Did the early church fathers believe in the Papacy? Countless quote mines say “yes.” These quote mines of the Early Church Fathers are of limited utility, especially when they offer citations to works that cannot be verified due to lack of (precise) citations or easy access to English-language translations. Additionally, they often lack sufficient context.
As follows is a different sort of quote mine that includes accurate citations from the early church fathers in various contexts such as ecumenical councils, and letters to and from Popes, and etcetera. Almost everyone quoted here is a canonized saint. The quotes can be easily accessed via a search engine or accessing a readily available English translation. Context can be consulted by simply copy and pasting the text or book name. In the tough cases I provided links. Without further ado, the quote mine (updated 11/11/22):
All Bishops are Successors of Peter and Sit on His Chair
- The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge [a euphemism for being ordained a bishop, see 1 Clem 42] to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one. (Clement of Alexandria, Hypotyposes, Book 6 quoted in Eusebius, Church History, Book 2, Chap 1, Par 4—Third Century)
- Then James, whom the ancients surnamed the Just on account of the excellence of his virtue, is recorded to have been the first to be made bishop of the church of Jerusalem…But Clement in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus: “For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem. (Clement of Alexandria, Hypotyposes, Book 6 quoted in Eusebius, Church History, Book 2, Chap 2—Third Century)
- Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: [Quotes Matt 16:18 and 18:18] Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. (Cyprian, Letter 26.1–Third Century)
- [T]hat He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one [Peter]. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. (Cyprian, Treatise 1.4—Third Century)
- For it was not Caecilian [of Carthage] who went forth from Majorinus [of Carthage], your father’s father, but it was Majorinus who deserted Caecilian; nor was it Caecilian who separated himself from the Chair of Peter, or from the Chair of Cyprian —-but Majorinus, on whose Chair you sit—-a Chair which had no existence. (Optatus, Against the Donatists , Book 1, Chap 10—Fourth Century)
- John said to him [Peter], ‘You are our father and bishop; you must be before the bier until we bring it to the place [of burial].’ (Earliest Greek Dormition Homily, Par 37—Fourth Century)
- Repeated ad verbatim in the Book of Mary’s Repose (Ethiopian Par 71—Fourth Century) and John of Thessalonica’s Dormition Homily (Chap 13—Seventh Century)
- Note: The former two homilies can be accessed in Shoemaker’s (2002) Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption. The latter quote is found in Daly’s (1998) On the Dormition of Mary.
- Repeated ad verbatim in the Book of Mary’s Repose (Ethiopian Par 71—Fourth Century) and John of Thessalonica’s Dormition Homily (Chap 13—Seventh Century)
- [W]hy do you not understand that the see of Peter is equal and common to all the bishops? (Maximinus, Disseration Against Ambrose, PL Suppl. 1:722; Butler and Collorafi, Keys, 2004, p. 78–Fourth Century)
- [A]ll of us who are set in this place [Rome] desire to follow the apostle [Peter], from whom the episcopate itself and the whole authority of this name is derived. (Pope Innocent I, Letter to Carthage, PL 20:582-3–Fifth Century; Butler and Collorafi, Keys, 2004, p. 144)
- The universal ordering of the Church at its birth took its origin from the office of blessed Peter, in which is found both directing power and its supreme authority. (Pope Boniface I, Letter to the Bishops of Thessaly–Fifth Century)
- Since, therefore, the universal Church has become a rock (petra) through the building up of that original Rock, and the first of the Apostles, the most blessed Peter, heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock (petra) I will build My Church,” who is there who dare assail such impregnable strength, unless he be either antichrist or the devil. (Pope Leo, Letter 156, Par 2–Fifth Century)
- For all we Irish, inhabitants of the world’s edge, are disciples of Saints Peter and Paul and of all the disciples who wrote the sacred canon by the Holy Ghost, and we accept nothing outside the evangelical and apostolic teaching; none has been a heretic, none a Judaizer, none a schismatic; but the Catholic Faith, as it was delivered by you first, who are the successors of the holy apostles, is maintained unbroken. (Columbanus to Pope Boniface IV, Letter 5, Chap 2–Seventh Century)
