it only the meaning we have
As those honorary titles which are found in
the Transactions of the Council, addressed to the Bishop of
Rome, have been much abused, we must point out their true
St. Gregory the Great in his letters against
the title of œcumenical bishop assumed by John the
Faster, the Patriarch of Constantinople, teaches us that the
Council of Chalcedon had offered this title to the Bishop of
Rome. In fact we see, in the Transactions of the Council,
that this title was given to him by his legates. The first
of them subscribed to the profession of faith in the sixth
session in these terms:
"Paschasinus, bishop, vicar of his Lordship
Leo, Bishop of the universal church, of the city of Rome,
president of the Synod. I have ordered consented, and
signed." The other legates signed in about the same terms.
Again in the third session, the legates in
speaking of St. Leo, said: "The holy and blessed Pope Leo,
head of the universal Church, endowed with the
dignity of the Apostle Peter, who is the foundation of the
Church and the rock of faith," etc., etc.
In the fourth session, the legate
Paschasinus gave also to Leo the title of Pope of the
The Fathers of the council saw in these
expressions nothing more than an honorary title,
which the Bishop of Rome, no doubt, desired the better to
determine his superiority over the Bishop of Constantinople,
whom the second œcumenical council had raised to the second
rank, and who as bishop of the new capital of the empire
must naturally gain a preponderant influence in the affairs
of the Church, because of his frequent relations with the
emperors. There is then every reason to believe that the
council, in order to humour the jealousy of the Bishop of
Rome, accorded to him the title of œcumenical bishop.
It was one way of causing Rome to adopt the twenty-eighth
canon, of which we have already spoken, and in which was
developed that of the second œcumenical council, concerning
the elevation of the Bishop of Constantinople to the second
rank in the episcopate. But the Bishops of Rome, if we are
to believe St. Gregory, their successor, regarded this title
In view of such a decision by the popes
themselves, can much importance be attached to the words of
the legates, and is it fair to use them as proofs of an authority, of which the
expression alone was
condemned at Rome? Let us observe, moreover, that the
council in offering a title to the Bishops of Rome,
indirectly decided that they had no right to it in virtue of
their dignity, and that they should never claim for this
title any thing more than a purely ecclesiastical
As for the confirmation of the Acts of the
Council, we must observe two things: that it was the council
that confirmed the dogmatic letter of St. Leo, and that the
Fathers only addressed him in order to ask his adherence
and that of the Western Church. Leo refused to admit the
twenty-eighth canon, as we have said; yet that did not
prevent its being universally admitted in the West no less
than in the East.
Thus the Bishop of Rome did not convoke the
Council of Chalcedon; he did not preside alone by
his deputies, who only bad the first place because he was
the first bishop in virtue of the canons; be did
not confirm the council; and the honorary titles
conferred upon him prove nothing in favour of the universal
and sovereign authority that is sought to be ascribed to the
The accounts we have given can leave no
doubt as to the view which was universally taken of
the authority of the Bishops of Rome in the fourth and fifth
Yet, in order not to leave unanswered any of
the assertions of the Romish theologians, we will proceed to
examine the facts and texts in which they have
sought proofs to support their system.
The principal events of the fourth and fifth
centuries upon which they rely, are those relating to St.
Athanasius, to the Donatists, and to St. John Chrysostom.
Let us consult the positive and admitted data of
history in relation to this subject.
One of the results of the sixth canon of
Nicea bad been to give the first rank in the Church to the
Bishop of Rome. Moreover, by reason of the circumstances in
which the West was placed, he must be considered as its
interpreter. Consequently, the following ecclesiastical
rule Socrates, Hist. Eccl. Lib. II.
c. xvii. became a usage: that he should always be
invited to the oriental councils when they should assemble,
and that they should decide nothing without having his
opinion. This was a just rule; for the East, in itself,
no more forms the universal Church than the West; and the
Bishop of Rome represented the entire West at a period when
these countries were overrun by barbarians, when the bishops
could not leave their sees to go to the East, to testify in
discussions in which their particular churches were not
interested. This is the reason given by Sozomen.
Sozom. Hist. Eccl. Lib. III. c. vi.
"Neither the Bishop of the city of Rome," he says, "nor any
other bishop of Italy, or of the more distant provinces,
assembled at this council, (Antioch,) for the Franks were
then ravaging Gaul."
Paul of Constantinople, and Athanasius of
Alexandria, faithful to the faith of Nicea, being persecuted
and condemned by some of the oriental bishops, sustained by
the imperial power, naturally addressed themselves to the
Western Church, appealing to the Bishop of Rome, who
represented it. "The Bishop of the city of Rome," says
Sozomen, Sozom. Hist. Eccl. Lib. III. c.
vii. "and all the bishops of the West, regarded the
deposition of the orthodox bishops as an insult to
themselves; for, from the beginning, they had approved of
the Nicene faith, and still continued of the same opinion.
Hence, they graciously received Athanasius, who went to
them, and they claimed the right to judge his cause.
Eusebius (of Nicomedia) was much grieved at this, and wrote
of it to Julius."
Eusebius of Nicomedia represented the
Eastern Arians, and it was the Bishop of Rome who
represented the Western bishops. That bishop was Julius. He
assumed the defence of the persecuted bishops, sustained
them against the Eastern bishops, and, using thus the
prerogatives of his see, Socrates,
Hist. Eccl. Lib, II. c. xv. recognized as legitimate
bishops those whom the Arians had unjustly deposed. The
latter assembled at Antioch, and addressed a letter to
Julius, in which they sharply told him that it was no more
his business to meddle with those whom they had expelled
than it had been theirs to concern themselves with the
affair of Novatus, whom he had driven from the Church.
Sozomen Sozom. Lib. III. c. viii.
gives further particulars of this letter. We learn from him
that the oriental bishops said, "That the Church of Rome was
glorious, because it had been the abode of the Apostles, and
that from the beginning, she had been the metropolis of
piety, although the teachers of the faith had come to her
from the East. Yet it did not appear just to them, that they
(the Eastern churches) should be regarded as inferior,
because they were surpassed in number and in magnificence by
a church to whom they were superior in virtue and courage."
Julius did not reply to them that he was
chief of the Church by divine right, but he reminds
them of the ecclesiastical rule already quoted, in
virtue of which he had the right to be summoned and
consulted. Sozomen adds, Sozom.
Lib. III. c. viii. that "this prerogative, due to
the dignity of his see, gave him the right to take care of
all those who had appealed to him, seeking refuge from
the persecutions of the Arian faction of the East, and that
he should restore to each one his church."
The pretensions of the Bishop of Rome did
not extend beyond an ecclesiastical prerogative.
The Eastern bishops would not believe that Julius was the
interpreter of the Western Church, as he claimed in the
answer which he addressed to them. Letter of Julius to the Eastern Bishops, in the Apology of
St. Athanasius, ž 26.
For this reason the bishops of that part of
the Catholic Church were convoked, that they might decide
between the Eastern bishops and the Bishop of Rome in the
case of the persecuted bishopsŚespecially St. Athanasius.
That was the object of the Council of Sardica, (a.d.
347.) Socrat. Hist. Eccl. Lib. I. c. xx.
This fact alone is sufficient to prove that
the universal authority of the Bishop of Rome was not then
recognized, and that his ecclesiastical prerogative
was subordinate to the judgment of the council.
Julius wrote to the Council of Sardica,
excusing himself from personally responding to the
letter of convocation that had been addressed to him. He
sent two priests and a deacon to represent him, and the
assembly was presided over by Hosius, Bishop of Cordova.
The cause of Athanasius and that of the
other bishops deposed in the East by the Arian faction, with
the support of the imperial power, was examined. Their
innocence and orthodoxy were established, and they were
confirmed as legitimate bishops of their respective sees. A
council assembled at Rome by Julius had already pronounced a
similar sentence, but that had been found insufficient.
Another council of the West, held at Milan, requested the
Emperor Constans to make arrangement with his brother, who
resided at Constantinople, to assemble the bishops of the
two empires. It was then that the two emperors convoked the
Council of Sardica, where the Eastern clergy were to meet
the Western, and terminate the discussion. The Arian
bishops, finding themselves in the minority, pleaded some
technical objection for not attending the council,
which held its sessions nevertheless, under the presidency
of Hosius, Bishop of Cordova.
The Council of Sardica was neither convoked
nor presided over by the Bishop of Rome. Nor was Hosius
there as his legate, as some say, without being able to
prove it; nor were his delegates treated with any particular
In his letter, written to the Eastern
bishops, in the name of the Roman council,
Athanas. Apolog. ž 36. Julius had
blamed them for having judged Athanasius and the other
bishops, who adhered to the Nicene Creed, without regard to
the custom which had obtained, of deciding nothing
in the East, without referring to the Apostolic See of the
West, "Are you ignorant," he said, "that it is the custom to
write first to us?" Athanas. Apolog. ž
The Council of Sardica strengthened that
custom by its third canon, which was proposed in these
terms by Hosius: "If two bishops of the same province have a
discussion, neither of them shall choose as umpire a bishop
of another province. If a bishop who has been condemned is
so certain of his being right, that he is willing to be
judged again in councilŚlet us
honor, if you find it well to do so, the memory of
the Apostle St. Peter: let those who have examined the cause
write to Julius, Bishop of Rome:
if he think well that the case have a rehearing, let him
designate the judges; if he think there be no necessity for
reviewing, his decision shall be final."
This proposition was approved by the
council, and the Bishop Gaudentius added, (canon 4th,) that
during the appeal, no bishop should be appointed to the
place of the one deposed, until the Bishop of Rome should
judge the case.
The council (Can. 5th, GreekŚ7th Latin)
prescribed the practice of these appeals to Rome.
The Romish theologians exult in these
canons. Yet it is only necessary to read them carefully to
perceive that they are altogether contrary to that system.
In fact, the council, far from recognizing in the Bishop of
Rome an universal and divine authority,
did not even sanction, in any general manner, the usage
which had grown up of appealing to the Bishop of Rome as the
representative of the West. It merely so decided for certain particular cases. Beside the bishops of the
great sees, whom the Arians persecuted, and whose cause it
was the province of the councils to judge, there were many
less important bishops and priests in the East, whose causes
the entire Church could not consider. See the letter of Julius to the Eastern Bishops in the
Apology of St. Athanasius.
It is these bishops that the council refers,
in the last resort, to Julius, Bishop of Rome. It
does not refer them to the Bishop of Rome generally, but to
Julius. Nor does it make this rule obligatory; the
appeal is purely optional; and lastly, the council proposes
to honour the memory of St. Peter by granting to a
Bishop of Rome a prerogative which it considers new and
exceptional. Is not such a decision tantamount to a formal
declaration that the Pope had no legal rights, even in the
decision of questions of discipline and the general
government of the Church? If the council had believed that
the Pope had any right whatever, would it have
thought to do him so great an honour in granting him a temporary prerogative?
The council published its declarations in
several synodical letters, Athan.
Apolog. Adv. Arianos; Hillary of Poitiers, Fragments;
Theodoret, Eccl. Hist. in which are examined in
detail the cases of St. Athanasius and the other orthodox
bishops persecuted by the Arians, and unjustly deprived by
them of their sees.
The Romish theologians quote, with an
especial pride, the synodal letter to the Bishop of Rome, in
which the following language occurs:
"And thou, beloved brother, though absent in
body, thou hast been with us in spirit, because of thy
desire and the accord that is between us. The excuse thou
hast given for not taking part in the council is a good one,
and based on necessity; for the schismatic wolves might,
during thine absence, have committed thefts and laid traps;
the heretical dogs might have yelped, and, in their
senseless rage, have effected mischief; finally, the
infernal serpent might have diffused the venom of his
blasphemies. It would have been well and very proper to
convoke the bishops of all the provinces at the capital,
that is to say, at the see of St. Peter; but you will learn
from our letters all that has been done; and our brethren in
the priesthood, Archidamus and Philoxenus, and our son Leo
the deacon, will make all things known to you by word of
We have translated the word
by capital, and we believe that such was the
meaning of the council ; for it places it in contrast to the
word province in the same phrase. It would have
been well, according to the council, to hold the assembly as
Julius desired, at Rome, for the double reason that Rome was
the capital of the empire, and also the see of St. Peter.
The Romish theologians translate the word
caput by that of chief; but they do not
thereby help their cause; for this word signifies both head and
first in hierarchical order. That the
Bishop of Rome is the head of the Church, as being
first bishop and holding the highest see, we do not deny ;
that he is the first in the hierarchical order established
by the Church every one allows; what then is the use of
translating illogically a text of the Council of Sardica,
for the sake of propping up a system which it really can in
no wise be made to favour?
While endeavouring to draw such great
advantage from one word employed by the Council of Sardica,
these theologians have kept out of sight the facts which
clearly appear from the transactions of that holy assembly,
namely, that it was convoked by the Emperors Constans and
ConstantiusŚas the council itself and all the historians
affirm; that it was convoked in order to pass upon a
decision rendered by the Pope, in a council at Rome; that
Hosius presided, and not the legates; To
establish this fact, it is only necessary to quote the first
line of the signatures of the council: "Hosius of Spain,
Julius of Rome, by the Priests Archidamus and Philoxenus,"
etc. St. Athan. Apolog. adv. Arian. ž 50. and
finally, that, instead of being itself confirmed by the
Pope, it was the council that confirmed the sentence of the
Pope, and that granted him certain ecclesiastical
privileges. St. Athanasius, Apol. adv.
Arian., and History of the Arians for the monks. Eccl.
Hists. of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret. Acts of the
Council in Father Labbe's Collection.
These incontrovertible facts are more
significant than a mistranslated word can be in the
question of Papal authority, and give to the appeal of St.
Athanasius its true character.
