Orthodox Christian Apologetics has responded to my critique of his first article on St. Peter and the Keys. This post is, therefore, part 2 of my critique of his position. In this new response, Craig accurately opens up with describing the Catholic position on the Apostle Peter, the Apostles, and their successors’ relation to the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. That is, as he puts it:
“The official Roman Catholic teaching, according to the Lateran Council of 1215 AD, is that all Bishops have keys through Apostolic Succession and all Apostles receive their keys, through Peter. So, in short, all Bishops have keys but they are contingent upon the Roman Bishop. I was incorrect in my initial portrayal of the “official” Roman Catholic position, presuming this is an accurate restatement of it.”
He is also right to point out that he former understanding of the Catholic position, namely, that St. Peter receives the Keys of the Kingdom as absolutely his own, exclusive to the other Apostles and Bishops of the Church, is the result of many Catholic apologists misrepresenting the traditional and conciliar teaching on this matter.
In any case, I still believe there are some needed responses that should be looked at carefully. This will be divided into 10 points:
(1) Craig cites St. Theodore the Studite when he addressed Pope Leo III in the following manner:
“Since it is to the great Peter that Christ our God gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven and entrusted the dignity of chief of the flock , it is to Peter, that is to say, his successor, that one ought to submit every innovation which is made in the Catholic Church by those who turn aside from the truth.” (Patrologia Graeca 99, 1017 – Epistle 1)
For Craig, what is being said here really does not arrive at the position of the Catholic Church today. Well, what is clear enough is that St. Theodore believed that the reality of the “Keys” in St. Matthew’s gospel is such the property of the Apostle Peter and His successor that it is to Peter, or his successor, that every doctrinal question should be left submitted to for resolution. If that is the case, this is neither the position of Orthodoxy, nor is it compatible with any Christian confession today besides modern day Roman Catholicism. And if St. Theodore is right, then the current question on the Keys and their relation to the universal Church should be left to the Roman bishop to resolve. While this may come somewhat short of stating explicitly the position of the CCC in its entirety, but this slight possible variation matters extremely little when we admit that something eve more profoundly Roman Catholic vis-a-vis Papal authority is being claimed by the saintly Abbot. One could argue, however, that the “Keys” are a symbol of authority, and that St. Theodore believed that Peter and his successors have supreme authority in the world of doctrine. If that is the case, then would it not be redundant to bother pointing out this divergence between St. Theodore and the modern CCC? I mean, what significant difference is there? The determination of the true faith is admittedly a clear criteria for the orthodox communion, on even Craig’s own terms, and such is being admitted to the Pope as his sole prerogative.
(2) Craig cites St. Gregory of Nyssa when he wrote:
“through Peter gave to the bishops the keys of the heavenly honors” (PG xlvii, 312c)
And comments that this comes short of saying anything about the keys being contingent upon communion with Peter and his successors. This is true, but that doesn’t mean we have any negation of that, either. Craig wishes to say that the pre-schism Church *did not* teach the current formulation of the keys, peter, and the apostles. What he should really say is that there is not enough evidence. While just as disagreeable, it is more accurate for his side. Otherwise, he would be claiming to know what everyone said and never wrote, or what was written but never copied and saved, or what every Christian thought but neither said out loud, let alone written. While we can agree St. Gregory does not arrive at the Catholic formula of the modern CCC, we can say that his position is very consistent with the Catholic claims on the keys, Peter, and the episcopate, and that it is far more inconsistent with the Eastern Orthodox polity.
(3) Craig cites again from St. Theodore the Studite when he wrote to Pope Paschal I:
“Hear me, O Head of the Apostles, placed by God as Shepherd of the Sheep of Christ, holder of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the rock of faith on which the Catholic Church has been built. For you are Peter; you adorn the throne of Peter and rule from it” (PG 99-1151).
To this he speculates on the possibility of it being mere flattery. Well, the problem with this interpretation is that St. Theodore cannot be reasonably said to be using mere flattery in the following where the Papacy is referenced:
“We venerate images….not because we are assured that we are right by the second holy synod of Nicaea or by that which earlier decided divinely, but from the very coming of our lord and God in writing and without writing we have been made firm and rest securely upon that [Roman] See to which Christ say – you are Peter , and upon this rock I will build my church , and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (PG 99, 1117)
If Craig were to say this is mere flattery, then he would have to say that the authority of Nicaea is less real than the unrealistic exaltation of Papal authority, or worse, that it would also be merely flattered by this saintly man. Since the Council of Nicaea is admitted by the Eastern Orthodox, of which Craig is a member, as supremely authoritative, and by reality and not mere flattery, then St. Theodore’s assigning of the Papal decree above said Council must also be just as real.
