"The Primacy of Peter," Brownson's Quarterly Review for Oct., 1857


Catholic controversy changes its form with the circumstances of the age and the country.  When Catholics in the Untied States were few, and generally regarded as idolators, ignorant, degraded, superstitious, and base, controversy very necessarily and properly assumed an apologetic tone, confined itself to the work of self-defense, and aimed simply at proving that Catholics are not so bad as they have been represented, and may prudently be suffered to live and act as freemen in the same community with Protestants.  When by natural increase, conversions, and immigration they had become a notable part of the population, and capable of forming a body able in some measure to suffice for itself, it became equally necessary for their own security and progress to make them feel their independence in the face of Protestantism, and induce them to rise to the level of their position as free and equal citizens of a free republic.  This has continued long enough; an impulse has been given which may now be safely trusted to itself.  Very few Catholics now in the country are likely to feel ashamed of their religion in the presence of non-Catholics, or that it excludes them from their rights as men, or their quality as citizens.  It is time now for our controversy to assume a new phase, and leaving the question of self-defense, as well as that of infusing the spirit of independence into Catholics, aim at the conversion of Protestants, or producing on their minds an impression favorable to our holy religion.

Mr. Derby has written his book, not to induce Catholics to turn Protestants, but to prevent Protestants from becoming Catholics.  Much the same may be said of nearly all the works written against us, that issue from the American press.  The aim of the Protestant controversialist is not primarily damage to Catholicity, but the preservation of Protestants in their allegiance to the Reformation.  This proves that a spirit of inquiry, a tendency to Catholicity, is at work in the Protestant community, and that without extraordinary exertions on the part of its leaders, considerable defections from the Protestant ranks are to be feared.  At the same time that it proves this, it indicates the tone and direction that our own controversy should take.  The works written against us, having been for Protestants, should be answered for Protestants, not with a view to preventing Catholics from abandoning their religion, but with a view to bringing Protestants to the faith, or at least rendering them less indisposed to examine its claims.  If our aim were merely to prevent Mr. Derby’s Letters from exerting any unfavorable effect on the Catholic mind, a few words would be amply sufficient, and we could not justify ourselves to our readers in devoting so much space as we have done to them; but when it is understood that we are replying to them for the sake of the Protestant mind, no reasonable Catholic can blame us.

Mr. Derby’s book, though it contains some things the ordinary Catholic may not be able to answer, can make no impression on Catholics unfavorable to their religion.  But worthless as they are in the estimation of the Catholic, his Letters are not wholly worthless in the estimation of Protestants, and their reasoning passes with them for solid and weighty, for it chimes in with their preconceived notions of Catholicity.  The book simply tells what Protestants already believe, or are fully prepared to believe.  Books like Mr. Derby’s circulate extensively among Protestants, confirm their prejudices against Catholicity, and do much to prevent them from coming to the knowledge of the truth.  It is this fact that gives them importance, and renders their circulation a source of grief to the Catholic; for these Protestants have souls as well as we, and their salvation is not less dear to our Lord and his Church than ours.  It is this fact, also, that makes it our duty to do all we can in truth and conscience to counteract their influence, not on those within, indeed, but on those without the Church.

Mr. Derby is not a great man, nor a great theologian, but he is a man of respectable standing in society, and has in his letters collected, combined, and presented in a plausible manner nearly all the objections popularly urged against us, or which are fitted to have wight with the ordinary Protestant mind.  If we regarded only the influence they may have on the Catholic mind, a witty retort, a newspaper paragraph, a sneer, or a squib, would be all, and more than all that would need to be said in reply to them; but regarding their influence on the Protestant mind, or the influence of the same objections as urged by other authors, and which may as well be refuted in him as in another, it is hardly just to accuse us of spending too much ammunition in their refutation, or a breaking “a fly upon the wheel.”  The blame which has been bestowed on us in certain quarters proceeds from mistaking our motive, as well as from a certain forgetfulness of the great mission of Catholic controversy.  We English speaking Catholics have long been accustomed to regard only our defense, that we almost forget that the Protestant mind is not wholly unimpressible, and that Catholics may do even much to remove its prejudices.  We have insensibly fallen into the habit of treating anti-Catholic books chiefly from our own point of view, as they affect us, and seem to conclude that when we have warded off the danger they threaten us, we have done all that can be required of us.  This is all that could be required of us some time ago, but not all that is required of us now.  We beg the attention of the Catholic press to this important fact.  In replying to books against us with a view of benefitting the non-Catholic community, it is of far more consequence to consider what is objected than who it is that objects.  Truth is objective, and is independent of your personal character or mine.  I do not necessarily establish my own character by damaging the character of him who assails it, for he may be a knave without my being an honest man.  Controversy should deal with reasons, not persons, and in not case is any thing gained by indulging in personalities.  Whether the writer is a great and distinguished man or not is not the point to be considered.  If Mr. Derby uses as good arguments and brings as pertinent and forcible objections as Branhall or Barrow, as Chillingworth or John Henry Hopkins, he is equally deserving of a refutation.  We selected his book for refutation, not because it was the best or the worst that might have been selected; but because accident threw it in our way, and it could serve our purpose as well as another.  Its author is welcome to all the distinction or importance he can derive from our dissection of his book.  We fear neither a loss of our own dignity nor the imparting of an undiscovered dignity nor the imparting of an undiscovered dignity to him.  We shall, however, take our leave of him with our present article.

In our previous article on Mr. Derby’s book we have disposed of his first ten Letters, which in reality cover the whole ground occupied by the author.  His eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth chapters are taken up with further attempts to disprove the Papacy from the Scriptures and the Fathers, and to set aside the arguments usually adduced by Catholics in support of the Primacy of Peter.  I do not perceive that he has added anything of importance to what he had advanced in his previous Letters, and which have already sufficiently answered.  A few general remarks will close all we choose to say.  Mr. Derby commits the grave mistake of supposing that he can conclude against the Papacy and the Primacy of Peter from the silence of the Scriptures and of particular Fathers.  He proceeds on the assumption that the Scriptures are the charter of the Church, and that nothing can be affirmed of her that cannot be deduced from strict construction from the letter of the charter.  He even gives his son to understand that in this both Catholics and Protestants agree; but this is a great mistake.  Whether his assumption of the Bible as the charter of the Church be well-founded or not, he has no right in an argument against Catholics to make it, for they deny it, and he must, if he would conclude ant thing against them, prove it, before undertaking to found an argument on it.

