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The Fathers, to whose unanimity the Council of Trent and the creed of Pius IV. attach so supreme an authority, are here more nearly unanimous than on any other point of fact or doctrine.
With one accord they declare these words to be simply the restitution of St. Peter to a forfeited privilege rather than his institution to a new one.
“Why," asks St. Cyril of Alexandria, "when all the apostles were present did he address Simon alone ? Why say to him, 'Feed my sheep, feed my lambs?" Because he had thrice denied the Lord, he thus heals the disease, and elicits by a threefold question the threefold confession, making this, as it were, an equivalent. Wherefore the 'feed my sheep' is held to be a kind of renewal of the apostleship already given him."*
St. Gregory Nazianzene writes on the same place, “By the threefold confession he healed the triple denial.”+ Such being the verdict of antiquity on this passage, the rule of canon law has here its fullest force. " Innovatio privilegiorum novum jus non tribuit, sed antiquum conservat.” I
Cyrilli Alex. in Joan, l. c.
We have now considered the so-called Privilegium Petri in all its legal aspects, and shown that the modern interpretation of it violates all those rules of law, both civil and ecclesiastical, by which privilege is regulated and limited. In the face of such evidence we submit that we are less called upon to prove our own rights and liberties as members of a Christian Church, than the Roman advocates are bound to produce and establish a claim which subverts not only the privileges but the inherent rights of every Christian, and the principles upon which all the relations and conditions of Christian and even social life are founded and adjusted. In the words of the Bishop of Fiesole in the Council of Trent,
Proferant sua jura, sua privilegia ostendant videamus quid dicant aut quomodo.” Until they have shown some better grounds than they have yet produced for so unrighteous a claim, we may well conclude with him, “ Non puto horum privilegiis adimi jus divinum, jus quaesitum, jus Episcoporum quod adimi nequit.'
* Le Plat, Mon. Concil Tridentin, tom. iii. p. 408.
THE PRIVILEGIUM PETRI IN THE LIGHT OF THE
FIRST SIX GENERAL COUNCILS.
In the former part of our observations on the socalled Petrine Privilege, we have examined it in its first source, and shown that the claim of the Roman See to possess this supreme prerogative, is opposed to every principle which regulates the interpretation of Divine and human law. We now approach it, as it is presented to us, in its most exaggerated form in the recent Vatican definition, and proceed to confront with this the evidence of the councils of the Church of various ages, up to the Council of Trent itself, which, as clearly as any other, has excluded it, by re-establishing on a more indestructible foundation than ever the supreme authority of a synod and the inviolability of the twofold rule of Scripture and tradition, as the bases of theological truth.
The definition of the Vatican Council begins by declaring the “divine revelation" of the doctrine which it introduces to the world, but in what manner, and to what person or persons this revelation was made, it does not show. If in the ordinary way (the via ordinaria of Cajetan), i.e., by means of Scripture and tradition, the Council of Trent, which laid down that rule, knew nothing about this singular prerogative, which has no place whatever in its decrees, as we shall see hereafter. If, on the other hand, it was made by the via extraordinaria, by vision or special revelation, or by miraculous evidence, here again we are left in the same unsatisfactory state. Neither miracles nor visions are alleged for it (as they were in the case of the more favoured dogma of the Immaculate Conception), and the assembly of a Council to declare it indicated doubts upon the question which the divisions in the body, however concealed by the untempered mortar of the final decree, revealed even at the time, and must more fatally reveal hereafter.
This decree, itself, proceeds to assert the distinction of the pope as speaking in his personal character, and speaking officially (ex cathedra)—a modern invention, which is here canonized for the first time, but not explained or cleared. For the first time we hear of a charisma (a newly-adopted term), a kind of special grace, irregular and intermittent, attached to an office instead of to a person, and yet described as a veritatis et fidei nunquam deficientis charisma (“the grace of a never-failing truth and faith"). In this definition it is supposed to have a continuous existence, which strangely contradicts its limitation to an ex cathedrâ exercise.
At this point, the new definition is but a reproduction of that earlier description of the infallibility of the popes, which was denounced by the Roman Catholic advocates in England two centuries ago, as the grossest calumny on their faith. “For this intent" (asserts the Protestant calumniator, in Gother's “ Papist Misrepresented and Represented ”*), "the pope is assisted with a certain mysterious infallibility such as hides itself when he is upon his own private concerns—but when he comes into his chair to hear any public business, then it begins to appear, and protects him from all
* London, 1685, p. 41.