Abbe Guettee's The Papacy on St Leo

How Reliable?


In 1866 the Episcopal Bishop of Western New York, A. Cleveland Coxe, translated into English Abbe Guettee's The Papacy--Its Historic Origin and Primitive Relations with the Eastern Churches. Fr Guettee had been ordained in the Roman Catholic Church in France but left it and was received into the Russian Orthodox Church. The book has been reprinted several times and is available online. (Click here for link to book online.) How reliable is the presentation of history in Fr Guettee's work? We will focus on some of his presentation on Pope St Leo.

On pp. 98-100 Fr Guettee refers to the dispute Pope St Leo had with canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon (which elevated the Bishop of Constantinople to second rank in the Church--making him above Alexandria and Antioch). He writes:

In his letter to the Empress Pulcheria, St Leo declares that he has "annulled the decree of Chalcedon by the authority of the blessed Apostle Peter."
These words seem at first sight to mean that he claimed for himself a sovereign authority in the Church in the name of St Peter; but upon a more careful and an unbiased examination of his letters and other writings, we are convinced that St Leo only spoke as the bishop of an apostolic see, and that in this character he claimed the right, in the name of the apostles who had founded his church, and of the western countries which he represented, to resist any attempt on the part of the Eastern Church to decide, alone, matters of general interest to the whole Church.

The proof that he regarded matters in this light is that
he does not claim for himself any personal authority of divine origin, descended to him from St Peter, but that, on the contrary, he presents himself as defender of the canons, and looks upon the rights and reciprocal duties of the churches as having been established by the Fathers and fixed by the Council of Nicea. He does not pretend that his church has any exceptional rights, emanating from another source. But by ecclesiastical right, he is the first bishop of the Church; besides he occupies the apostolic see of the West; in these characters he must interfere and prevent the ambition of one particular church from impairing rights that the canons have accorded to other bishops, too feeble to resist, and from disturbing the peace of the whole Church. After carefully reading all that St Leo has written against the canon of the Council of Chalcedon, it cannot be doubted what he really meant. He does not claim for himself the autocracy which Romish theologians make the ground-work of papal authority. (Emphasis added)

Contrast Fr Guettee's claims that St Leo `did not claim for himself any personal authority of divine origin, descended to him from St Peter,' with the following two sources. The first is from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

Leo I the Great, Saint (b. traditionally Tuscany, Italy--d. Nov. 10, 461, Rome) pope from 440 to 461, master exponent of papal supremacy....

Leo's 432 letters and 96 sermons expound his precept of papal primacy in church jurisdiction. He held that papal power was granted by Christ to St Peter alone, and that that power was passed on by Peter to his successors. In one letter, for example, he cautioned the bishop of Thessalonika that although he had been entrusted with office and shared Leo's solicitude, he was "not to possess the plentitude of power."
(Micropedia, Vol. VI, p. 147, edition of 1981.)

The second source is an excerpt from Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly's The Oxford Dictionary of Popes:

An energetic and purposeful pontiff, Leo infused all his policies and pronouncements, especially his anniversary sermons, with his conviction that supreme and universal authority in the church, bestowed originally by Christ on Peter, had been transmitted to each subsequent bishop of Rome as the Apostle's heir. As such, he assumed Peter's functions, full authority, and privileges; and just as the Lord bestowed more power on Peter than on the other apostles, so the pope was `the primate of all the bishops', the Apostle's mystical embodiment.

Leo confidently asserted his authority everywhere in the west....In his dealings with the east Leo encountered a disclination to accept the papal claims at their face value.
(pp. 43-4, published by Oxford University Press in 1986)

Even more surprising is that Fr Guettee maintains that the papacy of the first eight centuries did not claim any authority of divine origin:

If it be true that the Roman Church sought in the ninth century to impose upon the whole Church a rule unknown to the previous ages and therefore unlawful, we must conclude that she alone should bear the reponsibility for the schism. We have pursued the study with calmness and free from prejudice: it has brought us to these conclusions: (1.) The bishop of Rome did not for eight centuries possess the authority of divine right which he has since sought to exercise. (2.) The pretension of the bishop of Rome to the sovereignty of divine right over the whole Church was the real cause of the division. (page 31)

Our object in the present work has been only to prove: First, That the papacy from and after the ninth century, attempted to impose, in the name of God, upon the universal Church, a yoke unknown to the first eight centuries...