According to Catholic doctrine, the Bible, though the inspired and authoritative word of God, is not the charter or act of incorporation of the Church; for the Church existed prior to the written word.  It is historically certain that the Church existed with all her rights and powers before one line of the New Testament was written.  It is evident from the very face of the New Testament, that its books and epistles were written after the institution of the Church, and addressed to the Church as already existing.  This is much is undeniable.  Catholics therefore deny that the Church was founded by the Scriptures, or that she is obliged to consult them as her act of incorporation.  They hold that the Church was founded immediately by our Lord in person, that her charter is in the commission or authority which he gave to the Apostles, and which derives from his continued presence with her all days to the consummation of the world.  The Church, in their view, is the body of Christ, as St. Augustine says, is Christ, and the body of believers in union with him are the whole Christ, totus Christus, as the soul and body united in their living union are the total man.  The charter of the Church is in her internal constitution and life, as the living body of our Lord, and her rights and powers are in and from him living in her, and speaking and operating in and through her as his own body, or the visible continuation or representation on earth of the Incarnation.  I say his own body; for the Church is not a foreign body, having relation with him only through the medium of an external commission, or, if Mr. Derby pleases, a written power of attorney.  She is his spouse, flesh of his flesh and one with him, having her personality in his Divine person.  She has no more need on her own account of appealing to the bible to prove that she is God’s Church than a man has of appealing to an external authority to prove to himself that he is a man, not an ox or a horse.  The evidence is in her own intimate consciousness, for she is the living impersonation on earth of the Incarnate Word, and can no more mistake her rights and powers than he can mistake his.

The question at present is not whether this view of the Church be true or not, for it is no part of our present purpose to prove the truth of Catholicity.  We are simply showing that Mr. Derby’s reasons, addressed to his son to dissuade him from joining our Church, are not good reasons.  It is sufficient for this purpose, that the view we have given is the Catholic view,- is the Catholic doctrine, and therefore, in an argument against Catholics, a doctrine the Protestant must recognize as their doctrine, and as one which he must disprove before he can assume, even if he then can assume, that the Bible is the charter of the Church, and can have no rights or powers not deducible by strict construction from its letter.  The consideration is of high importance, and intimately affects the principle of interpretation.  On the Protestant hypothesis the Church is nothing; has no rights or powers not positively affirmed in the Scriptures; on the Catholic doctrine, she must be conceded to be and to possess all she claims, unless expressly, or by necessary implication, denied or forbidden in the written word.

On this point, Protestants fall, consciously or unconsciously, into a miserable sophism.  The Catholic asserts, the Church has always asserted, the divine inspiration and authority of the written word, and with a distinctness and emphasis that no Protestant sect does or can.  Therefore, says the Protestant, the Catholic does and must found the Church on the Bible.  Not at all.  If both the Church and the Bible are from God, there can, of course, be no discrepancy between them, as there can be none between revelation and reason; but it no more follows from this that the Bible is the foundation of the Church, than it does that reason is the basis of revelation.  Revelation is made to reason and presupposes it; the written word is addressed to communicated to the Church, and presupposes her existence and constitution.  If the Church did or could teach anything contrary to the written word, her claims would, indeed, be refuted; not because the authority of the written word is greater than hers, but because she would thus be convicted of contradicting herself, since she herself declares the written word to be the word of God, and therefore infallibly true.  But on her principle nothing can be concluded against her from the silence of Scripture.  So long as there is no positive contradiction in Scripture of her teaching, her claims stand good.  By decaling the written word to be the word of God, she necessarily includes its teaching in hers, and if she teaches elsewhere anything incompatible with what she teaches in it, she of course contradicts herself, and must be rejected; but no argument can be framed against her, from the fact that she teaches things not in the written word, so long as these things are in harmony or capable of being harmonized with it; for it may well be that the whole doctrine of Christ is not contained in the Scriptures, that all was not written, and that even what was written, can be properly understood only through the light of the fuller, more explicit, and more complete revelation made primarily to the Church, without any written medium.  

On catholic principles, it is not necessary to prove from the Scriptures that our Lord conferred the Primacy on Peter and established the Papacy in his successors in the See of Rome.  The uniform teaching and tradition of the Church suffices for that, in case the contrary cannot be shown from the written word.  This rule applies to tradition universally.  In no case are we required to prove the tradition from the Bible, and all we can be required to do is to show that the Bible does not contradict it, or necessarily exclude it.  The same principle must be adopted in interpreting the texts of Scripture adduced in favor or against any particular doctrine or claim of the Church.  The presumption, in law, Mr. Derby must be jurist enough to be aware, is on the side of the Church.  Suppose a text is adduced, which may without violence to the letter be understood either against or in favor of the Church; in which sense must it be taken?  The Protestant assumes, against the Church, and that he has the right to assume that it might not be wrong, if the protestant rule that the Bible is the charter of the Church were once solidly established ;  but till then, in must be understood in favor of the Church.  She has the right to claim as not against her every text which can without violence be explained in a manner compatible with her claims, and also as decidedly for her every text which can without violence be explained in her favor.  Suppose that the Protestant succeeds in showing that one of our proof texts is susceptible of a sense which does not prove our doctrine; he does nothing to his purpose, if we are able at the same time to show that it is fairly susceptible of a meaning in favor of the Church.  The presumption being on our side, and against the Protestant, determines the text in favor of the Catholic.

