Where do we go from here?
From Papal Power by Paul
published by Harper Collins 1997, pp 125-157
Published with the necessary permissions on our website
What is tradition and can it help us?
There is a sense in which the modern papacy could not become more powerful without swamping and absorbing Catholicism. We are now at the end of the development of the hierarchical model of the Church. For the continued health of Catholicism new ways of dealing with power and authority have to be discovered. To achieve this we need to move in two directions: back into the tradition to rediscover ways in which people dealt with these issues in the past, and forward as we create models that make sense in our context. Two things stand out in this process. Firstly, notions of the pope as lord and absolute monarch of the Church have to be jettisoned, as Catholics rediscover the New Testament concept of Church leader as servant and the one who facilitates the gifts of the community. Secondly, we have to move from a notion of the Church as a strict hierarchy to a more synodal, collegial model, whereby there are structures for the participation of Church membership in ecclesiastical processes, particularly decision-making processes.
To move in these directions will be construed by some as a revolution. In fact, what I am advocating is very conservative in the true sense of the word. For I am suggesting that we should reanimate and adapt structures that have been long dormant in the Church. What I want to do is to draw on tradition in the strict theological meaning of that word. So in the rest of this book I want to start to sketch out what the papacy of the future might be like and something of the role it will play in the governance of the Church. One of the essential elements of Christian faith is a sense of hope for the future, and the imagination to be able to conceive of what that future might be like.
Tradition and how it helps creativity now
There are two key elements in the process of religious creativity: tradition and imagination. In English, 'tradition' is a problematic word. It is usually taken to refer to a harking back to the past, with its beliefs and attitudes. But that is not the original meaning of the word, nor is it the meaning that I am giving it here. Tradition is a process. It helps us to see ourselves as part of a long historical progression that is moving toward the future. The Catholic tradition was not invented yesterday. Its deep historical roots give it a strength and durability that can provide a firm foundation to work toward something new. It is precisely at this moment of despair for many in the Church that the greatest opportunity exists to move toward the creation of the future. So let us tease out how tradition can assist Catholicism to look to the future.
One unexpected result of Vatican II within Catholicism has been the development of a somewhat myopic focus on the Bible. This has led to the neglect of the other source of revelationtradition. The problem has been the narrow, literalist interpretation assigned by theology to tradition since the sixteenth century.. The English word 'tradition' is derived from the Latin trado. which means 'give up,' 'hand over,' or 'consign to.' It has a strongly active sense of passing something on to another, it is essentially a creative process. Creativity fuelled by imaginationand a broad sense of fidelity to the past are essential components of tradition. Catholics take tradition as a source and norm of faith. God, Catholic theology says. reveals God's self to us through the Bible and through the tradition of the Church. But tradition has never been definitively defined. Probably it cannot be: it is one of those dynamic concepts that defies precision.
One notion of it, popular during and after the Council of Trent, saw it as the spoken but unwritten words and teachings of Jesus handed down in oral form from the apostles through the Church community. The idea was that over the centuries the Church gradually articulated these unwritten teachings of Jesus. Thus the conception gained ground that revelation was contained partly in scripture and partly in tradition. Another explanation, popular around the time of Vatican II, linked the Bible and tradition together in an intimate bond by pointing out that the New Testament itself was the product of the early oral tradition of the Church. The Church had been in existence for perhaps thirty years before any of the Gospels were written, so the community's oral teaching was the source of the New Testament itself. This approach also held that the Church's ongoing interpretation of scripture was actually the essence of its tradition. That view strongly influenced the formulation of the teaching of Vatican II, was deeply ecumenical, and geared to strengthen the theological bonds between Protestants and Catholics.
But in contrast to the modern focus on the content of tradition, the early Church was as much concerned with the process of tradition, the way in which it worked in practice. At the first Church councils, bishops and theologians saw themselves and their deliberations as the tradition working itself out in the life of the Christian community. They realized that it was their duty to maintain and develop the faith that had been handed down to them. More recently the papacy has taken to itself the sense that its magisterium is the tradition. During Vatican 1, Cardinal Filippo Guidi spoke of the bishops as witnesses of tradition. Pius IX angrily responded: 'Witnesses of tradition? There's only one: that's me.'(1) This notion that the pope personifies tradition has been a key part of the process whereby Rome has come to presume that it monopolizes the teaching of the Church.
But Pius IX was wrong and Guidi was right: the whole Church has a role in developing and authenticating tradition. The Roman view is that it owns and controls tradition. But in fact it is only consensus by the whole community over a long period, and eventual universal acceptance, that authenticates Church teaching. Theologically, this is called reception. It is what John Henry Newman meant by the phrase 'consulting the faithful in matters of doctrine.'(2) For authentication of teaching, the question has to be asked: What do ordinary, faithful Christians accept or reject? For instance, it could be reasonably argued that the teaching of the encyclical Humanae vitae has not been authenticated. For, despite the attempts of John Paul II, the teaching on contraception has consistently not been received by many in the Church most affected by it. If the teaching has not been received then there are good grounds to argue that it is simply wrong. No one who has worked through the history of the papacy could possibly imagine that the papacy was always right, or pretend that papal teaching was never abandoned or changed. Otherwise what would we do with the bull Unam sanctam of Boniface VIII. Mirari vos of Gregory XVI, or the Syllabus of Pius IX?
Until now I have emphasized the historical aspect of tradition. But there is also a sense in which the word points to a profoundly creative urge in the Church. The life of the Church is never static and there is no way in which we can ever return to the 'simplicity' of the Gospels, or to the early Church, or any other period of Church history. The Christian challenge is not to retreat to a paradise in the past, but to hand on creatively what has been received. Tradition is as much about the imagination as it is about the deposit of faith. This implies a process of dynamic and creative change. Tradition is not something merely 'handed down' in an antiquarian sense, but something 'handed over' in a transformative sense. It is the process that is important. There are, of course, within Christianity a number of traditions, different ways of comprehending and living the Christian faith. There is the Orthodox tradition, the Roman Catholic tradition, the Anglican tradition, the Lutheran, Baptist. Calvinist, and other Protestant traditions: all emphasize specific aspects of the totality of Christian faith, while retaining much in common with the other traditions. But I am not focusing on those specific traditions here. I want to examine the process of tradition, rather than its content. The process operates when something is handed to me from the past and I transform it as I hand it on to the succeeding person. Living, dynamic, historical realities never remain exactly the same; the very act of passing them on transforms them.
The papacy itself is a very good example of tradition in operation. It has not remained static. It is the product of the development of doctrine, which is the tradition evolving as it is passed on from one generation of Catholics to the next. When I say the papacy 'develops,' 1 mean that the institution unfolds and changes, often in historical fits and starts. In this sense tradition frees us to act in a transformative, creative way. Development means that what we have now is not the normative, final model that can never change. It actually means that it will survive only if it changes. In that sense those who demand change are often more concerned about the future welfare of the institution than the institution is itself!