(4) Craig cites St. Optatus of Milevis :
“And though this has been thus written, nevertheless, for the sake of unity, blessed Peter (for whom it would have been enough if after his denial he had obtained pardon only) both deserved to be placed over all the Apostles, and alone received the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, which he was to communicate to the rest” (Book 7.3 from Against Parmenian)
However, he reasons that this says nothing about the ongoing contingency of communion with Peter’s successors, and then he quotes the erroneous exegesis of Alura from Shamless Orthodoxy who believes that the significance of the Keys, Peter, and Rome is merely the historical and local accident of the rival episcopal claimant in Rome, Victor of Garba, versus the true line of Roman bishops. However, if one reasons all 7 books of St. Optatus, they will clearly realize that the Roman Church is the heir of what St. Optatus believed belonged properly to St. Peter alone by his reception of the Keys. We know this because of the argument enclosed in the 2nd book. First, St. Optatus goes out of his way to show that the true Episcopal Church is that which is truly Catholic, and thus “spread throughout the world”. The first criteria, therefore, of the true Church is catholicity. He writes:
“So we have proved that the Catholic Church is the Church which is spread throughout the world”
It is important to see that this is a reference to the universal Church. He then goes on immediately to say:
“We must now mention its Adornments”
St. Optatus goes on to speak of 5 adornments, one of which is the Cathedra. The universal Church has been adorned with this Cathedra. What is the Cathedra? St. Optatus says:
“You cannot then deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the City of Rome was bestowed the Episcopal Cathedra, on which sat Peter, the Head of all the Apostles (for which reason he was called Cephas ), that, in this one Cathedra, unity should be preserved by all”
Well, if this is one of the five adornments of the catholic and universal church, then its significance is far wider than Rome vs Victor of Garba, but Rome in relation to the universal episcopal and church. St. Optatus confirms this when he says:
“Well then, on the one Cathedra, which is the first of the Endowments, Peter was the first to sit”
If these are truly endowments upon the catholic and universal Church, then the Cathedra referenced here is the one which began with St. Peter and is currently occupied by his successors.
(6) Craig cites Pope St. Boniface where the following is said:
“We in particular are under obligation to be responsible for all, to whom Christ assigned the duty of universal stewardship in the holy Apostle Peter, when He gave him the keys of opening and closing, and discriminated among His apostles, not so one should be inferior to another but that He should be the first. Law should govern us, not we the law; if we are to uphold canonical principles, let us be obedient to the canons ourselves” (Epistle 3, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum, 29)
However, Craig concludes from this that the Pope is teaching the equality of Bishops, i.e. all Bishops are equal in authority. However, we know this cannot possibly be the case because in two other occasions, the very same Pope teaches Papal supremacy and the current idea of the CCC:
“The universal ordering of the Church at its birth took its origin from the office of blessed Peter, in which is found both its directing power and its supreme authority. From him, as from a source, at the time when our religion was in the stage of growth, all churches received their common order. This much is shown by the injunctions of the council of Nicaea, since it did not venture to make a decree in his regard, recognizing that nothing could be added to his dignity: in fact it knew that all had been assigned to him by the word of the Lord. So it is clear that this church [i.e. Rome] is to all churches throughout the world as the head is to the members, and that whoever separates himself from it becomes an exile from the Christian religion, since he ceases to belong to its fellowship” (Pope St. Boniface, Epistle 14; PL 20, 777; Giles 230)
The 2nd ocassion is detailed in my article, “Pope St. Boniface I (A.D. 422) – The Universal Jurisdiction of the See of Rome in the East“.
(7) Craig then cites Pope St. Gregory the Great on how the Keys were given to St. Peter, but then notes quickly that Gregory believed Antioch and Alexandria both have the Keys too, and thus, perhaps, are equal. I have written an entire article on this subject here, and I have nothing more to add.
(8) Craig then tries to say that the official Catholic position really is collapsed to saying Peter alone has the Keys because all the Bishops have to be in communion with the Pope in order to exercise the Keys. Well, such a collapse is question begging. Craig already believes that Bishops have the prerogative of exercising the Keys if they are in communion with the Orthodox Church and profess the Orthodox faith, but this does not devolve into the Church alone having the Keys without Bishops actually having them. There is no illusion for Orthodox, here. Yes, it is required to be in communion with the single Episcopal Order of which the Orthodox say retains the Apostleship of Christ and the Twelve, as well as it is required to hold to the Orthodox faith, but this does not mean that it collapses into the Bishops not having the keys, leaving only the “Church” as having said keys. In the same way, the same “illusion” should not be asserted of the Papal condition, just because there is a condition therein.