- [T]he blessed apostle Peter was the origin of both the apostleship and the episcopate. (Pope Gregory II, MGH, Epistolae 3: 275-7—Eighth Century; Butler and Collorafi, Keys over the Christian World, 2004, p. 464)
“Keys of Heaven” in Matt 16:18 Belong to All Bishops
- If, because the Lord has said to Peter, Upon this rock will I build My Church, to you have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom; or, Whatsoever you shall have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens, you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter. (Tertullian, On Modesty, Chap 21—Third Century)
- [R]ightly hast thou [the Donatists] claimed the Keys for Peter…although you are not in the Catholic Church, these things cannot be denied, since you have shared true Sacraments with us. (Optatus, Against the Donatists, Book 1, Chap 12—Fourth Century)
- And though this has been thus written, nevertheless, for the sake of unity, blessed Peter…both deserved to be placed over all the Apostles, and alone received the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, which he was to communicate to the rest. (Ibid., Book 7, Chap 3–Fourth Century)
- The Church is founded upon Peter, although in another place, the same thing is done upon all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the strength of the Church is established equally upon them all. (Jerome, Against Jovinian, Book I, Par 26–Fourth Century)
- Far be it from me to censure the successors of the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians. Having the keys of the kingdom of heaven, they judge men to some extent before the day of judgment, and guard the chastity of the bride of Christ. (Jerome, Letter 14, Par 8—Fourth Century)
- And how has He set over us so many to reprove; and not only to reprove, but also to punish? For him that hearkens to none of these, He has commanded to be as a heathen man and a publican. And how gave He them the keys also? Since if they are not to judge, they will be without authority in any matter, and in vain have they received the power to bind and to loose. (John Chrysostom, Homily 12 on the Gospel of John–Fourth Century).
- [Christ] through Peter gave to the bishops the keys of the heavenly honors. (Gregory of Nyssa; PG XL VII, 312 cited in Meyendorf’s “The Primacy of Peter,” 1992, p 71–Fourth Century)
- Nobody can effect this sacrament [the Eucharist] except a priest who has been properly ordained according to the church’s keys, which Jesus Christ Himself gave to the apostles and their successors. (Decree 1 of Fourth Lateran Council—13th Century)
Rome Does Not Have the Final Say
- [I]t becomes us all to watch for the body of the whole Church. (Roman Synod in Cyprian, Letter 29.4—Third Century)
- [T]hey [Bishops] owe their conscience to God alone as the judge yet desire that their doings should be approved also by their brethren themselves. It is no wonder, brother Cyprian,…we should be found not so much judges of, as sharers in, your counsel. (Roman Synod in Cyprian, Letter 30.1—Third Century)
- [T]hat cannot be a firm decree which shall not appear to have had the consent of very many. (Roman Synod in Ibid., 30.5–Third Century)
- I [Cyprian] know, dearest brother [Pope Cornelius], from the mutual love which we owe and manifest one towards another, that you always read my letters to the very distinguished clergy who preside with you there…yet now I both warn and ask you to do by my request what at other times you do of your own accord and courtesy. (Cyprian, Letter 54.20—Third Century)
- [Pope Stephen] 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…the Christian Rock is overshadowed, and in some measure abolished, by him when he thus betrays and deserts unity. (Firmilian quoted in Cyprian, Letter 74.17–Third Century)
- For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops [as does Pope Stephen], nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Council of Carthage 258; cf Cyprian, Letter 72.26—Third Century)
- [Y]ou have shown your brotherly love for us by convoking a synod in Rome, in accordance with God’s will, and inviting us to it, by means of a letter from your most God-beloved emperor, as if we were limbs of your very own…you should not now reign in isolation from us, given the complete agreement of the emperors in matters of religion. Rather, according to the word of the apostle, we should reign along with you. (Synodical Letter of Council of Constantinople I—Fourth Century)