We say now to every honest man: On the one side you have heard Scripture interpreted according to the Catholic tradition; you have heard the Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the Church;
you have heard the Bishops of Rome of the first eight centuries. On the other hand you have heard the Popes subsequent to the eighth century. Can you say that the doctrines of the one and of the other are identical? (pp. 374-5, emphasis added)

First, we must note that Catholics do acknowledge a doctrinal development regarding the role of the Bishop of Rome in the Church. (For example, see the chapter: "The Estrangement between Rome and Constantinople: The Growth of the Papal Claims" in Fr Aidan Nichols' book Rome and the Eastern Churches, published by Liturgical Press in 1992.) But, by the time of Pope St Leo (mid-fifth century) there was already considerable development of papal primacy. The historical development is well explained by Fr J Michael Miller in The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development, and Mission of the Papacy, published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing (1995), pp. 82-87 (and I am grateful to Fr Miller for permission to quote from his work):



After the edict of Milan in 313, which granted toleration to the Church, the bishop of Rome increasingly assumed special prerogatives. Remaining in Rome, he sent legates to settle affairs if matters outside the city needed his attention. Furthermore, bishops more and more sought guidelines from Rome, a factor which led to increased centralization and, at least in the West, greater uniformity of ecclesiastical discipline. The Roman bishop, however, did not bypass the other bishops by seeking to establish direct relations with either the lower clergy or the laity.

From the pontificate of Damasus (366-384) onward, documentary evidence is plentiful that the "tone of papal correspondence is one of command, of supreme authority and undisputed primacy, unclouded by hesitation or shadow of self-doubt." [Robert B. Eno, _The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1990, p. 132.)] Damasus composed letters in a formal, chancery style, modeled on imperial rescripts. In his public statements, he adopted the plural of majesty using "we" rather than "I" and addressed his fellow bishops as "sons" instead of "brothers." [Aidan Nichols, _Rome and the Eastern Churches_ (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1992, p. 163.]

Pope Damasus also vigorously defended his belief that Rome owed its privileged place in the Church to its connection with Peter. When canon 3 of the Council of Constantinople (381) insinuated that Rome's primacy could be justified because it was the capital of the Empire, Damasus contested that interpretation. In 382, he called a synod which declared that
"the holy Roman Church has been set before the rest by no conciliar decrees, but has obtained the primacy by the voice of our Lord and Savior in the gospel" (DS 350). The same Roman synod confirmed the privileges of Alexandria and Antioch, although not Constantinople, because the former two also shared, by association, in petrinitas: "The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor anything like it. The second see, however, is that of Alexandria, consecrated in behalf of blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third honorable see, indeed, is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Apostle Peter, where he first dwelt before he came to Rome, and where the name Christians was first applied as a new people." [Translation in William A. Jurgens, ed., The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1 (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1970), pp 406-407.]

Pope Damasus relied on Matthew 16:18-19 to bolster papal authority, but he also leaned heavily on the authority of Peter and Paul who were venerated at Rome as the princes of the apostles. According to patristic scholar Basilio Studer, Damasus "founded a theory of Roman primacy which his successors needed only to extend." [Basilio Studer, "Papacy," Encyclopedia of the Early Church, ed. Angelo Di Berardino, trans. Adrian Walford, vol. 2 (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1992), p. 641.] Once the Church had discerned the extent of the power handed over to Peter, any authority exercised beyond the confines of a local church looked to the first of the apostles in order to legitimate its use. Justifications for possessing ecclesial authority over other churches, such as that which Antioch and Alexandria enjoyed, relied on establishing a bond with Peter.

Successor and Vicar of Peter

The theory of Rome's petrinitas brought into clearer focus that the pope
was both the successor and vicar of Peter. Initially, the term "successor"
had a linear, chronological meaning. Popes used it in reference to popes
before them. Callistus (217-222), for example, succeeded Zephyrinus
(199-217), who succeeded Victor (180-199). Despite occasional earlier use,
it was not until the end of the fourth century that the title "successor" of
Peter entered official papal terminology. Referring to the pope in this way
became common by the eighth century, gradually replacing the earlier title
"vicar" of Peter.

