A Preview of De Romano Pontifice: Peter alone was made a Bishop by Christ

de_romano_pontifice_front_coverI am preparing to publish volume 1 of my translation of De Romano Pontifice, which will embrace books 1 and 2, very soon. The editing has taken a little longer than I thought it would, though it has helped me to catch up on finishing books 3 and 4 and hopefully starting on 5 (the shortest one) for release as volume 2.

So today I have decided to post a snippet as a preview of the work, which will hopefully be published soon. This is one of the nice things about self-publishing, I don’t have to weight 6 more months of committees, agents and lawyers working things out, I just press a button. On the downside I do my own advertising, and that can be rather a drag on one’s other business. Nevertheless, I offer this extract for you my readers, from De Romano Pontifice, Book I, chapter XXIII, where Bellarmine has been discussing the prerogatives of Peter in refutation of Protestant arguments. This is a fascinating piece, where he argues that Peter alone was consecrated a Bishop by Christ, whereas all the Apostles were consecrated priests at the Last Supper. Frankly it makes sense, and I think it would make a great doctoral thesis for one of you PhD’s blessed with the money to pursue higher degrees. drop_cap_T

he Twenty second is, that Peter alone was ordained a Bishop by Christ: the rest, however, received episcopal consecration from Peter. That is what John Turrecremata [369] proves with many reasons, but particularly two. The first is that either the Lord did not ordain any of the Apostles a bishop, all of them, some of them, or one. It cannot be said he ordained no one. For if that were so, we would have no Bishop now since no man can give to another what he does not have himself; so indeed, one who is not a bishop cannot ordain a bishop. Therefore if the Lord ordained nobody, and did not leave behind Peter ordained a bishop, who afterward ordained Peter and the others?
But that all the Apostles were not immediately ordained by the Lord is obvious. For at least Paul, whom he called from heaven, and made an Apostle, he did not ordain a Bishop; but bid to be ordained through the imposition of the hands of ministers of the Church, as is clear in Acts XIII, and from Leo’s epistle to Disocorus. [370] Moreover in the volumes of Councils, 79, Leo presents this example of Paul, and from Chrysostom, who says on this place of Acts, that there was a true ordination of Paul, in which place they changed his name for it is immediately added, Saul, who is also Paul. For that reason, that James the younger, one of the twelve, was ordained a Bishop at Jerusalem by the Apostles, and not immediately by Christ, is taught by Pope Anacletus in an epistle, [371] where he writes, that a Bishop ought to be ordained by three Bishops, just as James the younger was ordained a bishop by Peter, James the elder and John. Likewise, Clement of Alexandria hands down the same thing, that James was ordained a Bishop by Peter, James and John. [372] Jerome has: “James, immediately after the passion of the Lord, was ordained a Bishop by the Apostles at Jerusalem.”[373] Nor can it be said, this James was not the Apostle from the twelve, for Jerome opposes that in his book against Helvidius, and we showed the same thing in another place for the reason that it would follow, that no memory is made in the Church of one Apostle from the twelve.

And the Lord did not ordain some and not ordain others, for that is proven from the fact that the Apostles, with the exception of Peter, were equals among themselves, and had no right over another, and that all power which was handed to them was commonly handed to all, in as much as it can be gathered from the Gospels. Therefore, if the Lord did not ordain none of them, or all, a portion of some then it follows that he only ordained Peter alone.

The Second reason is, that the Fathers teach everywhere that the Roman Church is the mother of all Churches, and by her all Bishops had consecrations and their dignity. But it would not seem to be the case, unless in the sense that Peter, who was bishop of Rome, ordained all the Apostles by himself, and all other Bishops, either by himself or by others. Otherwise, when all the Apostles constituted many Bishops in different places, if the Apostles were not made Bishops by Peter, certainly a great part of the Episcopate would not deduce their origin from Peter.
Why is it therefore that Anacletus says: “In the New Covenant after Christ the Sacerdotal order began from Peter”? Moreover he cannot be speaking on a lesser order of Priests, that is of Presbyters. For it is certain that the Apostles were all ordained priests together at the Last Supper, therefore he speaks on the order of greater priests, that is, of Bishops, who he would not rightly say began from Peter, if all the Apostles were immediately ordained Bishops by Christ.
Why is it that Cyprian also says, that the Roman Church is the mother and root of the whole Catholic Church? [374] Why is it that Innocent I says, in his epistle to the Council of Carthage: “By whom (Peter) the Episcopate and the whole authority of this name emerges?” [375] Likewise what he writes in his epistle to the Council of Miletus:[376] “As many times as the reasoning of faith is brandished, I reckon all our brothers and co-bishops ought to bring no authority except for that which pertains to Peter.” What of the fact that Pope Julius I wrote to the Orientals: “How could you not incur blame, if the place from where you receive the honors of consecration, and from there you take up the law of the whole observance, is also the seat of blessed Peter, which is for us the mother of sacerdotal dignity, were the Ecclesiastical teacher of reason?” [377]

Lastly, what of what St. Leo says: “If something with him (Peter) he wished to be common with the remaining princes, he never gave except through himself, anything he did not refuse to the others.” [378] And again: “The Sacrament of whose office the Lord so wished to pertain to the duty of all the Apostles, that he principally placed it in blessed Peter, greatest of all the Apostles, that by him just as a certain head, he would diffuse his gifts through the whole body?” [379]

366 Epistola ad Augustinum, 89.
367 In cap. 3 Joannis.
368 Hist., bk 2, ch. 3.
369 Summae de Ecclesia, bk 2, ch. 32.
370 Epistolae, 81.
371 Epist. 2.
372 Quoted in Euseibius, Histor. Bk 2, ch. 1.
373 De viris illustribus, in Jacobo.
374 Bk 4, epist. 8.
375 Which is 91 among the epistles of Augustine.
376 93 among the Epistles of Augustine.
377 Julius I, in Epist. 1 ad Orientales. [The context of this letter that St. Athanasius appealed
to this Pope after being unjustly condemned by Eastern Bishops, and Pope Julius I reversed
their judgment. -Translator’s note].
378 Serm. 3.
379 Epist. 89.

For more info, see our Bellarmine Project page!

4 thoughts on “A Preview of De Romano Pontifice: Peter alone was made a Bishop by Christ

  1. Boniface

    I can’t see that this theory is Apostolic…it suffers from the fact that there is no mention anywhere in patristic sources of the other Apostles being ordained by Peter.

    Reply
    1. rubens7 Post author

      Hence why I said that would make a great doctoral dissertation, for one to prove the case. When I translated that I marveled, because I had never read that before anywhere, but it seems to logically follow from the patristic testimony that all sacerdotal unity flows from Peter, which seems to argue for the origin of all orders in Peter.
      Does one need Apostolic testimony to Peter ordaining the other Apostles bishops, when there is also no Apostolic testimony to the use of homousious? It is deduced by logic and reason from the sources, which Bellarmine is doing here.
      What I’m doing now is to see if any contemporaries reacted to this as though it were a novelty, or asserted it was the same, which is why I’m looking into what Suarez, John of St. Thomas, Stapleton and others might have said on this theory, if anything.

      Reply
      1. LionsDenn

        Just read this section of the book. (Thanks a lot for your work translating it, btw! It is fantastic.) I too was surprised by this assertion of St. Robert. Did you have any luck finding out what the other theologians say, if anything?

      2. rubens7 Post author

        I have seen hints of it in different places, but nothing explicit. I am looking around in Suarez right now, and I’m doing another review in John of St. Thomas for a book I’m attempting to write in my spare time. I’m still hoping some PhD will see it and follow it up, that would be a fantastic subject.

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