A Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, 25-38


Thursday, Week 33

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A Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope

25] However, as to the declaration: Upon this rock I will build My Church, certainly the Church has not been built upon the authority of man, but upon the ministry of the confession which Peter made, in which he proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He accordingly addresses him as a minister: Upon this rock, i.e., upon this ministry. [Therefore he addresses him as a minister of this office in which this confession and doctrine is to be in operation and says: Upon this rock, i.e., this preaching and ministry.]

26] Furthermore, the ministry of the New Testament is not bound to places and persons as the Levitical ministry, but it is dispersed throughout the whole world, and is there where God gives His gifts, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers; neither does this ministry avail on account of the authority of any person, but on account of the Word given by Christ. 27] [Nor does the person of a teacher add anything to this word and office; it matters not who is preaching and teaching it; if there are hearts who receive and cling to it, to them it is done as they hear and believe.] And in this way, not as referring to the person of Peter, most of the holy Fathers, as Origen, Cyprian, Augustine, 28] Hilary, and Bede, interpret this passage: Upon this rock. Chrysostom says thus: “Upon this rock,” not upon Peter. For He built His Church not upon man, but upon the faith of Peter. But what was his faith? “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Hilary says: To Peter the Father revealed that he should say, “Thou art the Son of the living God.” 29] Therefore the building of the Church is upon this rock of confession; this faith is the foundation of the Church.

30] And as to that which is said John 21:15ff : Feed My sheep, and, Lovest thou Me more than these? it does not as yet follow hence that a peculiar superiority was given Peter. He bids him “feed,” i.e., teach the Word [the Gospel], or rule the Church with the Word [the Gospel], which Peter has in common with the other apostles.

31] The second article is still clearer, that Christ gave to the apostles only spiritual power, i.e., the command to teach the Gospel, to announce the forgiveness of sins, to administer the Sacraments, to excommunicate the godless without bodily force [by the Word], and that He did not give the power of the sword, or the right to establish, occupy or confer kingdoms of the world [to set up or depose kings]. For Christ says, Matt. 28:19. 20: Go ye, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; also John 20:21: As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.

Now, it is manifest that Christ was not sent to bear the sword or possess a worldly kingdom [rule in a worldly fashion], as He Himself says, John 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world. And Paul says, 2 Cor. 1:24: Not for that we have dominion over your faith; and 2 Cor. 10:4: The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, etc.

32] Accordingly, that Christ in His passion is crowned with thorns and led forth to be derided in royal purple, this signified that in the future, after His spiritual kingdom was despised, i.e., the Gospel was suppressed, another kingdom of a worldly kind would be set up [in its place] with the pretext of ecclesiastical power. 33] Therefore the Constitution of Boniface VIII and the chapter Omnes, Dist. 22, and similar opinions which contend that the Pope is by divine right the ruler of the kingdoms of the world, are [utterly] false and godless. 34] From this persuasion horrible darkness has been brought into the Church, and after that also great commotions have arisen in Europe. For the ministry of the Gospel was neglected, the knowledge of faith and the spiritual kingdom became extinct, Christian righteousness was supposed to be that external government which the Pope had established.

35] Next, the Popes began to seize upon kingdoms for themselves; they transferred kingdoms, they vexed with unjust excommunications and wars the kings of almost all nations in Europe, but especially the German emperors, sometimes for the purpose of occupying cities of Italy, at other times for the purpose of reducing to subjection the bishops of Germany, and wresting from the emperors the conferring of episcopates. Yea, in the Clementines it is even written: When the empire is vacant, the Pope is the legitimate successor.

36] Thus the Pope has not only usurped dominion, contrary to Christ’s command, but has also tyrannically exalted himself above all kings. And in this matter the deed itself is not to be reprehended as much as it is to be detested, that he assigns as a pretext the authority of Christ; that he transfers the keys to a worldly government; that he binds salvation to these godless and execrable opinions, when he says it is necessary to salvation for men to believe that this dominion belongs to him by divine right.

37] Since these great errors obscure [the doctrine of] faith and [of] the kingdom of Christ, they are in no way to be concealed. For the result shows that they have been great pests to the Church.

38] In the third place, this must be added: Even though the bishop of Rome had the primacy and superiority by divine right, nevertheless obedience would not be due those pontiffs who defend godless services, idolatry, and doctrine conflicting with the Gospel. Nay; such pontiffs and such a government ought to be held accursed, as Paul clearly teaches, Gal. 1:8: Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. And in Acts 5:29: We ought to obey God rather than men. Likewise the canons also clearly teach that a heretical Pope is not to be obeyed.

The Levitical high priest was the chief priest by divine right, and yet godless high priests were not to be obeyed, as Jeremiah and other prophets dissented from the high priests, the apostles dissented from Caiaphas and did not have to obey them.


Today’s reader: Trent Demarest

Trent is a husband, a father, and a schoolteacher. He is also the proprietor of this website.

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