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A Rebuttal of Roman Catholic Claims
of Superiority and Infallibility of the Pope


I. Forward to the Rebuttal of Rome’s claims


Let us first present the Papacy’s own claims for herself, so that the reader will clearly see the contradiction between the faith of the ancient (Orthodox) Church and the more recent innovations of Rome.  Here follow the definitions of Rome concerning her supremacy and infallibility:

“For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the Holy Roman See, which he founded and consecrated with his blood...If anyone, therefore, shall say that blessed Peter the Apostle was not appointed the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible Head of the whole Church Militant; or that the same directly and immediately received from the same our Lord Jesus Christ a primacy of honor only, and not of true and proper jurisdiction: let him be anathema... So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff does not have...the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church,...not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church...throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not...immediate (direct) both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors (bishops) and faithful: let him be anathema.” [Vatican I, Definition of the Council, 1870]

“That apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching...The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church [55], cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honor...This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See (of Rome)...Therefore,...we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks from his throne (ex cathedra), that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses...infallibility...Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable. So then, should anyone...have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.” [Vatican I, Definition of the Council, 1870]

II. Introduction: Plan of the Author


Roman Catholicism bases it special claims of universal authority and doctrinal infallibility for the Pope on the fact that he succeeds from St. Peter who, supposedly, received special powers and rank from Christ. We will investigate each of these claims here –the special status and powers of St. Peter, their unique transmission to the Bishop of Rome, and his consequent universal authority and doctrinal infallibility.

III. Peter was not Superior


First, the foundational premise – the unique superior status of Peter – is itself without foundation in the ancient Church.


St. Ambrose of Milan: “He (St. Peter), then, who before was silent, to teach us that we ought not to repeat the words of the impious, this one, I say, when he heard, ‘But who do you say I am,’ immediately, not unmindful of his station, exercised his primacy, that is, the primacy of confession, not of honor; the primacy of belief, not of rank. This, then, is Peter, who has replied for the rest of the Apostles; rather, before the rest of men....” [Saint Ambrose, The Sacrament of the Incarnation of Our Lord, IV.32-V.34].

St. Cyprian of Carthage: “To all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power...the other Apostles also were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honor and power...”(On the Unity of the Catholic Church, 4)

St. Isidore of Seville: “The other Apostles were made equal with Peter in a fellowship of dignity and power.”[De Ecclesiasticus, II.5, M.P.L., Vol. 83, Col. 781-782]

St. Bede: “Although it may seem that this power of loosing and binding was given by the Lord only to Peter, we must nevertheless know without any doubt that it was given to the other Apostles, as Christ Himself testified when, after the triumph of His Passion and Resurrection, He appeared to them and breathed upon them, and said to them all, ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit: if ye forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven to them; if ye retain the sins of any, they are retained [Jn. 20:22, 23].

St. Cyril of Alexandria,: “One therefore is Christ both Son and Lord, not as if a man had attained only such a conjunction with God as consists in a unity of dignity alone or of authority. For it is not equality of dignity which unites natures; for then Peter and John, who were of equal dignity with each other, being both Apostles and holy disciples would have been one, and yet the two are not one....”[St. Cyril, 2nd Epistle to Nestorius]

St. John Chrysostom has not recognized in the Church any dignity superior to the apostolate in general.

“Of all spiritual magistratures,” he says, “the greatest is the apostolate. How do we know this? Because the apostle precedes all others. As the consul is the first of civil magistrates, so is the apostle the first of spiritual magistrates. St. Paul himself, when he enumerates these dignities, places at their head the prerogatives of the apostolate. What does he say? ‘And God has set some in the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers.’ Do you observe the summit of these dignities? Do you mark that the apostle is at the apex of the hierarchy–no one before, none above him. For he says: ‘First, apostles.’ And not only is the apostolate the first of all dignities, but also the root and foundation thereof.” [Homily upon the Utility of Reading Holy Scripture; cited in Abbe Guettee, The Papacy.]

[NOTE: Since being an Apostle is the highest rulership in the church, the root and foundation, then there is no office for St. Peter to have higher than the other Apostles –and note that St. Paul says, God set some, that is, a plural number, in the church, first apostles –again a plural number, yet a Papal Petrine primacy demands that the highest rank be singular.]

St. Jerome represents St. Paul as saying: “I am in nothing inferior to Peter; for we were ordained by the same God for the same ministry.” [St. Jerome, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, cited Abbe Guettee, The Papacy; clearly, if inferior in nothing (in nullo), then equal in every thing.]

St. Theodore the Studite: “John was...equal with Peter” [see Oratio IX, Laudation in S. Joannem apostolum et evangelium, P.G. 99, 772A-788D], or rather the Apostle John was “the greatest of all the Apostles” [St. Theodore, Ep. II.41]

Prior to becoming the third bishop of Rome, St. Clement of Rome wrote to the Corinthian church: “Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he [Paul] wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you. But that inclination for one above another entailed less guilt upon you, inasmuch as your partialities were then shown towards apostles, already of high reputation, and towards a man whom they had approved [Apollos].”[1st Epistle of St. Clement, To the Corinthians].

[NOTE: Now, according to Rome, it was right for them to show partiality to St. Peter, since he was made the visible head of the Church and source of her unity and doctrine; however, St. Clement clearly puts St. Peter on a level with the other Apostles, simply as Apostles and men of repute, and says that those were guilty of schismatic inclination who raised Peter or Paul or Apollos to anything higher –such as head and foundation of Christianity.]

Even Augustine, who the Papacy honors as greatest of all pre-Scholastic Fathers, says: “Peter then was only the first among the apostles as Stephen was the first among deacons.” [Augustine, Sermon 316; cf. also St. Cyprian, 71st letter, to Quint.]

The Patristic witness on this point is so clear we need add nothing more to it –the point is settled – St. Peter did not receive any greater dignity or authority than the other Apostles. Already, the fundamental premise of Roman Catholicism is shaken and the edifice totters –if Peter did not have superior authority, Rome cannot have received it from him either.

IV. Peter was not Infallible

Was St. Peter infallible in his doctrine?

St. Vincent of Lerins: Why does the Apostle Paul say “Though we”? why not rather “though I”? He means, “though PETER, though Andrew, though John, in a word, though the whole company of apostles, preach unto you other than we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”... He does not say, “If any man deliver to you another message than that you have received, let him be blessed, praised, welcomed,” - no; but “let him be accursed,” [anathema] i.e., separated, segregated, excluded, lest the dire contagion of a single sheep contaminate the guiltless flock of Christ by his poisonous intermixture with them...That elect vessel, that teacher of the Gentiles, that trumpet of the apostles, that preacher whose commission was to the whole earth, that man who was caught up to heaven, cries and cries again in his Epistles to all, always, in all places, “If any man preach any new doctrine, let him be accursed” [Commonitory, 22].

