(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 8)
Chapter 7. Of the beginning and rise of the Romish papacy till it 
attained a height by which the liberty of the church was destroyed, 
and all true rule overthrown. 
    There are five heads in this chapter. I. The Patriarchate given 
and confirmed to the Bishop of Rome, first by the Council of Nice, 
and afterwards by that of Chalcedony, though by no means approved of 
by other bishops, was the commencement of the Papacy, sec. 1-4. II. 
The Church at Rome, by taking pious exiles under its protection, and 
also thereby protecting wicked men who fled to her, helped forward 
the mystery of iniquity, although at that time neither the 
ordination of bishops, nor admonitions and censures, nor the right 
of convening Councils, nor the right of receiving appeals, belonged 
to the Roman Bishop, whose profane meddling with these things was 
condemned by Gregory, sec. 5-13. III. After the Council of Turin, 
disputes arose as to the authority of Metropolitans. Disgraceful 
strife between the Patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople. The vile 
assassin Phocas put an end to these brawls at the instigation of 
Boniface, sec. 14-18. IV. To the dishonest arts of Boniface 
succeeded fouler frauds devised in more modern times, and expressly 
condemned by Gregory and Bernard, sec. 19-21. V. The Papacy at 
length appeared complete in all its parts, the seat of Antichrist. 
Its impiety, execrable tyranny, and wickedness, portrayed, sec. 
1. First part of the chapter, in which the commencement of the 
    Papacy is assigned to the Council of Nice. In subsequent 
    Councils other bishops presided. No attempt then made to claim 
    the first place. 
2. Though the Roman Bishop presided in the Council of Chalcedony, 
    this was owing to special circumstances. The same right not 
    given to his successors in other Councils. 
3. The ancient Fathers did not give the title of Primate to the 
    Roman Bishop. 
4. Gregory was vehement in opposition to the title when claimed by 
    the Bishop of Constantinople, and did not claim it for himself. 
5. Second part of the chapter, explaining the ambitious attempts of 
    the Roman See to obtain the primacy. Their reception of pious 
    exiles. Hearing the appeals and complaints of heretics. Their 
    ambition in this respect offensive to the African Church. 
6. The power of the Roman Bishops in ordaining bishops, appointing 
    councils, deciding controversies, &c., confined to their own 
7. If they censured other bishops, they themselves were censured in 
    their turn. 
8. They had no right of calling provincial councils except within 
    their own boundaries. The calling of a universal council 
    belonged solely to the Emperor. 
9. Appeal to the Roman See not acknowledged by other bishops. 
    Stoutly resisted by the Bishops of France and Africa. The 
    impudence and falsehood of the Roman Pontiff detected. 
10. Proof from history that the Roman had no jurisdiction over other 
11. The decretal epistles of no avail in support of this usurped 
12. The authority of the Roman Bishop extended in the time of 
    Gregory. Still it only consisted in aiding other bishops with 
    their own consent, or at the command of the Emperor. 
13. Even the extent of jurisdiction, thus voluntarily conferred, 
    objected to by Gregory as interfering with better duties. 
14. Third part of the chapter, showing the increase of the power of 
    the Papacy in defining the limits of Metropolitans. This gave 
    rise to the decree of the Council of Turin. This decree 
    haughtily annulled by Innocent. 
15. Hence the great struggle for precedence between the Sees of Rome 
    and Constantinople. The pride and ambition of the Roman Bishops 
16. Many attempts of the Bishop of Constantinople to deprive the 
    Bishop of Rome of the primacy. 
17. Phocas murders the Emperor, and gives Rome the primacy. 
18. The Papal tyranny shortly after established. Bitter complaints 
    by Bernard. 
19. Fourth part of the chapter. Altered appearance of the Roman See 
    since the days of Gregory. 
20. The present demands of the Romanists not formerly conceded. 
    Fictions of Gregory IX and Martin. 
21. Without mentioning the opposition of Cyprian, of councils, and 
    historical facts, the claims now made were condemned by Gregory 
22. The abuses of which Gregory and Bernard complained now increased 
    and sanctioned. 
23. The fifth and last part of the chapter, containing the chief 
    answer to the claims of the Papacy, viz., that the Pope is not 
    a bishop in the house of God. This answer confirmed by an 
    enumeration of the essential parts of the episcopal office. 
24. A second confirmation by appeal to the institution of Christ. A 
    third confirmation e contrario, viz., That in doctrine and 
    morals the Roman Pontiff is altogether different from a true 
    bishop. Conclusion, that Rome is not the Apostolic See, but the 
25. Proof from Daniel and Paul that the Pope is Antichrist. 
26. Rome could not now claim the primacy, even though she had 
    formerly been the first See, especially considering the base 
    trafficking in which she has engaged. 
27. Personal character of Popes. Irreligious opinions held by some 
    of them. 
28. John XXII heretical in regard to the immortality of the soul. 
    His name, therefore, ought to be expunged from the catalogue of 
    Popes or rather, there is no foundation for the claim of 
    perpetuity of faith in the Roman See. 
29. Some Roman Pontiffs atheists, or sworn enemies of religion. 
    Their immoral lives. Practice of the Cardinals and Romish 
30. Cardinals were formerly merely presbyters of the Roman Church, 
    and far inferior to bishops. As they now are, they have no true 
    and legitimate office in the Church. Conclusion. 
    1. In regard to the antiquity of the primacy of the Roman See, 
there is nothing in favour of its establishment more ancient than 
the decree of the Council of Nice, by which the first place among 
the Patriarchs is assigned to the Bishop of Rome, and he is enjoined 
to take care of the suburban churches. While the council, in 
dividing between him and the other Patriarchs, assigns the proper 
limits of each, it certainly does not appoint him head of all, but 
only one of the chief. Vitus and Vincentius attended on the part of 
Julius, who then governed the Roman Church and to them the fourth 
place was given. I ask, if Julius was acknowledged the head of the 
Church, would his legates have been consigned to the fourth place? 
Would Athanasius have presided in the council where a representative 
of the hierarchal order should have been most conspicuous? In the 
Council of Ephesus, it appears that Celestinus (who was then Roman 
Pontiff) used a cunning device to secure the dignity of his See. For 
when he sent his deputies, he made Cyril of Alexandria, who 
otherwise would have presided, his substitute. Why that commission, 
but just that his name might stand connected with the first See? His 
legates sit in an inferior place, are asked their opinion along with 
others, and subscribe in their order, while, at the same time, his 
name is coupled with that of the Patriarch of Alexandria. What shall 
I say of the second Council of Ephesus, where, while the deputies of 
Leo were present, the Alexandria Patriarch Dioscorus presided as in 
his own right? They will object that this was not an orthodox 
council, since by it the venerable Flavianus was condemned, Eutyches 
acquitted, and his heresy approved. Yet when the council was met, 
and the bishops distributed the places among themselves, the 
deputies of the Roman Church sat among the others just as in a 
sacred and lawful Council. Still they contend not for the first 
place, but yield it to another: this they never would have done if 
they had thought it their own by right. For the Roman bishops were 
never ashamed to stir up the greatest strife in contending for 
honours, and for this cause alone, to trouble and harass the Church 
with many pernicious contests; but because Leo saw that it would be 
too extravagant to ask the first place for his legates, he omitted 
to do it. 
    2. Next came the Council of Chalcedony, in which, by concession 
of the Emperor, the legates of the Roman Church occupied the first 
place. But Leo himself confesses that this was an extraordinary 
privilege; for when he asks it of the Emperor Martian and Pulcheria 
Augusta, he does not maintain that it is due to him, but only 
pretends that the Eastern bishops who presided in the Council of 
Ephesus had thrown all into confusion, and made a bad use of their 
power. Therefore, seeing there was need of a grave moderator, and it 
was not probable that those who had once been so fickle and 
tumultuous would be fit for this purpose, he requests that, because 
of the fault and unfitness of others, the office of governing should 
be transferred to him. That which is asked as a special privilege, 
and out of the usual order, certainly is not due by a common law. 
