Saturday, January 18, 2014

Catholic and other modern research on apostolic successors to Peter and ancient int. of Mt.16:18

Catholic and other modern research on apostolic successors to Peter and ancient interpretation of Mt.16:18.

See also Historical Context of the Reformation further below.

• The Catholic historian Paul Johnson (author of over 40 books and a conservative popular historian), writes in his 1976 work “History of Christianity:”

Eusebius [whose history can be dubious] presents the lists as evidence that orthodoxy had a continuous tradition from the earliest times in all the great Episcopal sees and that all the heretical movements were subsequent aberrations from the mainline of Christianity.

Looking behind the lists, however, a different picture emerges. In Edessa, on the edge of the Syrian desert, the proofs of the early establishment of Christianity were forgeries, almost certainly manufactured under Bishop Kune, the first orthodox Bishop, and actually a contemporary of Eusebius...

Orthodoxy was not established [In Egypt] until the time of Bishop Demetrius, 189-231, who set up a number of other sees and manufactured a genealogical tree for his own bishopric of Alexandria, which traces the foundation through ten mythical predecessors back to Mark, and so to Peter and Jesus...

Even in Antioch, where both Peter and Paul had been active, there seems to have been confusion until the end of the second century. Antioch completely lost their list...When Eusebius’s chief source for his Episcopal lists, Julius Africanus, tried to compile one for Antioch, he found only six names to cover the same period of time as twelve in Rome and ten in Alexandria. 

 More from Johnson on development:

..the Church, operating on the principle of collective commonsense, was a haven for a very wide spectrum of opinion. In the West, diversity was disappearing fast; in the East, orthodoxy was becoming the largest single tradition by the early decades of the third century. The Church was now a great and numerous force in the empire, attracting men of wealth and high education, inevitably, then, there occurred a change of emphasis from purely practical development in response to need, to the deliberate thinking out of policy.

This expressed itself in two ways: the attempt to turn Christianity into a philosophical and political system, and the development of controlling devices to prevent this intellectualization of the faith from destroying it. The twin process began to operate in the early and middle decades of the third century, with Origen epitomizing the first element and Cyprian the second. If Paul brought to the first generation of Christians the useful skills of a trained theologian, Origen was the first great philosopher to rethink the new religion from first principles.

He [Origen] slept on the floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, had only one coat and no shoes. He almost certainly castrated himself,..

 The effect of Origen’s work was to create a new science, biblical theology, whereby every sentence in the scriptures was systematically explored for hidden [much prone to metaphorical] meanings, different layers of meanings, allegory and so forth.....

Cyprian came from a wealthy family with a tradition of public service to the empire; within two years of his conversion he was made a bishop. He had to face the practical problems of persecution, survival and defence against attack. His solution was to gather together the developing threads of ecclesiastical order and authority and weave them into a tight system of absolute control...the confession of faith, even the Bible itself lost their meaning if used outside the Church.

Without the office of bishop there could be no Church: and without the Church, no salvation. The man who determined who was or was not a member of the Church and therefore eligible tor salvation was the bishop. He interpreted the scriptures in the light of the Church’s needs in any given situation; the only unambiguous instruction they contained being, to remain faithful to the Church and obey its rules.

With Cyprian, then, the freedom preached by Paul and based on the power of Christian truth was removed from the ordinary members of the Church, it was retained only by the bishops, through whom the Holy Spirit still worked, who were collectively delegated to represent the totality of Church members...With Bishop Cyprian, the analogy with secular government came to seem very close. But of course it lacked one element: the ‘emperor figure’ or supreme priest...

[Peter according to Cyprian was] the beneficiary of the famous ‘rock and keys’ text in Matthew. There is no evidence that Rome exploited this text to assert its primacy before about 250 - and then, interestingly enough, in conflict with the aggressive episcopalian Cyprian - but what is clear is that in the second half of the second century, and no doubt in response to Marcion’s Pauline heresy - the first heresy Rome itself had experienced - Paul was eliminated from any connection with the Rome episcopate and the office was firmly attached to Peter alone...

The Church survived, and steadily penetrated all ranks of society over a huge area, by avoiding or absorbing extremes, by compromise, by developing an urbane temperament and erecting secular-type structures to preserve its unity and conduct its business. There was in consequence a loss of spirituality or, as Paul would have put it, of freedom... - A History of Christianity, by Paul Johnson, pp. 51-61,63. transcribed using OCR software)

Roman church past was being reinvented for polemical purposes. Eamon Duffy (Pontifical Historical Commission, Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, and former President of Magdalene College)
Self-consciously, the popes began to model their actions and their style as Christian leaders on the procedures of the Roman state” - Eamon Duffy  (“Saints and Sinners”, ©2001 edition)

Peter Lampe (Lutheran)*:

