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Refuting the Eastern Schismatics- Part I

Private Epistle #11


Blessings and Greetings to you in the Lord Our God and Christ the King.  Further, We with you salute Mary the Mother of the Most High God. 

We of the Apostolic See saw fit to write you concerning the eastern schismatics.  This is the first part refuting these lost souls who have cut themselves off from the unity of life and salvation.  This will provide also thorough introduction to the refutation of the group of heresies known as protestantism as well, which We intend to write in future epistles to you, since a refutation of the schismatics of the east also refutes the error all of the sects of protestantism regarding the one thing that they all seem to hold in common: the denial of the authority of the Roman Pontiff.  Thus, perhaps true to Our prophetic name of "Peter the Roman", We emphasize in all things this Roman See, to the greater glory of God.  We contemplate with horror the satanic abuses that reign throughout the entire world under that which is known as the eastern schism.

The eastern schismatics are trapped in a damnable lie.  Has not the Lord promised, and have not We decreed through our approbation of the greatest Doctor of the Church, Aquinas, that the faith will always be defensible as the most reasonable position for a man to possibly hold in this life?  Let it never be denied.  There is no more reasonable position to hold than the Roman Catholic Faith. 

Thus We are left with an apologetical task, to dismantle the position of the eastern schismatics, servants of the diabolical one who claim to be the sheep of Christ but are not.  For Our Predecessor Boniface VIII declared, concerning these liars who have abandoned the Church, in his Bull of 1302:

Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: 'Feed my sheep' [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter].  Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John 'there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.' 

The leaders of these schismatics are hidden beasts presenting themselves as men.  The refutation of their position is as simple and clear as when one beholds the sun at noonday in a clear heaven.

We note that the split between those allegiant to the chair of Peter, the source of all motherly unity, and the schismatics of the east occurred prior to the dogmatic pronouncement of the Council at Vatican I, or the universally accepted pronouncement of any council.  Thus, we are left to examine directly the holy scripture and tradition.  In the second part of our treatise the precise history of the schism will be analyzed, to prove that the eastern schismatics both initiated the schism and are the sole party at fault of the schism; finally in the third part the theology of the eastern schismatics on various doctrines will be compared to the fathers and to reason.

Survey of the Early Sources

Holy scripture, of course, requires us to believe that Saint Peter was the prince of the Apostles.  For Christ declared to Peter that Peter held the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  Now this statement must be considered in light of the traditions of the time.  In the time of Christ the Pharisees often used the phrase "bind and loose".  This was not a new phrase, nor was it invented by Christ at this time.  The meaning of the phrase was extremely clear.  It referred to the authority to permit and forbid religious doctrines and disciplines.  There is absolutely no doubt about this point from the earliest authorities.  Even the Jewish scholars attest to this, based upon the early Pharisaical Jewish sources.  As a result, the common schismatic theory that "bind and loose" refers only to forgiving and retaining sins is absolutely absurd.  Further, the theory that "bind and loose" refers to simply preaching the gospel as proposed by the protestant heretic Calvin is even more absurd.

As Augustine declared concerning the Jews, while they are apostates, nevertheless their continued testimony serves as a perpetual reminder of the truth of the Christian Faith.  The ancient Jewish scholar and leader Josephus observed that the Pharisees "became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind."  ("B J." i, 5, § 2),   Further the various Jewish schools had the power "to bind and to loose"; that is, to forbid and to permit (Ḥag. 3b); and they could bind any day by declaring it a fast-day (Meg. Ta'an. xxii.; Ta'an. 12a; Yer. Ned. i. 36c, d).  Finally the belief was that this binding and loosing received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, ix.; Mak. 23b).  This phrase is incredibly common throughout the early Jewish writings and authorities.  This phrase is met with many times over in Jewish writings of which We shall give but a few examples: "Concerning the moving of empty vessels on the Sabbath Day, of the filling of which there is no intention; the school of Shammai binds it (forbids) and the school of Hillel looseth it (permits)." "Concerning the gathering of wood on a feast-day scattered about a field, the school of Shammai binds it, the school of Hillel looseth it." "Women may not look into a looking-glass on the Sabbath Day if it is fixed to a wall, Our Rabbi loosed it, but the wise men bound it." "To them that bathe in the hot-baths in the Sabbath Day, they bind the washing, but they loose the sweating." " The wise men ( The Sanhedrin) bind the eating of leaven from the beginning of the sixth hour, of the day of the Passover." "They do not send letters by the hand of a heathen on the eve of a Sabbath, nor on the fifth day of the week, the school of Shammai binds it even until the forth day of the week, but the school of Hillel looseth it." " R. Meir loosed the mixing of wines and oil, to anoint a sick man on the Sabbath."  Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebracia- Lightfoot- vol 2 p238,239,240

