In other Fathers Know Best tracts we have shown
that the Fathers recognized Peter as the rock on which Jesus declared he
would build his Church; that this gave Peter a special primacy; and that
Peter traveled to Rome, where he was martyred. In this tract we will show
that the Fathers also recognized that the bishop of Rome—the pope—continued to serve
in Peter’s role in subsequent generations of the Church.
"The blessed apostles [Peter and Paul], having
founded and built up the church [of Rome] . . . handed over the office
of the episcopate to Linus" (Against Heresies 3:3:3 [A.D. 189]).
"[T]his is the way in which the apostolic churches
transmit their lists: like the church of the Smyrneans, which records that
Polycarp was placed there by John, like the church of the Romans, where
Clement was ordained by Peter" (Demurrer Against the Heretics 32:2
The Little Labyrinth
"Victor . . . was the thirteenth bishop of Rome
from Peter" (The Little Labyrinth [A.D. 211], in Eusebius, Church
Cyprian of Carthage
"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says,
‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the
gates of hell will not overcome it. ... ’ [Matt. 16:18]. On him [Peter] he builds
the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17],
and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded
a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority
a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. . . . If someone [today]
does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still
holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the
Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?"
(The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; first edition [A.D. 251]).
"Cornelius was made bishop by the decision of God
and of his Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the applause
of the people then present, by the college of venerable priests and good
men, at a time when no one had been made [bishop] before him—when the place
of [Pope] Fabian, which is the place of Peter, the dignity of the sacerdotal
chair, was vacant. Since it has been occupied both at the will of God and
with the ratified consent of all of us, whoever now wishes to become bishop
must do so outside. For he cannot have ecclesiastical rank who does not
hold to the unity of the Church" (Letters 55:):8 [A.D. 253]).
"With a false bishop appointed for themselves by
heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics
and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal church [at Rome],
in which sacerdotal unity has its source" (ibid., 59:14).
Eusebius of Caesarea
"Paul testifies that Crescens was
sent to Gaul [2 Tim. 4:10], but Linus, whom he mentions in the Second Epistle
to Timothy [2 Tim. 4:21] as his companion at Rome, was Peter’s successor
in the episcopate of the church there, as has already been shown. Clement
also, who was appointed third bishop of the church at Rome, was, as Paul
testifies, his co-laborer and fellow-soldier [Phil. 4:3]" (Church History
3:4:9–10 [A.D. 312]).
Pope Julius I
"[The] judgment [against Athanasius] ought to have
been made, not as it was, but according to the ecclesiastical canon. .
. . Are you ignorant that the custom has been to write first to us and
then for a just decision to be passed from this place [Rome]? If, then,
any such suspicion rested upon the bishop there [Athanasius of Alexandria],
notice of it ought to have been written to the church here. But now, after
having done as they pleased, they want to obtain our concurrence, although
we never condemned him. Not thus are the constitutions of Paul, not thus
the traditions of the Fathers. This is another form of procedure, and a
novel practice. . . . What I write about this is for the common good. For
what we have heard from the blessed apostle Peter, these things I signify
to you" (Letter on Behalf of Athanasius [A.D. 341], contained in
Athanasius, Apology Against the Arians 20–35).
Council of Sardica
"[I]f any bishop loses the judgment in some case
[decided by his fellow bishops] and still believes that he has not a bad
but a good case, in order that the case may be judged anew . . . let us
honor the memory of the apostle Peter by having those who have given the
judgment write to Julius, bishop of Rome, so that if it seem proper he
may himself send arbiters and the judgment may be made again by the bishops
of a neighboring province" (Canon 3 [A.D. 342]).
"You cannot deny that you are aware that in the
city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in
which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas
[‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained
by all" (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).
Epiphanius of Salamis
"At Rome the first apostles and bishops were Peter
and Paul, then Linus, then Cletus, then Clement, the contemporary of Peter
and Paul" (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 27:6 [A.D. 375]).
Pope Damasus I
"Likewise it is decreed: . . . [W]e have considered
that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has been
placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other churches,
but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior,
who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and
the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the
keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth
will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall
be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see [today], therefore,
is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither
stain nor blemish nor anything like it" (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D.
"[Pope] Stephen . . . was the blessed Peter’s twenty-second
successor in the See of Rome" (Against the Luciferians 23 [A.D.
"Clement, of whom the apostle Paul writing to the
Philippians says ‘With Clement and others of my fellow-workers whose names
are written in the book of life,’ the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter,
if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of
the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle" (Lives of
Illustrious Men 15 [A.D. 396]).
"Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing
feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds
the seamless vest of the Lord . . . I think it my duty to consult the chair
of Peter, and to turn to a church [Rome] whose faith has been praised by
Paul [Rom. 1:8]. I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have
received the garb of Christ. . . . Evil children have squandered their
patrimony; you alone keep your heritage intact" (Letters 15:1 [A.D.
"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion
with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair
of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built.
Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not
in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails" (ibid.,15:2).
"The church here is split into three parts, each
eager to seize me for its own. . . . Meanwhile I keep crying, ‘He that
is joined to the chair of Peter is accepted by me!’ . . . Therefore, I
implore your blessedness [Pope Damasus I] . . . tell me by letter with
whom it is that I should communicate in Syria" (ibid., 16:2).
Ambrose of Milan
"[T]hey [the Novatian heretics] have not the succession
of Peter, who hold not the chair of Peter, which they rend by wicked schism;
and this, too, they do, wickedly denying that sins can be forgiven [by
the sacrament of confession] even in the Church, whereas it was said to
Peter: ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever
thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever
thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven’[Matt. 16:19]"
(Penance 1:7:33 [A.D. 388]).
"If all men throughout the world were such as you
most vainly accuse them of having been, what has the chair of the Roman
church done to you, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today?"
(Against the Letters of Petilani 2:118 [A.D. 402]).
"If the very order of episcopal succession is to
be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them
from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the
Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’ . . . [Matt. 16:18].
Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, Anacletus
by Evaristus . . . " (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).
Council of Ephesus
"Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic
See said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages,
that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles,
pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the
keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer
of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding
sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors.
The holy and most blessed pope Celestine, according to due order, is his
successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this
holy synod’" (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 431]).
Pope Leo I
"As for the resolution of the bishops which is
contrary to the Nicene decree, in union with your faithful piety, I declare
it to be invalid and annul it by the authority of the holy apostle Peter"
(Letters 110 [A.D. 445]).
"Whereupon the blessed Peter, as inspired by God,
and about to benefit all nations by his confession, said, ‘You are the
Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Not undeservedly, therefore, was he
pronounced blessed by the Lord, and derived from the original Rock that
solidity which belonged both to his virtue and to his name [Peter]" (The
Tome of Leo [A.D. 449]).
"We exhort you in every respect, honorable brother,
to heed obediently what has been written by the most blessed pope of the
city of Rome, for blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see,
provides the truth of faith to those who seek it. For we, by reason of
our pursuit of peace and faith, cannot try cases on the faith without the
consent of the bishop of Rome" (Letters 25:2 [A.D. 449]).
Council of Chalcedon
"After the reading of the foregoing epistle [The
Tome of Leo], the most reverend bishops cried out: ‘This is the faith
of the fathers! This is the faith of the apostles! So we all believe! Thus
the orthodox believe! Anathema to him who does not thus believe! Peter
has spoken thus through Leo! . . . This is the true faith! Those of us
who are orthodox thus believe! This is the faith of the Fathers!’" (Acts
of the Council, session 2 [A.D. 451]).
I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors. Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted. +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004