Let us now examine the case of the
It is not our purpose to explain in detail
the causes of this schism, which so long afflicted the
Church of Africa. From the numerous facts connected with it,
we only intend to draw this conclusion, that both the
schismatics and the Catholics recognized in the episcopate
the only authority competent to decide the questions that
divided the Church. Hence the numerous councils that were
called on both sides, and which mutually condemned each
other. Constantine, immediately upon his elevation to the
throne, wrote to Cæcilianus, Bishop of Carthage, to offer
him money and the protection of his lieutenants to enable
him to bring the schismatics to order. The latter endeavored
to justify themselves before the prince, claiming that the
bishops who had condemned them were judges in their own
cause, and praying the Emperor to allow them to be tried by
bishops from Gaul, where he then was. He consented, and
named as judges three of the most learned and distinguished
bishops of the ageŚMaternus of Cologne, Rheticius of Autun,
and Marinus of Arles. He sent them to Rome, to join with
Miltiades, bishop of that city, and Mark,
It is very generally admitted by the
learned that Mark was an influential priest, who was Bishop
of Rome after Sylvester. in hearing the conflicting
depositions of Cæcilianus and his opponents. Eusebius has
preserved the letter which Constantine wrote upon this
occasion to the Bishop of Rome and to Mark. We will
translate that letter, together with an extract from the
petition of the Donatists to Constantine. These documents
will determine the character of the appeal of the Donatists,
and will prove that the Romish theologians are wrong in
citing it in support of their opinions.
Here is, first, the extract preserved by St.
Optatus. St. Optat. Book I. against
"We beseech thee, O Constantine! most
excellent emperor, thou that comest from a righteous family,
(for thy father was not a persecutor like his colleagues;
and Gaul is free from this crime,) The
Donatists here refer to the crime of having given up the
Holy Scriptures during the persecutions. since
between us bishops in Africa there are dissensions, we
beseech thee let thy piety give us judges who are of Gaul!"
In consequence of this petition, Constantine
chose the three bishops we have mentioned, adding to their
number the Bishop of Rome and Mark, to examine and give
judgment in the case. Constantine writes thus to the two
Roman judges: Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Book X.
"Constantine Augustus, to Miltiades, Bishop
of Rome and to Marcus. This Mark has
been very troublesome to the Romish theologians. If he had
not been named with the Bishop of Rome, it would have been
far easier to have made of the latter a sovereign
judge to whom the three Gallican bishops were added merely
from motives of expediency, and to remove every pretext on
which the Donatists could oppose the sentence. But the bare
name of this Mark is sufficient to forbid that conclusion.
Baronius was so thoroughly convinced of this, that he has
tried to prove that there was in this place an errour of the
copyist. He therefore proposes to replace the words ŕßὶ
╠▄˝ŕῳ by ἱň˝▄˝¸ῃ. There are many inconveniences attendant
upon this, besides that of distorting Eusebius's text. The
first is the word hierarch signifies bishop, and
Miltiades is already called by Constantine Bishop of
Rome. Why should he have given him twice the same
qualification in the superscription of his letter? The
second is, that the word ἱň˝▄˝¸ῃ, to mean bishop, was not
yet in use, in the fourth century. All the learned oppose
these reasons to Baronius, and call attention to the further
fact that all the manuscripts clearly bear the words ŕßὶ
╠▄˝ŕῳ. Must a text be distorted and a bad word introduced in
order to please the Romish theologians? The end will not
justify the means. As many communications of this
kind have been sent to me from Anulinus, the most
illustrious proconsul of Africa, in which it is contained
that Cæcilianus, the Bishop of Carthage, was accused in many
respects by his colleagues in Africa, and is this appears to
be grievous, that in those provinces which divine Providence
has freely intrusted to my fidelity, and in which there is a
vast population, the multitude are found inclining to
deteriorate, and in a manner divided into two parties, and
among others, that the bishops were at variance; I have
resolved that the same Cæcilianus, together with ten
bishops, who appear to accuse him, and ten others, whom he
himself may consider necessary for his cause, shall sail to
Rome. That you (ὑýῶÝ) being present there, as also Reticius,
Maternus, and Marinus, your colleagues, whom I have
commanded to hasten to Rome for this purpose, he may be
heard, as you may understand most consistent with the most
sacred law. And, indeed, that you may have the most perfect
knowledge of these matters, I have subjoined to my own
epistle copies of the writings sent to me by Anulinus, and
sent them to your aforesaid colleagues. In which your
gravity will read and consider in what way the aforesaid
cause may be most accurately investigated and justly
decided, since it does not escape your diligence that I show
such regard for the Holy Catholic Church, that I wish you,
upon the whole, to leave no room for schism or division. May
the power of the great God preserve you many years, most
From the foregoing documents we must
conclude, that the Donatists did not appeal to Rome, but to
the Emperor; that they did not ask the arbitration of the
Bishop of Rome, but of the Gallican bishops; that it was the
Emperor who added of his own motion the Bishop of Rome and Mark to the three Gallican bishops whom he had
chosen. Is there in all this the shadow of an argument in
favour of the sovereign authority of the Bishop of Rome?
Could the choice of the place seem important?
Evidently not, for there is nothing peculiar in
Constantine's choosing the city whither one could most
easily go from both Africa and Gaul; and this choice
explains why he added Miltiades and Mark to the judges asked
for by the Donatists. It would have been very improper to
send bishops to Rome to judge an ecclesiastical cause,
without asking the intervention of those who were at the
head of the Roman Church. It is thus easy to see why
Constantine named Miltiades and Mark judges in the case of
the Donatists, although their intervention had not been
Fifteen other Italian bishops went to Rome
for this affair. The council pronounced in favor of
Cæcilianus. The Bishop of Rome having been of the council,
the sentence would necessarily have been regarded as final
if his sovereign authority had been recognized. Such was not
The Donatists complained that the Gallican
bishops whom they had asked for were too few in number at
Rome, and demanded a more numerous council, in which their
cause should be examined with more care.
Constantine convoked this council at Arles.
He invited there a large number of bishops from different
provinces of his empireŚthat is to say, of the West, for at
this time he only possessed that part of the Roman empire.
Eusebius has preserved Constantine's letter to the Bishop of
Syracuse, inviting him to come to Arles. Euseb. loc. cit. Saint Opatus, Book I. Letters of St.
Augustin, passim. Father Labee's Collect. of
Gallican Councils in Sirmond. This letter is
important as showing that the judgment at Rome was not
considered final, and that it was the Emperor who convoked
the Council of Arles. But the Fathers of the council
themselves say so in their letter to Sylvester, Bishop of
Rome, who had succeeded Miltiades. The Bishop of Rome sent
thither as his legates, the priests Claudianus and Vitus,
and the deacons Eugenius and Cyriacus. The council took
place in 315, ten years before the great Council of Nicea.
Marinus of Arles presided. After confirming the sentence of
the Council of Rome, the bishops saw fit to make several
ordinances, which they sent to Sylvester with this letter:
"Marinus, etc., etc., to the well-beloved
Pope Sylvester, eternal life in the Lord.
"United by the bonds of mutual charity and
in the unity of the Catholic Church, our mother, from the
city of Arles, where our most pious emperor has caused us to
meet, We salute you, most glorious father, with all the
respect which is due to you.
"We have had to do with men both licentious
and most dangerous to our law and tradition; but thanks
to the power of God who is present in our midst, and to
tradition and the rule of truth, they have been
confounded, silenced, and rendered unable to carry out and
prove their accusations; wherefore by the judgment of
God and the Church, who knows her own, they have been
'Would to God, beloved brother, you
had condescended to be present at this spectacle! We think
that the sentence given against them would have been still
more overwhelming, and, if you had given judgement with us,
we would have experienced a still greater joy; but you could
not leave those places where the apostles still preside, and
where their blood renders a continual witness to the glory
"Well-beloved brother, we have not thought
it necessary to confine ourselves solely to the business for
which we assembled, but have also considered the necessities
of our respective provinces; and we send you our ordinances,
that through you, who have the greatest authority,
they may become universally known."
It is generally claimed in the West, that by
these last words, the Council of Arles recognized the
universal authority of the Bishop of Rome. But it is not
sufficiently remembered that this council was held without
any cooperation on the part of that bishop; that he did not
preside; that in the letter of the Fathers, no mention is
made of his authority, among, the motives that caused to
condemn the Donatists; that they do not wait for his
approbation for his approbation or confirmation in order to
their disciplinarian ordinances ; that they merely apprize
him of them, in order that, since in his position of bishop
of an apostolic see he bad the greatest authority, he might
make them known to all.
This only proves that the Bishop of Rome was
recognized as the first in the West, because of the apostolic authority and of dignity of his see; that he
was thus the natural medium between the West and the
apostolic sees of the East. To find more than this in the
words of the Council of Arles would be to distort them. It
suffices to notice, that this council, convoked without the
Bishop of Rome, acted independently, and that it confirmed a
sentence of a council of Rome at which the Pope presided, to
be convinced that the papal authority as received at this
day in the West, was then unknown.
It thus appears that the Romish theologians
are without a show of reason when they cite the appeal of
the Donatists as favourable to papal pretensions.
Let us now examine the case of St. John
This great Bishop of Constantinople drew
upon himself the hatred of the Empress Eudoxia and of many
bishops and other ecclesiastics, by his firmness in
maintaining the rules of the purest discipline.
The facts we are about to analyze all
rest upon the authority of Palladius the historian, a
desciple of St. John Chrysostom; the Ecclesiastical
Histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret; the works of
St. John Chrysostom; and upon the official documents
inserted either in the work of Baronius or in the Collection
of Councils by Father Labbe. His enemies were
supported by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria. This bishop
had condemned some poor monks as Origenists. They had come
to Constantinople to seek for redress. The famous question
of Origenism was thus revived. Chrysostom did not
think it profitable to examine it. But Eudoxia, who busied
herself with theological questions more than was becoming in
a woman, took the part of the monks against Theophilus, who
was accordingly commanded to appear at Constantinople. But
before Theophilus arrived there, Chrysostom incurred the
hatred of the Empress, and she determined upon using
Theophilus to avenge her of that great man, who had not
known how to yield a servile submission to her caprices.
It was not long before Theophilus, who had
been summoned to Constantinople under accusation of guilt,
bore himself as the judge of that innocent archbishop, who
out of respect for the canons, had refused to judge him. He
conspired with certain bishops who were courtiers; and he
corrupted sundry ecclesiastics by money and promises.
Sustained by the court, he, with thirty-five other bishops
assembled in a place called The Oak, near
Chalcedon, (a.d. 403.) These
bishops were at once prosecutors, witnesses, and judges.
They had not dared to assemble at Constantinople, where the
broad light of day would have fallen upon their calumnies,
and where they had cause to fear the faithful people who
venerated their pastor. Of the thirty-five bishops,
twenty-nine were of Egypt. While the enemies of Chrysostom
assembled at The Oak, the faithful bishops, forty
in number, had gathered around Chrysostom, at the call of
the Emperor, to judge Theophilus. Chrysostom was conferring
with these bishops, when two messengers from the
pseudo-council of The Oak came to summon him to appear
there. The holy bishop refused to recognize his enemies as
judges. They nevertheless proceeded to depose him, and wrote
to the Emperor Arcadius, that it was his duty to banish him
and even to punish him for the crime of high treason, in
having in his sermons insulted the Empress Eudoxia. This
amounted to a demand for his death. The whole people rose
against the conventicle of The Oak in favour of Chrysostom,
who would not leave the city without being forced to do so.
The Emperor then commanded one of his counts to expel him,
using violence even, if necessary. The saint took advantage
of a moment when his faithful children had somewhat relaxed
their vigilance, to leave his house, and give himself up to
the soldiers commissioned to arrest him. He was put in ward
until evening, and was conveyed by night to the port. But in
spite of these precautions, the people found out that their
pastor was taken from them. A great crowd followed him
weeping. Chrysostom was put on board of a ship, and hurried
off before daylight, and he was landed on the, coast of
Such gross injustice gave universal umbrage.
Several of the enemies of the saint repented of their
calumnies; the people besieged the churches and filled them
with their clamour. A dreadful earthquake at this time
filled Eudoxia, the first cause of the crime, with terror.
She attributed it to her injustice, and hastened to recall
Chrysostom. The people received him in triumph, and his
enemies hid themselves or fled. He asked a council before
which to justify himself. Theopililus, afraid to face
incorruptible judges, fled to Egypt. But Eudoxia, having
recovered from her first fright, renewed her persecutions
against Chrysostom, who, with apostolic freedom, preached
against her numerous acts of injustice.
Theophilus was written to, to return, that
the intrigues of the pseudo-council of The Oak might be
carried out. But the Bishop of Alexandria contented himself
by sending perfidious counsels from a distance. A new
council was assembled; forty-two bishops pronounced in
favour of the saint. The others, influenced by the court,
accepted as legitimate his deposition by the pseudo-council
of The Oak, and decided that Chrysostom, having,
been deposed by a council, and having reässumed his see
without having been reïnstated by another council, was
guilty and deserved to be deposed.
Chrysostom, indeed, had asked for a council
immediately after his return to Constantinople; the Emperor
had granted it; but Eudoxia had given contrary orders, for
she did not desire a regular council, but an assembly
composed of the enemies of the saintly Archbishop. She
carried her point, and caused Chrysostom to be condemned for
not having been reïnstated by a council, when she herself
had rendered that council impossible.
