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The Papacy as Christ On Earth In Opposition to the Early Church

Below are quotes from various Popes throughout the History of the Roman Catholic Church claiming to be God or Christ on Earth. However, considering any one man on Earth to be God, or Jesus, aside from Christ Himself, is against Scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers.

“The Pope is Christ in office, Christ in jurisdiction and power…We bow down before thy voice, O Holy Father, as we would before Christ Himself.” -Vatican I

“The Saviour Himself is the door of the sheepfold: ‘I am the door of the sheep.’ Into this fold of Jesus Christ, no man may enter unless he be led by the Sovereign Pontiff; and only if they be united to him can men be saved, for the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar [substitute] of Christ and His personal representative on earth.” -Pope John XXIII, homily to the Bishops and faithful assisting at his coronation on November 4, 1958

“[T]he Pope is…the man on earth who represents the Son of God, who ‘takes the place’ of the Second Person of the omnipotent God of the Trinity.” -Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 3

“The pope, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, possesses the same full power of jurisdicton that Christ Himself possessed during His human life.” -Pope Clement VI

“Only the Roman Pontiff is rightly called universal; the Pope can be judged by no one; no one can be regarded as a catholic who does not agree with the Roman church; the Roman Church has never erred and never will err till the end of time; the Roman Church was founded by Christ alone; the Pope alone can depose and restore bishops; he alone can make new laws, set up new bishoprics, and divide old ones; he alone can translate bishops to another see; he alone can call general councils and authorize canon law; he alone can revise his own judgements; his sentence cannot be repealed by anyone and he alone can review the judgements of all; he alone can use the imperial insignia; he can depose emperors; he can absolve subjects from their allegiance to impious rulers; the Pope is the only man to whom all princes bend the knee; all princes should kiss his feet; his legates, even those in inferior orders, have precedence over all bishops; an appeal to the papal court inhibits judgement by all inferior courts; a duly ordained pope is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter.” -Pope Gregory VII

“What monstrous idea is this, my dear brother? So little does the Roman Church stand alone, as you think, that in the whole world any nation that in its pride dissents from her is in no way a Church, but a council of heretics, a conventicle of schismatics, and a synogogue of Satan.” -Pope Leo IX, Epistle to the Patriarch of Constantinople, 1050 A.D., Catholic History, Vol. I, pp. 494-495.

“The Catholic Church, mother and immaculate virgin, although destined to fill the whole world with her members, has nevertheless but one head, which must be venerated by all. Whoever dishonours that head claims in vain to be one of her members. That head is the Church of Rome, whose power the great Constantine recognizes in his Donation. Now, as Bishop of Rome, the Pope is the Vicar of God charged with the care of the churches.” -Pope Leo IX

“It was said to me in the prophet: “I have set you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy, and to overthrow, to build and to plant”(Jer. 1:10)…Others were called to the role of caring, but only St. Peter was invested with the fullness of power [plenitudo potestatis]. See then what manner of servant this is, appointed over the household; he is indeed the vicar of Jesus Christ, the successor of St. Peter, the Christ of the Lord, the God of Pharaoh…the midpoint between God and man… who can judge all things and is judged by no one.” “Every cleric must obey the pope, even if he commands what is evil; for no one may judge the pope.” -Pope Innocent III

“Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one Body and one Head, not two Heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar [Substitute] of Christ.… Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John “there is one sheepfold and one shepherd”… [The Pope proceeds to also say that he cannot be judged by anyone and that he has God’s authority over mankind in both civil and ecclesiastical spheres, the civil being utterly subordinate to the ecclesiastical.]…Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias…: “Behold today I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms and the rest”…This authority, however,…is not human but rather Divine, granted to Peter by a Divine word…, the Lord saying to Peter himself, “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven” etc., (Mt 16:19). Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God (Rom 13:2)….Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” -Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, November 18, 1302

“We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.” “…it came to pass in the secret design of God’s providence that We were chosen to fill this Chair of St. Peter and to take the place of the Person of Christ Himself in the Church…” -Pope Leo XIII

“The Pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not mere man, but as it were God, and the vicar of God…Hence the Pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven and of earth and of the lower regions…As to papal authority, the Pope is as it were God on earth, Sole sovereign of all the faithful of Christ, chief king of kings, having a plentitude of unbroken power, entrusted by the omnipotent God to govern the earthly and heavenly kingdoms…The Pope is of so great authority and power, that he is able to modify, declare, or interpret even divine laws.” -From a Papally-endorsed encyclopedia: Lucius Ferraris, Prompta Bibliotheca Canonica, Juridica, Moralis, Theologica, Ascetica, Polemica, Rubristica, Historica (“Handy Canonical, Juridical, Moral, Theological, Ascetical, Polemical, Rubrical, Historical Library”), vol. 5, “Papa (Pope)” article 2 [see also J. P. Migne, 1858 edition, column 1823, Latin] (#1, 13, 18, & 30).

