Fr. Vladimir (Guettee) on St. Augustine and the Papacy

Further down is an extract from Fr. Vladimir Guettee’s useful book “The Papacy”, which he wrote after his conversion to Orthodoxy.  It should be noted that almost all scholarship, researching the origins and history of how the Papacy of Rome became what it has become, confirm the essence of what Fr. Vladimir writes.  Perhaps the most famous confirmation came from the Papist writer Klaus Schatz, and his exhaustive work, “Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present,” where he says of St. Augustine and Rome:

“In the case of North Africa it is interesting to note the attitude of a self-confident and organizationally intact Church toward Rome. The saying of Bishop Augustine of Hippo (396-430), Roma locuta, causa finita (“Rome has spoken, the matter is settled”) was quoted repeatedly. However, the quotation is really a bold reshaping of the words of that Church Father taken quite out of context.
“Concretely the issue was the teaching of Pelagius, an ascetic from Britain who lived in Rome. Pelagius took a stand against permissive and minimalist Christianity that shrank from the moral seriousness of Christian discipleship and used human incapacity and trust in Grace alone to excuse personal sloth. He therefore emphasized an ethical Christianity of works and moral challenge for which Grace was primarily an incentive to action; human beings remain capable of choosing between good and evil by their own power. This teaching was condemned by two North African Councils in Carthage and Mileve in 416. But since Pelagius lived in Rome, and Rome was the center of the Pelagian movement, it seemed appropriate to inform Pope Innocent I of the decision. Ultimately, the struggle against Pelagianism could only be carried on with the cooperation of Rome. The pope finally responded in 417, accepting the decisions of the two councils. Augustine then wrote: ‘In this matter, two councils have already sent letters to the apostolic see, and from thence rescripts have come back. The matter is settled (causa finita est); if only the heresy would cease!’
“Both the context of this statement and its continuity with the rest of Augustine’s thought permit no interpretation other than that Rome’s verdict alone is NOT decisive; rather, it disposes of all doubt after all that has preceded it. This is because there remains no other ecclesiastical authority of any consequence to which the Pelagians can appeal, and in particular the very authority from which they could most readily have expected a favorable decision, namely Rome, has clearly ruled against them!
“In general, Augustine attributes a relatively substantial weight of authority to the Roman church in questions of faith but does not consider that it has a superior teaching office. It has auctoritas but not potestas over the Church in North Africa. The very councils mentioned above give a clear picture of the way the Africans, including Augustine, regarded Rome’s teaching authority. They sent their records to Rome not to obtain formal confirmation, but because they acknowledged that the Roman church, with its traditions, had a greater auctoritas in matters of faith; therefore they desired to have a Roman decision united with their own. This is especially obvious in a letter from Augustine writing for five bishops; we are not, he said, pouring “our little trickle back into your ample fountain to increase it, but…we wish to be reassured by your that this trickle of ours, however scant, flows from the same fountainhead as your abundant stream, and we desire the consolation of your writings, drawn from our common share of the one grace.”Every word of this should be noted: The Roman church is not the source of the African Church, for both, in parallel streams, flow from the river of the same tradition, even though the river is fuller in the Roman church. Rome thus has a relatively greater and more weighty authority, and that is why the African Church seeks a verdict from Rome.” [Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present, Klaus Schatz, pg. 34-35]


In other words, in theory, Rome was supposed to be the last in long line of councils and judgments. However, we should note, as both Schatz, Guettee, and other note, that the situation, councils, and judgments did not end after St. Augustine’s Sermon 131! In fact, it was only at the Third Ecumenical Council, when Celestius, a chief proponent of the Pelagian system, and his teachings, were condemned, that the matter finally ended in the Church. Perhaps they should rather have ‘boldly reshaped’ the saying as “Rome has spoken, Constantinople has spoken, Alexandria has spoken, Antioch has spoken, Jerusalem has spoken, Carthage has spoken, Ephesus has spoken….” We find something analogous in the writings of St. Cummian of Ireland[+662] against those who refused the corrected Paschal calculation:

“I find it was ordered that all those were to be excommunicated who dared to act against the statutes of the four apostolic sees of Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria.”

It would seem like this should be lesson to those who believe they have ‘gained a victory’ by throwing the Orthodox Western Fathers under the bus, which, far from being a ‘victory’ was a defeat in a ecumenical maneuver.