In the late patristic and early medieval Church, the title "vicar of Peter"
was frequently used. Early Christians had a lively sense that, from heaven,
the apostles continue to preside over and guide the Church's destiny. After
the death of the apostles, they believed, successors in their ministry
continued their apostolic mission, though without assuming their
irreplaceable foundational functions. Just as the first "apostolic men"
represented the original Twelve, so also did the bishops now take the place
of the apostles in glory. In order to maintain this representative structure
after the model of the original apostolate, writers emphasized Peter's
unique role among the bishops.

The presence of the apostle's tomb in Rome likewise provided a visible
symbol of Peter's lasting presence and enduring authority in the pope.
Peter's original primacy among the apostles was perpetuated or
"sacramentalized" in those succeeding to the Roman bishop's cathedra. "The once-for-all nature of his office," writes Tillard, "remains present through the vicars who successively occupy his seat." [J.M.R. Tillard, The Bishop of Rome, trans. John de Satge (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1983), p. 97.] Each Bishop of Rome is the vicar of the apostle Peter, and not of his immediate predecessor. In his own ministry, the pope carried out the same mission Jesus confided to Peter.

The decretal of Damasus, dispatched by Pope Siricius (384-399) to the bishop of Tarragona in 385, illustrates this idea: Peter continues to govern the Church through the pope, who is his heir.
"We carry the burden of all who are burdened," he wrote, "In fact, the blessed apostle Peter carries these burdens in us, he who, we trust, protects and defends us in everything as the heirs to his office" Siricius was the first pope to apply Paul's "care for all the churches" (sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum) to the apostolic ministry of the bishop of Rome. In theory, if not yet in practice, the popes claimed jurisdiction extending to all the churches of the Roman Empire.

Among the most well-known testimonies to the bishop of Rome as the vicar of Peter is the text read by the papal legate, Philip, at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Referring to Pope Celestine (422-432), he said:
"There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ...: who, even to this time and always, lives and judges in his successors. Our holy and most blessed Pope Celestine the bishop is according to due order his successor and holds his place." [Trans by E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority AD 96 to 454, (London: SPCK, 1952, # 220.] This straightforward declaration of the pope as both successor and vicar of Peter, similar though not identical designations, was later cited by Vatican I (cf. DS 3056).

Leo the Great

In the first four centuries, no systematic theology of the papacy was
formulated, even though individual elements which are the foundations of the later structure were already in place. While Leo the Great's understanding of the papacy was in continuity with his immediate predecessors, he developed a more explicit theology, bequeathing to posterity a carefully articulated understanding of the authority, purpose, and justification for papal primacy. In Leo's idea of the papal office, "all the separate strands of papal tradition coalesce to form a single cord." [Trevor Gervase Jalland, Church and Papacy (London: SPCK, 1944), p. 302.] His well-developed theory, formulated in his letters and sermons, can be summed up in three words: Christ--Peter--Pope. According to Leo, the primatial role of the Roman see was founded on two facts: the intimate union of Christ and Peter, and the legacy of Peter's ministry that survives in his vicars, the bishops of Rome.

Jesus and Peter

In many sermons, especially those preached on the anniversary of his election as bishop of Rome, Leo the Great solidified the Roman and Western interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19. For the Pope, this text proved that Christ gave to Peter personally, and to him alone, a primatial role in the apostolic college. Without any human mediation, Jesus bestowed on the apostle an authority to be exercised for the good of the whole Church. Basing himself on gospel testimony, Leo taught that Peter was the
"chief of the whole Church." [Leo the Great, Sermon 4.4; translation in Giles, ed., Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, # 238.]

The Petrine texts revealed the reason for Peter's preeminence: an intimate
relation or consortium between him and Jesus. Peter, Leo believed,
"indefectibly obtains a consortium with the eternal priest." [Leo the Great, Sermon, 5.] In one of his sermons, he said: "By this appointment, God conferred on this man [Peter] a great and wonderful share in his power." [Leo the Great, Sermon, 4.] Christ himself shared with Peter his own functions as rock and shepherd of the Church. Leo aptly paraphrased Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew 16:18, leaving no doubt that the disciple depended upon the Master: "I am the foundation and no one can lay any other. And yet, you Simon, you also are a Rock because I am going to give you my strength, in such a way that, by this sharing, the power which is only mine will be common to you and to me." [Leo the Great, Sermon, 3.] With more clarity and rigor than any of his predecessors, Leo the Great asserted that Peter "continues as the foundation rock in the strength which he received and does not abandon the control of the Church which he has undertaken." [Sermon, 3.]