Renewed persecutions followed this unjust
sentence. It was then that Chrysostom addressed himself to
the West, represented by the bishops of the most important
sees, to set before them the violence and injustice of which
he had been the victim. The object of his letter was to warn
the Western bishops against the calumnies that his enemies
might perhaps already have published against him, and to
entreat them not to take from him their charity and their
communion. He addressed his letter to the Bishop of Rome,
who was then (a.d. 404) Innocent
Venerius of Milan, and to Chromatius of Aquileia. This fact,
which is not denied, suffices to prove that he did not
appeal to the Pope as a chief having authority over all the
Church. He added in his letter, that he was disposed to
defend himself, provided his adversaries would give him a
fair trial; which is a further proof that he did not carry
his case to Rome as to a superior tribunal. It was natural
that the Bishop of Constantinople, persecuted in the East by
unworthy bishops and by the imperial power, should look to
the Western Church for assistance. The bishops who had
declared for Chrysostom, as well as the people of
Constantinople, wrote also to the Western Church; their
letters were carried to Rome by four bishops and two
deacons. They believed that Theophilus of Alexandria would
endeavour to seduce the bishops of the West, and they were
not mistaken. In fact, a messenger from Theophilus had
arrived in Rome some days before the deputies from
Constantinople, and had handed to Innocent a letter in
which, without entering into any details, the Bishop of
Alexandria said that he had deposed Chrysostom. Some time
after, he sent to Rome the acts of the pseudo-council at The
Oak. Innocent declared that he would remain in communion
with Chrysostom and Theophilus until such time as a council
composed of Eastern and Western bishops should pronounce
canonically upon the case. He accordingly requested the
Emperor of the West to come to an understanding with his
brother Areadius, Emperor of the East, in order that this
council might be assembled. Honorius did, in fact, write to
this effect; but the court at Constantinople wished to be
revenged upon Chrysostom, and not to have him regularly
tried. The holy Archbishop, after suffering most unjust
treatment, was accordingly again exiled. Arsacius was placed
in his see, without the observance of the canonical forms.
He died the following year, and was quite as uncanonically
succeeded by Atticus.
These renewed persecutions did not cool the
zeal of St. Chrysostom's friends. Several of them took
refuge in Rome and brought to Innocent a letter from those
of the clergy and people of Constantinople who remained
faithful to their bishop. Innocent answered, consoling them
and endeavouring to inspire them with the hope that God
would soon deliver them by means of the œcumenical
council which he was labouring to have assembled.
It was to a lawful council that Chrysostom
and his friends had appealed; and Innocent, far from
assuming the right to determine the affair by his own
authority, placed all his hopes as well in the council.
These facts speak loudly, and need no
Other bishops of the West were of the same
opinion. The Bishop of Aquileia, in particular, joined his
efforts to those of Innocent, in order to obtain from
Honorius the convocation of a council in the West that
should consult upon the means of terminating the affair that
so justly engaged their thoughts. The Italian bishops
assembled by order of Honorius and gave as their opinion,
that an œcumenical council should be assembled at
Thessalonica, whither the bishops of the East and West could
go with equal facility; and that such a council was
necessary in order to close the discussion by a final award.
They prayed him to write to this effect to
Arcadius. Honorius wrote to ask Innocent to send him five
bishops, two priests and one deacon, to carry the letter
which he should write to his brother. It was the third that
he wrote him on the same subject.
In view of the difficulties raised by
Arcadius against the convocation of a council, this was
certainly a proper occasion for the Pope of Rome to settle
the question himself, in virtue of his sovereign authority,
if he had possessed any. But neither Chrysostom nor his
friends of the East, nor the bishops of the West, nor the
Pope himself dreamed of this mode, to them unknown. They all
were satisfied to ask of the emperors a council, which alone
had the authority to give a final decision.
The deputies who bore the letter of Honorius
were likewise intrusted with several other letters, from
Innocent of Rome, from Chomatius of Aquileia from Venerius
of Milan, and other bishops of Italy. Moreover, they were
bearers of a note from the council of Italy, to the effect
that Chrysostom should in the first place be reïnstated in
his see and in communion with the Eastern bishops, before
appearing at the œcumenical council, where his cause was to
Areadius did not even allow the deputies to
land at Constantinople, but sent them to Thrace where they
were treated as prisoners. The letters they carried were
taken from them by force, and they were cast upon a rotten
vessel to be returned to the West. Four Eastern bishops who
had accompanied them were roughly handled and exiled to the
most distant parts of the empire. Many Eastern bishops then
became the victims of the most cruel treatment, and Areadius
entered upon an organized persecution against all those who
had remained faithful to Chrysostom.
Palladius relates that the Roman Church and
the Western council resolved thereupon to communicate no
longer with the partisans of Atticus and Theophilus, until
it should please God to provide the means of assembling the
œcumenical council. Theodoret also relates that the bishops
of Europe acted thus. Some Eastern churches
followed the same rule; but other churches, and that of
Africa in particular, did not separate themselves from the
communion of Chrysostom's adversaries, although taking the
part of this holy patriarch, and hoping that justice would
be done to him.
This was the state of things when St. John
Chrysostom died. From his remote place of exile, a short
time before he quitted this life, he had written to
Innocent, thanking him for the zeal he had displayed in his
cause. He wrote similar letters to the Bishop of Milan and
other bishops who had openly declared for him.
The entire East rendered justice to the
great Archbishop after his death, recognizing him as a
saint, which recognition restored the communion between all
the Eastern and Western churches.
Such is the exact analysis of facts relating
to the affair of St. Chrysostom. It appears from it, that
the saint did not appeal to Rome; that he sought in the
Western Church a support against his enemies of the East;
that the Western bishops only acted collectively to cause
his case to be determined; that they only ascribed to a
general council authority to pronounce final sentence; that
they only claimed for themselves the right to separate
themselves from the communion of such as they deemed
accomplices of injustice; and lastly, that Innocent of Rome
acted with no more authority in all these discussions than
the Bishop of Milan or of Aquileia.
From these facts, is it not clear that the
care of St. John Chrysostom, far from furnishing evidence in
favour of the sovereign authority of the Papacy, proves
precisely the contrary?
Some Romish theologians having asserted, in
the face of all historical documents, that Chrysostom had
appealed to Rome for the purpose of suspending the
proceedings against him by the interposition of 'the papal
authority, we will remark, that, according to St. Chrysostom
himself, he addressed his protest, not only to the Bishop of
Rome, but to other bishops. "I have also addressed this same
letter," he says, "to Venerius, Bishop of Milan, and to
Chromatius, Bishop of Aquileia."
Here is what he asks of his colleagues in
the West; "I pray you, therefore, to write letters declaring
null and void all that has been done against me, granting me
inter-communion with you as in the past, since I am
condemned without a bearing, and since I am ready to
justify myself before any impartial tribunal."
What was the tribunal to which he appealed?
The Bishop of Rome affirms that there was no other except a
council; he expresses himself substantially to this effect
in his letter to the clergy and people of Constantinople:
"From the friendly letter that Germanus the priest and
Cassianus the deacon have handed to me from you, I have
gathered with an anxious mind the scene of woe you describe,
and the afflictions and the trial that the faith has endured
among you. This is an evil for which there is no other
remedy than patience. . . . . I derive from the
beginning of your affectionate epistle the consolation which
I needed. . . . . . Innocent bishops are driven from their
sees. John, our brother and colleague, and your
bishop, has been the first to suffer from this violence,
without having been heard, and without our knowing of what
he is accused. . . . As regards the canons, we declare that
only those made at the Council of Nicea should be
recognized. . . . . Nevertheless, what remedy can be applied
to so great an evil? There is no other than to convoke a
council. . . . . Until we are able to obtain the
convocation of a council, we cannot do better than to
await from the will of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ the
remedy of these evils. . . . . We are continually devising
means to assemble a general council, where all dissensions
may be set at rest at the command of God. Let us then wait,
entrenched within the bulwark of patience."
We could multiply such texts; but to what
purpose, when all the facts demonstrate the errour of these
We will now endeavour to learn, with the aid
of doctrinal texts, what has been the teaching of the
Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries respecting the
authority of the Bishops of Rome.
After studying profoundly and critically,
and without bias or prejudice the historical and dogmatic
remains of the first centuries of the Church, we cannot read
without pain the works of Romish theologians in favour of
the papal authority.
We have had the patience to read most of
those regarded as authorities, such as Bellarmin, Rocaberti,
André Duval, Zaccaria, and many of the most renowned of the
modern theologians who have taken these as their guidesŚsuch
as Gerdil, Perrone, Passaglia. We have read the principal
works of the modern GallicansŚthose, namely, of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuriesŚand particularly the
works of Bossuet, Nicole, Tournely, and La Chambre. We are
convinced that the latter have borrowed from the
Ultramontanes those of their texts which appear to have the
greatest weight, limiting the sense to a primacy of divine
right and a restricted authority of the Pope, while the
others extend it to an absolute authority and infallibility.
Among them all, we have remarked, first, a crowd of broken
and corrupted texts distorted from their true sense, and
isolated from the context expressly to give them a false
interpretation. We have remarked, secondly, that the texts
of each particular Father are isolated from other texts of
the same Father touching the same point of doctrine,
although the last may modify or absolutely destroy the sense
attributed to the first. We have remarked, thirdly, that
these writers deduce from these texts, consequences clearly
false, and which do not logically follow from them. Of this
we shall give two examples, among the many we could point
Launoy, as we have already mentioned, has
analyzed the Catholic tradition upon the interpretation of
the text, "Thou art Peter," etc. He has found but
seventeen Fathers or Doctors of the Church who have applied
to St. Peter the word the stone, (la pierre;)
he has pointed out more than forty of them, who have
understood this expression as applied to the confession of
faith made by St. Peter, that is to say, to the divinity of
Jesus Christ. The Ultramontanes cannot dispute this, but
they pretend that by giving the faith of Peter as
the foundation of the Church, the Lord necessarily granted
to that Apostle not only an indefectible faith, but also
infallibility, and that these gifts have passed to his
Now, all the Fathers of the Church, quoted
for the latter interpretation, have meant by the confession
of St. Peter, only the belief he had confessed, his
objective faith, or the object of that faith, and
not the subjective faith or the personal adherence
that he had given to it. The belief confessed by St. Peter
being the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Fathers quoted have
interpreted the text, "Thou art Peter," etc., in this sense,
that the divinity of Jesus Christ is the rock upon which the
Church rests. All speak in the clearest terms to
this effect. Not one of them speaks of any privilege
whatever granted to St. Peter personallyŚand á
fortiori, not of any privilege descended to the Bishops
of Rome as his successors. Thus, even had St. Peter received
any prerogative from Jesus Christ, it would be necessary to
prove that this prerogative was not personal; but
the Ultramontanes dispose of that difficulty with extreme
facility. They simply affirm that the privileges
granted to St. Peter belong to his successors; they rest
these privileges upon texts which say nothing at all about
them; they affirm, on the strength of these falsified texts,
that the Bishops of Rome are the only successors of St.
Peter, because that Apostle died Bishop of Rome.
What they say upon this last point is the
second example that we shall give of their false reasoning.
They rely chiefly upon St. Irenæus, Tertullian, and Eusebius
to prove this.
Now, Eusebius expresses himself thus: "After
the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, Linus was the first that
received the episcopate at Rome." Eccl.
Hist. Book III. ch. 2 "Clement also, who was
appointed the third Bishop of this Church, (Rome.)"
Book III. ch. 4. "After
Anencletus (or Cletus) had been Bishop of Rome twelve years
he was succeeded by Clement." Book III.
ch. 15. "After Euaristus had completed the eighth
year as Bishop of Rome, he was succeeded in the episcopal
office by Alexander, the fifth in succession from Peter and
Paul." Book IV. ch. 1. Thus it
makes no difference to Eusebius whether he places Paul
before Peter, or Peter before Paul, when he speaks of the
foundation of the Church of Rome. The bishops are the
successors of the one as well as of the other, and neither
of them is counted among the Bishops of Rome. St. Irenæus
has nowhere said that Peter bad been Bishop of Rome; he even
asserts the contrary in a most incontestable manner. He
expresses himself in substance as follows: "The blessed
Apostles, (Peter and Paul,) when they founded and organized
the Church of Rome, gave to Linus the episcopate, and the
care of governing that Church. . . . . Anencletus succeeded
Linus; after Anencletus, Clement was the third, since the
Apostles, who had charge of this episcopate."
St. Iren. agt. the Heret. Book III ch.
St. Peter and St. Paul
organized the Church of Rome, but it was Linus who
was made the first Bishop, even during the life of
the Apostles. Observe that Peter and Paul are here
coordinated by the holy doctor. Thus if we prove the
episcopate of St. Peter at Rome by the text quoted, we also
prove that of St. Paul by the same text. Rome would then
have had two Apostle-Bishops at one and the same
Tertullian mentions the Bishops of Rome in
the same order as St. Irenæus, and designates Linus as the
first, and Anencletus as the second. Tertull. agt. Marcion, Book IV. He only claims for
Rome the succession of St. Peter, by ordination,
from St. Clement, third bishop of that city. "Let those," he
said, "who boast of dating back to apostolic times, show by
the succession of their bishops, that they derive their
origin from an Apostle or an apostolic man, as the Church of
Smyrna proves that Polycarp was ordained by John, or as the
Church of Rome shows that Clement was ordained by Peter."
Tertullian de Prescription. chap. xxxii.
We might infer from this, that Linus and Anencletus were
ordained by St. Paul, who in that case, had organized
the Roman Church before Peter.
When Tertullian says that St. Peter
on the chair of Rome, he does not mean that he was
Bishop, but that be taught there; for the
word chair signifies nothing more than teaching in
the writings of the Fathers. If he had meant otherwise, he
would have made Linus the second bishop, not the
Thus the evidence brought by Romish
theologians to prove the episcopate of St. Peter at Rome,
tells against them, and only establishes the fact that St.
Peter and St. Paul founded the Roman Church, and
consequently that this Church is Apostolic in its
origin, which no one denies. Besides these historical
evidences which confound them, the Romish theologians have
invoked the letter of Firmilianus, already quoted, and those
few texts from St. Cyprian, the true meaning of which we
have already explained. As regards the letter of
Firmilianus, it is only necessary to read it, in order to
understand its true sense, and to wonder that they should
have ventured to appeal to its evidence. As to St. Cyprian,
we will now in a general way sum up his doctrine, in order
to make apparent the abuse that has been made of it.
St. Cyp. de
Unitat. Eccl. Letters 27, 55, 59, 75. proves: First,
that the Church of Rome was built upon St. Peter as the type
and representative of the unity of the Church; secondly,
that the Church of Rome is the chair of Peter; thirdly, that
the Church of Rome is the principal church from which
sacerdotal unity proceeded; fourthly, that treachery and
errour cannot gain access to the Roman Church.