(9) Craig then points out that the Catholic Church recognizes the sacraments of the Orthodox Church, and thus the exercise of the Keys, even when she is outside of her communion, and thus this either mans her teaching on the Papal condition vis-a-vis the Keys/Bishops is false, or that the Orthodox are in communion with the true Church, and are thus not in schism. This is a non-sequitur, since the power put into the Ordained does not always operate from the aspect of jurisdiction. For example, it does not take jurisdiction to absolve the Eucharist (a Priest, who has no jurisdiction, for example, can confect the Eucharist). As can be explained by St. Thomas Aquinas:
“Just as Baptism remains in them,” i.e. in heretics, schismatics, and those who are excommunicate, “so do their orders remain intact.” Now, by the power of his ordination, a priest can consecrate the Eucharist. Therefore, it seems that heretics, schismatics, and those who are excommunicate, can consecrate the Eucharist, since their orders remain entire. I answer that, Some have contended that heretics, schismatics, and the excommunicate, who are outside the pale of the Church, cannot perform this sacrament. But herein they are deceived, because, as Augustine says (Contra Parmen. ii), “it is one thing to lack something utterly, and another to have it improperly”; and in like fashion, “it is one thing not to bestow, and quite another to bestow, but not rightly.” Accordingly, such as, being within the Church, received the power of consecrating the Eucharist through being ordained to the priesthood, have such power rightly indeed; but they use it improperly if afterwards they be separated from the Church by heresy, schism, or excommunication. But such as are ordained while separated from the Church, have neither the power rightly, nor do they use it rightly. But that in both cases they have the power, is clear from what Augustine says (Contra Parmen. ii), that when they return to the unity of the Church, they are not re-ordained, but are received in their orders. And since the consecration of the Eucharist is an act which follows the power of order, such persons as are separated from the Church by heresy, schism, or excommunication, can indeed consecrate the Eucharist, which on being consecrated by them contains Christ’s true body and blood; but they act wrongly, and sin by doing so; and in consequence they do not receive the fruit of the sacrifice, which is a spiritual sacrifice.” (Question 82, Article 7)
Moreover, just because some aspects of the Sacrament of Order remain intact, due to the indelible mark, this does not mean the full range of the Keys can be exercised in the schismatic communities. For example, the Orthodox do not have any jurisdiction to teach the universal Church, due to her severance from the Chair of Peter. That much is inferred by St. Theodore the Studite, St. Optatus, St. Leo the Great, and St. Boniface I. Thus, the consequences acclaimed by Craig are shown to be false.
(10) And lastly, I will leave with more evidence of the Catholic position, which finds justification in the decrees of the Council of Lateran 649. In the Second Session, the Bishop of Carthage, Victor, got up and read aloud a letter from Africa to Pope St. Theodore (now being read in the presence of Pope St. Martin and the Council). In this letter, Victor opens up as follows:
“To his holy brother and most blessed and most honourable Pope Theodore….through the teaching of the divine utterances in the intstruction of your exhortaroy admonition the orthodox church of Christ is being built up, founded on apostolic ordinance and most firmly buttressed by the faithful fathers. To her all the most blessed Apostles, endowed with an equal share of honour and authority, by pious and holy conversion of the hoards of the nations, led the men foreknown by the grace of divine predestination from darkness to light….It is therefore for you, most holy brother, to oppose with a canonical sentence, according to custom, that which is contrary to the Catholic faith, and to prohibit novel utterance that lacks any sanction from the authority of the venerable fathers...” ( Session II; Acts of Lateran 649, Price 182-186)
To this, Pope St. Martin responds:
“In his synodical letter that has just been read Victor the most devout Bishop of Carthage…using his letter to give us precise information about the protests of all Christians on its account and the continuous groans of the devout bishops, alarmed to no small degree by the inventions and concoctions that Bishop Paul of Constantinople has ratified in opposition to the true faith….until such time as he [Paul] may learn of the judgment passed on him by our Apostolic authority, which is to say that of Peter the head of the Apostles, who alone, above all others, was deemed worthy to receive in trust the King of Kings, Christ God, the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, so as to open it deservedly for those whose belief in the Lord is orthodox and to close it to all the unorthodox heretics who persist in their heresy. The said most God-beloved Bishop has urged us in his letter to act accordingly, lest we should in any way ignore the just accusation brought against the heretics….” (ibid, 186).
This shows that, like in Pope St. Celestine’s letter to the Council of Ephesus (431), that the Popes of Rome pre-Schism understood that while all the Apostles share in the ministry of the keys, there is a sole prerogative given to St. Peter above all the other Apostles. when it comes to Christ giving him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is seen practically in Victor’s appeal to Pope St. Theodore to process a condemnation of heresies, seeing it as the Pope of Rome’s prerogative. And St. Stephen of Dor and St. Maximus the Confessor accepted Pope St. Martin and the decrees of this Council. Therefore, the above was believed by them.