- They [the Donatists] chose, therefore, as it is reported, to bring their dispute with Cæcilianus before the foreign churches [in Rome]…the common outcry of all worthless litigants, though they have been defeated by the clearest light of truth—as if it might not have been said, and most justly said, to them: “Well, let us suppose that those bishops who decided the case at Rome were not good judges; there still remained a plenary Council of the universal Church, in which these judges themselves might be put on their defence; so that, if they were convicted of mistake, their decisions might be reversed.” (Augustine, Letter 43, Par 19—Fifth Century)
- Certain men—Julian, Florus, Orontius, and Fabius—who say that they are bishops from the West [i.e. the Roman synod], have often approached our most pious and glorious emperor and cried out their case with tears—namely, that they are orthodox men who have suffered persecution in an orthodox age. They have often addressed their laments to us [i.e. the Constantinopolitan synod and the Emperor] and just as often have been rejected. Yet they do not cease to repeat the same case, but day after day they continue filling everyone’s ears with their plaintive wails. (Letter of Nestorius to Pope Celestine, Par 1—Fifth Century)
- For you [Cyril] ask whether the holy council ought to receive a man [Nestorius] who condemns what he himself has preached, or whether, because the period of respite has now passed [Rome’s excommunication already had took effect], the sentence already passed must hold…I am zealous for universal peace, and I am zealous for the salvation of one who is perishing, if indeed he is ready to acknowledge his sickness. Our reason for saying this is lest we appear to fail one who wishes to reform. If however, while he look for grapes he has grown thorns, let the earlier decree stand. (Letter of Pope Celestine to Cyril—Fifth Century; Price and Graumann, Council of Ephesus, 2020, p. 203)
- Constantine the most devout deacon said: ‘When the sentence of deposition [of Constantinople] was read, Eutyches appealed to the holy council of the most holy bishops of Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Thessalonica.’ (Council of Chalcedon, Session 1–Fifth Century; Price and Gaddis, Council of Chalcedon, Vol 1, 2007, p. 264)
- [M]y appealing to the throne of the Apostolic See of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and to the holy council in general which meets under your holiness, a crowd of soldiers at once surrounds me, prevents me from taking refuge at the holy altar, as I desired, and tried to drag me out of the church… God shall inspire your mind, that an united synod of the fathers both of West and East may be held, and the same faith preached everywhere, that the constitutions of our fathers may be upheld, and all be brought to nothing and undone… The bishops who did not consent to this iniquity are much more numerous. (Flavian, Appeal to Leo, Par 3—Fifth Century)
- [A]ll the churches of our parts and all the priests implore your clemency with tears in accordance with the request which Flavian makes in his appeal [to the Roman synod], to command the assembling together of a special Synod in Italy…to it should also come the bishops of all the Eastern provinces…we are bound to preserve both what the Nicene canon [sic Canons 3-5 of Serdica, Rome conflated these canons*] enjoins and what the definitions of the bishops of the whole world enjoin according to the custom of the catholic Church. (Pope Leo, Letter 43, Par 3–Fifth Century; *concerning a canon of Serdica being called a canon from Nicea, see Butler and Collorafi, Keys Over the Christian World, 2004, p. 193)
- I have modified my practice [i.e. his former excommunications] somewhat in order that their slow minds might be aroused by some feelings of compunction to ask for lenient treatment. For although since their decision, which is no less blasphemous than unjust, they [the bishops of the Council of Ephesus 2] cannot be held in such honour by the catholic brotherhood as they once were, yet they still retain their sees and their rank as bishops, with the prospect either of receiving the peace of the whole Church, after true and necessary signs of repentance or, if (which GOD forbid) they persist in their heresy, of reaping the reward of their misbelief. (Pope Leo, Letter 95, Par 4—Fifth Century)
- Like Pope Celestine’s excommunication of Nestorius, a Papal excommunication was tentative pending the decision of an ecumenical council. Clergy did not officially lose their ranks until then. Here, Leo calls doing such a “modified…practice,” but not only did Celestine do the same 20 years previously, Leo himself played by the same rules with Eutyches, writing, “Eutyches has put himself quite outside this unity, if he perseveres in his pervisity.” (Letter 34, Par 1) Leo’s excommunication was evidently not the final say on the matter.
