Rocking the Roman Rock

How many times have readers seen Christian writers address the oft-repeated Catholic dogma that Peter was the rock upon which Christ built His church? This is an issue frequently raised by RCC apologists, who point to Matthew 16:18 as “proof” that this is so.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.--Matthew 16:18

Does the Catechism support this position? Sure it does. After all, if the Magisterium were to admit that Peter is not the rock upon which the Catholic Church was built, Catholic bishops and their popes would be looking for work.

552. Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;[Cf Mk 3:16; Mk 9:2 ; Lk 24:34 ; 1 Cor 15:5 .] Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Our Lord then declared to him: 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.'[Mt 16:18 .] Christ, the 'living Stone',[1 Pet 2:4 .] thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.[Cf. Lk 22:32.]-- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

In it's teaching on the hierarchical constitution of the Roman Catholic Church, the Catechism again identifies Peter as the rock of the church.

881. The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the 'rock' of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.[Cf. Mt 16:18-19 ; Jn 21:15-17 .] 'The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.'[LG 22 # 2.] This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope. -- CCC, Op. cit.

Given that Pope John Paul II, in promulgating the current Catechism, declared it to be “a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion,” what it teaches must be what Rome believes. (John Paul II, Fidei Depositum, apostolic constitution

Catholics claim that Peter is the rock. Some Non-Catholic writers argue that the rock to which Christ refers is Peter's confession of faith. Others believe Christ Himself to be the foundation stone upon which the True Church is built. All sides offer exegeses in support of their positions and call upon the work of respected theologians and even Church fathers to back them up. It appears that no amount of hermeneutic evidence or scholarly testimony can prevail against the self-serving teaching of the Magisterium as far as brainwashed rank and file Catholics are concerned. They point to their Catechism and smugly declare, "There's our proof."

If what the Catechism teaches is Catholic truth that all the Romish faithful are to accept by faith, then it is easy to understand why so many Catholic apologists, laymen and even religious seem to be confused. Above are quoted two passages from the Catechism that clearly declare Peter to be the rock upon which the Catholic Church was built. How, then, are the Catholic faithful to understand this passage of the same catechism?

424. Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'[Mt 16:16 .] On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.[Cf. Mt 16:18 ; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4 3: PL 54,150 - 152; 51,1: PL 54, 309B; 62, 2: PL 54, 350-351; 83, 3: PL 54, 431-432.] 'To preach. . . the unsearchable riches of Christ'[Eph 3:8 .]-- CCC, Op. cit. [My emphasis]

Here we see that even the mighty and, it is claimed, infallible Magisterium is confused as to who or what was the rock upon which the Church was built. How is it possible that the Roman Catholic Church could present as dogmas of the Catholic faith two opposing teachings? Ask any RCC apologist and he likely will say that it is not possible.

In her efforts to maintain absolute control over the minds and beliefs of those wearing Roman chains, The bishops of Mother Church gathered at Trent declared that only she has authority to interpret Scripture.

And as the things which the holy Synod of Trent decreed for the good of souls concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture, in order to curb rebellious spirits, have been wrongly explained by some, we, renewing the said decree, declare this to be their sense, that, in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy Mother Church hath held and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scripture; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the Sacred Scripture contrary to this sense, nor, likewise, contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.--Philip Schaff, Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, as found in The Creeds of Christendom, Vol II, Harper (1877), p. 242

This jealously guarded authority was confirmed by the princes of the church gathered in the First Vatican Council, convened by Pope Pius IX in 1869. The purpose of the council was to condemn contemporary errors and to define RCC doctrine. The Fourth Session {18 July 1870) produced the First dogmatic constitution on the church of Christ, wherein one might read:

6.Therefore, if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honour only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ himself: let him be anathema.

What that all means, in simple English, is explained by Cardinal Gibbons:

"The Catholic Church teaches that our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in the government of his whole church, and that same spiritual authority has always resided in the popes, or bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter. Consequently, to be true followers of Christ, all Christians, both among the clergy and laity, must be in communion with the See of Rome, where Peter rules in the person of his successor."--John Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, © 1980 TAN Books and Publishers, p. 78

Two doctrines were infallibly delivered by these two RCC councils:

1) Only the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to accurately interpret Scripture.

2) No one, not even the RCC herself, is to hold an interpretation contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

This is of major importance, for the RCC officially has committed and bound itself, through two ecumenical counsels, to the principle of unanimous consent relative to its teachings and its interpretation of Scripture. In other words, Rome has given us a standard, an authoritative Roman Catholic standard, that we may use in judging the RCC.