Of course, not every change is for the good. Often enough a wrong course is taken, there are incorrect emphases, things go off the rails. The Reformers were absolutely correct: there is a sense in which the Church remains semper reformanda, always needing to be reformed. Examples of wrong development were the nonsensical developments of papal power and pretensions in the medieval period, culminating in the excesses of Boniface VIII. This is where the papal triumphalism is so dangerous. It is as though there was nothing new to learn, no wrong turns to correct. In many ways the present pain and despair in the Church results from the sheer arrogance of the past, the assumption that there was only 'one true church,' that Roman Catholicism was it, and that everyone else was wrong. In a way, the rest of this book is about the creative element of tradition, as we discuss the struggle of Catholicism to tease out a structure and model of governance that will more effectively meet the needs of people and ministry today.
What can we learn from tradition about papal leadership? There is a sense in which the New Testament and the early Church are normative for all later theological and functional developments in the history of the papacy. The earliest period is also useful in that the essential lineaments of the office can be discerned before too much baggage is overlaid by history. While the high papacy that we have today is the immediate result of all that has happened over the last two centuries, the office has evolved over a long historical period since the early days of the Christian Church. The earliest period of the evolution of all historical structures often gives clues, shorn of the accretions of time, to the essential elements of that reality. Just as the overture often introduces the best melodic tunes of an opera, so the early period of the papacy reveals the essential elements of the office.
This period is also profoundly important ecumenically. For Protestant Christians the Bible is the fundamental norm for all later Church life, and the New Testament concept of leadership is decisive for all later developments of ecclesiastical government. For the Orthodox the normative development occurred in the period of the first seven ecumenical councilsup to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. Because of both these ecumenical emphases, it is important to try to highlight the basic elements of the papal office in the early history of the Church, especially those that make sense to other Christians. So it is to the rôle of Peter and the popes in the early Church that I will now turn.
''Get behind me, Satan!' (Matthew 16:23)
Usually Catholic apologists for the papacy go straight to the famous text in Matthew s Gospel where Peter is called the 'rock'' upon which the Church is built. But this needs to be placed in a broader context: that of the New Testament notion of Church leadership and the significant emphasis on Peter's failure and his betrayal of Jesus. Peter does not emerge from the Gospel as an ideal leadership figure, but as a scarred, sinful man whose authority in the Church is accepted only in a limited sense.
There is an extraordinary text in Matthew's Gospel: it begins with Peter's well-meaning, but ham-fisted remonstration with Jesus about the dangers of his forthcoming confrontation with the religious authorities in Jerusalem. It leads to Jesus sudden, vicious rebuke: ''Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things' (16:23). In the Gospel, 'Satan' refers to the adversary who attempts to divert Jesus from the work assigned to him bv God, and here Peter is identified with this same Satan. The fact that this incident is found in Matthew has an additional irony because it is this Gospel that records the classical text that the papacy has used since the fourth century to authenticate its claims to primacy: Matthew 16:13-19. In this passage Peter is appointed leader of the apostolic group, is called the ''rock' upon which the Church is founded, and is given 'the keys of the kingdom' and the power of 'binding and loosing.' Papal apologists rarely refer to the incident just four verses later where Peter is called a 'stumbling stone' (the Greek word is skandalon) by Jesus and this rebuke is accentuated by the reference to 'Satan.'
Peter later betrayed Christ publicly. Again Jesus had warned him at the last supper: 'Truly I tell you., this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.' Peter replies adamantly: 'Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you' (Matthew 26:34-35). Yet Peter denies Jesus in the very same chapter: 'He denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man" ' (26:69-75). And it is not as though Peter were under real pressure: he is only challenged by two 'servant girls'. who in contemporary estimation were nobodies., without influence. John P. Meier holds that this story of failure is a warning directed at Church leaders.(3)
Catholic preachers tend to stress Peter's repentance rather than his failure: 'And he went out and wept bitterly' (Matthew 26:75). But given that the Gospels were written within the context of the early Church communities, these references to Peter's betrayal and the rebukes of Jesus have a broader context, for the Gospel does seem to harp on Peter's failures. The provenance of Matthew's Gospel is a Jewish-Christian community, probably in Syrian Antioch in the years after AD 70. (4) This group clearly recognized Peter's leadership in the early Church. Meier speaks of Matthew's concern about forms of 'nascent clericalism' that threaten the early Church.(5) However, ecclesiastical leaders could not take themselves too seriously if they were public sinners! Peter is an appropriate leader precisely because he had failed so seriously. He had committed the worst sin: apostasy. He had buckled under pressure and denied his Lord. Thus Peter could never take himself too seriously., or 'lord it over' the community (1 Peter 5:3). He could not be self-righteous, nor indulge in messianic pretensions. He was the humbled man who could be trusted precisely because his leadership emerged from his own failure. Thus he is normative for all Church leadership, which should be judged in the light of Peter's humility.
The New Testament model of leadership
This is further reinforced by the New Testament description of the leader as one who serves:
But Jesus called [the disciples] to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave: just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve . . .' (Matthew 20:25-28)
The contrast here is between secular models of power and the Christian emphasis on leadership as service, the type of service modeled by Jesus at the last supper when he washed his disciples' feet. Peter protests: 'You will never wash my feet.' Again Jesus responds bluntly to the man the Church calls the 'first pope': 'Unless I wash you., you have no share with me '(John 13:3-11). It is a far cry from the model of ecclesiastical leader as owner of the Church and papal oracle.
Matthew emphasizes that leadership is not about the perks and symbols of office (this is where we find Meier's 'nascent clericalism'). Jesus accused the religious leaders of his own day of making:
their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all students ... The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:5-8. 11)
In this context the Church leader is both disciple and servant. The contrast is between worldly power and leadership as service. Because the New Testament sees the Church as a unique community, it demands that the leaders of the community act in a way that is different from political leadership.
Of course, it is impossible to maintain such a generous attitude. Throughout history the ecclesiastical establishment has more or less abandoned the gospel ideal of leadership. Human beings are the creatures of their own time and culture, and we naturally import secular political models into the Church. I am not suggesting that we regress to the fundamentalist reductionism espoused by radical reformers from various stages of Church history. It is impossible to return to the 'primitive gospel.' Even in New Testament times it is clear that Christians did not achieve their own ideals and that power, politics, and manipulation were part of the fabric of Church life. A fortiori, it is even more difficult to achieve the evangelical ideal after two thousand years of Church history. But, as Martin Luther said, the contemporary Church stands judged by the cross of Christ Crux probat omnia. By any New Testament norm of leadership the modern papacy is seriously deficient. The New Testament description of the Church leader as a vulnerable, even sinful, servant has no place in the ideology of papalism. This is almost exclusively focused on the '"Petrine text' in Matthew.
The Petrine text (Matthew 16:17-19)
The dogmatic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is clear: Christ appointed Peter the leader of the apostles, and the popes are the direct successors of Peter. They share in his power of ruling and teaching. However, it was not until the time of Pope Damasus I (366-384) that papal apologists appealed to the Gospel of Matthew as the locus classicus for papal primacy and leadership. Certainly the text seemingly gives great authority to the leader of the apostles. Jesus says:
Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (16:17-19)
Nineteenth-century Protestant scholars, such as Adolf von Harnack, contended that this text was an interpolation added later to support the fact of papal primacy. These doubts have now been generally dismissed; everything in the text indicates that it is clearly an authentic part of the Gospel.