Mr. Derby goes into an examination of the texts usually cited by Catholics from the New Testament, to prove that our Lord did confer the Primacy of order and jurisdiction on Peter, and shows, or thinks he shows, that they do not of themselves necessarily prove it.  I am far from conceding that he succeeds in this; but even supposing he does, he has effected nothing, because he has done it only by virtue of his Protestant assumption, that nothing can be affirmed of the Church not positively affirmed in Scripture, and because there is no question that these same texts may easily and naturally by understood in the Catholic sense.  He also alleges other passages, which he regards as contradicting the claims of the Church.  But all of these may be explained easily and naturally in accordance with those claims, and therefore prove nothing against us, even supposing they could without violence be understood, as he professes to understand them.  So in explaining the Fathers.  Nothing can be alleged against us from a particular Father, that is susceptible of a sense compatible with Catholic doctrine, and every thing must be taken as for us that is susceptible of being explained in our favor.

I do not deny that this rule gives apparently the advantage to the Catholic, and denies that in the use of Scripture and tradition he and the Protestant stand on an equal footing.  The reason is, because the Church is in possession, and the presumption is in her favor.  Protestants and Catholics stand on equal footing only when they reason from a common principle; but they do not reason from a common principle when Mr. Derby assumes that the Church derives her authority from God through the medium of the written word, for the Catholic asserts that she derives it immediately from our Lord in person, who continues with her all days to the end of the world.  Mr. Derby, as seeking to disprove the Church, can avail himself of no presumption against her, while she having from time immemorial asserted what she now asserts, and had her assertion admitted, has the right to every presumption, and to throw the onus probandi on everyone who rises up to contradict her claims, and oust her from her possession.  The Protestant can restore quality in interpreting the testimony of Scripture and tradition only either by positively disproving her existence and constitution in the sense she alleges, or by positively establishing his rule that the Church is founded not on Christ and his Apostles, but on the written word.  In not doing either, Mr. Derby labors, no doubt, under grave disadvantages.  Till then he does nothing by means of texts or authorities which may be understood in a sense against us, or by showing that our texts and authorities may be understood in a sense which does not support us.  In both cases it is incumbent on him to show that they must, not merely may be understood in the sense he alleges.

I have dwelt at length on this point, because Protestant controversialists, so far as my experience extends, invariably overlook it.  They forget that the Catholic maintains that our Lord founded his religion through the institution of the Church, and would persuade us that he only inspired certain holy men in diverse places and times to write a series of books, which collected and bound in a single volume we call the Bible, or the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  Because we assert the divine origin, constitution, and authority of the Church, as the living depositary and teacher of the faith, they run away with the notion that we are at least wanting in proper reverence for the written word of God, when, in fact, we are the only people on earth who really believe the Scriptures to be that written word, who recognizes their divine authority, and treat the sacred text with the reverence due to it.  Because we deny that the Scriptures are, ever were, or were ever intended to be the charter of the Church, it by no means follows that we do not hold them to be really and truly God’s word, and reverence their authority as such.  Because we believe our Lord makes his revelation primarily to the Church without any written medium, and that the Holy Ghost is always present in her to bring all his words to her remembrance, and to assist her to preserve, to understand, and to teach it infallibly, it does not follow that we do not recognize the authority of the same revelation in the written word, in so far as the written word contains it.  It is very possible to believe truly and firmly that the Scriptures are the word of God, authentic and authoritative, without holding the Protestant notion that the Church derives her authority from God through them.  The Scriptures addressed to the Church, may be good evidence of her constitution and authority, without being her charter or act of incorporation.  They may be, too, a record made by the hand of the Almighty of the principal doctrines he has communicated to her, and teaches through her, and as such of priceless value, without thereby diminishing her authority, or casting the slightest suspicion on the fulness and integrity of the revelation made to her. 

The great difficulty with the Protestant is, that he does not believe in the Church, the Holy Catholic Church, of the Creed, as a real and truly divine institution; and he lacks all conception of her as a living organism with its own unity and central life.  To whatever sect he belongs, the Protestant is essentially a Nestorian, and fails to recognize in our Lord the two forever distinct natures in one person.  He dissolves Christ, and regards the human and the divine  simply as associated in a common work, each with its own proper personality, not as united in the one Divine person by a hypostatic union.  Hence he fails to regard the Church as a person, and having her personality in the Divine person of our Lord.  In his mind the Church is not the living body of Christ, living his life, and one in the unity of his person, but separate from him, a mass of individuals aggregated around a doctrine, a discipline, or a form of worship.  He has no conception of the Church as the mystic body of Christ; mystically, indeed, but really united to him as the body to the head, the head with the body, and each member with the whole, and the whole and each with each.  Neither his philosophy nor his theology rises to the conception of that solidarity of Christian life, so distinctly and so energetically asserted by the great Apostle of the Gentiles, “As in one body we have many members,…so we being many are one body in Christ, and each one, members of one another.”  “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body being one, are nevertheless one body, so also Christ…If one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.  Now ye are the body of Christ and member of member.”  Therefore, as the same Apostle tells elsewhere, the Church is, “one body with one spirit.”  These pregnant passages really mean nothing to the Protestant.  His views are external, formal, cold, lifeless.  To his mind the Church is wholly outward, material, a body without a soul, without interior unity or life.  Her authority, if authority she has, in his view, must come from abroad, through an external medium, not from within, from her own interior life, light, and ability, by virtue of the indwelling Christ whose body she is.  To his conception Christ is not in her, but apart from her, and her light and ability are only the light and ability of the individuals aggregated, and her authority only that conveyed in the written power of attorney formally executed by our Lord in her behalf.

The fact is, our Protestant friends have lost the sense of the deeper significance of the Church, and with it the scriptural sense of the Christian order.  They have become strangers to the profound Christian philosophy, as set forth in the Epistles of St. Paul, and in the writings of the great Christian Fathers and Catholic doctors, and they see no more in the Christian Church, than the carnal Jews saw in Jesus of Nazareth, whom they crucified between two thieves.  To these Jews our Lord was only a man, claiming to be the Son of God.  They saw only the humanity, and suspected not that in the form of the son of the humble Mary there was, as well as the perfect man, the eternal and the ever-living God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.  So in the Church, Protestants see only the human element, only an aggregation of individuals.  They see not, suspect not, in the human form visible to their senses, the living presence of the Incarnate God, who is himself the truth, the way, and the life.  The Catholic believes the Incarnation, and sees, as it were, its visible continuance in the Church, the living presence of Christ himself, as God-man.  In his view the Church has an interior life, and lives the revelation of God, and knows and declares the truth, so to speak, from her own life and consciousness.  Her doctors teach with a delegated authority; the Pope teaches and governs as the Vicar of Christ, but the Church herself teaches and governs with no authority externally delegated, but with the inward authority of her Lord, who dwells in her, and is her life, her unity, her personality.

