The early Bishops of Rome, who till the time of Sylvester (a.d. 325) were, with few exceptions, like him pure and faithful shepherds, and not lords over Gods heritage, shall here be enumerated. But first let us settle in few words the historic facts as to the See.
St. Paul was, clearly, the Apostolic founder of the Roman church, as appears from Holy Scripture. St. Peter seems to have come to Rome not long before his martyrdom. Linus and Cletus could not have been Bishops of Rome, for they were merely coadjutors of the Apostles during their lifetime. Clement was the first who succeeded to their work after their death; and thus he should unquestionably be made the first of the Roman bishops,—a position of which he was eminently worthy, for his was the spirit of St. Peter himself, 2884 as set forth in that incomparable passage of his first Epistle, 2885 in which the Apostle bids all his brethren to be shepherds indeed, and “ensamples to the flock.” We may therefore give the outline of this history as follows:—
8. As he was the first “successor of the Apostles,” therefore, in the See of Rome, and the first who had jurisdiction there (for the Apostles certainly never surrendered their mission to their coadjutors), it follows that Clement was the first Bishop of Rome.
10. It agrees with Tertullians testimony, and he speaks (as a lawyer and expert) from “the registers.” Irenæus, speaking less precisely, may be harmonized with these testimonies without violence to what he reports.
p. 642 Bishops of Rome.
N.B.—After a.d. 325 the Bishops of Rome are canonical primates; the Bishops of New Rome primates equally, but second on the list; then Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus. The Councils of Constantinople and Chalcedon state that these primacies were awarded because Rome and New Rome were the capitals of the œcumene, or empire. The primacy conferred no authority over the sister Sees of Apostolic foundation, and recognised no inequality among bishops, save those of such honorary distinction.
3. From this time to Adrian I. many Bishops of Rome vied with those of Constantinople to augment their honour and power. The establishment of the Western Empire (a.d. 800) made their ambitious claims acceptable to the Latins; and they became primates of all Christendom in Western estimation, with extra-canonical and indefinite claims as “successors of St. Peter.”
4. Nicholas I. (a.d. 863), by means of the False Decretals, gave shape to these extra-canonical claims, abrogated the Nicene Constitutions in the West by making these Decretals canon-law, and asserted a supremacy over the old patriarchares, which they never allowed: hence the schism of the West from the Apostolic Sees of the East, and from the primitive discipline which established the Papacy, as now understood.
5. From Nicholas I. (who died a.d. 867) the Latin churches recognised this Papacy more or less; the Gallicans resisting, though feebly, by asserting their “liberties,” according to Nicene Constitutions.
6. Gregory VII., honestly persuaded that the Decretals were authentic, enforced these spurious canons without reference to antiquity, and pronounced the title of “Pope” the sole and peculiar dignity of the Bishops of Rome a.d. 1073. He reigned from a.d. 1061 to 1085.
7. The churches of England and France, which claimed to be outside of the “holy Roman Empire,” under kings whose own crowns were “imperial,” maintained a perpetual contest with the Papacy, admitted the extra-canonical “primacy,” but resisted all claims to “supremacy.”
p. 643 8. School-doctrines were framed and enforced, but were extra-symbolic, and of no Catholic authority. They abused the episcopate to exalt the Papacy.
9. The Council of Trent, after the Northern revolt from the Papacy and School-doctrine, sat seventeen years (from a.d. 1545 to a.d. 1563) framing the “Roman-Catholic Church” out of the remainder of national churches, depriving them of their nationalities, and making out of them all, with the missions in America, one mixed confederation, to which it gave a new creed and new organic laws; debasing the entire episcopate (which it denied to be an order distinct from that of presbyters), and making the Pope the “Universal Bishop,” with other bishops reduced to presbyters, acting as his local vicars.
12. The following is the modern creed of “Roman Catholics,” which, with the latest additions, embodies a library of dogmas in the eleventh article, and now, since the decree of Infallibility makes the entire Bullary (a vast library of decrees and definitions), equally part of the Creed. 2886
2. I also admit the Holy Scripture according to that sense which our holy mother the Church has held, and does hold, to which it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures. Neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
3. I also profess that there are truly and properly seven sacraments of the New Law, instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, and necessary for the salvation of mankind, though not all for every one; to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; and that they confer grace; and that of these, Baptism, Confirmation, and Order cannot be reiterated without sacrilege. I also receive and admit the received and approved ceremonies of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of the aforesaid sacraments.
5. I profess, likewise, that in the Mass there is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that there is made a conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood, which conversion the Catholic Church calls Transubstantiation. I also confess that under either kind alone Christ is received whole and entire, and a true sacrament.
10. I acknowledge the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church for the mother and mistress of all churches; and I promise true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, successor to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ.
p. 644 12. And I condemn, reject, and anathematize all things contrary thereto, and all heresies whatsoever, condemned, rejected, and anathematized by the Church.
This true Catholic faith, without which no one can be saved, I N.N. do at this present freely confess and sincerely hold; and I promise most constantly to retain, and confess the same entire and unviolated, with Gods assistance, to the end of my life. Amen.
Observe, this “Creed” is imposed on all in the Roman Obedience, and especially on those who enter it from other communions, as that without which no one can be saved. The Catholic Creed of Nicæa is not sufficient. But the Seventh Canon of Ephesus not only forbids the composition of any other creed, but especially adds: “Those who shall presume to compose another creed, or to produce or offer it to persons desiring to return to the acknowledgment of the truth…from any heresy whatever, shall be deposed…if bishops or other clergy, and if they be laymen they shall be anathematized.”
1 Pet. v. 1-4. The Bishops of Rome have only to restore themselves to the spirit of St. Peter as here set forth, and the schisms of the churches will be at an end. For Tertullians testimony, see vol. iii. p. 258, note 9.643:2886
De Maistre, thinking to overthrow the Anglicans, and imagining the Thirty-nine Articles to be “terms of communion” in the Anglican Church, where they never were, commits himself rashly to the following position: “If a people possess one of these Codes of Belief, we may be sure of this: that the religion of such a people is false.” No people on earth has such as enormous Code of Belief as those who profess the creed of Pius the Fourth, and who accept the decrees of Pius the Ninth. See De Maistre, Le Principe Générateur, etc., p. 20, Paris, 1852. This Trent Creed is the fruit of the Decretals.