The Papacy

The Papacy is the office and jurisdiction of the Pope. The Bishop of Rome had always been recognized as first among the patriarchs, and all these things conspired to justify exceptional pretensions on his part to the quasi-imperial authority. With the final fall of the Western Empire, the pope took over the ancient title of Pontifex Maximus which the pagan emperors had held, and so became the supreme sacrificial priest of the Roman tradition. Clinging tenaciously to this secular possession of the title of Pontifex Maximus, the papacy had long since abandoned its appointed task of achieving the Kingdom of Heaven. It was preoccupied with the revival of Roman ascendancy on earth, which it conceived of as its inheritance. It had become a political body, using the faith and needs of simple men to forward its schemes and more interested in temporal power than spiritual.

Simon was named Peter from what he said, not because of who he became. The rock is the statement that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. We have all been given the keys to the kingdom, not just the successors of Peter. The problem is that most Christians are not able to stand on the promises through misinterpretaion of what Jesus said. The fact is that those that wish to be exalted will be debased and no one is the head of the church but Jesus.

A question had come up about 150 concerning the date of Easter. The East celebrated one day, the West another. Later in the 2nd century, Victor, Bishop of Rome, decided to settle the question by excommunicating the Asian churches, presumably on the grounds that the authority of the Roman Bishop was superior to that of all other. In any event the Asian churches accepted Victor's date and the excommunication was lifted.

Everywhere, Bishops controlled the churches, but who should control the Bishops? The presiding Bishops in certain cities soon became to be called "metropolitans", then "patriarchs" There were patriarchs at Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople and Rome. The Roman Bishop took the title of “papa, father," contrary to the precepts of Jesus and afterward modified into Pope. The question finally narrowed down to the choice between the patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope at Rome, as head of the church. Rome asserted apostolic authority for its claim, the tradition that Peter was first Bishop of Rome, whether this is true or false is only open to conjecture.

Roman Bishops made the most of the Petrine tradition. They interpreted a passage in Matthew to mean that Jesus had founded his Church upon Peter and had entrusted to him alone the "keys to the kingdom of heaven". This, they insisted, made Peter supreme among the apostles. And since each Bishop of Rome was the successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome was supreme. And Simon Peter answered and said "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God". And Jesus answered .."upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Ignored by the Roman Church was the words of Jesus, “You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”

Dictatus Papae: Roman church established by God alone; Roman pontiff alone is rightfully called universal; the degradation of the papacy was greater in the 9th and 10th centuries than in the Renaissance. The Roman emperors, including Constantine continued to hold the office of Pontifex Maximus until 376 when Gratian, for Christian reasons refused it. He recognized the title and office as idolatrous and blasphemous. By this time, however, the Bishop of Rome had arisen to political power and prestige. Consequently, in 378, Demasus, Bishop of Rome, was elected the Pontifex Maximus - the official high priest of the mysteries. [it is said] The rock: This reply of Christ referred to Peter's primacy, and not to Peter's character.. Vat. II, the Church: For in virtue of his office, that is, as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme, and universal power over the church. The strength of the papacy lay in the faith men had in it, and it use that faith so carelessly as to enfeeble it. Rome has always had too much of the shrewdness of the priest and too little of the power of the prophet.

The title "pope" was not reserved in the west solely for the bishop of Rome until the 11th century but is now applied to all Bishops of Rome beginning with the first. The pope is declared to be the "the chief of all the holy priests of God" and Rome "the source of all priesthood." A landmark in the growth of the papacy's actual authority was the edict of Valentinian III, in 445, declaring the bishop of Rome to be the supreme head of the Western Church because of the primacy of Peter, the dignity of the city, and "the decree of a holy synod". Just what holy synod had voted this decree, the emperor didn't say. Leo I was perhaps the first bishop of Rome who can be called pope without reading back.

It is often said that "the mantle of the Caesars fell upon the Pope" during the days of the barbarian invasions. The word meant simply "father", and in the earlier period was used of any Bishop. As the papacy became a great political power and a big business, it found itself in need of ever-increasing revenues. By the end of the 13th century the papal tax system was admirably efficient with the result that the papacy acquired an unsavory reputation for greed, the supreme pastor of Christendom was supposed to lead Christ's flock but not to fleece it. Innocent, while admitting that the Pope was inferior to God, nevertheless held that he was something more than man: God spoke and acted through the Pope, hence whatever the pope proclaimed as law was divine law.

Whether in the hands of Pope, emperor, king, or community, the purpose of human government was to direct men into a single Christian path. There was no liberalism in the middle ages. Papacy being "the ghost of the Roman Empire sitting crowned upon the grave thereof." On Gregory VII: The Pope can be judged by no-one; The Roman church has never erred and never will err till the end of time; Roman church was founded by Christ alone; the pope alone can depose and restore bishops; he alone can make new laws, set up new Bishoprics, and divide old ones; he alone can call general councils and authorize canon law; he alone can revise his own judgments; he can depose emperors; all princes should kiss his feet; his legates, even though in inferior orders, have precedence over all Bishops; a duly ordained pope is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter.

From about the middle of the 12th century, the popes began for the first time to take the title the "Vicar of Christ" and to claim it for them alone. In the past, kings and priests had called themselves that, but not the pope, this a title that filled the need that could support a universal authority without ambiguity. By the 7th century the theory of papal primacy in the church was fairly well established in the west. However the popes from 555 to 752 accepted the idea of imperial tutelage. The theoretical basis for papal power lay in the claims of the bishop of Rome to be the Vicar of Christ on earth and given powerful expression by Innocent I (409-417), Leo I (440-461), and Gregory I (590-604). The theory of papal primacy was not fully realized in actual fact however, until Innocent III (1198-1216). To rebel against them was tantamount to rebellion against God.

To the Catholic contention 'where Peter or his successor is, there is the Church,' the Protestant stoutly replies 'where Christ is, there is the church,' The Pentecostal would say 'where Jesus is, there am I.' The foundation-stone of the papal supremacy was Rome itself. Rome was what no other city has ever been-the capital of the whole civilized world, it was moreover, the center of the civil and military government of the Empire. The Roman Church was an apostolic one, the only Western Church which could claim that title at all and could boast of two great apostles. Besides this, in early days, the Roman Church was always orthodox. It was not a church of great literary fame, but it held fast to "the faith once delivered to the saints." When heretics came to Rome to further their views, their opinions were rejected by the stern orthodoxy of the Roman church, and the news of this, spreading over the Christian world, tended to increase the influence of the Bishops of Rome. Tertullian - What a happy church is that on which the apostles poured out all their doctrine with blood.
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