Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pope Peter, Part VI: The Fisher Pope

As part of the live “Shameless Popery” apologetics talk, we presented six major arguments presenting the Biblical case for the papacy.  Five of those points were adapted from the “Pope Peter” series I did a while back (parts I, II, III, IV, and V), but there was a sixth argument that I prepared especially for the talk, and I wanted to share it with you.

I. What Scripture Says

In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus calls Peter to become a fisher of men:
Duccio, Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew (c. 1310)
While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennes'aret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb'edee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
This is pretty self-explanatory.  While this event is historical, it's also a sort of a living parable.  What I mean is that, just as Christ heals a man's blindness to show the Pharisees their spiritual blindness in John 9, here, He uses the catch of fish to symbolize the salvation of souls, and to invite Peter to become a fisher of men. 

It's notable that St. Peter is there with three other men who would become Disciples: his brother Andrew (Matthew 4:18), as well as James and John (Lk. 5:10). In fact, it appears from Lk. 5:11 that it's at this moment that all four of them give up everything to follow Him. In light of this, the manner in which Jesus singles Peter out, even amongst the other Eleven, is significant, and part of a larger pattern, in which Peter is called to more than even the other Apostles.

Stained Glass Window, Holy Trinity church, Caister-on-Sea (UK)
All of this takes on rather more significant when you understand the way that the events of Luke 5 prefigure the second miraculous catch of fish, described in John 21:1-11.  In it, Christ again uses a miraculous catch of fish to make a point about the role of the Church, and Peter specifically, in making Disciples of all nations.  Let's address the passage piece by piece:
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tibe'ri-as; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathan'a-el of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zeb'edee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you."
St. John wasn't in the habit of throwing in meaningless details and dialogue in his Gospel.  On the contrary, even the minute details tend to be chock full of significance.  So what do we make of this dialogue?  Peter leads the fishing expedition, and the other Apostles say, “We will go with you.”  Peter is to be a fisher of men, and the other Apostles are to be fishers with him.
They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
This is the same situation the fishermen found themselves in when Jesus came upon them in Luke 5.  As the Catechism explains in paragraphs 1812-14, faith is a theological virtue that comes only from the One and Triune God.  In other words, none of us (you, me, the pope, anyone) can convert anyone on our own, because we can't impart the graces of the Holy Spirit.

With Christ, on the other hand, all things are possible, as we're about to see:
Pulpit, Saint George's church, Hollerberg (Austria) (18th c.)
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish.
That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
So the catch of fish is so enormous that all of the Apostles, working together, are unable to haul it in.  Then another miraculous event occurs:
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
St. Peter, acting alone, and at the direction of Our Lord, is able to single-handedly bring in the catch of fish.  One interpretation of the fact that it's 153 fish (advanced by St. Jerome) is that it represents the 153 species of fish known at that time, and thus both fulfills Ezekiel 47:10 and signifies that we are to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19).  Whether this is the right way to understand the 153 or not, the sheer abundance of fish clearly signifies the call of Peter and the others to evangelize all nations.

And note a fascinating distinction between this miracle and the one in Luke 5.  Here, unlike the first time (Lk. 5:6), the nets aren't torn.  Why is this significant? Because the nets signify the Church, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 13:47-50:
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad.

So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."
So here, Jesus entrusts Peter both with bringing in the catch of fish (of every kind), and with preventing the nets from breaking.  Put another way, if all Christians stay with the pope, we're better able to evangelize all nations, thus fulfulling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, and there's no tearing of the fabric of the Church. (Jesus makes this connection between the unity of the Church and success of the Gospel at various other points in the Gospels, like John 17:20-23). That's why it's important that the other Apostles decide to fish with Peter.

Raphael, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1515)
As if to clarify the miracle's connection to the papacy and evangelization, look at the passage that immediately follows what I quoted above.  After breakfast, Jesus singles out Peter as His shepherd in John 21:15-17, asking him if he loved Him “more than these,” that is, more than the other Apostles did.  That Jesus chooses the seashore to talk to Peter about being His shepherd solidifies the connection between these two images.  In fact, in his homily upon becoming pope in 2005, Pope Benedict reflected upon these two images from John 21, saying:
Here I want to add something: both the image of the shepherd and that of the fisherman issue an explicit call to unity. "I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must lead them too, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (Jn 10:16); these are the words of Jesus at the end of his discourse on the Good Shepherd. And the account of the 153 large fish ends with the joyful statement: "although there were so many, the net was not torn" (Jn 21:11). Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no – we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord, as we plead with him: yes, Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!


II. The Protestant Response

Anonymous, Third Appearance of Christ (16th c.)
Plenty of Protestant commentaries recognize the parallel between the catch of fish, and the call to be fishers of men, but every one that I've read has completely ignored the specific connection to Peter.  For example, here's a homily given on the implications of John 21:1-14 for being fishers of men that avoids mentioning Peter at all (outside of the Scriptural passage itself, of course).  This is a rather glaring ommission, when you consider that of the four fishermen Apostles on the Sea of Galilee in Luke 5, that it was Peter individually who received the call to become a fisher of men (Luke 5:10), and that of the seven fishermen Apostles on the Sea of Galilee in John 21, it was Peter individually who brought in the nets (John 21:11).


Characteristic is John Calvin's Commentary on John.  Calvin avoids explaining the significance of Peter being the one to single-handedly bring in the net of fish where the assembled Apostles couldn't, by simply  not addressing John 21:11 at all.  He does, however, acknowledge that the preservation of the net was a second miracle, on top of the miraculous catch of fish:
Christ here exhibited two proofs of his Divine power. The first consisted in their taking so large a draught of fishes; and the second was, when, by his concealed power, he preserved the net whole, which otherwise must unavoidably have been broken in pieces.
Exactly.   And if the net represents the Church, and this is a miracle that is tied directly with Peter, that seems to have pretty obvious implications for the role of the papacy in preserving Christian unity.

St. Peter and Paul Altar, Heilsbronn (Germany) (1510-1518),
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown go even further, recognizing the parallel (and contrast) from Luke 5, and that this has something to do with keeping folks in the Church.  Citing the 19th century Lutheran theologian Christoph Ernst Luthardt, they write:
And whereas, at the first miraculous draught, the net "was breaking" through the weight of what it contained--expressive of the difficulty with which, after they had 'caught men,' they would be able to retain, or keep them from escaping back into the world--while here, "for all they were so many, yet was not the net broken," are we not reminded of such sayings as these (Jhn 10:28): "I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand"?
Again, these commentaries seem so close to grasping that something important is being said about the Church.  After all, the promise of John 10:28 is connected to John 10:16's promise of one flock and one shepherd, and the promise of an earthly shepherd in John 10:1-10 discussed here.

As you can see, the Protestant commentaries don't seem to refute or deny the papal implications of the miraculous catch of fish in John 21.  Instead, they just stop short of grasping the full implications of the passage.  If anyone can find a Protestant commentary that addressing the specifically papal connotations of this passage, please let me know in the comments below.

49 comments:

  1. Wow, Joe, I really gotta say, this one was great. These are the kinds of passages that are so subtle yet so full of meaning and very important to catch. Thanks!

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  2. Why is the bishop of Rome not invested with any more powers than any other bishop sacramentally? It sounds as if the desire to localize the infallibility of the Church (even the exceptionality of St. Peter) in the bishop of Rome is something like the Protestant claim that one can confess one's sins, and be forgiven, without a priest.

    An office, a power, exists without any sacrament to impart it.

