Peter's Successor? Give Me A Break!

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -- (Hebrews 4:12 )

The Roman Catholic Church delights in pointing to its popes as links in an unbroken chain of "apostolic succession" going all the way back to Peter's selection – according to the RCC's own self-serving and quite erroneous interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19 – by Christ Himself to be the "Rock upon which the Church is founded." Those who would speak for Rome often fall back on the "authority" of the popes, which they invariably date from Peter's mythical appointment. When pressed, the Catholic apologist likely will call upon the writings of Early Church Fathers who, they claim, unanimously supported the primacy of the Roman bishop over all the church. They point to letters written by these ""fathers" in support of their claims. One of their most favored arguments is an argument from silence, when they declare that none of the Early Church Fathers, some of whom personally knew the Apostles, ever disputed the primacy of the Roman Bishop. Like so many of the claims of Rome and those who parrot her propaganda, these are lies.

Let us look first at Matthew 16:18-19, the foundation stone of all claims to papal primacy. The Magisterium declares that in this passage, Christ Himself renames Peter, declaring him to be the rock upon which the church will be built.

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. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. --Matthew 16:18-19

Is Christ here actually promoting Peter to headship among the Apostles and, by extension, the entire church? Of course not. Certainly Peter is a major player in the Gospels and the early history of the Church, as recorded in Acts. However, having his name frequently mentioned is not justification for creating a dogma declaring him to be leader and de facto ruler over all the fledgling church. Yet, to consider him so is absolutely imperative if the Roman Church is to find support for its claims to be the one true church founded by Christ.

When we read Matthew 16:18 in context [Matthew 15:32-16:19], we see a different picture than the one Rome paints. Jesus, in a miracle of multiplication, had fed a multitude from only a handful of fish and a few loaves of bread. He took ship to Magdala, apparently to win free of the crowds who were following Him, anxious for another meal. The Pharisees and Sadducees found Him and asked for some sign from Heaven. Jesus reproved them and left.

When His disciples showed up, they discovered they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus warned them not to be contaminated with the "leaven" of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples, still not getting the picture, thought they had been rebuked because they forgot the bread. Jesus lamented their lack of faith, reminding them of the miraculous events they had seen where Jesus twice fed multitudes with but a few loaves and fishes. He made clear to them He was not talking of physical bread, but the false doctrine of those religious leaders.

They traveled on, reaching the shores of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asked the disciples who people thought He was. He was informed that some thought Him to be John the Baptist, or Elijah or even Jeremiah. At that, He asked who the disciples thought He was, at which Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." At this, Jesus blessed Peter, saying this revelation had not come from man but from God Himself.

Christ then uttered the pun, the misinterpretation of which has been the foundation stone of the papacy for centuries:

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. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. -- Matthew 16:18-19

In as much as this passage has been exegeted, studied and masticated innumerable times, I am going to but post the thoughts of Dr. A.T. Robertson, theologian, seminary professor of New Testament interpretation and world-renowned Greek scholar:

{And I also say unto thee} (|k'agô de soi legô|). "The emphasis is not on 'Thou art Peter' over against 'Thou art the Christ,' but on |Kagô|: 'The Father hath revealed to thee one truth, and I also tell you another" (McNeile). Jesus calls Peter here by the name that he had said he would have (#Joh 1:42). Peter (|Petros|) is simply the Greek word for Cephas (Aramaic). Then it was prophecy, now it is fact. In verse #17 Jesus addresses him as "Simon Bar-Jonah," his full patronymic (Aramaic) name. But Jesus has a purpose now in using his nickname "Peter" which he had himself given him. Jesus makes a remarkable play on Peter's name, a pun in fact, that has caused volumes of controversy and endless theological strife. {On this rock} (|epi tautęi tęi petrâi|) Jesus says, a ledge or cliff of rock like that in #7:24 on which the wise man built his house. |Petros| is usually a smaller detachment of the massive ledge. But too much must not be made of this point since Jesus probably spoke Aramaic to Peter which draws no such distinction (|Kęphâ|). What did Jesus mean by this word-play?

