Tome of Pope St. Leo – Critically Examined by the Council of Chalcedon? Part 2: Response to Ubi Petrus



Council of Chalcedon (source)

A new blog article, belonging to an anonymous author who goes by the pesudo-name UBIPETRUS2019 (Ubi Petrus), has rebutted arguments I made in an article I wrote back in September of 2017 concerning the famous letter of Pope St. Leo to St. Flavian of Constantinople, otherwise known as his Tome, and its reception by the Council of Chalcedon (451). Here below is my response to this critique. Citations from Ubi Petrus in blue.

Ubi Petrus attempts to prove two things in his article. (1) That I’ve not read the Acts of Chalcedon, nor am I familiar with the history of the Council except from secondary sources and quote mines, and (2) That neither Pope St. Leo nor the Bishops at the Council considered the Tome to be an ex-cathedra, or something “foisted on the bishops”; instead, both the Pope and the Council considered the Tome to be a statement of one Patriarch (of the West)  submitted to the higher authority of the Council to review it for either approval or disapproval.

My preliminary answer to these two points as as follows: (1) I have not read the absolute entirety of the Acts. After all, there are pages which include hundreds of names and bishoprics. There are pages which consist of the repetitious record of the bishops saying they agree with the Council. There is also a rehearsing of the Acts of the Council of Ephesus (449) in Session I of Chalcedon, and so one reads this Council as well as Chalcedon if we were to read it in its entirety. Maybe one day I can find the time to read every word from cover to cover, but I believe I’ve read extensively the pertinent sum which pertain to the dispute that is central to the topic at hand. And many times, at that. And (2), I think that it would be a tad bit anachronistic to expect a full-blown ex-cathedra recognition of this Papal letter. As I say below, this is probably not intended to be an ex-cathedra decree, even if one could argue that after its composition, the Pope intended it to be the standard of orthodoxy (which he did). However, the Pope certainly did not open his Tome for review by the Council, and this much is transparently admitted by Richard Price, the Patristics scholar who has translated the Acts of Chalcedon into English. This same scholar, however, understood the Council to have had a different mindset, namely, that the Pope’s primacy was that of a primus inter pares model. In other words, Price believes the Council thought itself above the Pope’s authority. I disagree with this, and I’ll give expanded reasons below, but for now I’d say that there is clearly a majority view in support of Leo’s tome, full stop. They don’t tell us whether they saw the entrance of the Tome into the Council space as on par with the Old and New Testaments, nor do they tell us that they had to review the Tome for themselves in order to ensure it passed the test of orthodoxy. I will take into account the session where the Bishops all cite, over and over, that the Tome was accepted because it was judged in accordance with Nicaea, Ephesus, St. Cyril, etc,etc., and explain how this doesn’t mean what Ubi Petrus takes it to mean. On the other hand, those who contested the contents of the Tome are clearly in the small minority, and this shouldn’t be considered a problem at all for the doctrine of the Papacy. If Ubi Petrus is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church (I am assuming he/she is), then it should be noted that just after Chalcedon, many bishops resisted the Council itself, and held that Ephesus (449) was valid and in force. Would we then say that the Council itself was merely a submission for review, for either approval or disapproval of various episcopal synods abroad? It is my opinion that the Eastern view has changed its policy on the subject of Councils, and today is forced to conclude that Councils themselves do not wield the authority to determine their irreformable status. Instead, the Council itself is submitted to be reviewed by the “whole Church”, and the latter, instead of the Council, discerns the status of the Council. Therefore, if one wanted to look at the minority of bishops who contested the Papal Tome at Chalcedon and deduce a force that undermines the Papacy, then what of the great number of Bishops who refused to uphold the Ecumenical Council? We have even seen Orthodox resort to the epistemic framework which identifies the status of a Council on the basis of whether it “taught the truth”. In other words, the truth validates a Council. While this paradigm is possible, it would appear to greatly vitiate the necessary attribute of visibility to Christ’s Church, since each episcopal group is entitled to choose which “truth” is true to them, and then it leaves one having to choose which episcopal group got it right. Some folks feel this plane will fly, and others think it takes off the ground on a drop of gasoline.

Now, I will go into more detailed responses.



Ubi Petrus (UP from here forward) claims that my article seeks to argue that Leo’s tome is an exercise of the infallible magisterium of the Pope. About me, UP states:

He is arguing that not only was the Tome of Pope St. Leo the Great an exercise of the Extraordinary Magisterium of the Pope (i.e. an Ex-Cathedra statement) but that it was received so by the vast majority of the council who simply signed it on the good word of the source. 

As far as I recall, I did not intend to argue in my article for the extraordinary infallibility of the Leo’s tome. While I believe a good case can be made for it to be an ex-cathedra decree, that is not the proposition I was committed to in the article, and so I am puzzled by this first statement. I used the phrase “Magisterium of Rome“, and the author immediately assumed I intend to mean the extraordinary and infallible magisterium of Papal ex-cathedra definitions. I cannot recall if that is what I had in mind or not, but the author should take note that “Magisterium of Rome” is not an exclusive reference to the infallible magisterium of of the Pope’s teaching ministry. For example, in Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, the Council wrote:

This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”

So we can see here that the “magisterium of the Roman Pontiff” is not automatically synonymous with “speaking ex cathedra“. In any case, one could argue that Leo’s tome, being at least an exercise of the authentic magisterium of Rome, albeit not infallible, deserved to be received with “religious submission of mind and will” by the recipients as defined here by Lumen Gentium. Leo’s tome was not originally a decree sent out to all the churches, but a letter to the Bishop of Constantinople, Flavian. Nevertheless, he intended it to serve as the standard of orthodoxy in the dispute over the teaching of Eutyches, Archimandrite of Constantinople.

In truth, my article is committed to answering one specific question, namely, as the title suggests, was Leo’s tome critically examined by the Council of Chalcedon? I believe what prompted me to write this article were the claims made by both Orthodox and Protestant historical theologians who claim that the Tome was intellectually spanked by the council fathers before it finally was deemed to be acceptable, or,  in harmony with the more prominently revered writings of St. Cyril of Alexandria. I believe this to be a revision, and ergo, my article. UP doesn’t actually plant his two feet in front of that position as I laid it down, and so his confrontation is with a straw monster.

With the above clarification, this will blunt the force of UP’s rebuttal. However, it puts the ball back in my court as to just what aspect of the Papacy is manifested at Chalcedon? I’ll get to this below.

(2) He then moves to concede that the Council of Chalcedon and pertinent figures associated with it recognized that the Pope had authority, but authority understood by the Latin noun auctoritas, which he proceeds to define as follows:

The term St. Leo uses in the Latin original here is “auctoritas” and though it does mean ‘authority’, it does not mean so in the sense Mr. Ybarra thinks. “Auctoritas” (and this is common knowledge for those who study classics) does not mean ‘authority’ in the sense of juridical power (“potestas”) but instead refers to soft power, i.e. the ability to convince others to do what you want them to do because of your good reputation.

So we have here the claim that Pope Leo only claims to possess an auctoritas over the universal Church, whereas the Latin word for juridical power, “potestas”, is purposefully avoided. In other words, UP would have us believe that Pope St. Leo claimed to have an authority of influence and persuasion, a “soft power”, but not the kind of authority which puts a binding requirement on the subject to obey or face legal penalties.

This is a gross oversimplification of the use of these terms in the 5th century Church, let alone how St. Leo uses it. Nevertheless, I will give a brief run down of how these two words were used in the late antique Rome, and how they developed.

For the Romans, government or the act of governing was a compound of exercising initiative and power, otherwise called auctoritas and potestas. The noun auctoritas referred to the qualities possessed by the auctor, i.e. the subject who has auctoritas. A man who is an auctor is a man who originated something, like an author, designer, founder, or progenitor. Therefore, the word stood for the character of origination, or causation, i.e. being the source from which the other comes from. If an author wrote a book, a architect designed a building, or an inventor invented a machine, or if someone initializes an event which extends into a further sequences, etc.,etc., these were auctores. Now, when we are thinking in terms of the auctoritas of a leader over other human beings, we have to see what it would mean to be an auctor in relation to persons. Most obviously, the progenitor or father of a family who be the auctor. Adam and Abraham would be two perfect examples of auctores in relation to humanity, in the case of the first, and the household of Israel, in the case of the second. Not only would this be the case in terms of physical generation, but even another sort of cause and effect, such as Adam’s sin bring ruin to the human race, thereby being the auctor of humanity’s fall. To get more specific, the verb augere, from which auctor and auctoritas derive, means to augment or increase.

Bringing this concept of auctor and auctortias from the basic level of origination to the populus Romanus (the Roman people), there is none other than the mythical figure of Romulus as the founding father of the Roman people, and thus would be the auctor of these people. What role did the auctores who came thereafter have when they stood as leaders of Rome? Historically because Romulus was believed to have ordained 100 heads from prestigious families of early Rome to serve as counselors, it was the Senate which bore pre-eminent auctoritas. This sort of influence was to give teaching, guidance, education, and moral initiative to the production of policy, but not the sort which could make commands and execute legal direction. It was the wise teacher, and not the commander, of the res publica. Therefore, the senatorial auctoritas didn’t include rights to be obeyed, but only the right to be heard and considered, and based off moral authority or for being prestigious, wise, and learned.  It is therefore no wonder why the Roman jurisconsults were said to have auctoritas. These men were well educated in the law, and were recognized as its wisest interpreters. However, they had no magisterial office to enforce the law, or execute the demands of the law. They could give guidance, but not judgment. They were honored and respected, but they were not consulted for authoritative implementation of what they studied in theory.

The Roman Empire, therefore, could not be governed simply by auctoritas. Perhaps a fitting analogy here would be that of the function of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda in the 5th and 6th Episode of Star Wars. Yoda and Kenobi were the masters of wisdom who could teach, train, and guide. But this mere auctoritas, one could say, would be insufficient to restore balance to the force and restore the Empire. The potestas, one might say, which was principally in the hands of the Imperium, led by Darth Sidious, could only be overcome by the postestas of the Rebel Alliance.

In comes the role of potestas. This is translated as “power”, understood as legal and coercive power, i.e. the office of state, and shouldn’t be mistaken for physical power (potentia). Although, the proper subject exercising potestas could qualify to use potentia. Now, the sort of potestas which has import for our subject was the imperium, the sort of authority which a military commander might have.

One can clearly see the divergence in the meaning of these terms. They are clearly different. However, as the Roman republic developed its constitution, it was the Augustus (lit. exalted/venerable; the title given to Octavian, the first Roman Emperor), interestingly derived from the verb augere (as we saw, lit. to augment/increase), who was seen to have acquired auctoritas together with potestas, and he was also referred to as the princeps (a word used later to refer to St. Peter in the Apostolic College, and the Pope of Rome in relation to the universal Church), which means literally first in order, but effectively meaning the Leader of the Roman Empire when attributed to Augustus. This Princeps, then, brought together the aucoritas and potestas in a single subject. If we add the notion of potestas as imperium, as well, then we have the ruler of the imperium Romanum and the supreme ruler of the Roman people. (For more information on this, consult prestigious political theorist Michael Oakeshott’s Lectures in the History of Political Thought , pages 213-229)

[added note on 12/14/2019while my reference above to Oakeshott’s lectures has always been there, it has come to my attention that it was not clear enough my above summary depends largely on Oakeshott. From here, let the record be clear that my thoughts above are my systematic summary of his wonderful explanation of auctoritas/potestas in Roman antiquity]

Given the above brief description of the usages of these words at the inception of the Roman Empire, would not this support the argument made by UP against my article? I argue no.

I will give plenty of references further below, but the most famous text where auctoritas and potestas is used is that of the Tome of Pope St. Gelasius, and this passage, ironically enough, appears to rank the auctoritas of bishops above that of the potestas of the Imperium. Gelasius writes:

“There are in fact two..Emperor Augustus, by whom the world is originally (principaliter) governed: the consecrated authority of bishops (auctoritas sacrata pontificum) and the royal power (regalis potestas). Of these, the responsibility of the bishops is the more weighty, since even for rulers of men they will have to give account at the judgment seat of God. For you know, most gracious son, that, though in your office you preside over the human race , yet you bow your head in devout humility before those who govern the things of God and await from them the means of your salvation; you realize that in the use and fitting administration of the heavenly sacraments you ought to submit to Christian order, not to be its master, and that in these matters you ought to be subject to their judgment” (Epistolae Romanorum pontificum 557; English taken from Trevor Jalland’s “Church and Papacy” , pg. 326)

On the distinction between auctoritas and potestas, Anglican historian Dr. Trevor Jalland, during his lecture series delivered at Oxford in 1942 entitled “Church and Papacy” (now put into book form, see above reference), stated:

“Here lies a distinction familiar to students of Roman constitutional law. Auctoritas belonged to the ideal and moral sphere, and just because its force was derived from tradition or from public opinion, it was strictly an ethical concept, as in the case of the Roman Senate, and so differed from the physical potestas endowed with executive imperium, which in the republican period belonged to the populus and was entrusted to the magisttrates only for the period of their office. There was therefore a clear though undefined sense in which auctoritas if compared with potestas could be regarded as the higher of the two, just as moral influence is superior to physical force” (ibid. p. 327)

Similarly, the Medieval historian Dr. Walter Ullman states:

“Whilst, however, this fundamental difference between the pontifical auctoritas and the imperial potestas was clear to anyone versed in Roman juristic terminology and ideology, Gelasius superimposed a typical Christian argument upon it: in a Roman-Christian world, the sacred pontifical auctoritas is all the greater, as it has to render an account even for the doings of the kings themselves on the day of judgment” (The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages, pg. 21-22)

On the other hand, the matter here is not as clear for some other scholars. One British historian, Jeffery Richards, surveys the various views on the above Tome:

