Tract of Chair of Saint Peter

Matthew 16:18-19

Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.

Haydock

Verse 18. Kagw. And I say to thee, and tell thee why I before declared, (John i. 42.) that thou shouldst be called Peter, for thou art constituted the rock upon which, as a foundation, I will build my Church, and that so firmly, as not to suffer the gates (i.e. the powers) of hell to prevail against its foundation; because if they overturn its foundation, (i.e. thee and thy successors) they will overturn also the Church that rests upon it. Christ therefore here promises to Peter, that he and his successors should be to the end, as long as the Church should last, its supreme pastors and princes. T. — In the Syriac tongue, which is that which Jesus Christ spoke, there is no difference of genders, as there is in Latin, between petra, a rock, and Petrus, Peter; hence, in the original language, the allusion was both more natural and more simple. V. — Thou art Peter; and upon this (i.e. upon thee, according to the literal and general exposition of the ancient Fathers) I will build my church. It is true S. Augustine, in one or two places, thus expounds these words, and upon this rock, (i.e. upon myself:) or upon this rock, which Peter hath confessed: yet he owns that he had also given the other interpretation, by which Peter himself was the rock. Some Fathers have also expounded it, upon the faith, which Peter confessed; but then they take not faith, as separated from the person of Peter, but on Peter, as holding the true faith. No one questions but that Christ himself is the great foundation-stone, the chief corner-stone, as S. Paul tells the Ephesians; (C. ii, v. 20.) but it is also certain, that all the apostles may be called foundation-stones of the Church, as represented Apoc. xxi. 14. In the mean time, S. Peter (called therefore Cephas, a rock) was the first and chief foundation-stone among the apostles, on whom Christ promised to build his Church. Wi. — Thou art Peter, &c. As S. Peter, by divine revelation, here made a solemn profession of his faith of the divinity of Christ, so in recompense of this faith and profession, our Lord here declares to him the dignity to which he is pleased to raise him: viz. that he, to whom he had already given the name of Peter, signifying a rock, (John i. 42.) should be a rock indeed, of invincible strength, for the support of the building of the church; in which building he should be next to Christ himself, the chief foundation-stone, in quality of chief pastor, ruler, and governor; and should have accordingly all fulness of ecclesiastical power, signified by the keys of the kingdom of heaven. — Upon this rock, &c. The words of Christ to Peter, spoken in the vulgar language of the Jews, which our Lord made use of, were the same as if he had said in English, Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church. So that, by the plain course of the words, Peter is here declared to be the rock, upon which the church was to be built; Christ himself being both the principal foundation and founder of the same. Where also note, that Christ by building his house, that is, his Church, upon a rock, has thereby secured it against all storms and floods, like the wise builder. Matt. vii. 24, 25. — The gates of hell, &c. That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself or his agents. For as the Church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, i.e. the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or Church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the Church of Christ. Ch. — The gates, in the Oriental style, signify the powers; thus, to this day, we designate the Ottoman or Turkish empire by the Ottoman port. The princes were wont to hold their courts at the gates of the city. V.

Verse 19. And I will give to thee the keys, &c. This is another metaphor, expressing the supreme power and prerogative of the prince of the apostles. The keys of a city, or of its gates, are presented or given to the person that hath the chief power. We also own a power of the keys, given to the other apostles, but with a subordination to S. Peter and to his successor, as head of the Catholic Church. — And whatsoever thou shalt bind, &c. All the apostles, and their successors, partake also of this power of binding and loosing, but with a due subordination to one head invested with the supreme power. Wi. — Loose on earth. The loosing the bands of temporal punishments due to sins, is called an indulgence: the power of which is here granted. Ch. — Although Peter and his successors are mortal, they are nevertheless endowed with heavenly power, says S. Chry. nor is the sentence of life and death passed by Peter to be attempted to be reversed, but what he declares is to be considered a divine answer from heaven, and what he decrees, a decree of God himself. He that heareth you, heareth me, &c. The power of binding is exercised, 1st. by refusing to absolve; 2d. by enjoining penance for sins forgiven; 3d. by excommunication, suspension or interdict; 4th. by making rules and laws for the government of the Church; 5th. by determining what is of faith by the judgments and definitions of the Church. T. — The terms binding and loosing, are equivalent to opening and shutting, because formerly the Jews opened the fastenings of their doors by untying it, and they shut or secured their doors by tying or binding it. V. — Dr. Whitby, a learned Protestant divine, thus expounds this and the preceding verse: “As a suitable return to thy confession, I say also to thee, that thou art by name Peter, i.e. a rock; and upon thee, who art this rock, I will build my Church, and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of making laws to govern my Church.” Tom. i, p. 143. Dr. Hammond, another Protestant divine, explains it in the same manner. And p. 92, he says: " What is here meant by the keys, is best understand by Isaias xxii. 22, where they signify ruling the whole family or house of the king: and this being by Christ accommodated to the Church, denotes the power of governing it."

Denzinger

149: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistles of the Synod "Repletum est gaudio"
to Leo the Pope, at the beginning of November, 451

For if where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He says He is in the midst of them, how great an intimacy did He show with regard to the five hundred and twenty consecrated men, who preferred to both native land and to labor the knowledge of confession for Him. Over these you ruled as a head over the members, among those holding office, displaying your good will.