{I will build my church} (|oikodomęsô mou tęn ekklęsian|). It is the figure of a building and he uses the word |ekklęsian| which occurs in the New Testament usually of a local organization, but sometimes in a more general sense. What is the sense here in which Jesus uses it? The word originally meant "assembly" (#Ac 19:39), but it came to be applied to an "unassembled assembly" as in #Ac 8:3 for the Christians persecuted by Saul from house to house. "And the name for the new Israel, |ekklęsia|, in His mouth is not an anachronism. It is an old familiar name for the congregation of Israel found in Deut. (#De 18:16; 23:2) and Psalms, both books well known to Jesus" (Bruce). It is interesting to observe that in #Ps 89:1ff most of the important words employed by Jesus on this occasion occur in the LXX text. So |oikodomęsô| in #Ps 89:5; |ekklęsia| in #Ps 89:6; |katischuô| in #Ps 89:22; |Christos| in #Ps 89:39,52; |hâidęs| in #Ps 89:49 (|ek cheiros hâidou|). If one is puzzled over the use of "building" with the word |ekklęsia| it will be helpful to turn to #1Pe 2:5. Peter, the very one to whom Jesus is here speaking, writing to the Christians in the five Roman provinces in Asia (#1Pe 1:1), says: "You are built a spiritual house" (|oikodomeisthe oikos pneumatikos|). It is difficult to resist the impression that Peter recalls the words of Jesus to him on this memorable occasion. Further on (#1Pe 2:9) he speaks of them as an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, showing beyond controversy that Peter's use of building a spiritual house is general, not local. This is undoubtedly the picture in the mind of Christ here in #16:18. It is a great spiritual house, Christ's Israel, not the Jewish nation, which he describes. What is the rock on which Christ will build his vast temple? Not on Peter alone or mainly or primarily. Peter by his confession was furnished with the illustration for the rock on which His church will rest. It is the same kind of faith that Peter has just confessed. The perpetuity of this church general is guaranteed.

{The gates of Hades} (|pulai hâidou|) {shall not prevail against it} (|ou katischusousin autęs|). Each word here creates difficulty. Hades is technically the unseen world, the Hebrew Sheol, the land of the departed, that is death. Paul uses |thanate| in #1Co 15:55 in quoting #Ho 13:14 for |hâidę|. It is not common in the papyri, but it is common on tombstones in Asia Minor, "doubtless a survival of its use in the old Greek religion" (Moulton and Milligan, _Vocabulary_). The ancient pagans divided Hades (|a| privative and |idein|, to see, abode of the unseen) into Elysium and Tartarus as the Jews put both Abraham's bosom and Gehenna in Sheol or Hades (cf. #Lu 16:25). Christ was in Hades (#Ac 2:27,31), not in Gehenna. We have here the figure of two buildings, the Church of Christ on the Rock, the House of Death (Hades). "In the Old Testament the 'gates of Hades' (Sheol) never bears any other meaning (#Isa 38:10; Wisd. 16:3; 3Macc. 5:51) than death," McNeile claims. See also #Ps 9:13; 107:18; Job 38:17 (|pulai thanatou pulôroi hâidou|). It is not the picture of Hades _attacking_ Christ's church, but of death's possible victory over the church. "The |ekklęsia| is built upon the Messiahship of her master, and death, the gates of Hades, will not prevail against her by keeping Him imprisoned. It was a mysterious truth, which He will soon tell them in plain words (verse #21); it is echoed in #Ac 2:24,31" (McNeile). Christ's church will prevail and survive because He will burst the gates of Hades and come forth conqueror. He will ever live and be the guarantor of the perpetuity of His people or church. The verb |katischuô| (literally have strength against, |ischuô| from |ischus| and |kat-|) occurs also in #Lu 21:36; 23:23. It appears in the ancient Greek, the LXX, and in the papyri with the accusative and is used in the modern Greek with the sense of gaining the mastery over. The wealth of imagery in #Mt 16:18 makes it difficult to decide each detail, but the main point is clear. The |ekklęsia| which consists of those confessing Christ as Peter has just done will not cease. The gates of Hades or bars of Sheol will not close down on it. Christ will rise and will keep his church alive. _Sublime Porte_ used to be the title of Turkish power in Constantinople.