The picture that finally emerges from Lampe’s analysis of surviving evidence is one he names ‘the fractionation of Roman Christianity’ (pp. 357–408). Not until the second half of the second century, under Anicetus, do we find compelling evidence for a monarchical episcopacy, and when it emerges, it is to manage relief shipments to dispersed Christians as well as social aid for the Roman poor (pp. 403–4). Before this period Roman Christians were ‘fractionated’ amongst dispersed house/tenement churches, each presided over by its own presbyter–bishop. This accounts for the evidence of social and theological diversity in second-century Roman Christianity, evidence of a degree of tolerance of theologically disparate groups without a single authority to regulate belief and practice, and the relatively late appearance of unambiguous representation of a single bishop over Rome. — Review of “Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries,” by Peter Lampe in Oxford’s Journal of Theological Studies, 2005 
*Peter Lampe is a German Lutheran minister and theologian and Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Heidelberg, whose work, “From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries,” was written in 1987 and translated to English in 2003. The Catholic historian Eamon Duffy (Irish Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, and former President of Magdalene College), said “all modern discussion of the issues must now start from the exhaustive and persuasive analysis by Peter Lampe” — Saints and Sinners,” “A History of the Popes,” Yale, 1997, 2001, pg. 421).
Catholic theologian and  Jesuit priest Francis Sullivan, in his work From Apostles to Bishops (New York: The Newman Press), examines possible mentions of “succession” from the first three centuries, and concludes from that study that “the episcopate [development of bishops] is a the fruit of a post New Testament development,” and cannot concur with those (interacting with Jones) who see little reason to doubt the notion that there was a single bishop in Rome through the middle of the second century:

Hence I stand with the majority of scholars who agree that one does not find evidence in the New Testament to support the theory that the apostles or their coworkers left [just] one person as “bishop” in charge of each local church... 
As the reader will recall, I have expressed agreement with the consensus of scholars that available evidence indicates that the church of Rome was led by a college of presbyters, rather than a single bishop, for at least several decades of the second century... 
Hence I cannot agree with Jones's judgment that there seems little reason to doubt the presence of a bishop in Rome already in the first century. 
“...the evidence both from the New Testament and from such writings as I Clement, the Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians and The Shepherd of Hennas favors the view that initially the presbyters in each church, as a college, possessed all the powers needed for effective ministry. This would mean that the apostles handed on what was transmissible of their mandate as an undifferentiated whole, in which the powers that would eventually be seen as episcopal were not yet distinguished from the rest. Hence, the development of the episcopate would have meant the differentiation of ministerial powers that had previously existed in an undifferentiated state and the consequent reservation to the bishop of certain of the powers previously held collegially by the presbyters. — Francis Sullivan, in his work From Apostles to Bishops , pp. 221,22,24

• Klaus Schatz [Jesuit Father theologian, professor of church history at the St. George’s Philosophical and Theological School in Frankfurt] in his work, “Papal Primacy ,” pp. 1-4 :

“New Testament scholars agree..., The further question whether there was any notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime, if posed in purely historical terms, should probably be answered in the negative. 
That is, if we ask whether the historical Jesus, in commissioning Peter, expected him to have successors, or whether the authority of the Gospel of Matthew, writing after Peter’s death, was aware that Peter and his commission survived in the leaders of the Roman community who succeeded him, the answer in both cases is probably 'no.” 
“....that does not mean that the figure and the commission of the Peter of the New Testament did not encompass the possibility, if it is projected into a Church enduring for centuries and concerned in some way to to secure its ties to its apostolic origins and to Jesus himself. 
If we ask in addition whether the primitive church was aware, after Peter’s death, that his authority had passed to the next bishop of Rome, or in other words that the head of the community at Rome was now the successor of Peter, the Church’s rock and hence the subject of the promise in Matthew 16:18-19, the question, put in those terms, must certainly be given a negative answer.” (page 1-2) 
[Schatz goes on to express that he does not doubt Peter was martyred in Rome, and that Christians in the 2nd century were convinced that Vatican Hill had something to do with Peter's grave.]

"Nevertheless, concrete claims of a primacy over the whole church cannot be inferred from this conviction. If one had asked a Christian in the year 100, 200, or even 300 whether the bishop of Rome was the head of all Christians, or whether there was a supreme bishop over all the other bishops and having the last word in questions affecting the whole Church, he or she would certainly have said no." (page 3, top) 
[Lacking such support for the modern concept of the primacy of the church of Rome with its papal jurisdiction, Schatz concludes that, “Therefore we must set aside from the outset any question such as 'was there a primacy in our sense of the word at that time?” Schatz therefore goes on to seek support for that as a development.]

“We probably cannot say for certain that there was a bishop of Rome [in 95 AD]. It is likely that the Roman church was governed by a group of presbyters from whom there very quickly emerged a presider or ‘first among equals’ whose name was remembered and who was subsequently described as ‘bishop’ after the mid-second century.” (Schatz 4).