149 [The more ancient version.]: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistles of the Synod "Repletum est gaudio"
to Leo the Pope, at the beginning of November, 451

For if where two or three are gathered together in his name, there he says he is in the midst of them [cf. Matt. 18:20], how great an intimacy will He show in regard to the five hundred and twenty priests, who have preferred to both native land and to labor the knowledge of confession for Him. Over these you ruled as a head over the members, among those holding office, displaying your good will.

171: The Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff

ST. HORMISDAS 514-523
"Libellus professionis fidei" 
added to the epistle
"Inter ea quae" 
to the bishops of Spain, 
April 2, 517

[Our] first safety is to guard the rule of the right faith and to deviate in no wise from the ordinances of the Fathers; because we cannot pass over the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” . . . [Matt. 16:18]. These [words] which were spoken, are proved by the effects of the deeds, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved without stain. Desiring not to be separated from this hope and faith and following the ordinances of the Fathers, we anathematize all heresies, especially the heretic Nestorius, who at one time was bishop of the city of Constantinople, condemned in the Council of EPHESUS by the blessed CELESTINE, Pope of the City of Rome, and by the venerable man Cyril, high priest of the City of Alexandria. Similiarly anathematizing both Eutyches and Dioscorus of Alexandria condemned in the holy Synod of CHALCEDON [see n. 148] which we follow and embrace, which following the sacred Council of NICEA proclaimed the apostolic faith, we detest both Timothy the parricide, surnamed the Cat, and likewise his disciple and follower in all things, Peter of Alexandria. We condemn, too, and anathematize Acacius, formerly bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Apostolic See, their confederate and follower, or those who remained in the society of their communion, because Acacius justly merited a sentence in condemnation like theirs in whose communion he mingled. No less do we condemn Peter of Antioch with his followers, and the followers of all mentioned above.

230: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

PELAGIUS I 556-561
From epistle (26) "Adeone te"
to a certain bishop (John ?),
about the year 560]

Has the truth of your Catholic mother so failed you, who have been placed in the highest office of the priesthood, that you have not at once recognized yourself as a schismatic, when you withdrew from the apostolic sees? Being appointed to preach the Gospel to the people, had you not even read that the Church was founded by Christ our Lord upon the chief of the Apostles, so thatthe gates of hell might not be able to prevail against it [cf. Matt. 16:18]? If you had read this, where did you believe the Church to be outside of him in whom alone are clearly all the apostolic sees? To whom in like measure as to him, who had receivedthe keys, has the power of binding and of loosingbeen granted [cf. Matt. 16:19]? But for this reason he gave first to him alone, what he was about to give also to (in) all, so that, according to the opinion of blessed Cyprian the martyr who explains this very thing, the Church might be shown to be one. Why, therefore, did you, already dearest in Christ, wander away from your portion, or what hope did you have for your salvation?

247: The Necessity of Union with the Church

PELAGIUS II 579-590
From epistle (2) "Dilectionis vestrae"
to the schismatic bishops of Istria,
about 585]

…Do not (therefore) because of a love of ostentation, which is always next to pride, remain in the vice of obstinacy; since in the day of judgment no one can excuse himself.…

For although it is evident from the word of the Lord Himself in the Sacred Gospel [cf. Matt. 16:18 ] where the Church is established, let us hear nevertheless what the blessed Augustine, mindful of the opinion of the same Lord, has explained. For he says that the Church of God is established among those who are known to preside over the apostolic sees) through the succession of those in charge, and whoever separates himself from the communion or authority of these sees, is shown to be in schism. And following additional remarks (he says): “If you are put outside, for the name of Christ you will also die. Suffer for Christ among the members of Christ; clinging to the body, fight for the head.” But the blessed Cyprian… among other things, says the following: “The beginning starts from unity, and the primacy is given to PETER, So that the Church and the chair of Christ may be shown (to be) one: and they are all shepherds, but the flock, which is fed by the Apostles in unanimous agreement, is shown to be one.” * And after a few (remarks he adds): “Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church believe that he has the faith? Does he who deserts and resists the chair of PETER, on which the Church was founded, have confidence that he is in the Church?” Likewise after other remarks (he asserts): “They can. not arrive at the reward of peace, because they disrupt the peace of the Lord by the fury of discord.… Those who were not willing to be at agreement in the Church of God, cannot remain with God; although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be [for them] that crown of faith, but the punishment of faithlessness, not a glorious result (of religious virtue), but the ruin of despair. Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned.… For the crime of schism is worse than that which they [commit] who have offered sacrifice, who, nevertheless, having been disposed to penance for their sins prayed to God with the fullest satisfaction. In this case the Church is sought and solicited; in the other the Church is opposed. So in this case he who has fallen, has injured only himself; in the other, who attempts to cause a schism deceives many by dragging (them) with himself. In this case there is the loss of one soul; in the other there is danger to many. Certainly the one knows that he has sinned and laments and bewails (it); the other puffed up with pride in his sin and pluming himself on the sins themselves, separates sons from their mother, seduces the sheep from the shepherds, disturbs the sacraments of God, and, whereas the former having stumbled sinned once, the latter sins daily. Lastly although the lapsed, if afterwards he acquired martyrdom, is able to secure the promises of the kingdom; if the other is slain outside of the Church, he cannot attain to the rewards of the Church.”