{The Keys of the kingdom} (|tas kleidas tęs basileias|). Here again we have the figure of a building with keys to open from the outside. The question is raised at once if Jesus does not here mean the same thing by "kingdom" that he did by "church" in verse #18. In #Re 1:18; 3:7 Christ the Risen Lord has "the keys of death and of Hades." He has also "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" which he here hands over to Peter as "gatekeeper" or "steward" (|oikonomos|) provided we do not understand it as a special and peculiar prerogative belonging to Peter. The same power here given to Peter belongs to every disciple of Jesus in all the ages. Advocates of papal supremacy insist on the primacy of Peter here and the power of Peter to pass on this supposed sovereignty to others. But this is all quite beside the mark. We shall soon see the disciples actually disputing again (#Mt 18:1) as to which of them is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven as they will again (#20:21) and even on the night before Christ's death. Clearly neither Peter nor the rest understood Jesus to say here that Peter was to have supreme authority. What is added shows that Peter held the keys precisely as every preacher and teacher does. To "bind" (|dęsęis|) in rabbinical language is to forbid, to "loose" (|lusęis|) is to permit. Peter would be like a rabbi who passes on many points. Rabbis of the school of Hillel "loosed" many things that the school of Schammai "bound." The teaching of Jesus is the standard for Peter and for all preachers of Christ. Note the future perfect indicative (|estai dedemenon, estai lelumenon|), a state of completion. All this assumes, of course, that Peter's use of the keys will be in accord with the teaching and mind of Christ. The binding and loosing is repeated by Jesus to all the disciples (#18:18). Later after the Resurrection Christ will use this same language to all the disciples (#Joh 20:23), showing that it was not a special prerogative of Peter. He is simply first among equals, _primus inter pares_, because on this occasion he was spokesman for the faith of all. It is a violent leap in logic to claim power to forgive sins, to pronounce absolution, by reason of the technical rabbinical language that Jesus employed about binding and loosing. Every preacher uses the keys of the kingdom when he proclaims the terms of salvation in Christ. The proclamation of these terms when accepted by faith in Christ has the sanction and approval of God the Father. The more personal we make these great words the nearer we come to the mind of Christ. The more ecclesiastical we make them the further we drift away from him. -- A.T. Robertson, Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Chap. 16, verse 18

So much for the false allegation that Christ named Peter the first leader of the Christian church and gave to him and his successors authority over that church. The Roman Church and those who speak for her claim that this mythical position and authority of Peter's was unanimously accepted by the early church fathers, some of whom personally knew members of the Twelve. Is that fact? Or is it but another lie presented as fact by the infallible Magisterium?

Looking first at the biblical record, there is no mention in Scripture of Peter having ever traveled to Rome, though there are indications that he may have. In the Acts of the Apostles, which addresses the history of the early church right up to the second year of Paul's Roman captivity, we see no mention of Peter's having traveled to Rome, or assuming the See of the Bishop of Rome. There are those who argue that 1 Peter was written from Rome, given the mention of Mark (5-13), who was known to be in Rome at the time of Paul's first imprisonment. Peter's reference to being in "Babylon" also lends support to this hypothesis, given Rome's position then as leader of the pagan world. Second Peter seems to have been written just before Peter's death. Peter probably died between 64 AD and 66 AD; if he had been in Rome during Paul's second imprisonment, it seems likely Paul would have mentioned him in Second Timothy, which he wrote in 67 AD.