What is the text actually saying? It comes after Peter's confession that Jesus is 'the Christ, the Son of the living God' (16:16). Peter has replied in what Meier says was probably a 'confessional formula'' of Matthew's community.(6) His act of faith elicits a corresponding response from Jesus. He is now the Petros (in Aramaic Kepha)., the 'bedrock' on which Jesus will found his Church. The passage contains an elaborate play on words that is only really clear in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke,(7)
There are strong Old Testament overtones here: Abraham was the 'rock' from which the Jewish race "was hewn, and the quarry from which [the Jews] were dug" (Isaiah 51:1). God also is a 'rock': 'Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock' (Isaiah 26:4). The Church is the new people of God who will he built upon the bedrock of Peter. The 'gates of Hades [hell]' refers to the powers of evil that oppose the new people of God.
The reference to the keys draws on an incident described in Isaiah (22:15-25), where God tells the prophet to confront and remove Shebna, the steward (prime minister) of King Hezekiah. The keys (to the palace), the symbols of office, are taken from Shebna. As steward with authority, Peter is given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. As possessor of the keys he can 'bind and loose.' These terms come from the rabbinical tradition and refer to the rabbinical decisions to allow opinions to be held, or to outlaw them. The term also refers to the rabbis' ability to bind (that is, to impose excommunication) and to loose (that is, to absolve from excommunication). It is generally recognized todav by all scholars that this interpretation of the text is authentic. For instance, the Protestant Reformed scholar Oscar Cullmann, in his book Peter. accepts that the leadership of the apostolic Church is conferred on Peter.(8) Cullmann argues that the role of the apostle is to witness to the resurrection and to lay the foundation of Church. Peter has a primary role in each of these functions. But Cullmann maintains that this unique apostolic work cannot survive beyond the time of the apostles. In fact, he tends to limit this even further to the period of the earliest Church in Jerusalem, when Peter's primacy was clear.(9) Cullmann denies that there can be successors to Peter. He is the rock upon which the foundations of the Church are laid.
While in many ways the discussion has moved on since Cullmann's Peter, there is still a clear recognition that there is a sense in which he is profoundly right. As a witness to the resurrection, and in his function as the rock on which the Church is built, Peter cannot have a successor. Tillard clearly states, 'lt is ... impossible to speak of a "Petrine succession" ... without qualification,'(10) But, at the same time, it has to he asked whether Cullmann has not pushed the idea of the uniqueness of the apostolic age too far. Even in the New Testament, the work of Paul is continued by Timothy, Titus, and others referred to in the pastoral epistles. The unique role of the founder does not exclude succession. The mission of Christ is obviously unique, yet he tells the apostles, 'As the Father has sent me, so I send you' (John 20:21). The fact is that successors did continue the work of the founding generation.
At first there was little worry about succession, for the immanent end of the world was expected. But as that apocalyptic vision faded, the Church had to sort out what was of permanent value in the New Testament pattern. There was a realization that the community needed structural forms, and slowly the notion dawned that the work of the apostles continued in the ministry of bishops. The episcopate emerged only in the sub-apostolic age (probably first in Syrian Antioch), and it is clear that the Church only gradually sorted out various roles and functions. Christ did not found the Church as a fully developed entity.
Peter and Paul in Rome
As mentioned above, Matthew's Gospel was most probably written in Antioch, which was the first city of the Roman Empire to become a Christian center. The strong emphasis in Matthew on the role of Peter indicates that he must have spent time in the city and that he probably was somehow pivotal in the life of that community. It is clear that there was a deep split in the early Church between Paul, with his mission to the pagan Gentiles, and the conservative Jewish-Christians led by James in Jerusalem. The problem was the imposition of Jewish practices on Gentile converts. The council in Jerusalem, glowingly described in the Acts of the Apostles (15:1-22), only resolved that the Gentile mission could go ahead and that the two sides would avoid competition for converts. In fact, the unresolved issues in the dispute between Jewish and Gentile Christians came to a head some time later in Antioch.(11)
Writing very soon after this dispute in his letter to the Galatians, Paul says:
But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came he drew back and kept himself' separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy ... I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew. live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (2:11-14)
It is clear from the conflict described in Galatians that Peter arid Paul were both closely associated with the life of the Antioch church, as they were later to be associated with the Roman church through their martyrdoms. Obviously Paul saw Peter as weak and reneging on the logical consequences of the agreements hammered out in Jerusalem. However, Peter saw his role as preventing schism and moderating the divisions between the two groups of Christians.
The other point worth noting in the quotation from Galatians above is the fact the Paul confronted Peter 'to his face.' In other words, in the early Church Paul did not hesitate to disagree with the 'rock' upon which the Church was built. He not only disagreed but, unable to accept the Petrine compromise, he set off on an independent mission. (Peter and Paul were presumably not to meet again until they both came to Rome and were martyred in the capital in the 60s.) The disputes of the New Testament Church indicate that Christians will always hold passionate convictions and that they have every right to act on them. The fact that Peter was the Church's 'bedrock' did not faze Paul. He felt that he had the right to go his own way. He is a potential model for those who do not accept the papal 'line.'
So Paul set out on his missionary journeys to Asia Minor and Greece. We can more or less work out the detailed progression of Paul's missionary journeys and roughly assign dates to the key events in his life. No such chronology can be reconstructed for Peter. There is good evidence that he was martyred, like Paul, during the persecution by the emperor Nero in Rome.
Raymond Rrown thinks that Peter probably did not come to the capital before 58, and even possibly not until just before his martyrdom. He was not the original missionary to Rome and ''there is no serious proof that he was the bishop (or local ecclesiastical officer) of the Roman churcha claim not made till the third century.'(12) The evidence is strong that the Christian community in Rome dates back to the early or mid-40s. There was a thriving Jewish community of up to 50 000 in the capital during the first century. So it would be natural for a Christian group to form within this larger context.
Peter and the Christian community in Rome
Many attempts have been made to clarify Peter's relationship to the Roman Christian community. Over the last forty years the most interesting has been the discussion about the archaeological evidence of Peter's martyrdom in Rome. One of the fascinating places to visit in the present-day Vatican is the scavithe excavations under Saint Peter's basilica. This archaeological work began in secret in 1939, and was made public a decade later.(13) What has become clear is that the present basilica was built on the remnants of the early fourth-century basilica of the Emperor Constantine the Great, which was demolished in the late fifteenth century. The fourth-century church had been built above a Roman cemetery that was on the lower side of the Vatican hill. Below the cemetery, on level ground, was the Circus of Nero. The assumption is that this is where Saint Peter was martyred during the Neronian persecution. It is reasonable that, if he had been martyred there, and if his body was recovered, it would have been buried in the nearby cemetery. Certainly the archaeological evidence is that there was a modest Christian monument built in the cemetery between the years 160 and 170.
Clearly, Constantine (d. 337) had no doubt that this was the tomb of Peter, for he built his basilica right in the middle of the cemetery, which he had to close. In doing this he broke Roman lawand offended Roman sensibilityby destroying many of the graves. Roman graves were actually mausoleums, constructed above ground. Constantine had to build the basilica into the side of the Vatican hill. All of this indicates that the emperor wanted to place his church on a specific site the place where he thought the tomb of Saint Peter was situated. However, not all of the graves were destroyed because Constantine filled in much of the area with rubble. The key area in the excavations is the apostolic memorial abutting a second-century red wall. Claims have been made (most notably by Pope Paul VI) that bones found near this monument are actually those of Peter.