298: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

HADRIAN I 772-795
From the epistle "Pastoralibus Curis"
to the Patriarch Tarasius
in the year 785

…Let that false assembly, which without the Apostolic See… was held contrary to the traditions of the venerable fathers against the divine images, be declared anathema in the presence of our delegates, and let the word of our Lord Jesus Christ be fulfilled, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Matt. 16:18); and again: “Thou art Peter…” (Matt. 16:18-19), whose throne holding the first place in all the world shines forth and holds its place as the head of the whole Church of God.

351: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistle "In terra pax hominibus"
to Michael Cerularius and to Leo of Achrida,
September 2, 1053

…The holy Church built upon a rock, that is Christ, and upon Peter or Cephas, the son of John who first was called Simon, because by the gates of Hell, that is, by the disputations of heretics which lead the vain to destruction, it would never be overcome; thus Truth itself promises, through whom are true, whatsoever things are true: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Matt. 16:18]. The same Son declares that He obtained the effect of this promise from the Father by prayers, by saying to Peter: “Simon, behold Satan etc.” [Luke 23:31]. Therefore, will there be anyone so foolish as to dare to regard His prayer as in anyway vain whose being willing is being able? By the See of the chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail, been strengthened?

782: The Creed of the Catholic Faith is Accepted *

PAUL III 1534-1549
COUNCIL OF TRENT 1545-1563
Ecumenical XIX (Contra Novatores 16 cent.)
SESSION III (Feb.4, 1546)

This sacred and holy ecumenical and general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit, with the three legates of the Apostolic See presiding over it, in consideration of the magnitude of the matters to be transacted, especially those which are comprised under these two heads, the extirpation of heresies and the reform of morals, because of which chiefly the Synod was convoked…, has proposed that the creed of faith, which the Holy Roman Church utilizes, inasmuch as it is that principle, wherein all who profess the faith of Christ necessarily agree, and is the firm and sole foundation, against which the “gates of Hell shall never prevail” [Matt. 16:18], be expressed in the very same words in which it is read in all the churches. This creed is as follows…

1821: The institution and foundation of the Church

THE VATICAN COUNCIL 1869-1870
Ecumenical XX (on Faith and the Church)
SESSION IV (July 18, 1870)
Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ

“The eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls” [1 Pet. 2:25], in order to render the saving work of redemption perennial, willed to build a holy Church, in which, as in the house of the living God, all the faithful might be contained by the bond of one faith and charity. Therefore, before His glory was made manifest, “He asked the Father, not only for the Apostles but also for those who would believe through their word in Him, that all might be one, just as the Son Himself and the Father are one” [John 17:20 f.]. Thus, then, as He sent the apostles, whom He had selected from the world for Himself, as He himself had been sent by the Father [John 20:21], so in His Church He wished the pastors and the doctors to be “even to the consummation of the world” [Matt. 28:20]. But, that the episcopacy itself might be one and undivided, and that the entire multitude of the faithful through priests closely connected with one another might be preserved in the unity of faith and communion, placing the blessed Peter over the other apostles He established in him the perpetual principle and visible foundation of both unities, upon whose strength the eternal temple might be erected, and the sublimity of the Church to be raised to heaven might rise in the firmness of this faith. And, since the gates of hell, to overthrow the Church, if this were possible, arise from all sides with ever greater hatred against its divinely established foundation, We judge it to be necessary for the protection, safety, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approbation of the Council, to set forth the doctrine on the institution, perpetuity, and nature of the Sacred Apostolic Primacy, in which the strength and solidarity of the whole Church consist, to be believed and held by all the faithful, according to the ancient and continual faith of the universal Church, and to proscribe and condemn the contrary errors, so pernicious to the Lord’s flock.

1833: The Infallible “Magisterium” of the Roman Pontiff

For the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, adhering to the ways of the former ones, published this solemn profession: “Our first salvation is to guard the rule of right faith […]. And since the sentiment of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be passed over when He says: ‘Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church’ [Matt. 16:18], these words which were spoken are proven true by actual results, since in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved untainted, and holy doctrine celebrated. Desiring, then, least of all to be separated from the faith and teaching of this [Apostolic See], We hope that We may deserve to be in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the solidarity of the Christian religion is whole and true”

1955: The Unity of the Church

LEO XIII 1878-1903
From the Encyclical, 
"Satis cognitum," 
June A, 1896

Now, if we look at what was done, Jesus Christ did not arrange and organize such a Church as would embrace several communities similar in kind, but distinct, and not bound together by those bonds that make the Church indivisible and unique after that manner clearly in which we profess in the symbol of faith, “I believe in one Church."… Now, Jesus Christ when He was speaking of such a mystical edifice, spoke only of one Church which He called His own: “I will build my Church” [Matt. 16:18]. Whatever other church is under consideration than this one, since it was not founded by Jesus Christ, cannot be the true Church of Christ.… And so the Church is bound to spread among all men the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ, and all the blessings that proceed therefrom, and to propagate them through the ages. Therefore, according to the will of its Author the Church must be alone in all lands in the perpetuity of time.… The Church of Christ, therefore, is one and perpetual; whoever go apart (from it) wander away from the will and prescription of Christ the Lord and, leaving the way of salvation, digress to destruction.