When it is only pretended that there is need of a new president, 
because the former ones had behaved themselves improperly, it is 
plain that the thing asked was not previously done, and ought not to 
be made perpetual, being done only in respect of a present danger. 
The Roman Pontiff, therefore, holds the first place in the Council 
of Chalcedony, not because it is due to his See, but because the 
council is in want of a grave and fit moderator, while those who 
ought to have presided exclude themselves by their intemperance and 
passion. This statement the successor of Leo approved by his 
procedure. For when he sent his legates to the fifth Council, that 
of Constantinople, which was held long after he did not quarrel for 
the first seat, but readily allowed Mennas, the patriarch of 
Constantinople, to preside. In like manner, in the Council of 
Carthage, at which Augustine was present, we perceive that not the 
legates of the Roman See, but Aurelius, the archbishop of the place, 
presided, although there was then a question as to the authority of 
the Roman Pontiff. Nay, even in Italy itself, an universal council 
was held, (that of Aquileia,) at which the Roman Bishop was not 
present. Ambrose, who was then in high favour with the Emperor 
presided, and no mention is made of the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, 
owing to the dignity of Ambrose, the See of Milan was then more 
illustrious than that of Rome. 
    3. In regard to the mere title of primate and other titles of 
pride, of which that pontiff now makes a wondrous boast, it is not 
difficult to understand how and in what way they crept in. Cyprian 
often makes mention of Cornelius, (Cyprian. Lib. 2 Ep. 2; Lib. 4 Ep. 
6,) nor does he distinguish him by any other name than that of 
brother, or fellow bishop, or colleague. When he writes to Stephen, 
the successor of Cornelius, he not only makes him the equal of 
himself and others, but addresses him in harsh terms, charging him 
at one time with presumption, at another with ignorance. After 
Cyprian, we have the judgement of the whole African church on the 
subject. For the Council of Carthage enjoined that none should be 
called chief of the priests, or first bishop, but only bishop of the 
first See. But any one who will examine the more ancient records 
will find that the Roman Pontiff was then contented with the common 
appellation of brother. Certainly, as long as the true and pure form 
of the Church continued, all these names of pride on which the Roman 
See afterwards began to plume itself, were altogether unheard of; 
none knew what was meant by the supreme Pontiff, and the only head 
of the Church on earth. Had the Roman Bishop presumed to assume any 
such title, there were right-hearted men who would immediately have 
repressed his folly. Jerome, seeing he was a Roman presbyter, was 
not slow to proclaim the dignity of his church, in as far as fact 
and the circumstances of the times permitted, and yet we see how he 
brings it under due subordination. "If authority is asked, the world 
is greater than a city. Why produce to me the custom of one city? 
Why vindicate a small number with whom superciliousness has 
originated against the laws of the Church? Wherever the bishop be, 
whether at Rome, or Eugubium, or Constantinople, or Rhenium, the 
merit is the same, and the priesthood the same. The power of riches, 
or the humbleness of poverty, do not make a bishop superior or 
inferior," (Hieron. Ep. ad Evagr.) 
    4. The controversy concerning the title of universal bishop 
arose at length in the time of Gregory, and was occasioned by the 
ambition of John of Constantinople. For he wished to make himself 
universal, a thing which no other had ever attempted. In that 
controversy, Gregory does not allege that he is deprived of a right 
which belonged to him but he strongly insists that the appellation 
is profane, nay, blasphemous, nay, the forerunner of Antichrist. 
"The whole Church falls from its state, if he who is called 
universal falls," (Greg. Lib. 4 Ep. 76.) Again, "It is very 
difficult to bear patiently that one who is our brother and fellow 
bishop should alone be called bishop, while all others are despised. 
But in this pride of his, what else is intimated but that the days 
of Antichrist are already near? For he is imitating him, who, 
despising the company of angels, attempted to ascend the pinnacle of 
greatness," (Lib. 4 Ep. 76.) He elsewhere says to Eulogies of 
Alexandria and Anastasius of Antioch: "None of my predecessors ever 
desired to use this profane term: for if one patriarch is called 
universal, it is derogatory to the name of patriarch in others. But 
far be it from any Christian mind to wish to arrogate to itself that 
which would in any degree, however slight, impair the honour of his 
brethren," (Lib. 4 Ep. 80.) "To consent to that impious term is 
nothing else than to lose the faith," (Lib. 4 Ep. 83.) "What we owe 
to the preservation of the unity of the faith is one thing, what we 
owe to the suppression of pride is another. I speak with confidence, 
for every one that calls himself, or desires to be called universal 
priest, is by his pride a forerunner of Antichrist, because he acts 
proudly in preferring himself to others," (Lib. 7 Ep. 154.) Thus, 
again, in a letter to Anastasius of Antioch, "I said, that he could 
not have peace with us unless he corrected the presumption of a 
superstitious and haughty term which the first apostate invented; 
and (to say nothing of the injury to your honour) if one bishop is 
called universal, the whole Church goes to ruin when that universal 
bishop falls," (Lib. 6 Ep. 188.) But when he writes, that this 
honour was offered to Leo in the Council of Chalcedony, (Lib. 4 Ep. 
76, 80; Lib. 7 Ep. 76;,) he says what has no semblance of truth; 
nothing of the kind is found among the acts of that council. And Leo 
himself, who, in many letters, impugns the decree which was then 
made in honour of the See of Constantinople, undoubtedly would not 
have omitted this argument, which was the most plausible of all, if 
it was true that he himself repudiated what was given to him. One 
who, in other respects, was rather too desirous of honour, would not 
have omitted what would have been to his praise. Gregory, therefore, 
is incorrect in saying, that that title was conferred on the Roman 
See by the Council of Chalcedony; not to mention how ridiculous it 
is for him to says that it proceeded from that sacred council, and 
yet to term it wicked, profane, nefarious, proud, and blasphemous, 
nay, devised by the devil, and promulgated by the herald of 
Antichrist. And yet he adds, that his predecessor refused it, lest 
by that which was given to one individually all priests should be 
deprived of their due honour. In another place, he says, "None ever 
wished to be called by such a name; none arrogated this rash name to 
himself, lest, by seizing on the honour of supremacy in the office 
of the Pontificate, he might seem to deny it to all his brethren," 
(Gregor. Lib. 4 Ep. 82.) 
    5. I come now to jurisdiction, which the Roman Pontiff asserts 
as an incontrovertible proposition that he possesses over all 
churches. I am aware of the great disputes which anciently existed 
on this subject: for there never was a time when the Roman See did 
not aim at authority over other churches. And here it will not be 
out of place to investigate the means by which she gradually 
attained to some influence. I am not now referring to that unlimited 
power which she seized at a comparatively recent period. The 
consideration of that we shall defer to its own place. But it is 
worth while here briefly to show in what way, and by what means, she 
formerly raised herself, so as to arrogate some authority over other 
churches. When the churches of the East were troubled and rent by 
the factions of the Asians, under the Emperors Constantius and 
Constans, sons of Constantine the Great; and Athanasius, the 
principal defender of the orthodox faith, had been driven from his 
see, the calamity obliged him to come to Rome, in order that by the 
authority of this see he might both repress the rage of his enemies, 
and confirm the orthodox under their distress. He was honourably 
received by Julius, who was then bishop, and engaged those of the 
West to undertake the defence of his cause. Therefore, when the 
orthodox stood greatly in need of external aid, and perceived that 
their chief protection lay in the Roman See, they willingly bestowed 
upon it all the authority they could. But the utmost extent of this 
was, that its communion was held in high estimations and it was 
deemed ignominious to be excommunicated by it. Dishonest bad men 
afterwards added much to its authority, for when they wished to 
escape lawful tribunals, they retook themselves to Rome as an 
asylum. Accordingly, if any presbyter was condemned by his bishop, 
or if any bishop was condemned by the synod of his province, he 
appealed to Rome. These appeals the Roman bishops received more 
eagerly than they ought, because it seemed a species of 
extraordinary power to interpose in matters with which their 
connection was so very remote. Thus, when Eutyches was condemned by 
Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople, he complained to Leo that the 
sentence was unjust. He, nothing loth, no less presumptuously than 
abruptly, undertook the patronage of a bad cause, and inveighed 
bitterly against Flavianus, as having condemned an innocent man 
without due investigation: and thus the effect of Leo's ambition 
was, that for some time the impiety of Eutyches was confirmed. It is 
certain that in Africa the same thing repeatedly occurred, for 
whenever any miscreant had been condemned by his ordinary judge, he 
fled to Rome, and brought many calumnious charges against his own 
people. The Roman See was always ready to interpose. This dishonesty 
obliged the African bishops to decree that no one should carry an 
appeal beyond sea under pain of excommunication. 