“In this letter Gelasius appears to contrast auctoritas and potestas. Much ink and fury has been expended over the years in trying to define just what he meant. There have been four main interpretations. Erich Caspar argued that potestas meant power and auctoritas meant moral authority and that Gelasius was restating the strictly dualist view of the world. Walter Ullman has argued that in Roman legal terms, auctoritas meant the God-given right to rule and potestas merely delegated executive power and that this is a statement of Papal supremacy. Francis Dvornik has argued that in Roman legal terms, potestas meant sovereignty and auctoritas merely traditional authority and that it is a statement of Imperial supremacy. A.K. Ziegler has suggested that it is merely a rhetorical device to avoid using the same word twice, and he quotes a letter written by Gelasius for Felix III in which he is clearly using auctoritas and potestas as synonyms” (The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages: 476-752, link)

Contrary to what one may think, therefore, the precise definition of auctoritas in contrast to potestas, when it comes to understanding how the authority of the Pope was understood in St. Leo’s day, is not  as easy to discern. It would appear that auctoritas should be less “binding” than potestas, as something which doesn’t inherently require obedience and conformity, strictly. But in this case, the auctoritas of the Pope seems to carry with it the function of representing something sacred, even divine. In that case, it can be seen to cover far more than any sort of potestas could have, either imperial or ecclesiastical. It is from this vantage point that I believe Dr. James Greenaway, whose dissertation was in the field of medieval political philosophy, and whose published book is on the subject of authority in the medieval context, gets closest to what is being described by the Pope’s when they claim auctoritas over the whole universal church. Greenaway writes:

“..papal auctoritas signified an ‘activity of guardianship rather than “rule”, a right to advise, and to teach, and to admonish’. Papal authority, then, extended to the custodianship of Christian doctrine as its sole authoritative interpreter” (The Differentiation of Authority: The Medieval Turn Toward Existence, pg. 208)

Greenaway then immediately quotes Oakeshott:

“The Pope had authority to ‘guard and to augment and to interpret Christian belief…But the Pope was not only recognized to have auctoritas over Christian doctrine; he claimed, as he often successfully exercised, auctoritas over kings and emperors of Christendom…The ground of this auctoritas was the Pope’s position as guardian of the Christian Church; and it was often used to instruct kings and emperors in their duties as Christian rulers and protectors of the Church'” (ibid)

I think a good definition is one provided by Ullman: auctoritas ” is the faculty of shaping things creatively and in a binding manner, while potestas is the power to execute what the auctoritas has laid down“. (Growth of Papal Government, pg. 21).

This squares nicely with what St. Gelasius put down. The potestas of the imperium is also based on divine foundation (Rom 13), but the pontifical auctoritas (chiefly in the successor of St. Peter) is the supreme judge on the content of Christian doctrine, faith, discipline, and morals, and thus ranks higher in order than the power of state. It isn’t a question, therefore, that auctoritas is superior in this context.

However, one may say that this certainly is true when the distinction is between the authority of the Church versus the authority of the state. But what about the use of auctoritas and potestas when the distinction is between the authority of the Pope and the authority of the bishops and councils?

We would do well to look at some of the early documents of the Church where the word auctoritas is used in order to see whether the strict bifurcation above would make any sense given the contexts. Before giving these, I should give a summary of my findings, and one can read notes underneath the references below for commentary which is more strictly specific.

 Since we have Church Fathers using auctoritas to describe the authority of almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Scripture, Ecumenical Councils, and the binding Patristic tradition ( consensus patrum), we should understand that even if auctoritas were to be that of “prestige” and “persuasive gravitas”, it should still be understood capable of meaning a persuasive gravitas of the highest and most supreme value. It could not be subsumed into the idea of “soft power”, or something which does not require obedience. Such would be absurd. The auctoritas of the Creator is absolute and supremely binding upon all of creation. Therefore the auctoritas of the Apostolic See , being rooted in the divine plan of Christ our Lord in blessed Peter and his successors, is not an attempt to claim Rome’s pre-eminence, albeit as “soft power”. It could very well be a reference to an absolutely binding authority, opposition to which results in the peril of the soul. With that being stated, I would have to turn to UP and ask if he/she is comfortable with saying God, Christ, the Church, the consensus patrum, and Ecumenical Councils are all a “soft power” which doesn’t strictly bind the conscience with an infallible force of authority? It would appear as if UP sees auctoritas as belittling the Papal authority from that of absolute and supreme to something along the lines of moral prestige. I am curious if the same logic would belittle God’s authority (auctoritas).

Now, here below are several instances from the 4th to the 8th centuries on the usage of auctoritas, and I believe we get a different picture than what UP drew for us.


A significant Council was convened by the Emperor Constantine in response to appeals from Donatist bishops of North Africa. Meeting in 314 A.D. in the city Arles (modern day Southern France), therefore representing early 4th-century usage of the Latin language, it is a good place to look for its use of the auctoritas word.


Council of Alres - authority of our GOd
An English translation :

“Here we have suffered from troublesome men, dangerous to our law and tradition — men of undisciplined mind, whom both the authority (auctoritas) of our God, which is with us, and our tradition and the rule of truth reject, because they have neither reason in their argument, nor any moderation in their accusations, nor was their manner of proof to the point. Therefore by the judgment of God and of Mother Church, who knows and approves her own, they have been either condemned or rejected” (taken from E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority A.D. 96-454, p. 88; Latin text from Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 26.206)

It is clear, here, that the Synod bishop at Arles understood the Donatist bishops to be condemned by the judgment of God. But what is interesting is what the text suggests this judgment of God rests upon, namely, the auctoritas of God, which they say was “with us”. It follows that their judgment is the judgment of “Mother Church”, and that judgment is the judgement of almighty God because His auctoritas was “with” them. Now, not only is it difficult to square God having a “soft power” or the mere influence of advice and persuasion (not necessarily to be obeyed), but if auctoritas truly means the moral authority of persuasion or merely prestige, it would be even more curious as to why they think the presence of God’s moral prestige (which needn’t be obeyed) would ground the Council’s authority to condemn the African bishops. It would appear that auctoritas, whatever it means, can serve to ground the legitimacy of a binding and legal power to judge and execute discipline.



damasus presented with vulgate

St. Jerome presents Vulgate to Pope St. Damasus I

In a famous letter of St. Jerome to Pope St. Damasus , there are some striking statements made with regard to the primacy of the Roman See, and its auctoritas in particular.


Jerome I am in communion with the chair of peter on that rock

“I speak with the successor of the fisherman, with the disciple of the cross. Following none in the first place bu Christ, I am in communion with your beatitude, that is with the chair of Peter. On that rock I know the Church is built. Whoever shall eat the Lamb outside this house is profane. If any be not with Noah in the ark, he shall perish in the flood” (Letter 15)

Jerome whoever is not in communion with you scatters

“..I follow here your colleagues the Egypian confessors; and under these great ships, my little vessel lies hid. Vitalis I know not, Meletius I reject; I ignore Paulinus. Whoso gathereth not with thee scattereth, that is, he who is not of Christ is anti-Christ.” (ibid)

Jerome authority of your communion

“Wherefore I beseech your holiness, by the crucified Saviour of the world, that you will write and authorize me to say or refuse the hypostases..Likewise inform me with whom I ought to communicate at Antioch; for the Campenses are joined to the heretical Tarsenes, and desire nothing but to preach three hypostases in the old sense, as if supported by the authority (aucoritate) of your communion” (ibid)

It is clear from the above that St. Jerome understands the Roman communion to be absolutely indispensable. He makes it clear that communion with Christ depends on communion with St. Damasus in a sense not shared by any other bishop. He says that whoever does not join with Rome scatters (i.e. is in schism), and that whoever celebrates the Eucharistic Lamb outside of communion with Rome is unlawful. He also identifies the Roman communion and its Chair of Peter as the rock upon which the Church is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Therefore, the Roman communion here is not a great option which has moral gravitas to it due to some historical accidents with St. Paul and St. Peter. Rather, this is divinely founded, rooted in the will of Jesus Christ. Therefore, at the end, for St. Jerome to say that the Roman communion has “auctoritate” , it must include the notion of a binding law, and not a well-to-do option based on moral and historical prestige.  It stands to reason, therefore, that when 4th or 5th century Latins refer to the aucoritas of Rome, they could be speaking of something as strong as what St. Jerome says here.


Milevis to Innocent - Authority of your holiness drawn from the authority of scripture

“We consider that by the help of the mercy of our Lord God, who deigns both to direct your counsel and to hear your prayers, those who hold such perverse and pernicious opinions will more easily yield to the authority (auctoritati) of your holiness, drawn from the authority (auctoritate) of Holy Scripture, so that we may be congratulated by their correction, than saddened by their ruin” (Council of Milevis to Pope St. Innocent; Augustine Ep. 176; PL 33.763)

This was a request from the regional Council of North Africa, held in Milevis, for the Pope to anathematize the heresy of Pelagianism. This African synod makes a reference to the auctoritas of the Pope as what will carry the sort of force to which the dissenters will yield. But then the Council fathers say that the Pope’s auctoritas is drawn from the auctoritas of Holy Scripture. Now, before we even interpret what this means, we should pause on the fact that Scripture, the very voice of almighty God, and unto which the mouth of all men is shut, is said to possess auctoritas. Now, it would be certainly odd to read this as the “soft power” of God and His holy word. It is more than likely that this auctoritas of Scripture, even though not a bearer of potestas, since Writings do not inflict penalties, is understood to be of the highest form of persuasive authority. Indeed, an infallible auctoritas. Now, having said that, how is the Pope’s auctoritas drawn from Scripture’s auctoritas? Is it because the Council fathers in Milevis thought the Pope would gather references from Scripture? This is possible, but unlikely, for the Council of Milevis had already adduced a number of Scriptural texts themselves, and so if it were merely a matter of garnering Scripture and its own authority, they already had this. Therefore, it is far more likely that what is meant is the implicit connection between the Roman See and the invested auctoritas in St. Peter by the Lord (Matt 16, Luke 23, John 20). The authority of the Apostolic See is grounded in the authority given to St. Peter. This would corroborate with what had already been said around 30+ years earlier by Pope St. Damasus when he said that “though all the catholic churches diffused throughout the world are but one bridal chamber of Christ, yet the holy Roman Church has been set before the rest by no conciliar decrees, but has obtained the primacy by the voice of our Lord and Savior in the Gospel : ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I shall build My church and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven‘” (Roman Synod 382; PL 13.374).




St. Augustine


Innocent to Africa - by its authority the just decree may be strengthened

Reply of St. Innocent to Carthage (417 AD)

“You decided that it was proper to refer to our judgment , knowing what is due to the Apostolic See….So also, you have by your priestly office preserved the institutions of the fathers , and have not spurned that which they decreed by a sentence not human but divine, that whatever is done, even though it be in distant provinces, should not be ended until it comes to the knowledge of this See, that by its authority (auctoritate) the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened, and that from there the other churches (like waters proceeding from their natal sources and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of an uncorrupt head) should take up what they ought to enjoin…” (Pope St. Innocent to Carthage; PL 33.780).

In this reply of the Pope to the Council of Carthage, which had written to Rome with the same request as that of Milevis (above), the Pope makes it clear that whatever is deliberated by bishops anywhere in the world, it should not be considered a closed matter until it is reviewed by the Apostolic See, so that by its auctoritas, the decisions can be finalized. While this is certainly not a reference to potestas, it is a reference to a supreme arbiter on matters of doctrine, and he even compares the other churches as streams of water which flow from an uncorrupt head, i.e. the teaching office of Rome.






Innocent to Milevis

Pope St. Innocent to the Council of Milevis (417)

“It is therefore with due care and fitness that you consult the secrets of the Apostolic Office (that Office, I mean, to which belongs, besides those things that are outside, the care of all the churches) as to what opinion should be held on doubtful matters, following the form of the ancient rule which, you and I know, has ever been kept in the whole world….Especially as often as questions of faith are to be ventilated, I think all our brothers and fellow bishops ought to refer to none but Peter, that is to the author of their name and office, even as your affection has now referred [to us], a matter which may benefit all churches in common throughout the world….Therefore your charity will do a double good ; for you will obtain the grace of having observed the canons, and the whole world will share your benefit…..We declare that Pelagius and Celestius , that is the inventors of new doctrines which, as the Apostle said, are wont to produce no edification, but rather utterly empty questionings, should by the authority (auctoritate) of apostolic vigor be deprived of apostolic communion..” (Pope St. Innocent to Milevis ; PL 33.784)

Here, we see a description of the historic institution of the Papal office, which holds the “care of all the churches” , and to which all the bishops should refer to. One significant part is where St Innocent says that Peter should be the one referred to, and then described Peter as the “author of their name and office”. In other words, Peter is the origin of the universal episcopate (c.f. Cyprian & Optatus). The Latin of this sentence goes like this “….sui nominis et honoris auctorem referre debere”. Right there we see our auctor-word, which is translated as “author” or “beginning”. This confirms that auctoritas carries the meaning of origin or authorship, and so Rome’s auctoritas involves its being the foundation of origin in ecclesiastical organization.





Zosimus - Reply to Africa

Zosimus Response to Carthage

“Although the tradition of the fathers has assigned such great authority (auctoritatem) to the Apostolic See, that no one would dare to dispute its judgment, and has kept this always by canons and rules and church order, and in the current of its laws pays the reverence which it owes to the name of Peter, from whom it descends; for canonical antiquity , by the consent of all, has willed such power (potestatis) to this apostle , so that the promise of Christ our God, that he should loose the bound and bind the loosed, is equally given to those who have obtained, with his assent, the inheritance of his See; for he [Peter] has the care of all the churches , especially for this where he sat, nor does he permit any of its privileges or decisions to be shaken by any blast, since he established it on the firm and immovable foundation of his own name, which no one shall rashly attack , but at his peril. Peter then is the head of so great authority (auctoritatis) …Such then being our authority (auctoritatis) , that no one can revise our sentence ….”
(Pope St. Zosimus to the Council of CarthagePL 20.676)

Space will not allow the context of this letter to be given, but suffice it to say that Pope St. Zosimus felt the need to reassert the nature of Papal authority. What interests us here is the usage of auctoritas and potestas, as if the latter is drawn from the former. It is almost as if, for Zosimus, to have one is to have the other, in the instance of St. Peter and his successors. Notice the auctoritas is of the type which renders Rome’s judgments irreformable, and even stipulated by the canonical law. This is another instance where defining auctoritas as “soft power” or “moral influence which needn’t be obeyed” won’t suffice in ecclesiastical usage.