However, the optimistic assessments that argued that the actual grave of the apostle had been found(14) are now widely criticized. Daniel W. O'Connor, who examined all the literary, liturgical, and archaeological evidence, reaches conclusions that, while cautious and minimalist, probably still reflect the present state of the question:
In summary, it appears more plausible than not that: (1) Peter did reside in Rome at some time during his lifetime, most probably near the end of his life. (2) He was martyred there as a member of the Christian religion. (3) He was remembered in the traditions of the church and in the erection of a simple monument near the place where he died. (4) His body was never recovered for burial by the Christian group which later, when relics became of great importance for apologetic reasons, came to believe that what originally had marked the general area of his death also indicated the precise placement of his grave.(15)
This minimalist assessment, however, must be placed within the context of the constant and very early tradition that Peter and Paul were in Rome at the end of their lives, that they were the foundation upon which the Roman church was built, and that they both were martyred in the Neronian persecution.
Where does this leave us theologically?
This confronts us with three theological questions: In what sense was Peter the 'founder' of the Roman church? If Peter was not the first Bishop of Rome, who was? And what about the question of papalor episcopalsuccession in Rome?
To take the question of 'founder' first, Peter was not the first preacher, nor was he the literal founder of the church in Rome, in the sense of being the first Christian there. Clearly there was a Christian community in the capital well before his arrival; the Roman church was probably established between the years 40 and 45. However, the word 'founder'' does not have to be taken in a crudely literal sense. Since Cullmann there has been a broad scholarly recognition of the centrality of Peter as the head of the apostles in the early Church. If he was the bedrock upon which the Church was built, then his presence in a particular place could lead the local community there to see him, by extension, as the foundation upon which their church was established. The ancients did not have a literalist and modern historical mindset. Just as they often ascribed anonymous writings to a famous personage, there is no reason why they would not adopt an important person like Peter as the founder of their particular community. It was not only his presence, but especially his martyrdom, that gave to the capital city of the empire a dignity and importance that no other church had. The 'rock' upon which the apostolic group was founded had finally died for his Lord in the city that was the foundation of the empire.
Models of leadership In the early Church
To fit Peter into his proper context we need to understand how the early Church worked. In the earliest period the 'local church' was neither the parish nor the diocese in our sense. It really meant a regular community meeting in a large house or hall, or. during persecution, in the catacombs. The leader of this celebration gradually became identified with what we would call a bishop. In the early period this leader might be the owner of the house, and there is good evidence that some of these were women.(16) In some of the larger cities of the Roman Empire there were probably a couple of communities with similar structures operating side by side. For instance, this is probably true of Rome.
Until the emergence of modern critical studies, and a careful study of the history of the early Church over the last two centuries, it was assumed that the ministerial model of bishop, priest, and deacon could be found in the later writings of the New Testament. Nowadays it is clear that, this is not the case. The notion of the bishop as sole head of a local church came into general use in the Church only by about 175. Prior to that, the situation was much more fluid. Different forms of Church leadership developed in different places. Some cities, such as Antioch, seemingly developed an episcopate much earlier than others. Even in the New Testament itself, as we have seen, there was real tension between a stable local church like that under the control of James in Jerusalem, and a traveling flying-squad of apostles and missionaries working principally with Gentiles, along the lines set up by Paul.
Even the word episcopos (bishop or overseer) was not clearly distinguished from presbyteros (elder) in early Christian usage. The term presbyter is a continuation of the Jewish notion of elders and is used right from the most primitive period of the Church. The word episcopos comes later in the New Testament. Bishops had a practical role: they came to be seen as the liturgical, jurisdictionial. and. eventually, doctrinal leaders of the community. The terms presbyter and bishop are not necessarily incompatible: sometimes you find them applied to the same person. It was only in the second century that they came to be seen as denoting separate roles. The linking of the term priest to the role of presbyter came only from around the late-second century onwards.
To understand the leadership of the early Church, several things need to be noted about the New Testament and sub-apostolic patterns of ministry.(17) Firstly, ministries were both diverse and evolving; there were no hard-and-fast ways of ministerial operation. Secondly, there was no strict demarcation of functions; that is. nothing was specifically reserved to one precise group. Thirdly, the foundation of ministry was charism or call; it was the spirit of God that gave gifts to each individual to be used to build up the Church. Finally, the New Testament nowhere raises any obstacles against the ministry of women; in fact, they were very prominent in the work of the early Church, including the role of leadership in worship and community life. The only conclusion that we can draw from these, observations is that no present-day Church order can appeal directly to the New Testament, or even to sub-apostolic times, to justify contemporary ecclesiastical structures. Thus the present Catholic bishop-priest-deacon model of ministry cannot be said to be apostolically normative. From this we can draw the conclusion that offices in the Church, including the papal office, are the result of a long evolution. They are not static and therefore can continue to develop. What we have now is not normative forever.
Given this context, and the importance of Peter in the New Testament Church, the Roman Christians would have had no problem recognizing his leadership. But we need to remember that he was only in Rome for a brief period. If he arrived in Rome after 58 and was martyred in around 64. his total residence in the capital cannot be more than six years. It is Peter's martyrdom during Nero's persecution and his burial in the city that was most significant for later history. What about his successors?
From house church to episcopal rule in Rome
The problem that we have today is that we do not take the evidence of the past at its face value. We read history backwards by trying to find the origins, or at least traces, of what we have today, in past structures. This has been particularly true of Catholic apologists for the papacy. They look for signs of a monarchical bishop in Rome, presiding in solitary power, at the very beginning of the tradition. But the evidence we have does not fit with our contemporary expectations. For instance, we are used to lists of Roman bishops going back to Peter, who is immediately followed by Linus, Cletus (or Anancletus), Clement, and so on. But we know nothing of the two immediate successors of Peter. Both Tertullian (c. 160-c. 225) and Saint Jerome (c. 342-420) say that Peter ordained Clement as his successor. Where does this leave Linus and Cletus? Despite the fact that in The Oxford Dictionary of Popes Kelly gives estimated dates for their papacies, these cannot be taken as accurate.(18) The papal lists were drawn up a good deal laterthe earliest being that of Saint Hegesippus (c. 160), who wrote five books of memoirs of which only fragments are preserved in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History.(19) These later catalogers read back a monarchical episcopate into the early Roman community., when it did not exist there.
What we do know of Roman Christianity at the end of the first century suggests that it was made up of a number of 'house churches,' meetings for the eucharist held in a large house, each with its own community and led by a presbyter/episcopos. Possibly Linus, Cletus, and Clement (and others) were more or less contemporary with each other, and were leaders of different house churches in Rome. Perhaps they even exercised a type of 'collegial papacy'! We have no real way of knowing the nature of their relationship. The evidence seems to be that Rome was rather late in developing a monarchical episcopate compared, for instance, to Antioch.