    This would seem to make the distinction between a regular bishop and a bishop of Rome more like the difference between a parish priest and a monsignor, or between a bishop and an archbishop. So how is the pope invested with the special powers of St. Peter?

    If St. Peter does not have some office higher than the other Apostles, then what is it that is handed on to his successor? Is it simply a matter of taking over Peter's See? Then the bishop of Antioch should likewise be infallible. Why would St. Peter's special prerogatives, if able to move with him from See to See, afterward (i.e. after his death) be confined to the See wherein he died? What claim does his successor at Rome have to Peter's special role? St. Peter clearly has more than one successor See-wise. Yet he has none which receives his power in any special way: i.e. by being elected and installed as anything more than the local bishop.

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    1. Tikhon,

      I think that we need to take things one step at a time. Before we get to “how does Petrine primacy pass on to his successors?” let’s figure out where we agree and disagree about Petrine primacy.

      As I mentioned above, this post is the sixth in a series laying out the role that St. Peter played amongst the original Apostles. Specifically, I’m arguing that Peter wasn’t just the most prominent of the Apostles, but that he was actually called to specific tasks, and assigned specific responsibilities, that the other Apostles were not.

      I would invite you to read the full series, but in a nutshell:
      Part I talked about the role that Peter uniquely played in ministering to the other Apostles (cf. Lk. 22-24-32). Do you agree that Peter was specifically given this task?

      Part II was about how Peter was uniquely called to be the shepherd of Christ’s flock (cf. John 21:15-19), a unique role foretold. in the Parable of the Sheepgate (John 10:1-10). Do you believe that Peter was uniquely called in this manner?

      Part III talks about Peter’s unique ability to speak on behalf of Christ (a prefigurement of the “Papal We”), in light of Jesus Christ’s decision to use the first-person plural (“we”) with only one man in history: St. Peter. Do you acknowledge this, or do you treat Matthew 17:24-27 as some sort of fluke?

      Part IV addresses the manner in which Peter is treated throughout the New Testament, being placed at the head of every list of the Apostles (cf. Matthew 10:2-4 Mark 3:16-19 Luke 6:13-16 Acts 1:13), and that the other members of the Twelve are often listed simply as Peter’s companions: e.g., “Peter and his companions” (Luke 9:32, referring to Peter, James and John), “Simon Peter and another disciple” (John 18:15 and John 20:2-4, describing Peter and John), “Peter and the other apostles,” (Acts 2:37, referring to all Twelve), etc. Most significantly, it focuses on those times in Scripture in which Peter is viewed as distinct from simply another Apostle, like Acts 2:14 (in which the Twelve are listed as “Peter” and “the Eleven”), 1 Cor. 9:1-5 (in which St. Paul distinguishes between the Apostles and Peter), and Mark 16:6-7 (in which the angel does the same). Do you agree that Scripture (and an angel, and St. Paul) sometimes seems to treat Peter as more than simply an Apostle?

      Part V is about how the Church was built upon Peter (cf. Matthew 16:13-19), and how Christ (1) blesses Peter similarly to the way He blessed Abram / Abraham in Genesis 17:3-8, (2) He bestows authority on him that’s prefigured in the authority bestowed upon Eliakim in Isaiah 22:20-24, and (3)

      And finally, Part VI, this post, finds Scriptural support for the notion that Peter played an absolutely unique role in both Evangelization and unity within the Church, and that the Church corporate “fished with” Peter. Having read this post, do you agree or disagree with this description of Peter?

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  3. I don't see why an answer to my question depends upon an analysis of these positions. You can tell me either way. If you think there is some petrine office, above the apostolic office, as you seem to be arguing, then tell me how the pope is invested with this. I don't see what my agreement or disagreement has to do with your response. It sounds as if you're trying to lure me into a rhetorical trap rather than answer my question.

    Now that you've clarified further that you think there is a Petership, in addition to Apostleship, how do you explain how this is passed on?

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    1. Tikhon,

      Two reasons. One, I was trying to figure out what common ground we can work from. Obviously, if you concede that St. Peter was uniquely tasked to strengthen the other Apostles, and that he plays an utterly unique role in the unity and evangelization of the Church, that makes answering the narrow question about the manner of succession much simpler than if you deny these things.

      Two, I suspect that you are asking a question about the manner of succession to avoid addressing the Scriptural evidence about Peter. That is, you're effectively trying to change the subject.

      As for “rhetorical traps,” if either of us is resorting to “rhetorical traps,” the last sentence of your comment shows who it is, as you take what I said, and rhetorically spin it as me arguing for “a Petership, in addition to Apostleship.” Is that a fair or charitable assessment of the arguments that I lay out (that you apparently won't address)?

      You've commented here numerous times. And consistently, you've avoided answering direct questions about your own views, apparently out of fear that we're going to “trap” you somehow. But where has this fear materialized? Where have any of the Catholics who comment on this blog ever done this to you? And what would the point be? I'm trying to lay out a solid case for the Catholic faith to you, and to bring you into full communion with the Church, not embarrass you!

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  4. Joe,

    As far as I can tell your post was not addressed as a personal challenge to me, so I don't see why I'm obligated to answer its claims. I simply asked a relevant question. And I don't understand why you don't answer it.

    Furthermore, I don't see what is unfair or uncharitable about my characterization of your argument. How is "a Petership, in addition to an Apostleship" not a proper rendering of the claims that St. Peter was "called to specific tasks, and assigned specific responsibilities, that the other Apostles were not," etc. etc.? Those tasks and responsibilities are clearly not part of being an Apostle, but of being Peter. So help me out here; I don't see the issue.

    As for the rest, if, as the owner of this site you are telling me that I cannot get questions answered unless I play by a specific set of rules, then that's fine. But again, I don't see why I'm obligated to engage your arguments in the post just to get a reply. Nor do I find your preparatory questions in the response to be relevant. (Also, that's not what a rhetorical trap is.)

    Like I said, if you don't want to, or can't, answer the question, that's fine. And if you really want to discuss my views in a non-rhetorical way, I'd be happy to indulge your questions. But don't act like I'm the one avoiding questions or topics here. You made claims, I asked a question. This isn't about me.

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    1. Tikhon,

      You said, "if you really want to discuss my views in a non-rhetorical way, I'd be happy to indulge your questions." Which of the questions I asked above were rhetorical? I am trying to identify specific points of agreement and disagreement. I don't know why you're acting as if I'm trying to trick or trap you (again, have anyone on this blog ever done that to you?). So if you'd answer any or all of the above questions, I'd appreciate it. Your refusal to give a straight answer as to what you believe actually does make it harder for me to formulate a response that will make sense to you. But I'll do my best with what I've been given.

      Your first argument was that if the pope not ordained to something higher then bishop, then "an office, a power, exists without any sacrament to impart it." But assuming that you understand and accept the notion that Peter can be both (a) one of the Twelve, and (b) called to something unique from, and beyond, what the other Twelve are called to, this objection is answered.

      Second, I think you believe that Councils can act infallibly, and I think you would say that this infallibility flows from the Church Herself, rather than from the Holy Orders of any or all of the members of the Council. Is this an accurate reflection of your beliefs? If so, it would also refute the notion that papal infallibility must flow from an eighth sacrament (or a fourth tier of Holy Orders).