From this, the Romish theologians argue that
the Popes, as successors of St. Peter, are the centre of
unity, and that beyond them and their Church, all is schism.
Such are not the legitimate conclusions from
the doctrine of St. Cyprian; for the holy Doctor lays down
other principles besides, which clearly determine the sense
of the former ones: First, that St. Peter in confessing the
divinity of Jesus Christ, answered for all the Apostles, and
spoke in the name of them all, and not in his own name
personally; secondly, that the other Apostles were equal to
St. Peter in power and dignity; thirdly, that all the
Bishops who are successors of the Apostles are successors of
St. Peter, in the same way as those of Rome.
If St. Peter answered Jesus Christ in the
name of his colleagues, it was because the question was
addressed to them as well as to him. St. Cyprian positively
asserts this: "Peter, upon whom the Lord had built the
Church, speaking alone, for all, and answering by the voice of the Church." If the personality of that
Apostle was not concerned in Christ's question and
in Peter's answer, can it be said that his person
is the foundation of the Church? It is evident that all
the Apostles have been so many foundations of that
mystical edifice; as Holy Scripture affirms very plainly,
and as we have already endeavoured to show. Peter in
replying alone, was, therefore, but the symbol
of the unity which was to govern the Apostolic body, and
afterward the episcopate. But in being the symbol or sign,
was he necessarily the source and principle
of it, so that without him it could not subsist? What if he
were? Would the Bishop of Rome inherit this privilege? St.
Cyprian was so far from this opinion, that he united with
Firmilianus in rebuking Stephen, Bishop of Rome, for
breaking this unity and putting himself outside of this
unity, when he separated himself from the communion of those
who differed with him in belief concerning rebaptism. The
question is not whether Stephen was right or wrong, but what
Cyprian thought of his opposition. Now so far from believing
that unity with Stephen was necessary to unity with the
Church, he affirmed that Stephen had separated himself from
that unity. Can it be said after this, that Cyprian placed
in the Bishop of Rome the source and principle
of the unity of the Church? He did not even attribute that
prerogative to the person of St. Peter. He saw in him only
the symbol of that unity, which resided in the
entire apostolate, as it was subsequently to reside
in the episcopate, which is one; which episcopate
in its unity, is the see of Peter. He fully
develops that reflection in one of his letters.
St. Cyp. 27th Letter. "Jesus
Christ," he says, "in order to determine the honour due to
a bishop, and all that concerns the government of
the Church, speaks in the Gospel and says to Peter, 'I
say to thee, thou, art Peter,' etc." Thus Christ does
not confer upon Peter, by these words, a personal
prerogative; he confers upon all the Apostles a power common to them all, and not only upon the Apostles, but
upon all the Bishops their successors, who jointly and
severally possess the episcopate, which is one, and
which is thus the foundation of Church unity.
Is it consistent with this doctrine of St.
Cyprian to affirm, as do the Romish theologians, that Christ
gave to Peter a personal privilege, and that this
exclusive privilege has passed to the Bishops of Rome?
The great principle that runs through the
remarks of the Bishop of Carthage, is, that in the Church
there is but one apostolic see; that is to say, as
he himself explains it, but one legitimate episcopate
transmitted from the Apostles; let this episcopate be
attacked at Rome or elsewhere, it is an attack upon the
unity and upon the apostolic see, which must remain
one, as Christ has taught us by answering to one
for all. It is this episcopate which is the chair of St.
Peter. Therefore when Novatus would establish at Rome,
side by side with the legitimate episcopate, another
episcopate which does not come from the Apostles, this last
episcopate is out of the unity of the apostolic seeŚthe
universal see, the unity of which is typified in Peter; he
is therefore schismatic, as well as all others who
would establish in any place whatsoever, an episcopate
separate from the one which constitutes the apostolic
Instead of thus comparing the several points
of the doctrine of St. Cyprian upon the Church, the Romish
theologians have only consented to notice some few words
standing alone, such as see of Peter, source of unity,
for the sake of applying them without reason to the particular church of Rome, while they might so easily
have convinced themselves that the holy Father understood by
these words nothing more than the apostolic Church, or the
legitimate episcopacy in general. It is thus that he speaks
of the lawful episcopate of Carthage as the see
of Peter, as well as of that of Rome;
St. Cyprian, 40th Letter. that he
speaks of the early bishops of Rome, as the predecessors
of himself, the Bishop of Carthage, which
obviously means that he possessed the same legitimate
episcopate that they had; St. Cyprian,
67th Letter. and accordingly, in the famous letter to
Pope Cornelius, which has been so much abused by the Romans,
because in it the holy Doctor calls the Church of Rome the principal church, from which sacerdotal unity proceeded
St. Cyprian, 55th Letter. We have
already explained these words. in this letter, St.
Cyprian exclaims with indignation against a handful of
unprincipled men, who sought an appeal to Rome, as if
the bishops of Africa were not possessed of the same
If, contrary to all evidence, we should
accept the construction given by some Romish theologians to
a few isolated words of St. Cyprian, we must conclude that
the good Father was wanting in common-sense. For on the one
hand he would make Peter the foundation and chief of the
Church, while on the other he would teach that all the
Apostles had the same honour and power as Peter; he would
make the Bishop of Rome sole inheritor of St. Peter's
prerogatives, while maintaining that all lawful bishops are
his heirs in the like manner; he would teach that the
episcopate is but one, possessed jointly and
severally by all legitimate bishops and at the same time he
would make the Roman episcopate a separate and superior
authority; he would regard the Pope as the source of unity,
and in the same breath reprove the Pope for seceding from
unity; he would recognize a superior jurisdiction in the see
of Rome, while he would call those men unprincipled who did
not see in Africa the same episcopal authority as in Rome.
We have already seen that St. Cyprian blamed
Pope Stephen for pretending to be bishop of bishops,
which, according to his real teaching, was in fact
monstrous; but he had taught the doctrine that Rome ascribes
to him, he could not have blamed him, for it would have been
Is it just, then, for the sake of favouring
the papal system, to make of St. Cyprian a writer wanting in
good sense and logic, and to isolate out of his writings a
few words that may be interpreted in favour of this system,
without noticing the rest?
We think it more proper to compare the
several parts of the doctrine of one to whose genius and
holiness all Christian ages have rendered homage. In this
manner we find in his works a broad, logical, and catholic doctrine, but one opposed to the papal system.
Whence it follows that the champions of the modern Papacy
cannot rest upon his evidence, without falsifying his works,
without insulting his memory, without denying by implication
both his genius and his sincerity, which alone can give any
authority to his words.
It follows from all this, that Rome cannot
establish her pretended rights upon the testimony of either
St. Irenæus, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Firmilianus, nor of
Eusebius of Cæsarea, without resorting to such subterfuges
as are unworthy of an honest cause.
Such is also their practice with respect to
numerous testimonies that prove the falsity of their
interpretation of the famous text, "Thou art Peter."
The Fathers, who understand it to refer to the person of St.
Peter, are the most ancient, say these theologians; they
were nearer to the apostolic times, and understood the text
better than those of later centuries. Upon that point they
emphatically quote Tertullian, who, in fact, says:
Tertul. De Prescriptions, cap. xxii.
"Could any thing have been hidden from Peter, who was called
the rock of the church which was to be built?"
At first sight, one might indeed think that
Tertullian had applied the word rock (la pierre) to
the person of Peter, but he explains himself in another of
his works, where he says: Tertul. adv.
Marc. Lib. IV. "If Christ changes the name of Simon
to that of Peter, it is not only to signify the strength and
firmness of his faith, for then he would have given him the
name of such solid substances as are strengthened and made
more durable by admixture and cohesion; but he gives him the
name of Peter (the stone) because, in Scripture,
the stone typifies and represents Christ, who is
the stone of which we read that it is laid to be a
stumbling-stone and rock of offence. Rom. 9:33. Since, then, he thus changes his name, it
is to express the change he is going to make in the world,
by transforming idolatrous nations into stones similar to
him, and fit for the building of his Church."
With this explanation of Tertullian himself
before us, where are the deductions that it is sought to
draw from his first text?
And further, when we see Tertullian, in the
work from which we have quoted, maintaining that in
addressing Peter, Christ addressed all the Apostles;
teaching, moreover, that the twelve Apostles were equal
among themselves, like the twelve wells of Elim, the twelve
precious stones of Aaron's breast-plate, and Joshua's twelve
stones from Jordan; can it be said in good faith that he
acknowledged in St. Peter any exceptional or superior
prerogative? Above all, can he be said to have acknowledged
these prerogatives in the Bishops of Rome?
One thing is certain, that the Fathers who
seem to have understood the words "upon this rock" to apply
to the person of St. Peter, really meant to apply it only to
the object of his Faith, namely, Jesus Christ, the Man-God.
We will give as an example St. Hilary of Poitiers.
This Father, in his commentary upon St.
Matthew and upon the Psalms, applies to St. Peter the word
rock of the Church, and regards him as its
foundation. St. Hil. of Poit. Commentary
upon the 16th chap. of St. Matt., and upon the 131st psalm,
But in his work upon the Trinity he
acknowledges that it is upon the rock of his confessionŚthat
is to say, upon the divinity of Jesus ChristŚthat the Church
is built. St. Hil. of Poit. on the
Trinity, Book VI. chap. 36. "There is," he adds, "but
one unchangeable foundation St. Hil. of
Poit. on the Trinity, Book II. chap. 23. that
only rock confessed by the mouth of St. Peter, 'Thou
art the Son of the living God.' Upon that are based as
many arguments for the truth as perversity can suggest
doubts, or infidelity calumnies."
It is evident that in this place the holy
Father means only the object of St. Peter's
confession of faithŚthat is, the divinity of Jesus Christ.
If it should be claimed that he meant his subjective
faithŚthat is to say, his adherenceŚand that the Bishops of
Rome have inherited that unfailing faith, it suffices to
recall the anathema of the same Father against Pope
Liberius, who had grown weak in the confession of the
divinity of Christ: "I say to thee anathema, O Liberius, to
thee and to thine accomplices. I repeat, anathema. And again
I say it to thee a third time; to thee, Liberius, then
prevaricator." St. Hil. de Poit. Fragm.
According to St. Hilary of Poitiers,
therefore, if St. Peter may be considered as the rock of the
Church, it is only because of the confession of faith that
be made in the name of the whole Apostolic College, and
through the very object of that faith, which is the divinity
of Christ. His doctrine thus agrees with that of Tertullian
and the other Fathers, who have only in this sense applied
to Peter himself the title of rock of the Church.
If we add that this Father and the others nowhere imply that
this title belongs to the Bishops of Rome, and further, that
their teaching is even altogether opposed to that opinion,
it will be admitted that it is only by a strange abuse of
some of their words, taken alone and misconstrued, that the
Romish theologians have sought to prop the papal authority
upon their testimony.
St. Epiphanius taught the same doctrine as
St. Hilary of Poitiers. Epiph. Hæres.
59. "Peter, prince of Apostles," he says, "has been
for us as a solid stone, upon which the faith of the Lord
rests as upon a foundation; upon which the Church has been
in every way edified. It was chiefly because he confessed
the Christ, Son of the living God, that it was said to him,
'Upon this rock of solid faith I will build my
The Apostle Peter is not separated from the
dogma he confessed; and it is this dogma itself which is the
foundation of the Church.
We do not deny that St. Epiphanius called
Peter prince of Apostles; but in what sense?
The Romans cite the following text in their
favour: Epiph. Hæres. 51. "Andrew
first met the Lord, because Peter was the younger. But
subsequently when they had renounced every thing else, it
was Peter who was first; he then takes precedence of his
brother. Add to this that God knows the bent of all hearts,
and knows who is worthy of the first place. It is for this
reason that Peter was chosen to be prince of his disciples,
as is very clearly declared."
Did St. Epiphanius mean by this, that Peter
was the foundation and chief of the Church, or that the
Church was founded upon the objective faith of that
Apostle that is to say, the divinity of Christ, to which he
had rendered homage? He answers for himself, as we have
"Upon Peter," he says, "the Church is built,
because he confessed Christ as Son of the living God, and
because it was said to him, Upon this rock of solid
faith I will build my Church."
In the same place St. Epiphanius teaches
that the words "feed my sheep" were not said by the Lord to
commit to Peter the government of the Church, but to
reinstate him in his apostolic dignity, which he had
forfeited by denying Christ. "The Lord," he says, "called
Peter again after his denial; and to
efface the three denials, he
calls upon him thrice to confess him."
27. he makes St. Paul the equal of St. Peter at Rome,
saying of them, "Peter and Paul, the first of all the
Apostles, were equally Bishops of Rome." And he thus speaks
of St. James of Jerusalem:
He (James) first received the see, (of
Jerusalem;) it is to him first that
the Lord intrusted his throne upon
earth." Epiph. Hæres. 78.
It is clear that he did not believe that it
was Peter who bad inherited the throne of the Lord
in this world. He believed then that the primacy
granted to St. Peter was a mere priority, as Pope
Leo St. Leo, Sermon II., (III in Migne,)
upon the anniversary of his elevation to the Pontificate.
explains it in the following passage: "The disposition of
the truth remains: and the blessed Peter has persevered in
that strength of the rock which he had received, and has
never abandoned the reins of the Church which had been
confided to him; he received ordination before the
others, in order that when he is called rock
(Pierre) and foundation, . . . . we might know, by
the mystery of these titles, what union exists between him
This text proves that St. Leo saw in St.
Peter nothing more than a priority of ordination.
He believed that it was by his ordination uniting him to
Christ that he was the rock (Pierre) and the foundation of
He understands the power of binding and
loosing committed to Peter in an equally orthodox sense.
"This power is confided to him," he says,
St. Leo, Sermon III., (IV Migne.)
"in a special manner, because the type (forma) of Peter
is proposed to all the pastors of the Church. Therefore
the privilege of Peter dwells wherever
judgment is given with his equity." Hence he
concludes that only that will be remitted or retained which
might be so by a just sentence and one worthy of Peter.
