Great post Linus!!!!!!
The one thing that disappoints me about some Orthodox apologetics is the rather unhistorical undermining of the importance of the Bishop of Rome and the Orthodox Roman Church, together with the over-emphasis of the confessional interpretation of Matt 16:18 to the detriment of the personal interpretation, the latter which, as John Meyendorff points out was "readily recognized by Byzantine ecclesiastical writers" and that "only late polemicists, especially anti-Latin, tended to diminish it but this was not the case among the most enlightened of the Byzantine theologians.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the Bishops of Rome were considered the vicars (or successors) of Peter, more so around the time of Pope St. Leo the Great. Rome had a very special and well-acknowledged claim to both Peter and Paul as the custodian of the tombs (relics) of both Apostles. One also can't ignore the fact that the voice of the Pope, when in agreement with the Orthodox faith, was gloriously received as though it were the very voice of Peter. "Peter has spoken through Leo" exclaimed the Council of Chalcedon; "Peter has spoken through Celestine," shouted the Council of Ephesus.
Linus also correctly points out that the Bishop of Rome was regarded as possessing the authority of St. Peter by virtue of the primacy of the Orthodox Roman Church, a primacy clearly articulated by the 5th Century and exercised in the context of the collegial nature of the Church. Thus we find the Bishop of Rome extolled throughout the first millenium of the Church by his fellow shepherds grateful for his paternal love and guidance for the entire Church, expressed in particular at the Ecumenical Councils, such as Chalcedon, in its message to Pope Leo the Great: "You came to us; you have been for everyone the interpreter of the voice of blessed Peter....We were some 520 bishops whom you guided, as the head guides the members." (Sorry Phil for bringing up Leo again, I couldn't help it)
The 3rd Council of Constantinople (680-81) likewise thanked its head Pope Agatho: "We place ourselves in your hands, you who occupy the first see of the universal Church, you who rest on the firm rock of faith."
Yet not one of these Orthodox Popes of Rome ever claimed the universal jurisdiction and the supremacy over the Council that would later divide the Church, but rather adhered to the concept of the collegiality of all the Bishops gathered together at the Councils, to which the Pope's doctrinal letter, despite having the greatest authority, was subservient:
"All the fathers spoke one by one, and only after examination were the letters of St. Agatho and the whole Western Council approved....but nonetheless they examine the matter, they inquire into the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs and after inquiry held, approve Agatho's decrees, condemn those of Honorius."
Session 8: The Emperor said: Let George, the most holy Archbishop of this our God-preserved city, and let Macarius, the venerable Archbishop of Antioch, and let the synod subject to them (ie. their suffragans) say, if they submit
to the force of the suggestions sent by the most holy Agatho Pope of Old Rome and by his synod. [The answer of George, with which all his bishops, many of them, speaking one by one, agreed except Theodore of Metilene (who handed in his assent at the end of the Tenth Session).]
(Sessions of the Sixth Ecumenical Council).
"Now let us consider the case of Chalcedon. Pope Leo considered null and void the hijacking of Ephesus in 449, but he was aware that he could not annul this council on his own authority. This is why he proposed that the emperor convoke a new council (which he would have liked to have seen held in Italy, but failed to achieve). It is clear that Leo, despite his trenchant assertions, was not an autocrat. He took his decisions in agreement with the Roman synod. In his letter of confirmation of Chalcedon he called the members of the Council "his brothers and co-bishops." He always sought a consensus from the college of bishops and from the universal Church. His representatives certainly affirmed that the church of Rome "is the head of all the churches" and its bishop the "archbishop of all the churches" - in Latin: "Pope of the universal Church." But this title is easily misunderstood, for Leo never claimed the right to govern as bishop of the individual churches. Rather he understood his authority as bearing an essential witness to the truth, which, as he himself said, did not belong to him: it was the faith of the Church as the apostle Peter first proclaimed it. That is why he was pleased that his "Tome" was acknowledged by the council, "confirmed," he wrote, "by the undisputed accord of the entire assembly of brethren." Two conceptions, verbally at odds, had come together in the truth that embodies accord at a higher lever, an accord that is not juridical and cannot be objectified." (Olivier Clement, You Are Peter
, pg 47.)
