The gist of this message is that, while Vatican I and much of what followed [see Adrian Fortescue] was involved with proving that the early church believed everything about the papacy that Vatican I defined, there was another strain of historical study that was coming to far different conclusions.
Summarizing, Vatican I said:
• Jesus directly and immediately instituted the papacy at Matthew 16:18Christ the Lord Himself instituted the “office” of the papacy. This is a historical declaration made right within the dogmatic statement of a council. In fact, it has always been the practice of Rome to claim this aspect of “history” as a part of their dogma.
• That “that to this day and for ever [Peter] lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the Holy Roman See, which he founded and consecrated with his blood.
• Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church.
• “If anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the Lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.”
On the other hand, this second strain of historical research that I have been writing about was finding many things that contradicted outright this “history” that had long been one of the building blocks of the papacy:
• Peter did not “found” the church at Rome; it’s possible, even likely, that he visited there and was martyred there, but his role there was extremely limitedThis is the gist of the problem. The Vatican I/Adrian Fortescue “story” did not bear up under historical scrutiny.
• Because the geographic scope of ancient Rome was so large and diverse, the earliest “church” at Rome was really a network of house churches, each perhaps with its own elder or elders in charge.
• The “episcopacy” evolved over the first two centuries; by the end of the second century, a fairly stable governmental structure was in place. But this was not “of divine institution”.
• There was not a single “bishop” overseeing the “entire church” [the network of churches] in Rome until late in the second century.
But what’s happening now, in these “ecumenical” discussions I have been reporting on, is that Roman Catholic theologians and other theologians have “without dispute” accepted the current historical understanding [which does not mesh with the dogmatic Vatican I account] and are working to “develop” “theologies” that will support the papacy while allowing for the change of criteria for its “historical” foundations.
Over the next few days and weeks I’d like to take a little bit of time and explicate this second strain of historical research, and to explain exactly what it is that all of these individuals are agreeing on; it’s easy to see how this is a challenge to the Roman dogmas on the papacy, and why some theologians believe Vatican I needs to be “re-received” and reinterpreted.