It is difficult to understand how the Romish
theologians have dared to quote the two preceding texts in
support of the papal autocracy, so evident is it that St.
Leo ascribes to St. Peter only a primacy, or rather
a priority of ordination, and that instead of
ascribing to the Bishop of Rome only, the power of Peter, be
regards that Apostle only as the form or figure
of the apostolic power, which is exercised in reality
wherever it is exercised with equity.
And this also explains these other words of
St. Leo: Ib.
"From the whole world is Peter chosen to
lead the vocation of all peoples, all the Apostles, and all
the Fathers of the Church; so that, though there are many
priests and many pastors, nevertheless, Peter governs all
those whom also Christ governs in chief.
"The divine condescension gave to this man a
great and wondrous participation in His power; whenever He
willed there should be something in common between him and
the other princes, he never gave save through him what he
did not deny to the others."
Such phrases that smack of panegyric should
have their doctrinal interpretation according to the
positive instruction which we find in the other texts of the
St. Leo does not pretend that St. Peter's
power, whatever it was, passed to the Bishops of Rome. His
letter to the Council of Chalcedon proves this, as we have
seen, sufficiently; and this power of the first Apostle did
not make him master of the others; it has passed to all
bishops who exercise it lawfully; Peter was only
distinguished by the priority of his ordination.
Romish theologians have misused the
eulogiums that St. Leo and other Fathers have addressed to
St. Peter, in an oratorical way, without choosing to see
that even literally understood, they do not constitute
privileges transmissible to the Bishops of Rome, since none
of these Fathers have recognized any in them; but no one who
is familiar with the Fathers could take these eulogies
literally. We will prove this by the works of St. John
Chrysostom, whose writings have been most abused by the
Ultramontanes, and whom they most prefer to quote in support
of their system. They have accumulated texts to prove that
the great Bishop of Constantinople gave to St. Peter the
titles of first, of great apostle, of Coryphœus, of
prince, of chief, and
of mouth of the Apostles.
But if he has given the same titles to the
other Apostles, what can we conclude in favour of St. Peter?
Now, in several places in his writings he
says of all the Apostles, that they were the foundations,
the columns, the chiefs, the doctors,
the pilots, and the pastors of the Church.
He calls Peter and John in the same sense,
princes of the Apostles. Upon
St. Matthew, Homily 32. He says of Peter, James, and
John collectively, that they were "first in dignity
among the Apostles, the foundations of the Church, the first
called, and princes of the disciples."
Upon the First Chapter of Galatians.
If he says of St. Peter, "Peter so blotted
out his denial, that he became the first of the Apostles,
and that the entire universe was confided to him,"
Against the Jews. Eighth Discourse.
he likewise says elsewhere of Peter and John, that
the universe was confided to them;
Upon St. John. Eighty-eighth Homily.
he says of St Paul: "Angels often receive the mission of
guarding the nations, but none of them ever governed the
people confided to him as Paul governed the whole
universe. . . . The Hebrew people were confided to
Michael the Archangel, and to Paul were committed the earth,
the sea, the inhabitants of all the universeŚeven the
desert." Panegyric upon St. Paul. Second
Homily. "In the kingdom of heaven," he says, "it is
clear that no one will be before Paul."
Upon St. Mathew. Sixty-fifth Homily. He further calls
him the pilot of the Church, Sermon on the Twelve Apostles.
vessel of election,
the celestial trumpet, the leader of the spouse
of Christ; that is, the Church. Homily upon the words, "May it please God that ye be patient
awhile." In the following passage, he evidently
places him above St. Peter: "In the place where the cherubim
are covered with glory, and where the seraphim soar, there
shall we see Paul with Peter, (Paul) who is the prince and
president (˝´ˇ˘▄˘š˛) of the choir of saints."
Thirty-second Homily upon Epistle to
It is most important to observe that St.
Chrysostom attributes an equal dignity to these two Apostles
when he mentions both of them together. We will give some
In his second sermon on prayer, he tells us
that prayer has such power that it "delivered from great
perils both Peter and Paul, the columns of the Church
and princes of the Apostles, the most glorious in
heaven, the walls of the universe, and guardians of earth
and sea." Upon Prayer. Second Discourse.
Speaking of the rebuke which Paul gave to
Peter at Antioch, he says: "Is any one troubled to hear that
Paul resisted Peter, that the columns of the Church
came into collision and fell upon each other? For they are
the columns that bear and sustain the roof of
faith; and not only the columns, but also the shields and
eyes of the body of the Church,
the source and treasury of all good
things; and if one should say of them all that could be
imagined, he could not sufficiently describe their dignity."
Homily on the words, "I withstood him to
the face." Later he compares these Apostles to two
coursers drawing together the chariot of the Church, adding,
in allusion to his fall, that one of them, Peter, appears to
halt. Ibid. He finally adds,
"How, O Paul! didst thou, who wast so gentle and good with
thy disciples, show thyself cruel, inhuman toward thy
fellow-apostle," (ˇ§ÝßŘˇ˘´Ű´˛) Ibid.
Is it possible to say more distinctly that Paul was equal
with Peter in dignity?
We find the same truth in the following
passage, which deserves very particular attention:
"Christ confided the Jews to Peter, and set
Paul at the head of the Gentiles. I do not say this of
myself, but we have Paul himself who says: 'For he that
wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the
circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.
(Galat. 2:8.) For as a wise general (ÔßˇÚŰňř˛) who, after
having carefully estimated the capacities of each, gives to
one the command of the cavalry, and to another that of the
infantry, Christ also did certainly divide his army in two
parts, and confided the Jews to Peter, and the Gentiles to
Paul. The two divisions of the army are indeed several,
but the general is one."
Here, then, is the true doctrine of St. John
Chrysostom: The Apostles were equal in dignity; Peter and
Paul were alike first among them, the one for the Jews, the
other for the Gentiles; Peter never received any exclusive
supremacy over all Christendom; the only chief of the Church
was, is, and ever shall be, Jesus Christ himself. Let us
carefully observe these words of St. Chrysostom, "I do
not say this of myself," which signifies: this is not a
mere personal opinion; it is a truth which the Holy Ghost
has taught us by the Apostle Paul.
St. John Chrysostom has not recognized in
the Church any dignity superior to the apostolate
Of all spiritual magistratures," says he,
"the greatest is the apostolate. How do we know
this? Because the apostle precedes all others. As the consul
is the first of civil magistrates, so is the apostle the
first of spiritual magistrates. St. Paul himself, when
he enumerates these dignities, places at their head the
prerogatives of the apostolate. What does he say? 'And
God has set some in the church; first, apostles;
secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers.' Do you observe
the summit of these dignities? Do you mark that the
apostle is at the apex of the hierarchyŚno one before, none
above him. For he says: 'First, apostles.' And
not only is the apostolate the first of all
dignities, but also the root and foundation
thereof." Homily upon the Utility of
Reading Holy Scripture.
St. Chrysostom recognized no supremacy in
the apostolate. Had he believed that Christ had set one of
the Apostles above the rest to be his representative on
earth and the visible chief of his Church, he certainly
would have said so, for manifestly then or never was the
time to speak of it.
We can now appreciate the audacity which the
Romish theologians display in asserting that according to
St. Chrysostom, the authority of Peter was the most
fundamental and essential thing, in the organization of
the hierarchy, which the Church has received from
Christ. The great and holy Patriarch is his own defence
against those who have falsified his doctrine, when he tells
them that the apostolate belongs equally to all the
Apostles. "That it is the first of all
dignities, that the apostle is at the summit of the
hierarchy, that none is before and none above him."
The Romish theologians make the most capital of this passage
on the election of St. Matthias: "Peter always speaks first,
because he is full of zeal; because it is to him that Christ
has committed the care of the flock; and because he is the
first among the Apostles." A little further on, asking
whether Peter would not, himself, have designated some one
to take the place of Judas, be adds, "Without doubt he could
have done this, but be refrained in order not to seem to do
a favour to the one he would name."
In the first place, these expressions that
"Peter always speaks first, because he is full of
zeal and because he is first among the Apostles,"
are the best evidence that Chrysostom never meant to say,
because he was the chief of the Church. And thus
the third because, inserted between the other two,
"because it is to him that Christ has committed the
care of his flock," is no, longer susceptible of the meaning
attached to it by the Romanists; unless one would make the
good Father contradict himself, not only in this passage,
but in all his writings. This is abundantly confirmed by the
explanation that the great Patriarch gives of the words, "feed
my lambs, feed my sheep," upon which our adversaries
most rely when they claim that it was to Peter alone that
these words were addressed, and that to him alone was
confided the care of the flock. "This," writes St.
Chrysostom, "was not said to the Apostles and bishops
only, but also to each one of us, however humble,
to whom has been committed the care of the flock."
Upon St. Matthew, 77th homily.
Thus, according to St. Chrysostom, these words were not said
to Peter alone and only for him; they did not confer upon
him the dignity of supreme pastor of the Apostles and the
Church; but were addressed to all the Apostles in common,
and to all bishops and pastors who are equally the
successors of the Apostles. Moreover, St. Chrysostom
perceived neither honour nor authority in these words, but
an exhortation to zeal and carefulness. "Three times," be
says, "the Lord questioned Peter, and three times he gave
him this command, in order to show him how much care must be
taken for the salvation of the sheep."
Upon St. John, 88th homily.
St. Chrysostom himself has refuted the
conclusions that the Romanists would draw from the remainder
of the text.
"Behold," he says, "how Peter does all
things by common consent, and decides nothing by his own
authority and power. . . ."
Acts of the Apostles, 8d hom.
"It was not Peter who presented them,
(Matthias and Joseph,) but all, (the Apostles.) Thus Peter
did nothing but give them counsel, showing moreover that it
did not come from him, but had been announced of old in the
prophecies, and thus he was the interpreter, but not the
master." And again: "Remark the modesty of James,
although he had received the Bishopric of Jerusalem, he says
nothing on this occasion; consider also the great modesty of
the other disciples, who, after unanimously giving the
throne to James, no longer disputed among themselves.
For that Church was, as it were, in heaven, having nothing
of earthŚshining not by its walls or its marbles, but by the
unanimous and pious fervour of its members." . . .
The Romish theologians quote the first part
of this text, but carefully abstain from quoting the last;
such, indeed, being their habit.
According to this Father, therefore, the
Apostles acted by common consent; they chose together the
candidates for the election; Peter did not speak as master,
but as interpreter of the prophecies; James, who was the
first in dignity, and the other Apostles, allowed him
to speak alone because of their modesty, not because they
did not possess the same power as he. If St. Chrysostom
recognized a superior dignity in any of the Apostles, we
should say it was in St. James of Jerusalem. In fact, beside
the text already quoted, we find the following amongst his
"Behold, after Peter it is Paul who speaks,
and no man objects; James looks on and remains quiet, for
the primacy had been committed to him. John and the
other Apostles do not speak, but remain silent without the
least vexation, because their soul was free from all
vainglory. . . . After they (Barnabas and Paul) ceased
speaking, James answered and said, 'Simeon hath declared how
God, at the first, did visit the Gentiles.' . . . Peter's
language had been more vehement; that of James is more
moderate. It is thus those should always act who possess
great power. He leaves severity for others, and
reserves moderation for himself."
Again, where he analyzes the words of St.
James, he reasons thus:
"What means, I judge? It means, I
affirm, with authority, that the thing is thus.
. . . James, therefore, decided the whole question."
Upon the Acts of the Apostles, 33d hom.
This passage may not seem to the Romanists
to prove the primacy of James, but it assuredly disproves
that of PeterŚif by primacy we mean authority.
Romish theologians also quote St. Chrysostom
upon the fall of St. Peter as follows:
"God permitted him to yield, because He
meant to establish him prince of the entire universe; so
that, remembering his own faults, he should pardon those who
We, have already seen that St. Chrysostom
does not use this title of prince of the universe,
in the sense that Rome struggles to give it; and without
that interpretation, the passage quoted presents nothing
further in favour of the papal theory. As to St.
Chrysostom's opinion of Peter's fall, he himself explains
it: Upon Chapter 1st of Galatians.
"Wishing to correct Peter of this
fault of contradiction, Christ permitted that this Apostle
should deny Him. . . . Hear what He says to him: 'I have
prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.' He holds
this language to him in order to touch him the more
forcibly, and to show him that his fall would be heavier
than that of the others, and that it would need a
greater aid. For his was a double crimeŚthat of
contradiction, and that of exalting himself above the
others. There was yet a third, still more seriousŚthat
of relying entirely upon his own strength. In order to
cure Peter, the Saviour allows him to fall; and,
passing by the other disciples, He says to him, 'Simon,
Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may
sift you as wheat'Śthat is, to trouble, to tempt youŚ'but I
have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.'
Why, if Satan hath desired to sift all the Apostles, does
not the Lord here say,' I have prayed for you'? Is
it not, evidently, for the reasons I have stated? Is it not
in order to touch Peter, and to show him that his fall would
be heavier than that of the others, that He speaks to him
only? How, then, could Peter deny Christ? Because Christ did
not say to him, 'that thou shouldst not deny me,' but 'that
thy faith fail not, that it do not entirely perish.'"
Upon St. Matthew, 82d homily.
How is it possible to discover in such
language the faintest allusion to a supremacy of authority
given to St. Peter upon the occasion of his fall? What
singular boldness to maintain that our Lord meant to
establish a distinction in favour of Peter, and to notify
him of his elevation over the other Apostles, precisely at
the moment when He foretold him his fall and denial!
The following words most evidently determine
the meaning which Chrysostom gives to Peter's primacy. He
says, in the first place, that this Apostle was "first
in the Church." Now "the first in a society," does not
mean "the chief of that society." Again he adds: "When I say
Peter (Pierre) I say the solid rock, (la pierre,)
the unshaken base, the great Apostle, the first of the
Apostles, the first called, the first obedient."
Upon Almsgiving, 3d homily.
Evidently he praises Peter for the solidity of the faith he
had confessed; he calls him "first of the Apostles," because
he was the first called to the apostolate. He does not say "first
in authority," but "the first obedient." St.