      Your second argument was that the distinction between the pope and any other bishop was analogous to that of the difference between an archbishop and a bishop (in other words, a difference of honor or jurisdiction). But again, look back to the Apostolic model. Each of the Apostles has, more or less, a geographic region that they attend to, something akin to jurisdiction (for example, Thomas to India, Peter to Rome, James to Spain, etc.). But Peter's primacy is distinct from this, as Lk. 22 and the other Scriptures show. He's singularly entrusted pastoral care of the flock, and care of the other Apostles. That's not just jurisdiction.

      Your third argument was that papal succession should flow to all of the Petrine Sees. Juridically, all of the four Ancient Patriarchies are Petrine Sees. But the whole rationale behind having a single visible head is to preserve unity.

      Plus, the other Petrine Sees never claimed to be successors in the sense of global headship. In fact, while Bishop of Antioch, St. John Chrysostom acknowledged that although Antioch had received, "the prince of the apostles" (Peter), and had "received him as master," she ultimately "yielded him to the royal city of Rome."

      Historically, this Roman See is the one the settles disputes as far away as Corinth by the time of Clement, and is described by St. Ignatius of Antioch as the See that "presides in love." So if we're looking for a single successor to Peter, there's no question.

      The reason for this is that, while Peter is still living, nobody is succeeding him in his role as earthly head of the Church. That is, no matter how many bishops succeeded him as Bishop of Antioch during his lifetime, he remained the visible head of the Church. Once he died, however, his dual roles as Bishop of Rome and visible head of the Church needed to be filled, which they were, by St. Linus.

      So as you can see, there are plenty of answers to the questions that you're asking, but they require some sort of baseline of understanding of the way that Peter's headship worked.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    2. Joe,

      It appears that the misunderstanding revolves on the fact that you thought I was making an argument. I was asking you to elucidate something according to your understanding. As such, you've tried to resolve my doubts without answering my question. You've said why it's I should accept it as possible, but not how it happens.

      1. You said, "assuming that you understand and accept the notion that Peter can be both (a) one of the Twelve, and (b) called to something unique from, and beyond, what the other Twelve are called to, this objection is answered."

      How? A bishop is both (a) able to consecrate the Eucharist [like other priests] and (b) able to ordain. But he receives the power to do the latter by a special ordination. So even if Peter receives this power from the Lord, how is it passed on?

      2. "I think you believe that Councils can act infallibly, and I think you would say that this infallibility flows from the Church Herself, rather than from the Holy Orders of any or all of the members of the Council. If so, it would also refute the notion that papal infallibility must flow from an eighth sacrament (or a fourth tier of Holy Orders)."

      To say that "Councils can act infallibly" is to say nothing other than that the Church is infallible, insofar as when a Council acts infallibly it is the Church that is acting infallibly.

      3. "Your second argument was that the distinction between the pope and any other bishop was analogous to that of the difference between an archbishop and a bishop (in other words, a difference of honor or jurisdiction)."

      Mine wasn't an argument, but a conclusion from the lack of sacramental distinction. Again, it's not enough for you to say Peter was different. My whole point is how this difference gets passed on.

      4. "Your third argument was that papal succession should flow to all of the Petrine Sees."

      Again, not an argument, simply a consequence of unexplained succession.

      5. "Historically, this Roman See is the one the settles disputes as far away as Corinth by the time of Clement, and is described by St. Ignatius of Antioch as the See that "presides in love." So if we're looking for a single successor to Peter, there's no question.

      Again, this tells me nothing of how it's passed on. If we're looking for a successor of Peter. But what if we aren't? (Additionally, many different Sees have settled disputes throughout history. And presidency shows nothing.)

      6. "The reason for this is that, while Peter is still living, nobody is succeeding him in his role as earthly head of the Church. That is, no matter how many bishops succeeded him as Bishop of Antioch during his lifetime, he remained the visible head of the Church. Once he died, however, his dual roles as Bishop of Rome and visible head of the Church needed to be filled, which they were, by St. Linus."

      And my question is how St. Linus is supposed to have assumed the role of visible head of the Church in addition to the bishopric of Rome? Is there evidence that he was invested with anything more than a local episcopate (since you've already established that being the next bishop after Peter in a certain See is not enough to establish succession to his universal office)?

      "So as you can see, there are plenty of answers to the questions that you're asking, but they require some sort of baseline of understanding of the way that Peter's headship worked."

      But you haven't answered my question, although you may have narrowed it in one point: If, after Peter's death, his tasks and responsibilities, along with the grace of infallibility, pass on to someone else, how do they do so? It sounds you're saying it happens automatically to whoever is his last successor as local bishop. Is that right? How and when, then, is that established, and who has the power to effect it?

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    3. Tikhon,

      You rightly say:
      "To say that "Councils can act infallibly" is to say nothing other than that the Church is infallible, insofar as when a Council acts infallibly it is the Church that is acting infallibly."

      In other words, the writers of infallible Conciliar statements don't need a special ordination in order to do this, because it is the Church Herself speaking, and She possesses this gift by Her very nature.

      My point is that it seems to me that the same is true of the papacy. The pope can only speak infallibly when he is speaking as head of, and on behalf of, Holy Mother Church. Since She can speak infallibly (through the pope, individually, or at Council, corporately), I don't see why he would need any further ordination.

      I'm not understanding your latest question about succession. Generally, I would say this:
      1. The nature of the Church that Jesus Christ founded includes a single visible head to preserve unity;
      2. St. Peter, who was in Jerusalem and Antioch, before proceeding to build up the Church at Rome (where he was martyred), was the first such visible head.
      3. When St. Peter died, he was succeeded in this by Linus, Clement, Cletus, etc. As noted before, we see from very early times the popes exercising this authority in a pretty clear way (like Pope Clement telling the Corinthians what to do, c. 90).
      4. That it was the Roman line and not some other line that succeeded Peter in this visible headship is clear by the lack of other contenders -- that is, Antioch and Jerusalem didn't even claim that they were Peter's successors in this sense.

      Note sure if that answers your specific question, though. If not, can you formulate what, exactly, you're questioning?

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    4. It amounts to the same thing: how does the pope come to speak for the whole Church? Even if Peter had this authority, how does it get passed on? No one doubts that the bishops, with the laity behind them, are the Church. But in what way does the pope=the Church?

      Anyway, the analogy does not work if you think we hold to the de jure infallibility of Councils. I've tried to correct that notion a number of times.

      Secondly, I'm also asking how Linus receives the Petrine office? In what sense is he a successor? We know he receives the episcopate of Rome by some kind of local election (presumably) which the local synod, or the local populace, or whoever, has the authority to give him. (And he receives the episcopate in general through ordination). But how is he given the Petrine office, over and above, the Apostolic office?

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    5. Tikhon,

      Quick clarification, above you said "with the laity behind them" ... Do the bishops need the laitys backing for a council to be valid?

      In Christ
      Cary

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    6. Cary, no that's not what I what saying.

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    7. Cary, I'm humbled by your graciousness.

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    8. Thank you...but I'm not sure what I did exactly to deserve that.

      In Christ
      Cary

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    9. Tikhon,

      maybe another stupid and obvious question but from an Orthodox perspective, how does one know what teachings are definitive/dogmatic and must be held?

      In Christ
      Cary

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    10. In the end I assume your question is about authority rather than epistemology.

      The Church's dogmas have been shown from the earliest Apostolic times to be binding and definitive by their very nature and not by exterior juridical force. For this reason St. Paul can correct St. Peter; St. John the Theologian can oppose contemporary heretics; and St. Irenaeus and others can battle the Gnostics, all with absoluteness. It does not take an external arbiter to "rule" on the truth deposited in the Church for it to be known and knowable. The truth is present and preserved by the saints. And it is known through participation in the dynamism of the Church's sacramental life, and participation in the uncreated grace of God, which illumines the purified, not individually, but through the communal life of Christ's body.