St. Theodore the Studite: “We maintain the Faith common to the Universal Church...We affirm this [faith] with certainty not simply because of the Second Holy Council of Nicea, or because of the Holy Council prior to it which dogmatized most-divinely, but by reason of the things which have been established existing since the very time our Lord and God was among us and by reason of the Divine written and unwritten Tradition...This is the Evangelical Faith of us sinners. This is the Apostolic confession of our lowliness, as well as the religion of us least ones, handed down to us by the Fathers. If anyone at all from among our contemporaries or from earlier times, if even Peter and Paul (for I speak what is incredible as admitted for the sake of argument), even if Peter and Paul should come from out of heaven itself dogmatizing and evangelizing to the contrary, we could not receive them into communion, as not adhering to the pure teaching of the Faith.” [St. Theodore, Epistles, “To the Iconoclast Synod”, P.G. 99, 1117B, 1120A]

Clearly, although St. Peter (thank God) did not teach falsely and finished his course well, yet it was not theoretically impossible that he could have taught false doctrine to the Church. Otherwise it would be impossible for St. Paul, St. Vincent, and St. Theodore to say if St. Peter should preach contrary to the original, common Apostolic teaching, then he would be severed from the Church’s communion. But what could be clearer than the Gospel itself? For immediately after Christ’s lofty promise to St. Peter (“Thou art Peter...”), which the Papacy, in the decrees cited in our introduction, makes out to be the establishment of Peter as the infallible teacher and sovereign head of the Church, we read:

“21From that time, Jesus began to show to His disciples that it is necessary for Him to go away to Jerusalem, and to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be killed, and to be raised the third day. 22And Peter took Him to himself and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘...this in no wise shall be to Thee.’ 23But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense to Me, for thou thinkest not (ou fronei) the things of God, but the things of men.’” [Mt. 16:15-23]

What could be clearer? St. Peter taught, not just the Church, but Christ Himself “this in no wise shall be to Thee”, (that is, Christ shall never suffer or die) whereas immediately before, “Jesus began to show His disciples that it is necessary for suffer...and to be killed...”–an exact contradiction between the teaching of Christ and the teaching of St. Peter! Then Christ Himself rebukes St. Peter: “Get thee behind Me, Satan....for thou thinkest not the things of God, but the things of men”, that is, in simpler terms – ‘you, Peter, have just taught something that was not from God, but which is from fallen men, or worse, from Satan.’ So, St. Peter clearly never received a charism or gift of infallibility –even though he personally may never have taught error thereafter.

As we saw previously, neither St. Paul, nor the Holy Fathers, considered St. Peter infallible –that is, unable to teach error by some divine decree –which is different from the fact that he finished his course well, having taught the right faith. Whether he did teach rightly or did not does not help Rome’s claim –they need not just a faithful Peter, but one endowed with a personal power of infallibility, which the Pope can then inherit –but clearly St. Peter received no such gift, or else he could not have once taught a satanic doctrine contrary to Christ’s teaching.

So, the point is settled –Peter did not receive a charism or office of infallibility –and consequently, Rome cannot claim to have received it from him either.

IV. Conclusion: Rome does not receive Superiority or Infallibility from St. Peter

So St. Peter neither had superior dignity and authority over the other Apostles, nor did he have infallibility in his doctrine (as opposed to simply failing to err thereafter without any prior guarantee of this). Since Peter did not receive it, Rome cannot have it from him. The fundamental premise of the Papacy is refuted.

V. The Church Was Not Founded on the Person of Peter, but on Confession of His Faith in Christ as true God and true Man in the One Person of Christ

The Divine Liturgy of St. Iakovos (James) the Apostle and Brother of the Lord (1st Century AD):

“XXXIII. The Priest by himself standing: That they may be to all that partake of them for remission of sins, and for life everlasting, for the sanctification of souls and of bodies, for bearing the fruit of good works, for the establishing of Thy Holy Catholic Church, which Thou hast founded on the Rock of Faith, that the gates of hades may not prevail against it; delivering it from all heresy and scandals, and from those who work iniquity, keeping it till the fulness of the time.”

St. Hilary of Poitiers: “And this is the Rock of confession whereon the Church is built...that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. This faith is that which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven...The very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father’s revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth....Thus our one immovable foundation, our one blissful rock of faith, is the confession from Peter’s mouth, Thou art the Son of the living God”[St. Hilary, On The Trinity, Book VI.36,37; Book II.23; Book VI.20.]

St. Ambrose of Milan: “Faith, then, is the foundation of the Church, for it was not said of Peter’s flesh, but of his faith, that ‘the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.’ But his confession of faith conquered hades. And this confession did not shut out (even) one heresy, for, since the Church like a good ship is often buffeted by many waves, the foundation of the Church should prevail against all heresies” [St. Ambrose, On the Sacrament of the Incarnation of the Lord, Ch. 5]

St. Ambrose: “Believe, therefore, as Peter believed, that thou also mayest be blessed, and that thou also mayest deserve to hear, ‘Because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father Who is in heaven, etc. ‘... Great is the grace of Christ, Who has imparted almost all His Own names to His disciples. ‘I am,’ said He, ‘the light of the world,’ and..., ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ ‘I am the living bread’; and ‘we all are one bread’ (1 Cor. x.17)...Christ is the rock, for ‘they drank of the same spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ’ (1 Cor. x.4); also He denied not to His disciple the grace of this name; that he should be Peter (petrus), because he has from the Rock (petra) the solidity of constancy, the firmness of faith. Make an effort, therefore, to be a rock! Do not seek the rock outside of yourself, but within yourself! Your rock is your deed, your rock is your mind. Upon this rock your house is built. Your rock is your faith, and faith is the foundation of the Church. If you are a rock, you will be in the Church, because the Church is on a rock. If you are in the Church the gates of hell will not prevail against you...He who has conquered the flesh is a foundation of the Church; and if he cannot equal Peter, he can imitate him (Commentary on Luke, VI.98, CSEL 32.4).

St. Bede the Venerable: “‘Thou art Peter [Petrus –Rocky], and upon this Rock [Petra] from which thou didst receive thy name, that is, upon Me Myself, I will build the Church, and if anyone turns aside from the society of this confession, even though it may seem to him that he does great things, he will not belong to the building which is the Church.”[“Homily 1.16, After Epiphany, “Homilies on the Gospels Book I, 163]

St. John Chrysostom: “‘And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’; that is, on the faith of his confession”[St. John, Homily 53 on St. Matthew].

St. John Chrysostom: “He speaks from this time lowly things, on His way to His passion, that He might show His humanity. For He that hath built His Church upon Peter’s confession, and has so fortified it, that ten thousand dangers and deaths are not to prevail over it...”[St. John Chrysostom, Homily 82.3 on St. Matthew]

Pope St. Leo the Great comments on the words: “Upon this Rock I will build My Church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it:

“Upon this firmness, He says, I shall raise My Temple, and it will rise upon the steadfastness of this Faith, and the loftiness of My Church shall mingle with the heavens. The gates of hades shall not master this profession (of faith); nor shall the bonds of death bind it. For these words are the words of life, and as they raise those who confess them up to heaven, so they plunge those that deny them down to hell.” [Sermon 83(2), P. L. 54 (col. 429), in FC, 93:357; Toal, II:267, 268]

[NOTE: Pope St. Leo the Great reads Matthew 16 as confirming that the Orthodox or right-believing Church and Profession of Faith shall never fail, not the orthodoxy of whoever holds the Roman episcopate.]

St. Gregory the Great: “And therefore, beloved brother,...remember that system of doctrine of which the chief of all the Apostles, the blessed Peter, laid the foundation...As I have said, the Rock (petra) of the catholic Faith, from which the blessed Apostle Peter [Petrus] derived his name at the Lord’s hands, rejects every trace of either heresy (Nestorianism or Monophysitism)”[St. Gregory the Great, Letter CXIX. To Maximus, Bishop of Antioch, by the Hand of Marian the Presbyter, and Olympius the Deacon; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II Volume XII.]

St. Maximus the Confessor: “Christ the Lord called that Church the Catholic Church which maintains the true and saving confession of the Faith. It was for this confession that He called Peter blessed, and He declared that He would found His Church upon this confession.”[quoted in Pope Anastasius (the Librarian), The Life of Our Holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor (Boston: Holy Transfiguration, 1982), pp. 60-62]

Augustine of Hippo, considered the greatest of all the pre-Scholastic Fathers by the Roman Catholic Church, yet also refutes the Papal interpretation, saying: “Christ said to Peter....I will build you upon Myself...Those who wish to be built upon men say, ‘I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas.’ However, those who did not wish to be built upon Peter but upon the Rock say, I am of Christ” (Augustine, Retractions, 13th Sermon).