163: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff and the Patriarchal Sees

ST. GELASIUS I 492-496
From the epistle 42, or decretal 
"de recipiendis et non
recipiendis libris," 
in the year 495

After (all these) prophetic and evangelical and apostolic writings (which we have set forth above), on which the Catholic Church by the grace of God is founded, we have thought this (fact) also ought to be published, namely that, although the universal Catholic Church spread throughout the world has the one marriage of Christ, nevertheless the holy Roman Church has not been preferred to the other churches by reason of synodical decrees, but she has held the primacy by the evangelical voice of the Lord and Savior saying:Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven, and wh atsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven [Matt. 16:18 f.]. There is added also the association of the most blessed Paul the Apostle, the vessel of election, who not at a different time, as the heretics say, but at the one time, on one and the same day, while contending for the prize together with Peter was crowned with a glorious death under Caesar Nero in the City of Rome; and equally have they consecrated the above-mentioned Church of Rome to Christ the Lord and have raised it above all other cities in the whole world by their presence and their venerable triumph.

Accordingly the see of PETER the Apostle of the Church of Rome is first, having neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor anything of this kind [Eph. 5:27]. But the second see at Alexandria was consecrated in the name of blessed PETER by Mark his disciple and evangelist… but the third in honor is considered the see of the most blessed Apostle PETER at Antioch.…

298: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

HADRIAN I 772-795
From the epistle "Pastoralibus Curis"
to the Patriarch Tarasius
in the year 785

…Let that false assembly, which without the Apostolic See… was held contrary to the traditions of the venerable fathers against the divine images, be declared anathema in the presence of our delegates, and let the word of our Lord Jesus Christ be fulfilled, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Matt. 16:18); and again: “Thou art Peter…” (Matt. 16:18-19), whose throne holding the first place in all the world shines forth and holds its place as the head of the whole Church of God.

5000: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff *

ST. BONIFACE I, 418-422
From the Letter, "Manes beatum,"
to Rufus and the other Bishops
throughout Macedonia, etc.,
March 11, 422

The watchful care over the universal Church confided to Peter abides with him by reason of the Lord’s statement; for he knows on the testimony of the Gospel [Matt. 16:18] that the Church was founded on him. His office can never be free from cares, since it is certain that all things depend on his deliberation. These considerations turn my mind to the regions of the Orient, which we behold in a way with genuine solicitude. Far be it from the priests of the Lord, that anyone of them fall into the offense of making the decrees of our elders foreign to him, by attempting something in the way of a novel and unlawful usurpation, realizing that he thus makes him a rival, in whom our Christ has placed the highest power of the priesthood, and whoever rises to reproach him cannot be an inhabitant of the heavenly regions. “To you,” He said, “I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven” [Matt. 16:19] into which no one shall enter without the favor of the door—keeper. He said: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church” [Matt. 11:29]. Whoever, therefore, desires before God to be judged worthy of the dignity of the priesthood, since one reaches God with the support of Peter, on whom, as we have said above, it is certain that the Church was founded, should be “meek and humble of heart” [Matt. 11:29]. lest as a contumacious disciple of him, whose pride he has imitated, he undergo the punishment of the teachers…

469: The Unity and Power of the Church

BONIFACE VIII 1294-1303
From the Bull "Unam Sanctam"
November 18, 1302

And we are taught by evangelical words that in this power of his are two swords, namely spiritual and temporal.… Therefore, each is in the power of the Church, that is, a spiritual and a material sword. But the latter, indeed, must be exercised for the Church, the former by the Church. The former (by the hand) of the priest, the latter by the hand of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest. For it is necessary that a sword be under a sword and that temporal authority be subject to spiritual power.… It is necessary that we confess the more clearly that spiritual power precedes any earthly power both in dignity and nobility, as spiritual matters themselves excel the temporal.… For, as truth testifies, spiritual power has to establish earthly power, and to judge if it was not good.… Therefore, if earthly power deviates, it will be judged by spiritual power; but if a lesser spiritual deviates, by its superior; but if the supreme (spiritual power deviates), it can be judged by God alone, not by man, as the Apostle testifies: “The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is judged by no one” [1 Cor. 2:15]. But this authority, although it is given to man and is exercised by man, is not human, but rather divine, and has been given by the divine Word to Peter himself and to his successors in him, whom the Lord acknowledged an established rock, when he said to Peter himself: “Whatsoever you shall bind” etc. [Matt. 16:19]. Therefore, “whosoever resists this power so ordained by God, resists the order of God” [cf. Rom. 13:2], unless as a Manichaean he imagines that there are two beginnings, which we judge false and heretical, because, as Moses testifies, not “in the beginnings” but “in the beginning God created the heaven and earth” [cf. Gen. 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.

717: Appeal to the General Council

PIUS II 1458-1464
From the Bull "Exsecrabilis,"
Jan. 18; in the ancient Roman opinion 1459;
that of today 1460

The execrable and hitherto unheard of abuse has grown up in our day, that certain persons, imbued with the spirit of rebellion, and not from a desire to secure a better judgment, but to escape the punishment of some offense which they have committed, presume to appeal to a future council from the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Jesus Christ, to whom in the person of the blessed PETER was said: “Feed my sheep” [John 21:17], and, “Whatever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven” [Matt. 16:19].… Wishing therefore to expel this pestiferous poison far from the Church of Christ and to care for the salvation of the flock entrusted to us, and to remove every cause of offense from the fold of our Savior… we condemn all such appeals and disprove them as erroneous and detestable.

