Archive for the ‘Rome’ Category

The network of the communio, as we have seen it in Christian antiquity, appears at first to allow for no church to be subordinate or superior to any other church. In fact, in certain circumstances, each bishop could presume to express the will of the universal Church. Each bishop could excommunicate any other bishop and thereby separate him from universal communion. Within the communio all are equal. No one has rights or powers which the others do not possess in the same degree. At first sight, therefore, the system of communio seems to exclude any special prerogative for the see of Rome.

At the end of the second century we can observe the initial formation of metropolitan groupings among the bishops of the same civil province. The first traces of this are the synods that Victor of Rome called just before A.D. 200 in an attempt to settle the controversy over the celebration of Easter. On this occasion the future metropolitan sees made their appearance in some regions. By the fourth century, organized ecclesiastical provinces, as they were later called, were fully developed.

Historical studies treating this development, up to the institution of the patriarchates, invariably lead to the negative conclusion that the primacy of the Roman church was not a product of this process of organization. It was not the case that the hierarchy of the Church grew up like a pyramid, with the bishop of Rome at the apex over bishops, metropolitans, primates, and patriarchs. On the contrary, the overdevelopment of the metropolitan system actually obscured , for a while and to some extent, the prerogatives of the Roman see. Nonetheless, at least from the fifth or sixth century onward, these Roman prerogatives are an undeniable fact. Since they did not arise out of the metropolitan organizations, we must look elsewhere for their origin.


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Reformed Protestant Tim Enloe of Pontiffixations (“Ponderings on the Papacy by a Sympathetic Separated Brother”) has begun what looks like a promising series on the concept of Romanitas and the Papacy. Some interesting tidbits from his first post:

. . . [I]t is very easy to claim that “exegesis” of Scripture demonstrates that papal claims are “unbiblical.” It is very easy to claim that “documents” demonstrate that papal claims are “unhistorical.” These things are on their face deeply offensive to Catholics, and they often provoke apologetic responses from Catholics that are equally problematic. On the contrary, operating outside the world of apologetics, Medieval scholar Walter Ullmann argues that in order to understand the papacy we must understand it “from within itself and from its own premisses.” That is, we “cannot enter into any discussion as to whether the principles set forth and applied by the medieval papacy were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, were in agreement with the Bible or violated biblical themes, were justified or unjustified. [Principles of Government and Politics in the Middle Ages (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1961), pg. 29]. Though this seems counterintuitive to our typical approach to the papacy, I believe it is an approach that will shed much light and yield much fruit …

In line with Ullmann’s argument, then, the first deeper reality I wish to highlight in my ongoing examination of the cultural moorings of the papacy is the broad concept summed up by the Latin term Romanitas, or, “Roman-ness.” The word sums up a deep and wide cultural heritage of the Ancient Roman world. It was a heritage the principles of which were first developed by the Ancient Greeks and later taken up by their Roman conquerors, who in so many ways simply emulated Greek achievements rather than coming up with their own. Romanitas, like its predecessor concept “Hellenic” (Greek), could be summed up with many words, not least of which is “imperialistic.” This word is, in our culturally pluralistic age, an ugly sounding word roughly akin to “prejudice” or “bigotry.” To the Ancient people who used it, however, it was neither prejudice nor bigotry, but a simple reflection of reality …

In this introductory post to understanding papal claims in their most natural historical and cultural milieu (instead of the artificial ones that our developed Protestant polemics often impose upon the papacy) I argue that the Ancient Roman concept of Romanitas was something very much like what Americanitas is to us, and that it had very similar effects on Ancient Romans. As with all cultural heritages, Romanitas was like the air that Ancient Roman people breathed. It was always there, always relied upon, always known to be essential, but rarely ever noticed in a self-reflective, critical manner. It just was “the way things are,” or, failing that, “the way things ought to be.” …

But what sorts of things did Romanitas entail, and what were the interfaces of these entailments with the rise and development of papal claims? In subsequent posts I will outline some answers in detail. For now I will whet the readers’ appetite with a few fancy Latin terms that, despite jokes about Latin being a “dead language,” describe realities that are quite alive and well today in the claims of the papacy: imperium (ability to command), jurisdictio (jurisdiction), populus (the people), patricius (noble), principatus (primacy), potestas (power), paterfamilias (head of the house), auctoritas (authority), and others. As Protestants, as brethren separated from our Roman family members, we must try to come to grips with these terms and the complex realities that they describe. And if there is anything that it we must understand about these terms and the complex realities that they describe, it is that while they may not be “self-evident truths” the way that Catholics in the grip of Romanitas often think they do, neither do they surrender to our typical simplistic form of biblical prooftexting and historical deconstruction.

