Author Topic: St. Augustine and the Primacy of Peter  (Read 2931 times)

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Offline SeanMc

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St. Augustine and the Primacy of Peter
« on: September 04, 2005, 07:13:26 PM »
Much has been made of the few quotations of St. Augustine of Hippo to show the how he supported the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.

This first one so commonly used is from Sermo CXXXI:X and is commonly paraphrased as "Roma locuta est, causa finita est." What it really says is slightly different from the paraphrase: "Jam enim de hac causa duo concilia missa sunt ad Sedem Apostolicam: inde etiam rescripta venerunt. Causa finita est: utinam aliquando finiatur error! Ergo ut advertant monemus, ut instruantur docemus, ut mutentur oremus."

Which is translated as this: "For already have two councils on this question been sent to the Apostolic see; and rescripts also have come from thence. The question has been brought to an issue; would that their error may sometime be brought to an issue too! Therefore do we advise that they may take heed, we teach that they may be instructed, we pray that they may be changed."

First, all of this must be taken within context of the understanding of the Apostolic see's power at that time. Rome did not have universal authority over the whole Church, but over Churches within it's area. Why? Apostolic Sees were given honour and authority by the whole Church because they were the seats of the Apostles themselves from which all bishops derive their authority. Likewise it is not just Rome that has this authority over other Churches, but the other Apostolic sees as well. Canon 6 of the First Council of Nicaea says, "The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places, since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome. Similarily in Antioch and the other provinces the perogatives of the churches are to be preserved." Indeed, the First Council of Constantinople, Canon 3, shows that the authority given to Rome was honour due to the Apostolic lineage: "Because it is the new Rome, Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honour after the bishop of Rome."

Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon gives further insight into why Rome had authority over other churches: "The fathers rightly accorded perogatives to the see of older Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city which is honoured by the imperial power and senate and enjoying priviledges equalling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her." It must be noted that St. Leo I did not oppose Canon 28 because of it's doctrinal implications, but because it went against the Canons of the Council of Nicaea and it put the other patriarchates after the patriarchate of Constantinople. Although, St. Leo I reject this canon and most Catholic apologists point that out, it was clearly accepted by the whole Church and even by a later Catholic council. In 1439, at the Sixth Session of the Council of Florence it is thus decreed: "Also, renewing the order of the other patriarchs which has been handed down in the canons, the patriarch of Constantinople should be second after the most holy Roman pontiff, third should be the patriarch of Alexandria, fourth the patriarch of Antioch, and fifth the patriarch of Jerusalem, without prejudice to all their privileges and rights."

Even the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, affirms the 28th Canon of Chalcedon: "Renewing the ancient privileges of the patriarchal sees, we decree, with the apporval of this sacred universal synod, that after the Roman church, which through the Lord's disposition has a primary of ordinary power over all other churches inasmuch as it is the mother and mistress of all Christ's faithful, the church of Constantinople shall have the first place, the church of Alexandria the second place, the church of Antioch the third place, and the Church of Jerusalem the fourth place, each maintaining it's own rank." So, although the later Catholic councils are rife with Roman self-aggrandizement, it shows that the Catholic Church does accept the 28th Canon of Chalcedon, although the place of the Roman patriarch had developed significantly for them.

Now, how did St. Augustine really view the role of St. Peter? There is a little known sermon of St. Augustine, which expands on this. Sermo CCCXXXI, In solemnitate Stephani martyris, III, says, "Inter diaconos illos nominatur primus, sicut inter Apostolos Petrus." It is translated this way: "Among those deacons, [St. Stephen] is named first, just as Peter is among the Apostles." Now, St. Peter's primacy, his "firstness," was not over the entire Church, but he is first among the Apostles.

This runs contrary to the definition of the First Vatican Council, Session 4, Chapter 3: "Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman church possesses a pre-eminance of ordinary power over every other church, and that the jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both episcopal and immediate." Not only does this run contrary to St. Augustine's view of Peter's primacy, but it also contravenes the previous canons of ecumenical councils, which as St. Leo I said in Letter 105 wherein he rejected Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, "are unalterable and binding universally." Now this is clearly a problem for the Catholic Church, but not so much for the Orthodox. For the Orthodox hold that there are two types of canons: the unalterble ones concerning doctrine and the alterable ones. Clearly Canon 28 was concerning jurisdictional matters and is subject to change (as later Catholic theologians would agree). St. Leo was in error on this occasion: the ecumenical nature of the Church later accepted Canon 28 universally, even though it was disannuled by St. Leo.

Now, St. Augustine sets out the true way in which we are to see the primacy of St. Peter and it leads us to an obvious question: how was St. Stephen first among the deacons? St. Stephen never had any authority over other deacons (at least, holy scripture does not say so), but his primacy was in the fact that he wasn example of holiness to all the other deacons. St. Leo I backs up this interpretation with regard to St. Peter in Sermo 3 in anniv. assumptionis suae, post init.: "But it was not for nought that what [the power of binding and loosing] is meant for all should be committed to one only, for it is entrusted specially to Peter because he is held up before all the rulers of the Church as an ensample."

Um... the end!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2005, 07:14:06 PM by SeanMc »

Offline Silouan

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Re: St. Augustine and the Primacy of Peter
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2005, 07:30:44 PM »
And thus why the ancient church always celebrated Saints Peter and Paul together - their martyrdom's glorified the ancient city of Rome and the fledging church therein. 

Sanctii Apostoli Petre et Paule orate pro nobis!

Offline Victor

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Re: St. Augustine and the Primacy of Peter
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2005, 12:51:36 PM »
Does St. Paul hold a primacy of honor like Peter?
Just curious.


Offline Ntinos

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Re: St. Augustine and the Primacy of Peter
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2005, 01:24:50 PM »
Does St. Paul hold a primacy of honor like Peter?

Heh, if this is so, we should move the Patriarchate to Corinth  ;D

Offline Victor

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Re: St. Augustine and the Primacy of Peter
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2005, 06:20:31 PM »
Heh, if this is so, we should move the Patriarchate to CorinthÂÂ  ;D

Was that a "no"?

Offline utf839

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Re: St. Augustine and the Primacy of Peter
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2005, 12:41:09 AM »
So, you are translating  "Causa finita est" as  "The question has been brought to an issue." ? I do not speak Latin but I would think that the term "finita" would involve something more decisive, more final... rather than "brought to an issue." Isn't a question already an issue?