- I approved of what was resolved upon by our holy brethren about the Rule of Faith [of Chalcedon]; on their [Constantinople’s] account to wit, who in order to cloke their own treachery, [they allege that I] pretend to consider invalid or doubtful such conciliar ordinances as are not ratified by my assent…I approved of what the synod had passed concerning the Faith. But, because it contained such an answer as would have run counter to his self-seeking, he preferred my acceptance of the brethren’s resolutions to remain unknown, lest at the same time my reply should become known on the absolute authority of the Nicene canons. (Pope Leo, Letter 117, Par 1–Fifth Century)
- Constantine the most glorious quaestor said:’…the most pious emperor [Justinian] has sent a decree to your holy council about the name of [Pope] Vigilius, to the effect that in view of the impiety he has defended his name should no longer be included in the sacred diptychs of the church [i.e. excommunicated]….’ The Holy Council Said: ‘May the sacred decree be duly received and read.’ [Decree of Justinian]: ‘…we have pronounced that his name [Vigilius] is alien to Christians and is not read out in the sacred diptychs…’ The holy council said: ‘What has now seemed good to the emperor is consonant with the labours he has borne for the unity of the holy churches. Let us therefore preserve unity with the apostolic see of the sancrosanct church of Elder Rome, transacting everything according to the tenor of the texts [i.e. the decree] that have been read.’ (Session 7 of Constantinople II—Sixth Century; Price, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople 553, Volume 2, 2009, p. 99, 101)
- Our Saviour bestowed the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven upon St. Peter, and you perhaps on this account claim for yourself before all others some proud measure of greater authority and power in things divine; you ought to know that your power will be the less in the Lord’s eyes, if you even think this in your heart, since the unity of faith has produced in the whole world a unity of power and privilege, in such wise that by all men everywhere freedom should be given to the truth, and the approach of error should be denied by all alike, since it was his right confession that privileged even the holy bearer of the keys, the common teacher of us all. (Columbanus to Pope Boniface IV, Letter 5, Chap 11–Seventh Century)
- Peter answered for all [bishops]...the same function [of the keys] is given the whole Church in the bishops and the priests. (Synod of Douzy 871–Ninth Century; Tavard, “Episcopacy and Apostolic Succession According To Hincmar Of Reims“, p. 618)
Rome is Fallible
- The prince of this world [Satan] would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God [i.e. martyrdom]. Let none of you, therefore, who are [in Rome] help him. (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, Chap 4—Second Century)
- But [Pope] (Zephyrinus) himself, being in process of time enticed away, hurried headlong into the same opinions; and he had Callistus as his adviser, and a fellow-champion of these wicked tenets. But the life of this (Callistus), and the heresy invented by him, I shall after a little explain. The school of these heretics during the succession of such bishops, continued to acquire strength and augmentation, from the fact that Zephyrinus and Callistus helped them to prevail. (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9, Chap 2—Third Century)
- [Pope Liberius] conquered by the tedium of exile and subscribing to heretical wickedness entered Rome in triumph. (Jerome, Chronicle; quoted in Catholic Enyclopedia’s “Liberius”—Fourth Century; PL 27: 501-2)
- The most devout bishops of Illyricum said: ‘Let those who dissent [Roman legates and Oriental bishops] make themselves known. The dissenters are Nestorians. Let the dissenters go off to Rome.’ (Council of Chalcedon, Session 5; Price and Gaddis, Council of Chalcedon, Vol 2, 2007, p. 199-200)
- Note: The Illyrian bishops were under Roman jurisdiction, but consistently throughout Chalcedon criticized Pope Leo’s Tome.
