Filioque, Part I: The Petrine Office

Reminds me of "Christ among the Doctors" (Hoffman, 1926; h/t
Ss Ambrose, Athanasius, John Chrysostom and Augustine upholding the chair of Peter at St Peter’s Basilica (Photo as seen at Traditional Catholic)

If memory serves me well, it was after being able to glance at Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Way that, when I hastily [read: Wikipedia] revisited the schismic contention – I know, but “not schismatic”, if you catch my drift – about professing that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”, I saw myself defending it.

It helped that a contributor there formulated “four separate disagreements” because I needed to know what to address first. Apparently, because questioned is “the authority of the pope [sic] to define the orthodoxy of the doctrine or to insert the term into the [Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed]”, I first have to defend the Petrine office.

That I did, but a while ago now, without much progress in the way of defending defining doctrine as orthodox. So I write this foreword to “Part I”, aware that I didn’t revisit the piece for that, yet also that posting what I have completed is better for now…especially as / though I will probably never get to progress now.

A final word in advance: I ventured on this before it was announced that a meeting of Their Holinesses, of the West and of Russian Orthodoxy respectively, would take place (as it did yesterday).

My posting this is not for protesting that, since the history of this moment seems beyond appreciation, but to reason out – to the immediate end – why papal primacy is as it is and – ultimately – why the Son is coequal in being the source of the Spirit.

On a side-note to the former: I, considering that the decrial by Their Holinesses of so-called “uniatism” can impede ritual Catholic Churches/Uses other than Rome’s, hope to look into it when (please God) I get to the part of my series that itself would consider unity.

* * *

Does anyone seriously deny that Peter was at the head of the Apostles? Of all the Scriptural evidence in favour of this charge, let us consider the most important and most recognised article: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”

These were the words of our Lord and the basis upon which the West has unbrokenly claimed, since then, that the successor to the Apostle of Rome is at the head of the Apostolic succession. Can this be supported by context?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” he said, “who do you say I am?” Then Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ,” he said, “the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”

—Matthew 16: 13-19, from The Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 & 1968
by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Co. Inc.

The West is contradicted with at least two arguments about this primacy – that it was Peter’s alone and that it isn’t inherent in his (or his) succession – but our response is in Ambrose (4th c.) as he is believed to have said that “where Peter is, there is the Church”.

In other words: the Church exists as long as the prince of Apostles does; otherwise our Lord did not build her on him. This answers the first opposition, but the second may be said to stand insofar as the primacy – that which matters – is not restricted to Peter.

For “it was not flesh and blood that revealed” the Christ to him, “but [the] Father in heaven.” Yet Peter is specified not only by his birth name, but as the “son of Jonah” – his “flesh and blood”.

In this way the dismissal of a primacy that is particular seems to be undone, but in fact this opposition and the one in question are quashed by these ontological indications that, to put it one way, Peter’s Priesthood will not be the same as that of the other Apostles.

When one is so ordained, of course, such is the point to which the Sacrament affects them. In the royal priesthood, conferred by Baptism, one is “to be the body of the Lord in this world” (Harvey); in the ministerial Priesthood, one is to act in persona Christi capitis.

This contrast, which defines a hierarchy, extends itself within the latter for various reasons. Firstly, just as not everyone is a Priest, so by virtue of the same there has to be something greater than Priesthood whereof not everyone who is a Priest may be part.

And, just as not everyone is a Bishop – who is greater than a Priest –, so there has to be something greater than Episcopacy. Here, however, we must pause and remember that Bishops are successors to the Apostles and, ordinately, the only thing greater is Christ.

So, when he tells Peter “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”, he complements the fisherman to himself based on having said in a parable “I am the gate of the sheepfold.”

In this way Peter, or the Vicar of Christ, is greater than the other Apostles (and their successors) while being one of the Apostles or his successor. To undo this is to undo the whole hierarchy and to claim only to undo this is a subtlety, not in primacy, but of a type of racism.

For, as Priesthood extends itself to the Papacy – for the Apostles were Priests until Christ, the summus pontifex, ascended and the Holy Spirit, as in (even episcopal) ordination, descended –, so the primacy of the latter does the reverse in subsidiarity.

Without this we have only a claim by some, and only backed by (Scriptural) experience, that the distinction between royal and ministerial priesthoods is necessary. It is the Son of justice himself who, in giving Peter primacy, establishes how one looks to him through the other.


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