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The Papacy


Lashon Bush, Originally on April 7, 2009

What exactly is the Papacy? How and why did the Papacy become the center of power that it did? What factors contributed to its dominance of Western Europe until the Reformation? What were the positive and negative ramifications of its dominance of Western Europe until the Reformation? These questions will be addressed during this essay as we look into the origins and reasons behind the Papacy being so prevalent in Western Europe Society from a religious and social stand point. The word Pope is derived from “Papa” (Latin). The office of the Pope is referred to as the Papacy. The Papacy is responsible for the spiritual well being of the members of the Catholic Church and has it’s origins in the Roman Western Society.

Presently there is a city-state titled the “Vatican City” that the Pope is Head of State of and exercises political and social rule over as well as meeting the city’s spiritual demands. The papacy denotes the office of the pope, or bishop of Rome, and the system of central ecclesiastical government of the Roman Catholic Church over which he presides. Believed by Roman Catholics to be the successor of the apostle Peter, the pope grounds his claim to jurisdictional primacy in the church in the so – called Petrine theory. According to that theory, affirmed by the Council of Florence in 1439, defined as a matter of faith by the First Vatican Council in 1870, and endorsed by the Second Vatican Council in 1964, Jesus Christ conferred the position of primacy in the church upon Peter alone.

In solemnly defining the Petrine primacy, the First Vatican Council cited the three classical New Testament texts long associated with it: John 1:42, John 21:15 ff., and, above all, Matthew 16:18 ff, which have been listed respectively below:John 1:42 – “And he brought him to Jesus and when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Ce-phas, which is by interpretation, a stone. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonnas lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him Feed my lambs.” Mathew 16:18 – “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”The Pope based his authority off of the above stated verses, which have been interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church to mean that Peter was charged with the responsibility of overseeing the formation of God’s Church, which he later passed on to subsequent Popes.“In ancient Israel the rabbis customarily used a formula of words three times in the act of solemnly transferring authority to someone in the community of faith; Christ was giving authority to Peter who was to tend His flock as Christ had tended it.”

The Bishop of Rome was one of the most important Bishops of Western Europe up until the Reformation because of a number of factors; including being the city which boasted of having the first martyr, (Peter), Rome was the most prestigious city in the Western Mediterranean and with the title of bishop of Rome came the prestige that was so highly associated with Rome. Another factor which led to the City of Rome being the most dominant City in Western Europe leading up until the Reformation was the fact that there had never been a heresy that was publicly implemented within the city’s gates, few cities of this era could make this claim, leading to the preeminent position and title of leader of the Catholic Church within Western Europe.

“On what basis, by what authority, did the Bishop of Rome claim power over all other bishops and over all Christians? Some of the claim was based on biblical passages, but some of it derived from political and cultural realities. Being bishop of an important city naturally gave increased stature, and Rome was (until the 4th century) the most important city in the western world. It certainly gave the Roman bishop automatic prestige in the western Mediterranean, where there were no other cities to rival it. In the east, however, there were rivals indeed: Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople. The bishop of this latter city never did bow to Roman claims. Tradition conferred further special prestige on Rome. It was a city of martyrs.

The first persecutions, instigated by Nero, were at Rome. Peter himself was martyred at Rome.” As communicated earlier Rome was the lone city in the Western region of the Empire, while the remaining kingdoms, of which there were four, were located in the Eastern region of the Empire. The five dioceses with special authority, the seats of the patriarchs were Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople. As the two regions became more and more politically and culturally advanced the eastern region had four sees from which decisions involving the church and political life were to be made, where as Rome was the lone city, in the Western Region of the Empire that was sought out when it came time to make decisions of an important nature, whether it be of a political or religious aspect.