      That, of course, speaks to the "how," which is a matter of faith, grace, and mystery. As I've said here before, it is the same dynamic which is present in accepting the Gospel, which the Jews and the first Gentile believers were bound to accept not on the authority of some pre-established arbiter, but by the grace and power of the Preaching (kirygma), in the Holy Spirit. Faith, after all, is a gift and never the the fulfillment of a technicality.

      That said, the bishops do have a juridical role whereby a distinction is made between simple error in good faith and heresy (an obstinate rejection of the Church's Preaching). The Church, in each locale, through the bishop, has the authority to try those accused of heresy, and to rule on definitions of faith for the protection of the dogmas. Again, because the episcopate is endowed with the grace of teaching and preserving the deposited truth, this is generally a trustworthy tribunal. Yet, if it is believed that a bishop has himself fallen into heresy, whether by himself or in judgment of an accused, then he is subject likewise to a Synod. The only tribunals with de jure authority in this way are in fact Local Synods, who according to the canons must meet regularly to administer the Churches.

      Exceptionally, and by no means de jure, extraordinary, oecumenical, Synods of all the Churches in the world have met to deal with special problems that transcended the normal scope of ecclesiastical administration. But this is merely a reflection of the organic process whereby the Churches throughout the world had always already participated, albeit tacitly, in the "decisions" of Local Synods. A good example of this is seen in canonization. The gradual "normative" status of local saints in all corners of the Orthodox Church speaks to the ordinary process whereby the truth is proclaimed and preserved through the dynamic of Catholicity: for the "Catholic Church" is not the conglomerate but the Local Church giving reality to the fullness. Even without a single arbiter, there is a normal, trustworthy process where, believing in the Holy Spirit and the promise of the Savior, something can be known to be "of the Church."

      But you will ask me what happens when this process is polluted with confusion, when Churches disagree with one another. Again, there are tribunals, and these are trustworthy when executed in due order--the Oecumenical Synods were examples of these. Dioscoros, for example, was judged by a universal Synod, and found guilty. (Although usually it does not come to this level). Yet confusion happens. The question, though, is not whether there is confusion (For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you), but whether confusion prevails.

      The Truth speaks with its own authority, because it is has an inherent Power. We have many guides, and many helps. We have testimonies, witnesses, and proofs, but these are all inductive rather than deductive.

      I hope that that provides something, at least for now.

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    11. I guess... I just think of the scandals within in the church and even bishops who at times have gone against something dogmatically defined even in large numbers (applicable to my experience is the bishops position on contraceptives vs paul vi) so that in these cases it's just a majority rules among the bishops? That seems historically problematic...but anyway I think you answered the question...which is to say, please correct me if I am wrong, that dogmatic definitions are basically up to individual bishops until an oecumenical synod is called? Otherwise it's just an indivuals deduction about which bishop is either "right" or has jurisdiction over them? I might be missing the boat here though...

      Thanks for the answer

      In Christ
      Cary

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    12. I sympathize with your desire for that kind of official vox ecclesiae. But many secular people say the same thing about religion in general. How do you know, they ask, which religion, out of so many, is true? Does it somehow invalidate Christianity that their epistemological expectations are not met?

      But since you mention history, I'll point out a few parallels in the "undivided" Church which witness to the fact that the Church can and did function precisely without the kind of epistemological surety which you seek.
      (1) Gnosticism, and every other pre-Nicene heresy was authoritatively and unequivocally opposed without papal decree.
      (2) The canon of Scripture was normalized without papal decree (unless you think it was up in the air before Trent).
      (3) The heretic Marcellus was rightfully, and authoritatively, condemned by the rest of the Church even after he was wrongfully acquitted at Rome.
      (4) St. Maximus the Confessor openly broke communion with a pope over a matter of doctrine. And he was undeniably in the right.
      (5) Whatever you think of Honorius, the fact is that Dyothelitism was defended without, even in spite of, a pope.

      These facts are not meant to denigrate or invalidate the papacy. They work regardless of how one interprets the pope's actions. They simply point to the reality that the truth was knowable, known, and defended precisely on Orthodox (and not Roman Catholic) ecclesiological principles. And they are historical facts that you accept. This is why the Roman Catholic rhetoric falls flat. You say that the Orthodox couldn't possibly do what you acknowledge we have in fact always done, even when you were part of us.

      So, as I've said, it sounds nice in theory, but the reality is very different. And the dangers of which you warn are dangers only within a Roman Catholicism wherein the pope has been removed like a rug from under one's feet, or in a Protest ecclesiology.

      I would say you indeed missed my point. "Dogmatic definitions" are not "up to" anyone. But I don't want to repeat what I've said above. Perhaps re-read my previous reply without an eye for a sufficient magisterium-replacement.

      I assume your persistent question is about "recognizing" truth amid conflicting voices. Like I said, if your point is that with a papacy there is never confusion, that is unsustainable. If your point is that there is less confusion, that may be true. But an organ to avoid confusion is only as valuable as it is real (and if you can't show that this is how the Church was meant to, and always did, function, it's worthless as a suggestion). And if your point is that with us there is only confusion, your own history refutes that.

      It sounds like you can't understand the Orthodox Church for the same reason that unbelievers reject Christianity. Just as they, in principle, reject the possibility of certainty about transcendent things, Roman Catholics reject the possibility of communal preservation in a single faith. But Christ promised us, and sent, his Holy Spirit. And one of his operations is the binding, in one mind and one heart, and in truth, the Church. So just like you and many others are supposed to agree about the papacy, Orthodox Christians can recognize what is of the Church. Or is your contention that while people can legitimately accept a single principle like the papacy, further consensus is subsequently impossible?

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    13. Hmmm...let me think and respond in a manner dignifying your intelligence because at this moment I don't have the proper time for it. I do truly appreciate your openness to explaining your position. It is certainly a great exercise in learning the viewpoint of the committed and educated Orthodox...

      Cary

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    14. Tikhon,

      Can I say that we both believe there 1) exists one truth and 2) that Jesus came and gave us this fullness of truth?

      If so you say this: "I assume your persistent question is about "recognizing" truth amid conflicting voices. Like I said, if your point is that with a papacy there is never confusion, that is unsustainable. If your point is that there is less confusion, that may be true. But an organ to avoid confusion is only as valuable as it is real (and if you can't show that this is how the Church was meant to, and always did, function, it's worthless as a suggestion). And if your point is that with us there is only confusion, your own history refutes that."

      and indeed I think you are right. Ultimately for me it comes down to a matter of confusion in a certain sense, but a confusionn over as you said the one truth which was guaranteed by Christ. If Christ promised us this one truth, it seems that confusion represents the overcoming of the truth, and of Christ's promises to protect the Church. It does not seem logical that Christ would have promised such a well structured Church (as I understand the Orthodox claim they are) which could disagree on the basics of truth with no recourse to settling disputes about that truth. Furthermore, it's not as if some other arbiter can settle the dispute effectively by calling the falsifier a heretic and excommunicating them because that arbiter could just as likely be the heretic. It seems you want each individual to appeal to a complex understanding of history, theology, and the like in order to determine for themselves such questions, but I would say that throughout much of history most were not only unable to settle such a fine dispute by reason but they were illiterate. Are you saying that Christ would have left each individual up to this decision themselves without any arbiter?