These incredible powers sanctioned from the court of the throne of the Most High God was vested by Our Lord upon Peter alone, separately from the other Apostles.  For He declared "whatever you (singular) bind upon earth, shall be bound in heaven".  He did not require that Peter act in consort with anyone else, this power and keys was singularly conferred upon Peter first so that whatever he loosed, would be honored by heaven.  Later, the power to bind and loose was conferred upon all the apostles at once (Mt. 18:18), with Peter among them (his presence being necessary with them to effectuate the binding and loosing, as this power is peculiar to him and the other apostles and bishops have no authority without him).

The schismatics perniciously contend there is some ambiguity here.  For further clarification then, they should consult the tradition of the holy fathers.  We are bound in conscience to follow the majority of the early testimonies of the Fathers as we have them.

Quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Peter was Bishop of Rome

It is no longer denied by any writer of weight that St. Peter visited Rome and suffered martyrdom there (Harnack, "Chronol.", I, 244, n. 2). Some, however, of those who admit that he taught and suffered in Rome, deny that he was ever bishop of the city (e.g. Lightfoot, "Clement of Rome", II, 501; Harnack, op. cit., I, 703). It is not, however, difficult to show that the fact of his bishopric is so well attested as to be historically certain. In considering this point, it will be well to begin with the third century, when references to it become frequent, and work backwards from this point.

St. Cyprian

In the middle of the third century St. Cyprian expressly terms the Roman See the Chair of St. Peter, saying that Cornelius has succeeded to "the place of Fabian which is the place of Peter" (Epistle 51:8; cf. 75:3).

Firmilian of Caesarea

Firmilian of Caesarea notices that Stephen claimed to decide the controversy regarding rebaptism on the ground that he held the succession from Peter (Cyprian, Epistle 75:17). He does not deny the claim: yet certainly, had he been able, he would have done so. Thus in 250 the Roman episcopate of Peter was admitted by those best able to know the truth, not merely at Rome but in the churches of Africa and of Asia Minor.


In the first quarter of the century (about 220) Tertullian (On Modesty 21) mentions Callistus's claim that Peter's power to forgive sins had descended in a special manner to him. Had the Roman Church been merely founded by Peter and not reckoned him as its first bishop, there could have been no ground for such a contention. Tertullian, like Firmilian, had every motive to deny the claim. Moreover, he had himself resided at Rome, and would have been well aware if the idea of a Roman episcopate of Peter had been, as is contended by its opponents, a novelty dating from the first years of the third century, supplanting the older tradition according to which Peter and Paul were co-founders, and Linus first bishop.


About the same period, Hippolytus (for Lightfoot is surely right in holding him to be the author of the first part of the "Liberian Catalogue" — "Clement of Rome", 1:259) reckons Peter in the list of Roman bishops.

"Adversus Marcionem"

We have moreover a poem, "Adversus Marcionem", written apparently at the same period, in which Peter is said to have passed on to Linus "the chair on which he himself had sat" (P.L., II 1077).

St. Irenaeus

These witnesses bring us to the beginning of the third century. In the second century we cannot look for much evidence. With the exception of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement of Alexandria, all the writers whose works we possess are apologists against either Jews or pagans. In works of such a character there was no reason to refer to such a matter as Peter's Roman episcopate.