St. Augustine

Augustine Contra Academicos III 20 43 authority of Christ is the highest

“This above all is clear to me: never depart from the authority (auctoritate) of Christ. I find none stronger. (Augustine Contra Academicos III.20.43; English translation taken from Robert Eno’s Teaching Authority in the Early Church , p. 138)



St. Augustine

Augustine Contra fundamental epistle of Manichean - I would not believe the gospel unless the authority of the Church


“But if you come across a person who does not yet believe the Gospel, what would you do, if he said to you: ‘I do not believe’? As for myself, I would not believe the Gospel unless the authority (auctoritas) of the Catholic Church moved me to.”  (Against the Manichaean, V.6; English from Eno, p. 135)

Vincent of Lerins - stephen authority of his place PL 50 674

” When, then, all protested  against the newness of this practice (rebaptizing), and the priests everywhere each as his zeal prompted him , opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, prelate of the Apostolic See, acting indeed with his colleagues, but even so efore them, opposed it, thinking it right, as I imagine, so far to excel all the rest in is devotion to the faith as he surpassed them by the authority (auctoritate) of his place ” (Commonitorium 6; English from E. Giles, p. 272;  Patrologia Latina 50.645)

This is a well known episode from the mid-3rd century. Pope St. Stephen attempted to excommunicate persons who did not conform to the traditional understanding of baptism outside the true Catholic Church, and this move to do so is described by St. Vincent as auctoritate, or rather being founded upon it. This would entail that auctoritas could carry implications of an ability to exercise jurisdiction in a binding way (at least in the mind of St. Stephen).

Vincent of Lerins - whether anything has been decreed of old by al the priests of the catholic church with the authority of a general council

“First they should ascertain whether anything has been decreed of old by all the priests of the Catholic Church with the authority (auctoritate) of a universal Council…” (Commonitorium, St Vincent of Lerins ;  Patrologia Latina 50.647 ;English from E. Giles p. 275)

No Orthodox Christian I know would say that the content of Ecumenical Councils is simply a “soft power” which we should pay close attention to, but not the absolute necessity to obey. And yet here, St. Vincent of Lerins appears to the auctoritas of Ecumenical Councils as a supreme authority in the task to discover true doctrine. However one chooses to define it in this context, it cannot be relegated to a non-binding character. The decrees and doctrinal formulas of Ecumenical Councils are supremely binding.




Pope St. Celestine I

Celestine to Cyril - Authority to your see

“And so, appropriating to yourself the authority (auctoritate) of our see, and using our position, you shall with resolute severity carry out this sentence….” (Celestine to Cyril , Epistle 11; English from E. Giles p. 241; Patrologia Latina 50.465)

St. Cyril of Alexandria had written to Pope St. Celestine to inform him of the heresy of Nestorius of Constantinople. The Pope convened a small synod in Rome, and drew up a letter which contained a threat of excommunication to Nestorius if he did not recant of his errors. What is important here is that the Pope ordains St. Cyril as his vicar to carry out this sentence of excommunication, and he does so by delegating to St. Cyril his auctoritas. Undoubtedly, the context is that of jurisdiction, and so the Papal auctoritas can include the force and ability to make binding decisions requiring obedience.




St. Anatolius of Constantinople

Anatolius to Leo - whole force and confirmation reserved for the authority of your blessedness


“As for those things which the universal council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favour of the Church of Constantinople, let your holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet , keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the Church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so the whole force and confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority (auctoritati) of your blessedness” (Anatolius to Leo, Ep. 132; E. Giles, p. 330Patrologia Latina 54.1094)

Here, the very Bishop of Constantinople admits to the Roman Pontiff that the “whole force” of the canons of an Ecumenical Council lie in his auctoritas. Now, since this is a power which involves the ability to confirm or annul decisions of councils, it is fittingly in the legal context and one which involves a binding decision which requires assent and obedience.



Pope St. Leo the Great

Leo the Great on Annulment of Canon 28

“Indeed resolutions of bishops which are repugnant to the rules of the holy canons composed at Nicaea, in conjunction with the loyalty of your faith, we dismiss as invalid, and by the authority (auctoritatem) of Peter, the blessed apostle, we absolutely disannul by a general decree in all ecclesiastical cases…” (Leo to Empress Pulcheria; Epistle 104; Patrologia Latina 54.998; English from E. Giles, p. 328)

The authority to annul or cancel the decrees, decisions, or canons of Ecumenical Councils is far more than merely one’s prestigious wisdom and ability to persuade. What is being appealed to here by St. Leo is real authority which binds and legally overpowers. And yet, he refers to the auctoritas of St. Peter as being wielded by the decision of the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, auctoritas can mean something which could imply the ability to exercise potestas.



Pope St. Gelasius I



Bond of Anathema Gelasius

Pope St. Gelasius – Bond of Anatema

“But other things, those which were done or simply talked about through foolish presumption, things which the Apostolic See in no way ordered, which were clearly and speedily rejected by the legates of the Apostolic See, which the Apostolic, even with the Emperor Marcian asking for them, in no way approved, which the Bishop of Constantinople at the time, Anatolius, claimed not to have sought and did not deny was in the power of the bishop of the Apostolic See: in sum, as we said, that which the Apostolic See has not accepted, because it was shown to be contradictory to the privileges of the universal Church, can in no way be accepted” (Epistolae Romanorum pontificum 557-559; English taken from Eno, p. 167)

This text, often referred to as the Bond of Anathema by Pope Gelasius, is particularly interested, for it uses the word “potestas” to describe the power of Pope St. Leo in annulling the 28th canon that attempted to get passed at the Council of Chalcedon. As shown above, St. Leo referred to the “auctoritas” of St. Peter to annul this canon, and yet St. Gelasius understands that “potestas” came out from this “auctoritas”. In general, I think it is clear that St. Gelasius understands that it is up to the potestas of the Apostolic See whether canons get ratified or not, and that this can be ultimately rooted in the auctoritas of the Roman See.



Pope St. Martin I

Theodore John of Philadelphia

Pope St. Martin I, attempting to address ecclesiastical ordinations of heretics in the East, wrote a letter to Bishop John of Philadelphia (Metropolis of West Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) appointing him as his Vicar to:

“correct things which are wanting, and appoint Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons in every city of those which are subject to the See both of Jerusalem and of Antioch; we charging you to do this in every way, in virtue of the Apostolic authority (auctoritate) which was given us by the Lord in the person of most blessed Peter, prince of the Apostles; on account of the necessities of our time, and the pressure of the nations” (Mansi X.806; English from Thomas William Allies, The See of Peter, p. 120)

Pope St. Martin I is clearly exercising the power of jurisdiction in and through this Eastern bishop in the internal affairs of Antioch and Jerusalem, and he appeals to the auctoritas given to St. Peter and his successors as the legitimizing rationale. It would therefore be strange to justify the power to depose and/or ordain in foreign dioceses on the basis of auctoritas if the latter carried no significance of the ability to exercise potestas.


Now, to wrap up this discussion on Papal auctoritas versus potestas, I think UP’s rebuttal to my first article doesn’t really do justice to the meaning of the term auctoritas in the relevant Latin literature. While, in a Roman classical perspective, auctoritas has a pretty clear and standard definition, it still carried with it a divine foundation in the Pope’s ministry, and which could therefore be the cause for making binding decisions in the Church. As we saw, there were times where even potestas and auctoritas could be nearly interchangeable. Not that their definitions become the same, but they they can be so bound up with one another that to say one is to imply the other. As we saw, Pope St. Leo annulled the 28th canon of Chalcedon by his auctoritas. Pope St. Gelasius understood this auctoritas of St. Leo to be an exercise of potestas (c.f. Bond of Anathema). Pope St. Zosimus understood the greatness of Rome’s auctoritas to imply the potestas to juridically close cases as irreformable. Pope St. Martin I appealed to the auctoritas given to St. Peter and his successors as the ground upon which to enter into the Sees of Antioch and Jerusalem and begin ordaining clergy. The bishops at the Council of Arles (314) understood that the whole Council (its decrees/canons/sentences) were under the auspices of God’s auctoritas, which surely ranked higher than the potestas of disciplinary sentences (its grounded them!). St. Vincent of Lerins appeals to the highest and supreme authority (auctoritas) of an Ecumenical council as a terminus of what the Christian faith is. St. Augustine referred to the supreme auctoritas of Holy Scripture and the Church in her presentation of the Gospels. Indeed, St. Augustine said there is no stronger authority than the auctoritas of Jesus Christ. Now, while this doesn’t entail that Pope St. Leo’s appeal to auctoritas vis-a-vis the Council of Chalcedon is an appeal to supremely binding authority (jurisdiction), but it does mean that one cannot use the word auctoritas itself as a way to discount this.

I said above that Ullman provided a good definition for auctoritas. However, in light of the data I’ve presented, I think he provides an even better one in his “A Short History” of the Papacy in the Middle Ages when he states:

“Once more the ancient Roman constitution served the papacy well: it chose the term of auctoritas which designated the final and supreme and unchallengeable ruling in any controversial matter. Auctortias as claimed by the papacy from now onwards meant the faculty of laying down in a binding manner the fundamental guide lines that were to direct Christian soceity. That was the idea behind the (Roman) concept of the principatus of the Roman church which itself was the constitutional term for Roman monarchy” (p. 32). 

That goes quite nicely with what St. Leo said in Epistle 65:

“Through the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, the holy Roman church holds the principiate over all the churches of the whole world” (Epistle #65, M.P.L. 54.879)




(3) UP moves on to insist that St. Leo did not intend for his Tome to be the final judgement on the matter of the doctrine being disputed, namely, whether Christ has two natures joined hypostatically in one person. Nor did anyone, he insists, believe that Leo’s tome was of any binding authority until it was accepted by the vote of bishops who met in Council. Well, let’s note first what Price has to say about this question.

In his Acts of the Council of Constantinople (553), Price comments on Chalcedon and St. Leo saying:

“Before the council of Chalcedon, Pope Leo had claimed that an ecumenical council to discuss the faith was uncalled for since his own Tome had settled the question at issue” (Price, 56)

In Volume I of Price’s Acts of Chalcedon, he writes:

“In all, Pope Leo regarded the doctrinal controversy as having been settled by his Tome; if there had to be a council, he held that, apart from settling the status of persons, it should simply acknowledge and confirm the teaching of the Tome, as the definitive ruling on the points at issue; the last thing he wanted was a reopening of the debate, as if the teaching of the heir and successor of St. Peter were simply one among a plethora of competing voices” (Price; Chalcedon I.91)

In Volume III of the same, he writes:

“It will be remembered  that Pope Leo had originally opposed the convocation of a council, since he considered that the doctrinal issue had already been resolved by his Tome and that the disciplinary matters arising from Ephesus II could be dealt with by his own representatives, acting in concert with Anatolius of Constantinople.” (III.108)

Now, while Price is a Roman Catholic, he can’t be accused of not being able to reliably translate Greek or Latin. While I try my best, I never leave myself as the final word on translation. If UP wishes to question my knowledge of Greek or Latin once again, I would just announce to the readers now that the English translations of the Greek and Latin are taken from reputable scholars, and in many instances non-Catholic. I would also add that I’ve compiled the scholarly assessment of St. Leo’s view of the Papacy in the universal Church from 15+ non-Catholic historical theologians, and they all understood him to be promoting a high view of Papal Office, in terms of jurisdiction and divine right. That UP would come forward to deny this should already inform his readers that he is in the minority view on the pontificate of St. Leo.

Before moving on, there is still more to look at with regard to St. Leo’s view of his Tome and the view of others on the authority of the Holy See.

With regard to the letters available to us, the preparatory and confirmatory letters  indicate that the Pope would be the judge over the Council. In his first letter of request for Papal intervention, Emperor St. Marcian writes to St. Leo as follows:

“Therefore, on behalf of the venerable and catholic religion of the Christian faith, by the help of which we trust that the strength of our power will be directed, we believe it to be proper that your holiness, possessing primacy in the episcopate of the divine faith, be first addressed by our sacred letters….so that….by the removal of every impious error through holding a council on your authority (te auctore), perfect peace should be established among all the bishops of the catholic faith…” (Leo, Ep. 73; Price I.92-93)

The Emperor understood the Council to be under the Pope’s authority. Since we’ve established that auctor/auctoritas can carry far more stronger implications than mere “urging” or “influence”, this opening letter of the Emperor for the Pope’s auctoritas to head the Council retains the same significance I called for it in my original article, effectively making UP’s critique, i.e. auctoritas means merely “respectable opinion” or “prestigious initiative”, insufficient.