Augustine of Hippo: “In Peter, which means Rocky, we see our attention drawn to the Rock. Now the apostle Paul says about the former people, ‘They drank from the spiritual rock that was following them; but the rock was Christ’ (1 Cor 10:4). So this disciple is called Rocky from the Rock, like a Christian is from Christ. Why have I wanted to make this little introduction? In order to suggest to you that in Peter the Church is to be understood. Christ, you see, built His Church not on a man but on Peter’s confession. What is Peter’s confession? ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ There’s the rock for you, there’s the foundation, there’s where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer” (John Rotelle, O.S.A., Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/6, Sermon 229P.1, p. 327).

VI. Rome was not unique in relation to St. Peter –All Bishops are Peter Insofar as They Believe and Confess Christ in Orthodox Manner Rome did not have a monopoly on being successor to St. Peter. All right-believing bishops have the same relationship to him.

St. Cyprian of Carthage: “Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honor of a bishop2 and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: “I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 3 Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers.4 Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith”[St. Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 26 (on the Lapsed)].

St. Bede: “Although it may seem that this power of loosing and binding was given by the Lord only to Peter, we must nevertheless know without any doubt that it was given to the other apostles...Indeed even now the same office is committed to the whole Church in her bishops and priests.”[Bede the Venerable, Homilies on the Gospels: Book One: Advent to Lent, Hom. I.20, p. 202.]

St. Isidore of Seville: “So Peter first received the power of binding and loosing, and he first led people to faith by the power of his preaching. Still, the other Apostles have been made equal with Peter in a fellowship of dignity and power. They also, having been sent out into all the world, preached the Gospel. Having descended from these apostles, the bishops have succeeded them, and through all the world they have been established in the seats of the apostles”(De Ecclesiasticus, II.5, M.P.L., Vol. 83, Col. 781-782).

St. Pope Leo the Great comments on the words: “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, it shall have been bound in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose, shall have been loosed in heaven”:

“This power is confided to him in a special manner, because the type (forma) of Peter is proposed to all the pastors of the Church. Therefore the PRIVILEGE OF PETER DWELLS WHEREVER JUDGMENT IS GIVEN WITH HIS EQUITY” [St. Leo, Sermon III., (IV in Migne)]

St. John Chrysostom writes concerning the words “feed my lambs, feed my sheep”, which Rome wishes to apply only to St. Peter: “This was not said to the Apostles and bishops only, but also to each one of us, however humble, to whom has been committed the care of the flock.” [Homilies on St. Matthew, 77th homily; note that St. John applies this commandment firstly to all the Apostles and bishops and moreover to all Christians, so that it cannot be the unique commission to Peter to govern and teach the Church that Rome now wishes it to be.]

St. Gregory the Great [a.k.a., the Dialogist]: “To Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria:

“Your most sweet Holiness has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, Prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors...He has spoken to me about Peter’s chair who occupies Peter’s chair... For he himself exalted the See in which he deigned even to rest and end the present life [that is, Rome]. He himself adorned the See to which he sent his disciple as evangelist [St. Mark] [that is, Alexandria]. He himself established the See in which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years [that is, Antioch]. Since then it is the See of one, and one See, over which by divine authority three bishops now preside...”[Note that the Bishops of Antioch and Alexandria are clearly set forth as being St. Peter just as much as the Bishop of Rome.]

St. Gaudentius of Brescia: “I beseech our common father Ambrose [of Milan]...Let him speak from that Holy Spirit with which he is filled, and ‘from his belly shall flow rivers of living water;’ and, as successor of Peter, he shall be the mouth of all the surrounding priests. For when the Lord Jesus asked of the apostles, ‘Whom do you say that I am?’ Peter alone replies, with the mouth of all believers, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”(St. Gaudentius, Tract. 16, De Ordin. Ipsius.; cited by J. Waterworth S.J., A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), pp. 105-107).

[NOTE: Note again that the Bishop of Milan is called “successor of St. Peter”, so that the title is not unique to Rome, but given to all Orthodox hierarchs insofar as they confess and judge aright concerning the Lord.]

St. John Chrysostom: “In speaking of St. Peter, the recollection of another Peter [Flavian, Bishop of Antioch, at the time the discourse was written,] has come to me, the common father and teacher, who has inherited his prowess, and also obtained his chair. For this is the one great privilege of our city, Antioch, that it received the leader of the apostles as its teacher in the beginning. For it was right that she who was first adorned with the name of Christians, before the whole world, should receive the first of the apostles as her pastor. But though we received him as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to royal Rome. Or rather we did retain him to the end, for though we do not retain the body of Peter, we do retain the faith of Peter, and retaining the faith of Peter we have Peter” (St. John Chrysostom, “On the Inscription of the Acts”, II; cited by E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (London: SPCK, 1952), p. 168. Cf. Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy, p. 96).

[NOTE: Note that St. Flavian, Archbishop of Antioch is a Peter and has obtained the chair of Peter, and that as long as he keeps the Faith of Peter’s confession, Antioch has a St. Peter.]


VII. Conclusion: Rome Does not Inherit Any Special Office From Peter that the Other Bishops Do Not Also Have

Examples could be further multiplied, but these suffice to show that any office Peter received, the rest of the Apostles and the Orthodox bishops also received, so that they all individually could be called “Peter”. The bishop of Rome has no unique relationship with St. Peter to the exclusion of the other hierarchs, and that only insofar as he is Orthodox.

Now we turn from St. Peter to Rome herself and we ask the question: did she ever in the course of ancient Church history have her oft-claimed superiority (universal jurisdiction over all bishops) or doctrinal infallibility?

VIII. No One Was Higher than the local Bishop in the Ancient Churches

Contrary to Rome’s claim, no one was higher than the local bishop in the ancient churches. No ‘bishop of bishops’ or bishop with superior jurisdiction over all bishops and all dioceses existed –that is, there was no Roman Catholic Pope then.

St. Ignatius of Antioch: “There is no one superior to God, or even like to Him, among all the beings that exist, nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop...Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father” [St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrneans].

“Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria, which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it, and your love will also regard it. [St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans, 9].

[NOTE: St. Ignatius, a direct disciple of the Apostles, clearly has not been taught by them of anyone higher in rank or authority in each local Church than the bishop, whereas the Pope claims he has always held “ordinary, immediate jurisdiction in all churches”and that the Church has always acknowledged this.]

St. Cyprian of Carthage, president of the Council of Carthage (267 A.D.), addressing the bishops, says: “It remains that we severally declare our opinion on this same subject, judging no one, nor depriving any one of his right of communion, if he differ from us. For no one setteth himself up as a Bishop of Bishops, or by tyrannical terror forceth his Colleagues to a necessity of obeying; inasmuch as every Bishop, in the free use of his liberty and power, has the right of forming his own judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he can himself judge another. But we must all await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone has the power of both setting us in the government of His Church, and of judging of our acts therein” [A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1844), The Epistles of St. Cyprian, The Judgments of Eighty-Seven Bishops in the Council of Carthage on the Question of Baptizing Heretics, pp. 286-287].

[NOTE: St. Cyprian recognizes no such thing as a “Bishop of bishops”in the Church, but this is exactly what the Bishop of Rome claims to be.]