Schatiz additionally states,

Cyprian regarded every bishop as the successor of Peter, holder of the keys to the kingdom of heaven and possessor of the power to bind and loose. For him, Peter embodied the original unity of the Church and the episcopal office, but in principle these were also present in every bishop. For Cyprian, responsibility for the whole Church and the solidarity of all bishops could also, if necessary, be turned against Rome."Papal Primacy [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1996], p. 20)

• Roman Catholic scholar William La Due (taught canon law at St. Francis Seminary and the Catholic University of America) on Cyprian:

....those who see in The Unity of the Catholic Church, in the light of his entire episcopal life, an articulation of the Roman primacy - as we have come to know it, or even as it has evolved especially from the latter fourth century on - are reading a meaning into Cyprian which is not there." — The Chair of Saint Peter: A History of the Papacy [Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1999], p. 39

• Roger Collins, writing of the Symmachan forgeries”, describes these “pro-Roman” “enhancements” to history:

So too would the spurious historical texts written anonymously or ascribed to earlier authors that are known collectively as the Symmachan forgeries. This was the first occasion on which the Roman church had revisited its own history, in particular the third and fourth centuries, in search of precedents That these were largely invented does not negate the significance of the process...

Some of the periods in question, such as the pontificates of Sylvester and Liberius (352-366), were already being seen more through the prism of legend than that of history, and in the Middle Ages texts were often forged because their authors were convinced of the truth of what they contained. Their faked documents provided tangible evidence of what was already believed true...

It is no coincidence that the first systematic works of papal history appear at the very time the Roman church’s past was being reinvented for polemical purposes. (Collins, “Keepers of the Keys of Heaven,” pgs 80-82).

Roman Catholic [if liberal] Garry Wills, Professor of History Emeritus, Northwestern U., author of “Why i am a Catholic:”

"The idea that Peter was given some special power that could be handed on to a successor runs into the problem that he had no successor. The idea that there is an "apostolic succession" to Peter's fictional episcopacy did not arise for several centuries, at which time Peter and others were retrospectively called bishops of Rome, to create an imagined succession. Even so, there has not been an unbroken chain of popes. Two and three claimants existed at times, and when there were three of them each excommunicating the other two, they all had to be dethroned and the Council of Carthage started the whole thing over again in 1417." — WHAT JESUS MEANT, p. 81

• American Roman Catholic priest and Biblical scholar Raymond Brown (twice appointed to Pontifical Biblical Commission):

“The claims of various sees to descend from particular members of the Twelve are highly dubious. It is interesting that the most serious of these is the claim of the bishops of Rome to descend from Peter, the one member of the Twelve who was almost a missionary apostle in the Pauline sense – a confirmation of our contention that whatever succession there was from apostleship to episcopate, it was primarily in reference to the Puauline tyupe of apostleship, not that of the Twelve.” (“Priest and Bishop, Biblical Reflections,” Nihil Obstat, Imprimatur, 1970, pg 72.) 
Raymond Brown [being criticized here], in “Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections,” could not prove on historical grounds, he said, that Christ instituted the priesthood or episcopacy as such; that those who presided at the Eucharist were really priests; that a separate priesthood began with Christ; that the early Christians looked upon the Eucharist as a sacrifice; that presbyter-bishops are traceable in any way to the Apostles; that Peter in his lifetime would be looked upon as the Bishop of Rome; that bishops were successors of the Apostles, even though Vatican II made the same claim.. (from, "A Wayward Turn in Biblical Theory" by Msr. George A. Kelly can be read on the internet at

Anglican/Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission: 

The New Testament contains no explicit record of a transmission of Peter's leadership; nor is the transmission of apostolic authority in general very clear. Furthermore, the Petrine texts were subjected to differing interpretations as early as the time of the Church Fathers. 
 Fathers and doctors of the Church gradually came to interpret the New Testament data as pointing in the same direction. This interpretation has been questioned, and it has been argued that it arose from an attempt to legitimize a development which had already occurred...

Yet it is possible to think that a primacy of the bishop of Rome is not contrary to the New Testament and is part of God's purpose regarding the Church's unity and catholicity, while admitting that the New Testament texts offer no sufficient basis for this. — (“Authority in the Church” II, ARCIC, para 2, 6,7;
Historical Basis and Context of the Reformation (brief)

Note, it is often not considered that the church began in dissent from those who were the stewards of Scripture, who sat in the seat Moses, having historical descent as inheritors of the promises of God's presence and preservation, and the student of holy writ. (Lv. 10:11; Dt. 4:31; 17:8-13; Num. 23:19,23; Is. 41:10, Ps. 89:33,34; Mal. 3:6; Rm. 3:2; 9:4) following a holy protester in the desert who ate insects, and did no miracles, and an itinerant Preacher who reproved the magisterium by Scripture, (Mk. 7:2-16) and established His Truth claims upon scriptural substantiation in word and in power, as did the early church, as it began upon this basis. (Mt. 22:23-45; Lk. 24:27,44; Jn. 5:36,39; Acts 2:14-35; 4:33; 5:12; 15:6-21;17:2,11; 18:28; 28:23; Rm. 15:19; 2Cor. 12:12, etc.)

