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Bryn Potter wrote:

Hi, guys —

Recently, a Protestant I know claimed that the Pope's infallibility is based on forged documents.

  • How can I prove that is incorrect?
  • Also, are there any early Church documents accepted by Protestants, that support papal infallibility or papal primacy?


  { Were there forged documents used and are there early documents supporting papal primacy? }

Eric replied:

Bryn —

There was in fact a forged document used in the 13th century to argue papal authority; see the Donation of Constantine. This had less to do with papal infallibility (i.e. doctrine) than it had to do with his political authority.

Protestants generally only accept the Bible as authoritative, and there is evidence there.
Check out:

There are some good quotes from the Early Church Fathers that lend support to it as well. Pope
St. Innocent I wrote to the Fathers of the Council of Carthage, in 417 A.D., and described his own authority and the role of the Pope in making final judgments. He says:

"We know how to condemn evils just as well as we know how to approve what is laudable", and that other churches however remote did not regard any matter as final until it was reviewed and confirmed by the total authority of this [church].

St. Maximos the Confessor, who lived in the East and died in 622 A.D., described how the Roman Church (i.e. the Pope) possesses the right confession, and opens the true and only religion and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth.

St. Augustine (fourth century) uttered a famous saying, Rome has spoken, the case is closed., meaning that when Rome issues a final decision, there is no more doubt or question on the matter.

The roots of Papal infallibility extend even further; for example, St. Irenæus of Lyons writes in 180 A.D.:

"For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition."

Here are some additional quotes:


St. Ephraim (d. 373), Homilies, 4,1:

Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build that is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures!

Letter of St. Cyprian to Cornelius of Rome, A.D. 252 59 (55), 14

With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal Church, in which sacerdotal unity has its source; nor did they take thought that these are Romans, whose faith was praised by the preaching Apostle, and among whom it is not possible for perfidy to have entrance.

St. Opatatus of Milevis, The Schism of the Donatists, ca. A.D. 367, 2,2:

You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head — that is why he is also called Cephas — of all the Apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do other Apostles proceed individually on their own; and anyone who would set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, but a schismatic and a sinner. . . .
I but ask you to recall the origins of your chair, you who wish to claim for yourselves the title of holy Church.

Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus, A.D. 374-379, 15,2

I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails.

Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus, A.D. 374-379, 16,2

The Church here is split into three parts, each eager to seize me for its own. . . Meanwhile I keep crying: "He that is joined to the chair of Peter is accepted by me!" Meletius, Vitalis, and Paulinus each claims to be loyal to you, which I could believe did only one make the claim. As it is, either two of them are lying, or else all three. Therefore I implore Your Blessedness by the cross of the Lord, by the necessary glory of our faith, the Passion of Christ -- that as you follow the Apostles in dignity may you follow them also in worth,-- . . . tell me by letter with whom it is that I should communicate in Syria. Despise not a soul for whom Christ died!

Letter of Pope St. Innocent I to the Fathers of the Council of Carthage, 417 A.D. 29,1

In seeking the things of God, . . . . following the examples of ancient tradition, . . . you have strengthened . . . the vigor of your religion with true reason, for you have acknowledged that judgment is to be referred to us, and have shown that you know what is owed to the Apostolic See, if all of us placed in this position are to desire to follow the Apostle himself from whom the episcopate itself and the total authority of this name have emerged. Following him, we know how to condemn evils just as well as we know how to approve what is laudable. Or rather, guarding with your priestly office what the Fathers instituted, you did not regard what they had decided, not by human but by divine judgments, as something to be trampled on. They did not regard anything as finished even though it was the concern of distant and remote provinces, until it had come to the notice of this See, so that what was a just pronouncement might be confirmed by the total authority of this See, and thence other Churches,--just as all waters proceed from their own natal source and, through the various regions of the whole world, remain pure liquids of an uncorrupted head,--might take up what they ought to teach, whom they ought to wash, whom the water worthy of clean bodies would shun as being soiled with a filth incapable of being cleansed.

For more quotes, check out:


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