      It's not that confusion can't exist within the RCC it's that it can only be clarified by understading the position of the papacy in the RCC framework. This does not seem to be the case with the Orthodox. Can the Orthodox ever settle a current dogmatic dispute? How is it settled? Are the Orthodox mute on such questions? These aren't attacks but instead questions I'm not sure I know the answers to.


      In Christ,
      Cary

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    15. "If Christ promised us this one truth, it seems that confusion represents the overcoming of the truth, and of Christ's promises to protect the Church."

      Right. And this is why I distinguished between confusion, from which no one is exempt (even Catholics, although they have a magisterium) and confusion which prevails.

      "It does not seem logical that Christ would have promised such a well structured Church which could disagree on the basics of truth with no recourse to settling disputes about that truth."

      But the Church does have recourse to "settling disputes" about the truth (more properly: the Church can count on the vindication of the truth). I didn't deny this.

      As for the rest, you're not really getting at my distinction. Don't you, Cary, have to make a "personal judgment" as to what is consistent with papal teaching? When you hear a homily, or you read a book, is there a papal encyclical addressing every thing that enters your ears and eyes? No. And this is what I'm getting at. Everyone makes the kind of "personal judgments" you're talking about. What it comes down to is whether one believes that the truth (whether papal or Orthodox) is knowable. Which is why I made that distinction: either there's NO confusion with Rome (which can't be true); or there's LESS confusion with Rome (possible, but not necessarily an indication of truth); or there's ALL confusion with the Orthodox (patently untenable).

      So just as you're not an arbiter of papal teaching, each individual Orthodox Christian is not an individual arbiter of Orthodoxy. Both things are communal. Now the really fine difference is that, for us, truth is not a text. So, if you can admit that we are doing qualitatively the same thing (when I say that something is Orthodox and when you say that something is magisterially-taught), then your only argument against us can be that your model is safer, since there's less chance of confusion (encyclicals and papal decrees being more immediate than patristic writings and Scripture and conciliar statements of the 18th century). But there's the whole point: truth is not a matter of text (this is Protestantism--bibliolatry). Truth is a dynamic, an incarnate, communal reality that is lived and breathed, and most importantly, sacramentally and liturgically communicated. So just as you know that you and your friends are faithful, magisterium-abiding Catholics, I and my Church know that we're Orthodox.

      The Orthodox Church can indeed "settle" disputes. The canonical way that it does this is through local synods. If you look at any local Church, you will see synodal decrees condemning heresies, defrocking priests and bishops, excommunicating people (Tolstoy is an example!). When there is division at a level above the Local Church, these issues are dealt with organically. It does get trickier, and sometimes there is misunderstanding, but even here there is plenty of precedent for showing how the Churches of Christ resolve their differences and vindicate the truth, reestablishing external communion, etc., sometimes with third-party arbitration (by another primate, etc.). But again, these are all, like the Oecumenical Councils were, supercanonical and extrajuridical events. And there are many Catholics who are aware of these things, which is why official and higher-level apologetics is so different from what one finds on the web, which is mostly modeled on antiProtestant dialectic.

      At the end of the day it becomes mostly a matter of expectations. I hope that answers some of your queries. Forgive me, as usual for any shortcomings in my reply.

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  5. Here are the answers to your other questions:

    1. "Part I talked about the role that Peter uniquely played in ministering to the other Apostles (cf. Lk. 22-24-32). Do you agree that Peter was specifically given this task?"

    I don't have a problem with that phrasing. But I don't think there's an office, no, above that of bishop for the benefit of the bishops. Can you establish a principle whereby St. Peter's projected downfall is personal and the strengthening of his brethren is official? i don't even have a problem with the pope having a special "role." (What kind of First Hierarch wouldn't.) But I think it's a stretch to exalt that into a distinct ecclesiology.

    2."Part II was about how Peter was uniquely called to be the shepherd of Christ’s flock (cf. John 21:15-19), a unique role foretold. in the Parable of the Sheepgate (John 10:1-10). Do you believe that Peter was uniquely called in this manner?"

    Yes and no. But the Pope is not a special vicar of Christ in that sense.

    3. "Part III talks about Peter’s unique ability to speak on behalf of Christ (a prefigurement of the “Papal We”), in light of Jesus Christ’s decision to use the first-person plural (“we”) with only one man in history: St. Peter. Do you acknowledge this, or do you treat Matthew 17:24-27 as some sort of fluke?"

    Neither. I don't think the alternative is to call it a fluke. But as Trent says, the interpretation of Scripture depends on the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers. I don't see that for this passage.

    4. "Part IV addresses the manner in which Peter is treated throughout the New Testament, being placed at the head of every list of the Apostles (cf. Matthew 10:2-4 Mark 3:16-19 Luke 6:13-16 Acts 1:13), and that the other members of the Twelve are often listed simply as Peter’s companions: e.g., “Peter and his companions” (Luke 9:32, referring to Peter, James and John), “Simon Peter and another disciple” (John 18:15 and John 20:2-4, describing Peter and John), “Peter and the other apostles,” (Acts 2:37, referring to all Twelve), etc. Most significantly, it focuses on those times in Scripture in which Peter is viewed as distinct from simply another Apostle, like Acts 2:14 (in which the Twelve are listed as “Peter” and “the Eleven”), 1 Cor. 9:1-5 (in which St. Paul distinguishes between the Apostles and Peter), and Mark 16:6-7 (in which the angel does the same). Do you agree that Scripture (and an angel, and St. Paul) sometimes seems to treat Peter as more than simply an Apostle?"

    No. The leap from an obvious "special role among" to "more than" is not accepted.

    5. "Part V is about how the Church was built upon Peter (cf. Matthew 16:13-19), and how Christ (1) blesses Peter similarly to the way He blessed Abram / Abraham in Genesis 17:3-8, (2) He bestows authority on him that’s prefigured in the authority bestowed upon Eliakim in Isaiah 22:20-24, and (3)"

    I guess something got left out here. But no I don't accept that Peter has any authority above the other apostles.

    6. "And finally, Part VI, this post, finds Scriptural support for the notion that Peter played an absolutely unique role in both Evangelization and unity within the Church, and that the Church corporate “fished with” Peter. Having read this post, do you agree or disagree with this description of Peter?"

    So did St. Paul play a unique role in "evangelization." As for "unity," I don't see support for that interpretation.

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    Replies
    1. Tikhon,

      Mr. Heschmeyer's point No. 5 contains the answer to your objection, I believe.

      In Matthew 16, Christ bestows upon Simon Kephas the office of the al bayit, i.e., prime minister to the King of Kings. The al bayit was the "master of the household" who held the "keys to the kingdom." Only Saint Peter was given the honor of holding the keys to the kingdom, while the rest of the Apostles had the power to "bind and loose" as bishops. The prime minister was above the rest of the king's ministers. When the prime minister died, someone was chosen to replace him, as the new prime minister. The office of al bayit had successors, in the same way the office of bishop had successors.

      This is what differentiates Simon Kephas' See, i.e., the See of Rome, from all other Sees. After Christ departed the earthly Kingdom for the Heavenly Kingdom, Peter, as His prime minister, spoke for Him, as he did at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). And, as Pope Saint Clement did to the Corinthians.

      These facts, combined with all of the examples provided by Mr. Heschmeyer, amply show the primacy of Saint Peter (and his successors) in the Church founded by Christ.
      God Bless!

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    2. "When the prime minister died, someone was chosen to replace him."