The basic unity of the NT church was under manifest apostles of Christ:   "in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, (2 Corinthians 6:4-7)

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. (2 Corinthians 12:12) 

The greater this manner of attestation in virtue Scriptural substantiation and power, then the greater the unity, as well as persecutions. And the greater the claims, the greater the corespondent attestation is needed. Yet Rome not only makes greater claims than the apostles (even to perpetual assured formulaic infallibility, and to call her ministers "priests" - which they never are by the Holy Spirit in Scripture, as they suppose she can command God to turn into bread, etc.), but she fails of both the requirements of an apostolic successor, that of personal  encounter and discipleship by the Lord, (indicated by Acts 1:21,22; 1Cor. 9:1; Gal. 1:11,12) and their Scriptural attestation. Nor has Rome ever elected her so-called successors by the nonpolitical method of Acts 1 (casting lots, (Josh. 18:6; Prov. 16:33) not voting. (Acts 1:15ff). 

Instead, popes can even be devils and yet be held apostolic successors, for which there is only one example in Scripture, that being for Judas to maintain the original 12, (Rv. 21:14)      While  rather than supporting apostolic succession, the Holy Spirit conspicuously never mentions any successor for the apostle James who was martyred, (Acts 12:1,2) or preparations for another pope, despite its cardinal importance for Rome and the Spirit's careful chronicling of important events and details of the early church.

The R.C. exaltation of Peter is foundationally based upon Mt. 16:13-19, wherein there is a play on the word "rock" by the Lord, in which the immovable "Rock" upon which Christ would build His church is the confession that Christ was the Son of God, and thus by implication it is Christ himself. The verse at issue, v.18, cannot be divorced from that which preceded it, in which the identity of Jesus Christ is the main subject. In the next verse (17) that is what Jesus refers to in telling blessed Peter thatflesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,and in v. 18 that truth is what the “this rock” refers to, with a distinction being made between the person of Peter and this rock.

This is the only interpretation that is confirmed, as it must be, in the rest of the New Testament. For in contrast to Peter, that the LORD Jesus is the Rock (“petra”) or "stone" (“lithos,” and which denotes a large rock in Mk. 16:4) upon which the church is built is one of the most abundantly confirmed doctrines in the Bible (petra: Rm. 9:33; 1Cor. 10:4; 1Pet. 2:8; cf. Lk. 6:48; 1Cor. 3:11; lithos: Mat. 21:42; Mk.12:10-11; Lk. 20:17-18; Act. 4:11; Rm. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; cf. Dt. 32:4, Is. 28:16) including by Peter himself. (1Pt. 2:4-8) Rome's current catechism attempts to have Peter himself as the rock as well, but also affirms: On the rock of this faith confessed by St Peter, Christ build his Church,” CCC 424) which understanding some of the ancients concur with. Welbore St. Clair Baddeley, Lina Duff Gordon, “Rome and its story:” 

The sixth century found Rome sunk too low by war and pestilence for many churches to be built; but at this time took place the transformation of ancient buildings into Christian shrines. Instead of despising the relics of paganism, the Roman priesthood prudently gathered to themselves all that could be adopted from the old world. Gregorovius remarks that the Christian religion had grown up side by side with the empire, which this new power was ready to replace when the Emperor withdrew to the East. The Bishop of Rome assumed the position of Ponlifex Maximus, priest and temporal ruler in one, and the workings of this so-called spiritual kingdom, with bishops as senators, and priests as leaders of the army, followed on much the same lines as the empire. The analogy was more complete when monasteries were founded and provinces were won and governed by the Church. - p. 176) 
 • Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran, later Eastern Orhodox), The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (New York: Abingdon Press, 1959), also finds:

"Recent research on the Reformation entitles us to sharpen it and say that the Reformation began because the reformers were too catholic in the midst of a church that had forgotten its catholicity..." 
“The reformers were catholic because they were spokesmen for an evangelical tradition in medieval catholicism, what Luther called "the succession of the faithful." The fountainhead of that tradition was Augustine (d. 430). His complex and far-reaching system of thought incorporated the catholic ideal of identity plus universality, and by its emphasis upon sin and grace it became the ancestor of Reformation theology. … All the reformers relied heavily upon Augustine. They pitted his evangelical theology against the authority of later church fathers and scholastics, and they used him to prove that they were not introducing novelties into the church, but defending the true faith of the church.” 
“...To prepare books like the Magdeburg Centuries they combed the libraries and came up with a remarkable catalogue of protesting catholics and evangelical catholics, all to lend support to the insistence that the Protestant position was, in the best sense, a catholic position. 
Additional support for this insistence comes from the attitude of the reformers toward the creeds and dogmas of the ancient catholic church. The reformers retained and cherished the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the two natures in Christ which had developed in the first five centuries of the church….”