    6. Be this as it may, let us consider what right or authority 
the Roman See then possessed. Ecclesiastical power may be reduced to 
four heads, viz., ordination of bishops, calling of councils, 
hearing of appeals, (or jurisdiction,) inflicting monitory 
chastisements or censures. All ancient councils enjoin that bishops 
shall be ordained by their own Metropolitans; they nowhere enjoin an 
application to the Roman Bishop, except in his own patriarchate. 
Gradually however, it became customary for all Italian bishops to go 
to Rome for consecration, with the exception of the Metropolitans, 
who did not allow themselves to be thus brought into subjection; but 
when any Metropolitan was to be ordained, the Roman Bishop sent one 
of his presbyters merely to be present, but not to preside. An 
example of this kind is extant in Gregory, (Lib. 2 Ep. 68, 70,) in 
the consecration of Constantius of Milan, after the death of 
Laurence. I do not, however, think that this was a very ancient 
custom. At first, as a mark of respect and good will, they sent 
deputies to one another to witness the ordination, and attest their 
communion. What was thus voluntary afterwards began to be regarded 
as necessary. However this be, it is certain that anciently the 
Roman Bishop had no power of ordaining except within the bounds of 
his own patriarchate, that is, as a, canon of the Council of Nice 
expresses it, in suburban churches. To ordination was added the 
sending of a synodical epistle, but this implied no authority. The 
patriarchs were accustomed, immediately after consecration, to 
attest their faith by a formal writing, in which they declared that 
they assented to sacred and orthodox councils. Thus, by rendering an 
account of their faith, they mutually approved of each other. If the 
Roman Bishop had received this confession from others, and not given 
it, he would therein have been acknowledged superior; but when it 
behoved to give as well as to receive, and to be subject to the 
common law, this was a sign of equality, not of lordship. Of this we 
have an example in a letter of Gregory to Anastasius and Cyriac of 
Constantinople, and in another letter to all the patriarchs 
together, (Gregor. Lib. 1 Ep. 24, 25; Lib. 6 Ep. 169.) 
    7. Next come admonitions or censures. These the Roman Bishops 
anciently employed towards others, and in their turn received. 
Irenaeus sharply rebuked Victor for rashly troubling the Church with 
a pernicious schism, for a matter of no moment. He submitted without 
objecting. Holy bishops were then wont to use the freedom as 
brethren of admonishing and rebuking the Roman Prelate when he 
happened to err. He in his turn, when the case required, reminded 
others of their duty, and reprimanded them for their faults. For 
Cyprian, when he exhorts Stephen to admonish the bishops of France, 
does not found on his larger power, but on the common right which 
priests have in regard to each other, (Cyprian. Lib. 3 Ep. 13.) I 
ask if Stephen had then presided over France, would not Cyprian have 
said, "Check them, for they are yours?" but his language is very 
different. "The brotherly fellowship which binds us together 
requires that we should mutually admonish each other," (Cyprian. ad 
Pomp. Cont. Epist. Steph.) And we see also with what severity of 
expressions a man otherwise of a mild temper, inveighs against 
Stephen himself when he thinks him chargeable with insolence. 
Therefore, it does not yet appear in this respect that the Roman 
Bishop possessed any jurisdiction over those who did not belong to 
his province. 
    8. In regard to calling of councils, it was the duty of every 
Metropolitan to assemble a provincial synod at stated times. Here 
the Roman Bishop had no jurisdiction, while the Emperor alone could 
summon a general council. Had any of the bishops attempted this, not 
only would those out of the province not have obeyed the call, but a 
tumult would instantly have arisen. Therefore the Emperor gave 
intimation to all alike to attend. Socrates, indeed, relates that 
Julius expostulated with the Eastern bishops for not having called 
him to the Council of Antioch, seeing it was forbidden by the canons 
that any thing should be decided without the knowledge of the Roman 
Bishop, (Tripart. Hist. Lib. 4). But who does not perceive that this 
is to be understood of those decrees which bind the whole Church? At 
the same time, it is not strange if, in deference both to the 
antiquity and largeness of the city, and the dignity of the see, no 
universal decree concerning religion should be made in the absence 
of the Bishop of Rome, provided he did not refuse to be present. But 
what has this to do with the dominion of the whole Church? For we 
deny not that he was one of the principal bishops though we are 
unwilling to admit what the Romanists now contend for, viz., that he 
had power over all. 
    9. The fourth remaining species of power is that of hearing 
appeals. It is evident that the supreme power belongs to him to 
whose tribunal appeals are made. Many had repeatedly appealed to the 
Roman Pontiff. He also had endeavoured to bring causes under his 
cognisance, but he had always been derided whenever he went beyond 
his own boundaries. I say nothing of the East and of Greece, but it 
is certain, that the bishops of France stoutly resisted when he 
seemed to assume authority over them. In African the subject was 
long disputed, for in the Council of Milevita, at which Augustine 
was present, when those who carried appeals beyond seas were 
excommunicated, the Roman Pontiff attempted to obtain an alteration 
of the decree, and sent legates to show that the privilege of 
hearing appeals was given him by the Council of Nice. The legates 
produced acts of the council drawn from the armoury of their church. 
The African bishops resisted and maintained, that credit was not to 
be given to the Bishop of Rome in his own cause; accordingly, they 
said that they would send to Constantinople, and other cities of 
Greece, where less suspicious copies might be had. It was found that 
nothing like what the Romanists had pretended was contained in the 
acts, and thus the decree which abrogated the supreme jurisdiction 
of the Roman Pontiff was confirmed. In this matter was manifested 
the egregious effrontery of the Roman Pontiff. For when he had 
fraudulently substituted the Council of Sardis for that of Nice, he 
was disgracefully detected in a palpable falsehood; but still 
greater and more impudent was the iniquity of those who added a 
fictitious letter to the Council, in which some Bishop of Carthage 
condemns the arrogance of Aurelius his predecessor, in promising to 
withdraw himself from obedience to the Apostolic See, and making a 
surrender of himself and his church, suppliantly prays for pardon. 
These are the noble records of antiquity on which the majesty of the 
Roman See is founded, while, under the pretext of antiquity, they 
deal in falsehoods so puerile, that even a blind man might feel 
them. "Aurelius, (says he,) elated by diabolical audacity and 
contumacy, was rebellious against Christ and St Peter, and, 
accordingly, deserved to be anathematised." What does Augustine say? 
and what the many Fathers who were present at the Council of 
Milevita? But what need is there to give a lengthened refutation of 
that absurd writing, which not even Romanists, if they have any 
modesty left them, can look at without a deep feeling of shame? Thus 
Gratian, whether through malice or ignorance, I know not, after 
quoting the decree, That those are to be deprived of communion who 
carry appeals beyond seas, subjoins the exception, Unless, perhaps, 
they have appealed to the Roman See, (Grat. 2, Quest. 4, cap. 
Placuit.) What can you make of creatures like these who are so 
devoid of common sense, that they set down as an exception from the 
law the very thing on account of which, as every body sees, the law 
was made? For the Council, in condemning transmarine appeals, simply 
prohibits an appeal to Rome. Yet this worthy expounder excepts Rome 
from the common law. 