Irenaeus, however, supplies us with a cogent argument. In two passages (Against Heresies I.27.1 and III.4.3) he speaks of Hyginus as ninth Bishop of Rome, thus employing an enumeration which involves the inclusion of Peter as first bishop (Lightfoot was undoubtedly wrong in supposing that there was any doubt as to the correctness of the reading in the first of these passages. In III:4:3, the Latin version, it is true, gives "octavus"; but the Greek text as cited by Eusebius reads enatos.

Irenaeus we know visited Rome in 177. At this date, scarcely more than a century after the death of St. Peter, he may well have come in contact with men whose fathers had themselves spoken to the Apostle. The tradition thus supported must be regarded as beyond all legitimate doubt.

Lightfoot's suggestion (Clement 1:64), that it had its origin in the Clementine romance, has proved singularly unfortunate. For it is now recognized that this work belongs not to the second, but to the fourth century. Nor is there the slightest ground for the assertion that the language of Irenaeus, III:3:3, implies that Peter and Paul enjoyed a divided episcopate at Rome — an arrangement utterly unknown to the Church at any period. He does, it is true, speak of the two Apostles as together handing on the episcopate to Linus. But this expression is explained by the purpose of his argument, which is to vindicate against the Gnostics the validity of the doctrine taught in the Roman Church. Hence he is naturally led to lay stress on the fact that that Church inherited the teaching of both the great Apostles. Epiphanius ("Haer." 27:6) would indeed seem to suggest the divided episcopate; but he has apparently merely misunderstood the words of Irenaeus.

Those who succeed Peter in Rome succeed him also in the supreme headship

History bears complete testimony that from the very earliest times the Roman See has ever claimed the supreme headship, and that that headship has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church. We shall here confine ourselves to the consideration of the evidence afforded by the first three centuries.

St. Clement

The first witness is St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes. In his "Epistle to the Corinthians", written in 95 or 96, he bids them receive back the bishops whom a turbulent faction among them had expelled. "If any man", he says, "should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger" (Ep. 59). Moreover, he bids them "render obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy Spirit". The tone of authority which inspires the latter appears so clearly that Lightfoot did not hesitate to speak of it as "the first step towards papal domination" (Clement 1:70). Thus, at the very commencement of church history, before the last survivor of the Apostles had passed away, we find a Bishop of Rome, himself a disciple of St. Peter, intervening in the affairs of another Church and claiming to settle the matter by a decision spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Such a fact admits of one explanation alone. It is that in the days when the Apostolic teaching was yet fresh in men's minds the universal Church recognized in the Bishop of Rome the office of supreme head.

St. Ignatius of Antioch

A few years later (about 107) St. Ignatius of Antioch, in the opening of his letter to the Roman Church, refers to its presiding over all other Churches. He addresses it as "presiding over the brotherhood of love [prokathemene tes agapes] The expression, as Funk rightly notes, is grammatically incompatible with the translation advocated by some non-Catholic writers, "pre-eminent in works of love".

St. Irenaeus

The same century gives us the witness of St. Irenaeus — a man who stands in the closest connection with the age of the Apostles, since he was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who had been appointed Bishop of Smyrna by St. John. In his work "Adversus Haereses" (III:3:2) he brings against the Gnostic sects of his day the argument that their doctrines have no support in the Apostolic tradition faithfully preserved by the Churches, which could trace the succession of their bishops back to the Twelve. He writes:

Because it would be too long in such a volume as this to enumerate the successions of all the churches, we point to the tradition of that very great and very ancient and universally known Church, which was founded and established at Rome, by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul: we point I say, to the tradition which this Church has from the Apostles, and to her faith proclaimed to men which comes down to our time through the succession of her bishops, and so we put to shame . . . all who assemble in unauthorized meetings. For with this Church, because of its superior authority, every Church must agree — that is the faithful everywhere — in communion with which Church the tradition of the Apostles has been always preserved by those who are everywhere [Ad hanc enim eoclesiam propter potentiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam, hoc est eos qui sunt undique fideles, in qua semper ab his qui sunt undique, conservata est ea quâ est ab apostolis traditio].