St. Jerome (Hieronymus) says explicitly to one who asked whether to follow Roman custom when it differed from universal tradition:

“It is not the case that there is one [superior] church at Rome and another in all the world beside it. Gaul and Britain, Africa and Persia, India and the East worship one Christ and observe one rule of truth. If authority is asked, the world is greater than the city [of Rome]...Wherever the bishops be, whether at Rome, or Eugubium, or Constantinople, or Rhenium, the dignity is the same, and the priesthood the same...All alike are successors of the apostles...Why do you bring forward a custom which exists in one city, Rome, only? Why do you oppose to the laws of the Church a paltry exception...?” [Hieronymus Epistle 146: To Evangelus [sometimes cited as Evagrius] [subtitle: About Deacons], Trans. Wm. Henry Fremantle, 1893; available at St. Pachomius Orthodox, St. Philip of Moscow 1998; online).

In complete contradiction to Papal claims, St. Jerome explicitly denied the authority of Rome when it contradicted the rest of the Church, and he explicitly stated that her bishops are of one and the same dignity and office as the rest of the Church’s bishops.

IX. Rome was not Superior or Infallible in History

When Pope Leo IX lead the Roman church into schism from the East, he declared in an epistle to Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople (Sept. 2, 1050):

“The Roman Church is not, as you allege, a local church; is she not the head and mother?...the Roman Church is so little a local church, that in all the world, no nation which presumes to disagree with her can any longer be regarded as belonging to the Church. It is thenceforth only a conventicle of heretics–a synagogue of Satan! Therefore let him who would glory in the name of a Christian cease to curse and attack the Roman Church...By passing a preceding judgment on the great See, concerning which it is not permitted any man to pass judgment, you have received anathema from all the Fathers of all the venerable Councils... As the hinge while remaining immovable opens and closes the door, so Peter and his successors have free judgment over all the Church, since no one should remove their status because “the highest See is judged by no one.”

But these claims were entirely unfounded –without factual basis in previous Church history as we shall see. In the ancient Church, Rome was not infallible, nor the supreme ruler, nor the final arbiter in Church disputes. In fact, we have a number of statements from the ancient Church that Rome could and did sometimes err and the Church sometimes overturned Rome’s decisions and condemned her Popes.


In the 2nd century Rome was not Superior or Infallible...

In the 2nd century, Pope Victor declared the excommunication of the Asian churches who celebrated Pascha on a different date than the rest of the Church, says Eusebius; “however, this did not please all of the bishops...words of theirs are extant sharply rebuking Victor. Among these was Irenaeus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided,...fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom...Thus Irenaeus, who truly was well named, became a peacemaker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way in behalf of the peace of the churches. And he conferred by letter about this mooted question, not only with Victor, but also with most of the other rulers of the churches.”[Eusebius, Church History, Bk. 5, Ch. 24]

In the 3rd century Rome was not Superior or Infallible...

In the 3rd century, Pope Stephen decided that heretics could not be baptized when converting to the true Church, and when the bishops of Africa (led by St. Cyprian) and elsewhere rejected this decision, on account of there being only one baptism –the Church’s –, Pope Stephen declared them excommunicated. St. Firmillian of Caesarea of Cappodocia wrote concerning this to St. Cyprian of Carthage and the African bishops:“We (bishops of Asia) receive those things which you have written as if they were our own.”On the other hand, “they who are at Rome do not observe those things in all cases which are handed down from the beginning, and vainly pretend the authority of the apostles”. “But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans’ custom we oppose custom, but the custom of truth, holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the Apostles.” He then proceeds to comment in the most anti-papal fashion upon Stephen’s decree excommunicating those who disagreed with him. Stephen was “not ashamed to afford patronage to such (i.e. heretics and opponents of God) in opposition to the Church, and for the sake of maintaining heretics to divide the brotherhood and in addition, to call Cyprian ‘a false Christ and a false apostle, and a deceitful worker.’ And he, conscious that all these characters are in himself, has been... falsely objecting to another those things which he himself ought deservedly to hear.”

St. Firmillian then writes as if addressing Pope Stephen:

“Consider with what want of judgment you (Stephen) dare to blame those who strive for the truth against falsehood. For who ought more justly to be indignant against the other?-whether he who supports God’s enemies, or he who, in opposition to him who supports God’s enemies, unites with us on behalf of the truth of the Church?...[W]hat strifes and dissensions have you stirred up throughout the churches of the whole world! Moreover, how great sin have you heaped up for yourself, when you cut yourself off from so many flocks! For it is yourself that you have cut off. Do not deceive yourself, since he is really the schismatic who has made himself an apostate from the communion of ecclesiastical unity. For while you think that all may be excommunicated by you, you have excommunicated yourself alone from all; and not even the precepts of an apostle have been able to mould you to the rule of truth and peace, although he admonished, and said, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”

St. Firmillian then continues with astonishment and sarcasm:

“25. How carefully has Stephen fulfilled these salutary commands and warnings of the Apostle, keeping in the first place lowliness of mind and meekness! For what is more humble or meek than to have disagreed with so many bishops throughout the whole world, breaking peace with each one of them in various kinds of discord: at one time with the eastern churches, as we are sure you know; at another time with you [St. Cyprian] who are in the south...This is to have kept the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to cut himself off from the unity of love, and to make himself a stranger in all respects from his brethren, and to rebel against the Sacrament and the Faith with the madness of contumacious discord! With such a man can there be one Spirit and one body, in whom perchance there is not even one mind, so slippery, and shifting, and uncertain is it? [i.e., Stephen contradicts himself in proclaiming that he is Orthodox, but communicating with heretics and excommunicating the Orthodox!]”

The Church later approved the actions of St. Cyprian and St. Firmillian (see Canon 1 of St. Basil of Caesarea, Canon 1 of Carthage, Canon 2 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Canon 1 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council), who, however, both died out of communion with the contemporary Pope of Rome, yet are saints of the Church.

In the 4th century Rome was not Superior or Infallible...

In the 4th century, the first Ecumenical Council, at Nicaea, witnesses to the limited jurisdiction of the bishops of Rome:

“Let the ancient customs prevail, whereby the Bishop of Alexandria shall have jurisdiction over Egypt, Libya, and the Pentapolis, as also the Roman bishop has jurisdiction over those that are subject to Rome. So too, the Bishop of Antioch and the rest of the bishops shall have jurisdiction over those faithful who are under them” (1st Nicea, Canon 6).

[Note: This canon refers to Metropolitan or synodal jurisdiction, which refers to trans-diocesan or common matters, as opposed to the jurisdiction of local bishops, who have jurisdiction for matters strictly pertaining to their own dioceses. The difference is marked out by the Holy Apostles in their 34th Apostolic Canon:

“It behooves the Bishops of each nation to recognize one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize him as their head and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval: but, instead each of them should do only whatever is necessitated by his own parish and by the territories under him. But let not even such a one (i.e. the premier hierarch) do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus will there be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Common matters such as the election or deposition of bishops or issuance of new canons for the whole region are within the Metropolitan’s jurisdiction or right of sentence provided the act is done according to the Church’s canons and he has the consent of the synod of bishops. This will be elaborated on again in subsequent testimony of the Councils below, Carthage, for instance. The 6th Canon of the 1st Ecumenical Council (Nicaea) then excludes Rome from the right to share in the election or deposition of bishops or other common matters in the East and certain other provinces, where the local metropolitan or archbishop, e.g. the bishop of Alexandria or Antioch, have this power of jurisdiction instead, as the head of their provincial synods. This means Rome’s jurisdiction is not universal, as the Papacy claims, but limited.]

Also, in the 4th century, the Arian Constantius succeeded in obtaining Pope Liberius’ endorsement of an Arian creed.