Allowing the likelihood that Peter did indeed travel to Rome and even was martyred there, can this be the basis for declaring him to have been the first Bishop of Rome – the first of an unbroken line of apostolic succession? Schaff presents this argument against Peter's being the first in the line of popes:

Of a residence of Peter in Rome the New Testament contains no trace, unless, as the church fathers and many modern expositors think, Rome is intended by the mystic "Babylon" mentioned in 1 Pet. 5:13 (as in the Apocalypse), but others think of Babylon on the Euphrates, and still others of Babylon on the Nile (near the present Cairo, according to the Coptic tradition). The entire silence of the Acts of the Apostles 28, respecting Peter, as well as the silence of Paul in his epistle to the Romans, and the epistles written from Rome during his imprisonment there, in which Peter is not once named in the salutations, is decisive proof that he was absent from that city during most of the time between the years 58 and 63. A casual visit before 58 is possible, but extremely doubtful, in view of the fact that Paul labored independently and never built on the foundation of others; hence he would probably not have written his epistle to the Romans at all, certainly not without some allusion to Peter if he had been in any proper sense the founder of the church of Rome. After the year 63 we have no data from the New Testament, as the Acts close with that year, and the interpretation of "Babylon" at the end of the first Epistle of Peter is doubtful, though probably meant for Rome. The martyrdom of Peter by crucifixion was predicted by our Lord, John 21:18, 19, but no place is mentioned.

We conclude then that Peter's presence in Rome before 63 is made extremely doubtful, if not impossible, by the silence of Luke and Paul, when speaking of Rome and writing from Rome, and that His presence after 63 can neither be proved nor disproved from the New Testament, and must be decided by post-biblical testimonies. -- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol I, Chap 4, Part 25 The Later Labors of Peter, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910)

Note: Just a bit farther down the page is a section called "The Peter of Fiction." It is short and well worth reading.

Are there other considerations which militate against the RCC position? Well, Peter was married. His wife traveled with him and was martyred before him. Catholic doctrine declares the Holy Spirit protects the [Roman Catholic] church from error. Given Peter's marital status, one wonders if he ever have been pope given the likely prejudice against wedded bishops which the Magisterium later institutionalized by infallibly declaring that Roman Catholic clerics must be celibate.

The Spanish Council of Elvira (295-302) was the first to formally establish celibacy as law for clerics within the church (Canon xxxiii.) This was the focus of much wrangling between the Eastern and Western divisions of the church. The Council of Nicea (the first ecumenical council, convened in 325 AD), modified somewhat the rules concerning clerics cohabitating with women.

CANON IV. The cohabitation of women with bishops, presbyters, and deacons prohibited on account of their celibacy. We decree that bishops shall not live with women; nor shall a presbyter who is a widower; neither shall they escort them; nor be familiar with them, nor gaze upon them persistently. And the same decree is made with regard to every celibate priest, and the same concerning such deacons as have no wives. And this is to be the case whether the woman be beautiful or ugly, whether a young girl or beyond the age of puberty, whether great in birth, or an orphan taken out of charity under pretext of bringing her up. For the devil with such arms slays religious, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and incites them to the fires of desire. But if she be an old woman, and of advanced age, or a sister, or mother, or aunt, or grandmother, it is permitted to live with these because such persons are free from all suspicion of scandal. -- Henry R. Percival, ed., The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, Vol XIV of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, edd. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, (repr. Edinburgh: T&T Clark; Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988)

I find this significant. According to the account of Scripture, Rome's alleged first pope was married and, as Romish doctrine maintains, was infallible in matters of faith and morals, at least under certain conditions which to this day are not clearly established or understood. Certainly, one should think that the issue of clerical celibacy falls within the realm of faith and morals, yet equally infallible church councils declare it obligatory that those in the upper echelons of the RCC must be celibate – in fact must not even have mulieres subintroductas sharing their homes, no matter how chaste their purpose. Later, of course, we see how careful later infallible popes were to keep to the spirit and intent of this proscription. When reading the following, it is important to bear in mind that RCC doctrine declares that a priest's moral state has no effect on the sacraments he celebrates or bestows. Heh! I reckon it has to be that way, else who would have ordained all those corrupt clergymen in earlier years?

