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Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion Book4 Chapter7

Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion Book4 Chapter7

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111
CHAPTER 7
THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF THE
ROMAN PAPACY

UNTIL IT RAISED ITSELF TO SUCH A HEIGHT THAT THE
FREEDOM OF THE CHURCH WAS OPPRESSED, AND ALL
RESTRAINT OVERTHROWN

(Modest position of the Roman see in early times, 1-4)
1. POSITION OF THE ROMAN SEE IN THE COUNCILS OF
NICAEA AND EPHESUS

As to the antiquity of the primacy of the Roman see, there is nothing
pertaining to its establishment earlier than that decree of the Council of
Nicaea, in which first place among the patriarchs was granted to the
Roman bishop, and he was ordered to take care of the suburbicarian
churches.F193 When the council made such a division between him and the
other patriarchs as to assign to each his own boundaries, surely it did not
establish him as head of all, but made him one of the chiefs. Vitus and
Vincentius were present in the name of Julius, who was then governing the
Roman Church. The fourth place was given to them.F194 I ask, if Julius had
been recognized as head of the church, why were his delegates relegated to
fourth place? Should Athanasius have presided over this universal council,
which ought particularly to reflect the hierarchical order?F195 In the Council

of Ephesus it appears that Celestine (who was then Roman pontiff) used a
trick to ensure the dignity of his see. For when he sent his delegates
thither, he made Cyril of Alexandria (who would have presided anyway)
his proxy.F196 What was the purpose of this mandate, but in some way or
other to attach his name to the first seat? For his delegates sit in a lower
place, are asked their opinion along with the rest, and subscribe in their
order. Meanwhile, the patriarch of Alexandria joins Celestine\u2019s name with
his own.

112

What shall I say of the second Council of Ephesus, where, though Leo\u2019s
legates were present, Dioscorus, patriarch of Alexandria, presided as if by
his own right?F197 The Romanists will object that this was no orthodox
council, since it condemned the saintly Flavian but acquitted Eutyches and
condoned his impiety. But when the synod was convened, when the
bishops apportioned the seats among themselves, there surely the legates
of the Roman Church were sitting with the others just as if in a holy and
lawful council. Yet they do not contend over the first place, but yield it to
another;F198 they would not have done this if they had believed their place
to be first by right. For the bishops of Rome were never ashamed to raise
the greatest contentions for their own honors, and for this sole reason to
harass and disturb the church with dangerous conflicts; but because Leo
saw that it would be a too unreasonable demand if he were to seek the first
seat for his own legates, he let it pass.

2. IN THE COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON AND THE FIFTH OF
CONSTANTINOPLE
There followed the Council of Chalcedon, in which, by the emperor\u2019s

concession, the representatives of the church of Rome occupied the first seat. But Leo himself admits that this was an extraordinary privilege; for when he seeks it from Emperor Marcian and Empress Pulcheria, he does not contend that it is his due, but only pretends that the Eastern bishops who had presided over the Council of Ephesus then stirred up everything and wickedly abused their power. Since, therefore, a grave moderator was needed and it was unlikely that those who had once been so fickle and

disorderly would be fitted for this task, he asks that, on account of the

others\u2019 shortcomings and incapacity, the governing function be transferred
to himself.F199 What is sought by special privilege and apart from normal
procedure is certainly not of customary law. Where it is pretended only
that there is need of another new president because previous ones have
acted badly, it is clear that it neither had been done before nor ought to be
perpetuated, but is done only in view of present danger. In the Council of
Chalcedon the Roman pontiff accordingly has first place not because it
belongs to that see, but because the synod has need of a grave and
competent moderator, while those who ought to have presided exclude
themselves from that place by their intemperance and wantonness.

113

What I am saying, a successor of Leo has by action approved. In sending
his legates to the Fifth Council at Constantinople (which took place long
after), he did not wrangle for the first seat but readily allowed Mennas,
patriarch of Constantinople, to preside. So in the Council of Carthage, at
which Augustine was present, we observe that not the legates of the
Roman see but Aurelius, archibishop of the place, presided, even when the
authority of the Roman pontiff was under debate. Indeed, a universal
council (the Council of Aquileia) was held in Italy itself, at which the
Roman bishop was not present. Ambrose presided, who then wielded
great influence with the emperor; no mention is made there of the Roman
pontiff. It therefore happened through the prestige of Ambrose that the
see of Milan was at that time more illustrious than that of Rome.F200

3. THE PROUD TITLES OF THE LATER ROMAN BISHOPS NOT
YET KNOWN IN THE EARLY PERIOD
As for the very title of \u201cprimate\u201d and other proud titles with which the

Romanists wonderfully vaunt themselves, it is not difficult to judge when
and how they crept in. Cyprian often mentions Cornelius; he calls him by
no other name than \u201cbrother,\u201d or \u201cfellow bishop,\u201d or \u201ccolleague.\u201d But
when he writes to Stephen, Cornelius\u2019 successor, Cyprian not only makes
him equal to himself and to the rest but even speaks rather sternly to him,
objecting now to his arrogance, now to his ignorance.F201 After Cyprian we
are aware how the whole African church views this matter. For the
Council of Carthage forbade that anyone be called \u201cprince of priests,\u201d or
\u201cfirst bishop,\u201d but only \u201cbishop of the prime see.\u201d Yet if anyone unroll
the more ancient records, he will find that the Roman bishop was then
content with the common appellation of \u201cbrother.\u201d Surely as long as the
true and pure form of the church has lasted, all these prideful names, with
which the Roman see afterward began to grow insolent, were utterly
unheard of; what the titles \u201csupreme pontiff,\u201d and \u201csole head of the
church on earth\u201d might be, was unknown. But if the Roman bishop had
dared take such title to himself, there were stouthearted men who would
soon have suppressed his folly. Jerome, since he was a Roman presbyter,
was not disinclined to proclaim the dignity of his own church, as much as
the facts and the state of the times allowed; yet we see how he also
reduces it to its rank. \u201cIf authority is sought,\u201d he says, \u201cthe world is

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