751: Errors of Martin Luther

LEO X 1513-1521
Condemned in the Bull "Exsurge Domine,"
June 15, 1520

Editor’s note: The following statement has been condemned by the Church.

11. By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: “Whatsoever you shall loose, etc.” [Matt. 16:19]. Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.

766: Errors of Martin Luther

LEO X 1513-1521
Condemned in the Bull "Exsurge Domine,"
June 15, 1520

Editor’s note: The following statement has been condemned by the Church.

26. The word of Christ to PETER: “Whatsoever you shall loose on earth, etc.” (Matt. 16) is extended merely to those things bound by Peter himself.

899: Confession

JULIUS III 1550-1555
COUNCIL OF TRENT,
SESSION XIII (Oct. 11, 1551)

From the institution of the sacrament of penance as already explained the universal Church has always understood that the complete confession of sins was also instituted by our Lord, [Jas. 5:16; John 1:9; (Luke 17:14)], and by divine law is necessary for all who have fallen after baptism [can. 7], because our Lord Jesus Christ, when about to ascend from earth to heaven, left behind Him priests as His own vicars [ Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23], as rulers and judges, to whom all the mortal sins into which the faithful of Christ may have fallen should be brought, so that they in virtue of the power of the keys may pronounce the sentence of remission or retention of sins. For it is evident that priests could not have exercised this judgment without a knowledge of the matter, nor could they indeed have observed justice in imposing penalties, if the faithful had declared their sins in general only, and not specifically and one by one. From this it is gathered that all mortal sins of which they have knowledge after a careful self-examination must be enumerated in confession by the penitents, even though they are most secret and have been committed only against the two last precepts of the decalogue [Exod. 20:17; Matt. 5:28], sins which sometimes wound the soul more grievously, and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly. For venial sins, by which we are not excluded from the grace of God and into which we fall more frequently, although they may rightly and profitably and without any presumption be declared in confession [can. 7], as the practice of pious persons indicates, may be passed over in silence without guilt and may be expiated by many other remedies But since all mortal sins, even those of thought, make men children of wrath [ Eph. 2:3] and enemies of God, it is necessary to ask pardon for all of them from God by an open and humble confession. While, therefore, the faithful of Christ strive to confess all sins which occur to their memory, they undoubtedly lay all of them before the divine mercy to be forgiven [can. 7]. While those who do otherwise and knowingly conceal certain sins, lay nothing before the divine bounty for forgiveness by the priest. “For if one who is ill is ashamed to make known his wound to the physician, the physician does not remedy what he does not know.” Furthermore, it is gathered that those circumstances also must be explained in confession, which alter the species of the sin, [can. 7], because without them the sins themselves are neither honestly revealed by the penitents, nor are they known to the judges, and it would not be possible for them to judge rightly the gravity of the crimes and to impose the punishment which is proper to those penitents. Hence it is unreasonable to teach that these circumstances have been conjured up by idle men, or that one circumstance only must be confessed, namely up by idle men, or that one circumstance only must be confessed, namely to have sinned against a brother.

905: The Necessity and Fruit of Satisfaction

JULIUS III 1550-1555
COUNCIL OF TRENT,
SESSION XIII (Oct. 11, 1551)

The priests of the Lord ought, therefore, so far as the spirit and pru- dence suggest, to enjoin salutary and suitable satisfactions, in keeping with the nature of the crimes and the ability of the penitents, lest, if they should connive at sins and deal too leniently with penitents, by the imposition of certain very light works for grave offenses, they might become participators in the crimes of others [cf. 1 Tim. 5:22]. Moreover, let them keep before their eyes that the satisfaction which they impose be not only for the safeguarding of a new life and a remedy against infirmity, but also for the atonement and chastisement of past sins; for the ancient Fathers both believe and teach that the keys of the priests were bestowed not only to loose, but also to bind [cf. Matt. 16:19; John 20:23; can. 15]. Nor did they therefore think that the sacrament of penance is a tribunal of wrath or of punishments; as no Catholic ever understood that from our satisfactions of this kind the nature of the merit and satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ is either obscured or in any way diminished; when the Innovators wish to observe this, they teach that the best penance is a new life, in order to take away all force and practice of satisfaction [can. 13].

925: Canons On the Sacrament of Penance

JULIUS III 1550-1555
COUNCIL OF TRENT,
SESSION XIII (Oct. 11, 1551)

Can. 15. If anyone says that the keys have been given to the Church only to loose, and not also to bind, and that therefore priests, by imposing penalties on those who confess, act contrary to the institution of Christ; and that it is fiction that, after eternal punishment has been remitted by virtue of the keys, there usually remains a temporal punishment to be discharged: let him be anathema [cf. n. 904].

989: Decree Concerning Indulgences

PIUS IV 1559-1565
COUNCIL OF TRENT
SESSION XXV
(Dec. 3 and 4, 1563)

Since the power of granting indulgences was conferred by Christ on the Church, and she has made use of such power divinely given to her, [cf.Matt. 16:19; 18:18] even in the earliest times, the holy Synod teaches and commands that the use of indulgences, most salutary to a Christian people and approved by the authority of the sacred Councils, is to be retained in the Church, and it condemns those with anathema who assert that they are useless or deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them.…

Catena Aurea

13. When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14. And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16. And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

GLOSS. (non occ.) As soon as the Lord had taken His disciples out of the teaching of the Pharisees, He then suitably proceeds to lay deep the foundations of the Gospel doctrine; and to give this the greater solemnity, it is introduced by the name of the place, When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. liv.) He adds ‘of Philip,’ to distinguish it from the other Cæsarea, of Strato. And He asks this question in the former place, leading His disciples far out of the way of the Jews, that being set free from all fear, they might say freely what was in their mind.