    10. But (to end the question at once) the kind of jurisdiction 
which belonged to the Roman Bishop one narrative will make manifest. 
Donates of Casa Nigra had accused Cecilianus the Bishop of Carthage. 
Cecilianus was condemned without a hearing: for, having ascertained 
that the bishops had entered into a conspiracy against him, he 
refused to appear. The case was brought before the Emperor 
Constantine, who, wishing the matter to be ended by an 
ecclesiastical decision, gave the cognisance of it to Melciades, the 
Roman Bishop, appointing as his colleagues some bishops from Italy, 
France, and Spain. If it formed part of the ordinary jurisdiction of 
the Roman see to hear appeals in ecclesiastical causes, why did he 
allow others to be conjoined with him at the Emperor's discretion? 
nay, why does he undertake to decide more from the command of the 
Emperor than his own office? But let us hear what afterwards 
happened, (see August. Ep. 162, et alibi.) Cecilianus prevails. 
Donates of Casa Nigra is thrown in his calumnious action and 
appeals. Constantine devolves the decision of the appeal on the 
Bishop of Arles, who sits as judge, to give sentence after the Roman 
Pontiff. If the Roman See has supreme power not subject to appeal, 
why does Melciades allow himself to be so greatly insulted as to 
have the Bishop of Arles preferred to him? And who is the Emperor 
that does this? Constantine, who they boast not only made it his 
constant study, but employed all the resources of the empire to 
enlarge the dignity of that see. We see, therefore, how far in every 
way the Roman Pontiff was from that supreme dominion, which he 
asserts to have been given him by Christ over all churches, and 
which he falsely alleges that he possessed in all ages, with the 
consent of the whole world. 
    11. I know how many epistles there are, how many rescripts and 
edicts in which there is nothing which the pontiffs do not ascribe 
and confidently arrogate to themselves. But all men of the least 
intellect and learning know, that the greater part of them are in 
themselves so absurd, that it is easy at the first sight to detect 
the forge from which they have come. Does any man of sense and 
soberness think that Anacletus is the author of that famous 
interpretation which is given in Gratian, under the name of 
Anacletus, viz., that Cephas is head? (Dist. 22 cap. Sacrosancta.) 
Numerous follies of the same kind which Gratian has heaped together 
without judgement, the Romanists of the present day employ against 
us in defence of their see. The smoke, by which, in the former days 
of ignorance, they imposed upon the ignorant, they would still vend 
in the present light. I am unwilling to take much trouble in 
refuting things which, by their esteems absurdity, plainly refute 
themselves. I admit the existence of genuine epistles by ancient 
Pontiffs, in which they pronounce magnificent eulogiums on the 
extent of their see. Such are some of the epistles of Leo. For as he 
possessed learning and eloquence, so he was excessively desirous of 
glory and dominion; but the true question is, whether or not, when 
he thus extolled himself, the churches gave credit to his testimony? 
It appears that many were offended with his ambition, and also 
resisted his cupidity. He in one place appoints the Bishop of 
Thessalonica his vicar throughout Greece and other neighbouring 
regions, (Leo, Ep. 85,) and elsewhere gives the same office to the 
Bishop of Arles or some other throughout France, (Ep. 83.) In like 
manner, he appointed Hormisdas, Bishop of Hispala, his vicar 
throughout Spain, but he uniformly makes this reservation, that in 
giving such commissions, the ancient privileges of the Metropolitans 
were to remain safe and entire. These appointments, therefore, were 
made on the condition, that no bishop should be impeded in his 
ordinary jurisdiction, no metropolitan in taking cognisance of 
appeals, no provincial council in constituting churches. But what 
else was this than to decline all jurisdiction, and to interpose for 
the purpose of settling discord only, in so far as the law and 
nature of ecclesiastical communion admit? 
    12. In the time of Gregory, that ancient rule was greatly 
changed. For when the empire was convulsed and torn, when France and 
Spain were suffering from the many disasters which they ever and 
anon received, when Illyricum was laid waste, Italy harassed, and 
Africa almost destroyed by uninterrupted calamities, in order that, 
during these civil convulsions, the integrity of the faith might 
remain, or at least not entirely perish, the bishops in all quarters 
attached themselves more to the Roman Pontiff. In this way, not only 
the dignity, but also the power of the see, exceedingly increased, 
although I attach no great importance to the means by which this was 
accomplished. It is certain, that it was then greater than in former 
ages. And yet it was very different from the unbridled dominion of 
one ruling others as he pleased. Still the reverence paid to the 
Roman See was such that by its authority it could guide and repress 
those whom their own colleagues were unable to keep to their duty; 
for Gregory is careful ever and anon to testify that he was not less 
faithful in preserving the rights of others, than in insisting that 
his own should be preserved. "I do not," says he, "under the 
stimulus of ambition, derogate from any man's right, but desire to 
honour my brethren in all things," (Gregor. Lib. 2 Ep. 68.) There is 
no sentence in his writings in which he boasts more proudly of the 
extent of his primacy than the following: "I know not what bishop is 
not subject to the Roman See, when he is discovered in a fault," 
(Leo, Lib. 2, Epist. 68.) However, he immediately adds, "Where 
faults do not call for interference, all are equal according to the 
rule of humility." He claims for himself the right of correcting 
those who have sinned; if all do their duty, he puts himself on a 
footing of equality. He, indeed, claimed this right, and those who 
chose assented to it, while those who were not pleased with it were 
at liberty to object with impunity; and it is known that the greater 
part did so. We may add, that he is then speaking of the primate of 
Byzantium, who, when condemned by a provincial synod, repudiated the 
whole judgement. His colleagues had informed the Emperor of his 
contumacy, and the Emperor had given the cognisance of the matter to 
Gregory. We see, therefore, that he does not interfere in any way 
with the ordinary jurisdiction, and that, in acting as a subsidiary 
to others, he acts entirely by the Emperor's command. 
    13. At this time, therefore, the whole power of the Roman 
Bishop consisted in opposing stubborn and ungovernable spirits, 
where some extraordinary remedy was required, and this in order to 
assist other bishops, not to interfere with them. Therefore, he 
assumes no more power over others than he elsewhere gives others 
over himself, when he confesses that he is ready to be corrected by 
all, amended by all, (Lib. 2 Ep. 37.) So, in another place, though 
he orders the Bishop of Aquileia to come to Rome to plead his cause 
in a controversy as to doctrine which had arisen between himself and 
others, he thus orders not of his own authority, but in obedience to 
the Emperor's command. Nor does he declare that he himself will be 
sole judge, but promises to call a synod, by which the whole 
business may be determined. But although the moderation was still 
such, that the power of the Roman See had certain limits which it 
was not permitted to overstep, and the Roman Bishop himself was not 
more above than under others, it appears how much Gregory was 
dissatisfied with this state of matters. For he ever and anon 
complains, that he, under the colour of the episcopates, was brought 
back to the world, and was more involved in earthly cares than when 
living as a laic; that he, in that honourable office, was oppressed 
by the tumult of secular affairs. Elsewhere he says, "So many 
burdensome occupations depress me, that my mind cannot at all rise 
to things above. I am shaken by the many billows of causes, and 
after they are quieted, am afflicted by the tempests of a tumultuous 
life, so that I may truly say I am come into the depths of the sea, 
and the flood has overwhelmed me." From this I infer what he would 
have said if he had fallen on the present times. If he did not 
fulfil, he at least did the duty of a pastor. He declined the 
administration of civil power, and acknowledged himself subject, 
like others, to the Emperor. He did not interfere with the 
management of other churches, unless forced by necessity. And yet he 
thinks himself in a labyrinth, because he cannot devote himself 
entirely to the duty of a bishop. 