‘The pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, but he is Jesus Christ Himself, hidden under the veil of the flesh. Does the pope speak? It is Jesus Christ who speaks. Does the pope accord a favour or pronounce an anathema? It is Jesus Christ who accords the favour or pronounces that anathema. So that when the pope speaks we have no business to examine.’ -Pope ‘St.’ Pius X

“But we must not think that He [Christ] rules only in a hidden or extraordinary manner. On the contrary, our Divine Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth…He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same. They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it…the person of Jesus Christ is represented by the Supreme Pontiff…Above all, it is absolutely necessary that the Supreme Head, that is, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, be visible to the eyes of all, since it is He who gives effective direction to the work which all do in common in a mutually helpful way towards the attainment of the proposed end. As the Divine Redeemer sent the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, who in His name should govern the Church in an invisible way, so, in the same manner, He commissioned Peter and his successors to be His personal representatives on earth and to assume the visible government of the Christian community…There can, then, be no real opposition or conflict between the invisible mission of the Holy Spirit and the juridical commission of Ruler and Teacher received from Christ, since they mutually complement and perfect each other-as do the body and soul in man-and proceed from our one Redeemer who not only said as He breathed on the Apostles “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” but also clearly commanded: “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you” and again: “He that heareth you heareth me.”…We must earnestly desire that this united prayer may embrace in the same ardent charity both those who, not yet enlightened by the truth of the Gospel, are still without the fold of the Church, and those who, on account of regrettable schism, are separated from Us, who though unworthy, represent the person of Jesus Christ on earth. Let us then reecho that divine prayer of our Savior to the heavenly Father: “That they all may be one, as thou Father in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” – Pope Pius XII, MYSTICI CORPORIS CHRISTI , June 29, 1943

Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff – Pope Boniface, 1302

Some Catholics believe they must follow the Pope even if he does wrong or represents evil:

“He who will be disobedient to Christ on earth, who stands in the stead of Christ in heaven, will not share in the fruit of the blood of the Son of God.’ ‘Even if he [the Pope] were an incarnate devil we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom.” -Catherine of Siena, Roman Catholic ‘Saint’

“If the Pope errs by commanding vices or forbidding virtues, then the Church must believe that vices are good and virtues bad, unless one wants to sin against conscience” -Cardinal ‘St.’ Robert Bellarmine

“We ought ever to hold as a fixed principle that what is white that I see I will believe to be black if the superior authorities in Rome define it so” -Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

The Pope is “God on earth”“Jesus has placed the pope higher than the prophets, than John the Baptist, and than all the angels”“Jesus has put the Pope on the same level as God Himself!” -John Bosco [1815-1888]

Take care that we lose not that salvation, that life and breath which thou hast given us, for thou art our shepherd, thou art our physician, thou art our governor, thou art our husbandman, thou art finally another God on earth,,- Christopher Marcellus 1512 to Pope Julius II

The early Church Fathers did not have a papacy in place. Rome did perhaps hold a place of honor that was only symbolic, but the Pope of Rome was equal to all other Bishops in authority over the Churches:

Greogory (bishop of rome):

“I say it without the least hisitation, whoever calls himself the universal bishop, or desires this title, is by his pride the precursor of the anti-Christ because he thus attempts to raise himself above the others. The error into which he falls springs from pride equal to that of the anti-Christ. For as that wicked one wished to be regarded as exalted above other men, like a god, so likewise whosoever would call himself sole bishop exalteth himself above others”

“It cannot be denied that if any one bishop be called universal, all the church crumbles if that universal one fall”

Cyprian (200-258 A.D.):

“For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, 5:565, “The Seventh Council of Carthage Under Cyprian”)

Jerome (342-420 A.D.):

“Wherever a bishop may be whether at Rome or at Eugubium, at Constantinople or at Rhegium, at Alexandria or at Thanis, he is of the same worth…for all of them are the successors of the apostles.”

The Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.):

In Canon 6, the council declared that each center was to be ruled by its own bishop and not by one head over all bishops. (Ante Nicene Father, 7:502, “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles”)

Ireaneus, the Father who coined the term Orthodox wrote that any one who strays from primitive succession was to be held in suspicion, or in other words not to be trusted as they have strayed from the Church:

St. Irenaeus, Against All Heresies, IV, 26, 2 (ANF, Vol. I)
Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth.

Roman Catholics however have added doctrines, through the Papacy, such as the Immaculate Conception which was a Papal Bull by Pius X. Catholics also alter the writings of the Church fathers to support the Papacy.

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, The Unity of the Church:

The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. … ’ [Matt. 16:18]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. . . . If someone [today] does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?”The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. … ’ [Matt. 16:18]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. . . . If someone [today] does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” – Catholic Answers

If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, I say unto you, that you are 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 you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, Feed my sheep. And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, As the Father has sent me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins you remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins you retain, they shall be retained; John 20:21 yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her. Song of Songs 6:9 Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God? Ephesians 4:4

Notice that the version of Cyprian’s quote on Catholic Answers is vastly different from the original text of Cyprian’s writings. Cyprian NEVER says anything about Peter’s Chair or Peter being in supreme authority over the other Apostles.  The text of the original can be found here.


The idea that the Papacy is above other Bishops and represents Christ on Earth as the only man who can be the Vicar of Christ is not found in the Bible or in the early Church writings. For more on the Biblical stand point, which we did not cover here please see, Was Infallibility Given to Peter.  While Bishops and Presbyters do protect the Church from heresies and ensure that Apostolic Doctrine is taught and spread throughout the world, the Papacy as being supreme and over the whole of all Churches has done nothing but cause problems and schisms within the Churches. There is no foundation for the Papacy to claim supremacy over other Bishops, aside from a place of honor, and the words of past Popes and Saints of the Catholic Church show that the Papacy and full submission to it, even if in error or doing evil is a great danger to Roman Catholic Christians.

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