The 5th century Church historian, Sozomen, says:

“Not long after these events, the emperor returned to Sirmium from Rome; on receiving a deputation from the Western bishops, he recalled Liberius from Beroea. Constantius urged him, in the presence of the deputies of the Eastern bishops, and of the other priests who were at the camp, to confess that the Son is not of the same substance as the Father...They had formed a compilation, in one document, of the decrees against Paul of Samosata, and Photinus, bishop of Sirmium; to which they subjoined a formulary of faith drawn up at Antioch at the consecration of the church, as if certain persons had, under the pretext of the term “coessential,” attempted to establish a heresy of their own. Liberius, Athanasius, Alexander, Severianus, and Crescens, a priest of Africa, were induced to assent to this document, as were likewise Ursacius, Germanius, bishop of Sirmium, Valens, bishop of Mursa, and as many of the Eastern bishops as were present....When Eudoxius and his partisans at Antioch, who favored the heresy of Aetius [the Arian], received the letter of Hosius, they circulated the news that Liberius had renounced the term “coessential,” and had admitted that the Son is dissimilar from the Father. After these enactments had been made by the Western bishops, the emperor permitted Liberius to return to Rome.”[Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 4, Ch. 15]

In confirmation of the above, Roman Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman writes: “the Creed which Liberius signed,...S. Hilary speaks ‘perfidia Ariana,’...[‘Arian perfidy’]...And the Roman Breviary..., in the Service for S. Eusebius of Rome, August 14, says that ‘Pope Liberius consented to the Arian misbelief,’...Auxilius says the same...”[John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Arians of the Fourth Century, The Newman Reader; Ch. 4-2, Note 3; available online:, 6/16/01]

Yet again in the 4th century, the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council overrode several decrees of Pope Damasus, proving again that the Church did not recognize any universal authority in the Pope. The case was as follows: two bishops claimed the Archiepiscopal throne of Antioch –St. Meletius and Paulinus –Rome recognized Paulinus, but, overriding her judgment, the Ecumenical Council recognized Meletius, even making him president of the Ecumenical Council. When St. Meletius reposed in sanctity, but out of union with Rome, Pope Damasus again insisted that Paulinus be recognized, but again the Council overrode his decision, deeming that it would be “too great a concession to the Latins’ opinion”, and elected St. Flavian of the Meletian faction and urged the Paulinians to join St. Flavian. The Council addressed Pope Damasus in its Synodical Epistle, writing:

“To the right honourable lords our right reverend brethren, peers, and colleagues, Damasus, Ambrose, Britton, Valerian, Ascholius, Anemius, Basilius and the rest of the holy bishops assembled in the great city of Rome, the holy synod of the Orthodox bishops assembled at the great city of Constantinople sends greeting in the Lord.

...Now as to the particular administration of local churches, an ancient custom, as you know, has obtained, confirmed by the enactment of the holy fathers of Nicaea, that in every province, the bishops of the province, and, with their consent, the neighboring bishops with them, should perform the ordinations as expediency may require. In conforming with these customs note that other churches have been administered by us...Accordingly over at Constantinople...we have ordained bishop...Nectarius, in the presence of the Ecumenical Council, with common consent...And over the most ancient and truly apostolic church in Syria,...the bishops of the province and of the eastern diocese have met together and canonically ordained bishop...Flavianus, with the consent of all the church...This rightful ordination also received the confirmation of the Ecumenical Council. Of the church at Jerusalem, mother of all the churches, we make known that the right reverend and most religious Cyril is bishop...We sincerely ask your reverence to rejoice at what has thus been rightly and canonically settled by us, restraining human passions, by the intervention of spiritual love and by the influence of the fear of the Lord, and making the edification of churches of more importance [to you] than individual favour. Thus since among us there is agreement in the Faith and Christian love has been established, we shall cease to use the phrase condemned by the Apostles, “I am of Paul and I of Apollos and I of Cephas (Peter)”, and all appearing as Christ’s, who among us is not divided, by God’s grace we will keep the Body of the Church undivided, and will boldly stand at the judgment seat of the Lord.”

Rome recognizes this council as the Second Ecumenical Council, yet it clearly was not a council of bishops who believed in Roman Catholicism (although most of its members were canonized saints) –the Pope did not convoke it, nor was he invited, nor were his legates present, nor did it seek or accept the Pope’s decisions on the recognition or ordination of bishops, but stated that it had “rightly and canonically settled”all the administration of the Church without receiving so much as his tacit consent –all of these are violations of Roman Catholic canon law and dogma. Its attitude toward the Pope is clear even from the salutation “to our right-reverend brothers and peers, Damasus, Ambrose,...”which treats the Pope as one among many of their equals.

In the 5th century Rome was not Superior or Infallible...

In the 5th century, about 419 A.D., a Council of African Bishops at Carthage dealt in a similar way with the problem of rebellious clergy seeking to overturn verdicts of African courts by appealing to Rome. They wrote to Pope Celestine in their 2nd Synodical Epistle in 422:

“...May you no longer lend ready attention to those coming from here to speak into your ear hereafter, nor are you to admit those who have been excommunicated by us to communion hereafter, since your Reverence should easily find this to have been laid down as a rule by the Council of Nicaea....So let not persons excluded from communion in their own province get the appearance of being restored to communion in seriousness and exceeding what is proper by your Holiness...since...the Council held in Nicaea manifestly relegated them, whether Clerics of lower rank, or Bishops themselves, to their own Metropolitans...  For as concerning the statement (made by your legates) that one may be sent as though he were come from the side of your Holiness (to retry a case already decided by the synods of bishops of other provinces), we do not find the supposed canon to have been made by any Council of the Fathers: since what was long ago sent forth through our said Fellow Bishop Faustinus (your legate), as though dispatched on the part of the Council of Nicaea, in the truer copies of the Council of Nicaea which we received from (the Eastern Patriarchs),... from the original and authentic sources...we could not discover any such fact at any time. As for judges (from Rome), therefore, though they have been demanded by some for our clerics, do not send us any, nor grant us any, lest we seem to be introducing a cloud of smoke (of pride or vainglory) from the world into the Church of Christ, which offers the light of simplicity and the day of humility to those who desire to see God.” “Indeed, the fact is that to each and every person it has been made permissible, if he applies to him in regard to a trial by judges of ecclesiastical cases, to take an appeal to the councils and synods of his own province, or even further to an Ecumenical Council.”

[NOTE: Take notice that, besides denying papal jurisdiction in Africa, besides denying his right to retry or overturn their judgments, the African Council, whose canons are Ecumenical in authority, states that the next court of appeal after the synods of the province is an Ecumenical Council, not the Bishop of Rome.]

The council also issued canons denying the jurisdiction of a Roman-Papal court in African ecclesiastical cases and decreed excommunication on anyone that would make such an appeal.

Canon XXXVI (36):

“It has pleased the Council to decree that in the event that Presbyters and Deacons and the rest of the lower Clerics complain about the courts of their own bishops in reference to whatever causes they may have, the neighboring Bishops shall hear their cases, and with the consent and approval of the same Bishop, the Bishops invited by them shall dispose of their differences. Wherefore, though they may think that they have a right to appeal in regard thereto, they are not to be allowed to carry the appeal to courts across the sea (to Rome), but only to the primates of their own provinces, as has been prescribed many times in regard to Bishops. As for those men who do take an appeal to courts across the sea, let no one in Africa admit them to communion.”