“If we keep in mind how variegated medieval catholicism was, the legitimacy of the reformers' claim to catholicity becomes clear. (Pelikan, pp. 46-47). 
"Substantiation for this understanding of the gospel came principally from the Scriptures, but whenever they could, the reformers also quoted the fathers of the catholic church. There was more to quote than their Roman opponents found comfortable" (Pelikan 48-49).

• Joseph Lortz,    German Roman Catholic theologian:

 The real significance of the Western Schism rests in the fact that for decades there was an almost universal uncertainty about where the true pope and the true Church were to be found. For several decades, both popes had excommunicated each other and his followers; thus all Christendom found itself under sentence of excommunication by at least one of the contenders. Both popes referred to their rival claimant as the Antichrist, and to the Masses celebrated by them as idolatry. It seemed impossible to do anything about this scandalous situation, despite sharp protests from all sides, and despite the radical impossibility of having two valid popes at the same time. Time and time again, the petty selfishness of the contenders blocked any solution... 

The significance of the break-up of medieval unity in the thirteenth century, but even more during the Avignon period, is evident in the most distinctive historical consequence of the Avignon Papacy: the Great Western Schism. The real meaning of this event may not be immediately apparent. It can be somewhat superficially described as a period when there were two popes, each with his own Curia, one residing in Rome, the other in Avignon

When Luther asserted that the pope of Rome was not the true successor of Saint Peter and that the Church could do without the Papacy, in his mind and in their essence these were new doctrines, but the distinctive element in them was not new and thus they struck a sympathetic resonance in the minds of many. Long before the Reformation itself, the unity of the Christian Church in the West had been severely undermined
"The Reformation: A Problem for Today” (Maryland: The Newman Press, 1964), “The Causes of the Reformation," pp. 35-37; .
• The Avignon Papacy (1309-76) relocated the throne to France and was followed by the Western Schism (1378-1417), with three rival popes excommunicating each other and their sees. Referring to the schism of the 14th and 15th centuries, Cardinal Ratzinger observed, 

"For nearly half a century, the Church was split into two or three obediences that excommunicated one another, so that every Catholic lived under excommunication by one pope or another, and, in the last analysis, no one could say with certainty which of the contenders had right on his side. The Church no longer offered certainty of salvation; she had become questionable in her whole objective form--the true Church, the true pledge of salvation, had to be sought outside the institution. It is against this background of a profoundly shaken ecclesial consciousness that we are to understand that Luther, in the conflict between his search for salvation and the tradition of the Church, ultimately came to experience the Church, not as the guarantor, but as the adversary of salvation. 
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for the Church of Rome, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” trans. by Sister Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989) p.196).
Catholic Encyclopedia>Council of Constance:  
The Western Schism was thus at an end, after nearly forty years of disastrous life; one pope (Gregory XII) had voluntarily abdicated; another (John XXIII) had been suspended and then deposed, but had submitted in canonical form; the third claimant (Benedict XIII) was cut off from the body of the Church, "a pope without a Church, a shepherd without a flock" (Hergenröther-Kirsch). It had come about that, whichever of the three claimants of the papacy was the legitimate successor of Peter, there reigned throughout the Church a universal uncertainty and an intolerable confusion, so that saints and scholars and upright souls were to be found in all three obediences. On the principle that a doubtful pope is no pope, the Apostolic See appeared really vacant, and under the circumstances could not possibly be otherwise filled than by the action of a general council.  —

Cardinal Bellarmine:

 "Some years before the rise of the Lutheran and Calvinistic heresy, according to the testimony of those who were then alive, there was almost an entire abandonment of equity in ecclesiastical judgments; in morals, no discipline; in sacred literature, no erudition; in divine things, no reverence; religion was almost extinct.  Concio XXVIII. Opp. Vi. 296- Colon 1617, in “A History of the Articles of Religion,” by Charles Hardwick, Cp. 1, p. 10, 
Erasmus, in his new edition of the “Enchiridion,” “What man of real piety does not perceive with sighs that this is far the most corrupt of all ages? When did iniquity abound with more licentiousness? When was charity so cold?” — “The Evolution of the English Bible: A Historical Sketch of the Successive,” p. 132 by Henry William Hamilton-Hoare

At the time of the Reformation, the Catholic historian Paul Johnson described the existing social situation among the clergy: 

Probably as many as half the men in orders had ‘wives’ and families. Behind all the New Learning and the theological debates, clerical celibacy was, in its own way, the biggest single issue at the Reformation. It was a great social problem and, other factors being equal, it tended to tip the balance in favour of reform. As a rule, the only hope for a child of a priest was to go into the Church himself, thus unwillingly or with no great enthusiasm, taking vows which he might subsequently regret: the evil tended to perpetuate itself.” (History of Christianity, pgs 269-270)