Now all the Catholic has any need to have proved to him, is the fact of the existence of the Church; and this fact is proved to him by his own union with her and participation in her life.  He must lose all sense of what she really is before he can doubt anything she says.  He goes to the Scriptures indeed, to learn what she believes and teaches, but not to find a criterion by which to judge what she believes and teaches.   His own mind is at rest, knowing that the same God  who inspired the written word, lives and teaches in and through her, and can no more deceive or be deceived in his teaching in and through her than in his teaching in and through her than in his teaching in and through the written word itself.  This for himself as a Catholic, in the respect that by the gift of faith he is united in the one Divine-human life of the Church.  When he appeals to the written word for proofs, either of the truth of what the Church teaches, or of her authority to teach, it is not for himself, but for unbelievers, who, notwithstanding their unbelief, acknowledge the divine authority of the written word.  He himself would believe the Church, though he had no Scriptures at all, and he even believes them only because he believes her.  The texts he cites from them to serve his purpose, do not need to be in all cases explicit and direct.  It is enough, if by an unforced and natural interpretation they are in favor of the claims of the Church, in the sense I have explained, that is, the sense which connects her existence and character intimately and really with the Incarnation, the assumption of flesh by the Word, without which the Church can have no significance, and the whole Catholic Church system would fall to the ground.  Let the Protestant once understand the relation of the Church to the Incarnation, that mystery of mysteries, and that in the Catholic sense, a Church without the Incarnation would be a solecism, and his own good sense will show him that all his reasoning against Catholicity proceeds on a gratuitous assumption, and is irrelevant and wholly inconclusive.

If the Protestant could for a moment place himself at the Catholic point of view, and take in the Catholic conception of the Church, or regard her as the visible continuation on earth, through her sacraments, of the incarnate life of Christ, or representation of the Incarnation in the visible order, he would soon perceive the logical necessity of asserting the Papacy.  The Church is, I have said, a person, and her person, in the interior sense, is the person of Christ; but this person must be represented in the visible order, or else the Church fails to represent in the visible order the Incarnate Word.  Being external as well as internal, visible as well as invisible, body as well as soul, without the Pope the Church would and could be no visible person, and would and could have no visible center or unity.  The Church regarded as the visible Christian order, would not be an organism, would be only a collection of members without a body, without any bond of corporal unity, and the truth which the Church lives, and the authority which derives from the indwelling Christ, the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of Truth, would have no visible organ through which it could teach and govern the Church as one body.  The very conception of the Church as the visible continuation or representation of the Incarnation on earth, necessarily implies the Pope as the visible representation of the divine personality of the Church, the visible center and focus of her authority, from which all radiates through the whole body, imparting light and life to all the members in the visible order, corresponding to the light and life of the invisible.  This creates, to say the least, a presumption in favor of the Papacy, and if from the beginning the Papacy has been asserted by the Church, and if we find in the New Testament passages which, by an easy and natural interpretation, assert that our Lord did establish the Primacy of Peter, the presumption is converted into certainty.

Mr. Derby undertakes to disprove both suppositions, which is fair enough; but he overlooks the legal presumption in the case.  As to the New Testament, the most he can pretend to have done, is to show that some of our proof texts may, but not that they must be taken in a sense which does not assert the Primacy of Peter, and this is all that he can pretend to have done with regard to the Fathers.  Moreover, he does not even this much, if at all, only by mistaking the quality of the power Catholics hold was conferred on Peter.  He starts on the assumption that Catholics hold that the sovereign dominion is given to the Pope, and that the Pope is authorized by our Lord to rule with that sort of authority claimed by princes of the Gentiles, and no finding any texts of the New Testament that speak of such authority, nay, finding several texts which clearly forbid the Apostles or any one of them to claim or exercise it, he concludes, not illogically, that no such power was ever conferred, and therefore that the Pope in claiming it is a usurper.  If the Pope did claim it, or set himself up as our sovereign lord and master in the sense in which the absolute monarch claims to be our sovereign lord and master, we too would pronounce him a usurper, and refuse to obey him.  But such is not the fact.  So far from claiming such authority for themselves, the Popes, as well as other doctors of the Church, deny that such power is given even to temporal princes.  St. Augustine says: “For those who command,  as a husband to his wife, parents to children, servants to masters, they also consult.  And they obey those whom they consult, as wives to their husbands, children to their parents, and servants to their masters. But in the house of the just living by faith, and a sojourner from that heavenly city, even those who command serve those whom they seem to command, for they do not command with a desire to dominate, but with the duty of consulting; nor the pride of ruling, but the mercy of providing.  This is what the natural order prescribes: thus God created man. For, says he, he shall rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over all the creatures that creep upon the earth.  He did not want the rational made in his own image to be dominated by the irrational: not man to man, but man to go through. Then the first righteous, shepherds of cattle, were appointed rather than kings of men.” (De Civitat. Dei, bk 19, 14,15)  He had previously given us to understand that the king is more properly said to rule than to reign.  Speaking of the Romans, who expelled their kings because they converted their power into a regal domination, he says: “Hence it is that, not bearing royal dominion, they made for themselves annual empires and two emperors, who were called consuls from whispering, not kings or lords from reigning and dominating; since kings, of course, are said to rule from ruling, it is better seen that the kingdom comes from kings, and kings out, so that it is said, by governing; but royal pride was not thought to be the discipline of a ruler, or the benevolence of a counselor, but the pride of a ruler.” (ibid. bk 5, 12)  According to St. Augustine, the subjection of man to man, the domination of the prince and the servitude of the people, as the relation of master and slave, have their origin in sin, and are permitted by Almighty God only as its chastisement.