Canon CXXXIV (134):

“It has pleased the Council to decree that if Presbyters, Deacons, and other lower Clerics in whatever causes they may have are not satisfied with the decision of their own Bishops, they shall be heard and the differences between them shall be adjusted by those whom they may appoint with the consent of their own Bishop to review the case. But if they want to take an appeal even from the decision rendered by these men, they shall have no right to an appeal, except to the votes of the African Council or to the Primates of their own provinces. As for anyone that insists upon carrying an appeal across the sea (to Rome), let him not be received into communion by anyone in Africa.”

Contemporary with this Council, the Pelagian controversy was raging. Pelagius, a British monk living at Rome, and his associate Celestius denied the effects of the Fall or that Adam’s sin detrimentally affected anyone but himself. Two African Councils issued an anathema against the doctrine and its teachers and, when the Pelagians claimed that Rome supported them, the Africans obtained a public rejection of their error by Pope Innocent I. However, Pelagius and Caelistinus appealed to Innocent I’s successor, Pope Zosimus, and, although in his written confession to the Pope, Pelagius clearly stated “the ancestral sin affects not one single infant”(quoted in: Augustine of Hippo, On the Grace of Christ and Original Sin, Bk. II), yet Zosimus overturned his former condemnation and in two papal letters declared the perfect Orthodoxy of Pelagius, saying (as recounted by a Roman Catholic historian): “‘Would that some of you, dearest brethren, could have been present at the reading of the letters. What was the joy of the holy men who were present; what was the admiration of each of them! Some of them could scarcely restrain themselves from tears and weeping that such men of absolutely correct faith could have been suspected.’...At the end of his letter,...the pope lambasted the Africans as ‘whirlwinds’ and ‘storms of the church’ and accused them of judging Pelagius and Caelestius wholly unfairly....In [Zosimus’ letter] Quamuis patrum written in March 418, he deliberately flaunted his apostolic authority and claimed that no one should dispute his judgment....“So great is our authority that no decision of ours can be subjected to review....Such is the authority of Peter and the venerable decrees of the church that all questions concerning human and divine laws, as well as all disciplinary matters, must be referred to Rome for ultimate resolution.” (J.E. Merdinger, Rome and the African Church in the Time of Augustine (New Haven: Yale University, 1997), pp. 128-129). In reply to this bombastic epistle, the African Council then issued a rejection of Zosimus’ decrees, swearing on an oath that Zosimus’ judgment had no authority whatsoever, as it endorsed heretics and heresy, and affirming the Orthodox dogma concerning the Fall.

Ironically, it was at this point that one of the bishops of the Council, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, whom the Papacy honors as the greatest of all pre-scholastic Fathers, clearly denied the supreme jurisdiction of Rome, and wrote concerning the disputed case with the very words that Rome now misrepresents as proof of her supreme jurisdiction. Roman Catholic historian, Robert Eno, writes:

It was at this point [when they had rejected Zosimus’ claims and decision] that the famous words of Augustine were uttered (as misquoted): Roma locuta est; causa finita est [‘Rome has spoken, the case is closed’]. Actually he said (sermo 131): ‘Already two councils on this question have been sent to the apostolic see; and replies have also come from there. The case is closed; would that the error might sometime be finished as well.’ But, beyond any quibbling over precise words, the greater irony is the use of this ‘quotation’ in later centuries. We have all heard it used in the following sense: Rome has made its decision. All further discussions must cease (Robert Eno, The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Glazier, 1990), p. 73).

But clearly Augustine’s words were a rejection of Pope Zosimus’ authority to judge the matter; how ironic indeed!  In fact, Augustine did not consider Rome the final court of appeal, as he writes:

“Well, let us suppose that those bishops who decided the case at Rome were not good judges; there still remained a plenary Council of the universal Church, in which these judges themselves might be put on their defense; so that, if they were convicted of mistake, their decisions might be reversed.”(NPNF, Series 1, Volume 1, Letter 43.14, 16, 19).

How shall Rome continue the pretence of universal authority when even their most-touted ‘Doctors of the Church’ completely contradict and deny the alleged dogma? An Ecumenical Council is declared capable of overturning a papal judgment and trying the Pope!

Zosimus eventually retracted his former judgment and condemned Pelagius, but not before his authority and infallibility had been clearly denied by the Church.

In the 6th century Rome was not Superior or Infallible...

For another Papal doctrinal error and Concilliar condemnation, let us proceed to the example of Pope Vigilius and the 5th Ecumenical Council.

When the 5th Ecumenical Council convened to anathematize Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Nestorian “Letter of Ibas to Maris the Persian”, Pope Vigilius contradicted his own official teaching twice, was condemned as a heretic by the Ecumenical Council, and alleged in his repentance that the devil had inspired him to issue wrong decrees.

This transpired as follows:

First, in conjunction with the other Patriarchs, Pope Vigilius anathematizes Theodore of Mopsuestia and Epistle to Maris, which form part of the controversy of the heretical Three Chapters. On August 15, 550 A.D., he issues his Judicatum, stating this.

Then, when some of his bishops break communion in protest, he does an ‘about-face’ and announces in Milan: “If any of the Greek bishops, even to the consideration of an Ecumenical Council, should do anything concerning those Chapters, or agree with those so doing, he shall be separated from communion with the Apostolic see...”  When the Greek bishops convene an Ecumenical Council to condemn the Chapters, Vigilius issues his first Constitutum, declaring:

“We do not venture to condemn Theodore of Mopsuestia by our judgment, nor do we allow him to be condemned by anyone else”, explaining that Theodore (although he had taught Nestorianism) had died in communion with the Church and, therefore, could not be anathematized, but must be left to the judgment of God. He declared that the reputed letter of Ibas to Maris the Persian was “Orthodox”“understood in its best and most pious sense”, and claimed that Chalcedon had accepted it (which is false). “Therefore, these things having been settled with every care and precaution on all sides...  Being mindful of what has been written by our forebears, we have decided and decreed that no one in ecclesiastical orders or positions of authority may hold an opinion contrary to what we by this Constitution assert and decide concerning the oft-mentioned Three Chapters, or write or publish or teach or move any further question after the present definition. Whatever has been said or shall be said or written concerning these same Three Chapters contrary to what we here assert and decide, and wherever it is found by anyone, we refute in every possible way by the authority of the Apostolic see over which we preside by the grace of God.”

However, the Emperor and Council reply:

“When...Vigilius, Pope of Old Rome, came hither, he, in answer to our questions, repeatedly anathematized in writing the Three Chapters, and confirmed his steadfastness in this view by much, even by the condemnation of his deacons, Rusticus and Sebastian. We possess still his declarations in his own hand. Then he issued his Judicatum, in which he anathematized the Three Chapters, with the words, Et quoniam, etc. You know that he not only deposed Rusticus and Sebastian because they defended the Three Chapters, but also wrote to Valentinian, bishop of Scythia, and Aurelian, bishop of Arles, that nothing might be undertaken against the Judicatum...”“...if you have condemned the Three Chapters, in accordance with those things which you did before, we have already many such statements and need no more; but if you have written now something contrary to these things which were done by you before, you have condemned yourself by your own writing, since you have departed from Orthodox doctrine and have defended impiety. And how can you expect us to receive such a document from you?” “...Concerning the name of Vigilius, [let] it be no more inserted in the holy diptychs of the Church, on account of the impiety which he defended. Neither let it be recited..., nor retained, either in the church of the royal city, or in other churches... And so, because of the things Vigilius has done, we have judged his name foreign to Christians and not to be recited in the sacred diptychs (liturgical commemoration lists of all Orthodox hierarchs), lest we thereby be found communicating with the impiety of Nestorius and Theodore...his name should not be placed in the sacred diptychs. We ourselves thus preserve unity with the Apostolic see of Rome, and...will safeguard it. For a change to the worse of either Vigilius or any other single person can never injure the peace of the churches.”“The holy synod said:...Let us, therefore, preserve unity with the Apostolic see of the holy Church of most ancient Rome, while carrying out everything according to the tenor of the imperial replies. Concerning his proposal [i.e., that Vigilius’ name be dropped from the list of bishops in communion with the Church], verily let what we have just promised be carried out.”