Peter had, therefore, the glory of being called first to the
apostolate, and of being also the first servant of Jesus
As regards the alleged succession from St.
Peter that is claimed for the Roman bishops, the Romish
theologians sum up the doctrine of St. Chrysostom as
"The Church of Antioch had the honour of
possessing St. Peter for a time. She acknowledges him as her
founder, but she did not keep him. It was to Rome that he
removed his see; it was at Rome that he received the palm of
martyrdom; and Rome has his tombŚRome, preëminently the
What says the Father?
"One of the prerogatives of our city
(Antioch) is to have had for her teacher Peter, the leader
of the Apostles. It was just that the city which first of
all the world was adorned with the name of Christian, should
have for her Bishop the first of the Apostles. But having
received him as teacher, we did not keep him always; we
yielded him to the imperial city of Rome; or rather, we
have always kept him; for if we have not the body of
Peter, we have kept the faith of Peter as our Peter, since holding Peter's faith is as though we held Peter
himself." 2d Homily upon the Title
of the Acts of the Apostles.
Peter is therefore nothing except for the
sake of the truth to which he testified. St. Chrysostom says
this expressly in the same discourse, and adds: "When I
mentioned Peter, another Peter was brought to mind,
[Flavian, Bishop of Antioch, at the time the discourse was
written,] a father and doctor common to us all, who has
inherited St. Peter's virtue, and has received his see
in heritage." Again, in his eulogy of St. Ignatius,
Bishop of Antioch, we read: "St. Ignatius was the successor
of Peter in his principality." Eulogy of
St. Ignatius The Latin translation thus renders it:
"St. Ignatius succeeded (St. Peter) in the dignity of the
episcopate." This is incorrect. The principality in the
style of the Fathers is the apostolate, which is
indeed the source of the episcopate, but surpasses
it in dignity and power. But whether translated principality or
episcopate, St. Chrysostom's
testimony is equally opposed to the Romish doctrine, that
the Bishop of Rome is the sole successor of St. Peter.
According to St. Chrysostom, St. Peter cannot in fact have
occupied the see of any one city, being equally and in a
general sense the apostle-bishop of all the churches
where he preached the Gospel, and where his teachings are
In this same discourse, St. Chrysostom calls
St. Ignatius of Antioch, "teacher of Rome in the faith," and
gives the following as the reason why Peter, Paul, and
Ignatius died at Rome: "You [inhabitants of Antioch] have
through God's blessing, no further need of instruction, for
you have struck root in religion; but the people of Rome,
because of the great wickedness that prevailed there, needed
more powerful aid; therefore were Peter and Paul, and
Ignatius with them, put to death there."
Eulogy on Ignatius In developing
this subject, he adds : "The death of these Apostles and
Ignatius was a visible proof and a preaching in action of
the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
In another discourse, St. Chrysostom shows
just as plainly that he ascribes no right of superiority to
the city of Rome, although Peter and Paul died there. He
says: "I love Rome for her magnificence, her antiquity, her
beauty, for the multitude of her inhabitants, her power, her
wealth, her military glory; but, above all, I call that city
blessed, because Paul wrote to the Romans during his life,
because he loved them, because he spoke with them, during
his sojourn among them, and ended his life in their midst."
Homily 22, on the Epistle to Romans.
He thus merely expresses a personal sentiment of affection
for the city of Rome. The praises he gives her are earthly
and temporal. He merely says, "I love Rome," but he does not
say that he recognizes the Church of that city as the Queen
of Churches Ś the mother and mistress of
all others. He ascribes no privilege to her on account of
St. Peter. We see, therefore, that, in seeking to give the
sanction of so great a name to their doctrine of papal
prerogative, the Romish theologians have distorted the works
of this great divine. And no less the doctrine of St.
Gregory Nazianzen, which, in respect to St. Peter, may be
entirely summed up in this text: "Thou seest," he says, "how
among Christ's disciples, all equally great, high, and
worthy of election, this one is called the Rock, in order
that on his faith he may receive the foundations of
the Church." S. Greg. Nazian. 26th
Discourse. He does not Say that it was upon the
person of St. Peter that the Church was to be built, but
upon his faith; nor yet upon his subjective faith,
which was to fail so sadly at the moment of his threefold
denial; but upon his objective faithŚthat faith
which he had confessed in the divinity of Christ.
Romanists invoke the testimony of St.
Gregory of Nyssa, Greg. of Nyssa,
Panegyric of St. Stephen who says:
"We celebrate the memory of St. Peter, who
is the chief of the Apostles; and in him we honour the other
members of the Church, for it is on him that the Church of
God rests, since, in virtue of the prerogative he holds from
the Lord, he is the firm and solid rock on which the Saviour
has built his Church."
Such is the translation of Roman
theologians. Here is the literal translation from the Greek:
"We celebrate the memory of St. Peter, who
is the chief of the Apostles; and together with him
are glorified the other members of the Church; and the
Church of God is strengthened, since, in virtue of
the gift that the Lord has given
him, he is the firm and most solid rock upon which
the Saviour has constructed the Church."
╠Ýšý´Ýňřň˘ßÚ đŢ˘˝´˛ ŕň÷ßŰŮ ˘ῶÝ Ἀ´ˇ˘´ŰῶÝ ŕßὶ ˇ§Ýń´ţ▄Šň˘ßÚ
ýὲÝ ἀ§˘ῷ ˘ὰ Ű´Úὰ ýŢ˝š ˘ῆ˛ ἐŕŕŰšˇ▀ß˛, ἐÚˇ˘š˝▀Šň˘ßÚ ńὲ ἡ
ἐŕŕŰšˇ▀ß ˘´ῦ ╚ň´ῦ. ¤ű˘´˛ Ń▄˝ ňˇ˘Ú ŕß˘ὰ ˘ὴÝ ń´Ŕň▀ˇßÝ ἀ§˘ῷ
ß˝ὰ ˘´ῦ ╩§˝▀´§ ń¨˝ňὰÝ ἡ ἀῤῥßŃὴ˛ ŕßὶ ˇ¸§˝¨˘▄˘š Ţ˘˝ß ἐ÷᾽ ἢÝ
˘ὴÝ ňŕŕŰšˇ▀ßÝ ὁ Ë¨˘ὴ˝ ὠŕ´ńŘýšˇň. (Greg. of Nyssa.)
By their translation, the Romish theologians
endeavour to convey the idea that Peter received an
exceptional gift, that made him the sole foundation of the
Church. St. Gregory positively denies the errours they would
attribute to him in the following passages, taken from the
same discourse they misquote:
" We chiefly commemorate to-day those who
have shone with a great and dazzling splendour of piety. I
mean Peter, James, and John, who are the princes of
the apostolic order. . . The Apostles of the Lord
were stars that brightened all under heaven. Their
princes and chiefsŚPeter, James, and
JohnŚwhose martyrdom we celebrate to-day, suffered in
various ways. . .
"It is just to celebrate on the same day the
memory of these men, not only because they were unanimous in
their preaching, but because of the equality of their dignity, (˘ὸÝ ὁýŘ˘Úý´Ý.) The one
(Peter) who held the first place, (˝¨˘´ˇŔ▄˘š˛,)
and who is the chief of the Apostolic college,
received the favour of a glory suitable to his dignity,
being honoured with a passion similar to that of the
Saviour. . . But James was beheaded, aspiring to the
possession of Christ, who is truly
(ὅÝ˘¨˛) his head, for the
head of man is the Christ, who is at the same time
head of all the Church." . . . .
"They (the Apostles)
are the foundations
of the Church, the columns and pillars of truth. They
are never-failing springs of salvation, from which flow
abundant torrents of divine doctrine."
After again giving the same titles to Peter,
James, and, John, St. Gregory adds:
"Nevertheless, we have not said this
debase the other Apostles, but to bear witness to the
virtue of those of whom we speak; or, better still, in order
to speak the common praise of all the Apostles."
All these titles, all this praise, given by
St. Gregory to Peter, James, and John, refer not to the
dignity of their apostolateŚthat dignity was the same in
allŚbut merely to their personal virtue. He is at particular
pains to leave no doubt as to the true value of these
encomiums, and upon the doctrine of the real equality of the
Apostles, for he adds:
regards the truth of
the dogmas, they, (the Apostles,) like members,
represent one and the same body; and whether one member
be honoured, as the Apostle says, (1 Cor. 12:26,) all
the members rejoice with it. As their labours for religion
were in common, so also the honours deserved for
their preaching of the faith are in common. Why,"
he continues, "should we be so bold as to endeavour to
express what is above our power, and to strive worthily to
celebrate the virtues of the Apostles? Our encomiums are not
for Simon, (Peter,) known as having been a fisherman, but
for his firm faith, that supports the
Church. Neither do we exalt the sons of Zebedee,
(James and John,) but the Boanerges, which means the
sons of the thunder."
It is, therefore, not the person of Peter
that is the rock of the Church, but the faith he confessed;
that is, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, or the
divinity of Christ, to which he bore witness.
Among the Greek Fathers there is not one who
has taught a different doctrine from that of Chrysostom and
Gregory of Nyssa. St. Cyril of Alexandria says expressly,
"The word rock has only a denominative valueŚit
signifies nothing but the steadfast and firm faith of the
Apostle." St. Cyril of Alexandria, Of
the Trinity, Fourth Book. This forbids us to ascribe
to Cyril the opinion that founds so great privileges upon
that word, and yet this text has been quoted in favour of
the modern Papacy by its champions. They quote yet another
passage: "He (Christ) teaches his disciple (Peter) that it
was He that knew all things before they were created; He
announces to him that his name shall be no more Simon, but
Peter; giving, him to understand by this word that He would
build his Church upon him as upon a stone and a very solid
rock." St. Cyril of Alexandria upon St.
John Book II. ch. xii.
Has he taught that Peter should be
exclusively the foundation of the Church? No;
for he teaches elsewhere St. Cyril of
Alexandria, Letter to Nestorius. that "Peter and
John were equal in dignity and honour." In another
place St. Cyril of Alexandria, Second
Discourse on Isaiah. he teaches that "Christ is
the foundation of allŚthe unshaken base upon which we
all are built as a spiritual edifice." Has he in this taught
that the privileges of Peter would pass to the Bishops of
He nowhere makes the least mention of such a
thing. Why, then, do Romish theologians call him to witness?
For we have seen that the application of the word rock
to Peter does not prove that this Apostle enjoyed any
exceptional prerogatives; much less does it prove that the
Bishops of Rome have inherited any from that Apostle.
St. Cyril had, touching the prerogatives of
St. Peter, no other teaching than that of the learned school
of Alexandria. Clement, one of the great luminaries of that
school, taught distinctly that no primacyŚin the
sense of authorityŚever existed among the Apostles. The
disciples," he says, St. Clement of
Alexandria, Stromat. Fifth Book, fifth section.
"disputing for primacy, Christ made a law of
equality, saying, 'Ye must become as little children.'"
Origen taught no other doctrine. Romish
theologians quote some texts in which he seems to apply to
the person of St. Peter the title of the rock,
but they omit this passage, in which he clearly explains
himself: "If you believe," he says,
Origen, Commentary on St. Matt. "that God has raised
the whole building of his Church on Peter alone, what will
you say of John, the son of the Thunder? What will you say
of each of the Apostles? Will you venture to say that the
gates of hell shall not prevail against Peter in particular,
but shall prevail against the others? Are not the words, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,
addressed to them all? Have not these words had their
fulfillment in each one of the Apostles?" And such also is
the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria, ever faithful to the
traditions of his fathers.
The same is true of that of St. Basil of
Cæsarea. Romanists have in vain sought to use him as an
authority. It is sufficient to read him to be assured that
he has nowhere made the Apostle Peter the rock of the
Church, as they pretend. "The house of the Lord," he says,
St. Basil on second chapter of Isaiah.
"built in the top of the mountains," is the ChurchŚaccording
to the Apostle who says that one should know how to
conduct one's self in the House of God, which is the Church
of the living God. Its foundations are in the holy
mountains, for it is built upon the foundations of the
Apostles and Prophets. One of these mountains was
Peter, upon which rock the Lord promised to build
his Church. It is just that sublime souls, lifted above
terrestrial things, should be called mountains. Now, the
soul of the blessed Peter was called a sublime rock,
because he was firmly grounded in faith, and that it
bore constantly and courageously the blows that were laid
upon it in the day of trial. St. Basil concludes that by
imitating that faith and courage we shall also become
mountains upon which the house of God may be raised.
Some Western fathers of the fourth and fifth
centuries seem, more than those of the East, to
favour the papal authority. But it is not so in fact. We
have already given the doctrine of Tertullian, of St.
Cyprian, of St. Hilary of Poitiers, and of St. Leo. That of
Ambrose, Augustine, Optatus, and Jerome is the same.
According to St. Augustine, St. Ambrose had
made the word rock in his hymns relate to the
person of St. Peter, and this had at first led him to adopt
this construction. St. Ambrose, however, explains himself in
other writings, as in the following: St.
Ambrose, On the Incarnation. "Faith is the foundation
of the Church, for it was not of the person but of
the faith of St. Peter that it was said that the
gates of hell should not prevail against it; it is the
confession of faith that has vanquished hell." The truth
confessed by St. Peter is, therefore, the foundation of the
Church, and no promise was made to his person, nor,
consequently, to his subjective faith.
Among the texts of St. Ambrose, Rome relies
chiefly upon this: St. Ambrose on St.
Luke, and passim. "The Lord, who questioned, did not
doubt; he questioned, not to learn, but, in order to teach
which one he would leave, as the vicar of his love, before
ascending to heaven . . . Because, alone of them all, be
confessed Him, he is preferred to all . . . The Lord does
not ask the third time, likest thou me,
Thus only can we do justice to the text.
In fact ßŃßᾷ˛ and ÷ÚŰňῖ˛ are both properly translated
"lovest," as in our common English version; but in the Greek
the two words indicate different degrees or lovingŚ÷ÚŰňῖÝ
being stronger than ßŃßᾶÝ.ŚEd.
but lovest thou me; and then He does not commit to him, as
the first time, the lambs that must be nourished
with milk, nor, as at the second time, the young sheep; but
he commands him to pasture all, that, being more perfect, he
may govern the most perfect."