We have some evidence of Clement of Rome through his extant Letter to the Corinthians., which is dated around 96.(20) We know little about the author, but reading the Letter you have the sense of a man who admires Roman order, which he wants to see applied to the Church. He distinguishes the leaders of worship from the laikosthe laity, the first time this distinction appears in Christian writing.(21) He emphasizes Church unity, order, and the apostolic succession of bishops and deacons.(22) The Letter seems to suggest a sense of Roman responsibility for the other churches. However, we cannot conclude from this that the Roman church was already a unified community governed by a single bishop, with a primacy of doctrinal jurisdiction. Clement nowhere says that he is the 'bishop' of Rome and the feel of the letter is that it is really one church exercising a kind of fraternal correction of another. We do not know the consequences of the letter and whether the Corinthian church took it seriously. The most that can be said is that Clement was a presbyter/episcopos of a Roman community speaking on behalf of all the Roman communities. Kelly concludes:
While Clement's position as a leading presbyter and spokesman of the Christian community at Rome is assured,, his letter suggests that the monarchical episcopate had not yet emerged there, and it is therefore impossible to form any precise conception of his constitutional role,(23)
Certainly the fact that the Roman church exercised some type of significant influence in the early Church is attested by a second major source in the first decade of the second century. Ignatius (c.35 - c.107) was possibly either the second or third bishop of Antioch after Peter, and it is clear that the episcopate had emerged there earlier than elsewhere. There are seven extant and authentic letters from Ignatius written while he was on the way to Rome for martyrdom. It is clear from several of these letters that the episcopate had spread in Asia Minor, probably due to the influence of Antioch. Also, the letters offer evidence that Ignatius, like Clement, thought that his responsibility was wider than the territory of the church of Antioch. As a successor of the apostles he felt himself not only to be responsible for the fixed territory of his own church, but to be part of a collegiality that comprises all bishops. There is no clear assertion of Roman primacy in the Letter to the Romans, but there are passages that indicate that the Roman church had a special role among all the Christian communities.(24)
The opening passage is very deferential. He twice uses the word 'presidency' to refer to the Roman church. This was to evolve into the notion that Rome held the presidency of charity, the presidency of the 'koinonia,' the communion of the Church. Ignatius tells the Roman church: 'Ye were the instructors of others.'(25) Again, this is a brief, passing reference to the potential emergence of the church of Rome as a latter-day norm of orthodoxy. Rut, as always, it must be read within the context of its own time and it is certainly no second-century warrant for the present papal magisterium. .
The development of 'early Catholicism'
Certainly the early, fluid situation evolved into a more settled structure reasonably quickly. The Protestant scholar Ernst Kasemann says that the earliest biblical forms of Church structure consolidated into what he calls ''primitive Catholicism.'' He says that this is coterminous with the decline in eschatological expectation among Christians.(26) While he accepts the legitimacy of this development, he still emphasizes a disjunction between the earliest pattern and that which developed by the middle of the second century. Although Kasemann consistently underestimates the 'Catholic' elements that can be discerned in the New Testament itself, he is fundamentally right about the 'Catholicizing' process in the second century. The freewheeling, creative, and unstructured approach characteristic of the foundation period was replaced by a set pattern of life and belief. Roles were sorted out. Worship became more stylized and regular. The wandering apostles (such as Paul) disappeared, and preaching and evangelization settled down into a set form. The tradition of belief became important. By the middle of the second century a level of standardization had appeared. The definition of Christian belief came more and more under the influence of 'elders,' or community presiders.
As a result, the question of the succession of these elders became important. So the Church began to compile lists of bishops in order to trace apostolic authority. Robert B. Eno emphasizes that this was especially true of the church of Rome.(27) But, this having been said, it also needs to be emphasized that the early Church was still a community of communities and it was characterized by equality; it was not hierarchical in the sense that has dominated Catholic thinking since the early Middle Ages.
Those who look only for hierarchical patterns in the early Church emphasize the emerging role of episcopal leadership. But. there was also a parallel group to the bishops in the evolution of the tradition: these exercised the function of didaskaliateaching. The teachers instructed new converts in the faith, strengthened the baptized by an ongoing interpretation of the meaning of belief, and explained the tradition in relationship to the surrounding culture. In other words, these teachers slowly became theologians. There was even a school of theologians in the late-second century in Alexandria, located around Clement and Origen.
All of this shows how the evolution of the papacy is embedded in the process of the broader theological development of ministerial practice in the early Church. The apostles did not hand over to the Church a fully formed model for the exercise of authority in the community.
Developments in the second century
By the latter half of the second century, we can confidently say that the Church order familiar to us today was gradually emerging. The practice of Asia Minor had spread, and the model of a local bishop was close to becoming the norm. The bishop was the principal celebrant of the liturgy, and his participation in the apostolic successionthe line of bishops reaching back to the apostlesensured the local church's doctrinal orthodoxy. The practical affairs of the church were in the hands of deacons, and the presbyterate, or college of elders, was the body that advised the bishop. The presbyters had begun the process of evolution that would eventually lead in the fourth century to the emergence of the priesthood as we know it.(28)
By the mid-second century the monarchical episcopate had
probably just spread to Koine, but exactly when we cannot say. But it seems to
have been in existence there when Saint Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200) of
Lyons made his famous reference to the Roman church in the Adversus
Haereses(29)But Denis Minns warns that 'there are hints in [Irenaeus']
writings that he was familiar with the more collegial form of church
evident in the New Testament and other early Christian sources.'(30) Minns says that bishops may not have been established in every church with which Irenaeus was familiar, but 'its introduction was not long to be delayed, and, indeed, the logic of the argument for apostolic succession required it.'(31) To sort out apostolic authority, Irenaeus actually listed the succession of bishops in Rome.(32) We do not have the original Greek of the Adversus Haereses and the Latin translation of the rest of this passage is very contentious. Minns cuts through the debate by saying:
Irenaeus was badly served by his translator ... he spoke not of the pre-eminent authority of the church of Rome but of its more excellent origin. It was distinguished from other churches of apostolic foundation by the fact that it was founded by two Apostles, and by Peter and Paul, the most glorious of them, at that. It was for this reason that Irenaeus chose to give the succession list of the Roman church.(33)
This list begins with Linus. Contrary to later tradition, Irenaeus does not say that Peter was first bishop, but that Peter and Paul as equals provided the apostolic foundation upon which Linus and his successors built. Pope Eleutherius (c. 174-189) is the last Roman bishop in the list of Irenaeus. With him we enter into a historical succession ol bishops. This is not to suggest that his predecessors, beginning with Linus, did not exist. It is simply to say that we are not sure of their exact historical role and function in the Roman church.
Eleutherius' successor, Victor I (189-198) was the most important pope of the second century. He unsuccessfully tried to force the churches of Asia Minor to celebrate Easter on the Sunday following the Jewish Passover. He clearly thought that he had the right to interfere with the internal liturgical arrangements of other churches. Also, throughout the latter part of the second century a number of important Christian thinkers, both orthodox and heretical, visited Rome. Among them was Irenaeus himself, Polycarp (from Smyrna), Justin Martyr, and Hegesippus from Jerusalem. They came not because the city was an intellectual or theological center, but more likely because of the influence of the Roman church and its reputation for orthodoxy.
The papacy in the third and fourth centuries
It is clear that Rome under Pope Victor was already taking itself very seriously. Whether other churches took the Roman bishop's claims to heart., especially in the East, is another matter. If there was an escalation in papal claims in the second century there was a corresponding decline in the influence of the popes in the third century. In fact, the churches of the East largely ignored Rome and it was in the East that the greatest number of Christians were concentrated. Here they had their own dioceses of apostolic origin. In contrast, the North African churches looked to Rome for leadership, but there were limitations even to their tolerance of Roman interference. In the West, where the Bishop of Rome's influence would have been strong, large churches were few and far between: Rome, central and southern Italy, Naples, Lyons and the area around Marseilles had reasonable concentrations of Christians. Central and northern Gaul. Britain, Germany, and Pannonia were hardly affected by Christianity at all.