John XXII (1316-1334) permitted priests who paid a tax to keep their mistresses. He actually had a set table of fees for the absolution of any crime – from murder to incest to sodomy. That he was serious about his revenue programs is shown by the fact that he excommunicated 1 patriarch, 5 archbishops, 30 bishops and 146 abbots for not paying taxes to the pope. Sixtus IV (1471-1484) levied a tax on priests who kept mistresses and was the first to offer indulgences for the dead, thereby establishing a virtually infinite source of revenue. Alexander VI (1492-1503), who reportedly, at the tender age of 12, murdered his uncle, Pope Callistus II, was labeled "The Tiberius of Christian Rome" by Gibbons. He freed murderers for a price and appointed cardinals for a flat fee – after which he poisoned them to take possession of their goods and hasten job turn over.

Some of those called Vicarius Filii Dei indeed were lusty men. Sergius III (904-911), at the age of 45, seduced 15-year-old Marozia, mother of Theodora, in theLateran Palace. One of his sons is known to history as John XI. Pope John XII (955-963), a grandson of Sergius III and Marozia, became pope when he was 16. He slept with his mother and maintained a harem in the Lateran Palace. He died when an angry husband caught him inflagrante delicto and bashed in the back of his head with a hammer.

Benedict V (964) dishonored a young girl and fled to Constantinople, taking with him what he could carry of the treasury of St. Peter's. He was killed by a jealous husband and his corpse, riddled with over 100 dagger wounds, was dragged through the streets and dumped into a cesspool. Benedict VII 974-983 was caught in the act of adultery and killed by an outraged husband. Four months after he was chosen pope, a Roman crowd seized Leo III (795-816) and, accusing him of adultery, gouged out his eyes, cut off his tongue and imprisoned him in a monastery, from which he later escaped..

Boniface VIII (1294-1303), whom Dante called "The Black Beast," had a married woman and her daughter as his mistresses. That murderous pope Alexander VI 1492-1503 had incestuous relationships with his daughter, her mother and her grandmother. He is known to have fathered at least ten illegitimate children. (From one of my earlier posts)

How can Rome claim that men such as those mentioned above continued in the apostolate originally occupied by Peter? How can they ignore that Christ Himself selected not only Peter but all the original Twelve, including Judas, whose role was vital to His mission? How can they pay homage to such vile creatures by conferring on them such titles as Vicarius Filii Dei, Vicar of Christ? Ask yourselves, would Christ truly have chosen such men to lead His church? Would Christ be pleased to appoint such men His vicars on earth?

But let us move on to other arguments against Peter's primacy in the early church and his anchoring of an unbroken line of apostolic succession. Look to the account of the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-11), where Peter appears as nothing more than the first speaker and debater. James presided over that council, which fact is inconsistent with the claim that, from that moment in Matthew 16:18-19, he was universally recognized as the leader of the Christian church. Had Peter been the boss, as Rome claims he was, then reason dictates that he would have made an infallible and binding decision and there would have been no need for a council to decide the issue. That Peter's position was found to be wrong underscores that he certainly was not infallible, as the RCC claims her popes are when addressing matters such as this.

Turn to Galatians 2:11-14. Paul, the newest of the Apostles, openly rebuked Peter. Had the early church recognized Peter's supremacy, such an action would have been unthinkable and surely would have resulted in Paul's being called to account for his temerity.

