If thou lovest Me, Simon Peter, feed My lambs; feed My sheep. [P.T. Alleluia, alleluia.] Ps. I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast upheld me: and hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me. Glory be to the Father.
Verse 15. Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? That is, more than any one of these love me. Christ puts this question thrice to S. Peter, that this triple protestation of love, says S. Aug. might correspond to his triple denial. S. Peter did not answer that he loved him more than the rest did, which he could not know, but modestly said: yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee: and the third time, thou knowest all things, and the hearts of all men, thou knowest how much I love thee. At each protestation, Jesus answered, feed my lambs; and the third time, feed my sheep. To feed, in the style of the Scriptures, is to guide, rule, and govern. S. Ambrose and some others take notice, as if by the lambs, might be understood the people, and by the sheep, those placed over them, as bishops, priests, &c. but others make no such difference in this place, betwixt lambs and sheep, only as comprehending all the members of Christ’s Church, of what condition soever, even the rest of the apostles. For here it was that Christ gave to S. Peter that power which he had promised him, (Matt. xvi. 18.) that is, He now made S. Peter head of his whole Church, as he had insinuated at the first meeting, when S. Andrew brought him to our Saviour, when he changed his name from Simon to Peter: again, when he chose him, and made him the first of his twelve apostles; but particularly, when he said, thou art Peter, (a rock) and upon this rock will I build my Church, &c. Upon this account the Catholic Church, from the very first ages, hath always reverenced, and acknowledged the supreme power of the successors of S. Peter, in spirituals, over all Christian Churches. This appears also by the writings of Tertullian, of S. Irenæus, of S. Cyprian, of the greatest doctors and bishops, both of the west and east, of S. Jerom, S. Augustin, of S. Chrysostom, in several places, of the first general Councils, particularly of the great Council of Chalcedon, &c. Wi. — Simon (son) of John. The father’s name is here added, to discriminate him from Simon Thaddeus, that every one might know that the chief care of the universal Church was not given to any other apostle but Peter. This Simon of John is the same as Simon Bar-jona. See Matt. xvi. 17. Menochius. — S. Peter had three times renounced his master; and Jesus, to give him an opportunity of repairing his fault by a triple confession, three several times demanded of him, if he loved him more than these? That, as S. Augustin remarks, he who had thrice denied through fear might thrice confess through love. Calmet.
Verse 16-17. The lambs and the sheep of our Saviour here mean the faithful, who compose his Church, without any distinction of Jew or Gentile. S. Peter, by these words, is appointed to take charge of the whole flock, as being the chief and prince of the apostles. He is, in some manner, the pastor, not of the sheep only, but of the pastors themselves. They have each their own flock to look after; but to him is committed the care of all; he alone is the pastor of all. Calmet. — Feed my sheep. Our Lord had promised the spiritual supremacy to S. Peter; (S. Matt. xvi. 19.) and here he fulfils that promise, by charging him with the superintendency of all his sheep, without exception; and consequently of his whole flock, that is, of his whole Church. Ch.
246: The Unity of the Church
PELAGIUS II 579-590 From epistle "Quod ad dilectionern" to the schismatic bishops of Istria, about 585
(For) you know that the Lord proclaims in the Gospel: Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I have asked the Father for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren [Luke 22:31 f.].
Consider, most dear ones, that the Truth could not have lied, nor will the faith of PETER be able to be shaken or changed forever. For although the devil desired to sift all the disciples, the Lord testifies that He Himself asked for PETER alone and wished the others to be confirmed by him; and to him also, in consideration of a greater love which he showed the Lord before the rest, was committed the care of feeding the sheep [cf. John 21:15 ff.]; and to him also He handed over the keys of the kin gdom of heaven,and upon him He promised to build his Church,and He testified that the gates of hell would not prevail against it [cf. Matt. 16:16 ff.]. But, because the enemy of the human race even until the end of the world does not abstain from sowing cockle [Matt. 13:25] over the good seed in the Church of the Lord, and therefore, lest perchance anyone with malignant zeal should by the instigation of the devil presume to make some alterations in and to draw conclusions regarding the integrity of the faith- and (lest) by reason of this your minds perhaps may seem to be disturbed, we have judged it necessary through our present epistle to exhort with tears that you should return to the heart of your mother the Church, and to send you satisfaction with regard to the integrity of faith. . . .
