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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 09 Apr 2002

the petrine doctrine QUESTION from Mr. frank verri October 25, 1999 What is different in the catholic than the protestant views of this doctrine?
Please answer as soon as possible

ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin on October 29, 1999 Dear Mr. Verri
Before answering your question, it would be a good idea to elaborate on the concept of Petrine Doctrine
The Petrine Doctrine affirms that the Lord proclaimed Peter to be the rock upon which Christ built His Church (see Matthew 16:16-19.) This divinely-appointed role of rock has many theological ramifications, the two principal ones being:
1) As the rock and the holder of the keys to the gates of heaven, Peter and his succcessors are the universal leaders of the Church to which Christ himself entrusts the care of his flock;
2) Since whatever Peter and successors bind and loose on earth is bound and loosed in heaven, they are protected by the special charism of papal infallibility which guarantees that doctrines which he defines by virtue of his own authority, independently of the college of bishops, (called ex cathedra statements) are protected from all possibility of error. Further, when he exercises the ordinary Magisterium and decisively settles a doctrinal issue, he is also protected from error by virtue of the infallibility of the Church.
Needless to say, the Catholic Church subscribes to this view, and Protestants in general, don't. Some Protestants may grant that Peter was the Rock, or that he was the leader of the Church, but they never grant that his successors were the universal leaders of the Church, or that they had any doctrinal primacy (except maybe the primacy of honour); and they do not recognize papal infallibility at all. Many deny that he was the universal leader of the Church (sometimes ascribing the headship of the Church to James) and that he was even the Rock upon which Christ built his Church. These last two beliefs are very characteristic of anti-Catholic fundamentalists.
From the beginning of the Reformation, Protestants have entirely rejected papal authority. The disagreement between the themselves and the Church was not a mere failure to see eye-to-eye. It was all-out theological warfare against the Papacy. The Lutherans, the Calvinists (who are known today as Presbyterians or Reformed Church) and the Baptists specifically call the pope The Anti-Christ.
Lutheran theologians signed their names to the Smalcald articles in which the pope was called the Anti-Christ in 1537. In fairness, the Augsburg Confession (1530 A.D.), the first Lutheran statement of beliefs,does not contain any explicit anti-papl invective. However, the Smalcald articles show that Lutherans believed the pope to be the Anti-Christ.
The Calvinist churches officially stated their belief that the pope was the Antichrist in the Westminister Confession (1646) as well as the Savoie Declaration.(1658). Baptists, who were organized in the 17th century, upheld the same position in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.
It is interesting to note that the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church deplore Romish practices but do not explicitly claim the pope to be the Anti-Christ, nor does it attempt to positive condemn papal infallibility. Mind you, anti-papalism was extremely high in Early Modern England, and the cry of No Popery! was very common.
The majority of Protestant denominations today do not claim that the pope is the Anti-Christ, but they still do not recognize his God-given perogatives. A number of them have retracted the pope as Anti- Christ clause in their confessions of faith. A small minority, the Fundamentalists we all know about, still see the pope as the Whore of Babylon, the Anti-Christ, and so forth. A cyber-acquaintance of mine, Stephen P. Haws, publishes a webpage on which he keeps track of which groups claim the pope is the AntiChrist, and those denominations have renounced this position. You can view it at:
The Church and the Anglicans have made progress in their common understanding of the role of authority in the universal Chuch, including the role of the pope. This year, the Anglican Church produced a document called The Gift of Authority, a working paper on the common understanding that the Anglican and Catholic Churches have reaced. Apparently it has yet to be approved by a synod, but it's encouraging. In the press release by the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (12 May 1999) there was listed 52 points of agreement, including:

Universal primacy, exercised collegially in the context of synodality, as integral to 'episcope' at the service of universal communion; such a primacy having always been associated with the Bishop and See of Rome

How the ministry of the Bishop of Rome assists the ministry of the whole episcopal body in the context of synodality, promoting the communion of the local churches in their life in Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel.

If the language is a little too bureaucratic for you, I will translate. The first point says that the Anglican Church admits (again, tentatively, this is the work of theologians) that the Pope has always somehow been associated with the exercise of universal leadership in the context of his position as one of the bishops (as opposed to exercising primacy on his own independently from the bishops, which is a mark of papal infallibility). The second point says that the Pope was a focal point in ensuring the unity of the Church in union with the bishops. Again, they do not seem to recognize that the Pope can exercise his authority outside the college of Bishops. Nevertheless, the Church of England seems to be heading in the right direction.
You can read more about these developments at . I lost the URL for The Gift of Authority , the joint document of the Anglican and Catholic churches, which is the subject of the press release; however if you fish around long enough on that web site, you should be able to find it.
God Bless, Suzanne.
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