Forming a Coherent Argument Against the Claims of Papal Supremacists

A question came from Facebook from a convert from a Roman Catholic background about making a coherent argument about Papal Supremacy.

So of course I’m going to move it to the sortbox.

Dear Facebook person: The first thing you have to do is establish what the early Popes consistently believed. This is not nearly as neat as originally assumed (and drilled as “facts” by Papalists): Orthodox Popes often made reference to the superiority of councils, and were frequently rebuked by fellow Western Bishops. From an Orthodox standpoint, this seems to be normal: but it is important to establish this from not simply an Orthodox standpoint, but a Western one. If we do that, than we can clearly mark off which claims of pre-schism Popes are based on what and what are later derivations.

Not going to plug our show here, but we have shown through the Western manuscript tradition that in many countries ALL Western Orthodox Bishops were consecrated as successors of Peter. Further, we can show breaks from the Pope, not simply from “Eastern” Bishops, but WESTERN Bishops, during controversies. Finally we can clearly establish that Popes were enthroned with imperial sanction.

Once we have established these bases, we can slog– we must, even– through the context of each of these Papal quotes, bearing the above in mind. Contrary to a belief in universal primacy against Constantinople’s claim that the two Romes were similar, St Leo held to a triune Petrine see, and did not want Alexandria and Antioch to be disrespected, for example. And that’s just one case. This can be done with all of them. But you cannot forget your first principles in terms of what Orthodox Rome actually was.

From here, therefore we can establish that the Pope’s supremacy in the first 1,000 years was largely honorific and rose and fell with the power of the West Roman Empire, but that was enough to give him a lot of authority to begin with, and canonically entailed appellate jurisdiction. We can now look at the first time the Pope’s sudden rise to supremacy became an issue, and coincidentally it occurs around the time of the Great Schism– politely retitled the Investiture Controversy. Amazingly, the most important document of the period, the Dictatus Papae, is the first claim of unprecedented Papal Supremacy in the Church– so unprecedented it violates all the other norms we’ve just established. And this would become the basis of what Roman Catholics see as Papal supremacy, completely alien from the Church of East, and West.

So to put it simply, you cannot create an argument against “Papalist supremacy” by simply poking holes in their bad misquotations. You have to study up on the Orthodox West and take the whole thing down with a sledgehammer. I hope that helps!