Vigilius’ name is struck out from the liturgical list of bishops of the Church (diptychs) and the Council decrees:

“...If, then, anyone shall defend this most impious Theodore and his impious writings,...and if anyone does not anathematize him or his impious writings, as well as all those who protect or defend him, or who assert that his exegesis is orthodox, or who write in favour of him...let him be anathema.

“...If anyone therefore shall defend the aforementioned Epistle to Maris and shall not anathematize it and those who defend it and say that it is right or that a part of it is right, or if anyone shall defend those who have written or shall write in its favour, or in defence of the impieties which are contained in it...let him be anathema.”

“If anyone tries to present, teach, or write what is contrary to that which has been written with faith by us, whether he be bishop or other clergyman, he, because he deviates from the priesthood and the ecclesiastical order, must be deposed of his throne or of his clerical position. If he be a monk or layman, he must be anathematized.”

Facing the Church’s anathema and deposition, Vigilius does another doctrinal about-face, and, in a new Constitution, condemns the heretics and what he himself had written in their defense, alleging that the devil had been the composer of his former Constitution:

“No one is ignorant of the scandals which the enemy of the human race (the devil) has stirred up in all the world..., striving in some destroy the Church of God spread over the whole world, composing diverse things both in words as well as in writing, not only in his own name but even in our own name,...whereby he attempted to divide that we ourselves who were and are of the same opinion as they touching the Faith, departed into discord, despising brotherly love. But since Christ our God, who is the true Light,...hath (now) removed all confusion from our mind... there should be a retractation of what was formerly propounded by us...and further we annul and evacuate by this present written definition of ours all that has been said by defence of the aforesaid Three Chapters.”“Let therefore the whole Catholic Church know that justly and irreproachably we have arrived at the conclusions contained in this our constitution. Wherefore we condemn and anathematize Theodore, formerly bishop of Mopsuestia, and his impious writings...Moreover we anathematize and condemn the letter to the Persian heretic Maris...Therefore we anathematize and condemn the aforesaid impious Three Chapters...We likewise subject to anathema whoever shall at any time believe that these chapters should be received or defended; or shall attempt to subvert this present condemnation...Far be it from the Catholic Church that anyone should say that all the blasphemies above related [in the Epistle to Maris] or they who held and followed such things, were received by the before-mentioned four synods or by any one of them...May God preserve thee in health, most honourable brother. Dated VI. Id. Dec. in the xxijd year of our lord the Emperor Justinian, forever Augustus, the xijth year after the consulate of the illustrious Basil.” [Decretal Epistle of Pope Vigilius to Patriarch Eutyches of Constantinople]

Now, let us compare what happened in the case of Pope Vigilius with the later Roman Catholic dogma of Papal infallibility:

1) The Papacy claims it is infallible when defining by its “apostolic authority”any matter of faith, morals, or discipline for the faithful –yet Pope Vigilius decreed by his “apostolic authority”that the contents of the Nestorian Epistle to Maris are Orthodox and that the Nestorian Theodore of Mopsuestia must be received in the communion of the Church, and then withdrew and contradicted this decree claiming the devil inspired him to write it. Now, which is correct –were Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Epistle to Maris to be received in the Church or were they to be anathematized? Both cannot be true, although both were decreed by his “apostolic authority”. Is it not obvious that, despite Rome’s alleged infallibility, the Pope defined a matter of the faith for the faithful incorrectly (i.e., heretically) and then was forced to withdraw his heretical definition (which he attributed to the devil!)?

2) The Papacy claims it can be judged by no one –yet the 5th Ecumenical Council judged Pope Vigilius as teaching heresy, refused to receive his definition, and struck his name from the diptychs –thus de-recognizing his episcopacy. Did the 5th Ecumenical Council did not know that the Pope was infallible and above its judgment?

Again, some 40 years later, in the last decade of the 6th century, we find yet another proof against the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Pope. At this time, the Patriarch of Constantinople began to use the title Oecumenical Patriarch (that is, Imperial Patriarch –Oecumene being a common title of the Empire) since he resided in the Imperial capital, which title the Latins, with a poor understanding of Greek, read as “Ecumenical”or “Universal Patriarch”. Through this misunderstanding, we have the blessing of learning from Pope St. Gregory the Great himself his opinion on the idea of a universal patriarch or bishop. When the title first appeared, St. Pope Gregory wrote to his fellow-bishops:

“I say it without the least hesitation, whoever calls himself the universal bishop, or desires this title, is, by his pride, the precursor of Antichrist, because he thus attempts to raise himself above the other bishops. The error into which he falls springs from pride equal to that of Antichrist; for as that Wicked One wished to be regarded as exalted above other men, like a god, so likewise whoever would be called sole bishop exalts himself above others....” “I exhort and entreat that not one of you bishops ever accept this name, that not one consent to it’s use..., since this thing is being done to the injury and rending asunder of the whole Church, and, as we have said, to the condemning of all of you. For if anyone, as he supposes, is universal bishop, it remains that you are not bishops.”

“Certainly the Apostle Paul, when he heard some say, I am of Paul, I of Apollos, but I of Christ (1 Cor. i. 13), regarded with the utmost horror such dilaceration of the Lord’s Body, whereby they were joining themselves, as it were, to other heads...If then he abhorred the subjugation of the members of Christ partially to certain heads, as if there were another beside Christ, though this were even to the Apostles themselves, what wilt thou say to Christ, who is the Head of the universal Church, in the scrutiny of the Last Judgment, having attempted to put all His members under thyself by the appellation of Universal?

“Certainly Peter, the foremost of the apostles, himself a member of the holy and universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John,-what were they but heads of particular (local) communities? And yet all were members under one Head. And (to bind all together in a short girth of speech) the saints before the law, the saints under the law, the saints under grace, all these making up the Lord’s Body, were constituted as members of the Church, and not one of them has wished himself to be called universal.

“Whom, I pray you tell me, whom do you imitate by this perverse title if not him {Lucifer} who, despising the legions of angels, his companions, attempted to start up to an eminence of singularity, that he might seem to be under none and to be alone above all?”

St. Gregory clearly and utterly rejected the idea of universality for himself as well:

“ address me saying, As you have commanded. This word, command, I beg you to remove from my hearing, since I know who I am, and who you are. For in rank you bishops are my brothers, in character my fathers. I did not, then, command... Your Holiness...remember perfectly this very thing...For I said that neither to me nor to any one else ought you to ascribe anything of this kind; and lo, in the preface of the epistle which you have addressed to myself who forbade it, you have thought fit to apply the title of pride, calling me Universal Pope (Papa; i.e., father, as all bishops were called father then). But I beg your most sweet Holiness to do this no more, since what is given to another beyond what reason demands is subtracted from yourself... Nor do I regard that as an honor whereby I know that my brothers are deprived of their own dignity... Then am I truly honored when the honor due to all and each one is not denied them. For if your Holiness calls me Universal Pope (Papa, i.e., bishop), you deny that you are yourself what you ascribe to me universally. But far be this from us.”

Behold what the great St. Pope Gregory has said: (1) Peter was not head of the church but a member and only head of a particular community just like the other Apostles; (2) the Pope does not command because in rank the other bishops are his spiritual brothers, that is, his equals, not his spiritual children or subjects as if he were ‘universal father’ or ‘papa’; (3) that whoever claims to be universal bishop or father not only declares that he alone is a bishop, while the rest are not, but his pride and character are equal to that of the Antichrist and the Devil!

