Dr. Klaus Schatz, S.J. , Church History Professor @ St. Georgen School of Philosophy and Theology, & The Roman Primacy


Some students of Church history have taken notice of the seemingly strange admissions that are made by Roman Catholic Jesuit scholar Dr. Klaus Schatz, and have, in fact, used his book Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present as a key witness to the fact that *even* Roman Catholic scholars are now admitting what the Eastern Orthodox & Protestants have been saying all along, namely, that the reality of which is claimed from the Papal claims only came gradually over time in history, and underwent a long process of development where-from new concepts emerged that were born later in time than the Apostolic deposit was given to the saints (Jude 3). A huge blow to the veracity of Vaticanal teaching, indeed. Well, I wanted to provide some of Schatz’ reasoning by revealing some of the larger statements in his book. He can be defensive of Papal continuity as well as inconsistently undermining them whether by accident or oversight, I cannot know. For Schatz, there is definitely a real continuity between the constitution of the Church by the Lord Jesus and the later Papal construction of Church government, but it is one in which isn’t *known by the Church* until years of time go by for the Church to realize it. Students of the Catholic magisterium will quickly note how much this goes contrary to the Pope St. Pius X’s “The Oath Against Modernism”, whose first paragraph includes the following: “Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport“. But one wouldn’t really need this confirmation if they are familiar with the perspectives of the Patristic men themselves. From no less than the pro-Papal athlete of the 5th century himself, Pope St. Gelasius, we read the following: “Follow the ancient faith and the things which have come down to us from the holy fathers…We are no wiser than our ancestors, nor is it right for us to interpret in some new and different way what our ancestors learned and taught. We are not more learned than they.” (Letter 1, to the Bishops of the East 1.19). Anyone who is knowledgeable on the Papal claims of Pope Gelasius might be surprised that he could say this while at the same time providing us some of the most comparable teachings to Vatican Council I concerning Papal power. Apparently, it was certain for him that the Papacy was from the beginning and delivered by the Apostles and fathers. But Schatz is not impressed. I’ve provided two extensive quotes from his book which demonstrates his understanding of how continuity exists from the primitive church to the Medieval Papal construction. God bless you if you can understand it in the way Schatz would like it. He insists that the Church cannot invent an artificial authority to practically work the Church better, and that the Papal authority must be of divine origin commensurate with the deposit of faith from the beginning. And yet, he clearly admits that the earliest Christians knew less and less of what “Papacy” might mean than the coming Christians of the 5th century. How he can reconcile this, words cannot explain. At least, his words. But despite all of this, I thought that these quotations also serves to counter some of the popular ideas of how Schatz really didn’t have a Papal-bone in his body, and that his book was practically an apologetic book for Catholics to unconvert. Surely, his interpretation of St. Irenaeus, which I initially provide, goes contrary to the modern scholarship of Papal critics. And then, beyond that, he admits that, at least in the West, whose saints are no less venerated by the Orthodox [with the exception of Gelasius], there was a clear Papal consciousness akin to the Vatican definition. Happy reading.

“There is a much-quoted passage in the third book of Irenaeus of Lyons’ Adversus Haereses (“Against All Heresies”), written ca. 180-190…Then comes the crucial statement : ‘For it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church [Rome], on account of its preeminent authority (potentior principalitas), that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful persons] who exist everywhere’….There is no convincing solution that takes care of all the difficulties. However, we interpret the passage, we probably cannot deny that it implies that the Roman paradosis had a certain qualified authoritative character, for 1) Even if the text is probably speaking of an a priori agreement, it is not illustrated by just any example, but by something very specific, the potentior principalitas of Rome: That which is the universal tradition of all the churches can be more clearly and reliably demonstrated by looking to that of Rome, 2) Also noteworthy is the multiplication of laudatory terms applied to the Roman Church (“the very great, the very ancient, and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul”), indicating that it is more than mere example….” (page 9-10)

“We have seen in the cases of the dispute over the date of Easter and the controversy concerning baptism by heretics that an official word from Rome was by no means sufficient to bring either of these matters to a definitive conclusion, and yet in the long run the Roman position on both these questions was ultimately victorious. Nor are these exceptional cases. In almost all the major controversies of the first centuries, Rome established a position at a relatively early date that was then adopted and accepted by the entire Church, although often through a very long process and sometimes with certain modifications. The same is true of the great theological conflicts that began in the fourth century. For the first several centuries we should mention, in addition to the debate on on the date of Easter and the conflict over heretics’ baptism, two importance processes of clarification in which Rome played a decisive part. [he goes on to describe the formation of the canon and the resolution of penance for serious sins]” (page 14-15)