JEROME. This Philip was the brother of Herod, the tetrarch of Ituræa, and the region of Trachonitis, who gave to the city, which is now called Panæas, the name of Cæsarea in honour of Tiberius Cæsar.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) When about to confirm the disciples in the faith, He would first take away from their minds the errors and opinions of others, whence it follows, And he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?

ORIGEN. Christ puts this question to His disciples, that from their answer we may learn that there were at that time among the Jews various opinions concerning Christ; and to the end that we should always investigate what opinion men may form of us; that if any ill be said of us, we may cut off the occasions of it; or if any good, we may multiply the occasions of it.

GLOSS. (non occ.) So by this instance of the Apostles, the followers of the Bishops are instructed, that whatever opinions they may hear out of doors concerning their Bishops, they should tell them to them.

JEROME. Beautifully is the question put, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? For they who speak of the Son of Man, are men: but they who understood His divine nature are called not men but Gods.

CHRYSOSTOM. He says not, Whom do the Scribes and Pharisees say that I am? but, Whom do men say that I am? searching into the minds of the common people, which were not perverted to evil. For though their opinion concerning Christ was much below what it ought to have been, yet it was free from wilful wickedness; but the opinion of the Pharisees concerning Christ was full of much malice.

HILARY. By asking, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? He implied that something ought to be thought respecting Him beyond what appeared, for He was the Son of Man. And in thus enquiring after men’s opinion respecting Himself, we are not to think that He made confession of Himself; for that which He asked for was something concealed, to which the faith of believers ought to extend itself. We must hold that form of confession, that we so mention the Son of God as not to forget the Son of Man, for the one without the other offers us no hope of salvation; and therefore He said emphatically, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?

JEROME. He says not, Whom, do men say that I am? but, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? that He should not seem to ask ostentatiously concerning Himself. Observe, that wherever the Old Testament has ‘Son of Man,’ the phrase in the Hebrew is ‘Son of Adam,’

ORIGEN. Then the disciples recount the divers opinions of the Jews relating to Christ; And they said, Some say John the Baptist, following Herod’s opinion; others Elias, (vid. Matt. 14:2.) supposing either that Elias had gone through a second birth, or that having continued alive in the body, He had at this time appeared; others Jeremias, whom the Lord had ordained to be Prophet among the Gentiles, not understanding that Jeremias was a type of Christ; or one of the Prophets, in a like way, because of those things which God spoke to them through the Prophets, yet they were not fulfilled in them, but in Christ.

JEROME. It was as easy for the multitudes to be wrong in supposing Him to be Elias and Jeremias, as Herod in supposing Him to be John the Baptist; whence I wonder that some interpreters should have sought for the causes of these several errors.

CHRYSOSTOM. The disciples having recounted the opinion of the common people, He then by a second question invites them to higher thoughts concerning Him, and therefore it follows, Jesus saith unto them, Whom say ye that I am? You who are with Me always, and have seen greater miracles than the multitudes, ought not to agree in the opinion of the multitudes. For this reason He did not put this question to them at the commencement of His preaching, but after He had done many signs; then also He spoke many things to them concerning His Deity.

JEROME. Observe how by this connexion of the discourse the Apostles are not styled men but Gods. For when He had said, Whom say ye that the Son of Man is? Ho adds, Whom say ye that I am? as much as to say, They being men think of Me as man, ye who are Gods, whom do you think Me?

RABANUS. He enquires the opinions of His disciples and of those without, not because He was ignorant of them; His disciples He asks, that He may reward with due reward their confession of a right faith, and the opinions of those without He enquires, that having the wrong opinions first set forth, it might be proved that the disciples had received the truth of their confession not from common opinion, but out of the hidden treasure of the Lord’s revelation.

CHRYSOSTOM. When the Lord enquires concerning the opinion of the multitudes, all the disciples answer; but when all the disciples are asked, Peter as the mouth and head1 of the Apostles answers for all, as it follows, Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

ORIGEN. Peter denied that Jesus was any of those things which the Jews supposed, by his confession, Thou art the Christ, which the Jews were ignorant of; but he added what was more, the Son of the living God, (Ezek. 33:11.) who had said by his Prophets, I live, saith the Lord. And therefore was He called the living Lord, but in a more especial manner as being eminent above all that had life; for He alone has immortality, and is the fount of life, wherefore He is rightly called God the Father; for He is life as it were flowing out of a fountain, who said, I am the life. (John 14:6.)

JEROME. He calls Him the living God, in comparison of those gods who are esteemed gods, but are dead; such, I mean, as Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Hercules, and the other monsters of idols.

HILARY. This is the true and unalterable faith, that from God came forth God the Son, who has eternity out of the eternity of the Father. That this God took unto Him a body and was made man is a perfect confession. Thus He embraced all in that He here expresses both His nature and His name, in which is the sum of virtues.