Now, say with much gravity the Romish
theologians, after quoting this text, who are these most
perfect sheep if not the other Apostles? Then they go
one step further, and suppose that the Pope takes Peter's
place, and the Bishops that of the other Apostles; and thus
they arrive at the conclusion that the Bishops are the sheep
as regards their relation to the Pope.
St. Ambrose never said a word that would
sustain such inferences. He gives no dogmatic character to
what he says of St. Peter. He proposes a mystic and devout
interpretationŚhe has no intention to confound the Apostles,
who are the shepherds, with the sheep. Much less
does he dream of any privileges of the Bishops of Rome, whom
he does not even mention. A tottering foundation, indeed,
for so lofty an edifice! St. Ambrose, like Hilary of
Poitiers, ascribes sometimes to the person of Peter,
sometimes to his faith, or rather to the object of
his faith, the title of the rock. To his person he
only attributes the title in a figurative manner, and by
extension. "Jesus Christ," he says, "is the rock.
He did not deny the grace of this name to his disciple when
he called him Peter, because he borrowed from the
rock the constancy and solidity of his faith. Endeavour,
then, thyself to be a rockŚthy rock is thy faith,
and faith is the foundation of the Church. If thou art a
rock, thou shalt be in the Church, for the Church is
built upon the rock."
This explanation leaves no shadow of doubt
upon the sense in which St. Ambrose took this famous saying,
upon which Romanists rear the prodigious monument of papal
prerogatives. Why was this name given to Peter? "Because,"
adds St. Ambrose, "the Church was built on Peter's faith."
But what faith? His personal belief, or the truth
he believed? St. Ambrose replies in the same place, "Peter
was thus named because he was the first who laid
the foundation of faith among the nations." What
did he preach? Certainly not his personal assent. What he
taught is, then, the truth that he believed; and
that truth is the foundation of the Church.
The works of St. Ambrose are full of proofs
against papal pretensions. But why multiply texts? One only
needs to glance over his works to be convinced that he is no
authority in favour of the Ultramontane system. We shall
therefore be content to quote only the following texts, in
which he sets forth his belief concerning Peter's primacy.
In explaining these words in the epistle to
the Galatians, "I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter,"
he says: "It was proper that Paul should go to see Peter.
Why? was Peter superiour to him and to the other Apostles?
No; but because, of all the Apostles, he was the first to be
intrusted by the Lord with the care of the churches. Had he
need to be taught, or to receive a commission from Peter?
No; but that Peter might know that Paul had received "the
power which had also been given to himself."
St. Ambrose also explains these other words:
"When they saw that the Gospel of the uncircumcision was
committed to me:" "He (Paul) names only Peter, and only
compares himself with him, because as Peter had received
the primacy to found the Church of the Jews, he, Paul,
had been chosen in like manner to have the primacy
in founding the Church of the Gentiles." Then he enlarges
upon this idea, which completely demolishes the papal
pretensions. In fact, according to St. Ambrose, Rome, which
confessedly did not belong to the Jews, should not glory in
the primacy of St. Peter, but in that of St. Paul. Besides,
she would then come closer to historic truth: for it is
demonstrated that Paul evangelized Rome before Peter; that
her first two bishops were ordained by Paul; and that her
succession through Peter only dates from Clement, her third
Finally, what does St. Ambrose mean by the
word primacy? He attached no idea of honour or
authority to it, for he says positively: "As soon as Peter
heard these words, 'Whom say ye that I am?'
remembering his place, he exercised this primacy, a
primacy of confession, not of honour; a primacy of
faith, not of rank." St. Ambrose on the
Incarnation. Is not this to reject all idea of
primacy as taught by the Romanists? It is clear, then that
they wrong St. Ambrose in making him their authority.
No less St. Augustine. This Father indeed
said, St. Augustine on 69th Psalm.
"Peter, who a short time before had confessed that Christ
was the Son of God, and who in return for that confession,
had been called the rock upon which the Church
should be built, etc.;" but he explains his meaning in
several other works. Let us give a few specimens:
St. Augustine, 13th Sermon "Peter
received this name from the Lord to signify the Church; for
it is Christ who is the rock, and
Peter is the Christian people.
The rock is the principal word;
this is why Peter is derived from the Rock, and not
the rock from Peter; precisely as the word Christ
is not from Christian, but Christian from Christ. 'Thou art therefore Peter, and upon
rock I will build my Church. I will build thee on
myselfŚI will not be built on thee.'"
"The Church," he says again,
St. Augustine, 124th Tract. "is
built on the rock after which Peter was named. That rock was
Christ, and it is on this foundation that Peter himself was
to be raised."
In his book of the Retractations, the same
Father says: St. Augustine Retractions,
Book I. ch. 21. "In that book, I said in one place,
in speaking of St. Peter, that the Church had been built on
him as on the rock. This thought is sung by many in
the verses of the blessed Ambrose, who says of the cock,
that "when it crew the Rock of the Church deplored his
fault.' But I know that subsequently I very frequently
adopted this sense, that when the Lord said, 'Thou art
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,'
he meant by this rock, the one which Peter had
confessed in saying, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son, of
the living God;' so that Peter, called by the name of
this rock, represented the person of the Church
which is built upon that rock, and which has received the
keys of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it was not said to
him, Thou art the rock; but thou art Peter. The
rock was Christ. Peter having confessed him as all the
Church confesses him, he was called Peter. Between these two
sentiments, let the reader choose the most probable."
Thus St. Augustine condemns neither of the
interpretations given to the text, Thou art Peter,
etc. But he evidently regards as the better the one which he
most frequently used. Yet this does not prevent the Romish
theologians from quoting this Father in favour of the first
interpretation, which he admitted but once, and renounced,
though without formally condemning it.
St. Augustine teaches, like St. Cyprian,
that Peter represented the ChurchŚthat he was the
type of the Church. He does not infer from this
that the whole Church was summed up in him; but, on the
contrary, that he received nothing personally, and
all that was granted to him was granted to the Church.
Sermons 118 and 316, Sermon 10 on Peter
and Paul, Tract 124 on John et alibi. Such
is the true commentary upon the belief of the FathersŚthat
Peter typified the Church whenever he addressed
Christ, or the Lord spoke to him. St. Augustine, it is true,
admits that Peter enjoyed the primacy, but he
explains what he means by that word. "He had not," he says,
"the primacy over the disciples (in discipulos) but
among the disciples, (in discipulis.) His primacy
among the disciples was the same as that of Stephen
among the deacons." He calls Peter the first
(primus) as he calls Paul the last, (novissimus,)
which conveys only an idea of time. And that this was indeed
St. Augustine's idea, appears from the fact that,
Sermon 10 on Peter and Paul. in
this same text, so much abused by Romanists, because in it
Augustine grants Peter the primacy, he distinctly asserts
that Peter and Paul, the first and the last, were equal in
the honour of the apostleship. Therefore, according to St.
Augustine, Peter received only the high favour of being called first to the Apostleship. This distinction with
which the Lord honoured him, is his glory, but gave him no
According to Romish theologians, St.
Augustine recognized the supreme authority of the Roman
Church when he said that, the principality of the Apostolic
chair has always been in vigour there;"
St. Aug. Ep. to the Donatist Bishops. but what did he
mean by these words? It is certain that the Church of
Africa, under the inspiration of St. Augustine himself, who
was her oracle, wrote vigorously to the Bishop of Rome,
warning him not to receive to his communion thereafter,
those whom she had excommunicated, as he had done in the
case of a certain Appiarius, Epist.
Episcop. Afric. ad Celestin. et Conc Carth. III.
because he could not do so without violating the canons of
the Council of Nicea. Far from recognizing the supreme
authority of Rome, the Church of Africa, in accord with St.
Augustine, refused to that Bishop the title of summus
sacerdos. St. Augustine did not, therefore, recognize
the superior jurisdiction of the Roman Church. What, then,
does he mean by principality of the Apostleship? He
leaves no doubt upon the subject. After having ascribed this
principality of the Apostleship to St. Paul as well
as to St. Peter, he observes that it is something higher
than the episcopate. "Who does not know," says he, "that the
principality of the Apostleship is to be preferred
to every episcopate?" St.
Augustine's 10th Sermon on Peter and Paul. The
Bishops were considered, indeed, as successors of the
Apostles; but while they inherited from them the apostolic
ministry, they had no share in certain superiour
prerogatives, which only belonged to the first Apostles of
Christ. These prerogatives constitute the principality
of the Apostleship, which thus belongs equally to all
the first Apostles. And in fact, the title of Apostle-prince is given to them all indifferently by
the Fathers of the Church. Every Apostolic Church,
thereforeŚthat is, every Church that has preserved the
legitimate Apostolic successionŚhas preserved this
principality of the see, that is, of Apostolic
teaching. St. Augustine merely says that, in his time, the
Church of Rome had preserved this succession of Apostolic
teaching. Does that prove that he recognizes in her a
superiour authority, and one universal in the government of
the Church? Assuredly not. So far was he from recognizing
any such authority, that by preference, he sends the
Donatists to the Apostolic churches of the East, to be
convinced of their errour; not because he did not believe
Rome to have inherited the Apostolic teaching-for we have
seen to the contraryŚbut because Rome, mixed up as she was
already with their discussions, did not offer equal
guarantees of impartiality as the Apostolic churches of the
St. Augustine, who did not even recognize
the right of Rome to interfere with the discussion of mere
matters of discipline in the African Church, was still
further removed from recognizing her doctrinal authority. In
many of his writings he sets forth the rule of faith,
and never in that connection does be mention the doctrinal
authority of the Church of Rome. In his eyes, the rule of
faith is the constant and unanimous
consent of all the Apostolic churches. His doctrine is the
same as that of Tertullian, and it has been copied, so to
speak, by Vincent Lirinensis, whose admirable Commonitorium sums up perfectly the doctrine of the
first five centuries upon this fundamental question. In view
of this great doctrine so clearly stated by the Fathers, and
in which not the faintest foreshadowing of Roman authority
is to be foundŚa doctrine, on the contrary, diametrically
opposed to this pretended authorityŚit is difficult to
understand how the partisans of the Papacy have ventured to
invent their system; for they must have known that they were
thus putting themselves in direct opposition to all Catholic
Romish theologians quote with much pomp and
circumstance two other passages from St. Augustine. In the
first, this Father, speaking to the Pelagians,
St. Aug. Serm. 131. De Verb. Evang.
says: "As regards your cause two councils have been sent to
the Apostolic See. Rescripts have returned the case is
finishedŚmay it please God that also the errour be so!"
The advocates of the Papacy thus translate this passage: "Rome, has spokenŚthe case is finished; Roma locuta
estŚcausa finita est." This expression, Rome has
spokenŚRoma locuta est, is a mere invention. It does
not occur in St. Augustine. The otherŚthe case is
finishedŚis there. We shall presently see what it
The second passage, similar to the first, is
thus conceived: "Your cause is finished," he said to the
Pelagians, St. Aug. adv. Julian, Lib.
III. "by a competent judgment of the bishops in
general; there is nothing for you to do except to submit to
the sentence that has been given; or to repress your
restless turbulence if you cannot submit!"
The first text dates back to the year 419,
when the Pelagians had been condemned by two African
councils and by Pope Innocent I. The second is of the year
421, when eighteen Pelagian bishops had appealed from this
sentence to a general council. According to this text, say
the Romish theologians, the condemnation of the Pope,
confirming that of the African councils, had a doctrinal
authority from which there was no appeal to a general
council, and therefore Rome enjoyed a superiour and final
authority in dogmatic questions.
These inferences are not just. In the first
place, St. Augustine did not regard a sentence of Rome as
final. Thus, speaking of the question of rebaptism, he
asserts that St. Cyprian had a right to oppose his belief to
that of Pope Stephen; and be says that he himself would not
give so positive an opinion on that point if a general
council had not settled it. St. Aug. de
Baptismate adv. Donat. de Baptismate ad. Petil. At
the same time be admits that Stephen had with him the majority. He says to the Donatists, that after having
been condemned by the council of Rome, they had one resource
leftŚan appeal to the plenary or œcumenical
council. Aug. Epist. 4. It thus
appears that he did not regard the sentence of the Pope,
even given in council, as final and without appeal.
It must be remarked, moreover, that in the
case of the Pelagians, St. Augustine only once mentioned a
sentence from RomeŚin the first text quoted. In the second
text, and everywhere else, he only speaks of a judgment
given by all the bishops; particularly those of the East.
St. Aug. Lib. I. adv. Julian
This, then, is St. Augustine's argument: "You have been
condemned everywhereŚin the East and in the WestŚwhy then
appeal to the Church in council, when all the churches
unanimously condemn you?" The Pelagians relied on a sentence
in their favour given by Pope Zosimus, Innocent's successor.
How does Augustine answer them? "If I should concede (what
is not true) that the Roman Church passed this judgment upon
Celestius and Pelagius, and that she approved their
doctrines, it would only follow that the Roman clergy were
prevaricators. Ib. Lib. II. This
answer of St. Augustine overthrows the whole theory that the
Ultramontanes would build upon this enlarged and
distorted text. He did not exclude Rome in the
judgment given against the Pelagians, because that church is
Apostolic and a part of the Church Catholic; yet his
argument is wholly summed up in the following words: "Where
will you go?" he says to the Pelagians. "Do you not see,
wherever you turn, the army of Jesus Christ arrayed against
you the world over; at Constantinople quite as much as in
Africa and in the most remote lands?"
Beside all this, another proof that even at
Rome as well as elsewhere in the church, the sentence of
Innocent I. was not regarded as terminating the
case is found in the fact that, after his sentence, the case
was reëxamined at Rome itself by Zosimus, the successor of
Innocent, by the several churches in a great number of
synods; and finally Epist. Conc. Ephes.
ad Cælest. v. et St. Prosp. Opera, Phot. Biblioth. Cardinal
Noris. Hist. Pelag. Lib. II. cap. ix. Rom. ed. by the
Œcumenical Council of Ephesus, which judged the case and
confirmed the sentence given at Rome and in all other
places where it had been examined.