Look to the pronouncements of the greatest of popes, from Leo I to Leo XIII. These guys do go on concerning their authority over all the bishops and all the churches. Peter, on the other hand, never does that. In fact, in his letters he exhibits great humility in writing to his "fellow elders" and to the whole of Christianity, to whom he refers as "clergy." I reckon Peter simply did not understand the reality of his situation. Or, perhaps he did.

When did the Romans begin to dream these dreams of empire? The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

"History bears complete testimony that from the earliest times the Roman Church has ever claimed the supreme leadership, and that that leadership has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church."

Does history so record? Actually, it was not until the last decade of the second century after Christ that the Roman church first flexed it's ecclesiastical muscles and claimed authority over all the other churches. From that time until the fall of the Roman Empire, every such claim made was repudiated, often scornfully. To this date, no part of the Eastern segment of the "Universal Church" has ever accepted that claim.

At the end of the first century, the Roman church, which existed outside the city, had a bishop and deacons. This was declared in a letter, attributed to Clement by tradition, it sent to the Corinthians. This letter was not, as claimed now by Rome, a papal document. It was simply a letter of admonition from one church to another.

By the time of Victor I (189-98), the Roman church had established its hopelessly flawed interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19. Victor, who was a close friend of the Roman Emperor's mistress, Marcia, called on this misreading of the Word to support the declaration of his "right" to rule over the churches of Asia Minor. As Eusebius tells us, the eastern bishops rejected this claim and bitterly reproached Victor. The issue had to do with the celebration of the Passover. The Asian churches wanted to keep to the Jewish reckoning of the date. Councils and synods were held all over the place to discuss the issue. The council held in Rome and presided over by Victor I, in company of other bodies, held that the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no day but the Lord's day. Victor and other bishops so informed the leaders of the Asian church. Eusebius records what happened next.

Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate. But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor. Among them was Irenaeus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord's day. He fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom . . . (Philip Schaff, Ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, VOL. 1; Eusebius, Church History, p. 325)

Seems to me that if the Christian church had universally accepted the Bishop of Rome as it's Christ-designated leader, the bishops of Asia Minor would not have dared to reject his declarations and rebuke him so strongly. Could the infallible Magisterium be in error on their spin on this segment of church history?

Tertullian, writing from Africa, makes ironical reference to this rejection of Rome's authority in Chapter I of his treatise On Chastity, where he refers to the pope's claims to be "the Supreme Pontiff, that is to say Bishop of Bishops." For some 50 years after Tertullian wrote these words, the Roman bishops were silent concerning their "supremacy" over the whole of the Christian church.

The popes Cornelius (251-253) and Stephen (254-7) resurrected this claim in their efforts to dictate to the bishops of the African church. Cyprian's response to such efforts has been as distorted by Roman apologists as is their corrupt interpretation of Scriptures. Cyprian referred to the Roman church as "the principal church" in acknowledgement of its location in the imperial city and as having been the center from which Africa was Christianized. The Magisterium's spin doctors jumped on this and continue to claim it demonstrates that Cyprian recognized Rome's claim to supremacy. Strange how they never tell of how Cyprian scornfully repudiated this claim (See his Letters LIV, LXVII and LXXII). Writing in the name of 80 bishops, Cyprian declares (Letter LXXII) quite clearly:

Tertullian, writing from Africa, makes ironical reference to this rejection of Rome's authority in Chapter I of his treatise On Chastity, where he refers to the pope's claims to be "the Supreme Pontiff, that is to say Bishop of Bishops." For some 50 years after Tertullian wrote these words, the Roman bishops were silent concerning their "supremacy" over the whole of the Christian church.