Is it therefore any wonder that, once Rome started interpreting her primacy more and more legalistically, she became so puffed up with a pride that would make Ceaser jealous, transforming that primacy from one of pastoral service to the entire Church to one of tyranny and authoritarianism, as witnessed in Gregory VII's Dictatus Papae:
2. That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal.
3. That he alone can depose or reinstate bishops.
4. That, in a council, his legate, even if a lower grade, is above all bishops, and can pass sentence of deposition against them.
5. That the pope may depose the absent.
7. That for him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry; and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.
8. That he alone may use the imperial insignia.
9. That of the pope alone all princes shall kiss the feet.
10. That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches.
11. That this is the only name in the world.
12. That it may be permitted to him to depose emperors.
13. That he may be permitted to transfer bishops if need be.
16. That no synod shall be called a general one without his order.
17. That no chapter and no book shall be considered canonical without his authority.
18. That a sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one; and that he himself, alone of all, may retract it.
19. That he himself may be judged by no one.
20. That no one shall dare to condemn one who appeals to the apostolic chair.
22. That the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err to all eternity, the Scripture bearing witness.
23. That the Roman pontiff, if he have been canonically ordained, is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter; St. Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, bearing witness, and many holy fathers agreeing with him. As is contained in the decrees of St. Symmachus the pope.
25. That he may depose and reinstate bishops without assembling a synod.
26. That he who is not at peace with the Roman church shall not be considered catholic.
One can't help but notice that in the very same century the pseudo-Isidorean decretals were disseminated, the Bishops of Rome suddenly realized they had the duty to depose whomever they wished and made the awesome discovery that Uncle Constantine had left them lots of land in his will! *wink wink*
None of us are advocating Rome's present understanding of the Petrine primacy. But it won't be very conducive to our efforts at unity if one side or the other undermines the very historical facts that will actually foster unity rather than hinder it. Primacy exercised in light of the Gospel - a primacy of solicitous love, pastoral care and responsibility for the entire Church, exercised among
the Church instead of outside
it, is Orthodox. It might be worthwhile to jot down the sentiments of those Roman Catholics who seek to reform the papacy to make it fit in the context of the Gospel, the reformers whom Rome only seeks to silence:
"John XXIII...provided at least a sketch to prove that it is not illusory to think that the pope could
be different. What then might the pope be like? Such a pope would have a genuinely evangelical and not a juridical-formalistic and staatic-bureaucratic view of the Church. He would see the mystery of the Church in the light of the Gospel, of the New Testament: not as a centralized administrative unit, in which the bishops are merely the pope's delegates and executive organs....not jealously to hold on to powers and prerogatives or to exercise authority in the spirit of the old order, but to make authority felt as service in the spirit of the New Testament and in response to the needs of the present time: fraternal partnership and co-operation, dialogue, consultation, and collaboration, especially with bishops and theologians of the whole Church, opportunity for those concerned to take part in the process of making decisions, and full scope for the exercise of co-responsibility. This pope would therefore regard his function as a function of the Church: a pope not above
the Church, but in
the Church, with
the Church, for
the Church. No extrinsicism, isolationism or triumphalism....If he could and certainly should sometimes act "alone," this could never mean "apart" and "separated" from the Church and her episcopal college, but in spiritual communion and unbroken solidarity with the Church as a whole."
"This pope then would not be against justice, but against juridicism; not against law but against legalism; not against order, but against immobility; not against authority, but against authoritarianism; not against unity, but against uniformity....He would be inspiriter in the spirit of the gospel and a leader in the postconciliar renewal and Rome would become a place of encounter, of dialogue andof honest and friendly co-operation." (Hans Kung.)
May Rome come to her senses!