Fr. Vladimir on St. Augustine and the Papacy

This Father [St. Augustine] indeed said, “Peter, who a short time before had confessed that Christ was the Son of God, and who in return for that confession, had been called ‘the rock’ upon which the Church should be built,etc.;’ (St. Augustine on Psalm 69) but he explains his meaning in several other works. Let us give a few specimens: “Peter received this name from the Lord to signify the Church; for it is Christ who is the rock, and Peter is the Christian people. The rock is the principle word; this is why Peter id derived from the Rock, and not the rock from Peter; precisely as the word Christ is not from Christian, but Christian from Christ. ‘Thou art therefore Peter, upon this rock I will build my Church. I will build thee on myself–I will not build on thee.'” (18th Sermon of St. Augustine)

“The Church,” he says again, “is build on the rock after which Peter was named. That rock was Christ, and it is on this foundation that Peter himself was to be raised.” [Tract 124]

In his book of the Retractions, the same Father says: “In that book, I said in one place, in speaking of St. Peter, that the Church had been built on him as on the rock. This thought is sung by many in the verses of the blessed Ambrose, who says of the cock, that ‘when it crew the Rock of the Church deplored his fault.’  But I know that subsequently I very frequently adopted this sense, that when the Lord said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church,’ he meant by ‘this rock,’ the one which Peter had confessed in saying, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God;’ so that Peter, called by the name of ‘this rock,’ represented the person of the Church which is built upon that rock, and which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it was not said to him, ‘Thou art the rock;’ but ‘Thou art Peter.’  The rock was Christ. Peter having confessed him as all the Church confesses him, he was called Peter. Between these two sentiments, let the reader choose the most probable.” (Retractions, Book I, ch. 21)

Thus St. Augustine condemned neither of the interpretations given to the text, ‘Thou art Peter,’ etc. But he evidently regards as the better the one which he most frequently used. Yet this does not prevent the Romish theologians from quoting this Father in favour of the first interpretation, which he admitted but once, and renounced, though without formally condemning it.

St. Augustine teaches, like St. Cyprian, that Peter represented the Church–that he was the type of the Church. He does not infer from this that the whole Church was summed up in him; but, on the contrary, that he received nothing personally, and all that was granted to him was granted to the Church. (Sermons 118 and 316; Sermon 10 on Peter and Paul; Tract 124 on John)  Such is the true commentary upon the belief of the Fathers–that Peter typified the Church whenever he addressed Christ, or the Lord spoke to him. St. Augustine, it is true, admits that Peter enjoyed ‘the primacy,’ but he explains what he means by that word. “He had not,” he says, “the primacy over the disciples [in discipulos] but among the disciples (in discipulis). His primacy among the disciples was the same as that of Stephen among the deacons.”  He calls Peter “the first” (primus) as he calls Paul “the last” (novissimus), which conveys only an idea of time. And that this was indeed St. Augustine’s idea, appears from the fact that, in this same text, so much abused by Romanists, because in it Augustine grants Peter the primacy, he distinctly asserts that Peter and Paul, the first and the last, were equal in the honour of the apostleship. Therefore, according to St. Augustine, Peter received only the high favour of being ‘called first to the Apostleship.’ This distinction with which the Lord honoured him, is his glory, but gave him not authority. (Sermon 10 on Peter and Paul)

According to Romish theologians, St. Augustine recognize the supreme authority of the Roman Church when he said that “the principality of the Apostolic chair has always been in vigour there;” (Ep. to the Donatist Bishops) but what did he mean by these words? It is certain that the Church of Africa, under the inspiration of St. Augustine himself, who was her oracle, wrote vigorously to the Bishop of Rome, warning him not to receive to his communion thereafter, those whom she had excommunicated, as he had done in the case of a certain Appiarius, because he could not do so without violating the canons of the Council of Nicea. Far from recognizing the supreme authority of Rome, the Church of Africa, in accord with St. Augustine, refused to that Bishop the title of ‘summus sacerdos.’  St. Augustine did not, therefore, recognize the superior jurisdiction of the Roman Church. What, then, doe she mean by ‘principality of the Apostleship’? He leaves no doubt upon the subject. After having ascribed this ‘principality of the Apostleship’ to St. Paul as well as to St. Peter, he observes that it is something ‘higher’ than the episcopate.  “Who does not know,” says he, “that the principality of the Apostleship is to be preferred to every episcopate?” (10th Sermon o Peter and Paul)  The Bishops were considered, indeed, as successors of the Apostles; but while they inherited from them the apostolic ministry, they had no share in certain superior prerogatives, which only belonged to the first Apostles of Christ. These prerogatives constitutes the ‘principality of the Apostleship’, which thus belongs equally to all the first Apostles. And, in fact, the title of “Apostle-prince’ is given to them all indifferently by the Fathers of the Church. Every Apostolic Church, therefore–that is, every Church that has preserved the legitimate Apostolic Succession–has preserved this principality of the see, that is, of Apostolic teaching. St. Augustine merely says that, in his time, the Church of Rome had preserved this succession of Apostolic teaching. Does this prove that he recognizes in her a superior authority, and one universe in the government of the Church? Assuredly not. So far was he from recognizing any such authority, that by preference, he sends the Donatists to the Apostolic Churches of the East, to be convinced of their error; not because he did not believe Rome to have inherited the Apostolic teaching–for we have seen to the contrary–but because Rome, mixed up as she was already with their discussions, did not offer equal guarantees of impartiality as the Apostolic Churches of the East.