He then proceeds to enumerate the Roman succession from Linus to Eleutherius, the twelfth after the Apostles, who then occupied the see. Non-Catholic writers have sought to rob the passage of its importance by translating the word convenire "to resort to", and thus understanding it to mean no more than that the faithful from every side (undique) resorted to Rome, so that thus the stream of doctrine in that Church was kept immune from error. Such a rendering, however, is excluded by the construction of the argument, which is based entirely on the contention that the Roman doctrine is pure by reason of its derivation from the two great Apostolic founders of the Church, Sts. Peter and Paul. The frequent visits made to Rome by members of other Christian Churches could contribute nothing to this. On the other hand the traditional rendering is postulated by the context, and, though the object of innumerable attacks, none other possessing any real degree of probability has been suggested in its place (see Dom. J. Chapman in "Revue Benedictine", 1895, p. 48).

St. Victor

During the pontificate of St. Victor (189-98) we have the most explicit assertion of the supremacy of the Roman See in regard to other Churches. A difference of practice between the Churches of Asia Minor and the rest of the Christian world in regard to the day of the Paschal festival led the pope to take action. There is some ground for supposing that the Montanist heretics maintained the Asiatic (or Quartodeciman) practice to be the true one: in this case it would be undesirable that any body of Catholic Christians should appear to support them. But, under any circumstances, such a diversity in the ecclesiastical life of different countries may well have constituted a regrettable feature in the Church, whose very purpose it was to bear witness by her unity to the oneness of God (John 17:21). Victor bade the Asiatic Churches conform to the custom of the remainder of the Church, but was met with determined resistance by Polycrates of Ephesus, who claimed that their custom derived from St. John himself. Victor replied by an excommunication. St. Irenaeus, however, intervened, exhorting Victor not to cut off whole Churches on account of a point which was not a matter of faith. He assumes that the pope can exercise the power, but urges him not to do so. Similarly the resistance of the Asiatic bishops involved no denial of the supremacy of Rome. It indicates solely that the bishops believed St. Victor to be abusing his power in bidding them renounce a custom for which they had Apostolic authority. It was indeed inevitable that, as the Church spread and developed, new problems should present themselves, and that questions should arise as to whether the supreme authority could be legitimately exercised in this or that case. St. Victor, seeing that more harm than good would come from insistence, withdrew the imposed penalty.

Inscription of Abercius

Not many years since a new and important piece of evidence was brought to light in Asia Minor dating from this period. The sepulchral inscription of Abercius, Bishop of Hierapolis (d. about 200), contains an account of his travels couched in allegorical language. He speaks thus of the Roman Church: "To Rome He [Christ] sent me to contemplate majesty: and to see a queen golden-robed and golden-sandalled." It is difficult not to recognize in this description a testimony to the supreme position of the Roman See.


Tertullian's bitter polemic, "De Pudicitia" (about 220), was called forth by an exercise of papal prerogative. Pope Callistus had decided that the rigid discipline which had hitherto prevailed in many Churches must be in large measure relaxed. Tertullian, now lapsed into heresy, fiercely attacks "the peremptory edict", which "the supreme pontiff, the bishop of bishops", has sent forth. The words are intended as sarcasm: but none the less they indicate clearly the position of authority claimed by Rome. And the opposition comes, not from a Catholic bishop, but from a Montanist heretic.

St. Cyprian

The views of St. Cyprian (d. 258) in regard to papal authority have given rise to much discussion. He undoubtedly entertained exaggerated views as to the independence of individual bishops, which eventually led him into serious conflict with Rome. Yet on the fundamental principle his position is clear. He attributed an effective primacy to the pope as the successor of Peter. He makes communion with the See of Rome essential to Catholic communion, speaking of it as "the principal Church whence episcopal unity had its rise" (ad Petri cathedram et ad ecclesiam principalem unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est).