- No one is ignorant of the scandals that the enemy of the human race stirred up throughout the world, in such a way that, taking each person with a wicked purpose who was eager in whatever way to accomplish his own wish to overturn the church of God throughout the world, he made him concoct various things in speaking or writing not merely in his own named but also in ours…we, who were and are in agreement over the one faith, spurned brotherly love and were seduced into discord. But because Christ our God, who is the true light that the darkness does not comprehend, has removed all confusion from our mind and recalled the universal church to peace. (Second Letter of Pope Vigilius to Eutychius of Constantinople—Sixth Century; Price, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople 553, Volume 2, 2009, p. 215)
- For, as I hear, you are alleged to favour heretics—God forbid men should believe that this has been, is, or shall be true. For they say that Eutyches, Nestorius, and Dioscorus, old heretics as we know, were favoured at some Council, at the fifth, by Vigilius. Here, as they say, is the cause of the whole calumny; if, as is reported, you also favour thus, or if you know that even [Pope] Vigilius himself died under such a taint, why do you repeat his name against your conscience? Already it is your fault if you have erred from the true belief and made your first faith void; justly do your subordinates oppose you, and justly do they hold no communion with you…For if these things are rather true than fabled, with changed roles your sons are turned into the head, while you become the tail.’ (Columbanus to Pope Boniface IV, Letter 5, Chap 9–Seventh Century)
- And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized [Pope] Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines. (Council of Constantinople 3, Session 13—Seventh Century)
- But as the author of evil, who, in the beginning, availed himself of the aid of the serpent…in like manner now, having found suitable instruments for working out his will (we mean Theodorus, who was Bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter, who were Archbishops of this royal city, and moreover, Honorius who was Pope of the elder Rome…), has actively employed them in raising up for the whole Church the stumbling-blocks of one will and one operation in the two natures of Christ our true God, one of the Holy Trinity; thus disseminating, in novel terms, among the orthodox people, an heresy similar to the mad and wicked doctrine of the impious Apollinaris. (Ibid., Session 18; Definition of Constantinople 3—Seventh Century)
- In like manner also in the times of the pious Emperor Constantine, a Council of one hundred and seventy holy fathers was assembled in this royal city which anathematised and denounced…Honorius of Rome…for having taught there was but one will and operation in the two natures of our Jesus Christ. (Council of Nicea 2, Session 6—Eighth Century; Mendham, Nicea 2, p. 332-333)
- For even though [Pope] Honorius was anathematized after death by the easterners, it should be known that he had been accused of heresy, which is the only offense where inferiors have the right to resist the initiatives of their superior or are free to reject their false opinions. (Pope Adrian II, Council of Constantinople 869-870—Ninth Century; Price and Montinaro, Council of Constantinople 869-870, 2022, p. 314)
- We even find in those letters that you give us a counsel, if indeed it may be called a counsel, which is contrary to the Lord’s example and opposed to the decrees of the fathers, namely, to use your words, that all the dictates of the Apostolic See, over which you preside by the grace of God, must be accepted promptly…[T]he privilege of Peter does not persist when judgment is not passed with equity. (Charles the Bald to Pope Adrian II, Letter 8–Ninth Century; Tavard, “Episcopacy and Apostolic Succession According To Hincmar Of Reims“, p. 616-617)
Rome’s Authority is Sourced From Both Apostles Peter and Paul
- I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles. (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, Chap 4—Second Century)
- [T]he very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [i.e. Rome], on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap 3, Par 2—Second Century)
- [T]hey [i.e. the synod] who are at Rome…vainly pretend the authority of the apostles…defaming Peter and Paul…” (Firmilian, quoted in Cyprian, Letter 74.16—Fourth Century)
- All the devout bishops said together: “To Celestine the new Paul! To Cyril the new Paul!” (Council of Ephesus, Session 3–Fourth Century; Price and Graumann, Council of Ephesus, 2020, p. 374)
- For we [the Irish], as I have said before, are bound to St. Peter’s chair; for though Rome be great and famous, among us it is only on that chair that her greatness and her fame depend…yet from that time when the Son of God deigned to be Man, and on those two most fiery steeds of God’s Spirit, I mean the apostles Peter and Paul, whose dear relics’ have made you blessed…For the rest, Holy Father and brethren, pray for me, a most wretched sinner, and for my fellow-pilgrims beside the holy places and the ashes of the Saints, and especially beside Peter and Paul, men equally great captains of the great King. (Columbanus to Pope Boniface IV, Letter 5, Chap 10, 16–Seventh Century)
