I’m going to take a break from my on-going series on masculinity to report on Monday’s breaking news. In an unprecedented move, the Vatican has approved the blessing of same-sex couples. The news—which has been rumored for some time, finally became a reality on Monday. This has divided Roman Catholics into two camps: those who view the document as a clear defense of historical church teaching and those who view it as a major step towards official Roman Catholic sanctioning of LGBTQ+ relationships.
The Roman Catholic Axiom
Roman Catholic Eric Sammons discusses the latter in great detail in “Breaking Down Fiducia Supplicans.” I highly recommend reading his post, but today I want to focus on one quote from that article in particular:
The most insidious aspect of modern heresy is that it loudly proclaims itself to be orthodox. But it divorces orthodoxy from orthopraxy.
Frequent readers will recognize this as the Roman Catholic axiom:
sola ecclesia (the church alone)
This axiom results in the following belief…
The recent explicates the older
…where the church looks to itself (the recent and now) to explain what came before (the older). Sammons is shocked to find that the axiom—which as been used since the late 4th century—continues to be used to slowly innovate doctrine. In short, Roman Catholics believe that whatever the current church teaches is what the church has always taught, regardless of the historicity of the claim. For 1600 years, the church has developed many doctrines that it now loudly proclaims to be orthodox for all time (past, present, and future). The implicit approval of same-sex relationships is just one of many such doctrines, and it will not be the last.
Six months ago in “Unity in the Church,” I noted Roman Catholicism is divided on homosexuality. There I quoted John C. Wright who used the uniformity of authority of the church—sola ecclesia—to condemn homosexuality for all time:
In other words, something that the main mass of Christian men have always taught and believed, such as abominable nature of sodomy, cannot be in error.
At the time I stated that the issue is not resolved:
If the Pope were to agree with Father Martin and declare [that homosexuality is not a sin] in his full official capacity, the new way would have then always been the teaching of the church, with those teaching otherwise having been in error the whole time.
And so, I am not surprised that the church has taken another step towards acceptance of same-sex relationships. Not only has Father Martin not been disciplined by the church, but he is ecstatic by this new papal declaration.
Underlying this whole issue is the concept that the Bishop of Rome—the Pope—has authority over the whole church, so that what he declares is law in the church. But this was not always the case.
The Diocese of Egypt
The Diocese of Egypt was not formed between 373 and 381AD, about five decades after the Council of Nicæa in 325AD. This may seem obscure and unimportant, but it unveils the single most shocking and damning set of facts regarding papal authority:
Papal Rome did not exist prior to the late 4th century.
Rome did not even have primacy within its own diocese, let alone within the universal church.
The most persistent Roman Catholic doctrinal innovation is based on historical error. To show this, let’s go back a bit further in time.
In 307AD, Meletius of Lycopolis unlawfully ordained bishops outside his jurisdiction. From that point until 451AD, no less than five church councils had to deal with ecclesiastical and Metropolitan jurisdictional problems, such as dealing with multiple Metropolitians in a single geographical unit. Most importantly, the Council of Nicaea (325AD) in Canon 6 defined jurisdictional boundaries between the Metropolitans of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem within that single province: the East (or Oriens). Specifically, it gave Antioch jurisdictional primacy over both Alexandria and Jerusalem, citing “the custom of Rome.” This custom of Rome would later be cited as evidence of the primacy of Rome because—by tradition—Rome has always had primacy, but as we will see this is both circular reasoning and an ignorance of history.
In 325AD, the Metropolitan seat of the Diocese of Italy was with the Bishop in Milan. The “custom of Rome” referred to Rome being under the Bishop of Milan, carving out a smaller defined and restricted geographic boundary within the diocese. At the Council of Nicaea, it was decided that so too would both Alexandria and Jerusalem both be granted limited geographic scope under the overall provincial primacy of Antioch. The example of the limited authority of the Bishop of Rome was cited to solve the problem between three Metropolitans in a single province. Far from Roman Papal Primacy from the apostolic age, the Bishop of Rome did not even have primacy within his own diocese until 358AD at the earliest.
In 370AD, Optatus of Milevus would be the first to declare that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome. This was in direct contradiction to the early patristic writers, such as Irenaeus and Eusebius, who recognized Linus as the first Bishop of Rome. The early church did not believe that Peter—an apostle—was ever a bishop of Rome, let alone a pope. This novelty would set the stage for what followed.
By the Council of Constantinople in 381, the Roman provinces were now dioceses. Sometime in the six decades that followed Nicaea and the two decades since 358AD, the ecclesiastical unit of the church had changed from provinces to dioceses and the civil diocese of the East had split into two (Egypt and East). No longer was there a single province containing Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. The Diocese of the East contained Antioch and Jerusalem, while the Diocese of Egypt contained Alexandria.
At the Council of Nicaea (324AD), the East (Oriens) contained Alexandria.
At the Council of Constantinople (381AD), Egypt (containing Alexandria) was its own diocese.
By this time, Rome had claimed the diocesan primacy from Milan, and the previous arrangement determined by the Council of Nicaea was forgotten or ignored. A year after Constantinople, at the council of Rome in 382AD, Pope Damasus I would declare:
“the holy Roman church is given first place by the rest of the churches”
— Council of Rome, III.1
Damasus was the first to successfully make this assertion.