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Part I | Part II

The position taken by Constantine in regard to Rome was largely fostered by the powerful Roman ideology that had been transferred to Constantinople, the ‘New Rome.’ The politico-religious thought of the Emperors and the people was to be affected first; the canonico-theological thought of the Patriarchs and clergy was to be affected later.

The idea of Constantinople as the New Rome was not that of Constantine himself, but it devolved from his action, and the transference of all the taxis of ancient Rome to Byzantium. This theme has been treated in many publications. Along with the immense prestige of Rome, there was in Byzantium the consciousness of continuing the Roman Empire; this, too, has often been emphasized by the commentators; (Romaios = Byzantine). It was inevitable, especially in the actual and ideological framework of a Church of Empire, that the idea of Constantinople as New Rome should entail ecclesiological and canonical consequences, the very ones that are generally and quite simply classed under the heading “ambition of the Patriarchs of Constantinople.” We will return to this later in our comments. If there had been a transfer of Empire, it was reasoned, there had consequently also been a transfer of ecclesiological primacy.


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Receives Orthodox Delegation on Feast of Apostles

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- St. Peter’s profession of faith continues to be a guarantee of Christian unity, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this Friday, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, in a homily during a Eucharistic concelebration with 46 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he imposed the pallium.

A delegation sent by Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, also attended the Mass.

In his homily, the Holy Father commented on the dialogue between Jesus and the apostles when Christ asked them, “And you, who do you say that I am?”

“In Peter’s profession of faith, dear brothers and sisters, we can feel and be one, despite the divisions that throughout the centuries have wounded the unity of the Church with consequences that still exist today,” the Pontiff said.

Benedict XVI reaffirmed his “commitment to fulfill the will of Christ, who wants us to be united.”


After the Mass, the Pope gave an address to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus.

In words directed to the orthodox delegation: “Our meetings, the reciprocal visits and the dialogues taking place at the moment are not simple gestures of courtesy, or attempts at reaching a compromise, but the sign of a common will to do whatever possible so that we can reach that full communion which Christ prayed for in his prayer to the Father at the Last Supper: ‘Ut unum sint.’

“Among these initiatives there is also the ‘Pauline Year’ that I proclaimed last evening, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, at the tomb of the Apostle Paul.”

The orthodox delegation included Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis of France, director of the Office of the Orthodox Church to the European Union; Metropolitan Gennadios Limouris of Sassima, co-president of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church; and by Deacon Andreas Sophianopoulos, third deacon of the Patriarchal See of Phanar.

After the Angelus, the Holy Father received the delegation in audience in the Apostolic Palace, followed by lunch.

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A thought-provoking comment from our friend Father Patrick:

The universal jurisdiction of Rome for appeals I believe is one of the core aspects of its Petrine role in the Church. I would expect to see appeals to Rome from all over the Church, West and East. This should not be very common though because most matters would be dealt within Metropolitan jurisdictions but the right of appeal to Rome remains open for difficult cases. This seems to fit the evidence from the early Church. Once Constantinople becomes established in the East and shares in Rome’s prerogatives then naturally appeals from Eastern Churches would be heard in New Rome rather than the more distant Old Rome, thus seeing a decline in Eastern cases in the West. However, the West still holds the preeminence in manifesting the unity of the Church, and in appeals, and it is not surprising to see in some issues that Rome is appealed to from the East.

All this evidence does not though prove that Rome had any ordinary jurisdiction within Bishoprics or Metropolises. Thus, the Pope could not appoint Bishops directly of right in Eastern Metropolises or even Priests in another Diocese, although he may send appropriate candidates in case of a dispute that was appealed to Rome. Even in the West, I don’t think he had any internal jurisdiction as such. Is there evidence of this other than as a result of an appeal? Could he by right enter another Metropolis and consecrate a Bishop, especially unilaterally without at least the consent of the other Bishops, as the Metropolitan would need? Could he ordain a Priest in another diocese without the consent of the governing Bishop? These are areas where Orthodox ecclesiology could diverge from Roman Catholic ecclesiology, if the Pope could do these things by right outside the context of his appellate jurisdiction.

On this thread, it would seem that it is entirely appropriate to see St Peter as the Prince of Apostles and speak of him alone in this matter, and of course speak of Petrine Sees rather than Petrine and Pauline Sees. This would reflect that the unity of the Church can be manifest in one See. However, this does not limit St Paul from having the same Princedom and authority as St Peter, also as Prince of the Apostles and Apostle to the Gentiles. He was also present in Antioch and Rome, and St Mark also worked as his disciple, so he is also connected with the Traditional Petrine Sees. He is not named as the one Prince as is St Peter to recognise that the Church is one but he is celebrated with St Peter as being equal with him. This fits with an Orthodox understanding of Roman Primacy that can at once recognises the special place of Rome as the head of the Churches without excluding Constantinople from sharing the same rights etc. This is reflected in the Canons regarding Constantinople.