St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor, speaks to the same purpose: “In powerful men the virtue of humility is great, considering equality of condition. For all men are equal by nature; but he came in order of dispensation, that we might appear to be preferred to some. If, therefore, we suppress from the mind this which has come temporarily, we find more quickly what we naturally are…For, as we have said before, advice begets men who are equal by nature, but who differ in the order of their merits. But the diversity itself, which has come from vice, is rightly ordered by the divine judgments, so that because every man does not tread the path of life equally, one is governed by the other.  But holy men, when they preside, do not look to the power of the order in themselves, but to the equality of condition; For they know that our ancient fathers are remembered not so much as kings of men as shepherds of cattle.  And when the Lord said to Noah and his sons: Grow and multiply and fill the earth, he doubted, And let your terror and trembling be upon all the animals of the earth. For he does not say: Let it be above men who are to come, but, Let it be above all the animals of the earth... For man was preferred by nature to irrational animals, but not to other people.” (Moralium Libri. Job. Bk. 21, 9)

Pope Gregory VII holds the same doctrine, and follows St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great. “Who does not know,” he says, “that kings as leaders had their beginning from those who, ignorant of God, through pride, robbery, treachery, murder, and lastly by almost all crimes, inciting the prince of the world, namely, the devil, to rule over their equals, that is, men, were affected by blind ambition and intolerable presumption?”  (Bk. 8)  H also cites with approbation, in the same letter, the following passage from St. Augustine: “But when even those who are naturally equal to him, that is to say, men, he affects to dominate, which is an absolutely intolerable pride.”

These authorities, which might be multiplied to almost any extent, prove that the Church denies that even temporal princes can rightly claim the supreme dominion of their subjects, and that in her view they are more properly pastors of flocks than kings of men, and rectors rather than lords [domini].  They, indeed, have authority to govern people committed to their charge for their good; but they are not their possessors, or proprietors, with the right to govern them according to their own will and pleasure.  It would be folly to pretend that the Popes claim for themselves a power which they have uniformly disclaimed, and which they have never ceased to brand as the offspring of pride and presumption.  Undoubtedly the Popes have always asserted that the priestly or sacerdotal office is above the regal, and that priests are by virtue of their office superior to kings and Caesars, for kings and Caesars are members of their flocks, and as much under their charge as the humblest individuals in private life; but they have always denied that man has rightfully the dominion of man, and presented the sacerdotal as a pastoral office.  The Church calls her spiritual princes pastors, and gives to the pastor or bishop the shepherd’s crook as the symbol of his authority.  Her bishops are pastors, and not of their own flocks, but of the flock of Christ.  The Pope is chief pastor, under Christ, of the Christian flock, which flock is committed to his charge, not as his property, to be appropriated to his own use or pleasure, but to be fed, protected, guided, and defended for his and their master’s honor and glory.

Understanding the Papal authority as pastoral, not as lordly, as a charge, not as a dominion, Mr. Derby may find the texts we cite to prove the Primacy was conferred on Peter, are very much to our purpose.  Our Lord said to Peter, “Lovest thou me more than these?”  Then, “when thou art converted confirm thy brethren.”  These words do not, certainly, constitute Peter a sovereign prince, in the sense of a Gentile prince, who claims the right to lord it over his subjects, nor do they make over the flock to him as his property, for our Lord says, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” by which he intimates that he himself retains the proprietorship of the flock; but they do confer on Peter the supreme pastoral office under Christ, and that is all we need, for it is all we assert.  No words could be chosen more appropriate than these, to confer the chief pastoral authority, and at the same time to distinguish the nature and quality of that authority from the dominion claimed by the princes of the Gentiles.  If Mr. Derby had adverted to the nature and quality of that authority, he would hardly have found any inconsistency between its possession by Peter and the lessons of humility which our Lord gave to him as well as to all the Apostles.

“When the mother of James and John desired the highest place for her sons, and the other Apostles were moved with indignation ‘Jesus called them to him and said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them, and they that are the greater exercise power over them.  It shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be the greater among you let him be your minister, and he who would be first among you shall be your servant.’  Again, our Savior, warning his disciples against the love of rank and power, says, ‘be ye not called Rabbi, for one is your master, and all ye are brethren.’  We read in Luke, also, ‘He that is least among you shall be the greatest.’  And again, when ‘there was a strife among them which of them should be accounted the greatest,’ our Lord, after saying, ‘let the leader be as him that serveth,’ adds, ‘I appoint to you as my Father has appointed to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and may sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’  Now all these lessons of humility and equality, were given by our Savior after the gift of the keys to St. Peter, and after the promise that the church should be built on the rock, to which you refer, when pressing his claim to supremacy.  And if Peter was constituted prince of the apostles, and invested with “superior jurisdiction,’ and ‘a special dignity,’ by the figurative words of our Lord, is it consistent therewith that he should afterwards have inculcated such lessons of humility and equality?  Would he not have told them, bow with deference to Peter, for after I leave you, he is to be your sovereign pope and judge.”

These texts, if against us, are equally against Mr. Derby, for he assumes the position of an Episcopalian, and the Papacy is not mor repugnant to their spirit than the Episcopacy.  If the power Mr. Derby claims for bishops is compatible with these texts, nothing hinders the Papacy from being equally compatible with them.  If no one is to be called master, because one is our Master in heaven, and all we are brethren, by what right is one man invested with the authority of a bishop, a presbyter, or even a deacon?  Certainly our Lord in these texts forbids his disciples to claim or exercise the power claimed and exercised by the princes of the Gentiles, whether in church or state, that is, he forbids them to lord it over their brethren.  He certainly did not confer on Peter or on anyone else the mastership, or the lordship.  The words and symbols used convey only a pastoral or parental authority, and the prelates of the Church from the Pope down, never claim to be masters or lords.  The title, his Lordship, or his Grace, given to a Bishop or an Archbishop, in Great Britain, Ireland, the British Colonies, and sometimes even in our own country, is no ecclesiastical title, and is nowhere in the English speaking world, a proper title to be given to Catholic prelates.  It is a civil title, and originally given to Catholic prelates, not because they were prelates of the Church, but because they were made, by the constitution of the state, ex-officio members of the House of Lords.  It can be given to Catholic prelates in Great Britain and America now only by courtesy, and a courtesy prohibited, I believe in this country, by one of the Councils of Baltimore.  Be this, however, as it may, the title of Lord or Grace is not and never was an ecclesiastical title.  The Church has never conferred it, and in her official correspondence never uses it.