UP also pointed out how St. Leo did not want a Council to be called, and how the Emperor convened one anyway. I assume this was an attempt to show that the Emperor thought he was the boss of the Pope, and could dictate decisions himself over the universal Church. However, this notation is dimmed when we see what happened after the Council dissolved. The Emperor St. Marcian ran into a bit of a back and forth with the Pope on the confirmation of the Council, in particular canon 28. St. Leo had put up enough resistance that it appeared to many in the East as if Chalcedon, as big and bad as it was, did not obtain the approval of the Apostolic See. Ironically, the Eutychians in the East were appealing to St. Leo’s failure to clearly ratify the Council as a way to thumb their nose at all the disciplinary and civil threats by the Emperor for their not accepting the Council. In a letter from St. Marian to St. Leo, we see this very clearly:

“We are extremely surprised that after the Council of Chalcedon and the letter of the venerable bishops sent to your God-belovedness, in which they related all the proceedings at this council, in no way at all have letters been sent back by your clemency of the kind that ought to come to the knowledge of all, evidently through being read in the most holy churches. In the minds of some who even now follow the heresy and perversity of Eutyches this has created much uncertainty as to whether your beatitude has confirmed the decrees of the holy Council. For this reason your devoutness will deign to send a letter that will make it clear to all the churches and congregations that the proceedings at the holy council have been confirmed by your beatitude” (Price III.150)

My, my! One would think that if the Emperor is the boss of the Pope, that he wouldn’t be needing letters from Rome confirming the Council. If the Emperor calls, convenes, and dictates the terms of Councils, even over the Pope, then what in the world happened in the interim of the Council and the composition of this letter which shows deference to Papal authority over the Council’s decrees? The obvious answer is that the Emperor did submit himself to the Pope, but that the calling of Chalcedon and the place where it will convene was popularly thought to be in the hands of the Emperor who is responsible, by God, for the realm. But as for what content goes into it and is judged acceptable, this is not in the hands of the Emperor.

In fact, when Emperor St. Marcian advertised Chalcedon to the East in one particular edict, he describes the Council in this manner:

“There followed something granted by the deity to his merits, namely that a venerable council of almost innumerable priests assembled at Chalcedon, which, while it diligently examined the faith on the authority of the most blessed Leo bishop of the eternal city of Rome and laid the foundations of religion, bestowed on Flavian the palm of a holy life and and a glorious death” (Price III.132)

I have already cited what the Bishop of Constantinople said about the authority of the Pope on the decrees of the Council in my list of citations above on auctoritas, but in case it was not caught, this bishop admitted that the decrees of Chalcedon were “reserved for the authority” of the Pope.

What further did St. Leo say in regards to his authority in the matter?

In St. Leo’s first letter to Chalcedon, he writes that the Tome sent previously to St. Flavian was “in accordance with gospel authority, the prophetic sayings, and the apostolic teaching…..declared most fully and most lucidly what is the pious and pure confession of the mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Leo, Ep. 93; Price I.104). It would appear that Leo thought his Tome to be the last word. Why then a Council? In the same letter, Leo answers:

“But because we are not ignorant that through vicious factionalism the condition of many churches was disrupted and that a great number of bishops were expelled from their sees and sent into exile because they would not accept heresy…the remedy of justice should first be applied to these wrongs…those who have laboured on behalf of the faith should have their rights restored together with all their privileges”.

Thus, Leo’s aim at a Conciliar examination of the question has more to do with fixing the mess created by Ephesus (449) where many orthodox bishops lost their place in the episcopate, and other egregious matters related. In other words, UP is operating under the assumption that if the Pope were truly what the Catholic Church has defined him at the Councils of Lyons (1274), Florence (1439), and Vatican I (1870), then all Councils would be rendered superfluous. But this is a non-sequitur. There are a variety of reasons to hold a Council. When further business than merely the correct doctrine is in proximity, for example, the restoring of right bishops to their proper jobs, then face-to-face meetings are more appropriate. Also, by having a Council of bishops, the subscriptions to the decrees puts an extra layer of accountability on those who might forsake their first commitment, furnishing greater proof of pertinacious rebellion. These things cannot be ascertained nor accomplished in a mere letter from the Pope.

Is it anyhow possible that, however much correct it was, St. Leo still understood his Tome to be simply a vote of one amidst the “fuller judgment” of the Council of bishops? UP appeals to letter 33 in the Leonine epistolary, which is his letter to the Council of Ephesus (449)  which has St. Leo saying:

“But because the healing even of such men must not be neglected, and the most Christian Emperor has piously and devoutly desired a council of bishops to be held, that all error may be destroyed by a fuller judgment…and settle in common with you what is in accordance with the Lord’s will” (Letter 33)

UP cites this portion of letter 33, but seems to ignore the first part of the letter which precedes the “But” in the above citation. This is actually how letter 33 opens up:

Leo, bishop, to the holy Synod which is assembled at Ephesus. The devout faith of our most clement prince, knowing that it especially concerns his glory to prevent any seed of error from springing up within the Catholic Church, has paid such deference to the Divine institutions as to apply to the authority of the Apostolic See for a proper settlement: as if he wished it to be declared by the most blessed Peter himself”

Right off the bat, St. Leo recognizes that the “proper settlement” of the doctrinal controversy lies with the “authority of the Apostolic See” which is resting on the “Divine institutions”. Indeed, the judgment of the Apostolic See is equivalent to the judgment of “the most blessed Peter himself”. The ideology behind this is only consistent with modern Catholic ecclesiology, and not Eastern Orthodox, let alone Protestant.

St. Leo continues to describe what is entailed by the confession of St. Peter:

“For Peter received this answer from the Lord for his confession. ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say unto you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church: and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it’ . But he who both rejects the blessed Peter’s confession, and gainsays Christ’s Gospel, is far removed from union with this building; for he shows himself never to have had any zeal for understanding the Truth, and to have only the empty appearance of high esteem, who did not adorn the hoary hairs of old age with any ripe judgment of the heart.”

Having already equated the judgement of the Apostolic See with that of St. Peter, St. Leo unpacks what is entailed in the judgment or “confession” of St. Peter. And what we read is that the Lord made St. Peter the rock of His Church (as seen in the metaphor of a foundation and a building atop) for which the gates of hell should never prevail. Moreover, since Rome’s confession is St. Peter’s confession, and since those who reject the blessed Peter’s confession are “far removed from union with this building“, it is clear St. Leo was implying the irreformable nature of his Tome. UP tried to equate St. Leo’s confidence in the rightness of his Tome with that of any ordinary Bishop. Well, these comments here make it clear St. Leo has something much stronger and far more exclusive to the See of Peter in mind.

What then of St. Leo’s idea in the next paragraph which says that the Council can give a “fuller judgment”?  Well, we know it cannot mean that St. Leo is nullifying everything he wrote in the opening paragraph concerning the irreformable nature of St. Peter’s confession, i.e. Rome’s confession. However, as Price noted, when St. Leo takes aim at the goal of healing the dissidents of their errors, St. Leo is willing to go with a Council where things are discussed and settled in common. I am not sure what the problem with this is? In fact, this is perfectly compatible with Catholic doctrine. Sure, as St. Leo implies, the judgment of Rome is final and irrevocable, but for the sake of ensuring that men are led more fully to the truth, it is better to have them both learn and be convinced of that truth inwardly rather than to impose some outward mandate with a threat of excommunication. And this is precisely what St. Leo says – “But because the healing even of such men must not be neglected…”. Another benefit (as I’ve already alluded) to having a Council instead of one dictatorial statement from the Pope, is that the dissidents would be required to publicly renounce their errors in the presence of the Church, and so put further obligation to follow through with that commitment. This posture is pretty consistent throughout the centuries, even to this day, where the Pope is opening up judgments to the free deliberation of the Bishops.

In a different letter to Empress Pulcheria,  wife of Emperor St. Marcian, St. Leo makes it clear he isn’t inviting feedback from the Council, but rather set the norm. He writes:

“…I have nevertheless accepted with such lack of disdain as to appoint two of my fellow-bishops and two fellow-presbyters who may suffice to represent me. There have been sent to the venerable council appropriate letters, to inform the convoked brotherhood what forms should be observed in this adjudication, lest any rashness should thwart the rules of the faith, the decrees of the canons, or the remedies of benevolence” (Leo, Ep. 95; Price I.105).

It is obvious here that so far as the faith is concerned, St. Leo is completely settled on his Tome, but there also appears to be instructions for handling the disciplinary crisis in the East on account of the Ephesus 449.

What of Letter 120? Is it the case that this letter, as UP understands, shows that St. Leo did not ratify the Tome, but rather the Council both reviewed it and ratified it. The implication being that the Pope cannot judge ahead the Council the truth or falsity of a doctrine in question. But Letter 120 says something more compataible with Catholic ecclesiology. This letter is from the Pope to Theodoret of Cyrrhus.

Wherefore we make our boast in the Lord, singing with the prophet: our help is in the name of the Lord, who has made heaven and earth : who has suffered us to sustain no harm in the person of our brethren, but has corroborated by the irrevocable assent of the whole brotherhood what He had already laid down through our ministry: to show that, what had been first formulated by the foremost See of Christendom, and then received by the judgment of the whole Christian world, had truly proceeded from Himself: that in this, too, the members may be at one with the Head. (Letter 120)

It would be irresponsible to read these words in a way that would make St. Leo’s other statements either contradictory or meaningless. St. Leo had already stated that the confession of St. Peter, of which he represents by occupying Peter’s See, and which the Tome represents, was the standard of orthodoxy. He said whoever separates themselves from the confession of Peter is outside the building. Here in this letter, St. Leo understands that God has intervened into the situation so as to create no “no harm in the person” of the brother Bishops. What “harm”? The harm of disagreement, of course. The harm of schism. This is what St. Leo means when he says God, who is our Help, “has suffered us to sustain no harm in the person of our brethren”. We already know that St. Leo understood the thieving Synod of Ephesus II (449) to have caused “harm” in the brethren, and it was for this reason that the Emperor called a new Synod. Therefore, the harmless convocation of Chalcedon is what the Pope is here referring to, i.e. it did not end up like the previous Synod. Secondly, notice how St. Leo says that God has “corroborated” what “He had already laid down through our ministry”. In other words, God was equally behind the production of the Tome as He was providing the grace of agreement in the “whole brotherhood”. St. Leo is looking at this whole ordeal from a heavenly perspective. This is why he continues on saying that God did this in order to “show that, what had been first formulated by the foremost See of Christendom” had truly proceeded from Himself”, namely, that unanimity in the faith is a better manifestation of the Lord’s confirmation. Some might read this as if St. Leo completely flattens Papal authority with that of the Council. However, that is not necessarily what is going on. After all, when Ephesus II did not accept his Tome, St. Leo did not deduce from this that his Tome was thereby “not from the Lord” or lacking in authority. In fact, he doubled down. Rather, St. Leo here is emphasizing a point which any Catholic Papalist today would gladly admit, namely that when there is no contest between the disciples, and all agree together in harmony, this is a better show of the Lord’s confirmation that what is being agreed upon is proceeding from Truth Himself. When and if there is a contest between the Apostolic See and other Sees, there is suffering, schism, and division. St. Leo is showing that God has come in to provide what He Himself wishes for the Church, and thereby makes even more manifest the divine origin of the Tome. It is therefore impossible to extract from this observation that St. Leo aligns himself with the conciliarist polities of the East, which, as I already stated in the beginning, has been even more neutered to the Receptionist paradigm (i.e. even the Council doesn’t have authority to determine whether it is Ecumenical or not).

He goes on:

For lest the assent of other Sees to that [See] which the Lord of all has appointed to take precedence of the rest might seem mere complaisance, or lest any other evil suspicion might creep in, some were found to dispute our decisions before they were finally accepted. And while some, instigated by the author of the disagreement, rush forward into a warfare of contradictions, a greater good results through his fall under the guiding hand of the Author of all goodness. For the gifts of God’s grace are sweeter to us when they are gained with mighty efforts: and uninterrupted peace is wont to seem a lesser good than one that is restored by labours. Moreover, the Truth itself shines more brightly, and is more bravely maintained when what the Faith had already taught is afterwards confirmed by further inquiry. And still further, the good name of the priestly office gains much in lustre where the authority of the highest is preserved without it being thought that the liberty of the lower ranks has been at all infringed. And the result of a discussion contributes to the greater glory of God when the debaters exert themselves with confidence in overcoming the gainsayers: that what of itself is shown wrong may not seem to be passed over in prejudicial silence. (ibid)

Here we get further rationale behind the words of St. Leo. In order that that the agreement of the other Sees would appear as mere “complaisance”, i.e. being forced to agree, the Pope sees a providence in that some of the Eastern bishops disputed the Tome. It is significant to see that St. Leo understood this disputation with his Tome as emanating from the Devil himself (possible Dioscorus or Eutyches, but most likely the Devil). From this evil, good came. It is important to see this logic here. By and through the evil disputing of the Tome, a greater good resulted because by the process or arguing and debating, it became even more ingrained into the hearts and minds of the Bishops that the Tome was reflecting the truth. It would be a misunderstanding of St. Leo to take from this that he was a conciliarist, because the logic here is quite plain, and shows evidence of the Papacy. The underlying principle here is when St. Leo says, “God’s grace is sweeter to us when it is gained with mighty efforts” and “the Truth shies more brightly when the faith already taught is confirmed by further inquiry”. This is not to say that the Tome was in a state of review, only to later arise to the level of authority. Rather, all the Pope is saying here is that when people actually have to work through the doctrinal problems and find the truth for themselves (i.e. Illyrians, Egyptians, etc,etc), they actually produce a better certainty and acknowledgement of the truth of what is at stake than if there were to just give outward obedience. In other words, there is “mere compliasance”, as St. Leo said above, in which case all the Bishops would just outwardly assent to the Tome without internalizing its contents, but then there is this permitted evil of debate, dispute, and contradiction, such that by working through the disputation with the Lord providing the grace of illumination, the bishops then come to have a better internalization of just why the Tome was from God. This is the sort of providential argument that St. Leo is making here. This is confirmed by the statement wherein he says, “…the good name of the priestly office gains much in lustre where the authority of the highest is preserved without it being thought that the liberty of the lower ranks has been at all infringed”. First thing to notice here is that St. Leo understood the Tome to be the “highest”, and the Council’s deliberation to be of the “lower ranks”. Full stop. The authority and decrees of the Apostolic See, like St. Leo said in many other places, is the confession of St. Peter which is the rock of the universal Church, outside of which there is no salvation. However, in the Church of God, it should not be the case that we need to see authority exercise itself in a war with others. Christ our Lord was supreme in authority, and yet He called Himself the “Least” and the “Servant” of all. In the same way, St. Leo here is saying that the authoritative decrees of the Pope are “highest” in authority, but that this authority should not, in the first instance, need to be preserved by a combat between the Pope and the bishops, but rather, when the Pope and the bishops can reach agreement out of free will. It is quite striking that some Protestant and Eastern Orthodox brothers, when looking for evidence of the Papacy, only sift through and try to find instances where the Pope has to contradict and fight with others, in order to see who wins the fight. This is fleshly. Even Emperors and Monarchs understand the diplomacy and mutual agreement is the first and most sought for mode of running an Empire or a Kingdom. We wouldn’t say that a King is not supreme if and when he allows a royal decision to first undergo counsel, review, or even a vote. That would be ridiculous. In the same way, there is ample evidence of the Papal theory (as St. Leo gives) while also recognizing that this government should be regulated according to the wisest and holiest principles of synodality and unanimity, if possible.