RABANUS. And by a remarkable distinction it was that the Lord Himself puts forward the lowliness of the humanity which He had taken upon Him, while His disciple shews us the excellence of His divine eternity.

HILARY. This confession of Peter met a worthy reward, for that he had seen the Son of God in the man. Whence it follows, Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas, for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

JEROME. This return Christ makes to the Apostle for the testimony which Peter had spoken concerning Him, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. The Lord said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonas? Why? Because flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but My Father. That which flesh and blood could not reveal, was revealed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. By his confession then he obtains a title, which should signify that he had received a revelation from the Holy Spirit, whose son he shall also be called; for Barjonas in our tongue signifies The son of a dove. Others take it in the simple sense, that Peter is the son of Johnq, according to that question in another place, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? (John 21:15.) affirming that it is an error of the copyists in writing here Barjonas for Barjoannas, dropping one syllable. Now Joanna is interpreted ‘The grace of God.’ But either name has its mystical interpretation; the dove signifies the Holy Spirit; and the grace of God signifies the spiritual gift.

CHRYSOSTOM. It would be without meaning to say, Thou art the son of Jonas, unless he intended to shew that Christ is as naturally the Son of God, as Peter is the son of Jonas, that is, of the same substance as him that begot him.

JEROME. Compare what is here said, flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, with the Apostolic declaration, Immediately I was not content with flesh and blood, (Gal. 1:16.) meaning there by this expression the Jews; so that here also the same thing is shewn in different words, that not by the teaching of the Pharisees, but by the grace of God, Christ was revealed to him the Son of God.

HILARY. Otherwise; He is blessed, because to have looked and to have seen beyond human sight is matter of praise, not beholding that which is of flesh and blood, but seeing the Son of God by the revelation of the heavenly Father; and he was held worthy to be the first to acknowledge the divinity which was in Christ.

ORIGEN. It must be enquired in this place whether, when they were first sent out, the disciples knew that He was the Christ. For this speech shews that Peter then first confessed Him to be the Son of the living God. And look whether you can solve a question of this sort, by saying that to believe Jesus to be the Christ is less than to know Him; and so suppose that when they were sent to preach they believed that Jesus was the Christ, and afterwards as they made progress they knew Him to be so. Or must we answer thus; That then the Apostles had the beginnings of a knowledge of Christ, and knew some little concerning Him; and that they made progress afterwards in the knowledge of Him, so that they were able to receive the knowledge of Christ revealed by the Father, as Peter, who is here blessed, not only for that he says, Thou art the Christ, but much more for that he adds, the Son of the living God.

CHRYSOSTOM. And truly if Peter had not confessed that Christ was in a peculiar sense born of the Father, there had been no need of revelation; nor would he have been worthy of this blessing for confessing Christ to be one of many adopted sons; for before this they who were with Him in the ship had said, Truly thou art the Son of God. (John 1:49.) Nathanael also said, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God. Yet were not these blessed because they did not confess such sonship as does Peter here, but thought Him one among many, not in the true sense a son; or, if chief above all, yet not the substance of the Father. But see how the Father reveals the Son, and the Son the Father; from none other comes it to confess the Son than of the Father, and from none other to confess the Father than of the Son; so that from this place even it is manifest that the Son is of the same substance, and to be worshipped together with the Father. Christ then proceeds to shew that many would hereafter believe what Peter had now confessed, whence He adds, And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter,

JEROME. As much as to say, You have said to me, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, therefore I say unto thee, not in a mere speech, and that goes not on into operation; but I say unto thee, and for Me to speak is to make it sor, that thou art Peter. For as from Christ proceeded that light to the Apostles, whereby they were called the light of the world, and those other names which were imposed upon them by the Lord, so upon Simon who believed in Christ the Rock, He bestowed the name of Peter (Rock.)

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. ii. 53.) But let none suppose that Peter received that name here; he received it at no other time than where John relates that it was said unto him, Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted, Peter. (John 1:42.)

JEROME. And pursuing the metaphor of the rock, it is rightly said to him as follows: And upon this rock I will build my Church.

CHRYSOSTOM. That is, On this faith and confession I will build my Church. Herein shewing that many should believe what Peter had confessed, and raising his understanding, and making him His shepherd.

AUGUSTINE. (Retract. i. 21.) I have said in a certain place of the Apostle Peter, that it was on him, as on a rock, that the Church was built. But I know that since that I have often explained these words of the Lord, Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church, as meaning upon Him whom Peter had confessed in the words, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God; and so that Peter, taking his name from this rock, would represent the Church, which is built upon this rock. For it is not said to him, Thou art the rock, but, Thou art Peter. (1 Cor. 10:4.) But the rock was Christ, whom because Simon thus confessed, as the whole Church confesses Him, he was named Peter. Let the reader choose whether of these two opinions seems to him the more probable.

HILARY. But in this bestowing of a new name is a happy foundation of the Church, and a rock worthy of that building, which should break up the laws of hell, burst the gates of Tartarus, and all the shackles of death. And to shew the firmness of this Church thus built upon a rock, He adds, And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

GLOSS. (interlin.) That is, shall not separate it from the love and faith of Me.

JEROME. I suppose the gates of hell to mean vice and sin, or at least the doctrines of heretics by which men are ensnared and drawn into hell.