Unquestionably, the texts cited assert that Christians are brethren, are equals, and that their only Master is Christ.  But this militates in nothing against either the Episcopacy or the Papacy.  Christ is our only master, and the Bishop’s or the Pope’s master as much as he is mine.  The elevation of a Christian believer to the Episcopal throne or to the Papal throne does not break the original equality or make him the master or lord of his brethren, as even our own American republicanism might teach the learned Jurist.  Our republicanism asserts that all men by nature are equal, and no man has or can have, rightfully, the dominion of another; and yet we do not regard it as any inconsistency to have magistrates, governors, and presidents, legislators and judges, because these all are held to exercise their power in the name of the people, and for the good of the people, and therefore are servants, not masters or lords.  This is wherefore we are accounted a free people, though our government is as imperative in its voice, when it speaks, as any royal or imperial government on earth.  The freedom of the people remains intact, because it is they who govern in the government.  We have applied,- and this is our glory,- to the political order the principle laid down in texts Mr. Derby cites, and if that principle is compatible in the political order with the full authority of legislators, magistrates, governors, and presidents, why should it be incompatible with that of priests, bishops, popes?  If the presidency does not break the equality of men as citizens, why should the Papacy break their equality, or fraternity, as Christians?  If the clothing of individuals with power to govern in the name of the people and for the people does not break the sovereignty of the people, why should the investing of our Lord of individuals with authority to govern the faithful in his name and for him, as his vicars, break his sovereignty, or negative his declaration, “One is your Master in Heaven, and ye are brethren?”

The Pope is selected from his brethren to perform, in the name of his and their Master, the chief pastoral functions for the good of the Church and the honor and glory of Christ.  He is not the master but the master’s vicar, not the master of the flock but its servant, and hence his usual style is that of servant of servants, the servant of those who serve God.  I am unable to see how in this there is any thing inconsistent with the lessons of humility addressed by our Lord to Peter or to the other Apostles.  The princes of the Gentiles are proud, and have a ground of pride in their assumption that their power is their own, and that they may use it for themselves as they please, that it elevates them as men above their fellow-men, and confers on them in their own right a superior jurisdiction, or a special dignity; but what ground there is for pride in being elevated to the Papacy, to the chief pastorship of the Church, under strict accountability, for the purpose of serving at the bidding of the Master in heaven, the servants of God, I am unable to understand.

But a closer inspection of the texts Mr. Derby cites, would, I think, convince even him that he has been too hasty in his conclusion.  What is it our Lord condemns?  The claiming or exercising of power by his Apostles?  Not at all, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater exercise power upon them.  It shall not be so among you,” that is, ye shall not lord it over your brethren, or regard the power as yours or as a mark of your personal greatness, or superiority.  “But whosoever would be greater among you, let him be your minister; and he who would be first among you shall be your servant.”  Here it is clear that superiority of office, nay, the Primacy was contemplated by our Lord, for he speaks of the “greater,” and the “first;” but the point to be considered is that the power to be recognized in the Church was to be founded in humility, not in pride and ambition,- to be the power that serves, not the power that dominates, or domineers.  The Primate is to be not the lord of the flock, but the first servant, after the example of our Lord, who came to minister, not to be ministered unto.  “He that is least among you shall be the greatest.”  But how, if there be no greatest, no Primate?  “Let the leader be as him that serveth.”  How if there is to be no leader?  All these texts show simply that the power our Lord establishes, or with which he invests men, is a sacred trust held from him for his service, the good of the body governed, or his glory in its government, and therefore they who hold the trust are to hold and exercise it in humility, not in pride, and to count themselves ministers, servants, not lords or masters.  But it is equally clear that, if our Lord contemplated the establishment of no power, no official dignity or distinction, among his followers or in his Church, all these lessons of humility would have been misplaced, and without the slightest appropriateness.  Why impress upon his disciples lessons of humility and equality, or give directions as to the exercise of power, if there was to be among them no one with superior jurisdiction, or special official dignity?  The texts read precisely as if addressed to persons already selected for high official dignity and authority, and intended to instruct them as to the nature of their authority, the spirit in which, and the end for which they were to exercise it.

It is, no doubt, because Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome, observed the humility enjoined by our Lord, and were studiously careful not to obtrude their authority, or to assume airs of superiority over their brethren in Christ, and who were their inferiors only in official dignity, that has given occasion to men like our learned Jurist, whose ideas of power are those of the Gentiles, not those of Christians, to call in question the fact of their primacy.  These men find it difficult to understand how so much modesty, so much humility, such a studious avoidance of all arrogance or assertion of power, can be reconciled with the conscious possession of the high authority Catholics claim for the Pope.  This is because they do not understand the Christian doctrine of power, or the spirit of the Catholic pontiff.  The Popes did not wish to parade their power, nor to boast their high official station.  As St. Gregory the Great tells us, they thought more of the original equality of all men by nature, than of their official dignity, and felt more deeply their duties as servants, than their possession of authority to govern.  If in later times the supreme pontiffs have seemed to assert more distinctly, and with more emphasis, their authority as vicars of Christ, to feed, guide, protect, defend, and govern the flock of Christ, it has been because that authority has been questioned, or denied, by such men as Mr. Derby, and those he follows, and fidelity to their Master, and the service of the flock committed to their charge, made it their duty.  A little attention to the humility of Peter, and his care to exercise his authority as an equal rather than as a superior, will explain the difficulty Mr. Derby feels in reconciling Peter’s conduct at the Council of Jerusalem with his possession of the Primacy.

Mr. Derby clearly mistakes the real issue; and he finds difficulties where none exist, in consequence of not understanding the doctrine he professes to oppose.