The position of Rome was probably weakened by the election of two antipopes(34) in the third centuryHippolytus (217-235) and Novatian (251-258). Both were intransigent rigorists. While there is doubt among contemporary scholars as to whether Hippolytus actually set himself up as an antipope. he was certainly a bitter critic of both Popes Zephyrinus (198/9-217) "and Callistus I (217-222). Hippolytus is also important because of his Apostolic Tradition., a liturgical book that describes the sacramental worship of the Roman church. Novatian was contemporaneous with the persecution by the Emperor Decius (249-251), probably the worst and most extensive of the all the Roman persecutions.(35) Many Christians lapsed during this brief but very trying time for the community. Novatian was bitterly disappointed when he was not elected Bishop of Rome in March 251. Like others (such as Hippolytus) he opposed the readmission to the community of Christians who had apostatized during persecution, and he used this as a way of attacking the new pope, Cornelius (251-253). His schism spread quickly as a kind of parallel church in both East and West, holding the strict view that there was no forgiveness for serious sin committed after baptism. The Novatian schism persisted for several centuries.
The persecution of Decius was especially violent in North Africa. While some Christians made a stand and died as martyrs, the majority knuckled under and lapsed. Others went into hiding. The persecution was brief, for Decius was killed in June 251 in a campaign against the Goths. One of those who went into hiding was Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage(36) This caused some surprise in the wider Church and he was often on the defensive about it, but it did not stop him discussing, in his book De lapsis, the problem of what to do about those who had offered pagan sacrifice, Cyprian held the view that the lapsi ought to be received back into the Church after due penance. But. as we have seen, this was not universally acceptable, especially to rigorists like Novatian, who wrote to Carthage accusing Cyprian of being a hireling who had abandoned the flock, unlike Pope Fabian (236-250) in Rome, who had been martyred. This led to a correspondence between Cyprian and Pope Cornelius. They agreed on a moderate policy in receiving the lapsi back into the Church.
Indeed, Cyprian and Cornelius agreed on many things. But Cyprian was no papal 'yes man,' as his relationship with Pope Stephen I (254-257) showed. The focus of Cyprian's theology was the unity of the local church, and his major work is De Catholicae ecclesiae unitate, written in 251(37) He also emphasized the unity of the bishops throughout the world; one way to achieve this was by frequent episcopal meetings in councils and synods. (I will refer to his notion of the cathedra Petri in the next chapter (p. 163).)
Cyprian was himself martyred in 258 in the persecution of the Emperor Valerian (253-260). But in the period from about 260 until the persecution of Diocletian the Great (284-305) the persecution began in 303there is a lacuna in the Church history sources. Historical sources for the Roman bishops from Dionysius (260-268) to Miltiades (311-314) are almost nonexistent. Possibly the reason for this is the severity of Diocletian's persecution and the successful attempts by this emperor to destroy the books and records of the Church.(38) The growth in the number of Christians, especially in the East, and their permeation of all classes of society, including the imperial household itself (Diocletian's wife Prisca and his daughter Valeria were probably Christians) and the army, clearly frightened the pagans, especially fanatics like Diocletian's co-emperor, Galerius.
At first Diocletian was tolerant of Christians. But
under the influence of Galerius he began a purgation of the army between 297
and 301. The persecution became general in 303. It was applied in stages:
firstly churches and Christian books were destroyed. Secondly, a capital
sentence for bishops was introduced. Finally, everyone everywhere had to
participate publicly in the civil cult and offer sacrifice to the gods. The
persecution was particularly severe in the East. We know that the archives of
the Roman church were taken and destroyed. The Roman bishop, Pope Marcellinus
(296-c. 304). handed over the Bible and the sacred books, and also apparently,
with several of his presbyters, offered incense to the gods. It was a sad end
to the first stage of papal history.
But a whole new period for the Church was on the horizon. For in the years 312 to 313, Constantine adopted the Christian God as his God, but he also seized power as emperor.
Practical, modern conclusions from the primordial period
The importance and the normative value of the earliest period of Church history is derived from the fact that the essential lineaments of Church structure and operation can be discerned there. So what practical conclusions can Catholicism draw from the early period that will be of help to our contemporary situation?
Firstly, 1 want to focus on the person of Peter himself. There is a lot about him in the New Testament and from this material the profile of what is needed in a Church leader can be drawn. From Matthew's Gospel the image of Peter emerges of a scarred, sinful man who has committed the worst sin in the early Church: he was guilty of apostasy and the betrayal of Christ. Even before this, he had been called 'Satan' and a 'stumbling block' by Jesus. He was the very antithesis of a superstar. He was the humble, repentant man whose leadership could be trusted precisely because his failures were so well known. The early Church was very aware of the dangers of power and clericalism. Peter could never have an inflated opinion of himself because of his public sin and failure.
Peter seems to have taken an inclusive stance. In the disputes with Paul he saw it as his duty to try to hold the Church together. At the Jerusalem council he does not pontificate alone about the question of Jewish practices and Gentile Christians. He decides in concert with the other elders. He does not then try to impose those decisions, but attempts to lead people toward their acceptance. This is why Paul is so impatient with him and casts Peter in the rôle of weak-kneed compromiser in his letter to the Galatians (2:11-14). The disagreement was over ritual impurity and the use of gentile food at the eucharistic table. Paul says Peter 'used to eat with the Gentiles' until 'certain people came from James' in Jerusalem. But then Peter drew back 'and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.' As a result, Paul opposed Peter 'to his face, because he stood self-condemned.' Clearly, we only have Paul's version of this event, and a passionate and probably partisan version it is. A whole other interpretation might be that Peter was trying to keep the peace between the stodgy and conservative James in Jerusalem and the fire-eating Paul in Antioch. To use Paul's own words in 1 Corinthians, Peter was trying to be omnia omnibus'all things to all people- that I might by all means save some' (9:22). In other words, he saw it as the role of the leader to allow and even encourage diversity. This is the kind of truly catholic, universal attitude that Catholicism needs to rediscover. Peter perhaps understood better than Paul that unity is not uniformity.
Peter's actions illustrate that the New testament norm of leadership is significantly different from that of the political world. He lived out the advice given by Jesus to the apostles:
Jesus called them to him and said, ''You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you: but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man carne not to be served but to serve ...'' (Matthew 20:25-28)
In the light of this text, the Church's constant struggle ought to have been to avoid political models of power and to have exercised a form of servant leadership. In this context the absolute monarchy model of papacy is totally deficient and the notion of pope as oracle arid superstar is repugnant.
