Thursday, April 19, 2012

Papal Authority: Peter as the First Pope

St. Peter 6th C.

Some people don't believe that Jesus meant for the bishop of Rome, that is, the Pope, to be the head of His church. They think that when Christ said "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and to you I will give the keys to Heaven," He didn't really mean that Peter and the popes after him are to be his vicars on earth. People say that the Catholic Church invented papal authority. So, my question would be, When did the Catholic Church invent papal authority?

Let's take a jog backwards through history, shall we? Hmm, I see before Pope Benedict XVI, there was Pope John Paul II. John Paul I, before him. Paul VI, before him. Oh gosh, with 265 popes from today extending all the way back to St. Peter, this could take all day, and it wouldn't tell us when exactly the church supposedly started making up this papal authority thing.
Pope chart available here.

Let's look at old writings. That's what we do when researching historic events, right? Either that, or we can take a trip with Doctor Who on the TARDIS. :)

A.D. 597- Here's a quote from a letter from Pope St. Gregory I to Bishop Eulogius of Alexandra. "Your most sweet holiness has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of St. Peter, prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors..." Oh dear! It sure sounds like papal authority, doesn't it? Guess the great conspiracy has already taken root by that time. Maybe we'll look earlier in history for some sign that these popes weren't really popes.

A.D. 367 - St. Optatus of Milevis wrote, "You cannot deny that you know that upon Peter first in the city of Rome was bestowed the episcopal cathedra, on which he sat, the head of all the apostles (for which reason he was called Cephas), that in this one cathedra, unity should be preserved by all..." Oh my! Another vote for papal authority. It's funny, because I've heard other more recent (protestant) explanations about Simon-Peter's naming. But that's a tributary I won't travel in this post, but you can go to this CatholicAnswers site to learn more about that.

A.D. 189 - St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote this in, Against Heresies. This is a long quote, but I'll give the key phrases. "...Tradition universally known Church founded and organized at Rome...For it is a matter of necessity that every church agree with this church, on account of its preeminent authority..." I don't even need to comment. It's pretty clear.

A.D.80 The Shepherd of Hermas. "Therefore shall you write two little books and send one to Clement [Bishop of Rome] and one to Grapte. Clement shall then send it to the cities abroad, because that is his duty."

And now I'm looking at Acts of the Apostles and seeing clearly that Peter is the leader of the apostles. It would be tedious to highlight each passage that points to this. Now, obviously Jesus knew Peter wouldn't live forever, so he had to pass on the keys. I mean, notice how the apostles took it upon themselves to replace Judas (Acts 1). Unless you're going to toss out all of Acts, you're going to have to admit that Jesus kept the church alive though the apostles with Peter as the head.

For me, all the evidence points to the fact that the early Christians felt Jesus intended papal authority, and that when Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah: flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee also, that you are Cephas, and on this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it" (The Diatesseron 23 [A.D. 170]) he meant for Peter to be His right hand man in His church on earth.

For more information see Jimmy Akin's book The Fathers Know Best and, especially this page or this one, but also search around that site. You'll read stuff by people way smarter and better educated than myself. I'm just a Catholic blogger in love with Jesus and truth. :)


  1. thank you! I just forwarded the link to the book to my husband. two weeks ago he did a Men's ACTS retreat and the first thing to me was, "I'm now 100% Catholic." and he also confessed that he's been praying for my conversion to the protestant church.

  2. Oh wow! Praise God. :) You both will really like this book, I think. It's my go to reference book and I enjoy just reading sections randomly. Reading this, I was blown away because you can really see that the first Christians were surely Catholic in all of their views on life and the sacraments.

  3. Thanks for dropping by Timmerie! :)