Expert Answer Forum

Authority of Rome QUESTION from Bill Blacklin , June 3, 2000 In a Catholic newspaper I read about a dispute in the Catholic Church in the first century where they needed an answer, (this dispute was never identified in this paper). John the apostle was still living, he was much closer than Rome, but the church went to Rome to settle this dispute. This shows me the authority of Rome, but I want to know what the dispute was over. Can you give me an answer to this?
Thank you, Bill Blacklin
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on June 7, 2000 Dear Mr. Blacklin
You must be referring to the schism of the Corinthians that prompted Pope St. Clement I to write his famous epistle. The apostle John was still alive at the time—about the last decade of the first century—and he lived in Ephesus, which was much closer to Corinth than St. Clement was. If the apostle had wanted to intervene, he could have written, but there is no record or evidence that he did. Pope Clement, who lived in Rome, wrote to urge the Corinthians to practice humility, restore brotherly love and submit to their rightful bishops. Some people point to the fact that his letter was not written in a firm style to show that he did not really intend to impose his authority. That’s hardly an objection, as there are many ways to exercise power. It isn’t necessary to browbeat people in order to have them submit to your authority. What is significant is that Clement wrote in the name of the Church of Rome, while there is no record of anyone else doing so, and that he urged the Church to submit to her leaders. St. Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote a couple of decades later, wrote that the Church “presides in the country of the Romans†as well as “You have never led astray anyone; you have taught othersâ€. The pope’s power could hardly have been limited to Rome if St. Clement was writing to the Church at Corinth to settle a matter, and that his authority was recognized.
I encourage you all to read the letter by St. Clement. Please note that this particular translation was done by a Protestant, so his headings reflect a Protestant theology.
Epistle to the Corinthians
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin
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