    14. At that time, as has already been said, the Bishop of 
Constantinople was disputing with the Bishop of Rome for the 
primacy. For after the seat of empire was fixed at Constantinople, 
the majesty of the empire seemed to demand that that church should 
have the next place of honour to that of Rome. And certainly, at the 
outset, nothing had tended more to give the primacy to Rome, than 
that it was then the capital of the empire. In Gratian, (Dist. 80,) 
there is a rescript under the name of Pope Lucius, to the effect 
that the only way in which the cities where Metropolitans and 
Primates ought to preside were distinguished, was by means of the 
civil government which had previously existed. There is a similar 
rescript under the name of Pope Clement, in which he says that 
patriarchs were appointed in those cities which had previously had 
the first flames. Although this is absurd, it was borrowed from what 
was true. For it is certain, that in order to make as little change 
as possible, provinces were distributed according to the state of 
matters then existing, and Primates and Metropolitans were placed in 
those cities which surpassed others in honours and power. 
Accordingly, it was decreed in the Council of Turin, that the cities 
of every province which were first in the civil government should be 
the first sees of bishops. But if it should happen that the honour 
of civil government was transferred from one city to another, then 
the right of the metropolis should be at the same time transferred 
thither. But Innocent, the Roman Pontiff, seeing that the ancient 
dignity of the city had been decaying ever since the seat of empire 
had been transferred to Constantinople, and fearing for his see, 
enacted a contrary law, in which he denies the necessity of changing 
metropolitan churches as imperial metropolitan cities were changed. 
But the authority of a synod is justly to be preferred to the 
opinion of one individual, and Innocent himself should be suspected 
in his own cause. However this be, he by his caveat shows the 
original rule to have been, that Metropolitans should be distributed 
according to the order of the empire. 
    15. Agreeably to this ancient custom, the first Council of 
Constantinople decreed that the bishop of that city should take 
precedence after the Roman Pontiff, because it was a new Rome. But 
long after, when a similar decree was made at Chalcedony, Leo keenly 
protested, (Socrat. Hist. Trop. Lib. 9 cap. 13.) And not only did he 
permit himself to set at nought what six hundred bishops or more had 
decreed, but he even assailed them with bitter reproaches, because 
they had derogated from other sees in the honour which they had 
presumed to confer on the Church of Constantinople, (in Decr. 22, 
Distinct. cap. Constantinop.) What, pray, could have incited the man 
to trouble the world for so small an affair but mere ambition? He 
says, that what the Council of Nice had once sanctioned ought to 
have been inviolable; as if the Christian faith was in any danger if 
one church was preferred to another; or as if separate Patriarchates 
had been established on any other grounds than that of policy. But 
we know that policy varies with times, nay, demands various changes. 
It is therefore futile in Leo to pretend that the See of 
Constantinople ought not to receive the honour which was given to 
that of Alexandria, by the authority of the Council of Nice. For it 
is the dictate of common sense, that the decree was one of those 
which might be abrogated, in respect of a change of times. What 
shall we say to the fact, that none of the Eastern churches, though 
chiefly interested, objected? Proterius, who had been appointed at 
Alexandria instead of Dioscorus, was certainly present; other 
patriarchs whose honour was impaired were present. It belonged to 
them to interfere, not to Leo, whose station remained entire. While 
all of them are silent, many assent, and the Roman Bishop alone 
resists, it is easy to judge what it is that moves him; just because 
he foresaw what happened not long after, that when the glory of 
ancient Rome declined, Constantinople, not contented with the second 
place, would dispute the primacy with her. And yet his glamour was 
not so successful as to prevent the decree of the council from being 
ratified. Accordingly, his successors seeing themselves defeated, 
quietly desisted from that petulance, and allowed the Bishop of 
Constantinople to be regarded as the second Patriarch. 
    16. But shortly after, John, who, in the time of Gregory, 
presided over the church of Constantinople, went so far as to say 
that he was universal Patriarch. Here Gregory, that he might not be 
wanting to his See in a most excellent cause, constantly opposed. 
And certainly it was impossible to tolerate the pride and madness of 
John, who wished to make the limits of his bishopric equal to the 
limits of the empire. This, which Gregory denies to another, he 
claims not for himself, but abominates the title by whomsoever used, 
as wicked, impious, and nefarious. Nay, he is offended with 
Eulogies, Bishop of Alexandria, who had honoured him with this 
title, "See (says he, Lib. 7 Ep. 30) in the address of the letter 
which you have directed to me, though I prohibited you, you have 
taken care to write a word of proud signification by calling me 
universal Pope. What I ask is, that your holiness do not go farther, 
because, whatever is given to another more than reason demands is 
withdrawn from you. I do not regard that as honour by which I see 
that the honour of my brethren is diminished. For my honour is the 
universal honour of the Church, and entire prerogative of my 
brethren. If your holiness calls me universal Pope, it denies itself 
to be this whole which it acknowledges me to be." The cause of 
Gregory was indeed good and honourable; but John, aided by the 
favour of the Emperor Maurice, could not be dissuaded from his 
purpose. Cyriac also, his successor, never allowed himself to be 
spoken to on the subject. 
    17. At length Phocas, who had slain Maurice, and usurped his 
place, (more friendly to the Romans, for what reason I know not, or 
rather because he had been crowned king there without opposition,) 
conceded to Boniface III what Gregory by no means demanded, viz., 
that Rome should be the head of all the churches. In this way the 
controversy was ended. And yet this kindness of the Emperor to the 
Romans would not have been of very much avail had not other 
circumstances occurred. For shortly after Greece and all Asia were 
cut off from his communion, while all the reverence which he 
received from France was obedience only in so far as she pleased. 
She was brought into subjection for the first time when Pepin got 
possession of the throne. For Zachary, the Roman Pontiff, having 
aided him in his perfidy and robbery when he expelled the lawful 
sovereign, and seized upon the kingdom, which lay exposed as a kind 
of prey, was rewarded by having the jurisdiction of the Roman See 
established over the churches of France. In the same way as robbers 
are wont to divide and share the common spoil, those two worthies 
arranged that Pepin should have the worldly and civil power by 
spoiling the true prince, while Zachary should become the head of 
all the bishops, and have the spiritual power. This, though weak at 
the first, (as usually happens with new power,) was afterwards 
confirmed by the authority of Charlemagne for a very similar cause. 
For he too was under obligation to the Roman Pontiff, to whose zeal 
he was indebted for the honour of empire. Though there is reason to 
believe that the churches had previously been greatly altered, it is 
certain that the ancient form of the Church was then only completely 
effaced in Gaul and Germany. There are still extant among the 
archives of the Parliament of Paris short commentaries on those 
times, which, in treating of ecclesiastical affairs, make mention of 
the compacts both of Pepin and Charlemagne with the Roman Pontiff. 
Hence we may infer that the ancient state of matters was then 
    18. From that time, while everywhere matters were becoming 
daily worse, the tyranny of the Roman Bishop was established, and 
ever and anon increased, and this partly by the ignorance, partly by 
the sluggishness, of the bishops. For while he was arrogating 
everything to himself, and proceeding more and more to exalt himself 
without measure, contrary to law and right, the bishops did not 
exert themselves so zealously as they ought in curbing his 
pretensions. And though they had not been deficient in spirit, they 
were devoid of true doctrine and experience, so that they were by no 
means fit for so important an effort. Accordingly, we see how great 
and monstrous was the profanation of all sacred things, and the 
dissipation of the whole ecclesiastical order at Rome, in the age of 
Bernard. He complains (Lib. 1 de Consider. ad Eugene.) that the 
ambitious, avaricious, demoniacal, sacrilegious, fornicators, 
incestuous and similar miscreants, flocked from all quarters of the 
world to Rome, that by apostolic authority they might acquire or 
retain ecclesiastical honours: that fraud, circumvention, and 
violence, prevailed. The mode of judging causes then in use he 
describes as execrable, as disgraceful, not only to the Church, but 
the bar. He exclaims that the Church is filled with the ambitious: 
that not one is more afraid to perpetrate crimes than robbers in 
their den when they share the spoils of the traveller. "Few (says 
he) look to the mouth of the legislator, but all to his hands. Not 
without cause, however: for their hands do the whole business of the 
Pope. What kind of thing is it when those are bought by the spoils 
of the Church, who say to you, Well done, well done? The life of the 
poor is sown in the highways of the rich: silver glitters in the 
mire: they run together from all sides: it is not the poorer that 
takes it up, but the stronger, or, perhaps, he who runs fastest. 