“Cyprian thus appeals simply to the mutual solidarity of all bishops and their responsibility for the whole Church: no bishop can simply practice an ivory tower policy and focus solely on his own church while other churches are being destroyed by their own bishops. He does not rely on any specific responsibility of Stephen as primate. Correspondingly, Bishop Faustinus of Lyons, the most important bishop of the vicinity in Arles, had previously written to Stephen and to Cyprian — in other words, to both the leading bishops in the Latin region. When Stephen did not react, he wrote to Cyprian again, asking him to renew his appeal to Stephen. Throughout this it is noteworthy that it was Stephen who was supposed to act; Cyprian himself did not write to Gaul. Apparently Stephen’s word carried more weight, and although he had no superior status in law, it seems that he did possess greater authority. It is especially through the letters of Cyprian that we can observe a certain wavering in the status of the bishop of Rome. A few years earlier, when Cornelius was elected bishop of Rome, Cyprian spoke of the Roman Church as the ‘matrix and root of the catholic church’; he addressed a letter to the newly elected bishop there, assuring him that ‘all our colleagues….firmly approve and maintain you and your communion, that is, the unity and also the charity of the catholic church’. Elsewhere he speaks of the Roman Church whence sacerdotal unity has sprung’ (ecclesia princinpalis unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est)…..We may thus summarize the essential information from the third century by saying that the Roman community was held in high esteem, but its status was not yet distinguished from the solidarity of the whole Church in which all the churches are responsible for one another. The Roman church held a preeminent place within the overall framework of universal Christian solidarity and episcopal collegiality. The question that naturally follows is: What happens if this universal ecclesial unity and solidarity is no longer palpable? What is to be done when deep divisions not only afflict individual churches, but draw the entire Church intro tribulation , when synods stand in opposition to one another and one synod seeks to annul what the others have decreed? What should happen when a solution could no longer be effected by the local church? That was the situation in  the fourth century [300s]. However, by that time some significant turning points already lay in the past….” (page 20-21)

“Leo I’s [450 AD] conception of papal primacy revolved around two central ideas: the pope is both the ‘heir of Peter’ within the meaning of Roman law and therefore the possessor of his power of the keys, and he is Peter’s ‘vicar’ or ‘representative’ as Peter is vicar of Christ…In addition, the Petrine succession was more expressly made in the content of the papal claim to leadership over the whole Church. The core concepts were now sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum (care for all the churches: cf 2 Cor 11:28) and the idea the the Roman church as caput (head), to which the other churches related as members. Rome was now to a much greater degree an active institution that intervened everywhere, and no longer simply the fixed center of communion. Authority to make binding decisions for individual churches was now claimed more explicitly, by reference especially to Matthew 16:18-20…” (page 29)

“Beginning with the last third of the fourth century [366-399] a feeling emerged that the Roman bishop had a position independent of and superior to councils. From the Roman council of 382 onward it was taken for granted that the Roman church outranked other churches not by conciliar decree, but by divine institution. Since the Roman synod in 371 or 372, it had been emphasized that councils, no matter how large their attendance, were invalid without the assent of the Roman bishop….It was the conciliar confusion of the fourth century that made this claim appear plausible and made it necessary to draw some distinction between ‘authentic’ and ‘false’ councils. Councils as such had proved to be rather unreliable institutions. In this situation Rome became, as we will see more clearly from the fifth century onward, a guarantor of a ‘line of continuity’. This came to mean that councils once acknowledged were valid, and their decrees were to be maintained in perpetuity; all others were rejected” (page 30)

“As regards the position of Rome at the ecumenical councils after Chalcedon, there were variations in detail that will be described in their historical context in the next chapter. There is a certain undeniable and constantly recurring tension between the Roman conception of that relationship and the ideas of a majority of the eastern council fathers. At Constantinople III (680-681) and Nicea II (787) the popes, like Leo at Chalcedon, pointed the way for the council through dogmatic letters. They did not expect their discussion, and they always acknowledged the councils’ independent authority. By no means were they seen as merely mouthpieces of papal authority; they had a weight of their own, especially as a manifestation of the horizontal consensus of the whole church. Nevertheless, they excluded any rejection of their own dogmatic decisions by the councils. As is clear from Pope Agatho’s letter to Emperor Constantine IV on the occasion of the Third Council of Constantinople, the basis of that assurance was not the awareness of any papal magisterial infallibility in the later sense . It was, instead, the infallibility of the apostolic tradition of the Roman church stemming from Peter which made it impossible for that church, unlike the church of Constantinople, into error. Because of that assurance, it was no longer necessary for a council ‘to discuss something that is uncertain, but only to define it more completely and to proclaim it as certain and unchangeable’…..Rome was clearly aware from the beginning of the fifth century onward that a council was only valid if it was in union with the bishop of Rome, and the same awareness existed for most of the eastern council fathers as well. But the basis for this special importance of Rome is not always clear. The participation of Rome’s delegates was always regarded as extremely important and usually as necessary for the additional reason that they represented the entire West. Before the iconoclastic conflict in the eighth century there was no clear criterion in the East to determine why and under what conditions a council is ecumenical, especially when there is serious doubt, and even after the conflict there are only traces of such determination. This was connected with the fact that the councils were all imperial councils supported by the unity of Church and empire. Only then that unity became problematic or the imperial office proved ineffective, as in the matter of iconoclasm, did other criteria, such as union with Rome, achieve importance. ” (page 50-51)