In the summer of 1536, Pope Paul III appointed Cardinals Contarini and Cafara and a commission to study church Reform. The report of this commission, the Consilium de emendanda ecclesiae, was completed in March 1537.  The final paragraphs deal with the corruptions of Renaissance Rome itself:

“the swarm of sordid and ignorant priests in the city, the harlots who are followed around by clerics and by the noble members of the cardinals’ households …” 

“The immediate effects of the Consilium fell far below the hopes of its authors and its very frankness hampered its public use. … the more noticeably pious prelates [note: this the “noticeably pious” clergy] had no longer to tolerate the open cynicism of the Medicean period, and when moral lapses by clerics came to light, pains were now taken to hush them up as matters of grievous scandal.”
.G. Dickens, “The Counter Reformation,” pp. 100,102)
In the same candid spirit is the following statement of de Mézeray, the historiographer of France: [Abrege’ Chronol. VIII. 691, seqq. a Paris, 1681.] 

As the heads of the Church paid no regard to the maintenance of discipline, the vices and excesses of the ecclesiastics grew up to the highest pitch, and were so public and universally exposed as to excite against them the hatred and contempt of the people. We cannot repeat without a blush the usury, the avarice, the gluttony, the universal dissoluteness of the priests of this period, the licence and debauchery of the monks, the pride and extravagance of the prelates, and the shameful indolence, ignorance and superstition pervading the whole body .... These were not, I confess, new scandals: I should rather say that the barbarism and ignorance of preceding centuries, in some sort, concealed such vices; but,, on the subsequent revival of the light of learning, the spots which I have pointed out became more manifest, and as the unlearned who were corrupt could not endure the light through the pain which it caused to their eyes, so neither did the learned spare them, turning them to ridicule and delighting to expose their turpitude and to decry their superstitions.”

Bossuet* in the opening statements of his “Histoire des Variations,” admits the frightful corruptions of the Church for centuries before the Reformation; and he has been followed in our own times by Frederic von Schlegel [Philosophy of History, 400, 401, 410, Engl. Transl. 1847.] and Möhler. [Symbolik, II. 31, 32, Engl. Transl.]

While all of them are most anxious to prove that the Lutheran movement was revolutionary and subversive of the ancient faith, they are constrained to admit the universality of the abuses, which, in the language of Schlegel, “lay deep, and were ulcerated in their very roots.” Charles Hardwick A History of the Articles of Religion;

► As regards the oft-quoted Mt. 16:18, note the bishops promise in the profession of faith of Vatican 1,

Likewise I accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.

Yet as the Dominican cardinal and Catholic theologian Yves Congar O.P. states,

Unanimous patristic consent as a reliable locus theologicus is classical in Catholic theology; it has often been declared such by the magisterium and its value in scriptural interpretation has been especially stressed. Application of the principle is difficult, at least at a certain level. In regard to individual texts of Scripture total patristic consensus is rare...One example: the interpretation of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16-18. Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical. — Yves M.-J. Congar, O.P., p. 71

And Catholic archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick (1806-1896), while yet seeking to support Peter as the rock, stated that,

“If we are bound to follow the majority of the fathers in this thing, then we are bound to hold for certain that by the rock should be understood the faith professed by Peter, not Peter professing the faith.” — Speech of archbishop Kenrick, p. 109; An inside view of the vatican council, edited by Leonard Woolsey Bacon.
The   CCC itself allows the interpretation that, “On the rock of this faith confessed by St Peter, Christ build his Church,” (pt. 1, sec. 2, cp. 2, para. 424), for some of the ancients (for what their opinion is worth) provided for this or other interpretations.

• Ambrosiaster [who elsewhere upholds Peter as being the chief apostle to whom the Lord had entrusted the care of the Church, but not superior to Paul as an apostle except in time], Eph. 2:20:

Wherefore the Lord says to Peter: 'Upon this rock I shall build my Church,' that is, upon this confession of the catholic faith I shall establish the faithful in life. — Ambrosiaster, Commentaries on Galatians—Philemon, Eph. 2:20; Gerald L. Bray, p. 42

• Augustine, sermon:

"Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter's confession. What is Peter's confession? 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' There's the rock for you, there's the foundation, there's where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer.John Rotelle, O.S.A., Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine , © 1993 New City Press, Sermons, Vol III/6, Sermon 229P.1, p. 327 
Upon this rock, said the Lord, I will build my Church. Upon this confession, upon this that you said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,' I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer her (Mt. 16:18). — John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1993) Sermons, Volume III/7, Sermon 236A.3, p. 48.