- [F]ollow the traditions of the orthodox faith of those chief Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, and kindly welcome their Vicar [i.e. the Pope], even as your predecessors honoured each on the Vicar of his own days. And let your divinely-received power give all honour to the most holy Roman Church of these chief Apostles…Now these same holy and chief Apostles who laid the foundation of the Catholic and Orthodox faith have left a written law that all who ever should succeed to their thrones should maintain the same faith. (Council of Nicea 2, Session 2–Eighth Century; Mendham, Nicea 2, Greek rendering, p. 48-49)
Rome’s Jurisdiction Is Limited to the Localities Where the Apostles Peter and Paul Evangelized
- Therefore you also have by such admonition joined in close union the churches that were planted by Peter and Paul, that of the Romans and that of the Corinthians: for both of them went to our Corinth, and taught us in the same way as they taught you when they went to Italy; and having taught you, they suffered martyrdom at the same time. (Dionysius of Corinth quoted in Eusebius, Church History, Book 2, Chap 25—Second Century)
- Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia [evangelized by the Apostles Philip and John], with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate. But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor. (Eusebius, Church History, Book 5, Chap 24.9-10—Second Century events)
- Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. (Council of Nicea, Canon 6—Fourth Century)
- [T]he holy council of Rome issued a decree [excommunicating Nestorius] and indeed wrote to your piety [John Patriarch of Antioch] the instructions that must be followed by those who wish to remain in communion with all the West…for we ourselves [Alexandria’s synod] shall follow his judgement, fearing to lose the communion of so many. (Letter of Cyril to John of Antioch—Fifth Century; Price and Graumann, Council of Ephesus, 2020, p. 159)
- In accordance with the canons, this stirred into action to holy ecumenical council, with which is in session both the most holy and most God-belover Celestine archbishop of your great Rome and the whole western council through the holy bishops whom it sent to us. (Report to Theodosius II Sent Via the Envoys of the Council—Fifth Century; Price and Graumann, Council of Ephesus, 2020, p. 553)
- [H]e [Stephen of Dora] was ordered to ordain bishops and priests and deacons according to the canons, as far as power was lacking to us to appoint the patriarch of Jerusalem, to build up the clerical orders. (Pope Martin to Pantaleon, a Cleric in Jerusalem in Pope Martin to Pantaleon, a Cleric in Jerusalem–Seventh Century; Allen, Conflict and Negotiation in the Early Church, p. 223)
- Therefore this great and holy synod decrees that in old and new Rome and the sees of Antioch and Jerusalem the ancient custom must be preserved in all things, so that their prelates should have authority over all the metropolitans whom they promote or confirm in the episcopal dignity. (Council of Constantinople 869-870, Canon 17—Ninth Century)
- This holy and ecumenical Council has decreed that so far as concerns any clerics, or laymen, or bishops from Italy that are staying in Asia, or Europe, or Africa, under bond, or deposition, or anathema imposed by the most holy Pope John, all such persons are to be held in the same condition of penalization also by the most holy Patriarch of Constantinople Photius….All those persons, on the other hand, whom Photius our most holy Patriarch has condemned or may condemn to excommunication, or deposition, or anathematization, in any diocese whatsoever…are to be treated likewise by most holy Pope John, and his holy Church of God of the Romans, and be held in the same category of penalization. (Council of Constantinople 879-880, Canon 1—Ninth Century)
Rome’s Authority is Centered Upon its Synod, Not the Person of the Pope
- The Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth…we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us. (Pope Clement, 1 Clem 1—First Century)
- [T]he Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chap 3—Second Century)
- This holy Lord’s day, in which we read your [Rome’s] letter, from the constant reading of which we shall be able to draw admonition, even as from the reading of the former one you sent us written through Clement. (Dionysius of Corinth, Fragment 2—Second Century)
- Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him. (Eusebius, Church History, Book 5, Chap 24.1—Second Century events)
- [T]he place of [Pope] Fabian, that is, when the place of Peter and the degree of the sacerdotal throne was vacant [after his martyrdom]; which being occupied by the will of God, and established by the consent of all of us, whosoever now wishes to become a bishop, must needs be made from without; and he cannot have the ordination of the Church who does not hold the unity of the Church. (Cyprian, Letter 51.8—Third Century)
“Papal-Sounding” Honorifics to Other People
- And now, victorious and mighty Constantine, in this discourse, whose noble argument is the glory of the Almighty King, let me lay before you some of the mysteries of his sacred truth: not as presuming to instruct you, who art yourself taught of God; nor to disclose to you those secret wonders which he himself, not through the agency of man, but through our common Saviour, and the frequent light of his Divine presence has long since revealed and unfolded to your view. (Eusebius, Oration in Praise of Constantine, Chap 11, Par 1)
