Primacy in the Church- further points

‘Again, what did St. Gregory the Great mean when he wrote that “Rome, Alexandria and Antioch are one see of Peter”? Likewise, when the patriarch of Constantinople signed the Formula of Hormisdas, he added to his signature, “We define that Old Rome and New Rome are one see of Peter”.’

The Patriarchates of Alexandra and Antioch are the centres of unity for the churches in Africa and the East respectively. They therefore manifest the Petrine principle in the context of their jurisdictional regions. So they can rightly be considered Sees of Peter in the sense of their role within their regions and also due to their history with the presence of St Peter in Antioch and of St Mark, St Peter’s disciple, in Alexandra. From the principle that the Church is one and the unity is one then both the Sees of Alexandra and Antioch are one as they are also one with Rome. There are not three centres of unity in the Church but one that is manifested completely in each of the three Sees with Rome, as the Imperial capital being the principal of these. (There is a strong parallel with Trinitarian Theology here. I believe that without a correct understanding of the Trinity it is impossible to understand the structure of the Church correctly because the same understanding of One God in three Persons is needed to understand One Church in many churches, one See of Peter in a number of Sees of Peter. The divergence of Roman Catholic and Orthodox thoughts on Church structure I believe parallel their divergence in Trinitarian theology.)

The Sees of Rome and New Rome are both the See of Rome in principle. The See of Old Rome comes first in time and New Rome is in a sense an “image” of Old Rome, like her in all aspects, although honouring her as the source. They are one very closely paralleling that the Father and the Son are one. When honour is given to the See of Rome it equally applies to New Rome. The See of Rome prevailing against the gates of Hades has continued to be true (from an Orthodox perspective) in New Rome, which after some troubles in its relatively early years has remained steadfastly orthodox, excepting a couple of short lived moments such as was suffered by Old Rome with Pope Honorius. (It is the See that is to prevail, not necessarily any particular Bishop of that See. It appears to me that the Fathers also considered that the Roman would prevail to the end of time. This hasn’t happened with the Roman Empire with Rome as its capital but it can be argued that the principle of the Empire, especially Pax Romana, has continued to this day. I think that the same defence of the Fathers could also be used in the case of the Roman See prevailing.)

On the issue of remaining in communion with the See of the Old Rome, it is true that one is required to do so, if Old Rome remains true to the Faith. She is the principle of unity for the Church, she is wholly the Church and so to break communion with her is to break communion with the Church. On the latter part this can be said of any and all of the Sees, which are all equally the whole Church, if they remain within the Faith. Breaking communion with any church in Christ is to break communion with Christ, Who is wholly present in each church. Rome, as the centre of unity for the world, carries a special significance in the issue of unity and rightly the Saints make their comments about unity with Rome. However, this assumes that Rome remains a church and in Christ, which can be broken with heresy (I believe that free-will is never overridden and any person or group of people can fall into heresy; no-one is above this.) Also, this unity is equally manifest with unity to the church of New Rome. (Note: I believe that the Patriarchs of Constantinople speak in deference to the Popes of Rome in humility similarly as the Son speaks as such of the Father without diminishing His essential equality with the Father. Nevertheless, the Patriarchs of New Rome take boldly the title “Ecumenical” even with the protestations of old Rome.)


2 Responses to Primacy in the Church- further points

  1. IF all the Sees of the Church constitute ONE See of Peter agvainst which the Gates of Hell cannot prevail, how could any See (especially that of Rome which was the See of Peter par excellence) have fallen away from orthodoxy ? Your thesis embodies a fatal contradiction. Then, too, the See of Constantinople had embraced many heresies in the past and became heterodox. How do you know that it is not heterodox now?
    My own books have shown how the doctrine of the Papacy alone reflects the undivided Unity of the Trinity.
    In Christ,
    James Likoudis

  2. monkpatrick says:


    Thank you for your comment. As I have said before, each Bishop manifests Christ, the Head of the Church and the source of its unity. Any See can be set at a model for all other Sees. To prevent contention and disharmony from the fact that all Sees are equal, the Holy Spirit guided the Fathers to establish hierarchies in the Church so that in each region there should be a See recognised as the first and representative of the region. This was also extended to the various Patriarchates and then Rome, later with New Rome, was given the Universal primacy. Because the source of unity is Christ, any individual See, including the Sees of Primacy and Rome could fall into heresy. Freewill is not removed by the structure. Another See can take the first place, although often an orthodox Bishop is established in the See to replace the heretical one.

    The Churches do not constitute One See by their addition. The Church is present entire in each individual See and in all Sees. It is not increased nor decreased by more or less Sees. Just as the number of Christians does not make the Body of Christ more or less; it is complete in Christ and each Christian owns it for themselves by faith or disowns it through sin and/or disbelief.

    Again, it is most important to see that the source of unity is Christ not the See of Peter itself. The See of Peter is a testimony to this unity in Christ and the result of the unity but not the cause. The Papal model is contrary to this and to the ecclesiological model of the pre-Schism Church. The model was to ensure consensus among equals and a common testimony to the world of the unity found in Christ not an authority of one Bishop over others to force unity.

    Finally, yes a number of Bishops of the See of New Rome did fall into heresy, as well as at least one Bishop of the See of Old Rome before the Schism, sine when each Bishop of Old Rome, from the Orthodox point of view, has been a heretic. At least New Rome repented. How do I know that New Rome is presently not in heresy? I know only so far as to say that it still proclaims the same faith as I believe and understand to have been that of the Church at all times and places. I see no reason to believe that it has left that Faith or teaches contrary to it. I believe from the evidence that I see that Old Rome has departed from the Faith. You, however, may interpret the matter differently; we are responsible for our own faith and will be judged accordingly.

    All, I can say is that there is no fatal contradiction in the theses that I have presented. Your criticism doesn’t stand because it is based on an idea that I see is missing the point of what it means to be One See of Peter. However, I may have missed the subtlety of your criticism, so please explain further your point if I have done so.

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