This is where Rome stumbles, for by the very test she established, the RCC's 'particular' doctrine concerning the rock upon which the church is built fails to measure up. A number early church fathers disagreed with the Magisterium's understanding of Matthew 16:18; some argued that Peter's confession of faith is the rock. Other Christian theologians believe that Christ Himself is the foundation stone as do I:

Hilary of Portier:

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."--(Philip Schaff, editor, The Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers Series 2, Vol 9, St. Hilary of Potier, De Trinitate, Book 2, p. 259

Augustine of Hippo:

"When the Lord asked them who He was, and whom did men say that He was, the disciples made answer to Him, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And this he heard from the Lord: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." See what praises follow this faith. "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." What meaneth, "Upon this rock I will build my Church"? Upon this faith; upon this that has been said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Upon this rock," saith He, "I will build my Church." Mighty praise! "--Philip Schaff, editor,The Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers Series 1, Vol 7., Augustine, , p. 1028

Something else from Augustine:

"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

". . . This is that firm and immovable faith upon which, as upon the rock whose surname you bear, the Church is founded. Against this the gates of hell, the mouths of heretics, the machines of demons – for they will attack – will not prevail. They will take up arms but they will not conquer." --Homily on the Transfiguration, Migne, J.P. (Ed.) Patrologia Greca., Vol. 96, Col. 554-555


Faith, then, is the foundation of the Church, for it was not said of Peter's flesh, but of his faith, that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' But his confession of faith conquered hell. And this confession did not shut out one heresy, for, since the Church like a good ship is often buffeted by many waves, the foundation of the Church should prevail against all heresies.--The Fathers of the Church, © 1963 Catholic University

Nilus of Ancyra:

Cephas, whose name is interpreted 'rock.' This is the highest of the apostles Peter, also called Cephas, who furnished in his confession of faith the foundation for the building of the Church.--Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, Migne, J.P. (Ed.), Patrologia Greca,, Vol 87(ii), Col 1693.

Gregory of Nyssa:

The warmth of our praises does not extend to Simon insofar as he was a catcher of fish; rather it extends to his firm faith, which is at the same time the foundation of the whole Church.--Pangyric on St. Stephen, , Migne, J.P. (Ed.) Patrologia Greca, Vol. 46, Col 733


"The one foundation which the apostolic architect laid is out Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this stable and firm foundation, which has itself been laid on solid ground, the Church of Christ is built. . . For the Church was founded upon a rock . . . upon this rock the Lord established his Church; and the apostle Peter received his name from this rock (Mt.16:18)--Commentary on Matthew 7:25M.P.L., Vol. 26, Col 51. Cited by Karlfried Froehlich, Formen der Auslegung von Matthaus 16, 13-18 im lateinischen Mittelalter, Dissertation (Tubingen, 1963, Footnote #200, p. 49

"The rock is Christ, Who gave to His apostles, that they also should be called rocks, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church."--Commentary on Amos vi. 12-13. Cited by J. Waterworth S.J.., A Commentary, London: Thomas Richardson, 1871, p. 111-112

John of Damascus:

This rock was Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the Lord, for Paul clearly teaches us: 'The rock was Christ'(1 Cor. 10.4)."--Homily on the Transfiguration, Migne, J.P. (Ed.) Patrologia Greca, Vol. 96, Col. 548)


'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, Psalm 45.5, Migne, J.P. (Ed.) Patrologia Latina,., Vol. 70, Col. 330.)

Basil of Seleucia:

. . . 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.'--Oratio XXV.4, , Migne, J.P. (Ed.) Patrologia Greca, Vol 85, Col. 296-297


. . .the Church of God, and it's 'foundation' is in the first place, that unspeakably solid rock on which it is founded, as Scripture says: 'Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'; and elsewhere: 'The rock, moreover, was Christ.' For, as the Apostle indicates with these words: 'No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.' Then, too, after the Savior himself, you may rightly judge the foundations of the Church to be the words of the prophets and apostles, in accordance with the statement of the Apostle: 'Built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Chist Jesus himself being the cornerstone."--Commentary on the Psalms, , Migne, J.P. (Ed.) Patrologia Greca, Vol 23, Col. 173, 176)

There are plenty more where those came from, but the above are more than sufficient to give the lie to the fraudulent assertion that the early church fathers were in unanimous agreement with what is now the RCC interpretation of Matthew 16:18. The writings of the fathers are full of conflicting theology. I see no such glaring contradictions in the Scriptures.

How difficult for the Catholic apologists, who are required to hold to the official RCC party line. How can they do that, when the those doctrines of the Magisterium not infrequently are in conflict with themselves?

How much easier to seek doctrinal truth in the one truly infallible source, the Holy Scriptures?

As has been demonstrated above, several of the early church fathers interpreted of Matthew 16:18 as saying that the rock upon which the Church, the True Church, was not Peter, but either his confession of faith or Christ Himself. Why did the Magisterium decide to declare Peter the fisherman the rock upon which the RCC would be built and first in an uninterrupted line of popes? Could it be because that interpretation was most pleasing to and useful for the power-hungry men who lusted to make the Body of Christ their personal fief? I reckon so.

When was the last time that YOU read in your Bible?

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