Papal Infallibility and Primacy

Originally posted 3/6/2009.

The pre-schism Eastern and Western Fathers alike, starting with the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, teach that (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them; (7) this authoritative primacy of Rome is permanent and non-transferable; (8) communion with Rome is necessary. So too, with the pre-schism Ecumenical Councils, especially Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople III, and Nicaea II. The same was not said and cannot be said of the other four ancient sees.{1} If (7) is not stated in so many words in many of these Patristic quotations, it is implied. From these principles it is no wonder that the doctrine of papal infallibility was proclaimed. These teachings are incompatible with Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology; this demonstrates, in another field, the Patristic consensus against the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In “From Constantinople to Rome,” Fr. Brian W. Harrison shows that without the papacy to lead the Magisterium in the ways described by Lumen Gentium §25, the Orthodox Church cannot give an account of how to determine true doctrine without falling into a vicious circle of “to discover what is true Christian doctrine, you must pay heed to the teaching of those who adhere to true Christian doctrine.”


The Roman See alone has never defected,{2} nor is she capable of doing so, so that it is necessary to be in communion with this see, which has the final word, according to the testimony of many Fathers venerated by both Catholics and Orthodox.

Notes & References
{1} The See of Constantinople was polluted by three Arians (Eusebios, Eudoxios, Demophilos), one Semi-Arian (Macedonios I), one Nestorian (Nestorios), five Monophysites (Acacios, Phravitas, Euphemios, Timothy I, Anthimos), six Monothelites (Sergios I, Pyrrhos, Paul II, Peter, John VI), and seven Iconoclasts (Anastasios, Constantine II, Nicetas I, Paul IV, Theodotos I Cassiteras, Anthony I Kassymatas, John VII Lecanomantos), one Calvinist (Cyril I Lukaris)–though some idiosyncratic commentators dispute the charge of Calvinism against the latter, who was murdered after he occupied the throne seven times—and one Freemason who declared Anglican orders to be valid (Meletios IV Metaxakis). The other three sees have similar records, and they often servilely followed the policy of Constantinople. By the standards of the Orthodox themselves, the see has had even more heretical patriarchs: one anti-Palamite (John XIV Kalekas) and more than five Uniates (John XI Bekkos, Joseph II, Metrophanes II, Gregory III Mammas, Cyril II Kontares, and many others, according to the old Catholic Encyclopedia entry “Greek Church”). I use the term Uniate because many of the Patriarchs of Constantinople were not merely desirous of reunion with the Catholic Church, but confessed the dogmas of the Catholic Church to be true. The poisonous smoke of Satan billowed into the see of Antioch in the form of Docetism, Modalism=Sabellianism (Paul of Samosata), Arianism (Eulalios, Euphronios), Nestorianism, Monophysitism (Peter the Fuller, John Codonatos, Palladios, Severos, Sergios, Paul the Black, Peter Callinicum), and Monothelitism (Anthanasios, Macedonios, Macarios). The see of Alexandria succumbed to Monophysitism (Dioscoros “the Great”, Timothy Aeluros, Peter Mongo, Athanasius II, John II, John III, Timothy III, Theodosius, Damianos) after its wicked rejection of the canons of the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451, and was also preyed upon by Monothelitism (Cyros). Jerusalem succumbed to Arianism (St. Maximos III before he repented), Monophysitism (Juvenal), Monothelitism (Martyrios), Origenism (John II and Eustachius), and Bogomilism (Cosmas II Atticos).
{2} Pope Honorius I, a favorite target of Orthodox and Protestant polemicists, is no exception. He was condemned, not as a Monothelite, but as a pope whose negligence in carrying out his duties as successor to St. Peter allowed Monothelitism to spread: (1) Pope St. Agatho of Rome taught that all his predecessors, including Honorius I, were orthodox, and the Sixth Ecumenical Council received this declaration as true; (2) Pope John IV of Rome and Monk St. Maximos the Confessor of Constantinople defended Honorius from the calumnious accusations of the Monothelites that he taught their doctrine; and (3) Pope St. Leo II of Rome taught, as is his prerogative according to the Fathers, the sense in which the Sixth Ecumenical Council condemned Pope Honorius I.

2nd Century
West: Bishop St. Irenaeus of Lyons in 180 [Adversus Haereses 3:3:2 in PG 7A:847AB],

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority [propter potentiorem principalitatem] – that is, the faithful everywhere – inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who are everywhere.

WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them; (7) this authoritative primacy of Rome is permanent and non-transferable; (8) communion with Rome is necessary.
3rd Century
West: Bishop St. Cyprian the Martyr of Carthage in 252 [Epistle 59:14 in PL ],

After such things as these, moreover, they still dare–a false bishop having been appointed for them by, heretics–to set sail and to bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to the throne of Peter, and to the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the Apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access.

WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them; (7) this authoritative primacy of Rome is permanent and non-transferable; (8) communion with Rome is necessary.4th Century
West: Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Stridon (Doctor) says in 375 [Epistle 15:1-2 to Pope St. Damasus I of Rome in in PL ],

… I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul … The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold … My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.

WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (8) communion with Rome is necessary.

West: Pope St. Damasus I of Rome [Rivington 213] says before 384 [Distich written on baptistery], “One chair of Peter, one only true bath.”
WRH: The chair of Peter is the see of Rome, the Apostolic See, from which flows orthodox doctrine to the rest of the Church.

West: Pope St. Siricius of Rome in 385 [To Himerius, Epistle 1],

To your inquiry we do not deny a legal reply, because we, upon whom greater zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent than upon the whole body, out of consideration for our office do not have the liberty to dissimulate, nor to remain silent. We carry the weight of all who are burdened; nay rather the blessed apostle Peter bears these in us, who, as we trust, protects us in all matters of his administration, and guards his heirs.

WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world.

West: Bishop St. Augustine the Great of Hippo (Doctor) in 393 [Psalm Against the Party of Donatus 18 in PL 43:30], “Number the bishops from the See of Peter itself. And in that order of Fathers see who has succeeded whom. That is the rock against which the gates of Hell do not prevail.”
WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see.
5th Century
Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), Council Decree:

As, in addition to other things, the impious Nestorius has not obeyed our citation, and did not receive the holy bishops who were sent by us to him, we were compelled to examine his ungodly doctrines. We discovered that he had held and published impious doctrines in his letters and treatises, as well as in discourses which he delivered in this city, and which have been testified to. Compelled thereto by the canons and by the letter (αναγκαιως κατεπειξθεντες απο τε των κανονων, και εκ της επιστολης, κ. τ. η.) of our most holy father and fellow-servant Celestine, the Roman bishop, we have come, with many tears, to this sorrowful sentence against him, namely, that our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom he has blasphemed, decrees by the holy Synod that Nestorius be excluded from the episcopal dignity, and from all priestly communion.

WRH: (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world.

Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 [To Pope Leo I, Epistle 98:1-2],

The great and holy and universal Synod…in the metropolis of Chalcedon…to the most holy and blessed archbishop of Rome, Leo … being set as the mouthpiece unto all of the blessed Peter, and imparting the blessedness of his Faith unto all …and besides all this he [Dioscorus] stretched forth his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Savior, we mean of course your holiness

WRH: (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them.
WRH: In his winter 1964-1965 journal article, “St. Cyril’s ‘One Physis or Hypostasis of God the Logos Incarnate’ and Chalcedon,” the Eastern Orthodox Fr. John S. Romanides († 2001) wrongly infers Cyrillian primacy at the Council of Chalcedon, when the truth is Leonine primacy; i.e., Fr. John wrongly declared that the Tome of Leo was subordinate to the Cyrillian writings, i.e., was of lesser authority. The bishops intended to stress, against the Eutychians, that their acceptance of the Leonine definition did not put them at odds with the Christology of the most holy Cyril, and they would not have thought it possible that Leo could err in his ex cathedra definition and contradict the earlier ecumenically-approved writings (which derived their authority from the sanction of the Pope in the first place) of that soldier of Christ, St. Cyril the Great [Rivington 411]. The Council did not judge as a superior the two pillars of orthodoxy when it said that the two saints agree Christologically, just as I do not act superior to the great-martyrs Sts. James and Paul the Apostles when I truthfully proclaim that they agree soteriologically [411]. The Council did not, by mentioning the Roman and Alexandrian bulwarks together, put them on the same official level, just as no one puts St. Paul the Apostle and a Greek poet on the same level when he says that they are in accord [411]. Just because someone notices my agreement with my master St. Thomas Aquinas and says that we believe alike, that does not mean that he puts me on the same level as that great wonderworking doctor, for it is manifest that I am but a shadow while he is brilliant light invincibly defending, better than anyone else, the truths our Lord handed down through the Apostles. The bishops assumed from the outset the agreement between Leo and Cyril [414]. It was not that they could dissent from the Leonine definition and modify it, but that they wanted to see the agreement between the two illustrious Doctors and adhere to the definition with an enlightened faith, and not a blind faith [416].

West: Pope St. Boniface I of Rome in 422 [Epistle 13 to Rufus Bishop of Thessalonica in PL 20:776A], “For it has never been allowed to discuss again what has once been decided by the Apostolic See.”
WRH: (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world.

East: Patriarch St. Flavian the Martyr of Constantinople in 449 [Epistle to Pope St. Leo I the Great of Rome in ],

Prince of the Apostles, and to the whole sacred synod, which is obedient to Your Holiness, at once a crowd of soldiers surrounded me and barred my way when I wished to take refuge at the holy altar. … Therefore, I beseech Your Holiness not to permit these things to be treated with indifference … but to rise up first on behalf of the cause of our orthodox Faith, now destroyed by unlawful acts. … Further to issue an authoritative instruction … so that a like faith may everywhere be preached by the assembly of an united synod of fathers, both Eastern and Western. Thus the laws of the fathers may prevail and all that has been done amiss be rendered null and void. Bring healing to this ghastly wound.