The Petrine text is clear that the leadership of the Church was conferred on Peter and it is also demonstrable that there was a strong early tradition of identifying the bishops of Rome with Peter (and sometimes Peter and Paul). The pope was traditionally seen as the Vicar of Peter. The use of the term 'Vicar of Christ' is a very late development and only became current with Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). In fact, as Tillard points out, the notion of Petrine succession is far more significant than is generally recognized today.(39) He argues that there is an almost sacramental sense in which Peter lives on in the see of Rome. Just as the Word of scripture and the sacraments makes present now the saving power of God, so authority continues to reside in the Roman church and is realised in a particular way in each of its bishops.'(40) In other words. Peter has 'vicars in the see of Rome rather than successors.' This is important, for it adds even further weight to the significance of the profile of Peter that emerges from the New Testament. The figure of Peter and his attitudes become normative for our time.
So, in the light of all this, what type of pope does the Church need today? Firstly, it needs a person whose humanity has been formed through suffering, pain, sin, and reconciliation, whose attitudes have been shaped more by experience of the Church and Christian living than by ideology or a sense of self-importance and destiny. The pope certainly needs to be a leader, but in the true Christian sense. This means someone who is focused outward toward the stimulation and support of the abilities and gifts of others, rather than inward through a conviction of a 'messianic' mission to dominate the Church and its ministry in order to 'save' it from itself. This does not mean thai the pope should not make decisions, but they need to be made collegially, with others who are sensitive to the complexities involved. The Church desperately needs a pope who will build bridges both within the Church and outside of it but especially within it. At present in the centralized, papalist hierarchical structure so many people of good will feel that they are marginalized, their gifts unrecognized, their services unwanted. Fundamentally, the Church needs popes who move away from the ideology of power toward a ministry of service. If the popes are the Vicars of Peter, they need to be more like their patron.
Secondly, what can we draw from the post-Petrine period of the early Church? The first thing that emerges is the sheer complexity of the development of office and ministry in the early Church. All ministerial offices, including the papacy and the episcopate, are the result of a long development and no present-day Church order can appeal directly to the New Testament. From this we can conclude that what we have now is not necessarily normative forever. The offices of pope, bishop, priest, and deacon will remain, but their form and function will change. This is the creative element of tradition. We transform what has been handed on to us according to our contemporary needs.
The presidency of charity: a model for the future?
An important development in the period between sub-apostolic times and the advent of Constaritine is the sense of the Church as a community of communities, and the evolution of a notion of the Bishop of Rome exercising a presidency of charity in the Church. The term originates in the letter of Ignatius of Antioch (c.35 - c.107} to the Romans. In praising the church of Rome he says that it holds 'the presidency of love'.(41) This text is often used by pro-papalist apologists to cite support for papal primacy in immediate sub-apostolic times. But this is a misreading of the text. In the earliest period, and for a long time after it, the primary ecclesiological model was local, and the prime expression of that local church was the community gathered in charity around the bishop celebrating the eucharist. The Greek word for love is agape and this word is the key to the meaning of the text of Ignatius. Just as the eucharist was the central focus and bond of the local church, so a eucharistic nexus holds all the disparate local churches together in unity.
In his letter to the Romans Ignatius speaks of the presidency of the agapethe eucharist. He is clearly saying that the churches form a eucharistic union that is founded in charity.(42) The Roman church presides over that eucharistic concordit holds the presidency of charity. The Orthodox church historian, Nicholas Afanassief, writes:
Because a local church was by nature identical with the concord of all the churches in love, an image came naturally to Ignatius' mind: he pictured the local churches grouped, as it were, in a eucharistic assembly, with every church in its special place., and the church of Rome in the chair, sitting in the 'first place' [the presidency]. So, says Ignatius, the church of Rome indeed has the priority in the whole company of churches united in concord.(43)
This does not mean that Afanassief accepts Roman primacy in the modern sense. He is simply saying that Rome played a pivotal role in the communion of the early Church. This may well be a clue for the ecumenical Church of the future.
A closely connected idea is expressed in the Latin word communio. This is a key to understanding the ecclesiology of the early Church.(44) 'Communion' is the word used to denote both the local and the universal Church, which is conceived of as a communion of communions. The eucharistic overtones here are absolutely clear and participation in eucharistic communion is the external sign of this union with the Church. The sinner was debarred from eucharistic communion and thus from the Church; this is what excommunication literally means, and how it was applied in the early Church. Christian travelers carried a letter or passport of communiona tessoraissued by one's local bishop. This opened up for the visitor free lodging and hospitality as well as access to the eucharist. These passports were checked against a list of the principal churches with which the local church was in communion.. The two norms by which the orthodoxy of a local church could be established were a link between the local bishop and the episcopate as a whole, and a real communal relationship with the oldest churches, especially Rome. Rome usually held the first place in the lists; if you were in communion with Rome, you were in communion with the Catholic Church.
In the early Church this all made sense because the Christian communities were small groups within a reasonably small city, People knew each other. So faith was lived out primarily in the local community, and only secondarily and remotely in the universal Church. A universalist ecclesiology made sense only in terms of the Church as a communion of local communions.
But from about the twelfth century onward the emphasis in theology, canon law, and even historiography had shifted away from the local toward the universal Church and to a centralized papal authority. In contrast to the Orthodox churches, which still have a strong sense of cultural and national identity (so that we speak of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and so on), the local Catholic churches have scarcely had a chance to develop a sense of themselves as specific cultural and national entities, let alone as local communities. Unlike the New Testament, the emphasis in Catholicism today is still very much on a universalist ecclesiology. While retaining the strengths of its universalism, the Catholic Church urgently needs to begin the development of a much greater sense of local cultural identity; it needs to become indigenized wherever it exists. Here I am not referring to ethnocentrism, nor to chauvinistic nationalism. But localism does imply an expression of the Church in and through local cultural forms.
Among some Catholics today there is nostalgia for 'community'- in the sense that the local church or parish ought to provide the primary group for personal adhesion and fulfilment. But this by no means represents the desire of the majority. Many are still repelled at the thought of the possible development of a narcissistic, sectarian in-group. But communio does not imply community in the sense that people live in each other's pockets and provide a primary source of personal adhesion. Different people will belong to the local communion at different levels and in various ways. For some, their church will be their basic human community: for others, a sense of belonging will be expressed in terms of worship and symbol; and for still others it will provide a cultural and intellectual home. But whatever community means to individuals, the emphasis will be on the full assumption of responsibility for ministry at the local level.
How does the focus on communion and presidency of charity help us today? It does two things: it shifts the emphasis from a Rome-centered ecclesiology to an emphasis on the local church. And it transfers the locus from a notion of unity centered on papal power to one centered on the eucharist. Many writers have stressed the need for the development of the local church and have suggested methodologies as to how the local church can develop. I am not going to detail that material here, except to mention an element that is often forgotten: the importance of a sense of history of the Catholic Church in particular cultures in developing a consciousness of local church. These local histories have begun to appear only fairly recently, but the situation is now quickly changing, especially in the Western world. Most English-speaking Catholic communities have good general histories, as well as many studies of particular persons, issues, and events. In the United States there are fine histories of the local church by John Tracy Ellis and James Hennesey.(45) In Ireland, where Catholicism is deeply embedded in the culture, there are many general histories and particular studies, but I refer especially to the recent work of Patrick Corish."(46)The English Catholic community also has several good general histories, especially the writings of John Bossy and Derek Holmes.(47) The Catholic Church in Australia probably has the most extensive historiography of all English-speaking countries. Patrick 0'Farrell's The Catholic Church and Community in Australia is especially noteworthy.'(48) All of these books encourage a sense of the Church community in relationship to a specific culture arid nation. It nurtures deeply the sense of a spirit of local communio.
