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Kerry wrote:

Hi guys,

  • Can you help me with these questions?

The Protestants claim that Alexander, the bishop of Constantinople in 325 A.D. during the Council of Nicea, was not a Roman Catholic.

  • How can I prove he was?
  • Is there a quote or set of quotes I could use from the Nicene Fathers, or elsewhere, to prove it?
  • Or, perhaps a quote to show that the First Ecumenical council was definitely Roman Catholic?

Thanks for your help.

Kerry

  { How can I prove Alexander, the bishop of Constantinople in 325 A.D., was a Roman Catholic? }

Eric replied:

Hi Kerry,

Roman Catholic was not a term in use during this point in history; besides, he would have been Greek Catholic if anything. I suspect you merely mean you want to prove that he was Catholic.

The best question to ask them is:

  1. Why don't you think he was Catholic?
  2. What do they mean by Roman Catholic (see above)?; and
  3. If he was not Catholic, what was he?

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that is difficult, if not impossible, to prove to their satisfaction because it relies on a different set of assumptions than either you or I would use.

You aren't going to find a document he signed that says I am a Catholic. We know he was Catholic because he is part of the Apostolic Succession of the Catholic Church and was in communion with the Pope of Rome, but that's unlikely to convince your friend. In particular, we see the Council as being a Catholic council, and he was invited to participate in it, therefore,
he was Catholic. We also venerate him as a saint, further proof that he was Catholic. Also, the see of Constantinople was a Catholic see, additional proof that he was Catholic.

In order to refute these people though, more information is really needed about their angle.

  • Do they claim that there were a bunch of primitive Protestants who survived, allegedly from Apostolic times, that were hanging around at this time and that he was among their number?

If this is the case, it will be nearly impossible to convince them he is Catholic because they will have probably bought into a conspiracy theory.

  • Or, are they claiming he was a heretic of some sort?
  • What is their point in saying he was not a Catholic?

Part of the problem (and this goes for proving that the Council of Nicea was Catholic too) is that the Church after that point split into several parts, all of which have a legitimate claim to individuals or councils.

  • Was St. Athanasius Catholic or Orthodox?

An argument can be made either way. Perhaps we can say both. We claim the Council of Nicea as our own; we adhere to its decrees; its bishops were in communion with Rome; therefore it was Catholic.

Again the question arises, if not Catholic, what was it?
(It certainly wasn't Protestant, that's for sure.)

I suspect what your friend is likely to argue is that all was well in the original Church of Christ through the Council of Nicea, but that in the seventh century, the Roman Catholic church broke off, or was invented, or otherwise introduced a discontinuity as the Pope arrogated power to himself and began to impose himself on the Church. Thus there is a distinction (they argue) from Roman Catholicism which is an invention of this period, and the pure, noble Catholicism (or whatever) that had existed up until this point. Of course, the churches are the same, and there is continuity. There was real development, but the distinction is a fanciful one, and the changes are usually overblown. This would explain why he argues that St. Alexander of Constantinople is not a Roman Catholic, because he belonged to a now defunct ancient church safely distinct from what he conceives of as the Catholic Church.

Perhaps the best way to argue against these sorts of things is to establish that:

  • the doctrines in which the Protestants believe are disproven by the early Church Fathers who wrote during this time, and
  • Catholic teachings are vindicated through these writings.

That will take the wind out of the sails of this argument that there was something substantially different from Catholicism that existed during the time in question. This is a lot of work but it is doable. A good place to start is the work Faith of the Early Fathers by William Jurgens. It's an index of doctrines and quotes from the Fathers that support them.

Hope this helps. Feel free to write back if you want me to clarify something or need further assistance.

Eric Ewanco

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