      And when the King subsequently rose from the dead? And when the King promises to send another Paraklete? What was the OT precedent for that? Lo, I am with you always, Christ says. But you want to replace him.

      And in positing this parallel, are you following the principle established at Trent, that scriptural interpretation must be founded on the consensus patrum? Or are you simply finding convenient rhetorical support for your claims? Show me the consensus patrum that proves a Petrine office (above that of bishop) based on this Old Testament passage?

      Furthermore, it was St. James who gave the final word at Jerusalem. And the constant references to St. Clement are tiresome, as they prove nothing.

      Lastly, you don't need to convince anyone that Peter had a primacy (an equivocal term). You need to demonstrate that this primacy functioned, ecclesiologically, according to modern Roman Catholic principles. And this you cannot do.

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    3. How does a prime minister replace the king? The OT prime ministers operated on behalf of the king while the king was living. Likewise, the pope acts on behalf of the living Christ.

      Why is it necessary to prove that Peter's primacy "functioned, ecclesiologically, according to modern Roman Catholic principles." Why isn't it enough to show that the Orthodox err in denying this primacy to Peter's successor? Is it your argument that the modern Patriarchs act exactly as their Apostolic predecessors did?

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    4. Tikhon,

      "And when the King subsequently rose from the dead? [...] What was the OT precedent for that?"

      I don't recall this happening to any of the Old Testament kings. In either the kingdom of Judah or Israel.

      "But you want to replace [H]im."

      As Mr. Heschmeyer has stated, how does the office of al bayit replace the office of the king? Have you studied the king/prime minister relationships of the ancient Middle East? The al bayit spoke for the king (cf. 2 Kings 18). When the king was absent from the kingdom, the al bayit made all the decisions in his absence.

      "And in positing this parallel [...]."

      I did not invent this Scriptural interpretation. I don't know who first posited it, by I'm fairly sure that several early Church Fathers used this comparison to show that Simon Kephas was the Prince of the Apostles. As an Orthodox Christian, why do care what the Council of Trent says, by the way?

      "Furthermore, it was St. James who gave the final word at Jerusalem."

      Sorry, read it again. James, as bishop of Jerusalem, only affirmed what Peter declared. After there had been much debate Peter spoke first and definitively on the subject. Peter settled the dispute for the entire Church.

      "And the constant references to St. Clement are tiresome, as they prove nothing."

      Have read Saint Clement's letter? It proves that the successor to Saint Peter was the arbiter of disputes happening in the other dioceses. Even though Saint John the Apostle was still alive. Why didn't the Corinthians go to the last living Apostle?

      Perhaps you have forgotten your original question: "If St. Peter does not have some office higher than the other Apostles, then what is it that is handed on to his successor?"

      You have been shown that Simon Kephas did hold an office above the other Apostles, the office of the al bayit, i.e. the ruler of the house. And, therefore, your original objection has been answered. You are now engaging in moving the goal posts.
      God Bless!

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    5. Joe,

      Your reasoning is different from what Nick presented, so my response to Nick still stans. But while yours is a much more acceptable premise, you don't answer my other questions.

      You then ask, "Why isn't it enough to show that the Orthodox err in denying this primacy to Peter's successor?"

      Because you're not showing that we "err." You just keep saying, look St. Peter was a primate. But we have primates too, it doesn't prove the papacy.

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    6. Nick,

      Let's do this: you track down the source of that interpretation, and show it to be the consensual teaching of the Holy Fathers (consistent with even your own ecclesiastical principles of exegesis, namely, as proclaimed at Trent). Then we can argue. In the meantime, read what the Venerable Bede says:

      "And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of the Heavens. That is, the knowledge and power of discernment, whereby you ought to receive the worthy into the Kingdom and exclude the unworthy. [Notice how St Bede identifies the Keys with the power of binding and loosing]. And whatever thou shalt bind, etc. This power was without a doubt given to the rest of the Apostles, to whom He said generally after the Resurrection: Receive the Holy Spirit, etc. And the same role [officium] was committed to bishops and priests, and to all the Church. (Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew 16; PL 92:79A)

      Secondly, you're inconsistency is egregious. If the superapostolic Petrine office is proved by an apostle/bishop preaching Orthodoxy and then having that proclamation "affirmed" by a synod in the person of the President, then your unique papacy is destroyed. And if it's proven by one Church sending a response to another Church over some disputes, then the uniqueness of the papacy is likewise destroyed. Because both St. Peter's role in the Jerusalem synod, and St. Clement's role in the Corinthian controversy have extrapetrine, extrapapal parallels. So they prove nothing.

      The objection has indeed not been answered. It is clear that you've taught the Protestants to disregard the sacraments. You showed them that one can pass along powers and grace without the mediation and ritual of the Church. Well if a bishop can become infallible in his preaching just by succeeding to a See, so can laypeople receive the gift of the Holy Spirit without priests.

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    7. Tikhon,

      You should listen, from the heart, to what Saint Bede the Venerable had to say about the Roman Pontiff:

      "In the year of our Lord 605, having ruled the apostolic Roman Church most illustriously for thirteen years, six months, and ten days, the blessed Pope Gregory died and was taken up to his eternal home in heaven. And it is fitting that he should receive special mention in this history, since it was through his zeal that our English nation was brought from the bondage of Satan to the Faith of Christ, and we may rightly term him our own apostle. For during his pontificate, while he exercised supreme authority over all the churches of Christendom that had already long since been converted, he transformed our still idolatrous nation into a church of Christ."

      Now, as far as the source of the interpretation, the earliest I could find was this quote by the Eastern Saint John Cassian:

      "[...] let us interrogate no beginner or untaught schoolboy, nor a woman whose faith might perhaps appear to be but rudimentary; but that greatest of disciples among disciples, and of teachers among teachers, who presided and ruled over the Roman Church, and held the chief place in the priesthood as he did in the faith. Tell us then, tell us, we pray, O Peter, you chief of Apostles, tell us how the Churches ought to believe in God. For it is right that you should teach us, as you were taught by the Lord, and that you should open to us the gate, of which you received the key. Shut out all those who try to overthrow the heavenly house: and those who are endeavouring to enter by secret holes and unlawful approaches: as it is clear that none can enter the gate of the kingdom save one to whom the key bestowed on the Churches is revealed by you." - On the Incarnation, Book III, Chapter 12

      Notice that John uses the singular "key" instead of the plural "keys" from Matthew 16. So, he must be referring to Isaiah 22. Is this a good enough source for you?

      "Because both St. Peter's role in the Jerusalem synod, and St. Clement's role in the Corinthian controversy have extrapetrine, extrapapal parallels. So they prove nothing."

      Only if you look at each example as a separate event. But, that is not how evidence works. You must look at all the evidence in toto. Which includes the testimony of many of the early Church Fathers.

      "Well if a bishop can become infallible in his preaching just by succeeding to a See, so can laypeople receive the gift of the Holy Spirit without priests."

      The Holy Father is infallible by the protection of the Holy Spirit. Did the Holy Spirit loose that power when Saint Peter died? Also, Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized (Acts 10:44-48). An exception to be sure. But, have you ever heard that God is not bound by the Sacraments?
      God Bless!

      Sources:
      http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/bede-greggrea.asp
      http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/35093.htm

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    8. Nick,

      All I ask is for evidence of an exegetical tradition which supports your rhetoric. Glimpses and connotations are not enough. Even after St. Bede tells you what the Keys mean, you throw out a statement about "supreme authority" which is supposed to hide the fact that your initial interpretation has been undone?