I think that more evidence still needs to come forward that Old Rome has a jurisdiction that New Rome cannot have equally and show the Canons regarding New Rome to have been false or at least to be assuming something that they did not make explicit, which would be strange when they were giving equal privileges not to be careful to ensure this was not open to obvious misinterpretation if they did to really mean this. Perhaps someone has a good argument on this matter. This would also carry a fundamental split in ecclesiology between East and West right back to the second Ecumenical Council. Certainly some of St Leo’s criticisms of Canon 28 may support this and it was not obviously healed before 1054 (as a symbolic date in the rift.) From what I can see the Eastern Churches don’t seem to have understood the present Papal claims from early on and it wasn’t a matter of a sudden rejection of Tradition in the Schism but something that was never understood as part of the Tradition. I am less sure of the Western thinking in these times but equally the sense of maintaining the Tradition rather than a recent, reasoned innovation could have been in their minds at the Schism.

Is the rise of Constantinople a fundamental error of ecclesiology or is it the proof that later Papal claims over extended themselves? Is St Paul’s sudden rise to Prince of the Apostles a fundamental error or a demonstration of both the singularity of St Peter’s position and also that another could share in this thus showing its symbolic value is one but its power is not exclusive?

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Just in time for the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul (June 29), I was delighted to find online the full text of two classic studies on the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Peter in Rome:

The entire host site, in fact, is well worth careful perusal.

Ignatius Press recently printed another interesting little study by Margherita Guarducci, The Primacy of the Church of Rome: Documents, Reflections, Proofs, which covers not only the standard pieces of evidence from early Christian history and literature, but also a number of other interesting signs of the preeminence of the Roman Church – for instance, the oldest Christian basilica (St. John Lateran), the oldest Christian icons (of Christ and Mary), the oldest Christian statue (of St. Peter), and of course the relics of Peter buried under his Basilica on the Vatican Hill.

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See here for Part I.

In this excerpt from Jurisdiction in the Early Church: Episcopal and Papal, Dom Gregory Dix summarizes his understanding of the pre-Nicene episcopate as an office entirely unrelated to the concept of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and sets the stage for the next part of his argument concerning the nature of papal authority.

[In the pre-Nicene Church,] the episcopate is no more an office conveying “jurisdiction” than the diaconate. So far as “jurisdiction” is to be discerned at all, it lies with the presbyterate collectively. The bishop’s office is per se wholly religious. He stands before the Church for God, before God for the Church. He is the mediatorial, sacrificing priest, through whom the Church’s oblation of itself in the Eucharist is presented, through whom it returns identified with the Self-oblation of Christ and charged with sacramental power. Above all he is the unique organ of the Holy Spirit who indwells the Church, uniting all its members with each other and with God. As such, the bishop is par excellence the doctrinal authority of the Church, voicing her tradition, interpreting the Scriptures, revealing by the voice of the Spirit the authentic “saving” teaching. He is, further, ex officio a prophet, ex officio a healer and (the highest form of healing) a supremely potent exorcist. But in all this he is simply the special organ of the Spirit who indwells the Church. He is the Church’s minister, not its ruler. The decisive change is, as I have suggested, when the bishop (or bishops) acquires the ex officio presidency in the governing presbyterate in virtue simply of his sacramental power.

If this outline sketch represents anything like a correct estimate of the principles of Church Order recognized before Nicaea, it is obvious how unsatisfactory and essentially unhistorical must be all attempts, from whatever standpoint, to interpret particular incidents in the exercise of the pre-Nicene Papal primacy, or even that primacy itself, in terms of “jurisdiction.” It is an anachronism. It introduces a criterion for judgment of events which could not have been in the minds of the actors and their contemporaries, and so confuses and falsifies the meaning of the history, even when most accurately narrated. The persistence and lack of caution with which some (not the best) Roman Catholic historians attempt to place this interpretation on certain events in pre-Nicene history, to which it manifestly does not apply, have long been reprobated by Anglican authors. I am not sure that we have been so wide awake to the unsuitability of the same criterion in the other direction. Dr. Kidd, for instance, finally assesses the original Roman primacy as a “primacy of leadership, more than a primacy of honour, though less than a primacy of jurisdiction.” It is this last clause which seems to me, in all deference, to introduce this same difficulty with respect to some parts of the evidence that the insistence on an actual “primacy of jurisdiction” does for others.


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