Augustine, sermon:

For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on this very account the Lord said, 'On this rock will I build my Church,' because Peter had said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus. 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. For what the Church is essentially in Christ, such representatively is Peter in the rock (petra); and in this representation Christ is to be understood as the Rock, Peter as the Church. — Augustine Tractate CXXIV; Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series, Volume VII Tractate CXXIV (

Augustine, sermon:

And Peter, one speaking for the rest of them, one for all, said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt 16:15-16)...And I tell you: you are Peter; because I am the rock, you are Rocky, Peter-I mean, rock doesn't come from Rocky, but Rocky from rock, just as Christ doesn't come from Christian, but Christian from Christ; and upon this rock I will build my Church (Mt 16:17-18); not upon Peter, or Rocky, which is what you are, but upon the rock which you have confessed. I will build my Church though; I will build you, because in this answer of yours you represent the Church. — John Rotelle, O.S.A. Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/7, Sermon 270.2, p. 289

Augustine, sermon:

Peter had already said to him, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' He had already heard, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not conquer her' (Mt 16:16-18)...Christ himself was the rock, while Peter, Rocky, was only named from the rock. That's why the rock rose again, to make Peter solid and strong; because Peter would have perished, if the rock hadn't lived. — John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1993) Sermons, Volume III/7, Sermon 244.1, p. 95
Augustine, sermon:

...because on this rock, he said, I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not overcome it (Mt. 16:18). Now the rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Hold on to these texts, love these texts, repeat them in a fraternal and peaceful manner. — John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1995), Sermons, Volume III/10, Sermon 358.5, p. 193

Augustine, Psalm LXI:

Let us call to mind the Gospel: 'Upon this Rock I will build My Church.' Therefore She crieth from the ends of the earth, whom He hath willed to build upon a Rock. But in order that the Church might be builded upon the Rock, who was made the Rock? Hear Paul saying: 'But the Rock was Christ.' On Him therefore builded we have been. — Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VIII, Saint Augustin, Exposition on the Book of Psalms, Psalm LXI.3, p. 249. (

• Augustine, in “Retractions,”

In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: 'On him as on a rock the Church was built.'...But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,' that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' For, 'Thou art Peter' and not 'Thou art the rock' was said to him. But 'the rock was Christ,' in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable. — The Fathers of the Church (Washington D.C., Catholic University, 1968), Saint Augustine, The Retractations Chapter 20.1:.

Basil of Seleucia, Oratio 25:

'You are Christ, Son of the living God.'...Now Christ called this confession a rock, and he named the one who confessed it 'Peter,' perceiving the appellation which was suitable to the author of this confession. For this is the solemn rock of religion, this the basis of salvation, this the wall of faith and the foundation of truth: 'For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.' To whom be glory and power forever. — Oratio XXV.4, M.P.G., Vol. 85, Col. 296-297.

Bede, Matthaei Evangelium Expositio, 3:

You are Peter and on this rock from which you have taken your name, that is, on myself, I will build my Church, upon that perfection of faith which you confessed I will build my Church by whose society of confession should anyone deviate although in himself he seems to do great things he does not belong to the building of my Church...Metaphorically it is said to him on this rock, that is, the Saviour which you confessed, the Church is to be built, who granted participation to the faithful confessor of his name. — 80Homily 23, M.P.L., Vol. 94, Col. 260. Cited by Karlfried Froehlich, Formen, Footnote #204, p. 156 [unable to verify by me].

• Cassiodorus, Psalm 45.5:

'It will not be moved' is said about the Church to which alone that promise has been given: 'You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.' For the Church cannot be moved because it is known to have been founded on that most solid rock, namely, Christ the Lord. — Expositions in the Psalms, Volume 1; Volume 51, Psalm 45.5, p. 455
Chrysostom (John) [who affirmed Peter was a rock, but here not the rock in Mt. 16:18]: 
Therefore He added this, 'And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; that is, on the faith of his confession. — Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Homily LIIl; Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (

Cyril of Alexandria:

When [Peter] wisely and blamelessly confessed his faith to Jesus saying, 'You are Christ, Son of the living God,' Jesus said to divine Peter: 'You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.' Now by the word 'rock', Jesus indicated, I think, the immoveable faith of the disciple.”. — Cyril Commentary on Isaiah 4.2
Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book XII):

“For a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, 1 Corinthians 10:4 and upon every such rock is built every word of the church, and the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God.'

“For all bear the surname ‘rock’ who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters.” — Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book XII), sect. 10,11 

Hilary of Potier, On the Trinity (Book II): Thus our one immovable foundation, our one blissful rock of faith, is the confession from Peter's mouth, Thou art the Son of the living God. On it we can base an answer to every objection with which perverted ingenuity or embittered treachery may assail the truth."-- (Hilary of Potier, On the Trinity (Book II), para 23; Philip Schaff, editor, The Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers Series 2, Vol 9.