That custom, however, or rather that death, comes not of you: I wish 
it would end in you. While these things are going on, you, a pastor, 
come forth robed in much costly clothing. If I might presume to say 
it, this is more the pasture of demons than of sheep. Peter, 
forsooth, acted thus; Paul sported thus. Your court has been more 
accustomed to receive good men than to make them. The bad do not 
gain much there, but the good degenerate." Then when he describes 
the abuses of appeals, no pious man can read them without being 
horrified. At length, speaking of the unbridled cupidity of the 
Roman See in usurping jurisdiction, he thus concludes, (Lib. 3 de 
Council.,) "I express the murmur and common complaint of the 
churches. Their cry is that they are maimed and dismembered. There 
are none, or very few, who do not lament or fear that plague. Do you 
ask what plague? Abbots are encroached upon by bishops, bishops by 
archbishops, &c. It is strange if this can be excused. By thus 
acting, you prove that you have the fulness of power, but not the 
fulness of righteousness. You do this because you are able; but 
whether you also ought to do it is the question. You are appointed 
to preserve, not to envy, the honour and rank of each." I have 
thought it proper to quote these few passages out of many, partly 
that my readers may see how grievously the Church had then fallen, 
partly, too, that they may see with what grief and lamentation all 
pious men beheld this calamity. 
    19. But though we were to concede to the Roman Pontiff of the 
present day the eminence and extent of jurisdiction which his see 
had in the middle ages, as in the time of Leo and Gregory, what 
would this be to the existing Papacy? I am not now speaking of 
worldly dominion, or of civil power, which will afterwards be 
explained in their own place, (chap. 11 sec. 8-14;) but what 
resemblance is there between the spiritual government of which they 
boast and the state of those times? The only definition which they 
give of the Pope is, that he is the supreme head of the Church on 
earth, and the universal bishop of the whole globe. The Pontiffs 
themselves, when they speak of their authority, declare with great 
superciliousness that the power of commanding belongs to them, - 
that the necessity of obedience remains with others, - that all 
their decrees are to be regarded as confirmed by the divine voice of 
Peter, - that provincial synods, from not having the presence of the 
Pope, are deficient in authority, - that they can ordain the clergy 
of any church, - and can summon to their See any who have been 
ordained elsewhere. Innumerable things of this kind are contained in 
the farrago of Gratian, which I do not mention, that I may not be 
tedious to my readers. The whole comes to this, that to the Roman 
Pontiff belongs the supreme cognisance of all ecclesiastical causes, 
whether in determining and defining doctrines, or in enacting laws, 
or in appointing discipline, or in giving sentences. It were also 
tedious and superfluous to review the privileges which they assume 
to themselves in what they call reservations. But the most 
intolerable of all things is their leaving no judicial authority in 
the world to restrain and curb them when they licentiously abuse 
their immense power. "No man (say they) is entitled to alter the 
judgement of this See, on account of the primacy of the Roman 
Church." Again, "The judge shall not be judged either by the 
emperor, or by kings, or by the clergy, or by the people." It is 
surely imperious enough for one man to appoint himself the judge of 
all, while he will not submit to the judgement of any. But what if 
he tyrannises over the people of God? if he dissipates and lays 
waste the kingdom of Christ? if he troubles the whole Church? if he 
convert the pastoral office into robbery? Nay, though he should be 
the most abandoned of all, he insists that none can call him to 
account. The language of Pontiffs is, "God has been pleased to 
terminate the causes of other men by men, but the Prelate of this 
See he has reserved unquestioned for his own judgement." Again, "The 
deeds of subjects are judged by us; ours by God only." 
    20. And in order that edicts of this kind might have more 
weight, they falsely substituted the names of ancient Pontiffs, as 
if matters had been so constituted from the beginning, while it is 
absolutely certain that whatever attributes more to the Pontiff than 
we have stated to have been given to him by ancient councils, is new 
and of recent fabrication. Nay, they have carried their effrontery 
so far as to publish a rescript under the name of Anastasius, the 
Patriarch of Constantinople, in which he testifies that it was 
appointed by ancient regulations, that nothing should be done in the 
remotest provinces without being previously referred to the Roman 
See. Besides its extreme folly, who can believe it credible that 
such an eulogium on the Roman See proceeded from an opponent and 
rival of its honour and dignity? But doubtless it was necessary that 
those Antichrists should proceed to such a degree of madness and 
blindness, that their iniquity might be manifest to all men of sound 
mind who will only open their eyes. The decretal epistles collected 
by Gregory IX, also the Clementines and Extravagants of Martin, 
breathe still more plainly, and in more bombastic terms bespeak this 
boundless ferocity and tyranny, as it were, of barbarian kings. But 
these are the oracles out of which the Romanists would have their 
Papacy to be judged. Hence have sprung those famous axioms which 
have the force of oracles throughout the Papacy in the present day, 
viz., that the Pope cannot err; that the Pope is superior to 
councils, that the Pope is the universal bishop of all churches, and 
the chief Head of the Church on earth. I say nothing of the still 
greater absurdities which are babbled by the foolish canonists in 
their schools, absurdities, however, which Roman theologians not 
only assent to, but even applaud in flattery of their idol. 
    21. I will not treat with them on the strictest terms. In 
opposition to their great insolence, some would quote the language 
which Cyprian used to the bishops in the council over which he 
presided: "None of us styles himself bishop of bishops, or forces 
his colleagues to the necessity of obeying by the tyranny of 
terror." Some might object what was long after decreed at Carthage, 
"Let no one be called the prince of priests or first bishop;" and 
might gather many proofs from history, and canons from councils, and 
many passages from ancient writers, which bring the Roman Pontiff 
into due order. But these I omit, that I may not seem to press too 
hard upon them. However, let these worthy defenders of the Roman See 
tell me with what face they can defend the title of universal 
bishop, while they see it so often anathematised by Gregory. If 
effect is to be given to his testimony, then they, by making their 
Pontiff universal, declare him to be Antichrist. The name of head 
was not more approved. For Gregory thus speaks: "Peter was the chief 
member in the body, John, Andrew, and James, the heads of particular 
communities. All, however, are under one head members of the Church: 
nay, the saints before the law, the saints under the law, the saints 
under grace, all perfecting the body of the Lord, are constituted 
members: none of them ever wished to be styled universal," (Gregor. 
Lib. 4 Ep. 83.) When the Pontiff arrogates to himself the power of 
ordering, he little accords with what Gregory elsewhere says. For 
Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, having said that he had received an 
order from him, he replies in this manner: "This word 'order' I beg 
you to take out of my hearing, for I know who I am, and who you are: 
in station you are my brethren, in character my fathers. I therefore 
did not order, but took care to suggest what seemed useful," 
(Gregor. Lib. 7 Ep. 30.) When the Pope extends his jurisdiction 
without limit, he does great and atrocious injustice not only to 
other bishops, but to each single church, tearing and dismembering 
them, that he may build his see upon their ruins. When he exempts 
himself from all tribunals, and wishes to reign in the manner of a 
tyrant, holding his own caprice to be his only law, the thing is too 
insulting, and too foreign to ecclesiastical rule, to be on any 
account submitted to. It is altogether abhorrent, not only from 
pious feeling, but also from common sense. 
    22. But that I may not be forced to discuss and follow out each 
point singly, I again appeal to those who, in the present day, would 
be thought the best and most faithful defenders of the Roman See, 
whether they are not ashamed to defend the existing state of the 
Papacy, which is clearly a hundred times more corrupt than in the 
days of Gregory and Bernard, though even then these holy men were so 
much displeased with it. Gregory every where complains (Lib. 1 Ep. 