But what about when St. Leo says that the Council “ratified” the Tome? We read:

“…for in the letter which we issued from the Apostolic See, and which has been ratified by the assent of the entire holy Synod, we know that so many divinely authorised witnesses are brought together, that no one can entertain any further doubt, except one who prefers to enwrap himself in the clouds of error, and the proceedings of the Synod whether those in which we read the formulating of the definition of Faith, or those in which the aforesaid letter of the Apostolic See was zealously supported by you, brother, and especially the address of the whole Council to our most religious Princes, are corroborated by the testimonies of so many fathers in the past that they must persuade any one, however unwise and stubborn his heart, so long as he be not already joined with the devil in damnation for his wickedness.”

UP takes note of this epistle, and feels as though the Tome was not, even in St. Leo’s mind, a binding document until the Council, which has supreme authority over the Pope, ratified it. Indeed, UP believes that when the Council ratified the Tome, it was only then that the Tome was ratified. UP states:

“Far from signing on or simply accepting the Tome due to its source, it went through a ratification process, and the Council’s approval is what made the document binding. Had that not been the case, those who had not signed onto the Tome previously would have already been excommunicated if not openly, then by latae sententiae (this point becomes exceptionally important in the two trials of Dioscorus held at Chalcedon).”

He adds also:

“Second, “declaro” is a synonym of “confirmo”, which in fact, means ‘to ratify’. The emperor is telling Pope St. Leo what Pope St. Leo later reiterates in letter 120: The bishops ratified the Tome, not the other way around.”

For UP, the word “declaro” and “confirmo” automatically signifies that the subject who confirms or ratifies is the subject giving the Tome the authority it enjoys. However, he might be proving too much, for in many examples do we see Ecumenical Councils saying they “confirm” Nicaea, Constantinople I, or something else the Church holds as already irreformable dogma. Therefore, the word itself doesn’t tell us what UP would wish to have it say. Secondly, we would only need to look at the documents which go back and forth from St. Leo and the East after Chalcedon dissolved. The Council fathers submitted the decrees of the Council to Pope St. Leo to confirm (c.f. Leonine Epistolary 98 & 101). No scholar denies that the Bishop of Constantinople, the Council of Chalcedon itself, and the Emperor all sought for St. Leo to ratify the 28th Canon. But even with this aside, when St. Leo didn’t give clear evidence that he approved the Council, many in the East believed it should not be obeyed because of that. As I have already cited atop, the Emperor wrote a letter almost two years after Chalcedon dissolved, in order to request a confirmation of the Council. If, as UP insinuates, the Council has the right to ratify the Tome of St. Leo, which is a doctrinal statement, then the Council would surely have the authority to ratify its own canons with or without the agreement of the Pope (a discipline of a lesser order than doctrine). But even Apostolic Canon 34 , which the Orthodox like to cite as a proof text against the Papacy, would indicate that the ratification of the Head is just as important as the ratification of the body, and yet UP would have it that the ratification of the Head was nothing until it was ratified and confirmed by the Council. But, as we’ve indicates, St. Leo (Ep. 12) believes almighty God has already laid down the faith authoritatively by the Petrine ministry before the Council. All in all, the Council’s ratification or confirmation of the Tome was a real act of authority, as current Catholic teaching says on the authority of the Episcopal College, but it doesn’t follow from this that the Tome was in the queue for review prior to. Since UP would not say Nicaea, Constantinople 381, nor that Ephesus 431 was in queue for review until Chalcedon 451 and the Councils afterward on account of these latter including statements which say they “confirm” the previous Councils, it stands to reason this argument of UP emanates from sheer ignorance.


(4) Next, UP jumps on my article for a glaring mistake, one which he says is “embarrassing”. He says:

“Mr. Ybarra makes an embarrassingly glaring mistake here; there were not ‘600+’ bishops at the council, and had he actually read Fr. Richard Price’s translation and commentary of the Acts instead of resorting to quote mines, he would have seen the number was roughly around 370 actual bishops and representatives.”

I have to admit that this caught me off guard. I did take it as a given from several sources I’ve read (Price speaks of it at length in an Appendix, and not in the body of his translation of the Acts). But this charge that UP throws out at me has more bark than bite, for Price himself states that most historians take the view that Chalcedon had anywhere from 520 to 630 bishops. He writes:

“Sources after the Council tend to give 600 or 630 as the number of bishops attending: the figure of 600 was already given by a bishop in the fourth session (IV.53)…A slightly lower figure of 500 comes in the letter of the Council fathers to Pope Leo, while Marcian’s Fourth Edict confirming the council’s decrees gives 520. Most historians still repeat these figures, but what support o they receive from the list of bishops in the conciliar Acts?”

So UP’s bark that this should cause myself to be embarrassed clearly reveals the disingenuous nature of his/her critique. What Price tries to argue is that while the contemporary voices at and around the Council of Chalcedon were claiming 600+ or 520+ bishops in attendance, they were mistaken on the basis of an incorrect numbering of valid names which count as real attendees. Price goes from the claim of 600+ bishops, down to 391, and then down even further to 370 bishops. I happen to not find his reasoning compelling. Why should I believe him over what the Bishops there said it was? Moreover, I laud the principle of lex orandi lex credendi, and I would trust the contemporaries and the Church’s hymnography over that of a overly skeptical scholar.

At the Council of Chalcedon (IV.53, Price), Lucentius, the Bishop-Legate of Pope St. Leo the Great, spoke out and said:

“If they are in error, let them learn from your magnificence that ten men cannot prejudice a council of six hundred bishops and the Catholic faith”

In the Council’s letter to Pope St. Leo, they say:

“For if where two or three are gathered together in His name, He has said that there He is in the midst of them , must He not have been much more particularly present with 520 priests, who preferred the spread of knowledge concerning Him to their country and their ease? ” (Ep 98, Leo)

The Emperor himself in one of his letters confirming the Council says:

“Therefore we have ordained and ordain that those things which were decreed…..are to be observed…because it is extremely appropriate to observe with the greatest veneration he decrees of 520 priests who worship God with a pure mind…” (III.134, Price)

The Council of Trullo (692), in its 1st canon states:

” Moreover we confirm that faith which at Chalcedon, the Metropolis, was set forth in accordance with orthodoxy by the six hundred and thirty God-approved fathers in the time of Marcian, who was our Emperor, which handed down with a great and mighty voice, even unto the ends of the earth, that the one Christ, the son of God, is of two natures, and must be glorified in these two natures”   (Council of Trullo, Canon 1)

I understand there are those who look to the sheer number of signatures, but it doesn’t adequately explain away how the contemporaries and the Catholic Church following would be so far off on this figure.


(5) Then, UP hones in on this idea that the Bishops “scrutinize” St. Leo’s Tome. This is what my original article was written to refute, and I don’t think he has said anything to seriously challenge what I’ve argued. As I have stated above, I don’t accept the numbering that Price gives of the bishops, and nor should UP if he respects his own canons and hymnography. The appeal to symbolism also doesn’t suffice in that regard. But even if we were to go out and accept this numbering that price gives, it is less than 17% of the bishops who show any sort of “scrutinizing” of the Tome of St. Leo. But even if we were to give this statistic any consideration (we shouldn’t, since those who scrutinized St. Leo’s tome were far less than 17%), I am not sure what weight this carries in the anti-Papal effort of UP’s rebuttal? UP has no problem saying that Councils are infallible in their final decisions, but what happens when a portion of the Church disagrees with the Council such as in the case with Chalcedon? The Bishops of Egypt, and many others, believed Chalcedon was a “Synod of Thieves” (Miaphysites). Does this partial acceptance of Chalcedon injure the Council’s status of supreme and infallible authority? If not, then I don’t see why UP can’t accept that St. Leo’s Tome was treated as a document divinely binding on the Church, even if it had some resistance in the process. As I argued in my original article, the vast majority of the Council (versus the inconsiderable minority, which was absolutely negligible), responded to St. Leo’s Tome with, “This is the faith of the Fathers! This is the faith of the Apostles!….Peter has spoken through Leo!”.  And thus, no, the Tome was not critically examined by the Council. After all, this was my argument the whole time.

The simple fact of the matter is this, it was the Law of the Empire and the Law of Councils that the Prelate of the Apostolic See was the head of the universal Church and that all decrees, canons, or formulas of Councils must require the authoritative seal of Peter’s successor before it obtains universal binding authority. We see this in the many policy statements of St. Marcian the Eastern Emperor, as well as Valentinian III the Western Emperor, and the confession of bishops both East and West. The sort of authority claimed by St. Leo the Great and attributed to him by the Church could never be used today to describe the office of the Ecumenical Patriarch. If it were ever claimed so, it would at once be denounced by many Orthodox clergy as a unlawful Papal pretension. Therefore, whatever it is that went on in the 5th-century regarding Pope St. Leo, Chalcedon, and the Emperors, they were not operating off Eastern Orthodox polities, but far more closely to what exists today in Roman Catholicism. And while I’m not eager to advertise modern Catholicism with all its many faults and challenges, nor eager to downsize Eastern Orthodoxy, I’m certainly no thereby ready to re-write history and pretend like the Church of the 5th-century held to the ecclesiology of today’s 14 autocephalous Church bodies in the Eastern Orthodox communion. The fact that St. Leo comes anywhere close to the Papalism of Vatican I, which was admitted to be the case by the late famous Russian Orthodox historian Basil Bolotov, and he is accompanied in that conviction by Anglican historian Dr. Beresford Kidd , is already enough to render sufficient astonishment. Here is a man of the “Eastern Orthodox” Church (for St. Leo is not “Roman Catholic” by Eastern Orthodox standards) who from far out in the West leads the Eastern Council of Chalcedon, and even claims power over the Council by an inheritance of supreme authority in blessed Peter’s apostolic office given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. We should not be seeing a flinch of this so far back as the 450s AD, per Orthodoxy accusations in the 11th-century, but oh well, this is what we have.

There are some other statements about me that would seem to try and show that I am “poser”, and I don’t know anything about history and all that. Well, I’ve given my reply to show otherwise, and if the author wishes to continue the dialogue, I’m happy to read their reply. It was also said that I rely on quote-mines from mistranslations, and that I had all sorts of errors in Latin/Greek original, etc,etc. Well, I’d be curious to know further what instance could be substantiated that proves this?

21 thoughts on “Tome of Pope St. Leo – Critically Examined by the Council of Chalcedon? Part 2: Response to Ubi Petrus

  1. What would you say to those Orthodox who object that, if the Bishop of Rome really did have a special authority over the rest of the Church, then a connection between Peter and his rockiness should have been made by early Church writers such as Chrysostom. But we do not see any early Chuch Fathers speak of Peter the Rock and connect it to the Bishop of Rome as he currently is, thereby admitting the BoR has Petrine authority in succession??

    Furthermore, some even bring up the fact how Chrysostom heaps praise on the Apostle Paul, saying he is the greatest apostle in the kingdom of Heaven etc, and praises him beyond Peter. What would you say about these two points?

    • To clarify, the first objection from our Orthodox brethren is that, if an unique Petrine authority did exist in the early Church, then we would expect many early Church Fathers to not only speak of Peter as being the unshakeable Rock, but also necessarily connect it to the Bishop of Rome since the Bishop of Rome is supposed to be the successor of Peter’s authority.

      But we don’t see this connection being made, ergo the early Church didn’t believe in a continuous Petrine primacy – at least that’s what the Orthodox say.

      • Hi John,

        I am sorry if I don’t normally get to respond. But amazingly I have found time here on this Sunday afternoon.

        To the question of whether St. John Chrysostom identified the “rock” as St. Peter the man, I have written an article showing that Chrysostom and Vatican I overlap in their interpretation of Matt 16. See this article here below:

        As for connecting Peter, the rock, and his successors, I do think the Church fathers clearly teach this as well. The first instance of this is in a letter of St. Firmilian to St. Cyprian which is written around the 250s. You can access that letter here:

        The relevant passage is in quotes below (Firmilian is critical of the Pope, but shows that the Bishop of Rome was making this claim as early as the 3rd century, but most likely even before that)

        “And in this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid, should introduce many other rocks and establish new buildings of many churches; maintaining that there is baptism in them by his authority….Stephen, who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter, is stirred with no zeal against heretics”

        Moreover, the Council of Sardica (343), which is held by both East and West, includes a statement which says that “it is appropriate for the Lord’s bishops from every province to report to their Head, the See of the Apostle Peter”. This was the Synod which put into canonical law Rome as the final court of appeals.

        Future Councils which are accepted by the Orthodox say the same, and whatever is accepted on an ecumenical level is good enough to define what the faith was projected backwards into the beginning of the Church. Otherwise the Orthodox would have to admit they accepted the Papal innovation just as the West did.

  2. @Erick Ybarra,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond so early!

    So there is in fact evidence in the early Church that suggests the Bishop of Rome was associated with Peter continuously. And I would consider especially important the Council of Sardica directly admitting the See of Rome is called the See of Peter – which basically proves that Peter and Rome were connected even after Peter’s death.

    Also, I’ve recently watched a debate of yours with Craig Truglia where Craig mentions how Pope Stephen seemingly disallows rebaptism of all heretics,including the Marcianites and Gnostics by saying “…if someone comes to you from any heresy whatsoever, let nothing be renewed…”. I simply have to mention that this is easily refuted.

