Page images
[ocr errors]




APRIL 1879.



1. Petri Privilegium : Three Pastoral Letters to the Clergy

of the Diocese of Westminster. By HENRY EDWARD

MANNING, D.D. (London, 1871.) 2. The See of S. Peter. By T. W. ALLIES. (London, 1850.) 3. The Evidence for the Papacy, as derived from the Holy

Scriptures and from Primitive Antiquity. By the Hon.

COLIN LINDSAY. (London, 1870.) 4. The Privilege of Peter and the Claims of the Roman Church

confronted with the Scriptures, the Councils, and the Testimony of the Popes themselves. By ROBERT C. JENKINS,

M.A. (London, 1875.) 5. SS. Conciliorum et Decretorum Collectio Nova. Omnia


1748-52.) THE third stage of the inquiry into the authenticity of the Petrine claim of privilege, already pursued through Holy Scripture and the chief early glosses thereupon—that concerned with its historical aspect, and, first, the canons and decrees of the Councils-must now be entered on. And it should be borne in mind that the number, the variety, and the distribution of these Councils over a vast period of time, make it certain that the privilege of Peter,' from its intimate bearing on disciplinary questions, must needs occupy a considerable and prominent place in them, if it be so much as VOL. VIII.-NO. XV.


a fact of history, to say nothing of being a fundamental dogma of Christianity.

The Acts of the Councils, that is to say, the record of their proceedings from their convocation till their dispersion, also throw very much light upon the discussion ; but the consideration of that part of the evidence must be postponed for the present, and only the actual decrees and canons are as yet to be cited.

Now, let us inquire into the authority of the Councils as recognised in the Church of Rome. First comes the eleventh clause of the Creed of Pius IV.:

'I likewise undoubtingly receive and profess all other things delivered, defined, and declared by the Sacred Canons and General Councils, and especially by the Holy Council of Trent; and I condemn, reject, and anathematise all things contrary thereto.' Next, the profession of S. Gregory the Great, embodied in the Canon Law, Decret. i. dist. xv. 2 :

'I acknowledge that I receive and venerate, as I do the Four Gospels, the Four Councils, to wit, the Nicene

also the Constantinopolitan the first of Ephesus

that of Chalcedon moreover,

I embrace them with entire devotion, I guard them with perfect approval, because on them, as on a squared stone, the building of the Holy Faith rises.'

Thirdly, the solemn profession made by every Pope at his consecration, which in the Liber Diurnus, as cited by the Canon Law, Decret. i. dist. xvi. 8, is thus worded :

* The eight Holy General Councils—that is, Nice first, Constantinople second, Ephesus third, Chalcedon fourth, Constantinople fifth and sixth, Nice seventh, and Constantinople eighth-I profess with mouth and heart to be kept unaltered in a single tittle [usque ad unum apicem immutilata servari], to account them worthy of equal honour and veneration, to follow in every respect whatsoever they promulgated or decreed, and to condemn whatsoever they condemned.'

1. The very ancient body of rules known as the Canons of the Apostles knows not of any officer higher than bishops save the primate or 'first bishop' of each nation (Ovovs), and is thus earlier than the institution of provincial archbishops or metropolitans. This 'first bishop,' albeit the chief single authority, whose consent is to be sought by the others, must himself do nothing against their consent. No further appeal is provided. The whole Canon (xxxiii.) merits citation, because of its remarkably explicit testimony to that primitive independence of national Churches which is the peculiar object of Ultramontane hostility :


[ocr errors]

It is fit that the Bishops of each nation should recognise their Primate (ròv év avroîç a potov), and treat him as Head, and do nothing of moment without his assent; for each Bishop should manage those concerns alone which pertain to his own diocese and its dependent regions. But neither let him [the Primate) do aught without the assent of all ; for so shall there be concord, and God shall be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.'

2. The Councils of Ancyra, Neocæsarea, and Arles I., all earlier than Nicæa, are silent.

3. The Council of Laodicea recognises the authority of metropolitans (Can. xii.), but specifies nothing higher or more central in character.

4. The first General Council of Nicæa, A.D. 325, contains an important piece of evidence. In settling the claims of the see of Alexandria, it decrees (Can. vi.) :

* Let the ancient custom prevail in Egypt, and Libya, and Pentapolis, that the Bishop of Alexandria should have authority over all these, since this is the accustomed practice for the Bishop in Rome also; and similarly in Antioch and the other eparchies (i.e. primatial sees of the first class] let the precedence be preserved to the Churches.'

There is a very ancient Latin version of this Canon, confirmed by Rufinus (Hist. Eccl. xi. 6), which explains that its meaning was that the Patriarch of Alexandria should have the same authority over all Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis as the Pope of Rome had over the suburbicarian’ Churches of his province ; that is to say, those of Central and Southern Italy, with the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica; a limitation which shows that no universal jurisdiction was then attributed to the see of S. Peter, but only a province far exceeded in extent, population, wealth, and importance by several others at the time, except in so far as it contained the late capital of the Empire.

5. The Council of Antioch, A.D. 341, in its ninth Canon, forbids appeals to be carried further (Trepaitépw) than the provincial synod assembled under the metropolitan.

6. The Council of Sardica, A.D. 347, allows an appeal to the Pope under certain specified circumstances. Its third Canon runs :

*If in any province a bishop have a dispute with a brother bishop, let neither of them call in a bishop from another province as arbiter; but if any bishop be cast in any suit, and think his case good, so that the judgment ought to be reviewed, if it please you, let us honour the memory of S. Peter the Apostle, and let those who have tried the cause write to Julius, Bishop of Rome, that if needful he may provide for a rehearing of the cause by the bishops nearest to the province, and send arbiters ; or if it cannot be established that the matter needs reversal, then what has been decided is not to be rescinded, but the existing state of things is to be confirmed.'

Canon iv. provides that a bishop, deposed by a local synod, and appealing to Rome, shall not have his see filled up till the Pope has confirmed the sentence.

Canon v. empowers the Pope either to commit the rehearing to the Bishops of the neighbouring province, or to send a legate of his own to rehear the cause.

On these decrees, which are the basis of the whole appellate jurisdiction of the Roman Church, the following remarks have to be made : (1.) These Canons of Sardica, passed by an exclusively Western assembly, were never received by the Eastern Church. (2.) The specification of the name of Pope Julius makes it at least doubtful whether this was not a personal privilege which died with him, as there is no provision for securing the same right to his successors. (3.) The privilege, such as it is, has stringent limits, and does not grant any initiative whatever to the Pope, who must await a direct application to himself; no applicant save a bishop is contemplated ; nor even he, unless when condemned by a synod. (4.) The terms of the Canon, inclusive of the reference to S. Peter, are such as to show that the Fathers of the Council were making a voluntary concession, which they were quite at liberty to withhold, not complying with a duty divinely imposed upon them.

7. The Council of Gangra, held between 325 and 380, which enacted twenty-one disciplinary Canons, received by the whole Church, is silent.

8. The second General Council—that of Constantinople in 381-supplies some very important items of evidence. Although it has always been received as oecumenical, it was not attended by any Western bishops, nor was the Pope so much as represented by any deputy, although the Roman Church is bound by the decrees which were passed. The second cañon of the Council forbids all bishops to go beyond their own borders, or to interfere in other dioceses; and confirms the privileges allowed to the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch by the Council of Nicæa, besides further enacting that the affairs of the Asian, Pontic, and Thracian dioceses shall be administered by their own bishops only, and that the synod of each province shall administer the affairs of the province ; which is a virtual repeal of the Canons of Sardica. Canon iii. enacts that the Bishop of Constantinople shall have prece

« PreviousContinue »