WRH: (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (8) communion with Rome is necessary.West: Monk Bachiarius of Spain in 420 [Professio fidei 2 in PL 20:1023]: “…none of the heresies could gain hold of or move the Chair of Peter, that is the See of faith.”
WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see.

West: Bishop St. Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna in 449 [Letter 25:2 in PL ], “We exhort you in every respect, honorable brother, to heed obediently what has been written by the most blessed pope in the city of Rome, for blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, provides the true faith to those who seek it. For we … cannot try cases on the faith without the consent of the bishop of Rome.”
WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them; (8) communion with Rome is necessary.

6th Century
West: Pope St. Gregory I the Great of Rome (Doctor) in 590 [To the northern Italian bishops], “… remember that the faith of Peter cannot fail or change.”
WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see.

East: Emperor St. Justinian I the Great of Rome on 7/9/520 [Coll. Avell. Ep. 196], “Let your Apostleship show that you have worthily succeeded to the Apostle Peter, since the Lord will work through you, as Supreme Pastor, the salvation of all.”
WRH: (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them.

7th Century
East: Monk St. Maximus the Confessor of Constantinople [Opuscula theologica et polemica in PG],

The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High.

WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (7) this authoritative primacy of Rome is permanent and non-transferable; (8) communion with Rome is necessary.East: Patriarch St. Sophronius of Jerusalem says in 638 [in Mansi xi:461],

Teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his (the pope’s) letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphaeus (the Head), and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul … I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides, all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church.

WRH: (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them; (7) this authoritative primacy of Rome is permanent and non-transferable; (8) communion with Rome is necessary.
8th Century

9th Century
East: Abbot St. Theodore the Studite says [Letter 2:86 in PG 99:1332A], If there is anything in the patriarch’s reply about which your Highness feels doubt or disbelief … you may ask the Elder Rome for clarification, as has been the past practice from the beginning, according to the inherited tradition.”
East: Patriarch St. Ignatius of Constantinople †878 [Likoudis 80] says [Epistle to Pope St. Nicholas I the Great of Rome in Mansi xvi:47],

… saying to Peter, the greatest of the Apostles: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” And again, “I will give thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be bound in Heaven.” For such blessed words He did not circumscribe and define to the Prince [εξαρκος] of the Apostles alone by a kind of chance, but through him he transmitted them to all who, after him as his successors, were to be made chief pastors and divine and sacred pontiffs of elder Rome.

Works Cited

More Eastern witnesses to come: Patriarch St. Dionysius of Alexandria, Patriarch St. John Chrysostom the Great, St. Peter Chrysologus, St. Maximus the Confessor
More Western witnesses to come: Pope St. Damasus I, Pope St. Siricius, Pope St. Innocent I, Pope St. Zosimus, Pope St. Boniface I, Pope St. Celestine I, Pope St. Sixtus III, Pope St. Leo I the Great, Pope St. Gelasius I, St. Isidore of Seville, Pope St. Agatho, Pope Pelagius II, St. Bede the Venerable

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9 Responses to Papal Infallibility and Primacy

  1. […] 17. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.58 The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.59 Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of….60 […]

  2. […] Papacy & Ecclesiology *Papal Infallibility and Primacy […]

  3. […] stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem with a halberd or ax. 64 St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and first Bishop of Rome (Pope), crucified upside down in Rome. 65 St. Jude Thaddeus fatally beaten and then beheaded with a […]

  4. […] Infallibility & Primacy.” The Banana Republican. 6 Mar. 2009. 27 Oct. 2009 <https://thebananarepublican1.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/papal-infallibility-and-primacy/&gt;. {11} Ibid. {12} Ibid. {13} Ibid. {14} Malanczuk, V. “Byzantine Theology.” New […]

  5. […] Papacy & Ecclesiology *Enough About Honorius *Leonine or Cyrillian Primacy at Chalcedon? *Papal Infallibility and Primacy […]

  6. […] Papal *Enough About Honorius *Papal Infallibility and Primacy *The Mythical Fall of Pope Anastasius II *The Mythical Fall of Pope Liberius *The Mythical Fall of […]

  7. […] of one man in the Church-for instance, the pope, and his supposed infallibility. It is precisely in the dogma of his infallibility that the greatest mistake is contained, for the pope is a sinful man, and O the disaster if he […]

  8. […] bishop of Carthage, thought of the Church as a tree with a trunk of common belief (or a trunk of the throne of St. Peter, the See of Rome, in a later version) and many branches (sees/bishoprics) in his treatise On the Unity of the […]

  9. […] does this mean?” But others, mocking, said: “These men are full of new wine.” But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: “You men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you and with your […]

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