The previously stated communication led to Rome being the Theological Center of Western Europe. The positive Ramification of the reality of Rome being the Center of Political and Religious Authority within Western Europe was that the Christian cause was furthered and Rome was looked upon by not only Western Europe as the primary voice and leader of the Christian faith, through the Catholic Church, but also recognized by citizens that resided in the Eastern region of Europe. Rome offered bishops the opportunity to appeal decisions that were made, in regards to their office and service as men of faith. Many bishops that received rulings that they felt were unjustified appealed their case or matter to the Roman Spiritual authority of the day. Some of the negative ramifications of Rome being the preeminent spiritual and political authority of their day was that eventually the lines began to blur and what was considered to be the church’s responsibility as opposed to that of government was not so clear. There was the feudal system that mirrored the spiritual hiercachy that had been preached by theologians of the past.

This feudal system allowed the owner of a piece of land or property to permit servants to work the land in exchange for payment of wages or debt, however most of the time what occurred was that you had wealthy patrons who had servants that were indebted to them to the point that it was an endless cycle of service with little to no chance of ever being set free of their incurred obligations. The church also began to operate in a manner that was unintended by the founding fathers, i.e. abbots being married and the passing of monasteries down to children. The low point of the Papacy came when during the reign of Stephen VI there was a trial held where his predecessor, who had been dead for 3 days, was brought before council convicted and dragged through the streets and deposited in a common grave after have his papal robes striped and the three fingers, that he would have otherwise used to bless people with, cut off. The Catholic Church of Europe of which Rome was the primary voice, had many challenges leading up to the Reformation and played a decisive role in the spread of the Christian faith and contributed significantly to the Christian faith being the largest faith in the history of the world, presently consisting of 1.9 billion individuals worldwide.

Tagged as: apostle, Bible, bishops, catholic church, constiantinople, crusades, PAPACY, peter, pope, reformation, rome, stephen VI, western europe

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }
admin April 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm [edit]
What do you think?

MAJOR V August 5, 2009 at 8:37 am [edit]


You have some interesting and thought provoking questions. On your question below of ” What is your take on what God is communicating specifically about those who would make the claim that their church is the ‘true church’ and associate themselves with a particular apostle over another based off of what God has to say in 1 Corinthians chapter 3″, I remember Paul making the argument that the various communities should not pick out an Apostle that they like and ‘follow’ them, as if they are the whole Church or a special sect of the Church. And as pointed out in the chapter you reference in verses 5-9, Paul and Apollo are ministers of God. In verse 9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” he emphasizes that the Apostles are laborers working under God under God’s building plan, not of their own design.

More explicitely, later in his letters to the Corinthians, under 1 Corinth 1:10-12, Paul also writes that there should be no divisions amoung the Christian communities. “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chlo’e’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apol’los,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” And Paul answers, with easily answered questions, with the subsequent verse 13 “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? ” The answer is that Christ is not divided. Paul nor Apollos nor Cephas did not die for us, but for their beliefs in Christ. And no one was baptized in the name of Paul or any other disciple of Christ. While Cephas (Kephas – Peter) was crucified later, he did not die to wash away our sins, as Jesus did. Paul was writing to them to discourage dissension and divisions in the communities.

Even in the Gospel of John, Jesus states in Jn 10:14-16 that “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. ” This was from the word of Christ, the Son of God, that ” there shall be one flock, one shepherd”

I believe that all Christians are part of the one, holy, Catholic and apostalic Church. Even if those Christians do not want to directly associate with the Catholic Church led by Pope Benedict. The Church must be vigilante in maintaining the teachings and even though sects may create their version of the truth. I liken this to choices each of us have on our ethics, morals, and personal values. If I start out with my moral compass pointing due North, with each event in my life I have an opportunity to keep it pointing due North or slightly change my direction. If I rationalize that it’ll be ok “just this once”, then I’m inclined to take that same stance further down the road. Hypothetically, I could end up 180 degrees from North and heading in completely in the wrong direction – South. I could extend this argument to the creation of additional churches created by individiuals rationalizing why the Church isn’t right on one issue which is quickly rationalized why the Church is wrong about numerous substantial issues and therefore not the true church. I would offer that the Catholic Church is the standard bearer (the standard that all others compare themselves to) for all Christian religions and thus lead them directly or indirectly, even if those sects argue otherwise.
you have again, compelled me to take 10 times longer than I anticipated to present my viewpoints, but again, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more of the faith.

God Bless

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Written by Lashon Bush


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