TEACHINGS OF VARIOUS CHURCH FATHERS
Monday, April 7, 2014
Réné-Francois Guettée - The Papacy - part three
TEACHINGS OF VARIOUS CHURCH FATHERS
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. 325.
There has been a great deal of discussion upon this famous cannon, 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,* 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
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 Nicene Council: Rome
“Let the ancient custom be preserved, that exists in
and Pentapolis, that the
Bishop of Alexandria have authority in all these countries, since that has also
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.
* We give it as a specimen of its kind:
Cam 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.
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 churches.
But what were the churches over which, according to custom, the Church of Rome exercised a right of supervision ?
Ruffinus designates them Suburbicarian. 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
reign, the Church was divided in dioceses and provinces like the empire itself.* From this
undeniable fact, we know the suburbicarian churches; they are those which existed in places of the same name in the fourth century-these places being those that were dependent upon the diocese, or the
prefecture of Rome-that is to say, the ten provinces called “Sicilia,
Corsica, Sardinia, Campania, Tuscia,
Picenum Suburbicarium, Apulia
cum Calabria, ,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† calls Milan the metropolis of' Italy, Bruttium, Samnium
Rome the metropolis of the . In the fourth
the Jurisdiction of the
Roman bishops extended only over southern
Italy and the islands of Corsica, Sicily, and Sardinia. Roman Territory
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 usage.
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.
* 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.
† St. Athanas. Ep. ad Solit.
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
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 Church.
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
of Asia,* 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 refused--not to confirm it by his authority--but simply to admit it. “This
* Asia Minor is understood, the ancient Metropolis of which was Ephesus. The part of
confided to the jurisdiction
the Bishop of Antioch is called
decree shall never obtain our consent," he said.* 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.† In another letter addressed to the Emperor Marcianus,‡ 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 innovation."
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 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 Church.
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.** 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,†† 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
* St. Leo, epis. liii. vet. edit.; lxxxiv.edit.Quesn.
‡ St. Leo, epis. iiv. vet. edit.; ixxxviii. edit. Quesn.
§ St. Leo, epis. iv. vet.edit.
** St. Leo, epis. ixi.vet.edit.; lxxx.edit.Quesn.
†† St. Leo, epis. ixii. vet.edit; xcii.edit.Quesn.
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 bishop--St. Avitus, metropolitan Bishop of Vienne--to John, Bishop of Constantinople.* 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."†
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