“In any case it is clear that Roman primacy was not a given from the outset; it underwent a long process of development whose initial phases extended well into the fifth century. The question is then: Can we reasonably say of this historically developed papacy that it was instituted by Christ and therefore must always continue to exist? This seems a more radical question than the similar challenges posed to other Church offices (e.g., the episcopate [obviously, Schatz doesn’t believe in the full establishment of the Episcopate by Christ/Apostles]) or the sacraments because in the case of the papal office the initial process lasted much longer and clearly extended beyond the “apostolic” era of the church, however one might wish to define that time period. In the case of the episcopal office, or the threefold office of bishop, priest, and deacon, the fundamental process of formation was completed at least by the end of the second century. For papal primacy the process lasted another two or three centuries.
The first answer can only be that recognition of the need for an enduring Petrine office as a guarantor of unity presupposes the historical necessity of a multitude of experiences that build on one another and could not be completed in one or two centuries. That need is unrelated to the greater efficiency of a community with a unified head to coordinate its activities. In fact, until the modern era the Roman Church constituted such a coordinating center only to a very limited degree, and not at all before the eleventh century, if only because very few popes pursued a consistent and active ecclesiastical policy; their actions were mainly reactions.
The need for an office that guaranteed unity presented itself on other than technical or rational grounds, but this supposes a long period of development. If we do not understand the institution of the Church by Jesus Christ in an unhistorical sense, but rather in such a way that an awareness of what is essential and enduring in the Church develops only as a result of historical challenges and experiences, we cannot reasonably expect to discover a ‘primacy from the beginning’  in the sense of a primacy of teaching and jurisdiction as defined by Vatican I.
Instead, without doing violence to history we may interpret this process in terms of theology and salvation history somewhat as follows: Only in the course of history does the Church learn how to preserve both its connection with its historical origin (apostolicity), and at the same time and closely united with that origin its present unity as a visible community of faith and a society in communion (community of the body of Christ). when threatened by heresies, the Church learns that it draws its life from recollection of its apostolic origins. It realizes that tie to its origins in a twofold manner: through the canon of sacred Scripture, which is thus clearly distinguished from the ‘inauthentic’ writings, and through the continuity and ‘apostolic succession’ office, primarily that of bishops. In both of these the Church’s apostolic origins are present. But in this not all churches are equally important. The ‘apostolic’ churches have the greatest importance, because there the connection to the origins is somehow more tangible.
In a further process, the Church learns through the experience of schisms that it needs an enduring center of unity. But because the Church cannot ‘create’ its essential elements, but lives its life as a Church founded by Jesus and endowed with certain gifts and traditions, it cannot produce such a center of unity out of nothing. It must seek within its apostolic traditions for such a point of unity. An artificially created center of unity devised for practical reasons could, of course, have a certain usefulness as an administrative clearinghouse and center for arbitration of disputes, but in times of real crisis and when the faith is in danger there is no guarantee that the Church can maintain itself in truth purely by relying on such a manufactured office of unity. In effect, the Christian imperial throne from Constantine onward was such an ‘artificially manufactured’, humanly devised center, and it is a prime illustration of the problems involved. The Church must therefore seek within its own tradition to see whether it does not possess at least the elements of such a center. In the course of that search it discovers the Roman church, which has an advantage over all the other ‘apostolic’ churches in its ties to the beginning by the fact that it is associated with Peter and Paul, and therefore has a potentior principalitas.
The next element that comes into view against this background of experience of the need for an office that endows the Church with unity and preserves it as one is the biblical Peter as primitive image and model of such unity. Now the Church understands that the words of Jesus to Peter had significance for the entire church as well. The Petrine office is thus the link between two elements: the apostolic (the church’s attachment to its origins because it descends from Peter) and the catholic (the Church’s universality in space because it serves present and enduring unity).
The two elements – the concrete historical demand elicited by current need and a diligent search within the tradition — must coalesce. The synod of Sardica is an especially vivid illustration of the interplay of the two. On the one hand, there was a current need for an office of arbitration and appeal in a situation in which synods met sequentially and annulled each other’s actions. The search for an existing tradition, still very tentative and clumsy, found its expression in the reasoning Petri memoriam honoremus. In other words the Church of Peter, to which special honor is due because of its apostolic rank, should be the one to assume a function that has proved itself necessary in present circumstances” (page 36-38)