“Again, if the promise of the keys, and of power to bind and to loose, was given exclusively to St. Peter, how do you reconcile the fact, recorded in St. John’s gospel, 20:22, that our Lord after his ascension came to the room where all his disciples were assembled, and addressing himself to all alike, said, ‘Peace be unto you; as the Father hath sent me, I also send you; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained?’  Does not this gift include St. Peter and his associates, without distinction or degree?  Do they not hold under one and the same commission?

“If St. Peter was usually named first, is not the solution easy?  He was the first called, and was probably the oldest and most energetic of the disciples.  This would account for his prominence on  many occasions, but not for the fact to which you also advert, as a proof of his supremacy, that our Lord thrice asked him after his resurrection, ‘Lovest thou me?, and thrice repeated the charge to him to feed his sheep and lambs.  Does this repetition make against him?  We read (Jn. 21: 16) that when our Lord said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved.’   And why did he grieve?  Did not these repeated inquiries imply doubt and distrust?  Had he not promised, ‘Lord, I will lay down my life for thy sake?’  Had he not said, ‘Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will not I be offended?’  Had he not assured our Savior, ‘I am ready to go with thee even to prison and to death,’ and confidently declared, ‘if I should die with thee I will not deny thee?’  Melancholy exemplar of human frailty!  Did he not that selfsame night thrice deny his Lord, draw his sword upon an innocent witness, and after deserting and denying his master, begin to curse and to swear, and to confirm his denial by an oath?  After all this, might not our Savior single him out from his fellows, and repeat in a tone of reproof as often as he had denied him, ‘’Lovest thou men? Then feed my lambs and sheep,’ without thereby giving him supremacy?  And when enthusiasts cite the visit of our Savior, first made to Peter’s ship, and the miraculous drought of fishes, as proofs of superiority, are you not reminded how his heart failed him when he tried to walk upon the waters, and our Lord addressed him, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’  How is it, again, that you find no proofs of Peter’s supremacy in the apostolical canons still extant, which define the positions of bishop, presbyter, and deacon, but do not advert  to the supremacy of Peter?  On the contrary, the thirty-third canon prescribes a metropolitan for each nation, whom his associates should ‘esteem as their head, and that they should do nothing of difficulty or great moment, without his opinion.  But neither should this primate do anything without the opinion of all, for thus shall concord continue.’   The Council of Nicaea and the Council of Ephesus followed these canons, and decreed that every bishop should acknowledge his metropolitan; but in neither canons nor councils is there any allusion to a sovereign prince, or tiara-wearing prelate. 

“If St. Peter was the rock on which alone the church was founded, and he alone held the keys of heaven; if he alone could loose and unloose, allow me to ask, how could St. Paul perform his mission to the heathen for three years, without once conferring with St. Peter, or receiving from him some portion of his gifts?  And yet the mission of St. Paul was eminently successful.  But how did the ancient fathers, still honored by Rome, construe these passages?  Did they give the exposition now claimed by the Roman see?  The golden-mouthed St. Chrysostom, translated for his eloquence and learning from the see of Antioch to that of Constantinople, reads it thus: ‘Christ founded and fortified his Church upon his (i.e. Peter’s) confession, so that no danger, nor even death itself, could overcome it.’  And commenting on the very words of our Savior, ‘And I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,’ St. Chrysostom says, ‘That is, upon the faith of his confession.’  Is not this express and definite?”

Our Lord gave to Peter alone the keys or symbol of power; and as St. Cyprian says, gave him the Primacy; but all the Apostles were Apostles, and possessed apostolic powers.  The point of most importance for us, is not how much superior Peter’s power was to that of the other Apostles, but where is continued now in the Church the Apostolic power which our Lord instituted, and which is always to be distinguished from the Episcopal power.  Even if the Apostles were all equal, and in a certain sense they certainly were, that would not negative the claims of the Bishop of Rome as the inheritor from Peter of the Apostolic authority.  The point Mr. Derby should consider is, whether there be any Apostolic in the Church now or not.  He must concede that Our Lord founded his Church for all coming time, and that he placed in it Apostles, and therefore established for its government an Apostolic authority, an authority which I have heretofore proved is distinct from and superior to the Episcopal authority.  Does that Apostolic authority continue, or does it not?  If it does, where but in the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, are we to look for it?

The Fathers usually consider the fact, that St. Peter is in every list of the Apostles named first, as a proof of his Primacy; Catholics have always done so, and Mr. Derby must concede that they have at least as much authority as scriptural interpreters as he has.  His attempt to disprove the Primacy of Peter by proving that Peter denied his Master, and showed a certain degree of weakness before his conversion, or before he was filled with the Holy Ghost, has been sufficiently met in our second Article on his book.

What Mr. derby says of the Apostolic Canons and of the Councils of Nice and Ephesus, we let pass for what it is worth, without disputing or conceding its accuracy.  The Papacy, in the belief of Catholics, was instituted immediately by our Lord himself, and the pope derives his authority immediately from him, not mediately through the Church, whether dispersed or congregated in council, and therefore can neither be given nor regulated by canons.  Mr. Derby alleges nothing that negatives the Papacy.  We should expect no allusion to the Pope as sovereign prince, for sovereign prince, in Mr. Derby’s sense, the Pope is not.  That there is no allusion to a tiara-wearing prelate, may be a matter of regret, but I do not find in the same councils any allusion to coronet-wearing prelates, as are the Greek Bishops, or to apron-wearing prelates, as are the Anglican Bishops, both pets of the learned Jurist.  However, it suffices for us, that these Councils were convoked by the authority of the Pope, presided over by his legates, and none of their acts were of any authority without his approbation.  No acts of a Council have any force, save as they are acts of the Pope, or rendered his by his approval, for the Council derives its Apostolical authority from Christ through his Vicar, and there is no Council conceivable without him.  The speculations of certain doctors and prelates at the time of the great Western Schism, who supposed it would be necessary to assert the subordination of the Pope to the Council, in order to extinguish the scandal of three rival claimants of the Papacy at the same time, are no part of Catholic doctrine, and are excusable only in men who are distracted by the evils of the times, and forget that the Lord never fails to save his Church without violence to her constitution.  The power to enact canons is an Apostolical power, and therefore vested in the Pope, who may enact them with or without a Council, as he judges wisest and best; his power is regulated by the law of Christ alone.  It will be time enough to answer Mr. Derby’s question, how St. Paul could perform his mission for three years to the heathen, without authority from Peter, when he shall have proved that St. Paul did so.