    After listening to Craig make this argument, and after reading the Stephen quote, my thoughts were immediatly of the fact this could easily be rhetorical excess – or a general allowance that isn’t meant to be literally absolute (especially since, if the translation is literal, Stephen says ANY and not ALL), which is very likely since this style of talking is common and easily noticeable.

    The confirmation of this interpretation comes from Eusebius, which you quoted in your article, who says: “…as no small controversy had arisen as to whether those who had turned from any heresy should be purified by baptism. For the ancient custom prevailed in regard to such…”. This shows Eusebius quoting the particular words “any heresy”, and yet it’s obvious nobody is taking it to mean literally ANY heresy – rather a general allowance, perhaps because most heretics in the 3rd century were Trinitarian, and a minority were non-Trinitarian. Cyprian is likely misusing Stephen to bolster his own position when he later points out the consequence that this means the Church shouldn’t rebaptise Marcionites and Gnostics (who weren’t Trinitarian when baptising), and this fits with Cyprian going the absolute opposite direction contrary to Stephen of saying ANYONE who isn’t directly a part of the Church should be re-baptised.

    What do you think?

    • To clarify the later part, Cyprian’s belief on rebaptism is that ANY schismatic or heretic should be rebaptised, yet this goes against future councils that say some should be rebaptised while others shouldn’t on the basis of the Trinitarian formula used (or rather, not used). Cyprian is trying to paint Stephen as saying that ALL heretics are acceptable without rebaptising them – so Cyprian and Stephen’s alleged position can be seen as two diametrical opposites.

      So Cyprian could have been accusing (or rather, misunderstanding) Stephen of this position to contrast with his own position that is the complete opposite of that.

  3. great riposte Erick on the heretical and inconsistent dunce who wrote that article.

    I seen it after Jay Dyer got possessed after the video that exposed him came out by MHFM. Jay started linking all garbage materials attacking Catholicism.

  4. What is fascinating to me about this is that an Orthodox perspective can readily countenance much of these quotes and history.

    We must remember- Orthodoxy is not opposed to primacy. On the contrary, the synodality of Orthodoxy still makes room for primacy and assigns a special role to the primate of a synod. So that, if a local Church were to do something apart from the primate, it would be considered illegitimate, and if the local primate were to try to act apart from the synod, it also would be illegitimate.

    So now, let us consider something- Despite all the various ins and outs of communion and the complexities of interrelations, the fact is that the east was ready and willing in most cases to defer in areas of doctrinal decision to the bishop of Rome. Hence, we see St. Sophronius of Jerusalem send emissaries to Pope St. Martin at the Lateran synod of the 7th century to decide against monothelitism. We also see in St. Cyril a complete willingness to preside at Ephesus specifically as the representative of Pope St. Celestine. Many other cases of eastern bishops in council recognizing papal primacy can be named.

    BUT there is the nagging little issue of a paradigmatic CONTEXT for this recognition. It seems abundantly clear that the East’s relationship to the Universal primate was shaped by its understanding of synodal relationship to the local primate. Microcosm, macrocosm, etc. How the bishops of a local church relate to their primate is the same way in which the primates relate to the Pope. Now, just as the confirmation of the local primate is requisite for official acts of the local church to be accepted, it is quite reasonable for Orthodox hierarchs to understand that the Confirmation by the universal hierarch is necessary for universal acts to be accepted. All this is done in good canonical order as established by the apostolic canons, esp. canon 34. Not specifically because of a divine papal charism understood in an anachronistic Vatican I sense.

    That is why the Eastern Hierarchs can speak so highly of the Popes role at the time- they have the same faith! He is the Universal hierarch! He is the one who leads, not at the top of a pyramid, but at the front of a wedge formation. Should he fall, the one behind him steps in. Should he fall, the one behind, etc. This is the imagery USED by Pope St. Leo in his letter to the Exarch of Thessaloniki, Anastasius.

    While Leo is in the constant habit of speaking very highly of his own authority, consider how he defines papal authority and its relationship to the petrine model-

    “The connection of the whole body makes all alike healthy, all alike beautiful: and this connection requires the unanimity indeed of the whole body, but it especially demands harmony among the priests. And though they have a [b]common dignity,[/b] yet they have not uniform rank; inasmuch as even among the blessed Apostles, notwithstanding the similarity of their honourable estate, there was a certain distinction of power, and while the election of them all was equal, yet it was given to one to take the lead of the rest. [b]From which model has arisen a distinction between bishops also[/b], and by an important ordinance it has been provided that [b]every one should not claim everything for himself[/b]: but that there should be in each province one whose opinion should have the priority among the brethren: and again that certain whose appointment is in the [b]greater cities should undertake a fuller responsibility[/b], through whom the care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter’s one seat, and nothing anywhere should be separated from its Head.”

    Now notice- Firstly, Leo’s logic is identical to the Constantinopolitan party at Chalcedon. Primacy is predicated upon Political importance of cities. He says so clearly. Moreover, the distinction between priest/bishop, bishop/archbishop, archbishop/metropolitan, metropolitan/patriarch, patriarch/pope are ALL Petrine models. All are equal in the dignity of the one episcopate. Nevertheless, it is for the good ordering of the diocese that one take the lead amongst the rest. But note! The good ordering of a province in Leo’s mind comes about through combining two models- Petrine primacy/ political authority. We must then ask ourselves- if no special and unique Vatican I-esque charism is adduced for regulating the diocese/archdiocese/patriarchates, then why would it be adduced for the papacy? Leo does not claim a need for it in this passage. Rather, he shows that all the lesser sees should converge toward their metropolitan centers which should converge toward Rome, all the primates imitating Peter amongst the apostles, culminating in union with Leo himself. But it still is all occurring within Leo’s context of “priority of opinion” for the sake of good order.

    This is totally acceptable to the Orthodox. It’s a non-issue. That the universal hierarch is necessary for the completion of universal synods is sort of a no-brainer.

    BUT the REAL issue is whether he retains a voice if he becomes a heretic or a schismatic. The answer to THAT is no, he doesn’t. That’s why all the bishops at the 5th ecumenical council stopped commemorating Vigilius- because he heretically ABUSED HIS AUTHORITY to defend heretical writings. And yes, he used all the ex cathedra language to do so, addressing the bishops of the Church and nullifying any acts to the contrary.

    If you want to examine the language Vigilius used, here you go-

    “Now that this had been determined by ourselves with all and
    every care and caution, so as to preserve inviolable both reverence towards
    the above-mentioned synods and also their venerable decrees, we, remembering
    that it is written that we should not transgress the bounds of our
    fathers, [b]enact and decree[/b] that [b]no one with ecclesiastical dignity[/b] and rank
    is permitted to hold or write or produce or compose or teach anything about
    the oft-mentioned Three Chapters contrary to what we have[b] declared and
    enacted in this present decree[/b], or to raise any further inquiry subsequent to
    the present [b]definition[/b]. But if in the name of anyone with ecclesiastical
    dignity and rank there has been, or will have been, done, said and written,
    by whomsoever and wheresoever it so transpire, anything in breach of what
    we have here declared and enacted concerning these Three Chapters, this
    [b]we totally annul with the authority of the apostolic see over which by the
    grace of God we preside.[/b]”

    He defined, he taught and he clarified by virtue of his apostolic authority in his Constitutum that the Three Chapters were to be understood as orthodox. Constantinople iii as a result severed communion with him.

    But here’s the thing…the tactic WORKED. Vigilius repented and renounced his earlier decree. Now, through the tacit approval of a Pope as well, we have PRECEDENT for how to DEAL with errant First Hierarchs. Those who are heretical, we cease to commemorate them. As they become more so, we shun all communion with them. As they turn against us and attack us for holding unwavering to the faith, we treat them as schismatics.

    SO here’s the point- The Orthodox aren’t stumped by eastern bishops asserting the need for agreement with Rome. It’s because Rome was Orthodox and this was clearly ordered toward the good of the Church, and where there is unity of communion, the members don’t have the right to behave schismatically, either head or members, at any level. The need to submit to Rome on the universal level is no different than the need for the bishop to submit to his metropolitan on the local level. Yet, the need for good order does not outweigh the need to not be led astray into false confessions of faith. We don’t obey blindly, but in conformity to Christ’s injunctions and the apostles.

    • I completely understand where you are coming from. I’ve tried to reconcile all the data with this sort of high-papalist Apostolic Canon 34 type Orthodox ecclesiology, and it simply doesn’t work. But I do commend you for trying to make it work.

      One of the mistakes that Orthodox make is that they think Vatican I was a prescription for the Pope to do everything himself. That is nonsense. The Orthodox Church has completely turned away from the Papal Office as it was understood by East and West in the first millennium. Today, it serves no necessary purpose whatsoever. The universal primacy was never based on the political importance of Rome, and both East/West acknowledged this.

      • In your opinion, why doesn’t a high petrine view of the Papacy and other bishops within Orthodoxy work? What is the exact point of breakdown? If it is the testimony of certain fathers to Rome’s perpetual inerrancy, might they not be attributed to enthusiastic optimism, an afterglow of triumph over heresy as in the case of the second iconoclast persecution?

        Moreover, are there really no other historical/personal/psychological contexts in which many things that are written in the fathers can occur? We must then synthesize a united narrative that distinguishes the organic development from the artificial addition. The optimistic shout from the theological conviction. The overwhelming consensus of not just a single phrase or idea, but in equal harmony with equally overwhelming consenses and ideas.

        Have you read Dollinger’s work on The Pope and the Council?

      • Much of this turns on whether the Papal claims are of divine institution, or whether they are of divine-ecclesiastical institution. I say “divine” versus “divine-ecclesiastical” because the former is understood, classically, as that which is necessary to the Church since Christ our God founded it with this or that element, principle, or facet. The latter is meant things which the Spirit (which is why I say it is divine) may have led the Conciliar body of Christ to inscribe into canonical law or something of this sort, but which is not necessary to the ekklesia, such as the office of Archbishop. Metropolitan, Patriarch, Arch-Deacon, Monastic orders, etc,etc. These things can be freshly washed away, and we’d still have the single-same substance of the ekklesia that Christ built on the rock of St. Peter. However, if you take away the foundation, i.e. the rock of St. Peter, then you are not seeking to subtract something of the esse of the ecclesial structure, without which it no longer is what Christ made it to be.

        Therefore, the first question should be whether the Fathers of the Church (East/West), and the Councils they accepted, understood the Roman See to be First and Primate on the basis of a divine-ecclesiastical law, or of the more simple divine law (irreformable).

        Pope St. Damasus, for one example, who is an Eastern Orthodox Sainted Pope of Elder Rome (he is not a member of the Roman Catholic schism of the 11th century forward), stated quite plainly in the Synod of Rome (382) that the First See of Peter is the head of all the churches, *not on the basis of conciliar decrees*, but on the basic of the evangelical voice of our Lord who said to Peter, ‘You are Cephas, and on this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it”.

        This seems to be the same idea in the other Latin and Greek fathers who speak to the issue. However, not every single statement is jam-packed with the same clarity, and some statements are consistent with a more high-papalist-concilarity that you are proposing here, or even a primus inter pares model.

        So another way to handle this has come to the fore in recent Orthodox studies, particularly in Metropolitan John of Pergamon (ZIzoulas, last name), where he understands the universal primatial office to truly be “of the esse” of the divine constitution of the Church. However, the subject of that primatial office is not fixed to the single lineal succession of St. Peter in the Roman episcopate (which is what the Fathers taught), but can translocate to Constantinople, Moscow, or whatever Providence might bring in the future as the new head city-church. Perhaps in a reconstituted Constantinian empire, a new city-church will take over a fallen Constantinople/Rome/Alexandria/Antioch/And Jerusalem. In other words, the divine element is admitted by Zizoulas, but this element of being fixed and perpetual is missing.

        You ask whether the element of being fixed/perpetual is just insincere jest or byzantine flattery/praise. Well, there are times where this sort of speak is appropriate, but there are other times where it is not. For instance, when Rome is obeyed even out of compulsion. That certainly wouldn’t be a time to ratched up empty praise. Moreover, it is even more difficult to use this explanation when Eastern saints such as St Theodore of Studium say Rome is infallible while writing to fellow Easterners. The context just doesn’t call for it, and so it lacks credibility in my opinion.

        I believe I have read parts of Dollinger.

  5. Dear Eric,

    May Christ grant us an enlightened heart to love and serve him!

    I certainly understand what you are saying. A few ideas come to mind I would be glad for you to comment on…

    1. In essence, the distinction you are making in regard to the papacy is whether it is of the substance of the Church’s constitution or accidental.

    I would reply that it is clear that the papacy is accidental to the institution of the Church. The clarity comes from the fact that the Church, even in the Roman conception, continues to exist without a Pope and has in fact existed without the Roman See in times past and the curial offices.

    Distinguishing further- by papacy I do not mean papal occupant, or any particular pope, I mean the office considered in itself, abstractly. And by papacy I mean that which is defined at Vatican I as the papacy with all it’s inherent features.

    Now, that which can maintain its existence while losing a quality or an attribute is the substance of a thing. Or in other words, the substance is that in which the accidents inhere. Since there is no such thing as the papacy existing apart from a Church, but the Church can exist apart from the papacy, it is clear that in regard to the Church, the papacy is an accidental feature, not a substantial feature. This is clear when we consider that the Papacy occurs within the Church, it does not constitute the Church. We know this also from the fact that the Church existed in the Old Testament, first as that People Chosen by God, then that People given a law and and cult, according to which Christ worshiped and brought to fulfillment.

    If then the Papacy IS constitutive of the nature of the Church, it would be a thing substantially different from the Church of the Old Testament and exist outside of continuity with it as a New Religion. For the Church in the Old Covenant had no infallible earthly head, neither did it possess a singular office that was granted a gift of indefectability whose decrees would be irreformable. Christ did not come, strictly speaking, to establish a new religion, according to his own words, but to purify the Old and renew it and put the law and the prophets in their proper context and usher in the reign of grace (The “kingdom of God”).