The popes Cornelius (251-253) and Stephen (254-7) resurrected this claim in their efforts to dictate to the bishops of the African church. Cyprian's response to such efforts has been as distorted by Roman apologists as is their corrupt interpretation of Scriptures. Cyprian referred to the Roman church as "the principal church" in acknowledgement of its location in the imperial city and as having been the center from which Africa was Christianized. The Magisterium's spin doctors jumped on this and continue to claim it demonstrates that Cyprian recognized Rome's claim to supremacy. Strange how they never tell of how Cyprian scornfully repudiated this claim (See his Letters LIV, LXVII and LXXII). Writing in the name of 80 bishops, Cyprian declares (Letter LXXII) quite clearly:

"None of us regards himself as the Bishop of Bishops or seeks by tyrannical threats to compel his colleagues to obey him."

In the year 340, Pope Julius again attempted to give orders to the Bishops of the Eastern church, who were not at all receptive. In fact, their response was "full of irony and not devoid of serious threats" (Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, III, 8).

In 382, Pope Damasus tried once again to assert his authority over the Eastern church, with essentially the same results. (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, V. 9) With that, the Roman church essentially abandoned its attempts to exert control over the Eastern church and concentrated its efforts on consolidating its claims in the West.

Catholic apologists love to point to the writing of Augustine as declaring the legitimacy of Rome's claim to supremacy over all the church. How many times have you read the words, "Rome has spoken?" Contrary to what the Roman mythologists would have us believe, Augustine here was not recognizing Rome's authority. Quite the contrary, he was merely acknowledging that the issue was closed because both the African and Roman churches had come to the same conclusion. There simply was nothing in dispute between the two bodies. Continuing, Augustine and his African bishops rejected papal claims of authority every bit as forcefully as had Cyprian and the bishops of the Eastern church (Labbe, Collectio Conciliorum, 419, 424).

The Vandals made a trainwreck of the African church and, in 445, Pope Leo I attempted to establish his authority over the church in southern Gaul. The response of Hilary of Arles, leader of that church, so shocked the Pope that he described (Letters, X, 3) it as having been couched "in language which no layman even should dare to use and no priest to hear."

Leo I did not give up. He managed to get Valentinian, the last of the Roman emperors, issue an edict granting to the Roman See authority over all the church. But even this "authority" was insufficient to establish Rome's authority over the Eastern church, as demonstrated by Leo's inability to block the 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon from declaring Leo's rival in Constantinople to to be officially equal in authority to the Bishop of Rome.

The times were hard in Europe, but the Papacy for a time flourished. By the reign of Gregory I, the Papacy had become the richest owner of land and slaves in all of Europe. Quite a contrast to the humility we see in Peter's letters. Despite the Lombard annexation of a large portion of the papal estates, the power and wealth of the Roman See continued to grow and flourish. Rome may not have been doing much of a job of protecting and sharing the Gospel, but she sure was a successful commercial enterprise in the Dark Ages. By the end of the 8th Century, the "temporal power" – read "possessions" – of the Papacy had reached their greatest extent. Then things really began to go downhill.

The death of Nicholas I, in 867 A.D., ushered in a period of uncommon barbarity known as the Rule of the Whores. For the next 150 years, with but few exceptions, the Holy See was occupied by a succession of incredibly corrupt men. All thoughts of ruling over the universal church were forgotten as some 30 popes concentrated on satisfying their worldly lusts. Things got so bad that a group of reformed monks called upon German rulers of the Holy Roman Empire to intervene. And intervene they did, with one of the emperors (Hildebrand) even becoming a pope (Gregory VII).

In his Rationalists Encyclopedia, former Roman Catholic monk Joseph McCabe, writes:

The thirteenth century , which Innocent inaugurated, is one of the loosest (sexually) in history, and it reeked with cruelty and injustice, especially in Italy. Its Papal history ended in the extraordinary scandal of the pontificate of Boniface VIII (1294-1303), and this was followed by the depravity of the Papal Court at Avignon (1309-77), the disgusting Popes of the Great Schism (1378-1414), under whom even the best Catholic historian, Pastor, says, "the prevailing immorality exceeded anything that had been witnessed since the tenth century" (History of the Popes, I, 97), and the Popes of the Renaissance (1450-1650), when, considering the new enlightenment of Europe, the Papacy sank to a lower depth than ever and, except during a few short periods, remained in its corruption longer than ever.