St. Augustine, who did not even recognize the right of Rome to interfere with the discussion of mere matters of discipline in the African Church, was still further removed from recognizing her doctrinal authority. In many of his writings he sets forth ‘the rule of faith’, and never in that connection does he mention the doctrinal authority of the Church of Rome. In his eyes, the rule of faith is the constant and unanimous consent of all the Apostolic Churches. His doctrine is the same as that of Tertullian, and it has been copied, so to speak, by Vincent Lirinensis, whose admirable ‘Commonitorium’ sums up perfectly the doctrine of the first five centuries upon this fundamental question. In view of this great doctrine so clearly state by the Fathers, and in which not the faintest foreshadowing of Roman authority is to be found–a doctrine, on the contrary, diametrically opposed to this pretended authority–it is difficult to understand how the partisans of the Papacy have ventured to invent their system; for they must have known that they were thus putting themselves in direct opposition to all Catholic Tradition.

Romish theologians quote with much pomp and circumstance two other passages from St. Augustine. In the first, this Father, speaking to the Pelagians, says: ‘As regards your cause two councils have been sent to the Apostolic See. Rescripts have returned; the case is finished–may it please God that also the error be so!” The advocates of the Papacy thus translate this passage: ‘Rome has spoken–the case is finished; Roma locuta est–cause finita est.’ This expression, Rome has spoken—Roma locuta est, is a mere invention. It does not occur in St. Augustine. The other–the case is finished–is there. We shall presently see what it means.

The second passage, similar to the first, is thus conceived: “Your cause is finished,” he said to the Pelagians [Adv. Julian. Lib. III], “by a competent judgment of the bishops in general; there is nothing for you to do except to submit to the sentence that has been given; or to repress your restless turbulence if you cannot submit!’

The first text dates back to the year 419, when the Pelagians had been condemned by two African Councils and by Pope Innocent I. The second is of the year 421, when eighteen Pelagian bishops had appealed from this sentence to a general council. According to this text, say the Romish theologians, the condemnation of the Pope, confirming that of the African councils had a doctrinal authority from which there was no appeal to a general council, and therefore Rome enjoyed a superior and final authority in dogmatic questions.

These inferences are not just. In the first place, St. Augustine did not regard a sentence of Rome as final. Thus, speaking of the question of rebaptism, he asserts that St. Cyprian had a right to oppose his belief to that of Pope Stephen; and he says that he himself would not give so positive an opinion on that point if a general council had not settled it. At the same time he admits that Stephen had with him the majority. He says to the Donatists, that after having been condemned by the council of Rome, they had one resource left–and appeal to the plenary or ecumenical council. It thus appears that he did not regard the sentence of the Pope, even given in council, as final and without appeal.
It must be remarked, moreover, that in the case of the Pelagians, St. Augustine only once mentioned a sentence from Rome–in the first text quoted. in the second text, and everywhere else, he only speaks of a judgment given by all the Bishops; particularly those of the East. This, then, is St. Augustine’s argument: ‘You have been condemned everywhere–in the East and in the West–why then appeal to the Church in council, when all the churches unanimously condemn you?” The Pelagians relied on a sentence in their favour given by Pope Zosimus, Innocent’s successor. How does Augustine answer them? “If I should concede (what is not true) that the Roman Church passed this judgment upon Celestius and Pelagius, and that she approve their doctrines, it would only follow that the Roman clergy were prevaricators.’ This answer of St. Augustine overthrows the whole theory that the Ultramontanes would build upon their enlarged and distorted text. He did not exclude Rome in the judgment given against the Pelagians, because that Church is Apostolic and a part of the Church Catholic; yet his argument is wholly summed up in the following words: ‘Where will you go?’ he says to the Pelagians. ‘Do you not see, wherever you turn, the army of Jesus Christ arrayed against you the world over; at Constantinople quite as much as in Africa and in the most remote lands?’

Beside all this, another proof even at Rome as well as elsewhere in the Church, the sentence of Innocent I was not regarded as terminating the case is found in the fact that, after his sentence, the case we reexamined at Rome itself by Zosimus, the successor of Innocent, by the several churches in a great number of Synods; and finally by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, which judged the case and confirmed the sentence given at Rome and in all other places where it had been examined.

When we are told how Pope Innocent I happened to be called upon to give an opinion in the case Pelagius, we see very clearly that the Romish theologians have misapplied the text.

The African bishops had condemned the errors of Pelagius in two councils, without a thought of Rome or its doctrine. The Pelagians then set up, to oppose them, the alleged faith of Rome, which they said harmonized with their own. Then the African bishops wrote to Innocent to ask him whether this assertion of the Pelagians was true. They were the rather moved to this that the Pelagians had great influence at Rome. They did not write to the Pope to ask of him a sentence that should guide them, but that they might silence those who claimed that heresy was maintained at Rome. Innocent condemned it, and therefore Augustine says: “You pretended that Rome was for you; Rome condemns you; you have also been condemned by all the other churches; hence the case is finished.”  Instead of asking a decision from Rome, the African bishops pointed out to the Pope the course he should pursue in this affair.

Here then again have the Romish theologians not only abused the text of St. Augustine, but also invented a part of it to suit the necessities of their cause.


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