Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Réné-Francois Guettée - The Papacy - part four
This is why the metropolitans of Cyprus styled themselves as before aftoképhali (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-
* Works of St. Avitus, in the miscellaneous works of P. Sirmond.
† St. Leo, Epis. xcii. Labbe, Collec. of Councils. Cabassut. Not. Eccl. p. 209.
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*
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 Emperor's command.
“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 same.
* Euseb. Life of
, Book III. chap. v. et seq. Constantine
“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 Life of 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,* or Alexander of Alexandria, as Niectas† 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
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,* who was an eye-witness--a declaration that nothing contradicts--can 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,† "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
* Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. Book I. ch. vii.
† Nicet. Thesaur. fid orthodox, Book V. ch. vii.
* Euseb. Life of
III. chap. xiii. Constantine
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 question."
“CONSTANTINUS AUGUSTUS 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."§ 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 Council--that of Arianism--Constantine wrote of it to Egypt, where the discussion had birth, “confirming,” writes Eusebius, "and sanctioning the decrees of the Council on this subject.*
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 confidence--Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret--bear 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
‡ Life of Constantine, Bood III. ch. xvi. and xvii.
§ Euseb. Life of
III. ch. xxi. Constantine
* Euseb. Life of
III. ch. xxiii. Constantine
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 Rome.
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.†
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 Antioch.
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
died during the sitting
of the council. Those who
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 ovation.
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.
† 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 critics--at least, in many respects, he is a 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.
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.*
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, today, 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.†
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,‡ "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,§ “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 council.
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
* 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.
† See Ecclesiastical Histories of Sozomen and of Theodoret; the Letters of St. Jerrome and of St. Ambrose; the
Collection of the Councils by Labbe.
‡ See Works of St. Cyril of Alexandria; Collection of the Councils, by Labbe. Eccl. Hist. of Socrates.
§ Fleury, Eccl. Hist. Book XXV. Ch xxxvii.
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 reopened. 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 all 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 whole earth!”
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 Celestine.
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 Nestorius-in 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,* 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 (ecumenical. 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 bishops.
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 importance.
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
* 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.
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 Rome--as he says in several of his letters to Marcianus--Paschasinus, 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 preside in 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 bad several presidents; that the
legates of the Bishop of
Rome and Anatolius of Constantinople acted simultaneously as ecclesiastical presidents.
was the case in the twelfth session particularly; and
accordingly a council of Sardinia says, in a letter addressed to the Emperor Leo:* "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 The Synods, designates as presidents of the Council Anatolius--the 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.†
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
* Int. act. Conc. Chalced.
† Ced. Compend. Hist; Zonar. Annal.; Nil. Rhod. de Synod.
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 indicated.
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 meaning.
St. Gregory the Great in his letters against the title of Ecumenical 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
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 universal Church
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 as illegal.
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 value.
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 Papacy.
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 centuries.
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* 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.† “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,‡ “and all the bishops of
the West, regarded the deposition of the
orthodox bishops as an insult
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,§ 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* 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
* Socrates, Hist. Eccl. Lib. II. c. xvii.
† Sozom. Hist. Eccl. Lib. III. c. vi.
‡ Sozom. Hist. Eccl. Lib. III. c. vii.
§ Socrates, Hist. Eccl. Lib, II. c. xv.
* Sozom. Lib. III. c. viii.
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,† 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
as he claimed in the answer
which he addressed to them.‡ Western Church
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 bishops--especially St. Athanasius. That was the object of the Council of Sardica, (A. D. 347.)§
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
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 honour.
In his letter, written to the Eastern bishops, in the name of the Roman council,** 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 ?"*
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
† Sozom. Lib. III. c. viii.
‡ letter of Julius to the Eastern Bishops, in the Apology of St. Athanasius, § 26.
§ Socrat. Hist. Eccl. Lib. I. c. xx.
** Athanas. Apolog. § 36.
* Athanas. Apolog. § 35.
council—LET 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, (cannon 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, Greek--7th Latin) prescribed the practice of these appeals to
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.†
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,‡ 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 mouth."
We have translated the word caput 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.
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.
† See the letter of Julius to the Eastern Bishops in the Apology of St. Athanasius.
‡ Athan. Apolog. Adv. Arianos; Hillary of
, Fragments; Theodoret, Eccl.
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 Constantius--as 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;* 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.†
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 Donatists.
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 age--Matenus of Cologne, Rheticius of Autun, and Marinus of Arles. He sent them to Rome,
to join with Miltiades, bishop of that city, and Mark,‡ 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.§
“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,).* since between us bishops in Africa there are dissensions, we beseech thee let thy piety give us judges who are of
* To establish this fact, it is only necessary to quote the first line of the signatures of the council: “Hosius of
† 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.
‡ It is very generally admitted by the learned that Mark was an influential priest, who was Bishop of Rome after
§ St. Optat.
Parmenianus. Book I.
* The Donatists here refer to the crime of having given up the Holy Scriptures during the persecutions.
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.
thus to the two Roman judges:†
“ Constantine Augustus, to Miltiades, Bishop of Rome and to Marcus.‡ 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
(imón) 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,
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 asked.
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
† Euseb. Eccl. Hist. BookX. ch. v.
‡ 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 Ke Márko by ierárhi. 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 ierárhi, 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 Ke Márko. Must a text be distorted and a bad word introduced in order to please the Romish theologians? The end will not justify the means.
necessarily have been regarded as final if his sovereign authority had been recognized. Such was not the case.
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 empire--that 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.* This letter is important as showing that the judgment at Rome was not
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
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 condemned.
‘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 of God.
“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
* Euseb. loc. cit. Saint Opatus, Book I. Letters of St. Augustin, passim. Father Labee’s Collect. of Gallican
Councils in Sirmond.
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