- Panegyric upon the building of the churches, addressed to Paulinus, Bishop of Tyre: (…)[T]he inspired unction and the sacerdotal garment of the Holy Spirit; and thou, oh pride of God’s new holy temple, endowed by him with the wisdom…one might call you a new Beseleel, the architect of a divine tabernacle, or Solomon, king of a new and much better Jerusalem, or also a new Zerubabel, who added a much greater glory than the former to the temple of God. (Eusebius, Church History, Book 10, Chap 4:2-3)
- You [Caesarea] must then take thought for the whole Church as the Body of Christ, but more especially for your own, which was from the beginning and is now the Mother of almost all the Churches…You then have summoned us also to your discussion of this matter, and so are acting rightly and canonically…I believe that there are others among you worthy of the Primacy, both because of the greatness of your city, and because it has been governed in times past so excellently and by such great men; but there is one man among you to whom I cannot prefer any, our son well beloved of God, Basil the Priest (I speak before God as my witness); a man of pure life and word, and alone, or almost alone, of all qualified in both respects to stand against the present times, and the prevailing wordiness of the heretics. (Gregory Nazianzus, Letters, Section II, Epistle 41—Fourth Century)
- No one knows better than you do, that, like all wise physicians, you ought to begin your treatment in the most vital parts, and what part is more vital to the Churches throughout the world than Antioch? (Basil to Athanasius, Letter 66)
- I am therefore constrained to point out that it is the prayer of the whole East, and the earnest desire of one who, like myself, is so wholly united to him [Meletius of Antioch], to see him in authority over the Churches of the Lord. He is a man of unimpeachable faith; his manner of life is incomparably excellent, he stands at the head, so to say, of the whole body of the Church, and all else are mere disjointed members. (Basil to Athanasius, Letter 67)
- [T]he Church henceforward began to enjoy a settled calm. This was established for her by Constantine, a prince deserving of all praise, whose calling, like that of the divine Apostle, was not of men, nor by man, but from heaven. (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chap 1)
- I am very confident of the piety of your heart in all things and perceive that through the Spirit of God dwelling in you, you are sufficiently instructed, nor can any error delude you. (Pope Leo to Emperor Leo, Letter 162.3)
- To my Master, honored by God, the good chief shepherd, the father of fathers…I was commanded to embark on reading the all-revered report of Your divinely inspired Self…I have learned to take refuge in Your teaching, which speaks from God, even as I beg its precious and clearly instructive message to vouchsafe still brighter clarity…As a result, when our ignorance has been illuminated by Your God-taught Self, perhaps in this too we may imitate the fat and fertile land. (Cyrus of Alexandria, First Letter to Sergius of Constantinople–Seventh Century; Allen, Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century Heresy, p. 161, 163)
- [We] freely consented to the carrying into effect of the imperial decrees touching the preaching of our evangelical faith which was addressed to our predecessor Donus, a pontiff of Apostolic memory, they have through our ministry been sent to and entirely approved by all nations and peoples; for these decrees the Holy Spirit by his grace dictated to the tongue of the imperial pen…and, afterwards concerning the religious servants of God, that I might exhort them to follow in haste the footsteps of your most pious Tranquillity. (Pope Agatho’s Letter, Constantinople III, Session 2–Seventh Century)
- [T]he gates of Hell shall not prevail against your Orthodox empire. (Constantinople III—Seventh Century; Schatz, Papal Primacy from its Origins to Present, p. 50)
- Ignatius [of Constantinople]…presides in this see and has power from enjoying such primacy. (Oriental Legates, Council of Constantinople 869-870—Ninth Century; Price and Montinaro, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 869-870, p. 228)
- [T]hrough the protection of our true God the five patriarchates of the whole world believe soundly and without any harm to the faith; and therefore it is incumbent on you to accept whatever they decide. (Emperor Basil, Council of Constantinople 869-870—Ninth Century; Price and Montinaro, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 869-870, p. 245)
- Whoever anathematizes that supreme priest [Photius of Constantinople] be anathema. (John of Heraclea, Council of Constantinople 869-870—Ninth Century; Price and Montinaro, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 869-870, p. 271)
Rome Has Been Schismatic
- He [Pope Stephen] is really the schismatic who has made himself an apostate from the communion of ecclesiastical unity. For while you [Stephen] think that all may be excommunicated by you, you have excommunicated yourself alone from all. (Firmilian quoted in Cyprian, Letter 74.24—Third Century)
One may ask themselves how some sources, such as those here, sound so diametrically opposed to some other sources in Roman Catholic quote mines. This is when context for a given statement is key. Almost categorically, the Roman Catholic quote mines use statements that are honorifics with little import, in reference to the prerogatives of Rome in the West, or Rome’s canonical position in taking appeals (which is second below an ecumenical council, the latter requiring approval of all the Patriarchates including Rome). Context is always lacking from quote mines which is why the capacity to verify quotes is so important.
