When 𝑅𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛 & 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑔𝑦 hosted the Rev. Dr. Richard Price (Heythrop) on the subject of the Papacy in Greek and Latin sides of the 1st millennium, there were commentators who were quick to turn Price into an anti-Catholic weapon by which to falsify the 1st Vatican Council. That was not a surprise, as many Protestants and Eastern Orthodox students of history have noticed a handy help in Roman Catholic scholars themselves against Catholic doctrine. However, I think that this is a tad bit one-sided, quite often. While it is true that one can run through a good number of Roman Catholic scholars and find all sorts of concessions that seem to score points for someone who is against the Papacy, if it is equally observed what these same scholars say about foundational claims of Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy, particularly the latter, then it gets manifested that weaponizing these scholars as anti-Catholic weapons, and not anti-Orthodox weapons, is a result of being short-sighted in the study of their material.
We see this, for ex, with Fr. Price when it comes to iconology and iconodulia since he admits that while the bishops of Nicaea (787) were theologically correct, the iconoclasts were historically correct in saying icons were not produced and venerated by the Apostles and their immediate successors. That’s a massive blow under the floor of Eastern Orthodoxy, though we may contest it (and rightly so!). Nevertheless, the point is clear. Just when you’ve thought you got yourself a nice weapon, it has too much kick-back.
I wish here to draw attention to some statements by another Catholic scholar who has the potential to be used, similar to Fr. Price, as a weapon against Catholicism, but which ends up being a two-edge sword that cuts into the weaponizers. I’ll bring it all into a nice wrap in the end but challenge yourself by trying to find it on your own as I work up to the conclusion.
The late Fr. Francis A Sullivan SJ (1922-2019) was a prominent Catholic theologian in the area of the magisterium and ecclesiology. He was extremely well educated. Besides getting his PhD, he achieved the status of both 𝑆𝑎𝑐𝑟𝑎𝑒 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑔𝑖𝑎𝑒 𝐿𝑖𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑡𝑢𝑠 (STL) and 𝑆𝑎𝑐𝑟𝑎𝑒 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑜𝑙𝑜𝑔𝑖𝑎𝑒 𝐷𝑜𝑐𝑡𝑜𝑟 (STD), which is a Licentiate of Sacred Theology and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology. He seems to have been a center-left (?) theologian, seeing as he pitched in thoughts doubting the infallibility of 𝑂𝑟𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜 𝑆𝑎𝑐𝑒𝑟𝑑𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑠 (regarding woman’s ordination) and the Church’s stance against contraception. One might say he wasn’t so much, even in the slightest, pro female ordination or pro contraception, but was enamored with something that we intuitively expect would be easy to grasp but is not, namely, the complexity of what makes an infallible teaching via the universal ordinary magisterium (and being able to recognize it as such!).
And that brings me to what I want to speak about regarding his work. I think Sullivan is another instance, similar to most contemporary Catholic theologians, of someone who was caught up in a very risky understanding of doctrinal development and with the dynamics of divine revelation. That is, he made some concessions which would be quite obviously seem to go against the credibility of Catholic doctrine, but he cleverly ends up regaining traction just before falling into the ditch by a complex set of nuanced thinking, all which seem unhelpful at first. Consider what he says below concerning the existence of the “Roman Papacy” in the New Testament:
“𝗪𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗸𝗼𝗻 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗹 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗿 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆, 𝘄𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗽𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗱𝗼𝗰𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗲. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘅 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗽𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗳 𝗶𝗻 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗹 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗽𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁, 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵’𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗴𝗼𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲, 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝘄𝗲 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗮𝘀 𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗼𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗰𝘆. 𝗜𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝗯𝘃𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗲 𝗱𝗼 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘀𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝗹𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝘀 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗵 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗡𝗲𝘄 𝗧𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵. 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘂𝗹𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀-𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝗵𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗱𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗽𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁, 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝘄𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗹𝘆-𝗴𝘂𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗱, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗲 𝗱𝗲 𝗶𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗼, 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝗲𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘀 𝗮𝗹𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗡𝗲𝘄 𝗧𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁. 𝗧𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗿𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗳𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗰 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗵 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝘀 𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗥𝗼𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗰𝘆, 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘂𝗹𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁-𝗡𝗲𝘄 𝗧𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗱𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗽𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘆𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁, 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀𝘁’𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵… 𝗔𝘀 𝘄𝗲 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝘀𝗲𝗲, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗲𝘃𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗹𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘃𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝗴𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗳𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝗲𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗿 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗱𝗼𝗰𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗽𝘂𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗮𝗳𝗲𝗴𝘂𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗱𝗼𝘅 𝗳𝗮𝗶𝘁𝗵. 𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗿𝗲𝗳𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗳𝗿𝘂𝗶𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘀𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗯𝗲 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗛𝗼𝗹𝘆 𝗦𝗽𝗶𝗿𝗶𝘁. 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗹𝘆, 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗳 𝗶𝗻 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗹 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗱𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻 𝗰𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝗶𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝗽𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗾𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗳𝗮𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗱. 𝗜𝘁 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗽𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗲 𝘂𝘀, 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻, 𝘁𝗼 𝗼𝗯𝘀𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝘁𝗼𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗻𝗶𝘂𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗰𝗶𝘁 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗳 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗹𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝗰𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗹 𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝗥𝗼𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗖𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗰𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗯𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺. ” (𝑴𝒂𝒈𝒊𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒖𝒎: 𝑻𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝑨𝒖𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒚 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑪𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒄 𝑪𝒉𝒖𝒓𝒄𝒉 (𝑷𝒂𝒖𝒍𝒊𝒔𝒕 𝑷𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔, 1983), 83-84).
