Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 6, 1955
NUMBER 34, PAGE 10-11a

Quoting Another Catholic Scholar -- No. 3

Luther W. Martin. Rolla. Missouri

In a previous article we copied at length from Rene-Francois Guettee, a French priest, scholar, and historian, of the Roman Catholic Church, who lived a century ago. We were particularly interested in his explanation of Matthew 16:18-20. In this present article, we continue with M. Guettee's writings on the subject of Papal authority.

"Let us now see if the other texts quoted by the Romish theologians in favor of the Papal authority prove that Jesus Christ has truly established this authority in his church.

"They support themselves upon this passage of the Gospel of St. Luke, (22:31, et seq.) 'Simon, Simon, behold; Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.'

"Jesus here addresses himself to the apostles in the person of Simon, surnamed Peter. He says that Satan has asked permission to sift them, that is, to put their faith to severe trial. It is necessary to remark the word you, in Latin vos, in Greek humas. Satan did not obtain the opportunity that he desired. The apostles will not lose their faith in presence of the temptations which they will be made to endure in the ignominious death of their Master. Peter only, in punishment for his presumption, shall yield and then deny his Master. But thanks, to the special prayer of the Saviour, he shall return in repentance, and will thus have a great duty to fulfill toward the brethren scandalized by his fall — the duty of strengthening them, and repairing by his zeal and faith the fault he has committed.

"Truly it is impossible to conceive how the Popes have been so bold as to set up this passage of St. Luke in order to establish their system. It must be remarked that these words quoted were addressed by Christ to St. Peter the very day that he was to betray him, and that they contain only a prediction of his fall. St. Peter understood this well, since he immediately replied, 'Lord I am ready to go with thee both into prison, and to death'; but Jesus added, 'I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.'

"The text of St. Luke's gospel is a proof against the firmness of St. Peter's faith, rather than in favor of its fortiori, then, should no deductions in support of his superiority in the matter of doctrine or government be drawn from it. And the Fathers of the church and the most learned interpreters of Holy Scripture have never dreamed of giving to it any such meaning. Aside from modern Popes (1850 A.D., L.W.M.) and their partisans who wish at any price to procure proofs, good or bad, no one has ever seen in the words above quoted more than a warning given to Peter to repair by his faith the scandal of his fall, and to strengthen the other apostles whom this fall must shake in their faith. (Note: It was not until the ninth century, that any Father or ecclesiastical write/ admitted the Ultramontane, (i.e. Italian Papal supremacy L.W.M.) interpretation.) The obligation to confirm their faith proceeded from the scandal he would thus occasion the words confirma fratres are only the consequence of the word conversus. Now if one would give to the first general sense, why should it not be given to the second? It would result then, if the successors of St. Peter have inherited the prerogative of confirming their brethren in the faith, they have also inherited that of the need of conversion, after having denied Jesus Christ. We cannot see how the Pontifical authority would gain by that.

"The Popes who have found such a singular proof to support their pretensions in the thirty-first and thirty-second verses of the twenty-second chapter of St. Luke's gospel, have been very guarded in their quotation of the preceding verses.

"The evangelist relates that a discussion arose among the apostles, as to who should be considered the greatest among them. The famous words, Tu es Petrus were already pronounced — this should prove that the apostles did not receive them as understood by the Popes of modern times. The very eve before the death of Christ, they were ignorant that he had chosen Peter to be the first among them, and the foundation-stone of the church. Christ took part in the discussion. This would have been an excellent opportunity for him to proclaim the power of Peter — moreover, it was time that it should be done, for on the morrow he was to be put to death. Did he do it? Not only did the Saviour not recognize the superiority he is said to have promised Peter, but he gave altogether a contrary lesson to his apostles, saying to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.'