Damasus was the first pope to refer to Rome as the apostolic see, to distinguish it as that established by the apostle St. Peter, founder of the church. In 380 the emperors Gratian in the West and Theodosius in the East declared Christianity as preached by Peter to be the religion of the Roman Empire and defined orthodoxy as the doctrines proclaimed by the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. Rome’s primacy was officially pronounced by a synod called in Rome in 382 by Damasus, who was perhaps wary of the growing strength of Constantinople, which was already claiming to be the New Rome. St. Jerome (c. 342–420) attended the synod and stayed on to become Damasus’s secretary, close adviser, and friend. Damasus commissioned him to revise the Latin translations of the Bible for what subsequently became known as the Vulgate.
— Encyclopedia Brittanica, “St. Damasus I” (2022)
Jerome—close friend of Damasus—would become his greatest ally. In his dispute with John of Jerusalem in 398AD, Jerome claimed that Nicaea had granted Antioch jurisdiction over Jerusalem in the diocese of the East and over Alexandria in the diocese of Egypt because of the custom of the primacy of Rome. Jerome’s claim—whether intentional or by accident—was an impossible historical anachronism.
The primary of Rome was asserted through a misunderstanding of its historical lack of primacy
Combined with the political power of two emperors, Damasus and Jerome were able to fabricate the doctrine of Roman Papal Primacy out of thin air, indeed by citing as evidence the very historical record that disproved it. By no coincidence, this occurred along with the single greatest corruption of scripture—the Latin Vulgate.
In 449AD, Pope Leo I would fraudulently claim that the canons of the council of Sardica were actually from Nicaea, deliberately misquoting them in order to claim that Rome was always chief of its diocese and to demonstrated the primacy of Rome to resolve all church disputes. In so doing, he perpetuated and cemented the false doctrine of Roman Papal Primacy.
The historical error has persisted. In 1880, Father James Loughlin made the exact same anachronistic mistake in arguing for the primacy of the Pope to assign jurisdictions (over the other two Petrine Seats of Antioch and Alexandria). Around the same time and making the same mistake, famed historian Philip Schaff (1819-1893), in his history of the Christian Church, incorrectly claimed that Rome had always had its own diocese.
Not only was not church not unified as a single institution under a single head, that is a pope, we have only established the prior to the late 4th century, the head of the church was Christ and in the late 4th century Christ was replaced by the Pope. No Roman Catholic church council or pope has any authority over the body of Christ. We must thus reject Roman Papal Primacy on the basis of the “custom of Rome:”
Any Christian who accepts the Nicene Creed accepts the authority of the Council of Nicaea.
If we are to accept the authority of the Council of Nicaea in their declaration of the Nicene Creed, then we must accept its authority to rely on the inferiority of Rome to resolve a jurisdictional dispute in the church.
And so we round back to Fiducia Supplicans. The pope is not magically protected from bad doctrine because God placed him as the head of Christianity. Those Roman Catholics who smugly declare that the church cannot be corrupted because the Pope is God’s infallible agent are badly mistaken. The very foundation of their doctrine is based on an historical anachronism: the Bishop of Rome wasn’t even the head of the early church, because Rome itself was not the foremost member of churches.
Through something as simple as…
The Diocese of Egypt didn’t exist at the Council of Nicaea
The doctrine of Roman Primacy is an historical anachronism
…and this leads us to today, where Catholics are confused about why the Pope is leading them into doctrinal error, having failed to grasp that their Pope isn’t the head of Christianity, let alone divinely protected from error. He will, like the Protestant churches before him, continue to pursue error. Don’t assume this can or will improve.
See also: “‘Fiducia supplicans’: Who’s saying what?”
 These are some of the Roman Catholic innovations developed since the late 4th century: papal and Roman primacy, papal infallibility, priestly celibacy, elevation of virginity and fasting over marriage, Mariology (immaculate conception, perpetual virginity, assumption of Mary, Mother of the Church), kneeling on the Lord’s Day, incense, candles, relics and images, veneration of the cross, baptismal regeneration, intercession of the saints, the title of Pontifex Maximus, ex communicare replaced by ex civitate, taking up the civil sword to persecute and kill the faithful, civil taxes flowing through the Bishops and priestly wealth acquisition, the church holidays (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday), and the eucharistic alterations: the alteration of the liturgical order, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the Mass, eucharistic adoration, communion on the tongue, the liturgical mixing of water with wine.
 Athanasius, “Apologia Contra Arianos“, Part II, chapter 6, paragraph 89
 Athanasius of Alexandria, “Ad Episcopus Aegypti et Libyae“, paragraph 8
 Athanasius of Alexandria, “Apologia ad Constantium“, 27
 Optatus of Milevis “Adversus Parmenianum“, Book 2, Chapter 2
 Irenaeus “Against Heresies“, Book 3, Chapter 3.3
 Eusebius, “Church History“, Book III, Chapters 2, 13, 21
 Jerome, “To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem”, paragraphs 4, 10 and 37.
 James Loughlin, “The Sixth Nicene Canon and the Papacy”, American Catholic Quarterly Review, vol. 5