      I don't think you realize how much your apologetic depends upon associations which for you (and all Catholics) are crystal-clear, but which are in fact inconsequential. What you lack are substantive doctrinal, ecclesiological statements. Let's get this clear: "supreme authority" (Latin?) is not an unambiguous ecclesiological statement. All this tells me is that you have no proof of the papacy, just a bunch of false parallels.

      Again, St. John Cassian mentions a house. Is this evidence of an exegetical tradition? It "must" refer to Isaiah 22? If this is the best you can do, I think I've made my point.

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    9. Tikhon,

      "All I ask is for evidence of an exegetical tradition which supports your rhetoric."

      This is the same argument I have received from some Bible-only Christians who deny the Holy Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. They claim these were inventions of the Catholic Church as founded by Emperor Constantine. I know that the Orthodox do not deny the Trinity, even though it wasn't defined until the fourth century A.D. Or, do you also have a problem with these doctrines?
      I do seem to have been mistaken about the Isaiah/Matthew interpretation being taught by several early Church Fathers, since I have found it difficult to find other examples, besides Saint John Cassian. The only explanation I can offer is that I first heard this teaching over a decade ago, and, must have mis-remembered the teaching's origin. Memory is the first to go, they say. My apologies.

      But, this is besides the point. The teaching is sound and is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 553. The reference to the "keys of the kingdom" and "binding" and "loosing" has no other explanation other than to Isaiah 22. It's so obvious, in fact, that several Protestant scholars have also argued in favor of it:
      http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/PeterRockKeysPrimacyRome.htm

      "Even after St. Bede tells you what the Keys mean [...]."

      You seem to be confused. It was Saint John Cassian who mentioned the key, not Saint Bede. And, I didn't "throw out a statement about 'supreme authority'" by the way. That was from Saint Bede the Venerable. So, I don't know what you are talking about, I'm afraid.

      "What you lack are substantive doctrinal, ecclesiological statements."

      Again, so does the doctrine of the Trinity, until the fourth century, and the Eastern Orthodox believe in the Holy Trinity, do they not? To reiterate, you posited an objection to the Papacy in the form of a question. I answered your specific objection as to why the See of Rome is superior to all others, and why this authority passes on to the successors of Peter, based on the fact that Christ conferred on Simon Kephas the office of the al bayit, or prime minister, as recorded in Matthew 16:19, and, prefigured in the Old Testament, using several verses of Scripture.

      Now, did you offer any evidence that Christ was not quoting from Isaiah 22? No, you did not. Did you give an explanation as to what Christ meant by the "keys to the kingdom" according to the Orthodox church, with evidence to prove your assertions? No, you did not. All you did was ask more questions that had little to do with my statements, nor, did you answer my questions.

      You seem predisposed to reject any evidence contrary to your own beliefs, whether it be from Scripture or the testimonies of the early Church Fathers, even those from the Eastern Fathers. With such closed-mindedness, I'm afraid we are at an impasse. Unless, you would like to address the points that I have made, so far?
      If not, please prayerfully meditate on these verses, asking the Holy Spirit for discernment.
      May God Bless you in your study of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
      Yours, in Christ, Nick

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    10. Nick,

      Yes, the Holy Fathers have handed down to us the idea that the Keys of St. Peter refer to the "binding and loosing" power given to all the Apostles, initially to St. Peter alone, acting as representative of the group (as per St. Augustine), and later to the whole group explicitly.

      "You seem to be confused. It was Saint John Cassian who mentioned the key, not Saint Bede..."

      I was referring to my quotation of St. Bede, which you completely ignored.

      Lastly, the dogma of the Holy Trinity does not lack substantive proclamation prior to Nicaea. You are confusing terminology (the homoousion; the ousia-hyspostasis distinction canonized in 362) with doctrine. You can't have it both ways: you can't argue (as Catholics do) that the development of doctrine is about "understanding better over time" AND about "merely defining what has always been understood in more precise language." If it's the former, then the analogy to the dogma of the Trinity does not stand, historically or otherwise. And if it's the latter, then you need to get your story straight, both with your fellow apologists and with your magisterium.

      As for "addressing your points," a simple re-read of my previous replies should suffice to disabuse you of the following notions:

      (1) "did you offer any evidence that Christ was not quoting from Isaiah 22? No, you did not."

      I illustrated that your reading of that passage was not substantiated by even your own exegetical principles (namely as expressed at Trent), let alone any that I would accept.

      (2) "Did you give an explanation as to what Christ meant by the "keys to the kingdom" ...? No, you did not."

      I offered you the traditional reading in the quotation by the Venerable Bede, where he says that the Keys refer to the power of binding and loosing given to all the Apostles.

      Thank you for the interchange. I trust this is not the forum to go on and on rehashing the ageold prooftexts for and against the papacy.

      Best,
      Tikhon

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    11. Tikhon,

      I'm so glad you responded. I now see where you are confused.

      Saint Bede the Venerable is not equating the giving of the keys to the kingdom to the power to "bind and loose." Because, neither is Saint Matthew equating the two, in chapter 16 of his Gospel. The power to "bind and loose" is one of the powers of the al bayit, the overseer of the household. Not the only power.
      If Matthew had meant that the other eleven Apostles had received the "keys to the kingdom" in chapter 18, he would have said so, since Matthew was a fellow Apostle, after all. Why would he only mention the power to "bind and loose" in 18:18? Because that was the power that Christ was bestowing on the rest of the Eleven.
      But, there can only be one prime minister. And, he was above all of the rest.

      Also, in the time of Christ, the term "bind and loose" was a rabbinical term, as compared to the office of al bayit, i.e., possessor of the keys. The scribes and Pharisees believed that they had inherited the "keys to the kingdom" and the power to "bind and loose" since the return from the Exile. When the Jews returned from Babylon, they were vassals, and there was no Davidic king or al bayit.
      By the time Christ began His ministry, the Pharisees, as the teachers of the Law, had assumed the power to "bind and loose." Christ, as the promised Messiah-King, Son of David, gives the power to "bind and loose" to the Apostles, and the office of prime minister to Saint Peter alone.

      “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat [kathedras Mouseos in Greek; cathedra in Latin] therefore do and keep whatever they tell you [...]." - Matthew 23:1-2

      “They bind [Greek: desmeuousin] heavy burdens on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” - Matthew 23:4

      “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! For you key shut [Greek: kleiete] the kingdom of heaven against people. - Matthew 23:13

      "I was referring to my quotation of St. Bede, which you completely ignored."

      I hope that I now addressed it to your satisfaction. Although, I did not ignore it. What you completely ignored was that I refuted your quote by showing that Saint Bede the Venerable believed in, and taught, the Primacy of Peter, and the Papacy. How can you claim that that quote from Venerable Bede is arguing against the Papacy, when Saint Bede clearly was a proponent of the Papacy?

      "You can't have it both ways [...]."

      I'm not trying to. I stated, quite clearly, that your contention that the office of the Papacy is not taught definitively until Saint Augustine?, or whenever you stated you believe it began, is the same argument that some make concerning the Holy Trinity and the Nature/Person of Christ.
      Your either/or proposition does not hold. The teaching on the Papacy was from the beginning, as is shown in the Scriptures and the writings of the early Church Fathers. It was also better defined, over time, as it had to be defended against heretics.
      The same can be said about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and Christ's Nature.
      God Bless!

      p.s Check out this link for some interesting facts about 1st Century Temple practices and the Jewish understanding of these terms, which is where I got the above Scripture quotations:
      http://www.brantpitre.com/documents/printable_outlines/papacy_outline.pdf

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    12. Since you reject the explicit interpretation of St. Bede, I will offer you the explicit interpretation of St. Augustine, that you may see what is the consensus patrum. Otherwise your own Synod at Trent condemns you as a Protestant. (Forgive me for not quibbling over the rest).