The force of this expression becomes clear when viewed in the light of his doctrine as to the unity of the Church. This was, he teaches, established by Christ when He founded His Church upon Peter. By this act the unity of the Apostolic college was ensured through the unity of the foundation. The bishops through all time form a similar college, and are bound in a like indivisible unity. Of this unity the Chair of Peter is the source. It fulfils the very office as principle of union which Peter fulfilled in his lifetime. Hence to communicate with an antipope such as Novatian would be schism (Epistle 66:1).

He holds, also, that the pope has authority to depose an heretical bishop. When Marcian of Arles fell into heresy, Cyprian, at the request of the bishops of the province, wrote to urge Pope Stephen "to send letters by which, Marcian having been excommunicated, another may be substituted in his place" (Epistle 66:3). It is manifest that one who regarded the Roman See in this light believed that the pope possessed a real and effective primacy.

At the same time it is not to be denied that his views as to the right of the pope to interfere in the government of a diocese already subject to a legitimate and orthodox bishop were inadequate. In the rebaptism controversy his language in regard to St. Stephen was bitter and intemperate. His error on this point does not, however, detract from the fact that he admitted a primacy, not merely of honour but of jurisdiction. Nor should his mistake occasion too much surprise. It is as true in the Church as in merely human institutions that the full implications of a general principle are only realized gradually. The claim to apply it in a particular case is often contested at first, though later ages may wonder that such opposition was possible.

Based upon the above illustrations, the majority testimony of the earliest fathers may be quoted in favor of primacy of Rome.  The eastern schismatics’ attempt to discredit Irenaeus is ridiculous.  The schismatics contend that Rome was authoritative to Irenaeus merely because many traditions circulated through its massive population center.  However, Ireneaus clearly stated that Rome is the principal see.  In the original Latin source of Irenaeus, the word “principal” refers to authority to rule in a magisterial sense (the phrase Irenaeus used was “principalitatem potentiorem”).  Also, the early father saint Ignatius refers to Rome as “ruling over the charity of the brethren”, and it is the only church where he fails to warn them in his epistles of encroaching heresy.  Tertullian, even as a heretic from Africa, admitted that Rome claimed the greatest authority for itself.

Against all of these enumerated testimonies from the earliest fathers what do the eastern schismatics have?  They have nothing that clearly denies Rome's authority.  They try to employ Cyprian for their nefarious ends, but Cyprian’s attacks on Pope Stephen are destroyed by his own argument elsewhere.  For Cyprian only resisted the Pontiff when he felt his false belief in the double baptism of heretics was threatened.  But, when Cyprian was in his more sober impartial moments of scholarship, he declared the authority of Rome in the clearest terms, as the principal Church from whence unity has its source, as taught in his treatise Unity of the Church.   Testimony clouded by bias in support of an error, is nowhere near as reliable as impartial unclouded testimony from the same person elsewhere.

The second apparent testimony on their side is that of Polycrates of Ephesus during his dispute with Pope Victor.  Polycrates represented the minority churches of Asia Minor in their view that Easter should be celebrated on their peculiar day.  However, Polycrates does not even here necessarily contest the authority of Peter.  Rather, he simply seeks to uphold tradition that he erroneously believed was the sole apostolic mandate for Asia Minor.  As to Rome's authority of itself, there is not a word against it from him.   

Of course Polycrates was wrong in holding his schismatic view on Easter.  For his position was the minority position, held by the churches in Asia Minor and rejected elsewhere.  Polycrates thus should have acceded to Pope Victor and the rest of the Church, which had no problem celebrating it upon the day Rome decreed.

Thus, for the position of the papacy there are many testimonies: Ignatius, Ireneaus, Cyprian (during his impartial period), Tertullian, the suggestions of Abercius, Pope Victor, Pope Clement, Hippolytus, and Adversus Marcionem.

The position for the Eastern Schismatics has no clear testimony, but only two vague ones in the early fathers: Polycrates, and Cyprian (during his period of error and bias concerning double baptism). 

Thus the weight of the evidence found in scripture and the early church fathers vindicates Rome.  Obviously, the church fathers are not the definitive or final word on any doctrine or policy, therefore in the next part of the Refutation, the actual historical particulars of the eastern schism will be examined, to demonstrate that the eastern schismatics are solely responsible for the separation from Rome.