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Archive for the ‘Rome’ Category

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

The interpretation we have sketched is, as it were, a key which unlocks the mind of the council and of Leo. The proof that it is the true key is that it can be turned, and than an intelligible meaning is thereby opened. The rival interpretations are as keys that will not turn: they meet with obstacles which they cannot pass – they do not fit the lock. But the former possesses over them these not inconsiderable advantages, that it contradicts no utterance of the council and they do; this is not irreconcilable with the immemorial tradition of the Church, and they are; it accounts for the absence of any objection on St. Leo’s part to these particular words; it gives a good reason why he should entertain no objection to the words in themselves; it is inconsistent with no established fact of history; and no other interpretation will harmonise with the language used towards the Pope in the letters in which his assent is entreated.

It is a most certain fact of history that Peter and Paul did give Rome the primacy – “the place in which the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul continually sit in judgment,” says the Council of Arles eleven years before Nicaea – and also that they gave it to Rome “because it was the Imperial City,” and that St. Leo himself devoted an entire sermon on the great Festival of these Apostles to the reassertion of this immemorial and unquestioned tradition, and that no one had ever said otherwise. These things being so, we are unable to see how any reasonable critic can draw any other conclusion than ours, unless he is driven to do so by the unkind necessities of his position. The attitude of the Pope towards the canon as a whole, not only in what he does not say, but also in what he does, appears to confirm the validity of our argument. He does not deny the assertion regarding the reasons which actuated “the Fathers,” but in respect to Alexandria and Antioch he denies the application. Whatever were the reasons which caused St. Peter to grant special distinction to these two sees – and the reasons, no doubt, were they secular greatness and geographical position – still, the distinction having been thus granted, their subsequent ecclesiastical greatness was due to their connection with St. Peter, and not to the reasons which actuated him.

It only remains to be said that the Pope finally annulled the canon by virtue of the authority of St. Peter, which the canon is supposed by opponents implicity, if not explicitly, to deny to him. His words in his letter to Pulcheria are as follows: “Those things agreed on by the bishops contrary to the rules of the holy canons drawn up at Nicaea, in union with the piety of your faith, we do annul, and by the authority of the Blessed Apostle Peter do, by a general definition, make utterly void” – “Consensiones vero episcoporum sanctorum Canonum apud Nicaeam conditorum repungnantes, unita nobiscum vestrae fidei pietate, in irritum mittimus, et, per auctoritatem Beati Petri Apostoli, generali prorsus definitione cassimus.” The Emperor Marcian accepts the refusal and praises the Pope because he stands out as the one who, “by guarding the ecclesiastical canons, has suffered no innovation upon ancient custom and the order agreed upon of old.” And finally Anatolius himself writes to submit to the Pope’s decision, “in order that, by obeying you, I might fulfil those things which have seemed good to your mind. For be it far from me to oppose whatsoever was commanded me in those letters.” And the letter concludes with the words previously quoted: “Gestorum vis omnis et confirmatio auctoritati vestrae beatitudinis reservata est.” The final word, therefore, of the Patriarch of Constantinople himself upon the question is a humble acknowledgement that not even a General Council could give him the precedency he desired for his See without the assent and confirmation of the Sovereign Pontiff.

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Part I | Part II | Part III

We must, therefore, interpret the hoi pateres, Patres, of the canon to mean the Apostles and their successors; the Apostles as the original donors, their successors as bearing witness to what was handed down. This is no forced interpretation, for the expression is often used in this sense, and has a right to be considered on its own merits, apart from the important fact that an interpretation of the words of the canon which does not include the Apostles is impossible on independent grounds. St. Leo himself very frequently uses the word in the sense we have indicated. “The rule observed carefully by our Fathers,” he writes to Dioscorus, meaning, as he explains, the rule made by Peter and handed down by his successors. “The authority of custom which we know comes down from the Apostles’ teaching,” he says in the same letter. “The traditions of the Fathers,” paternal traditions, he calls them in his letter to the bishops of the Council of Chalcedon; “what has become fixed in our custom as derived from the form of paternal tradition;” “the rules of the Fathers” (regulae, or, constituta Patrum); all these expressions mean one thing to the Pope, namely, that which was deposited in the Church by the Apostles and has been handed down by those who took their place. But this is a quite common usage.