When we are told how Pope Innocent I.
happened to be called upon to give an opinion in the case of
Pelagius, we see very clearly that the Romish theologians
have misapplied the text.
The African bishops had condemned the
errours of Pelagius in two councils, without a thought of
Rome or its doctrine. The Pelagians then set up, to oppose
them, the alleged faith of Rome, which they said harmonized
with their own. Then the African bishops wrote to Innocent
to ask him whether this assertion of the Pelagians was true.
They were the rather moved to this that the Pelagians had
great influence at Rome. Epist. Snyod
Carthag. ad Innocent int. St. Aug. Op. Aug., Ep. 191 and
194, Possid., int. Op. Aug. St. Prosp. Chron. ad ann. 418.
They did not write to the Pope to ask of him a sentence that
should guide them, but that they might silence those who
claimed that heresy was maintained at Rome.
Innocent condemned it, and therefore Augustine says: "You
pretended that Rome was for you; Rome condemns you; you have
also been condemned by all the other churches; hence the
case is finished." Instead of asking a decision from Rome,
the African bishops pointed out to the Pope the course he
should pursue in this affair. Epist.
quinque Episcop. int. Aug. Op.
Here then again have the Romish theologians
not only abused the text of St. Augustine, but also
invented a part of it to suit the necessities of their
Another text which at first sight seems very
favourable to Romish pretensions, is that of St. Optatus of
Melevia, which is quoted on all occasions by those
theologians. Reasonably interpreted, this text is no more in
their favour than those of the other Fathers. The holy
bishop of Melevia was opposing, the Donatists who had
established a bishopric at Rome. He wished to prove to them
that this bishopric was not legitimate. To do this it was
necessary to prove that the only legitimate bishopric was
that which had descended in direct line from the
ApostlesŚfor there was but one only Apostolate of
which Peter typified the unity, and nothing outside of that
Apostolic seeŚthat is, this apostolateŚcould claim to be
legitimate. St. Optatus, therefore, thus addresses his
adversary: S. Optat. Lib. II. cont.
Thou canst not deny itŚthou knowest that the
bishop's chair was first given to Peter in the city of Rome;
upon that chair sat Peter the chief of all the Apostles;
thou knowest why he was called Peter; that thus in that one see, unity should be preserved by all; lest each of
the other Apostles should claim a separate see for himself;
and that he should be schismatic and sinful who should
establish another bishopric beside that only see."
"For the sake of unity," he elsewhere says,
Ib. Lib. I. cont. Parm. the
blessed "Peter (for whom it had been enough had he only
obtained pardon after denying his Master) deserved to be
preferred to all the Apostles, and alone received
the keys of the kingdom of heaven to impart them to others."
St. Optatus was arguing against a man who
denied the unity of the ministry and its Apostolic origin.
In order to convince him he holds up before him RomeŚthe
only Apostolic church of the West whose origin was
incontestable. He shows him that Peter, who was the type
of sacerdotal unity, founded the see of Rome; that,
consequently, he must be with this see, if he would be in
the unity and would give an Apostolic character to his
ministry; but from this to an authority over the whole
Church is a long step.
The whole argument of St. Optatus proves
this to have been his idea in the preceding texts.
to the angels of the churches, which in the Apocalypse mean
the bishops. he says, "dates back to St. PeterŚyours
only to Victor. This was the bishop the
Donatists had established at Rome. Address yourself,
if you like, to the seven angels which are in Asia; to our
colleaguesŚthose churches to whom St. John wrote, and with
which you are evidently not in communion. Now all outside of
these seven churches is foreign. If you have any
one of the angels of the seven churches with whom you are
one, you commune through him with the other angels;
through them with the churches, and through the churches
with us. Such not being the case, you have not the
characteristics of a Catholic churchŚyou are no
Such is a faithful analysis of the argument
of St. Optatus. He does not seek in his work to prove that
the legitimate Bishop of Rome had universal authorityŚhe
only proves that he was descended in direct line from the
Apostles, and that his Donatist rival was illegitimate. He
proves that all the Apostolic churches of the East were in
communion with the Apostolic Bishop of Rome, and that,
consequently, the Donatists were not in Catholic or
universal unity. We really cannot see how such teaching can
be quoted to support the pretensions of the modern Papacy.
Nay, more. We may certainly justly quote it against them.
We have now reviewed the strongest texts
upon which the Ultramontanes and modern Gallicans have
rested their theories about the papacy. The former see in
them the papal autocracy, the latter a limited monarchy of
which the Pope is the headŚnot absolute nor infallible, but
subject to the laws and decrees of the councils. Both have
misinterpreted the texts and have drawn false conclusions
from them; it would be sufficient to set them the one
against the other in order to confound them. The only facts
proved by the texts are the following:
First. St. Peter was the
among the Apostles; but this title gave him no authority.
Secondly. Peter coöperated with St. Paul in
founding the Church of Rome.
Thirdly. This Church is consequently an
The advocates of papal authority would
conclude from these facts, that the Bishops of Rome, as
successors of St. Peter, have inherited that Apostle's
prerogatives. But the texts prove neither the prerogatives
of Peter nor their descent to the Bishops of Rome. That
Bishop is no more the heir of St. Peter than of St. Paul. He
merely holds his bishopric in the same church where those
Apostles exercised their apostleship. Peter and Paul died at
Rome, but if by their death they glorified the Church, non constat that they have bequeathed their apostolate
any more than the other apostles have bequeathed theirs to
the churches in which they died. Those prerogatives which
were intended to be perpetuated in the Church, have been
transmitted not by the death of the Apostles, but by ordination. It is to this end that they
and established bishops in all the churches they founded; at
Rome as much as anywhere else. Accordingly, as appears from
the records of the first centuries, the first Bishop
of Rome was Linus, and not St. Peter. The Roman episcopate,
therefore, only dates back to Linus, and that episcopate
draws its origin from the Apostolate; from Paul first, who
ordained the first two bishops, then from Peter, who
ordained Clement, who was chosen to fill the see of Rome
after the death of Anencletus, and long after Peter's death.
The Bishops of Antioch are traced in precisely the same
manner to the apostolate of Peter and Paul; those of
Alexandria also go back to Peter by St. Mark, who was the
delegate and disciple of that Apostle. The other Apostolic
Sees, Jerusalem, Smyrna, Byzantium, etc., can be traced like
that of Rome to some one of the Apostles. Their episcopate is thus
Apostolic, but it is not
Before concluding our examination of the
Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, we must mention,
in the way of objection, some texts of St. Jerome that seem
favourable to such papal extravagances. We must premise:
First. That even should the words of this
Father be taken literally, they could prove nothing, since
he would be alone against all; and the opinion of a single
Father proves absolutely nothing as to Catholic doctrine.
Secondly. That these texts of St. Jerome
cannot be taken literally without making him contradict
Writing to Pope Damasus, his friend and
protector, Jerome thus expresses himself:
St. Hieron. Epis. 57 ad Damas.
"Although your greatness awes me, your goodness reässures. I
ask of the priest the saving sacrificeŚof the shepherd the
help he owes to the sheep. I speak to the successor of the
fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. Following
no chief save Christ, I
am united in communion with your Holiness; that is to say,
with the see of Peter. I know the Church is built upon this
rock. Who eats not of the lamb in this house is defiled.
Whoever dwells not in Noah's ark will perish at the time of
the deluge. I do not know Vitalis; I repel Meletius ; I
ignore Paulinus. This alludes to the
dissensions in the church of Antioch. Whoever does
not reap with you, scatters his harvest; that is, he who is
not of Christ is of Antichrist." Then he asks Damasus if he
shall speak of the divine hypostases, or be silent.
And addressing Damasus or the Roman ladies,
particularly Eustochia Jerome speaks in very nearly the same
terms of the Roman see.
Should his words be taken literally, or
should we not rather see in them only a bit of flattery
addressed to the PopeŚthe rather that Damasus had given to
Jerome pledges not only of protection but of friendship? At
all events, it is certain that we cannot take them literally
without making St. Jerome contradict himself. We notice, in
the first place, that he recognized but one First in the ChurchŚJesus Christ; that he calls
the Apostle Peter the rock on which the Church is
built, asserting at the same time that Christ alone is that
rock, and that the title of secondary stones
belongs equally to all the Apostles and to the
Prophets. "The stones,"
Hieron. adv. Jovinian. he says, "must be understood
to mean the Prophets and the Apostles. The Church is the
rock founded upon the most solid stone." He teaches
that the Church is represented by the Apostles and Prophets,
meaning that it is established upon bothŚ"super
prophetas et apostolos constituta." Yet, in his letter
to Damasus, he seems to say that Peter is the foundation of
the Church, to the exclusion of the others.
But did he not, perhaps, mean to imply that
Peter had some superiority as a foundation of the Church?
Not so; for he clearly says the contrary: "The solidity of
the Church," he says, "is supported upon them (the Apostles
and Prophets) equally. S. Hieron. adv.
Jovin. He calls Peter prince of the
Apostles; but he also says: "He (Christ) shows us Peter and
AndrewŚprinces of the ApostlesŚestablished as teachers of
Was this principality of Peter an
authority, as might be inferred from the letter to
Damasus? Jerome answers that question in the following
passage: St. Hieron. adv. Pelag. Lib. I.
ch. 4. "What can be claimed for Aristotle that we do
not find in Paul? for Plato that does not belong to Peter?
As Plato was the prince of philosophers, so Peter
was the prince of Apostles, upon whom the Church of the Lord
was built as upon a solid rock." Elsewhere,
S. Hieron. comment. in Epist. ad Galat.
he represents St. Paul saying: "I am in nothing
inferior to Peter; for we were ordained by the same
God for the same ministry." Clearly, if inferior in
nothing, (in nullo,) then equal in every thing.
The Romish theologians cannot deny that the
Fathers have generally taught the equality of the
Apostles among themselves; on this point, tradition is
unauimous. No Father of the Church has taught any other
doctrine. But these theologians affect to give no weight to
so important a fact. They try to evade the overwhelming
testimony of the Fathers by this distinction: the Apostles,
they say, were equal in respect of the apostolate,
but not in respect of the primacy.
Lest we be accused of falsely
attributing this distinction to the Romish party, let us
here say that it may be found in the works of a theologian
of great authority in that party, Father Perrone. Tract de
Loc. Theol. part 1st, sect. 2d, chap. 1. Difficult respons.
ad 6. But clearly, such a primacy, as it is
understood at Rome, cannot coëxist with any equality
whatsoever. The Fathers cannot teach the equality of the
Apostles without denying the superiority of any one of them.
They teach that equality absolutely. To resort, then, to a
distinction that takes away this absolute character, is to
falsify their testimony.
After all, has St. Jerome conceded to the
see of Rome any exceptional prerogatives, as we might be led
to think from his letters to Damasus and Eustochia? Let us
see what he says in another letter: St.
Hieron. Epist. 146 ad Ev.
"We must not believe that the city of Rome
is a different church from that of the whole world. Gaul,
Britain, Africa, Persia, the East, India, all the barbarous
nations, adore Jesus Christ, and observe one and the
same rule of truth. If one is looking for authority, the
world is greater than one city. Wherever there is a
Bishop, be he at Rome or at Eugubium, at Constantinople or
at Rhegium, at Alexandria or at Tanis, he has the same
authority, the same merit, because he has the same
priesthood. The power that riches give, and the low estate
to which poverty reduces, render a Bishop neither greater
It cannot be more distinctly stated that the
rule of truth dwells only in the entire episcopal body, and
not at Rome; that the Bishop of Rome is no more, as bishop,
than the humblest bishop of the Church; that the power he
possessed because of his riches, did not make him superiour
to the rest. One might almost think that St. Jerome exerted
himself, in all his works, to refute his own letters to
But, say the Roman theologians, the papal
prerogatives were so well recognized, that even the heretic
Jovinian mentions them. And, in fact, in order to prove to
St. Jerome that the estate of marriage was superior to that
of virginity, he says: "St. John was a virgin, and St. Peter
was married; why, then, did Christ prefer St. Peter to St.
John to build his Church on him?" The Romanists
stop here, but do not give us St. Jerome's answer to
JovinianŚa proceeding not creditable to their good faith, as
we shall see. Here is St. Jerome's answer:
S. Hieron. Lib. I. adv. Jovin.
"If he chose Peter rather than John for this honourable
distinction, it was that it was more expedient not to confer
it upon a young man, nay a child, as John was, in order to
excite no jealousy. But if Peter be an Apostle, so is John
also. The one is married, the other is virgin; but Peter is
only an Apostle, and John is an Apostle, an
Evangelist, and a Prophet."
St. Jerome could not have reasoned thus, if
he had had the same idea of St. Peter's primacy as is held
at Rome concerning that of the Pope. His reasoning against
Jovinian would have been worthless if that heretic had
considered Peter's primacy otherwise than as a priority,
in virtue of which he was the representative of the
Apostolic college, and the type of unity;
for he (St. Jerome) grounds his argument upon this conceded point: that St. Peter was but an Apostle like
the others. If Jovinian had believed that Peter was any
thing more than this, St. Jerome's argument would have been
ridiculous. And if St. Peter had been the chiefŚthe
prince of the Apostles in the sense that Rome now
gives to these expressionsŚwould St. Jerome have laid down
as the first principle of his argument, that St. John was
superiour to St. Peter, because of his characters of Evangelist and
After the review we have given of the
constant and universal tradition of the
Church, during the first five centuries, we may well be
amazed to hear Cardinal Orsi Orsi, de
Infallib. Rom. Pontif. assert, that nothing could be
opposed to papal pretensions except a few isolated texts,
which do not contain the true sense of Catholic tradition;
to hear all the advocates of the Papacy declare that
Catholic tradition is in favour of their system, especially
in the first centuries!