Mr. Derby speaks of the golden-mouthed St. Chrysostom.  I suspect his Greek is a little rusty, and he is not aware of the tautology.  If he spoke of the Golden-mouthed simply, or St. John the Golden-tongued, there would be no doubt as to the saint of whom he speaks.  Let it be that St. John Chrysostom interprets the rock, as do several of the Fathers, of the faith of Peter, or the truth Peter professed, it makes nothing against the other interpretation given by Catholics.  In arguing against Arians, or persons who deny the divinity of our Lord, I should myself interpret it as does St. John Chrysostom, but in arguing against those who deny the Primacy, I should interpret it of Peter himself.  Both interpretations are admissible, and neither excludes the other.  But I have in a previous Article sufficiently discussed this question.

The Fathers cited in the following pages of the Eleventh Letter to negative the Primacy of Peter, all assert it, and the passages quoted from them are easily explained in accordance with it.  The same may be said of the citations in his two following Letters.  In his Letter XIV, Mr. Derby refers to the recently discovered work, entitled Philosophumena, and ascribes it without hesitation, on the worthless authority of Chevalier Bunsen, to St. Hippolytus, Bishop of Porto.  The book was published a few years ago as the work of Origen.  It has since been ascribed to a Roman priest named Caius, to Tertullian, to St. Hippolytus, to another Hippolytus, but the learned have as yet settled nothing as to its authorship, and the only reason for ascribing it to any of the persons named, is, that if some one of them did not write it, it cannot be conjectured who did.  All that is certain is, that it was found in a Greek monastery, in a manuscript supposed to be of the fourteenth century; that it was written by a heretic and schismatist of the Novatian stamp, who appears to have lived in Rome in the early part of the third century, under the Pontificates of St. Zepherinus and St. Callistus, against whom it contains a most bitter diatribe.  The work is not of the slightest authority for Mr. Derby, but is of some importance to us as the testimony of an enemy.  It contains clear and unequivocal testimony to the fact, that the Bishop of Rome, within a century after the death of the last of the Apostles, claimed and exercised the Papal authority, or the authority of supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, for it denounces him in most outrageous terms for doing it.  It is a bad witness for Mr. Derby, who seems to think the Papacy sprung up only after St. Gregory I, since he claims St. Gregory I as one of his authorities against the Papacy, as a sort of Archbishop of Canterbury.

In dismissing this subject, we must ask Mr. Derby again, denying as he does the Primacy of Peter, and the Papacy, how he explains the universal tradition of the Church from the earliest times, that the Primacy was given to Peter, and that the Apostolic power survived in his successor, the Bishop of Rome?  That such is the universal tradition it is idle to dispute; you cannot name universal tradition it is idle to dispute; you cannot name a writer in any age or country that has occasion to touch the question, whether for or against, that does not bear witness to it as an existing fact.  None of the Fathers received as such by the Church deny it, and I am aware of no one that does not either expressly assert, or at least imply it.  Now give me, Mr. Derby, I pray you, a reasonable explanation of this fact, on your hypothesis that the Papacy is a usurpation?  How do you, maintaining as you do that the Primacy not only was not conferred on Peter, but that it was never even instituted, explain the fact that from the first cleat historical view we get of the subject, we find the Bishop of Rome the acknowledged Chief Pastor of the Church, and in the full exercise of all the authority we Catholics claim for him today?  It is idle to dispute the fact; not one of the Fathers you cite, fairly interpreted, but bears witness to it.  The effort you make to the contrary, is nothing but the chicanery of the pettifogger, unworthy of the large and liberal mind of a jurist.  The passages you quote serve your purpose, because you have detached them from their context, and have read them in the light, or rather darkness, of you Protestantism; not in the light and spirit of their authors.  I have not found you just to the spirit and scope of a single Father you cite, and I cannot believe that you have ever read an entire work of any one of them.  The works of the Fathers are penetrated, saturated with the Catholic spirit, and no man of a fair or unprejudiced mind can read them, especially those you cite, without feeling they were as Romish, to use a Protestant term, as Bellarmine, as Perrone, Cardinal Wiseman, or Pius the Ninth.  There is no Catholic of today who would not find his heart warmed, his soul expanded, his fervor increased, and his heart warmed, his soul expanded, his fervor increased, and his faith enlightened and confirmed by an assiduous study of the Fathers as well as of the Scriptures.  In addition to this you must concede that all the worldly passions of other bishops, their pride and ambition, as well as the pride and ambition of the temporal lords, kings and Caesars, must from the first have been opposed to the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, or to the bishop of any other see.  Be so good, then, as to explain to me, how the Bishop of Rome has been able to grasp the supremacy, to force the whole Church to recognize it, to submit to it, and to retain it down to our own times?

But here we close.  Mr. Derby, barring a few stale slanders, a thousand times refuted, in the remainder of his book only repeats what he has equally well said in the portion of his volume we have specially dissected.  Whatever he advances in the remaining Letters, depends for its force on what we have examined and refuted.  It would be an inexcusable waste of time on our part and that of our readers to occupy ourselves with it.  Nobody pretends that all Catholics are perfect, that no scandals have ever occurred, or that every Pope has been personally a saint.  But scandals our Lord said would come, and it is not a weak proof of the Divine origin of the Church and that a Divine hand has sustained her, that in spite of all the scandals that have occurred, she still exists, as fresh, vigorous, as blooming in the nineteenth century as in the first.  The hard things said against her are arguments in her favor.  They called our Lord a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of publicans and sinners; they accused him of sedition, and crucified him between two thieves as a blasphemer and an enemy to Caesar.  Worse they cannot say of the Church, or do to her.