    Therefore, any new features this Church possesses can only be accidental, and not substantial. For example, the Church of Christ does not abandon the law- but it gives it its proper use- “On the contrary, we establish the law.” It does not discard Liturgy, but it discards liturgical elements, the slaying of bulls and animal sacrifices, for Christ is now the perpetual sacrifice of the Church in the Church. It gives worship a new context, not of formal legalism, but “In Spirit and in truth.”

    Now, regarding accidental features of a subject, we have no promise from Christ. For example, Christ promised a king would always sit on David’s throne. Yet he allowed the babylonian captivity and then the establishment of the hasmonean dynasty. Did he violate his promise? No, it is fulfilled in Christ. The substance of the promise was fulfilled, but the accidental qualities underwent a change (David’s throne being the fact that Christ is the King of Israel according to the flesh, and the throne literally having vanished from the earth).

    Distinguishing further- That my claim is not inaccurate is confirmed by Rome itself in Vatican II, specifically in Lumen Gentium. The Roman Church teaches that those Churches which have preserved apostolic succesion are true Churches. Therefore, true Churches can exist apart from the papacy. And those said Churches, according to Rome, constitute real churches capable of real self-governance.

    Unitatis Redintegration 16-

    “To remove, then, all shadow of doubt, this holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls. The perfect observance of this traditional principle not always indeed carried out in practice, is one of the essential prerequisites for any restoration of unity.”

    This occurs in the context of having discussed separated churches in paragraph 15 and in the context of a document on ecumenism, therefore clearly indicating that it is the Orthodox and separated eastern Churches who are the proper subjects being discussed here, not the uniates. If these are true particular churches, then they must logically exist in unity as a true particular church. Therefore there are whole Churches who have no papal office who exist truly as real churches, utilized by the spirit of God to bring men to salvation. Therefore, if neither salvation nor unity in Christ, nor being counted a Church are contingent upon acceptance of the Papal office, the papal office cannot be of the Church’s substance.

    Unitatis Redintegratio Confirms this as well-


    “It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the Church as a whole, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful. He brings them into intimate union with Christ, so that He is the principle of the Church’s unity. The distribution of graces and offices is His work too, enriching the Church of Jesus Christ with different functions “in order to equip the saints for the work of service, so as to build up the body of Christ”.”

    Now, the papacy is an office IN the Church. And these offices are gifts given to the Church to enrich her. But that which is given to another, presupposes the other to exist already. Therefore that which is given is not constitutive, but accidental. Therefore the papacy is accidental, for the Church precedes the reception of these enriching qualities. Therefore, the Church being antecedent to the Papacy, the Papacy cannot be the basis for its existence. Therefore it is a quality which can be lost, for it is not of the essence-

    Therefore, if the papal office is not a substantially constitutive feature of the substance of the Church, and on the contrary, is only an accidental feature, evolving over time (as we see it do) and only coming into play in its fullest sense over time (as we see it do), then it cannot qualify as protected by Christ’s promise to the Church- “The gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” For the proper object of protection is the substance of the subject. A doctor may promise a man he will not lose his life, yet awaken to an amputated leg. Christ may promise the gates of Hell will not prevail against his CHURCH, yet the fact is the historically united Churches at the time of Nicea have separated from one another. Yet Rome admits them to be true Churches. Therefore, to be truly Churches, they must posses the substance of the Church, and then they cannot lack anything but an accidental feature, and indeed this is the entire tenor and spirit of Vatican II.

    Now, we have clear examples of attributes and offices in the Church which it once had, but possesses no longer which do not affect the Church’s substance, yet it has not defected. For example, there are no more apostles. Yet the Church is built on the apostles. Has the Church defected? No, for to be built on the apostles and prophets is to be built on their teachings in accord with their inner harmony. Moreover, some maintain some of the charismatic gifts have ceased, at least in parts of the Church, for they are occasional and circumstantial to the building up and edification of the Church. Yet the Church has not defected.

    On the contrary, to make the office of the papacy a constitutive feature of the Church is to make the Papacy greater than the living Apostolate. For the Apostolate was necessary and remains a fundamental foundation of the Church, yet it passed away as a transitive feature, and the Church remains. Yet the papacy, an office that developed over time, is more necessary than the twelve held forth as the foundation of the Church with Christ being the Chief cornerstone? This is a perverse inversion of the order of goods. The living Apostles were inspired and infallible men responsible for disseminating the Public revelation of the Church who ceased to exist in the Church as living voices without it defecting. The pope is not even inspired nor can he give new revelation, but he is more necessary by definition than even the living Apostles? Their office was truly accidental to the Church’s very substance, but the papacy, which does LESS, is of GREATER ONTOLOGICAL VALUE? This is perverse.

    Therefore, in declaring his preservation of the Church, which did not include the preservation of Apostles and even charismatic gifts on a circumstantial basis, for they are accidental and incidental features to the Church’s substance, we certainly have no guarantee that He will preserve THIS particular ecclesiastical office which also is merely accidental and incidental to the reality of the Church.

    If then the papacy does not fall under the purview of the Promises of Christ, we can expect it to suffer change and passion. Thus, it is capable of defection.

    TO sum it up Eric-

    The Pope can say to the Eastern Orthodox- “You have Churches. You have bishops. They have the right to govern you. You have sacraments. You have the Eucharist. You have sanctification, you have life in Christ, you have venerable heritage, you are in conformity with the fathers of the Church and you can give your lives as martyrs pleasing to God.”

    And in Parody of our Lord, the Pope says-

    “Only one thing remains. Sell all these things, and follow me.”

    Is that the voice of Christ or Antichrist? Those who have Christ and salvation LACK for something? And that something is the NAME of a bishop who will demand nothing of them more than just that NAME in the Liturgy?

    Sounds desperate.

    • internetsecurity82,

      Thanks for your reply.

      When you said, “the distinction you are making in regard to the papacy is whether it is of the substance of the Church’s constitution or accidental”, that is not exactly what I mean. The difference between substance and accident isn’t where I’m going. Substance is far too strong a word. For example, the Eucharist Celebration would not be, on your definition, “substantial” with the ecclesia, since the ekklesia still exists when no Eucharistic celebration is necessarily being conducted. It is not as if the Church only became “Church” when the Apostles celebrated the Eucharist on the day of Pentecost, and then became “unChurch” when they finished that celebration. I am strictly speaking of the sacramental action of the Eucharist, btw, and so let’s forget trying to join the essential divine life in the Eucharist and what comes inside of us.

      Another example would be the office of the monarchial episkopos, which does not find expression in the Old Testament religion. On your definition, the very ofifice of Bishop would be “un-substantial” with the Church since it is out of continuity with the Old Testament religion. And let’s not pretend that the Jewish presbyerium is the essential predecessor here, or the office of High-Priest therein, for then we would have to take the function of the High-Priest in the post-Maccabean period, were he presided over the Sanhedrenic council, could then serve as a possible predecessor to the Papal Office. But if we are strictly speaking of “substance”, then the New Testament Church offices of the monarchial Bishop is not continuous with the Old Testament.

      Now, to get closer to our subject, the Church of a certain city doesn’t cease to exist when her Bishop dies and an election is currently under process. We know this from all the way back to St. Ignatius of Antioch who left his Church home in Antioch saying this – “Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria, which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me. And yet, he also states in another place. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it, and your love” (Epistle to the Romans). And yet, St. Ignatius also states in other places that without the Bishop, there is no Church. Clearly, the Apostolic tradition recognized the divine law of the office of monarchical bishop, but yet also believes a Church can still be Church during the time between the death or deposition of a bishop and the consecration or election of another. The Church of that city does not *cease to exist*, in other words.

      Or how about an Ecumenical Synod? There did not exist one (if we subtract Jerusalem 49) until the 4th-century in Nicaea. Does that mean the Church did not exist until the 4th-century? Does it mean she ceased to exist when the Council of Nicaea dissolved? No. Of course not. And yet, the Eastern Orthodox believe that Councils are a divine organ which must be obeyed. Even the far left Khamiakovian-types who make the consciousness of the whole Church (priest and laity) a pre-condition for the acceptedness of a Council will say, once the Council is accepted, that its decrees are divinely “inspired”, and therefore irreformable.

      If we can all agree that the local Bishop, per St. Cyprian, is essential and jure divino (and not merely jure ecclesiastico, or worse jure humano) , and if we can all agree that the duly ordained bishop is the Head of the Church, then we can also agree that when said Bishop dies or is deposed, the local Church enters into a state of imperfection, though not non-existence. A body cannot exist without a head, and a head cannot exist without a body, and so the rule of the Church is to replace the Bishop. But this does not render the Bishop or his office somehow an “extra addition” on top of the esse of the ekklesia. That would be heresy, by both Orthodox and Catholic standards. The bishop is in the Church and the Church is in the Bishop.

      My point here is that “substance” versus “accidents” does not demonstrate my previous commentary. Rather, let’s just stick with what I said, and call it divine institution versus divine-ecclesiastical institution. More suited to be an example would be the fact that human beings need to be baptized in order to be saved (divine foundation) but sprinkling, pouring, or single immersion is a matter of divine-ecclesiastical foundation since the Church has ruled “validity” in these forms, despite the fact that the original form was explicitly thrice-full immersion. In other words, with sprinkling (c.f. Didache), you have a valid baptism, and thus a successful regeneration. The element of divine-institution is fully satisfied in either praxis of divine-ecclesiastical institution. Now, the Church can exist when no sacramental act of baptizing is going on, but that doesn’t mean that the baptism is accidental to the Church per se.

      So, to sum this part up, the essential constitution of the Church involves bishops, sacraments, apostolic tradition, oil, water, bread, wine, etc,etc…..and yet this is not *substantial* with the Church’s existence which, per se, can be in one single person where the home of the Trinity is. But that does not make bishops and sacraments an unnecessary addition.

      So your analogy not only proves false, but it provided the opportunity to explain how the Papal office is both necessary to the essential constitution of the Church, but that the Church, per se, can technically exist without it, as well as why this technicality doesn’t open the door for the Oriental or Chalcedonian Orthodox schisms from it.

      I wish to say one more thing about your analogy with the Old Testament. The Old Testament religion also did not have anything about infallible Ecumenical Councils. Does that require the Eastern Orthodox to give up their understanding of Ecumenical Councils? You said the Old Testament religion had no such thing as an infallible earthly Head. Well, what in the Old Testament religion had such a thing as an infallible earthly Council? Nothing precise. It would take plenty of grease, many backflips, and forward flips, and juggling of plates to pump out something from the Old Testament which proves infallible Ecumenical Councils.

      After citing sections from Unitatis Redintegratio , you go on to say this

      “If these are true particular churches, then they must logically exist in unity as a true particular church. Therefore there are whole Churches who have no papal office who exist truly as real churches, utilized by the spirit of God to bring men to salvation. Therefore, if neither salvation nor unity in Christ, nor being counted a Church are contingent upon acceptance of the Papal office, the papal office cannot be of the Church’s substance”


      “Yet Rome admits them to be true Churches. Therefore, to be truly Churches, they must posses the substance of the Church, and then they cannot lack anything but an accidental feature, and indeed this is the entire tenor and spirit of Vatican II.”

      Aside from mistaking the Papacy, or even the Episcopal Office, with the Church’s “substance” (see above), this whole statement is entirely false if you intend to say that the Papal Office is not necessary to the Church’s essential constitution by divine law.

      Enough time went on post-Vatican II before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had to answer questions that arose due to the ambiguities of the texts of the Council. An important question was the status of the separated Eastern Churches. An answer came in a document entitled “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion” which was written up by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (then Cardinal Prefect of the CDF) and Archbishop Alberto Bovone , and approved officially at an audience under Pope St. John Paul II on May of 1992 (just 28 years ago). You can find this document for free if you google it. This document said the following:

      “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honoured by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter….This communion exists especially with the Eastern orthodox Churches, which, though separated from the See of Peter, remain united to the Catholic Church by means of very close bonds, such as the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, and therefore merit the title of particular Churches…Since, however, communion with the universal Church, represented by Peter’s Successor, is not an external complement to the particular Church, but one of its internal constituents, the situation of those venerable Christian communities also means that their existence as particular Churches is wounded. The wound is even deeper in those ecclesial communities which have not retained the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist. This in turn also injures the Catholic Church, called by the Lord to become for all ‘one flock’ with ‘one shepherd’, in that it hinders the complete fulfilment of its universality in history.”

      So there, St John Paul II affirmed that the separated Eastern churches are “true particular churches” because of a valid Eucharist and Apostolic succession, but then he affirms something that you explicitly denied in your comment, namely, “communion with the universal Church, represented by Peter’s successor, is not an external complement to the particular Church, but one of its internal constituents”. Therefore, on Papal authority, the Petrine communion is not an “external complement” (extrinsic add-on which can be taken away or added). So Rome, in fact, does not agree with you. In fact, even the true particular church does not exist without the internal constituent of the Papal communion, and so the only reason why the separated Eastern churches even have valid orders is because there was a time where they shared communion with the Apostolic governance of Peter’s successor, and have retained the validity of orders after severing communion. So we see that Rome has a very different view than you proposed. Rather, as a result of lacking the Petrine communion, the separated Eastern churches are, like the Protestant churches, albeit in a less severe manner, are objectively “wounded”.