Sullivan thinks that whatever God revealed in Christ with the Apostles, it was not such that a “Roman papacy” existed during that time. One can find similar statements in the scholarship of Fr. Klaus Schatz, for example. That sounds like a nice little golden nugget to bring up to the next Catholic apologist next time a debate on the subject comes up. The Papacy not existing during the times of the New Testament. Yeah, that sounds bad.
Now, before we get too excited, one will notice a few things. He doesn’t just say the Roman papacy didn’t exist. He says they did not exist “as such”, which means they existed in another form perhaps. In fact, he does say that the Roman papacy is the product of “seminal factors already present in the New Testament” but not explicitly unfolded. One might make some sense of this, though I think this kind of language tends to be less helpful. One might also refer to Sullivan’s work on the monoepiscopate, which he thinks did not exist directly after Peter and Paul in the Roman ekklesia, something which I can’t imagine is reasonably consistent with the 1st Vatican Council (though again, there is no end of supply of arguments from people who try to say that it is). At best, Sullivan is aiming for substantial continuity even if his theory has no material for it.
Moreover, the Papacy and Papal infallibility, he writes, were at the other end of centuries long development. This sounds like the early Church simply didn’t believe in it, not so much because she protested against the idea, but because it wasn’t even a consideration of mind to be dealt with to begin with! Problematic, yes.
But notice also how Sullivan thinks that Conciliar infallibility and Ecumenical Councils, too, were not concepts in existence during the New Testament. And here he doesn’t simply mean the imperial stature of those Councils, but the concept of an infallible synod altogether. Sullivan also thinks this was not present during New Testament times, nor directly after it. Rather, it also took centuries. This is quite clear in that he references the work of the Jesuit theologian Herman Josef Sieben whose work 𝘋𝘪𝘦 𝘒𝘰𝘯𝘻𝘪𝘭𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘈𝘭𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘒𝘪𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘦 (1979) “showed” how the Fathers in the Councils did not show a sense of recognition that their decisions were *a priori* infallible (p. 85). I happen to think this is factually wrong, but I am not going to venture in that direction. Sieben held that the only true criterion for the ecumenicity of Councils is when its decrees were received by the whole Church, as consonant with Scripture and Tradition. This, too, is also problematic and requires some further defining, but I’m staying on another point for now (if you’d like to discuss, bring it up in the comments).
Sullivan also thinks that it was understood within the 7 era of Ecumenical Councils that infallible teaching required the unique participation of the successor of St. Peter (p. 76), and not just as another Patriarch in a series of Patriarchs, or even the lead Patriarch, but because of a special investment given to St. Peter, the original primate of the Roman diocese. The idea is that a divinely instituted leadership was bestowed on Peter individually and which gets passed, by way of lineal succession, to the successors to his stationary cathedra fixed in Rome. This is a theory which is unacceptable to Eastern Orthodoxy ecclesiology, but which Sullivan thinks is present in the 1st millennium history.
Thus, we have Sullivan’s scholarship giving us what seems to be a problematic point on the lack of existence of the Papacy (as it would exist later) in the New Testament times as well as in post-Apostolic Christian antiquity, but also a heavy dose, albeit smaller, of 𝑎ℎ𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑠𝑚 to Orthodoxy’s doctrine of conciliar infallibility and her more recent ecclesiology which excludes any notion of a divinely instituted Petrine government fixed from Rome as a sine qua non for producing infallible doctrine in Councils. Now, Sullivan indeed thinks these things were organic developments, but Eastern Orthodox thinkers can often be found denigrating the idea that her doctrines developed in this fashion and find it rather troublesome to Catholicism that the latter’s dogmatic formula arising in such a fashion. All in all, I think what we have here is another instance of a Catholic scholar who can be cited against Catholicism, but who also has a blow to swing in other unwanted directions. Lastly, the Orthodox might retort with, “Bah, Erick. The Orthodox ecclesiology is far more loose and capable of withstanding more damage because of its lack of centralization and that is doesn’t focus so much of its truth criterion to the sensitivity of one man or one bishop” (etc. etc.). But realize, the 𝑎ℎ𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑠𝑚 that Sullivan would be pointing out here still cuts across the whole of what conservative Orthodox theologians would want to be something that the Apostles and their immediate successors were conscious of. Kind of like iconodulia. Err… that is, what is claimed by scholars regarding iconodulia.