Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 11, 1954
NUMBER 27, PAGE 2-3b

Quoting A Roman. Bishop -- Gregory The Great

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

Since non-Catholics are sometimes accused of being unfair when they secure information concerning Roman Catholicism from some source outside the church, we are submitting the following material, partially from the Catholic historian Guette, but primarily we will present a translation of the words of Gregory the Great, claimed by the Papal Church as one of its early Popes. We copy first from Guette:

"No one could more wisely estimate than does St. Gregory the serious inconveniences that the church might suffer from a central authority assuming to represent and sum up the Church. Man, whatever he may be, and frequently from the superior dignity itself with which he is invested, is subject to error: if the Church be summed up in him, the Church falls with him. Such is St. Gregory's reasoning. He foresaw but too well; and the Roman Church has fallen into endless errors, with a Pope who claims to sum her up in his own person, and to be her infallible personification.

"Happily the Church of Jesus Christ is neither that of one time nor that of one place, and she may always be distinguished by the Catholic criterion so clearly set forth by the Fathers of the Church. Otherwise, we must cease to believe the promises of Christ, and must say in an absolute sense what St. Gregory said hypothetically, The universal one has fallen, the whole Church has fallen!

"They said at the court of Constantinople, that Gregory only made such fierce war against the title of universal from jealousy of the Bishop of the New Rome, and to debase him. The Emperor and Cyriacus wrote thus to him with all the respect that was his due; but Gregory made Cyriacus clearly understand that he had misjudged him. He sent to him and to the Emperor a deacon, Anatolius by name, to undeceive them, giving him letters for the Emperor and the Patriarch. To the latter, after thanking him for his flattering words, he says:

"'It must be not only by words, but by deeds, that you show to me and to all your brethren and the splendour of your charity, by hastening to renounce a title of pride, which has been a cause of offense to all the churches. Fulfil these words, 'Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,' (Eph. 4:3) and this other, 'Give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.' (1 Tim. 5:14.) Your charity will shine forth if there be no division between us in respect to a vainglorious title. I call Jesus to witness, from the depth of my soul, that I do not wish to give offence to any person, from the least to the greatest. I desire all to be great and honoured, provided such honour detracts nothing from that which is due to Almighty God. Indeed, whoever would be honoured against God is not honoured in my eyes .... In this matter I would injure no one; I would only defend that humility which is pleasing to God and the peace of the holy church. Let the things newly introduced (The title of Universal Bishop, L.W.M.) be therefore abrogated in the same manner as they have been established, and we shall preserve amongst us the purest peace of the Lord. What kindly relations can exist between us if our sentiments are but words, and we wound one another with our deeds?' (Book VII. Ep. 31.)

"In his letter to the Emperor, Gregory devotes himself to refuting the argument that was drawn from the insignificance of this honorary title, to which they pretended, at Constantinople, not to attach any great importance. 'I pray your Imperial Piety,' he says, 'to observe that there are some frivolous things that are inoffensive, but also some others that are very hurtful. When Antichrist shall come and call himself God, it will be in itself a perfectly frivolous thing, but a very pernicious one. If we only choose to consider the number of syllables in this word, we find but two, (De-us;) but if we conceive the weight of iniquity of this title, we shall find it enormous. I say it without the least hesitation, whoever calls himself the universal bishop, or desires this title, is by his pride, THE PRECURSOR OF ANTICHRIST, (Emphasis by Guettee, L.W.M.) because he thus attempts to raise himself above the others. The error into which he falls springs from pride equal to that of Antichrist; for as that Wicked One wished to be regarded as exalted above other men, like a God, so likewise whoever would be called sole bishop exalteth himself above others.' (Book VII, Ep. 33.)

"Nowadays they teach, in the name of the Church and in favour of the Bishop of Rome, the same doctrine that St. Gregory stigmatized with so much energy. The partisans of the Papacy teach continually that the Pope has a universal authority — that he is the universal bishop — that, properly speaking, he is the only bishop, the source whence flows all ecclesiastical dignity, including the episcopate, which is but indirectly and mediately of divine right.

"Such is the instruction that they (The Popes, L.W.M.) would now foist upon us (The Priests and members, L.W.M.) as Catholic doctrine. Do our modern innovators apprehend that Pope Gregory regarded such a doctrine as diabolical, and has, in anticipation, called this Pope, so invested with an assumed universal episcopate, Antichrist?

"St. Gregory was in the habit of taking no important decision without giving information of it to the other patriarchs. He therefore wrote to those of Alexandria and Antioch, to inform them what course he had adopted with regard to the new Patriarch of Constantinople. Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, was persuaded, and announced to Gregory that he would no longer give the title universal to the Bishop of Constantinople; but, thinking to flatter Gregory, whom he loved and who had done him service on many occasions, he gave the same title to him, and wrote that if he did not give it to the Bishop of Constantinople, it was in submission to the COMMANDS of Gregory. Gregory answered at once, and the following passage from his answer shows what idea he had of his own authority as bishop of Rome:

"'Your Holiness has been at pains to tells us that in addressing certain persons you no longer give them certain titles that have no better origin than pride, using this phrase regarding me, 'as you have commanded,' I pray you let me never again hear this word command; for I know who I am and who you are. BY YOUR POSITION YOU ARE MY BRETHREN: (Emphasis by Guettee, L.W.M.) by your virtues you are my fathers. I have, therefore, not commanded; I have been careful to point out things which seemed to me useful Still I do not find that your Holiness has perfectly remembered what I particularly wished to impress on your memory; for I said that you should no more give that title to me than to others; and lo, in the superscription of your letter, you give to me, who have proscribed them, the vainglorious titles of universal and of Pope: Gregory further concluded; 'If your Holiness calls me universal Pope, you deny that you are yourself what I should then be altogether. God forbid! Far from us be the words that puff up vanity and wound charity.'

"Thus did Pope Gregory condemn, even in the person of the Bishops of Rome, the title of Pope and that of universal. He acknowledges that the Patriarch of Alexandria is his equal, that he is not entitled to lay any commands upon him, and consequently that he has no authority over him.

"How is this orthodox doctrine of St. Gregory's to be reconciled with the modern teaching that ascribes to the Pope a universal authority of divine right? Let the defenders of the Papacy answer. (Taken from "The Papacy," by Rene-Francois Guette, a Roman Catholic scholar of the 19th century, who later left Romanism. L.W.M.)