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Part I | Part II

The most significant and important point of all is that the Pope St. Leo himself saw no attack on the Privilegia Petri in the canon. The principle on which the bishops based the canon did come under his notice; for amongst the many reasons he gave for rejecting it was this, that the See of Constantinople ought not to deprive Alexandria and Antioch of their place as second and third sees, because it was not an Apostolic foundation and they were. The See of Alexandria, he tells Anatolius, cannot be stripped of the dignity which it had received on account of Mark, the disciple of Peter, notwithstanding the apostacy of Dioscorus; nor could Antioch, where Peter preached and where the Christian name first arose, lose its rank as third. And yet in none of his letters, in which he recites the many objections to the “innovation,” does he take any exception to the words which assert that his own See of Rome owed its rank to the secular greatness of the city: “Etenim sedi senioris Romae” (or, “throno antiquae Romae”) “propter Imperium civitatis illius” (or, “quod privilegia tribuerunt” (reddiderunt) – so run the Latin versions of these oft-quoted words. “Leo himself,” says the late Canon Bright, who failed to perceive the immense significance of the admission, “was content to denounce it, not on account of St. Peter’s prerogatives, but in the name of the Council of Nicaea.” And the late Canon Carter, a leading Anglican authority, also says: “Rome did not oppose the decree as derogatory to herself.” These admissions appear to concede our point, which is that the decree neither denied nor was intended to deny the Petrine privilege of the Holy See, and that therefore it did not and could not mean that the Pope’s position was based merely on ecclesiastical consent.

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Part I

The Council committed itself in precise and definite terms to the belief that the Pope was the inheritor of the privileges of St. Peter, and head of the Church by Divine right. Passing by the well-known and significant cry of the assembled Fathers on hearing the Pope’s letter to Flavian, “Peter hath spoken by Leo (dia Leontos),” let us turn to the sentence of deposition pronounced by the Papal legate on Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, and subscribed by every bishop at the council: “Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, Archbishop of the great and elder Rome, by us (his legates) and this present most holy Council (di himon kai tes parouses hagiotates sunodou), in union with the thrice-blessed and all-honoured apostle Peter, who is the Rock and support (petra kai krepis) of the Catholic Church and the foundation (ho themelios) of the orthodox faith, has deprived (egumnosen, Leon being the subject) him of his episcopate, etc.” …

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Part I | Part II

Anyone who has dealt with the ancient sources would probably agree with our description of the communio and the position of Rome as its focal point. But the real question is still to be asked, and it is here that opinions differ sharply. Is this central position of the Roman bishops in the Church in fact an earlier form of the papal primacy as later understood in canon law and dogma? Is it not at most a germ from which in the course of time the later primacy could grow? Or is it not like a tree onto which so many alien branches have been grafted that it comes to bear fruits not anticipated in the original seed? St. Ambrose affirms that “the rights of the treasured communio” flowed forth from the Roman church to all the other churches. Let us grant that this was a common opinion. We know that the bishop of Rome, Damasus, had at that time a lively correspondence with the other churches. Jerome related that while he was in Rome Damasus commissioned him to answer questions posed by both eastern and western synods. But can one really say that Damasus was ruling the whole Church in the manner of later popes?

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Part One

The fact that the Roman church held in some sense a privileged position in the early centuries is rarely contested today. In any case, it was the first see (prima sedes). Thus, the real question is what this undeniable primacy meant and how it is related to the later forms of papal primacy. So far we have sought to understand this primacy as the focal point of the communio. Before we tackle the question of the connection between this and the later papal primacy, we should examine briefly other elements in the early Church that could have led to the early emergence of Rome’s preeminence.

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Tim Enloe has posted more on “Romanitas” and the Papacy, specifically on the concept of the paterfamilias:

The word “pope” comes from the Latin papa, which of course, means “father.” To understand the cultural world of Romanitas, which deeply undergirds papal theory and assumptions about reality, we must understand about father is the concept of paterfamilias. This term can also mean “father,” but to unpack its implications it is better to say that it means “head of the house.”

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