[The faith of the Synods of NICEA, CONSTANTINOPLE I, EPHESUS I,and especially of CHALCEDON, and likewise of the dogmatic epistle of LEO to Flavian having been confirmed, he proceeds thus:]
If anyone, however, either suggests or believes or presumes to teach contrary to this faith, let him know that he is condemned and also anathematized according to the opinion of the same Fathers.… Consider (therefore) the fact that whoever has not been in the peace and unity of the Church, cannot have the Lord [Gal. 3:7].…
525: Errors of Eckart
JOHN XXII 1316-1334 Examined and condenined in the edict "In agro dominico," Mar. 27, 1329
(25) When it is said: “Simon, do you love me more than these?” [John 21:15 f.], the sense is: That is, more than those and indeed well but not perfectly. For in the first and the second and more and less there is both a degree and a rank; in oneness, however, there is no degree nor rank. Therefore, he who loves God more than his neighbor, (loves) indeed well but not yet perfectly.
1822: Against heretics and schismatics
Vatican Council I SESSION IV (July 18, 1870) Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ
So we teach and declare that according to the testimonies of the Gospel the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church of God was promised and was conferred immediately and directly upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For the one Simon, to whom He had before said: “Thou shalt be called Cephas” [John 1:42], after he had given forth his confession with those words: “Thou art Christ, Son of the living God” [Matt. 16:16], the Lord spoke with these solemn words: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: and I shall give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” [Matt. 16:17 ff.]. [against Richerius etc. (see n. 1503)]. And upon Simon Peter alone Jesus after His resurrection conferred the jurisdiction of the highest pastor and rector over his entire fold, saying: “Feed my lambs,” “Feed my sheep” [ John 21:15 ff.]. To this teaching of Sacred Scriptures, so manifest as it has been always understood by the Catholic Church, are opposed openly the vicious opinions of those who perversely deny that the form of government in His Church was established by Christ the Lord; that to Peter alone, before the other apostles, whether individually or all together, was confided the true and proper primacy of jurisdiction by Christ; or, of those who affirm that the same primacy was not immediately and directly bestowed upon the blessed Peter himself, but upon the Church, and through this Church upon him as the minister of the Church herself.
1823: Canon Against heretics and schismatics
Vatican Council I SESSION IV (July 18, 1870) Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ
If anyone then says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all the apostles, and the visible head of the whole militant Church, or, that the same received great honor but did not receive from the same our Lord Jesus Christ directly and immediately the primacy in true and proper jurisdiction: let him be anathema.
1842: The Liberty of the Church
From the Encyclical, "Quod nunquam," to the bishops of Prussia, February 5, 1875
We intend to fulfill parts of Our duty through this letter, announcing to all to whom this matter pertains, and to the whole Catholic world, that those laws are invalid, namely, which are utterly opposed to the constitution of the divine Church. For, the Lord of holy things did not place the powerful of this world over the bishops in these matters which pertain to the holy ministry, but blessed Peter to whom he commended not only His lambs but also His sheep to be fed [cf. John 21:16, 17]; and so by no worldly power, however elevated, can they be deprived of their episcopal office “whom the Holy Ghost hath placed as bishops to rule the Church of God” [cf. Acts 20:28]. Moreover, let those who are hostile to you know that in refusing to pay to Caesar what belongs to God, you are not going to bring any injury to royal authority, nor to detract anything from it; for it is written: “We ought to obey God, rather than men” [Acts 5:29]; and at the same time let them know that everyone of you is prepared to give tribute and obedience to Caesar, not for wrath, but for conscience [cf. Rom. 13:5 f.] in those matters which are under civil authority and power.
468: The Unity and Power of the Church
BONIFACE VIII 1294-1303 From the Bull "Unam Sanctam" November 18, 1302
With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation nor remission of sin, the Spouse in the Canticle proclaiming: “One is my dove, my perfect one. One she is of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her” [Song. 6:8]; which represents the one mystical body whose head is Christ, of Christ indeed, as God. And in this, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” [Eph. 4:5]. Certainly Noah had one ark at the time of the flood, prefiguring one Church which perfect on one cubit had one ruler and guide, namely Noah outside which we read all living things on the earth were destroyed. Moreover this we venerate and this alone, the Lord in the prophet saying: “Deliver, 0 God, my soul from the sword; my only one from the hand of the dog” [Ps. 21:21]. For in behalf of the soul, that is, in behalf of himself, the head itself and the body he prayed at the same time, which body he called the “Only one” namely, the Church, because of the unity of the spouse, the faith, the sacraments, and the charity of the Church. This is that “seamless tunic” of the Lord [John 19:23], which was not cut, but came forth by chance. Therefore, of the one and only Church (there is) one body, one head, not two heads as a monster, namely, Christ and Peter, the Vicar of Christ and the successor of Peter, the Lord Himself saying to Peter: “Feed my sheep” [John 21:17]. He said “My,” and generally, not individually these or those, through which it is understood that He entrusted all to him. If, therefore, the Greeks or others say that they were not entrusted to Peter and his successors, of necessity let them confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ, since the Lord says in John, “to be one flock and one Shepherd” [John 10:16].
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.