More important in the context of this chapter is the notion of the presidency of charity. It offers a whole new model for the papacy, or, more accurately, the relationship of the pope to the rest of the Church. It would also revive the notion of servant leadership, in which the ministerial task of the pope would be to encourage the growth of subsidiarity through which the local church would assume more responsibility for living out the faith in its own area. It would be part of the gradual abandonment of the monarchical and bureaucratic centralism that at present characterizes Roman attitudes. How then would the presidency of charity work?
It would begin to look at the Church from the bottom up. not the top down. Here the primary group is the communion of local communities that make up the diocese. But large dioceses can be very impersonal and people have no sense of belonging, because they never see the bishop. The statistics bring this home: in December 1993 (the most recent statistics available), there were 2435 archdioceses and dioceses worldwide, plus 232 other ecclesiastical circumscriptions.(49) In order to get some sense of belonging to a local church, the number of dioceses and bishops would need to be tripled or even quadrupled. In 1993 there were around 964 million Catholics worldwide. Thus in round figures, even if there were 10,000 dioceses, this would still mean approximately 96,000 people per diocese. If the local diocese is the fundamental unit of communion, the broader national church would be presided over by a metropolitan archbishop, and it would find its expression in a national conference that might well be an expansion of the present episcopal conference. A common national approach to evangelization, ethics, canon law, and clergy discipline could be decided by such a conference.
National conferences could find a broader expression in regional conferences that could correspond to a new set of geographical patriarchates. Here major issues of common concern could be discussed, debated, and decided. Only issues that affected the unity of the whole Church need be referred to the highest levelthe papacywhich would hold the whole communion together. As I shall argue later, regular general Councils would be the prime expression of the universal Church. This kind of structure would have the advantage of deciding issues at the lowest possible level, according to the principle of subsidiarity, and, through interlocking levels of communion, give expression to the Church's unity. In this more communal Church, the pope would need caritas (charity) rather than potestas (power).
The ancient hymn expresses this succinctly: Ubi caritas et amor. Deus ibi estwhere there is charity and love, there the love of God abides.
1 Quoted in Butler, Council, p. 355. See also Hasler, p. 9
2 John Henry Newman, On Consulting the Laity in Matters of Doctrine ed. by John Coulson. London: Collins, 1961. See also Webster T. Patterson, Newman: Pioneer for the Layman, Washington: Corpus. 1968.
3 John P. Meier, Matthew, Wilmington: Michael Glazier. 1980. p. 335.
4 Ibid., pp. xixii. See also Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier. Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity, New York: Paulist, 1983, pp. 1272.
5 Meier in Brown and Meier. p. 70.
6 Meier, p. 180.
7 Ibid-, p. 181.
8 Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr. Philadelphia: Westminster. 1953. Originally published in German in 1952.
9 Ibid., p. 226. 10 Tillard; Bishop of Rome., p. 96.
11 Günther Bornkamm. Paul. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1971, p. 40.
12 Brown and Meier. p. 98. See also Raymond F.. Brown et al., Peter in the New Testament. New York: Paulist. 1973.
13 Jocelyn Toynbee and John Ward Perkins, The Shrine of St. Peter and the Vatican Excavations, New York: Pantheon, 1957. See also Umberto M. Fasola, Traces on Stone: Peter and Paul in Rome, Rome: Vision Editrice. 1980.
14 Such as J. E. Walsh, The Bones of Saint Peter, New York: Doubleday, 1982.
15 Daniel Wm. O'Connor. Peter in Rome.: The Literary, Liturgical, and Archaeological Evidence. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. p. 209. My emphasis.
16 Karen Jo Torjesen. When Women Were Priests. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. 1993, passim, but especially pp. 76-82.
17 Edward Schillebeeckx. The Church with a Human face: A New and Expanded Theology of Ministry, New York: Crossroad. 1990. pp. 40123.
18 Kelly, pp. 6-8.
19 See Eusebius, The History of the, Church from Christ to Constantine, English trans. G. A. Williamson, London: Penguin. 1989. pp. 79-80. 82-3. For Hegesippus see p. 373.
20 For a translation see J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, ed. by J. R. Harmer. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1974, pp. 13-41.
21 I Clement, 40, in ibid, p. 30.
22 I Clement, 42, in ibid., p. 31.
23 Kelly, p. 8.
24 For a translation see Lightfoot, pp. 759.
25 Ignatius, To the.Romans. 3, in Lightfoot, p. 76.
26 Ernst Käsemann. New Testament Questions of Today, London: SCM, 1969, p. 237.
27 Robert B. Eno, The Rise of the Papacy, Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1990, p. 23.
28 Kenan B. Osborne, Priesthood: A History of the Ordained Ministry in the, Roman Catholic Church, New York: Paulist Press. 1988. See especially pp. 89-129 and 130-60.
29 For Irenaeus see Denis Minns. Irenaeus, London: Geoffrey Chapman. 199-1.
30 Ibid., p. 121.
31 Ibid., p. 122.
32 Adversus haereses. III. 3. Quoted in Michael Winter. St. Peter and the Popes. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1960, p. 126.
33 Minns, p. 121.
3-4 Officially, an antipope is a person who is elected pope in opposition to the one who has been elected according to canon law. However, any study of the history of the papacy recalls the saying that 'history is written by the winners' and the roles of pope and antipope can be interchangeable!
35 See Marta Sordi, The Christians and the Roman Empire. London: Groom Helm. 1983, pp. 100-7. See also Eusebius, VI, 43-5, English trans. pp. 214-18.
36 Eno, pp. 57-65.
37 Cyprian., The Unity of the Catholic Church, trans. by Maurice Bevenot in the Ancient Christian Writers series, vol. 25. Westminster: Newman Press,1957, pp. 43-67.
38 Eusebius describes The persecution in Chapter 8 of his History: See also Sordi. pp.122-32.
39 Tillard, Bishop of Rome, pp. 96-101.
40 Ibid., p. 97.
41 Lightfoot translation, p. 76.
42 Nicholas Afanassief in John Meyendorff (ed.). The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church. Crestwood: St Vladimir's Seminary Press. 1992. pp. 126-8.
43 Afanassief in Meyendorff. p. 127.
44 Ludwig Hertling, Communio: Church and Papacy in Early Christianity. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1972, pp. 15-76. See also Jerome Hamer, The Church is a Communion. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1964, pp. 159-68.
45 John Tracy Ellis, American Catholicism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1956, James Hennesey, American Catholics: A History of the Roman Catholic Community in the United States, New York: Oxford University Press. 1981.
46 Patrick Corish, The Irish Catholic Experience: A Historical Survey. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1985.
47 John Bossy. The English Catholic Community 1570-1650. London: Burns & Gates, 1975. Derek Holmes, More Roman than Rome: English Catholicism in the Nineteenth Century. Shepherdstown: Patmos Press. 1978.
48 First published as The Catholic Church and Community in Australia: A History, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson. 1977, and most recently in a third revised edition as The Catholic Church and Community in Australia: An Australian History, Sydney: New South Wales University Press., 1992.
49 Felician A. Koy and Rose M. Avato (eds). 1996 Catholic Almanac. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor. 1996, p. 368.
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