“Since the time of Paul VI many, including Cardinal Ratzinger, have repeatedly stated that as far as the Orthodox Churches are concerned the task at hand is to restore the unity that existed in the 1st millennium. The problem is only that such a unity in the 1st millennium is an equivocal concept. It looked very different in different eras and was very differently interpreted, not only in the West and East, but especially *with the Eastern Church itself* [emphasis mine]. One question not easily answered is: Did the Eastern Church as a whole ever recognize more than a ‘primacy of honor’, whereby the Roman bishop was primus inter pares (first among equals) with respect to the other patriarchs, but not more?
“Here the methodological crux is to make a correct assessment of the meaning of ‘more’. If it is understood to mean a ‘primacy of jurisdiction’ in the sense of a leadership of the Church that is sometimes effective and applicable in normal times, the answer must certainly be negative. It is clear especially in the conflict surrounding canon 28 of Chalcedon and the allegiance of Illyricum that Rome was scarcely or not at all able to accomplish its aim in serious jurisdictional questions affecting the whole Church, *especially when the emperor took the opposing side* [emphasis mine].
“The answer would be different if we were to ask whether Rome was acknowledged as the *ultimate norm of ecclesial communion* [emphasis mine]. It would not be difficult to find a *continuing series of witnesses in the Eastern Church throughout the centuries* [emphasis mine – notice the breadth of time-period] who give a clear acknowledgement of that principle, and who speak in one way or another of the Roman chuch, or even the Roman bishop, as the head or presider over all chuches. ! This is especially true when leaders in the Eastern Church sought help at Rome, but by no means all the witnesses can be explained in such interests! [empahsis mine].
“On the other hand, there are also witnesses on the opposite side expressing a different opinion. Often Rome is only the 1st see in the series of patriarchs, but its preeminence does not seem to be qualitatively different from that of the other patriarchates. In the later theory of the pentarcy, the issue is mainly that of harmony among the five patriarchs, and not simply union with Rome. Rome is especially important for communion, but it alone is not decisive. Of course we have also seen that matters were different at Nicaea II and generally among supporters of the veneration of images: *In those cases Rome was not said to be on the same level with other patriarchs, but had a special role* [emphasis mine]. However, that was a particular line of development that did not continue in a consistent manner afterward. In general, then, the question of the ultimate center of Church unity was not posed in such well-defined terms because the East, unlike the West, subsisted on the basis of a union of Church and Empire.
At the same time, there were moments when that unity was problematic, for example during the iconoclastic conflict. Especially in such periods even eastern authors later acknowledged as representatives of orthodox faith recognize that controversies involving the whole Church, especially those having to do with matters of faith, can only be definitively resolved in union with the Roman see and not apart from it.* [empahsis mine]
“Thus especially *when the imperial throne was incapable of fully managing affairs the market value and theological status of the Roman see could rise remarkably, even among eastern authors. One example, who could be cited is Theodore Abu Qurra, who wrote in Arabic works in Syria around 800. For him, the Roman bishop is the successor of Peter, the rock of the Church; therefore he must call a council, for it cannot take place without him and he is its proper leader. But Abu Qurra no longer lived within the world of the imperial Church. The imperial throne no longer meant anything to him, and therefore the papacy had to take its place. In particular, he was engaged in a struggle against the Monophysites that required the development of a clear rule of faith and an unmistakable criterion for the formal legitimacy of councils. Imperial leadership was not an obstacle and a counterargument. Only in the papacy did he find the ultimate criterion for the legitimacy of councils* [emphasis mine].
“Certinaly Abu Qurra, given his circumstances, is not representative but he indicates a particular possibility and a consistent direction. The idea that differences that call the identity of the Church and its faith into question can only be definitively clarified in union with Rome (which certainly does not mean ‘only by Rome’) is a conviction with a very broad tradition in the East. But this conviction is primarily found among authors who have since been regarded as pillars of ‘orthodoxy’ among Roman Catholics as well as Orthodox — in other words, the conviction in itself played a part in the triumph of orthodoxy, and this conviction was expressed particularly in periods when the imperial office failed and was no longer available as a support for the Church. All this means that we must acknowledge that these ‘witnesses to primacy’ are indeed significant as testimony to the common faith of East and West” (Pg 59-61)

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