Clearly, the ancient Church and the ancient Popes were not Roman Catholic, but Orthodox.

In the 7th century Rome was not Superior or Infallible...

Now, for another example of papal fallibility, let us take the case of Pope Honorius I and the 6th and 7th Ecumenical Councils.

Pope Honorius and the 6th Ecumenical Council

The issue here is Monothelitism. Monothelitism is Monophysitism with a slight semantic difference –Monothelitism says only a single will and operation exists in “the one Christ [i.e., the one hypostasis]” doing both divine and human things, so that, although two natures are still theoretically attributed to Christ, the active or real existence of two distinct natures in Him is denied, there being only one active existence admitted in accordance with the hypostatic unity of Christ.

In the 7th century, Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople and Cyrus, Bishop of Phasius, who later became Patriarch of Alexandria, united with the Monophysites through an Act of Union (633 A.D.) which confessed: “...there is but a single Christ and Son, whose divine acts and whose human acts are done by a single divine-human operation”(article #7). St. Patriarch St. Sophronius of Jerusalem immediately denounced the heresy, and in 634 A.D. Sergius appealed to Pope Honorius I of Rome to sanction the new heresy. Pope Honorius replied with an endorsement of the new heresy, attributing one will and operation to the “hypostatic or natural unity”of Christ.

He says that Sergius has informed Honorius of “certain discussions, and new controversies about words begun by one Sophronius, a monk (who now, so we hear, has been made bishop of Jerusalem), against our brother Cyrus the bishop of Alexandria, for preaching to those converted from heresy the one operation of Jesus Christ, our Lord.”He then remarks on Sergius’ order to St. Sophronius not to speak of “two operations”: “We praise your doing away with this novel vocabulary which could be a scandal to the uninstructed.” He then goes on to say: “Being guided by God we shall come to defining the right Faith...: we acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, Mediator of God and man, the natural or hypostatic unity of the Word of God operating divine things intermixed with human things...Therefore, we also confess one will of our Lord Jesus Christ...”

(Epistola “Scripta fraternitatis vestrae” ad Sergium, patriarchae Constantinopolitae, a. 634. [Satis provide circurnspecteque fraternitatem vestram scripsisse. The letter is printed, in part, in Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, nos. 1057-64.])

In sum, the Pope confirms the heretical belief. For Honorius, will and operation proceed simply from the hypostatic or natural unity of Christ rather than two distinct natures and therefore, he acknowledges only one will and energy (operation or activity).

So here again we have a Pope who claims to be “defining the right faith”for the Church in a public doctrinal dispute –in which case the Vatican Council dogma says he cannot err. And here again we are going to see the Church condemn him for teaching incorrectly, i.e. for teaching heresy, this time the heresy of Monothelitism and Monoenergism:

A little less than 50 years later the 6th Ecumenical Council convened and anathematized Pope Honorius I as a teacher and confirmer of heresy:

In the final decree of the council on Sept. 16, 681, it condemns the “one will”heretics, including Honorius, saying: “But the devil raised up Theodore...Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter...and also Honorius, who was Pope of Elder teach one will and operation after the fashion of the impious Apollinarians, Severians and Themistians.”(Mansi xi, 632). Again in its 13th and 16th sessions we read:

Session XIII: The holy council said: After we had reconsidered, according to the promise which we had made to your highness, the doctrinal letters of Sergius, at one time patriarch of this royal God protected city to Cyrus, who was then bishop of Phasius and to Honorius some time Pope of Old Rome, as well as the letter of the latter to the same Sergius, we find that these documents are quite foreign to the apostolic dogmas, to the declarations of the holy Councils, and to all the accepted Fathers, and that they follow the false teachings of the heretics...And with these [Sergius, Pyrrhus, Cyrus, etc.] we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by Honorius to Sergius, that in all respects Honorius followed Sergius’ view and Honorius confirmed his impious doctrines... Session XVI: To Theodore of Pharan, the heretic, anathema! To Sergius, the heretic, anathema! To Cyrus, the heretic, anathema! To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!...

This anathema was reiterated in the 1st canon of this same Council (It “condemned by a just sentence those who adulterated the true doctrine and taught the people that in the one Lord Jesus Christ there is but one will and one operation; to wit, Theodore of Pharan, Cyrus of Alexandria, Honorius of Rome....”) and also at the 7th Ecumenical Council in the 8th century [cf. the Decree of the Council].

These decrees were accepted and signed by the legates of St. Pope Agatho, who never dissented from his legates’ confirmation that Honorius taught heresy to the Church. Later, his successor, Pope Leo II, would voice his own assent to this condemnation in a letter to the Emperor:

“Equally we anathematize the inventors of new heresy, that is, Theodore Bishop of Pharan, Cyrus the Alexandrian, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, seat-holders rather than prelates of the Church of Constantinople, and likewise Honorius, who did not illuminate the Apostolic See with the doctrines of the Apostolic TRAdition (‘thing handed-down’), but by profound PROdition (wordplay: ‘handing over’ = betrayal) attempted to subvert the immaculate faith...and all who died in their error...” (see R.C. Bishop Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1896), Volume V, pp. 180 and 184-187.)

So, did the 5th, 6th, and 7th Ecumenical Councils deem the Pope the infallible teacher of the Faith? Obviously not. Did they believe “the Pope can be judged by no one”as Roman Catholic dogma teaches? Obviously not. Was the ancient Church Roman Catholic, like the Papacy today? Obviously not!

Before closing this inquiry, we should recount one further incident in the Monothelite controversy that illustrates the Orthodox, not Roman Catholic, faith of the ancient Church:

St. Maximus the Confessor and the Roman Church

The Roman Apocrisarios [ambassador] Anastasius, who later became Pope [late 9th century] records the following conversation in his Latin Life of St. Maximus the Confessor (opp. cit., pp. 60-62) between the saint and his Monothelite interrogators:

‘To which church do you belong? To that of Byzantium, of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, or Jerusalem?’...To this the righteous man wisely replied, “Christ the Lord called that Church the Catholic Church which maintains the true and saving confession of the Faith. It was for this confession that He called Peter blessed, and He declared that He would found His Church upon this confession. However, I wish to know the contents of your confession, on the basis of which all churches, as you say, have entered into communion. If it is not opposed to the truth, then neither will I be separated from it...[they tell St. Maximus that Byzantium holds Monothelitism, whereupon St. Maximus rejects communion with them; Then:]...‘But what will you do,’ inquired the Imperial envoys, ‘when the Romans are united to the Byzantines? Yesterday, indeed, two delegates arrived from Rome and tomorrow, the Lord’s day, they will communicate the Holy Mysteries with the Patriarch.’ The Saint replied, ‘Even if the whole universe holds communion with the Patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another Gospel, introducing some new teaching.’

Even should Rome unite with Byzantium in teaching monothelitism, St. Maximus would not deem it the true Faith, but rather still a heresy. Did St. Maximus believe in Papal infallibility? Obviously not. Was the ancient Church Roman Catholic, like today’s Papacy? Obviously not. She was and is Orthodox.

XI. Conclusion: The Roman Catholic Papacy did not exist in the ancient (Orthodox) Church

As we have abundantly demonstrated, neither Holy Scripture, nor the Holy Fathers, nor the Holy Councils, nor history itself deem the Pope to be supreme ruler of the Church or infallible in doctrine. The Roman Catholic dogma is founded on myths only recently forged and created by the Papacy, which is an innovation and foreign to original, authentic Christianity.

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