5; item, Ep. 7, 25, &c.) that he was distracted above measure by 
foreign occupations: that under colour of the episcopates he was 
taken back to the world, being subject to more worldly cares than he 
remembered to have ever had when a laic; that he was so oppressed by 
the trouble of secular affairs, as to be unable to raise his mind to 
things above; that he was so tossed by the many billows of causes, 
and afflicted by the tempests of a tumultuous life, that he might 
well say, "I am come into the depths of the sea." It is certain, 
that amid these worldly occupations, he could teach the people in 
sermons, admonish in private, and correct those who required it; 
order the Church, give counsel to his colleagues, and exhort them to 
their duty. Moreover, some time was left for writing, and yet he 
deplores it as his calamity, that he was plunged into the very 
deepest sea. If the administration at that time was a sea, what 
shall we say of the present Papacy? For what resemblance is there 
between the periods? Now there are no sermons, no care for 
discipline, no zeal for churches, no spiritual function; nothing, in 
short, but the world. And yet this labyrinth is lauded as if nothing 
could be found better ordered and arranged. What complaints also 
does Bernard pour forth, what groans does he utter, when he beholds 
the vices of his own age? What then would he have done on beholding 
this iron, or, if possible, worse than iron, age of ours? How 
dishonest, therefore, not only obstinately to defend as sacred and 
divine what all the saints have always with one mouth disapproved, 
but to abuse their testimony in favour of the Papacy, which, it is 
evident, was altogether unknown to them? Although I admit, in 
respect to the time of Bernard, that all things were so corrupt as 
to make it not unlike our own. But it betrays a want of all sense of 
shame to seek any excuse from that middle period, namely, from that 
of Leo, Gregory, and the like, for it is just as if one were to 
vindicate the monarchy of the Caesar by lauding the ancient state of 
the Roman empire; in other words, were to borrow the praises of 
liberty in order to eulogise tyranny. 
    23. Lastly, Although all these things were granted, an entirely 
new question arises, when we deny that there is at Rome a Church in 
which privileges of this nature can reside; when we deny that there 
is a bishop to sustain the dignity of these privileges. Assume, 
therefore, that all these things are true, (though we have already 
extorted the contrary from them,) that Peter was by the words of 
Christ constituted head of the universal Church, and that the honour 
thus conferred upon him he deposited in the Roman See, that this was 
sanctioned by the authority of the ancient Church, and confirmed by 
long use; that supreme power was always with one consent devolved by 
all on the Roman Pontiff, that while he was the judge of all causes 
and all men, he was subject to the judgement of none. Let even more 
be conceded to them if they will, I answer, in one word, that none 
of these things avail if there be not a Church and a Bishop at Rome. 
They must of necessity concede to me that she is not a mother of 
Churches who is not herself a church, that he cannot be the chief of 
bishops who is not himself a bishop. Would they then have the 
Apostolic See at Rome? Let them give me a true and lawful 
apostleship. Would they have a supreme pontiff, let them give me a 
bishop. But how? Where will they show me any semblance of a church? 
They, no doubt, talk of one, and have it ever in their mouths. But 
surely the Church is recognised by certain marks, and bishopric is 
the name of an office. I am not now speaking of the people but of 
the government, which ought perpetually to be conspicuous in the 
Church. Where then is a ministry such as the institution of Christ 
requires? Let us remember what wars formerly said of the duty of 
presbyters and bishops. If we bring the office of cardinals to that 
test, we will acknowledge that they are nothing less than 
presbyters. But I should like to know what one quality of a bishop 
the Pope himself has? The first point in the office of a bishop is 
to instruct the people in the word of God; the second and next to it 
is to administer the sacraments; the third is to admonish and 
exhort, to correct those who are in faults and restrain the people 
by holy discipline. Which of these things does he do? Nay, which of 
these things does he pretend to do? Let them say, then, on what 
ground they will have him to be regarded as a bishop, who does not 
even in semblance touch any part of the duty with his little finger. 
    24. It is not with a bishop as with a king; the latter, though 
he does not execute the proper duty of a king, nevertheless retains 
the title and the honour; but in deciding on a bishop respect is had 
to the command of Christ, to which effect ought always to be given 
in the Church. Let the Romanists then untie this knot. I deny that 
their pontiff is the prince of bishops, seeing he is no bishop. This 
allegation of mine they must prove to be false if they would succeed 
in theirs. What then do I maintain? That he has nothing proper to a 
bishop, but is in all things the opposite of a bishop. But with what 
shall I here begin? With doctrine or with morals? What shall I say, 
or what shall I pass in silence, or where shall I end? This I 
maintain: while in the present day the world is so inundated with 
perverse and impious doctrines, so full of all kinds of 
superstition, so blinded by error and sunk in idolatry, there is not 
one of them which has not emanated from the Papacy or at least been 
confirmed by it. Nor is there any other reason why the pontiffs are 
so enraged against the reviving doctrine of the Gospel, why they 
stretch every nerve to oppress it, and urge all kings and princes to 
cruelty, than just that they see their whole dominion tottering and 
falling to pieces the moment the Gospel of Christ prevails. Leo was 
cruel and Clement sanguinary, Paul is truculent. But in assailing 
the truth, it is not so much natural temper that impels them as the 
conviction that they have no other method of maintaining their 
power. Therefore, seeing they cannot be safe unless they put Christ 
to flight, they labour in this cause as if they were fighting for 
their altars and hearths, for their own lives and those of their 
adherents. What then? Shall we recognise the Apostolic See where we 
see nothing but horrible apostasy? Shall he be the vicar of Christ 
who, by his furious efforts in persecuting the Gospel, plainly 
declares himself to be Antichrist? Shall he be the successor of 
Peter who goes about with fire and sword demolishing everything that 
Peter built? Shall he be the Head of the Church who, after 
dissevering the Church from Christ, her only true Head, tears and 
lacerates her members? Rome, indeed, was once the mother of all the 
churches, but since she began to be the seat of Antichrist she 
ceased to be what she was. 
    25. To some we seem slanderous and petulant, when we call the 
Roman Pontiff Antichrist. But those who think so perceive not that 
they are bringing a charge of intemperance against Paul, alter whom 
we speak, nay, in whose very words we speak. But lest any one object 
that Paul's words have a different meaning, and are wrested by us 
against the Roman Pontiff, I will briefly show that they can only be 
understood of the Papacy. Paul says that Antichrist would sit in the 
temple of God, (2 Thess. 2: 4.) In another passage, the Spirit, 
portraying him in the person of Antiochus, says that his reign would 
be with great swelling words of vanity, (Dan. 7: 25.) Hence we infer 
that his tyranny is more over souls than bodies, a tyranny set up in 
opposition to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Then his nature is 
such, that he abolishes not the name either of Christ or the Church, 
but rather uses the name of Christ as a pretext, and lurks under the 
name of Church as under a mask. But though all the heresies and 
schisms which have existed from the beginning belong to the kingdom 
of Antichrist, yet when Paul foretells that defection will come, he 
by the description intimates that that seat of abomination will be 
erected, when a kind of universal defection comes upon the Church, 
though many members of the Church scattered up and down should 
continue in the true unity of the faith. But when he adds, that in 
his own time, the mystery of iniquity, which was afterwards to be 
openly manifested, had begun to work in secret, we thereby 
understand that this calamity was neither to be introduced by one 
man, nor to terminate in one man, (see Calv. in 2 Thess. 2: 3; Dan. 