Pope = Peter

The pope was, for Leo, both the legal and sacramental embodiment of the apostle Peter. In the judgment of historian Walter Ullmann, Leo's "supreme mastery of Roman law enabled him to construct the thesis of Peter's function, and therefore that of the pope, in so satisfactory a way that it stood the test of time." [Walter Ullmann, "Papacy: 1--Early Period," New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 10, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967), 952.] He translated papal claims into the language of law and public policy.

Leo did this by teaching that a close bond existed between Peter and his
successors in the Roman see. Papal primacy was nothing more than Petrine primacy transferred to the present. The pope's exercise of his ministry was totally conditioned by reference to Peter. In a sermon preached on the anniversary of his episcopal consecration, this lively awareness of Peter's continuing power in his successors is very evident:
"He [Peter] continues to carry out with full effect the work which has been entrusted to him; he discharges every duty, every task of his office in Christ and with Christ, and through him he is glorified. So whatever I [Leo] may achieve, whatever effective steps I may take...is done through his work and his merits; his power is still living in his see and his authority is supreme." [Sermon 3.3.] Whenever Leo was called upon to intervene in other churches, he always referred to Peter.

By using the Roman legal concept of the heir (haeres), Leo explained the
way in which the pope was linked to Peter. Roman law accorded the haeres the same authority, rights and obligations as the one whom he replaced. The power of the keys which Peter had received from Christ passed undiminished, therefore, to those who succeeded the apostle in the Roman cathedra. As the apostle's heir, the pope enjoyed the same office as Peter, fulfilling his mission in his absence. [Sermon 94.4.]
"What Peter believed in Christ endures," wrote Leo, "so too what Christ instituted in Peter." [Sermon 3.2.]

According to the Pope, Peter continues his ministry in the Church through
his visible vicar, who is his sacramental instrument. Unlike a successor,
who receives juridical power from a predecessor, the vicar continues the the presence of the one whom he represents. He takes the place of the living Peter in heaven, who enjoys a special relationship with Christ. Because of this bond, the pope can exercise the Petrine ministry:
"Peter, who was united to Christ, the true founder and the pastor of the Church, in a singular way, continues even now to exercise his primacy over all the
churches; the bishop of Rome, the heir and successor of Peter, renders this primacy visible in the community of all Christians. Just as Christ
transmitted his mission to the apostles per Petrum so are the faith and
the ecclesiastical order guaranteed by the See of Peter."
[Leo the Great,
Letter, 10.9.] In theological shorthand we can say that the pope is Peter
himself (Papa = Petrus ipse).

Leo the Great did not mean, however, that the pope was indistinguishable
from Peter or that he assumed his non-transmissable role as a witness to the foundational revelation. Not "reincarnating" Peter, the bishop of Rome
served as the apostle's visible instrument, similar to a priest who acts "in
the person of Christ" at the Eucharist. The successor of Peter acts, as it
were, "in the person of Peter." In his theology of papal primacy, Leo fused
a strongly juridical understanding of the bishop of Rome as the holder of an undiminished fullness of power with a sacramental vision in which the pope is the living instrument of Peter in governing the Church.

Fullness of Authority

Leo believed he was responsible for the universal Church, vigorously
upholding his predecessor's conviction that the bishop of Rome has an
"anxiety [care] for all the churches" (2 Cor 11:28):
"all parts of the
Church are ruled by his care and enriched by his help."
[Sermon 5.4;
translation in Giles, ed., Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, # 239.]
While recognizing that each bishop has authority over his local church, he
also held that
"Peter especially rules all whom Christ has also ruled
originally."
[Sermon 4.2.] The Roman church was, for him, "the head of the world." [Sermon 82.1.] Its bishop was responsible for providing "that love of the whole Church entrusted to him by the Lord." [Sermon 5.2.] What distinguished Peter's authority from that of the other apostles was its universality. This universal authority was inherited by the bishop of Rome. Leo is also the first to claim to possess the fullness of authority (plenitudo potestatis) to teach as well as to govern and make laws in the Church. [Leo the Great, Letter, 14; translation in Jalland, Church and Papacy, p. 303.]