Finally, while the historical evidence against the Roman Catholic papacy being part of the New Testment church is substantial, and is unsupported in Scripture, the fact is that history,Tradition and Scripture  only authoritatively mean what Rome says they mean. Thus faced with historical  challenge from Reformers, no  less a weighty RC scholar as Manning states, 

It was the charge of the Reformers that the Catholic doctrines were not primitive, and their pretension was to revert to antiquity. But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine...

I may say in strict truth that the Church has no antiquity. It rests upon its own supernatural and perpetual consciousness. Its past is present with it, for both are one to a mind which is immutable. Primitive and modern are predicates, not of truth, but of ourselves.
Most Rev. Dr. Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, Lord Archbishop of Westminster, The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost: Or Reason and Revelation (New York: J.P. Kenedy & Sons, originally written 1865, pp. 227,28



  1. I believe that "rock" is referring to Peter's faith as well as Peter himself. Faith is a gift freely given from God and freely accepted by the receiver, in this case Peter.

    Christ wasn't contrasting Peter from his faith. He was exalting Peter for it.

    The Church is the body of Christ. Saying that Peter is the rock doesn't take away from the fact that Christ is the cornerstone Rock. Within that Rock is the human rock, Peter, on which Christ built his Church, and all the other rocks - faithful Catholics - that are built on it. Jimmy Akin explains it very well in this video:

    1. The point is that despite the extrapolative eisegesis of apologists, Peter is never called the cornerstone Rock that the church is built upon in the rest of Scripture, but Christ is explicitly and repeatedly. Wherever the rock foundation of the church is mentioned in the rest of the NT, which is interpretive of Mt. 16:18, it nowhere calls Peter the rock, the stone, or the foundation of the church. Instead it is always Christ, except apostles and prophets plural being a foundation, "Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Ephesians 2:20)

    2. I don't see a contradiction between Christ being the "chief cornerstone" and Peter being the "rock" that Christ built his church on. The Church is the body of Christ. All Christians are "in Christ" and are called to be like Christ. So I think Peter could still be a significant foundational "Rock" in the infinitely bigger Rock who is Christ.

      I recently came across writings form Protestant scholars who agree with the Catholic position on this:

      "The underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; at most probably kepha was used in both clauses ("you are kepha" and "on this kepha"), since the word was used both for a name and for a "rock." The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with a dialect of Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses." (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, Zondervan, 368)

      "The obvious pun which has made its way into the Greek text . . . suggests a material identity between petra and Petros . . . as it is impossible to differentiate strictly between the two words. . . . Petros himself is this petra, not just his faith or his confession. . . . The idea of the Reformers that he is referring to the faith of Peter is quite inconceivable. . . . For there is no reference here to the faith of Peter. Rather, the parallelism of "thou art Rock" and "on this rock I will build" shows that the second rock can only be the same as the first. It is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom he has given the name Rock. . . . To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 6, Eerdmans, 98–99, 108)]

    3. If your recourse is one of appeal to the unending debate on linguistics, see a scholar with extensive study on this issue as here: Response #10 and following; Question #2; Response #3; Response #11.

      However, such is not needed since as the correct understanding of Mt. 16:18 is manifest in Acts-Rev. in which Christ is the rock.

      The R.C. exaltation of Peter is foundationally based upon Mt. 16:13-19, wherein there is a play on the word "rock" by the Lord, in which the immovable "Rock" upon which Christ would build His church is the confession that Christ was the Son of God, and thus by implication it is Christ himself. The verse at issue, v.18, cannot be divorced from that which preceded it, in which the identity of Jesus Christ is the main subject. In the next verse (17) that is what Jesus refers to in telling blessed Peter that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” and in v. 18 that truth is what the “this rock” refers to, with a distinction being made between the person of Peter and this rock. This is the only interpretation that is confirmed, as it must be, in the rest of the New Testament. For in contrast to Peter, that the LORD Jesus is the Rock (“petra”) or "stone" (“lithos,” and which denotes a large rock in Mk. 16:4) upon which the church is built is one of the most abundantly confirmed doctrines in the Bible (petra: Rm. 9:33; 1Cor. 10:4; 1Pet. 2:8; cf. Lk. 6:48; 1Cor. 3:11; lithos: Mat. 21:42; Mk.12:10-11; Lk. 20:17-18; Act. 4:11; Rm. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; cf. Dt. 32:4, Is. 28:16) including by Peter himself. (1Pt. 2:4-8) Rome's current catechism attempts to have Peter himself as the rock as well, but also affirms: “On the rock of this faith confessed by St Peter, Christ build his Church,” (pt. 1, sec. 2, cp. 2, para. 424) which understanding some of the ancients concur with.


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Please try to be reasonable, willing to examine things prayerfully and objectively, and refrain from "rants" and profane language, especially regarding God and the Christian faith. The latter type are subject to removal on this Christian blog, but I do try to help people no matter who they are. May all know the grace of God in truth.