Now, if one presumes the preceding categorizations when interpreting Roman Catholic “quotables” on the Papacy, not so coincidentally, the quote mine here is no longer discordant. Rather, it represents a unified whole of Patristic thought on the subject of the Papacy. This indicates that the Orthodox worldview actually contextualizes what all the fathers say on the given topic.
For those who want more context, a Roman Catholic interlocutor (John Collorafi) and myself are spending hours covering nine centuries of Papal history where these events are unpacked in considerably more detail. And so, I commend interested readers to these sources in order to dig deeper on the topics addressed and to hear an intelligent presentation from “the other side.”
Thank you for this. Have a blessed day.
St. Basil the Great
But a further rumour has reached me that you are in Antioch, and are transacting the business in hand with the chief authorities. And, besides this, I have heard that the brethren who are of the party of Paulinus are entering on some discussion with your excellency on the subject of union with us; and by us I mean those who are supporters of the blessed man of God, Meletius. I hear, moreover, that the Paulinians are carrying about a letter of the Westerns, assigning to them the episcopate of the Church in Antioch, but speaking under a false impression of Meletius, the admirable bishop of the true Church of God. I am not astonished at this. They are totally ignorant of what is going on here; the others, though they might be supposed to know, give an account to them in which party is put before truth; and it is only what one might expect that they should either be ignorant of the truth, or should even endeavour to conceal the reasons which led the blessed Bishop Athanasius to write to Paulinus… I accuse no one; I pray that I may have love to all, and especially unto them who are of the household of faith; Galatians 6:10 and therefore I congratulate those who have received the letter from Rome. And, although it is a grand testimony in their favour, I only hope it is true and confirmed by facts. But I shall never be able to persuade myself on these grounds to ignore Meletius, or to forget the Church which is under him, or to treat as small, and of little importance to the true religion, the questions which originated the division. I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men. Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints. (Letter 214, 2)
Thanks for this. I was curious as to what you think about the books written by Roman saint Robert Bellarmine and by modern writer James Likoudis? Are there Orthodox responses to either of them? Thank you and God Bless.
I have not read these books, but I recommend my complete history of the Papacy with a colleague of Mr. Likoudis, John Collorafi:
Hello, Mr. Craig, Did not Pope Stephen, in his response to St. Cyprian, uphold the position that baptism administered with the correct form and intention, even by heretics or schismatics, should be considered valid? I mean that both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches generally recognize the validity of baptisms performed by schismatic groups, as long as they meet certain criteria regarding the correct form and intention of the sacrament, if I am not mistaken.
Technically, St Stephen was accused of permitting improper form.
But doesn’t it invalidate our arguments since Pope Stephen was correct? If it doesn’t, can you explain how and why if it’s okay with you? Thanks!
Not really, because St Stephen traditionally represents the view of economy and St Cyrpian represents the view of strictness. Both are canonical. THey are not in strict opposition.
Historically, St Stephen’s position may in fact be the postion of Dinoysius of Rome, who followed St Dionysius of Alexandria on the question–that even with economy proper form was necessary. St Stephen was accused of not requiring this and his successors supposedly changed course.
That being said, baptism with correct form is acceptable.