top of page

Pope St. Damasus I

Papal Authority, St. Peter

“[We] have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of the churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, Who says: “You are Peter …(Matt 16:18–19).” In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed Apostle Paul who, along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero—not at a different time, as the heretics prattle, but at one and the same time and on one and the same day: and they equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman Church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph, they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the world. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that. The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the 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 see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name “Christians” was first applied, as to a new people.” (Decree of Damasus 3, A.D. 382).

“Although, dearest brethren, the decrees of the Fathers are known to you, yet we cannot wonder at your carefulness as regards the institutes of our: forefathers that you cease not, as the custom ever has been, to refer all those things which can admit of any doubt to us as to the head that thence you may derive answers, whence you received the institution and rule of living rightly.” (Ep. v. Prosp. Numid.).

“Damasus to his most beloved brother Paulinus. By my son Vitalis, I directed to you a letter, in which I left everything to your discretion. And through Petronius the presbyter, I briefly indicated that, just as he set out, I was rather upset. And so lest any scruple should remain in you, and lest your wise caution should deter those who would perhaps want to be joined to the Church, we are sending you a statement of faith, not so much for yourself, who share the communion of the same faith, as for those who, by subscribing to it, may wish to be joined to you, that is, to us through you, most beIoved brother. Further if my son Vitalis, mentioned above, and those with him, should desire to be brought into the flock, they ought first to subscribe to that exposition of faith which was affirmed by the pious will of the Nicene fathers.” (Ep. 3, Per jlium meum Vitalem).

“Those who have migrated from church to church we hold I to be alien from our communion, until they return to those cities in which they were first appointed. If while any is travelling about, another is ordained in his place, then he who forsook the city is deprived of the priestly office until his successor rest in peace.” (Epistle 4, Post concilium Nicaenum, to Bishop Paulinus).

“We will that if anyone has been condemned by the judgement of Damasus, which he had given with the advice of five or seven bishops, or by the judgement or advice of those who are catholics, if he But if a question of this kind arises in more distant parts, let the examination be transferred by the local courts to the metropolitan ; or if he is a metropolitan himself, he should be ordered of necessity to journey to Rome without delay, or to those judges whom the Roman bishop may appoint, so that those who shall have been deposed be kept away from the bounds of the city in which they exercised the priesthood, lest they again impudently usurp that which they have been deprived of by law. Certainly, if either the metropolitan or any other priest be suspected of favour or iniquity, it is lawful to appeal either to the Roman bishop or to a council of fifteen neighbouring bishops. unjustly wishes to retain the church, so that he through insolence does not come when called to a priestly judgement, he be summoned with authority, either by the illustrious men the praetorian prefects of Gaul and Italy, or by the proconsuls or vicars, and be sent to the episcopaljudgement, or else come under prosecution at Rome. Or if such arrogance should arise in more distant parts, let the whole pleading of the cause be submitted to the examination of the metropolitan in the same province as the bishop; or if he is a metropolitan himself, he should of necessity journey to Rome without delay or to those judges whom the Roman bishop may appoint; so that they who have been deprived be kept away from the bounds of the town in which they were priests. For we punish people less severely than they merit, and we avenge sacrilegious obstinacy more leniently than it deserves. But if the iniquity or favour of the metropolitan bishop or other priest is suspected, it is lawful for the ac- , cused to appeal to the Roman bishop, or to a council of fifteen neighbouring bishops.” (To Aquilinus, Vicar of the
City, Ordinariorum sententiae, [A.D. 378]).

“The bishops assembled at Rome in sacred synod, Damasus and Valerian and the rest, to their beloved brethren the bishops of Illyria, send greeting in God. . . . When first the wickedness of the heretics began to flourish, and when, as now still more, the blasphemy of the Arians was creeping abroad, our fathers, 318 bishops, the holiest bishops in the Roman empire, deliberated at Nicaea. The wall which they set up against the weapons of the devil, and the antidote wherewith they repelled his deadly poisons, was their confession that the Father and the Son are of one substance, one godhead, one virtue, one power, one likeness, and that the Holy Ghost is of the same essence and substance. Whoever did not thus think was judged separate from our communion. Their deliberation was worthy of all respect, and their definition sound. But certain men have intended by other later discussions to corrupt and befoul it. Yet at the very outset, error was so far set right by the bishops on whom the attempt was made at Ariminum to compel them to manipulate or innovate in the faith, that they confessed themselves seduced by opposite arguments, or owned that they had not perceived any contradiction to the opinion.” (Epistle 1, Credimus sanctam Jidem, preserved in Theodoret, H.E, 2 [A.D. 317]).

bottom of page