      This is further confirmed in another CDF document, written by the Cardinal Prefect (then Joseph Ratzinger, again) entitled “The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church”, wherein it states emphatically:

      “All the Bishops are subjects of the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum as members of the Episcopal College which has succeeded to the College of the Apostles, to which the extraordinary figure of St Paul also belonged. This universal dimension of their episkope (overseeing) cannot be separated from the particular dimension of the offices entrusted to them. In the case of the Bishop of Rome – Vicar of Christ in the way proper to Peter as Head of the College of Bishops – the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum acquires particular force because it is combined with the full and supreme power in the Church: a truly episcopal power, not only supreme, full and universal, but also immediate, over all pastors and other faithful. The ministry of Peter’s Successor, therefore, is not a service that reaches each Church from outside, but is inscribed in the heart of each particular Church, in which ‘the Church of Christ is truly present and active’, and for this reason it includes openness to the ministry of unity. This interiority of the Bishop of Rome’s ministry to each particular Church is also an expression of the mutual interiority between universal Church and particular Church”

      Once again, the CDF says that the Papal ministry is “not a service that reaches each Church from outside, but is inscribed in the heart of each particular church” and is “interior” , rather than exterior, to the esse of both the universal and particular church. Another instance where Rome has the opposite conclusion than your own. You might ask how could it be that the separated Easterners could have “true particular churches” while being in open schism from the successor of St. Peter, if the latter is interior to each particular church? Good and perceptive question. The answer is two-fold: (1) the separated Eastern churches have valid orders which came from a time when they formed one stock union with the Papal communion, and so they retain goods from the Papal union despite their severance of communion, and (2) the current ecclesial status of these churches depend on the Petrine succession because the Petrine succession was equally constitutive with the Church as is the Episcopal office and the Eucharistic sacrament, both which are essential to the Church’s unity. Therefore while these separated churches don’t recognize what they depend upon for their own ecclesial status, they nevertheless retain these elements.

      You may also consult with one more CDF document entitled “Note on the Expression ‘Sister Churches'”, which goes into detail on how the Eastern Orthodox churches are “sister churches” but in no way could the Orthodox Church be considered the one universal Catholic church who is mother to all. That is restricted to the Papal communion.

      You then move on to ask whether the original Apostolate of the 12 is essential to the Church’s constitution, and surprisingly, you deny that. Well, that is news to me. In the 10th decree of the Council of Jerusalem (1672), which ratified the Confession of Dositheus (Patriarch of Jerusalem), says quite plainly:

      “That the dignity of the Bishop is so necessary in the Church, that without him, neither Church nor Christian could either be or be spoken of. For he, as a successor of the Apostles, having received in continued succession by the imposition of hands and the invocation of the All-holy Spirit the grace that is given him of the Lord of binding and loosing, is a living image of God upon the earth, and by a most ample participation of the operation of the Holy Spirit, who is the chief functionary, is a fountain of all the Mysteries [Sacraments] of the Catholic Church, through which we obtain salvation….And he [the Bishop] is, we suppose, as necessary to the Church as breath is to man, or the sun to the world”

      Here, not only is the office of Bishop said to be “necessary” in the Church (which would be contradicted by your Old Covenant vs New Covenant religion analogy) , but it is said to be in “continued” succession from the Apostles. This would mean that something inhered the Apostles which “continues” in the Episcopate, and therefore the foundation of the Apostles is still vitally present in the Episcopate. I am simply shocked that such an elementary principle is not known or believed by a member of the Orthodox Church (I presume you are Orthodox?).

      Now you may try to question the authority of this document, but nothing less is said at the Council of Ephesus (431) whose 2nd session read aloud the letter of St. Celestine of Rome, who detailed the necessary continuation of the Apostles in the Episcopate. But how could you question the Confession of Dositheus if it was accepted by the Patriarchs?

      To the last statements of your comment, the Catholic Church today is merely asking what Greek Catholicism already gave and assented centuries before the 11th-century (- forward) schism in the famous libellus of Pope St. Hormisdas (516-519) where the Papal indefectibility and the necessity of its communion was explicitly accepted. There are many other instances like this, but with something so public as this, and at a time where the East had nothing to gain from the West, I think it is safe to say the Greek episcopate which broke away forsook commitments which they swore to retain by solemn decrees.

      • Dear Eric,

        When I said the Apostolate was accidental to the Church, what I meant was the presence of the 12 apostles themselves, and their unique and unrepeatable role of inspired givers of revelation. Of course the episcopacy is an extension of the administrative side of the apostolic office and a conservator of their teachings, but being a bishop is not being an apostle. Neither is it being inspired. The fact that the Church could exist apart from the office of Apostle as fully exercised by the 12 is my meaning of that office being accidental to the Church.

        Further, yes, in the New Covenant we have continuation of old covenant offices. Christ is now our High priest, not the bishops- the bishops and priests taken together would simply be “priests” and the office of bishop would be seen as an office established by the Church for its proper ordering, following Blessed Jerome’s understanding that Bishops and Presbyters are basically the same thing, But bishops are the ones designated by the Church to fully exercise their priestly office, to include the power of ordination. The presbyters are not, though they hypothetically could ordain, and in fact Presbyters have legitimately made other presbyters, like when Popes authorizes mitred abbots you perform ordinations of priests in England, etc.

        Moreover, the attempt to use atomism to invalidate an analogy or a type is just a red herring, you know that. The essential constitution of the Church is not the same as the role of ecumenical councils- let’s focus here.

        Firstly- Consider the promise of Christ itself- “On this rock I will build my Church.”

        He distinguished between Rock and Church.

        “And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

        Against what? Rock? Church? Or “Church-built-on-Rock?”

        Clearly the latter. But do we have any context for what the Rock is.

        Now opens the patristic wars- but let’s just end them already. You know as well as I do that the majority of the father’s will interpret the Rock as Peter’s confession of faith as distinct from his person. Some will say it is built on his person. Many will say both at different times.

        Now, can we use scripture to perhaps aid our interpretation? I think so if we refer Paul in Ephesians. He makes it clear that the Church is built on the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ being the corner stone.

        Now, to be built upon the apostles and prophets in this context is not to be built upon persons and offices, but upon teaching. We can understand this from mentioning the prophets. To be built on the prophets is to follow the prophetic writings and teachings and prophecies. And in connection to that, we see to be built on the apostles is in the same way, for the apostles and prophets are mentioned together in unity. It is to be built on the apostolic teaching.

        Therefore, scripturally, we can see that the rock the Church is built on is the rock of the apostolic preaching and writings and the prophetic teachings and writings, Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, IE the one from whom the foundation has its source and to whom it points.

        Thus we see that yes, the Church built upon this rock, which is summarized in St. Peter’s confession- “Thou art the Christ, the sin of the living God” is what will be preserved by Christ for all time.

        And the fascinating part is that Peter’s confession truly is a summary of Paul’s description of the Church. For what did the prophets predict? That the Christ would come as the Son of God. And what did the Apostles preach? That Christ is the Son of God? And what is the cornerstone of that preaching? The Son of God himself.

        Thus, Paul’s explanation of what the Church is built upon “the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the Chief cornerstone” is simply an unpacking of what Christ means by the Church being built on the rock.

        Since this is the case, I revert to the previous arguments- Christ’s promises to Preserve the Church do not necessarily include accidental qualities of the Church, but the Church, substantially. And the Church substantially is that body which confesses Peter’s confession which is the Rock upon which it stands with apostolic succession administering the sacraments.

        This is again seen in Vatican II by the very fact of distinguishing ecclesial communities from particular churches.

        Ecclesial communities are not Churches. But they may possess confession of faith and outward delegated leadership and liturgical worship. When do they cross over into being particular Churches? When Rome determines they have a valid sacramental life with apostolic succession.

        Now, that distinction is a distinction between two substantially different things. Therefore, for Rome, to be a Church is to be an apostolic conduit of the sacraments. The Church is substantially sacramental.

        But again, if it can be those things without a papal office, then the papal office is accidental to the substance of the Church, subject to passion and change and is not necessarily included in Christ’s promises to the Church. It can fail.

        The items you list above as essential to the Church’s mission I would say ARE substantially part of it because the SUBSTANCE of what the Church is is the place of salvation. And the means of salvation cannot be separated from the Church, for her existence is predicated upon their use- She is the place where these things happen. She is the place of apostolic succession and the Eucharist. She is the place of baptism and chrismation.

        But the Papacy is not necessary for these things to happen. It is extrinsic to them. It can therefore be lost without harm to the inner life and substance of the Church.

        BUT the papacy is not harmful to the Church in itself, and the external administrative unity is a good thing that aids in the unity willed by God.

        But it can be lost and the Church can continue, as Vatican II admits it has. And considers legitimate the entirety of its life lived apart from Rome.

        So, Rome is not a constitutional characteristic of the Church. It’s a nice administrative addition.

      • internetsecurity82,

        You come to this statement:

        “The fact that the Church could exist apart from the office of Apostle as fully exercised by the 12 is my meaning of that office being accidental to the Church.”

        Forgive me, but this is just sloppy. When we speak of the Apostolic Office as internally constituent of the essential constitution of the Church, we don’t mean the single-same office of the 12, per se, but the ministerial function of that office insofar as perpetuating the Christian mission is concerned. That applies to teaching (magisteria), sanctifying (sacraments), and governing (keys). These were all prerogatives given to the Church in the Apostles and continued in the Episcopate. It was no less than an Ecumenical Council where this is aptly stated by Pope St. Celestine in his letter to the Council of Ephesus 431 which was read aloud:

        “This duty of preaching has been entrusted to all the Lord’s priests in common, for by right of inheritance we are bound to undertake this solicitude, whoever of us preach the name of the Lord in various lands in their stead for he said to them, ‘Go, teach all nations’. You, dear brethren, should observe that we have received a general command: for he wills that all of us should perform that office, which he thus entrusted in common to all the Apostles. We must needs follow our predecessors. Let us all, then, undertake their labours, since we are the successors in their honour.”

        The function (duty) of teacher (magister) has been entrusted to the Episcopate, not as something distinct from the Apostolic Office, but *in* the Apostolic Office. The Lord gave this task to the Apostles, and those who continue in the same ministry take up the task. This is what he means by the “right of inheritance”. Not only did the Apostles receive this command, but the Episcopate received it *in the Apostles*.

        St. Clement of Rome says the same thing when he recorded that the Apostles deemed it that when they died, “other men should succeed to their ministry” (c. 44)

        You then proceed to assert:

        “Further, yes, in the New Covenant we have continuation of old covenant offices.”, but you have already forfeited this by your using the word “substance” in relation to the new covenant offices. The Old Testament does not have the office of Monarchical Bishop. You then further assert: “and the office of bishop would be seen as an office established by the Church for its proper ordering”. So which is it? Is the office of Bishop, in contradistinction to that of presbyter (as outlined by the Confession of Dositheus), essential to the Church? Is it as essential to the Church as breath is to man and light is to the sun, as the Council of Jerusalem (1672) says? Or not? I think there is a malfunction in your understanding here, otherwise the argument of yours has short-circuited.

        You then move on to say:

        “Now opens the patristic wars- but let’s just end them already. You know as well as I do that the majority of the father’s will interpret the Rock as Peter’s confession of faith as distinct from his person. Some will say it is built on his person. Many will say both at different times.”

        But I don’t concede this. The foremost representatives of the East admit that the person of St. Peter, understood together with his faith, is the rock upon which the Church is built. We see this in eminent writers such as St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St. Sophronius of Jerusalem, and St. Theodore of Studium.

        Then, without taking the honor of admitting you erred in your interpretation of the 2nd Vatican Council, as clarified by the Magisterium of St. John Paul II, you immediately assert again as if you were not corrected by saying:

        “When do they cross over into being particular Churches? When Rome determines they have a valid sacramental life with apostolic succession.
        Now, that distinction is a distinction between two substantially different things. Therefore, for Rome, to be a Church is to be an apostolic conduit of the sacraments. The Church is substantially sacramental.”

        Only someone with a surface level, inch-deep, and scrap-book study of the 2nd Vatican Council and Roman Catholic theology could ever arrive at such a conclusion. What is worse is that I took the time to give you explicit clarifications on how the Catholic Church has stood firm by the “wounded” status of the particular churches existing in the separated East. Was it that I did not make myself clear, or that you ignored it?

        Then you move to Sacred Scripture as if Ephesians 2 would come to the aid of alleviating the necessity of the Apostolic officium in the present Church (and, including, the Papal head of that officium) by reducing the “rock” down to some free floating content of doctrine, i.e. Apostolic teaching. But this imposes unnecessary reductions which aren’t taken up by the Fathers or Councils of the Church. What is your authority for interpreting Sacred Scripture? Yourself or the Church? Of course the “rock” is the Apostolic faith, but as is clear from the writings of Fr Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus), the Lord never gave the Apostolic teaching without alongside a commission of a witness to teach it and bear witness to it. Therefore, the content of teaching and the office of witness go hand-in-hand for the Christian Church. The Protestant understanding of “rock” is some naked floating content which he or she gets to decide as to definition and meaning, and only then, once furnished on their own authority, does it get the prize of being a steady solid rock for them. This isn’t how historic Christianity works. There is the Word and then there is the Witness of the Word, and never shall the two sever. The Patristic tradition stated very clearly that the Witness is the Office of Apostle, and the Office of Bishop succeeds the Apostle in the discharging of the prerogative of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. This is Apostolic Christianity 101. Moreover, the Office of Bishop is related essentially to the Office of St. Peter, which also is the Head of the Apostles and the universal episcopate. This is borne witness to by the early Councils. Are you Anglican? Protestant? I’d like to know so I know what common source of authority to appeal to.

  6. Pingback: When Plagiarism Goes Wrong (Part I) – Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia

  7. Pingback: When Plagiarism Goes Wrong (Part II) – Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia

  8. Pingback: Did St. Maximus the Confessor Believe in Papal Infallibility? | Part I | Rebuttal to Catholic Apologists Erick Ybarra – Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia

  9. Pingback: Did St. Maximus the Confessor Believe in Papal Infallibility? | Part II | Rebuttal to Catholic Apologists Erick Ybarra – Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia

  10. Erick, you did a great job in this article. It helped clear up some of the struggles I had facing objections to the Catholic understanding of the papacy. Thank you so much!

    • Awesome, James. You know, this was the last attempt I made to respond to the Orthodox ministry “Ubi Petrus”, and I think I did fairly well, and yet how many are willing to do the work of reading it? I’m proud someone took the time! God bless you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s