7: 9.) Moreover, when the mark by which he distinguishes Antichrist 
is, that he would rob God of his honour and take it to himself, he 
gives the leading feature which we ought to follow in searching out 
Antichrist; especially when pride of this description proceeds to 
the open devastation of the Church. Seeing then it is certain that 
the Roman Pontiff has impudently transferred to himself the most 
peculiar properties of God and Christ, there cannot be a doubt that 
he is the leader and standard-bearer of an impious and abominable 
    26. Let the Romanists now go and oppose us with antiquity; as 
if, amid such a complete change in every respect, the honour of the 
See can continue where there is no See. Eusebius says that God, to 
make way for his vengeance, transferred the Church which was at 
Jerusalem to Pella, (Euseb. Lib. 3 cap. 5.) What we are told was 
once done may have been done repeatedly. Hence it is too absurd and 
ridiculous so to fix the honour of the primacy to a particular spot, 
as that he who is in fact the most inveterate enemy of Christ, the 
chief adversary of the gospel, the greatest devastator and waster of 
the Church, the most cruel slayer and murderer of the saints, should 
be, nevertheless, regarded as the vicegerent of Christ, the 
successor of Peter, the first priest of the Church, merely because 
he occupies what was formerly the first of all sees. I do not say 
how great the difference is between the chancery of the Pope and 
well regulated order in the Church; although this one fact might 
well set the question at rest. For no man of sound mind will include 
the episcopate in lead and bulls, much less in that administration 
of captions and circumscriptions, in which the spiritual government 
of the Pope is supposed to consist. It has therefore been elegantly 
said, that that vaunted Roman Church was long ago converted into a 
temporal court, the only thing which is now seen at Rome. I am not 
here speaking of the vices of individuals, but demonstrating that 
the Papacy itself is diametrically opposed to the ecclesiastical 
    27. But if we come to individuals, it is well known what kind 
of vicars of Christ we shall find. No doubt, Julius and Leo, and 
Clement and Paul, will be pillars of the Christian faith, the first 
interpreters of religion, though they knew nothing more of Christ 
than they had learned in the school of Lucia. But why give the names 
of three or four pontiffs? as if there were any doubt as to the kind 
of religion professed by pontiffs, with their College of Cardinals, 
and professors, in the present day. The first head of the secret 
theology which is in vogue among them is, that there is no God. 
Another, that whatever things have been written and are taught 
concerning Christ are lies and imposture. A third, that the doctrine 
of a future life and final resurrection is a mere fable. All do not 
think, few speak thus; I confess it. Yet it is long since this began 
to be the ordinary religion of pontiffs; and though the thing is 
notorious to all who know Rome, Roman theologians cease not to boast 
that by special privilege our Saviour has provided that the Pope 
cannot err, because it was said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee 
that thy faith fail not," (Luke 22: 32.) What, pray, do they gain by 
their effrontery, but to let the whole world understand that they 
have reached the extreme of wickedness, so as neither to fear God 
nor regard man? 
    28. But let us suppose that the iniquity of these pontiffs whom 
I have mentioned is not known as they have not published it either 
in sermons or writings, but betrayed it only at table or in their 
chamber, or at least within the walls of their court. But if they 
would have the privilege which they claim to be confirmed, they must 
expunge from their list of pontiffs John XXII, who publicly 
maintained that the soul is mortal, and perishes with the body till 
the day of resurrection. And to show you that the whole See with its 
chief props then utterly fell, none of the Cardinals opposed his 
madness, only the Faculty of Paris urged the king to insist on a 
recantation. The king interdicted his subjects from communion with 
him, unless he would immediately recant, and published his interdict 
in the usual way by a herald. Thus necessitated, he abjured his 
error. This example relieves me from the necessity of disputing 
further with my opponents, when they say that the Roman See and its 
pontiffs cannot err in the faith, from its being said to Peter, "I 
have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Certainly by this 
shameful lapse he fell from the faith, and became a noted proof to 
posterity, that all are not Peters who succeed Peter in the 
episcopates; although the thing is too childish in itself to need an 
answer: for if they insist on applying every thing that was said to 
Peter to the successors of Peter, it will follow, that they are all 
Satans, because our Lord once said to Peter, "Get thee behind me, 
Satan, thou art an offence unto me." It is as easy for us to retort 
the latter saying as for them to adduce the former. 
    29. But I have no pleasure in this absurd mode of disputation, 
and therefore return to the point from which I digressed. To fix 
down Christ and the Holy Spirit and the Church to a particular spot, 
so that every one who presides in it, should he be a devil, must 
still be deemed vicegerent of Christ, and the head of the Church, 
because that spot was formerly the See of Peter, is not only impious 
and insulting to Christ, but absurd and contrary to common sense. 
For a long period, the Roman Pontiffs have either been altogether 
devoid of religion, or been its greatest enemies. The see which they 
occupy, therefore, no more makes them the vicars of Christ, than it 
makes an idol to become God, when it is placed in the temple of God, 
(2 Thess. 2: 4.) Then, if manners be inquired into, let the Popes 
answer for themselves, what there is in them that can make them be 
recognised for bishops. First, the mode of life at Rome, while they 
not only connive and are silent, but also tacitly approve, is 
altogether unworthy of bishop, whose duty it is to curb the license 
of the people by the strictness of discipline. But I will not be so 
rigid with them as to charge them with the faults of others. But 
when they with their household, with almost the whole College of 
Cardinals, and the whole body of their clergy, are so devoted to 
wickedness, obscenity, uncleanness, iniquity, and crime of every 
description, that they resemble monsters more than men, they herein 
betray that they are nothing less than bishops. They need not fear 
that I will make a farther disclosure of their turpitude. For it is 
painful to wade through such filthy mire, and I must spare modest 
ears. But I think I have amply demonstrated what I proposed viz., 
that though Rome was formerly the first of churches, she deserves 
not in the present day to be regarded as one of her minutest 
    30. In regard to those whom they call Cardinals, I know not how 
it happened that they rose so suddenly to such a height. In the age 
of Gregory, the name was applied to bishops only, (Gregor. Lib. 2 
Ep. 15, 77, 79; Ep. 6, 25.) For whenever he makes mention of 
cardinals, he assigns them not only to the Roman Church, but to 
every other church, so that, in short, a Cardinal priest is nothing 
else than a bishop. I do not find the name among the writers of a 
former age. I see, however, that they were inferior to bishops, whom 
they now far surpass. There is a well known passage in Augustine: 
"Although, in regard to terms of honour which custom has fixed in 
the Church, the office of bishop is greater than that of presbyter, 
yet in many things, Augustine is inferior to Jerome," (August. ad 
Heron. Ep. 19.) Here, certainly, he is not distinguishing a 
presbyter of the Roman Church from other presbyters, but placing all 
of them alike after bishops. And so strictly was this observed that 
at the Council of Carthage, when two legates of the Roman See were 
present, one a bishop, and the other a presbyter, the latter was put 
in the lowest place. But not to dwell too much on ancient times, we 
have account of a Council held at Rome, under Gregory, at which the 
presbyters sit in the lowest place, and subscribe by themselves, 
while deacons do not subscribe at all. And, indeed, they had no 
office at that time, unless to be present under the bishop, and 
assist him in the administration of word and sacraments. So much is 
their lot now changed, that they have become associates of kings and 
Cedars. And there can be no doubt that they have grown gradually 
with their head, until they reached their present pinnacle of 
dignity. This much it seemed proper to say in passing, that my 
readers may understand how very widely the Roman See, as it now 
exists, differs from the ancient See, under which it endeavours to 
cloak and defend itself. But whatever they were formerly, as they 
have no true and legitimate office in the Church, they only retain a 
colour and empty mask; nay, as they are in all respects the opposite 
of true ministers, the thing which Gregory so often writes must, of 
necessity, have befallen them. His words are, "Weeping, I say, 
groaning, I declare it; when the sacerdotal order has fallen within, 
it cannot long stand without," (Gregor. Lib. 4 Ep. 55, 56; Lib. 5 
Ep. 7.) Nay, rather what Malachi says of such persons must be 
fulfilled in them: "Ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused 
many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, 
saith the Lord of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible 
and base before all the people," (Mal. 2: 8, 9.) I now leave all the 
pious to judge what the supreme pinnacle of the Roman hierarchy must 
be, to which the Papists, with nefarious effrontery, hesitate not to 
subject the word of God itself, that word which should be venerable 
and holy in earth and heaven, to men and angels. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 9...)

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