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Did St. Agatho teach the infallibility of the Roman church?


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#1 Ariel Gonzalez

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 02:05 AM

According to Agatho's letter to the Emperor during the 6th Ecumenical council, he held that Jesus' divine promise to Peter applied to his successors:

"For this is the rule of the true faith, which this spiritual mother of your most tranquil empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, has both in prosperity and in adversity always held and defended with energy; which, it will be proved, by the grace of Almighty God, has never erred from the path of the apostolic tradition, nor has she been depraved by yielding to heretical innovations, but from the beginning she has received the Christian faith from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, and remains undefiled unto the end, according to the divine promise of the Lord and Saviour himself, which he uttered in the holy Gospels to the prince of his disciples: saying, "Peter, Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that (thy) faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Let your tranquil Clemency therefore consider, since it is the Lord and Saviour of all, whose faith it is, that promised that Peter's faithshould not fail and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, how it is known to all that the Apostolic pontiffs, the predecessors of my littleness, have always confidently done this very thing: of whom also our littleness, since I have received this ministry by divine designation, wishes to be the follower, although unequal to them and the least of all."

Source

Perhaps I am misreading the quotation, or maybe this letter is not binding canonically? I remember the Council declaring this letter of Agatho to be binding in their own letter written to Agatho.

All comments are greatly appreciated.

#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 01:44 PM

I find that a difficult premise to defend, particularly in light of the fact that the Council itself specifically condemned as heretical a predecessor pope, Honorus, who obviously was NOT infallible. It was the decision of the Council that defined right belief, the Pope merely agreed with it as the first of equals and spokesman for the Church.

One must be careful with these circular arguments: "I am infallible which must be true because I said so and I am infallible!"

Herman the fallible Pooh

#3 Olga

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:28 AM

The letter says: ..... from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, ... and then quotes, by way of example, "Peter, Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that (thy) faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Agatho speaks of not a single apostle, but, at the very least, two (Peter and Paul have always been known as "princes of the Apostles", and, possibly more likely, all of the apostles who became bishops of the Church, such as Mark and James. I don't have my sources at hand, but it would not surprise me if these apostles are also liturgically described as "princes of apostles". Even Andrew, who, to my knowledge planted churches but did not become a bishop, is referred to in his hymnody as coryphaeos (paramount), a term used for Peter and Paul.

#4 Kosta

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 02:07 AM

Using lofty language was common during this age. The letters intended audience usually would know whether such statements were either hyperbole, political in nature or dogmatic

#5 Ariel Gonzalez

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 12:39 AM

Thanks for the reply. I still find an issue with the manner in which Agatho cites Luke 22:32 as evidence that Peter's faith exclusively cannot fail, and how he applies it to the Roman successors of Peter.

"Lofty language" doesn't quite explain it.

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 01:16 AM

I totally fail to see how Luke 22:32 applies to the "Roman successors of Peter." The brethren are his fellow apostles, not successors. And point of fact, Peter DID fail, just as Christ said he would. That the future bishops of Rome might be inspired to follow the example of Peter in getting beyond his rather spectacular failure, I see no issue. That they would specifically not be allowed to fail, even as the Apostle Peter was absolutely allowed to fail (but recover), that they would possess something that Peter himself failed to possess, I simply cannot fathom the logic.

#7 Olga

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 01:37 AM

I still find an issue with the manner in which Agatho cites Luke 22:32 as evidence that Peter's faith exclusively cannot fail,

Let's look at Luke 22: 32:

32 ἐγὼ δὲ ἐδεήθην περὶ σοῦ ἵνα μὴ ἐκλίπῃ ἡ πίστις σου· καὶ σύ ποτε ἐπιστρέψας στήριξον τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου.

Peter, Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

It is clear that Christ is saying to Peter that He has prayed that Peter's faith not fail, not that Peter's faith cannot fail. This is a distinction of utmost importance, as, as later happened, Peter's faith did, indeed, fail, in his three-fold denial of Christ, attested to by more than one Gospel.

#8 Ariel Gonzalez

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 04:35 AM

I understand the interpretation of the text, but my concern is why Agatho is using this text to demonstrate that the Roman See's faith in particular cannot fail.

#9 Olga

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 09:57 AM

From the OP:

Let your tranquil Clemency therefore consider, since it is the Lord and Saviour of all, whose faith it is, that promised that Peter's faith should not fail and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren,

It seems something got lost (in innocence or deliberately) in translation from the original to, in this case, English.

In the light of the plain interpretation of Luke 22:32, the conclusion that "Christ promised Peter's faith should not fail" cannot be sustained. Nowhere does Christ promise anything to Peter, nor does He guarantee Peter's faith will not fail. And, as Herman correctly pointed out, the apparent assertion by Agatho that Rome, up to that time, had never fallen into heresy, also is without foundation.

Any links to the passage in the original language?




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