"In comparing the recital of St. Luke with that of St. Mark, it will be seen that the discussion had been occasioned by the request that the mother of James and John had made of Christ in favor of her children. She had begged for them the first two places in his kingdom. Christ did not tell her he had given the first place to Peter, an answer which would have been very natural and even necessary if St. Peter had in fact been invested with a superior authority. The ten other apostles were indignant at the ambitious demand made by James and John through their mother; they agitated among themselves the question of superiority. Christ then gave them the lesson which we have related, and which immediately precedes the text upon which the Roman theologians pretend to support their system. (Matt. 20:20, et seq.)

The value of this pretended proof, after the context is considered, will be appreciated. They cite still in their favor a passage in the gospel of St. John, (21:15, etc.) He saith unto him: 'Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.' He saith unto him: 'Feed my lambs.' He saith unto him again, the second time: 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?' He saith unto him: 'Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.' He saith unto him: 'Feed my sheep.' He saith unto him the third time: 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?' Peter was grieved because he saith unto him a third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him: 'Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.' Jesus said unto him: 'Feed my sheep.'

"The Roman theologians argue thus upon this text: 'Jesus Christ has given to St. Peter in a general manner the care of the pasture of the sheep and lambs; now, the lambs are the faithful, and the sheep are the pastors: therefore, Peter, and in his person his successors, have received a supreme power over the pastors (or shepherds) and over the faithful.'

"If this reasoning were just, it would necessarily prove 1st. That the function confided to St. Peter was not also given to the other pastors of the church; 2nd. That the lambs signify the faithful, and the sheep the pastors.

"Now St. Peter himself teaches us, that all the pastors of the church have received the ministry of feeding the flock of the Lord. We have already quoted the passage, (In a previous article) 'Feed the flock of God which is among you.' (1 Peter 5:2.)

"Does the solemnity with which Christ gave that function to Peter imply that he possessed it in a superior manner? Nothing supports this idea. The Fathers of the church and the most learned commentators have only seen the explanation of his threefold denial in this threefold attestation of love that Christ drew from Peter. Nor did Peter see any thing else, since he 'was grieved.' Had he conceived that Christ therein conceded to him any superior powers, he would rather have rejoiced than have been saddened by the words that were addressed to him; but he was convinced that the Saviour demanded a triple public declaration of his fidelity, before reinstalling him among the shepherds of his flock, because he had given reason for legitimate suspicions by denying his Master again and again. Christ could only address himself to Peter, because he alone had been guilty of this crime.

"Now, do the lambs signify the faithful and the sheep the pastors? This interpretation is altogether arbitrary, there can be nothing found in Catholic tradition to confirm it; on the contrary, tradition formally contradicts it, and it would be impossible o quote one single Father of the church in its support. Moreover, this interpretation is not conformable to Scripture. The words sheep and lambs are indifferently used in Holy Writ to describe the same object. Thus we read in St. Matthew: 'I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves,' (Matt. 10:16,) and in St. Luke: 'I send you forth as lambs among wolves.' (Luke 10:3.) The word sheep in Scripture signifies the faithful. We read in Ezekiel, (34:6) 'My sheep wandered through all the mountains.' 'Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.' St. Peter, addressing himself to the faithful of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, said to them: 'Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.' (1 Peter 2:25.)

"It is not possible therefore to found or give different meanings to the words sheep and lambs, nor to interpret the word sheep in the sense of pastors or clergy. If we feel obliged to give to the two expressions a different meaning, would it not be more natural to understand by lambs the young members who have need of the most tender care, and by sheep to understand those of mature age, according to the faith?

"Thus the Papal interpretation is so thoroughly divested of foundation, that a commentator upon the Gospels — one who would not be suspected by Roman theologians, the Jesuit Maldonat — speaks of it in this language: 'We should not reason acutely, in order to discover why Christ employs the word lambs rather than sheep. He who would do this, should carefully consider that he will only appear ridiculous to the learned, for it is incontestable that those whom Christ calls his lambs are the same as those he elsewhere designates as his sheep.' St. Peter then was instituted neither the foundation stone of the church nor its chief pastor."