      THE KEYS REPRESENT THE POWER TO BIND AND LOOSE GIVEN TO ALL THE APOSTLES.

      "The Church, therefore, which is founded in Christ received from Him the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Peter, that is to say, the power of binding and loosing sins. (Treatises on the Gospel of John 124.5).

      "After all, it isn’t just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre–eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, To thee do I entrust, what has in fact been entrusted to all.

      I mean, to show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles:
      Receive ye the Holy Spirit;’ and straightway, Whose sins ye forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins ye retain, they are retained.This refers to the Keys, about which it is said, Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.

      But that was said to Peter. To show you that Peter at that time stood for the universal Church, listen to what is said to him, which is said to all the faithful, the saints:
      If your brother sins against you, correct him between you and himself alone (De sanctis 295.1-3).

      So whatever texts you may return with, speaking of "supreme authority" and what not, it is clear that for the Holy Fathers the Keys were not some papal prerogative, but the power of binding and loosing given to all the Apostles in persona Petri. You have yet to show me differently.

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  6. Tikhon,

    Did the authors of Sacred Scripture need a special sacrament to write infallibly? In fact, they don't even need to be ordained. The various roles and offices in the Church (including the Chair of St Peter) do not (and have never) required additional sacraments for initiation. It is inconsistent for you to require a pope to be initiated via a sacrament to teach infallibly while neither ecumenical councils (by your own admission above) nor the authors of Sacred Scripture (by agreement of all Christians) need a distinct (or any) sacrament to take on these other "infallible" offices.

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    1. They would have if the claim was that they had an office which produced infallible writings. But as it is there writings are true, not "infallible" in the papal sense. Infallible means that the source cannot err in principle. But you don't claim that St. Matthew was infallible, only that his Gospel is free from error. In the same way we believe that certain patristic writings are free from error.

      So the difference is between an inspired, completely true product and an infallible source.

      "By my own admission above" Councils are not de jure infallible.

      So while I see what you're getting at, there's no analogy here.

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    2. I think you might be laboring under a false understanding of papal infallibility. Any given pope is in the same position as St. Matthew. Just as St. Matthew is only infallible while writing his Gospel, so to the Pope is infallible only while pronouncing on matters of faith and morals ex cathedra. In other words, a pope could very easily make a mistake when balancing his check book without violating papal infallibility.

      "the difference is between an inspired, completely true product and an infallible source."

      Remember, a cause must be greater than its effect. A fallible source cannot produce infallible products. Thus, the source (whether it be St. Matthew or Pope Benedict) must be in possession of infallibility while creating an infallible product. Of course the ultimate source of infallibility in both these cases is the Holy Spirit operating through a man WITHOUT this power being conferred via a sacrament. It makes little sense for the Holy Spirit to be able to write Scripture through a man without the need of a sacrament, but to insist the Spirit cannot interpret the same scriptures through a man without a sacrament.

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    3. No, this is irrelevant. The "limits" of papal infallibility do not change the question. The fact is that St. Matthew did not hold an office which was guaranteed infallibility when performing such and such an act (in this case composing a Gospel). It's like saying, "St. Athanasius was Orthodox on the question of the homoousion, therefore he was infallible when proclaiming on matters of the homoousion. So the papacy has equivalents." But to say that "X cannot err" is very different from saying "X did not err." As far as I know you don't preach the former kind of infallibility for St. Matthew a priori, parameters or no.

      I don't disagree with you that "the Spirit can interpret the same scriptures through a man without a sacrament". But even the Protestants say that much. What I'm asking about is your (ecclesiological) localization of this charism in an office, since offices otherwise exercise charismata sacramentally. Cf. consecration, ordination, etc.

      And I'm wondering how this is different reasoning thatn is found in the Protestant adherence to non-sacramental confession or even sometimes non-ordinational priesthood.

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    4. You're making a false distinction between "x cannot err" and "x did not err," for St. Matthew could not err (present tense) while writing his gospel and Pope JP2 did not err (past tense) during his pontificate. The writings of the authors of sacred scripture were preserved from err in the same way a pontiff's magisterial teaching is, thus the analogy holds.

      St. Athanasius was correct on his teachings on the nature of the Godhead, just as I may be correct when I do simple math, but he was not infallible even while teaching these correct doctrines, he could have erred, it happened he didn't. Are you claiming the scriptures happen to be factually correct or are inerrant by the power of God? That is a real and important distinction.

      I wonder, furthermore, how you determine St. Athanasius was correct in his teaching. For that matter, I wonder how you posit the inerrancy (or even correctness) of the Scriptures - or for that matter which books make up the canon. If the Church isn't the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15) she may have been as wrong on these accounts as she is on papal authority and infallibility.

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    5. Your first and second paragraphs entirely contradict each other:
      (1)"You're making a false distinction between "x cannot err" and "x did not err."
      (2)..."factually correct or inerrant by the power of God? That is a real and important distinction."

      And a more relevant question is how St. Athanasios himself knew that he was correct, or how Christians knew the canon of Scripture prior to magisterial decree? Anyway it's silly of you to imply that belief sans magisterium is arbitrary for reasons I've already noted elsewhere: you yourself cannot escape qualitatively-identical actions. Or are you really basing your rhetoric on quantity?

      Finally, you would do well to rework your stock anti-Protestant arguments for a different audience.

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  7. Joe, to clarify: is the papal office associated with Peter's successor or the Roman See or both? Let's say for some calamitous reason the pope is forced to abandon Rome or Italy or even Europe, along with all his successors. Could the next pope be the Bishop of New Orleans and pope at the same time?

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    1. Throughout the Middle Ages, Rome occasionally became too hostile for various reasons for popes to remain in the Eternal City, they were then forced to take up residence in another city (usually Italian) for various periods (lasting years at times)until they could safely return to Rome. The longest of these periods is known as the "Babylonian Captivity" and lasted around 60 years. During this time seven popes reigned from Avignon (in modern France, but then in lands controlled by the Holy See). The popes continued to be Bishops of Rome (not of Avignon), but could not reside in Rome itself. Thus, in your example the Pope would continue to be Bishop of Rome even if he (and his successors) lived in New Orleans.

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    2. But to reiterate George's question: is the office tied to the See? This relates directly to my question as to how Linus becomes successor to the Petrine office as distinct from the specific bishopric.

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    3. The Petrine office is tied to the See of St. Peter.

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    4. That is neither consistent nor consensual.

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  8. I was reading back in my journal tonight and stumbled across this note & wanted to share:

    "January 19, 2012 - John 21:4-11: is it wrong for me to see in this another meaning? That the net is the Church & the fish are Christians -- the apostles would catch many, but the net would not break. And who draws the net to shore? Simon Peter."

    I had never heard this line of reasoning before, but it really popped out at me the last time I read through John. It's funny - reading the New Testament after learning about the Catholic Church is kind of like reading the Old Testament in light of the New. Jesus pops up all over the place in OT once you know about Him. In the same way, Peter pops up all over the Gospels once you learn about the papacy.

    Thanks for the great writing & God bless,

    ee

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  9. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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