ORIGEN. But in heavenly things every spiritual sin is a gate of hell, to which are opposed the gates of righteousness.

RABANUS. The gates of hell are the torments and promises of the persecutors. Also, the evil works of the unbelievers, and vain conversation, are gates of hell, because they shew the path of destruction.

ORIGEN. He does not express what it is which they shall not prevail against, whether the rock on which He builds the Church, or the Church which He builds on the rock; but it is clear that neither against the rock nor against the Church will the gates of hell prevail.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA.s; According to this promise of the Lord, the Apostolic Church of Peter remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud, above all Heads and Bishops, and Primates of Churches and people, with its own Pontiffs, with most abundant faith, and the authority of Peter. And while other Churches have to blush for the error of some of their members, this reigns alone immoveably established, enforcing silence, and stopping the mouths of all heretics; and wet, not drunken with the wine of pride, confess together with it the type of truth, and of the holy apostolic tradition.

JEROME. Let none think that this is said of death, implying that the Apostles should not be subject to the condition of death, when we see their martyrdoms so illustrious.

ORIGEN. Wherefore if we, by the revelation of our Father who is in heaven, shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, having also our conversation in heaven, to us also shall be said, Thou art Peter; for every one is a Rock who is an imitator of Christ. But against whomsoever the gates of hell prevail, he is neither to be called a rock upon which Christ builds His Church; neither a Church, or part of the Church, which Christ builds upon a rock.

CHRYSOSTOM. Then He speaks of another honour of Peter, when He adds, And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; as much as to say, As the Father hath given thee to know Me, I also will give something unto thee, namely, the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

RABANUS. For as with a zeal beyond the others he had confessed the King of heaven, he is deservedly entrusted more than the others with the keys of the heavenly kingdom, that it might be clear to all, that without that confession and faith none ought to enter the kingdom of heaven. By the keys of the kingdom He means discernment1 and power; power, by which he binds and looses, discernment, by which he separates the worthy from the unworthy.

GLOSS. (interlin.) It follows, And whatsoever thou shalt bind; that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge unworthy of forgiveness while he lives, shall be judged unworthy with God; and whatsoever thou shalt loose, that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge worthy to be forgiven while he lives, shall obtain forgiveness of his sins from God.

ORIGEN. See how great power has that rock upon which the Church is built, that its sentences are to continue firm as though God gave sentence by it.

CHRYSOSTOM. See how Christ leads Peter to a high understanding concerning himself. These things that He here promises to give him, belong to God alone, namely to forgive sins, and to make the Church immoveable amidst the storms of so many persecutions and trials.

RABANUS. But this power of binding and loosing, though it seems given by the Lord to Peter alone, is indeed given also to the other Apostles, and is even now in the^ Bishops and Presbyters in every Church. (vid. Matt. 18:18.) But Peter received in a special manner the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and a supremacy of judicial power, that all the faithful throughout the world might understand that all who in any manner separate themselves from the unity of the faith, or from communion with him, such should neither be able to be loosed from the bonds of sin, nor to enter the gate of the heavenly kingdom.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) This power was committed specially to Peter, that we might thereby be invited to unity. For He therefore appointed him the head of the Apostles, that the Church might have one principal Vicar of Christ, to whom the different members of the Church should have recourse, if ever they should have dissensions among them. But if there were many heads in the Church, the bond of unity would be broken. Some say that the words upon earth denote that power was not given to men to bind and loose the dead, but the living; for he who should loose the dead would do this not upon earth, but after the earth.

SECOND COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE. (Concil. Con. ii. Collat. 8.) How is it that some do presume to say that these things are said only of the living? Know they not that the sentence of anathema is nothing else but separation? They are to be avoided who are held of grievous faults, whether they are among the living, or not. For it is always behoveful to fly from the wicked. Moreover there are divers letters read of Augustine of religious memory, who was of great renown among the African bishops, which affirmed that heretics ought to be anathematized even after death. (vid. Aug. Ep. 185. 4.) Such an ecclesiastical tradition other African Bishops also have preserved. And the Holy Roman Church also has anathematized some Bishops after death, although no accusation had been brought against their faith in their lifetimeu.

JEROME. Bishops and Presbyters; not understanding this passage, assume to themselves something of the lofty pretensions of the Pharisees, and suppose that they may either condemn the innocent, or absolve the guilty; whereas what will be enquired into before the Lord will be not the sentence of the Priests, but the life of him that is being judged. We read in Leviticus of the lepers, how they are commanded to shew themselves to the Priests, and if they have the leprosy, then they are made unclean by the Priest; not that the Priest makes them leprous and unclean, but that the Priest has knowledge of what is leprosy and what is not leprosy, and can discern who is clean, and who is unclean. In the same way then as there the Priest makes the leper unclean, here the Bishop or Presbyter binds or looses not those who are without sin, or guilt, but in discharge of his function when he has heard the varieties of their sins, he knows who is to be bound, and who loosed.

ORIGEN. Let him then be without blame who binds or looses another, that he may be found worthy to bind or loose in heaven. Moreover, to him who shall be able by his virtues to shut the gates of hell, are given in reward the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For every kind of virtue when any has begun to practise it, as it were opens itself before Him, the Lord, namely, opening it through His grace, so that the same virtue is found to be both the gate, and the key of the gate. But it may be that each virtue is itself the kingdom of heaven.

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