Leo's right to teach authoritatively is nowhere more evident than when he
sent his Tome to Flavian), a long treatise summarizing orthodox
Christology, to the Fathers gathered at Chalcedon in 451 for the fourth
ecumenical council. He was convinced that his letter would definitively
settle the christological controversy. According to Leo, the pope had the
determinative voice at an ecumenical council. The council was to ratify his
decisions. Furthermore, once a council's decisions had been confirmed by the Roman see, they were no longer open to revision, let alone reversal. [Eno, Rise of the Papacy, p. 110.]

Because of his strong sense of responsibility, Leo formulated the specific
purpose of Roman primacy: it was to serve the koinonia by fostering unity and communion. The pope was to defend the apostolic tradition, supporting the churches in their confession of faith:
"We have received from Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, the certainty of possessing the right to defend the truth which brings our peace." [Leo the Great, Letter, 43; translation in Tillard, Bishop of Rome, p. 123.] The Lord's special prayer upholding Peter's faith (cf. Lk 22:31-32) enabled his vicars to pass on that same strength and firmness to others. [Sermon 83.3.] By guaranteeing the faith's stability, certainty, and accuracy, the pope showed his care for the Church. As guardian of the koinonia's faith, the successor of Peter was to call another church to account if he thought it had in any way compromised orthodoxy.

While aware of the possible misinterpretations involved in using terminology derived from secular models, we can nonetheless conclude that Leo regarded the papacy as a monarchial institution. Insofar as the Church was a society--though she was far more than that--her full power and juridical authority were concentrated in the hands of the pope, from whom it passed to others. Leo claimed absolute spiritual sovereignty for the papacy. [Ullmann, "Papacy," p. 953.]

The Pope and the Other Bishops

Whereas the pope had his authority from Christ, the other bishops, Leo
believed, had only a share in his plenitudo potestatis. Bishops
accordingly came from the whole world seeking his judgment. The bishop of Rome served as a kind of "umpire" in the koinonia, exercising a judging role for all those who sought recourse at the see of Peter. [Sermon, 5.] Papal stewardship required that the pope be on the lookout for abuses in the universal koinonia. Leo also expected that local or regional episcopal decisions should be forwarded to Rome for papal confirmation. [Leo the Great, Letter, 12.13.] Not only did appeals and requests come to Rome, the pope, on his own initiative, sent out decretals from Rome. Leo continued the practice begun by Siricius of dispatching these papal letters giving authoritative decisions to the other churches. These directives, he claimed, had the same binding force as the decrees of synods.

While recognizing the value of uniform practice as a support for the unity
of faith, Leo refrained from imposing Roman views and ecclesiastical
traditions on the other churches. He always aimed "at a communion in the
faith of the Roman church, not in her customs." [Tillard, Bishop of Rome,
p. 185.] Insisting resolutely on the need for harmony with the Roman see,
Leo nonetheless intervened in other churches only as a last resort. He
encouraged the bishops to act on their initiative, a right which he defended
for his "brothers and fellow bishops." [Letter, 114.]

Although the bishops were equal "in honor" with the successor of Peter,
there was a certain distinction of power among them. More precisely, Leo
believed that the other apostles received their power through Peter,
thereby participating in his stability:
"So then in Peter the strength of
all is fortified, and the help of divine grace is so ordered that the stability which through Christ is given to Peter, through Peter is conveyed to the apostles."
[Letter, 14.11.] In another sermon, Leo wrote in praise of Peter: "the one who was so flooded with grace from the very fount of all grace that whereas he had so many gifts which he alone received, no one had any that did not pass through his hands." [Sermon 4.2.] [End of quotation from The Shepherd and the Rock.]

Plainly, Pope St Leo did teach and believe that he was "heir and successor of Peter" `continuing to exercise his primacy over all the churches.' While the Eastern Churches did jealously guard their autonomy they were fully aware of these claims. As, for example, the statement referred to above by the papal legate Philip at the Council of Ephesus about Pope St Celestine (who is commemorated on the Byzantine calendar on April 8). Regarding the controversial canon which elevated Constantinople to second rank the Bishops at the Council of Chalcedon wrote to Pope St Leo:

"You are set as an interpreter to all of the voice of blessed Peter, and to all you impart the blessings of that faith. And so we too, wisely taking you as our guide in all that is good, have shown to the sons of the Church their inheritance of the truth....We were all delighted at the spiritual food which Christ supplied to us through your letter; we revelled in it as at an imperial banquet and we seemed to see the heavenly Bridegroom actually present with us. For if where two or three are gathered together in his name, he has said he is in the midst of them, must he not have been more particularly present with 520 priests...? Of all these you were the chief, as head to members, showing your goodwill in matters of organization....And, like the stranger of wild beasts, he [condemned Patriarch of Alexandria Dioscorus] fell upon the vine which he found in the finest condition, uprooted it, and planted that which had been cast out as unfruitful. He cut off those who acted like true shepherds, and he placed over the flocks those who had shown themselves to be wolves. Besides all this he extended his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Saviour--we refer to your holiness-- and he intended to excommunicate one who was zealous to unite the body of the Church....We mention further that we have made certain other decisions also for the good management and stability of church affairs, as we are persuaded that your holiness will accept and ratify them when you are told....We have also ratified the canon of the 150 holy fathers who met at Constantinople...which declares that after your most holy and apostolic see, the see of Constantinople shall have privileges, being placed second; for we are persuaded that, with your usual interest, you have often extended that apostolic radiance of yours even to the church of Constantinople also. This you will increase many times by sharing your own good things ungrudingly with your brethren. And so deign, most holy and blessed father, to embrace as your own, and as lovable and agreeable to good order, the things we have decreed, for the removal of all confusion, and the confirmation of church order. For the legates of your holiness, the most holy bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius, and with them the godly presbyter Boniface, tried hard to resist these decisions, wishing that this good work also should start from your foresight, so that the establishment of the discipline, as well as of faith, should be credited to you. But we, regarding our most devout and Christian sovereigns, who delight therein, and the illustrious senate, and, so to say, the whole capitial, recognized as fitting the confirmation of the honour by this universal council, and we confidently endorsed it, as if it were initiated by your holiness, as you always hasten to cherish us, knowing that every success of the children redounds to the parents. We therefore beg you to honour our decision by your assent, and as we have yielded agreement to the head in noble things, so may the head also fulfill what is fitting for the children. Thus will our pious emperors be respected, who have ratified your holiness' judgment as law, and the see of Constantinople will receive its recompense for having always displayed such loyalty on matters of religion towards you, and for having so zealously linked itself to you in full agreement." (Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, pp. 322-324, P.L. 54.952; Leo, Ep. 98.)

Fr Guettee is correct that St Leo did refer to the Nicene canon in disputing the Chalcedonian canon 28 but St Leo also objected to the rationale of elevating Constantinople for political reasons to second rank. He explained to Emperor Marcian that prominence in the Church is not based upon a secular or political position but on divine appointment. He also notes that Anatolius (the Bishop of Constantinople) holds his position by Leo's favor:

"Let the city of Constantinople have, as we desire, its glory, and, under the protection of God's right hand, long enjoy the rule of your clemency. Yet things secular stand on a different basis from things divine, and there can be no sure building save on that rock which the Lord has laid for a foundation. He that covets what is not his due loses what is his own. Let it be enough for him [Anatolius] that by your piety, and by my gracious favour, he has obtained the bishopric of so great a city. Let him not disdain a royal city, though he cannot make it an apostolic see; and let him on no account hope that he can rise by doing injury to others." (Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, page 327, Leo, Ep. 104, to the Emperor Marcian, P.L. 54.993.)

Pope St Leo did not write as one whose primacy was merely one of "ecclesiastical right." He (and many popes before and after him) claimed they were the successor of St Peter in a unique sense `by the voice of Christ in the gospel.' These claims were acknowledged in the East on various occasions (though it is important to note that the way the Petrine primacy is exercised has seen a development from that era until now). Abbe Guettee's characterization of St Leo does not fit the historical record. Instead, it can be viewed as an attempt to re-write Church history to harmonize with the post-Schism rejection of the papacy.

For further quotes from Pope St Leo showing his understanding of the primacy he expressed see:

 

 Leo the Great on the Papacy

 

Letter from St Leo to Anatolius approving his election as Bishop of Constantinople


St Leo's Letter to Empress Pulcheria annulling the 28th Canon and further mention that Anatolius had received his position by Leo's favor

 

Click on this link for more on the 28th canon of Chalcedon: The Byzantine Plot by Luke Rivington

 

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