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I’ve enjoyed the responses to my recent posts on unity, as they have, as they tend to, thrown up the issues with divide us. These, for me, are few. One is the Pope. Not his existence as Bishop of Rome, or indeed, his having ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the West; it is the novelty of the claim to universal jurisdiction. No matter what the cherry-picked florilegia quoted on ever decent Catholic apologetics site say, Irenaeus did not say that Rome has universal jurisdiction, nor did Augustine, Cyprian or anyone else. They did not do so for a good reason; the Bishop of Rome had no such jurisdiction. Just look at the Canons for Nicaea in 325. Canon 6 could not be any clearer. Rome is the exemplar of the fact that Metropolitan Sees appoint their own bishops, and others should do as Rome does; that is not saying Rome does it for everyone. If you looks at the second ecumenical council, Constantinople 381, out of which the Nicene Creed in its current (Orthodox) form emerged, Rome was not there, it was no invited and the results were not submitted to Rome; indeed when Rome did find out, in 451 at Chalcedon, the Pope got very cross because Constantinople had claimed the title of the second See after Rome, as the city was ‘the new Rome’; indeed, so cross was the Pope that he refused to ratify that canon. So there is, I am afraid, no point in anyone quoting florilegia at me. I say read the history, and if you do, you see Rome mattered a good deal, especially in the West, but it was not the universal bishopric, it was primus inter pares. Its many attempts, which included, of course, forging decretals, including the infamous donation of Constantineto prove its ‘rights’ actually serve to point up one thing – that it did not have those rights; it also points up that it was not above a bit of forgery to ‘prove’ to the credulous that it did. If it actually had those rights, it would not have needed to resort to forgery. None of this is to say Rome is not important; it is to say that its attempts to claim the sort of importance it has since the Middle Ages has caused a great deal of trouble; a return by Rome, and there are signs of it, to a position more akin to the one it really had in the early Church, would do more for Christian unity than anything else.

Mind you, if it did, then the Orthodox and the protestants would be put on the spot. Many of them claim, as I do, that this is their main beef. I wonder what new excuse they’d come up with if the Pope actually shot this fox? That has to be one of the doubts the RCC has – are the other churches operating with bona fides? After all, long discussions between the Orthodox and the RCC on the issue of the fillioque have effectively shown that the issue need not divide the two churches; but divided they remain. It does not matter what Rome says, there is no one person who can speak for the Orthodox or for the Protestants. So, I’d say the ball was in our court. Rome has shown at least a willingness to talk and give some ground; I have not seen too much of that from our side. We might therefore think about the beam in our own eye before pronouncing on the mote in the eye of Rome.