Ask yourself, would Jesus have chosen these men to rule over His church?

The Roman spin doctors love to paint glorious pictures of those who occupied the Holy See in Rome. Graciously, they acknowledge there were indeed a few bad apples in the papal barrel. After all, they remind us, the Roman church has never demanded impeccability of its popes. The other heathen religions with which Rome, in her ecumenical fervor, seeks to align have no history of being led my such monstrously corrupt and vile men as have claimed to be links in the unbroken apostolic succession. Look to Brahmanism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism and others. You will find no accounts to parallel those of Rome in the areas of corruption or the acquisition of high office.

Roman martyrology confers the title "Martyr" on virtually every pope who held that office up to the year 310, though Catholic historians such as Duchesne assert that at most only about two of 30 were martyred. Every pope but one right up to the year 530 A.D has been declared a "Saint", though we known almost nothing of all but three of these men.

Turning to McCabe again, I offer his evaluation of the first 260 men who sat on the throne of the roman church:

We may sum up the biography of the Popes (and the "holiness" of the Papacy) by saying that, of the 260 Popes one-fourth are of unknown character and half the remainder had grave defects of character. At least thirty were sexually loose men (in half a dozen cases paederasts) and a dozen are credibly charged with murder and mutilation. If moreover, we judge them from the Catholic point of view, more than one half of the 200 Popes, from the year 300 to 1650, were notoriously guilty of vices that are held to be worse than sexual irregularities: simony, nepotism, and protecting the corruption of the Papal Court and the clergy.

Those of you who are under the yoke of Catholicism, consider what you are being required to believe. Rome asserts that the authority of the Pope extends over all the Christian church. Further, she declares that submission to papal authority is a necessary component of the salvific process.

We, moreover, proclaim, declare and pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human being to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam, November 18, 1302)

The popes love power and have gone to great lengths to acquire and increase their power.

We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See, and the Roman Pontiff, hold the primacy throughout the entire world; and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and that he is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him in blessed Peter by Our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church; just as is contained in the acts of the ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons." (Pope Eugene IV, Papal Bull Laetentur Coeli, July 6, 1439)

Innocent III (1198-216), who turned Rome into a clerical state and considered himself "Lord of the World," called himself Universal Bishop (A title repudiated by earlier popes). He promulgated more laws than all the preceding 50 popes combined, yet was bound by none of them. Declaring himself the "Foundation of All Christianity," he proclaimed that "Every cleric must obey the pope, even if he commands what is evil, for no one may judge the pope. (My emphasis). Reversing this infallible declaration, Innocent IV (1243-1254) declared – no doubt also infallibly – that the faithful are not to obey any papal utterance that is heretical or tends to divide the church. (from one of my earlier postings)

See how it works? The Pope rules over all the Christian church because the Pope says he does. Can't argue with logic like that. But what gives the Roman Bishop such great authority? Could it be, as Innocent IV (1243-54) declared, the pope is Christ on earth Praesentia Corporalis Christi?

And does not such a declaration, issued by one of the many infallible popes, lay the foundation for yet another conundrum? Scripture tells us that Christ is in Glory, seated at the Father's right hand:

Romans 8:34, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."

Ephesians 1:17-23, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."

What questions. From Scripture we know that the risen Christ is seated at the right hand of God, acting as our advocate and attending to the business of the Father. On the other hand, an infallible Roman pope has announced the pope to be the corporal presence of Christ on earth. And to make matters more complicated, Roman dogma, as codified in canon law and the catechism, teaches that Christ is called down from Heaven at the command of a million priests, millions of times a day to reside in a cookie on millions of altars or locked in millions tabernacles or being dissolved in the gullets of tens of millions of Catholic communicants. Where does truth lie? I say it is to be found in the Word of God, not the self-serving deceits of Rome.

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