to the Romans.
Rather, the church in Rome was governed by a loose pattern of Christian authorityaround presbyters, a pattern carried on from the first generation of believers, while any details of thelife of the presbyter Clement, including his revisionist elevation to an anachronistic papacy, were the product of later legend.
Even after the development of a Roman episcopacy, while Peter’s martyrdom and burial in Romeconferred an honour on the city, they did not confer upon it the automatic power of being head of theChurch. Peter’s presence, death and tomb established no juristic continuity of powers, nor for thatmatter did occupying the same chair as Peter: the
was after all the symbol, not the justification of Petrine powers.
As Walter Ullman stresses, the precise link between Peter’s powersand the Pope’s powers needed to be established.
Juristic solutions were hinted at in the papalwritings of the 4
century – with terms such as
, etc. – but these did not go beyondfleeting assertions until the pontificate of Leo the Great.
Leo’s solution consisted of his conceptionof the pope, succinctly and conclusively articulated, as the
of St. Peter, expressing thesuccession of the pope in exclusively juristic terms derived from Roman law. Ullman outlines thesignificance of the
under Roman law:“In brief there is, so far as the law is concerned, juristic identity between heir and deceased – from the legal point of view the death of the latter merely entailed change of the physical person, but not change of the rights and duties which are simply transferred to a differentindividual.”
The pope was not merely an
, but an
: in other words, he fulfils the function of his office as heir of Peter, in spite of being unworthy of his personal attributes. In so doing, Leo placed the office of the papacy on a legal footing inheriting the powers of St. Peter, while drawing theuseful distinction between the person of the pope (
) and the functions of his office (
“...that in my humble person [Peter] may be recognized and honoured, in whom abides thecare of all the shepherds, together with the charge of the sheep commended to him, and whosedignity is not abated even in so unworthy an heir (
in indigno haerede
Saints & Sinners
, p 7
Ibid, p 7
Ullman, Walter. “Leo and the Theme of Papal Supremacy” in ,
Journal of Theological Studies
11 (1960), pp.26-27
Ibid, p 26
Ibid, p 33
Ibid p 34
Ibid, p 35
Leo, Sermon 3. Cited in Ullman, “Leo and the Theme of Papal Supremacy”, p 35