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6. Of the several orders of Bishops

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER III. Of the Ministers of the Church. 6. Of the several orders of Bishops

I. Of the superior order of Bishops

These are archbishops, metropolitans, primates, exarchs, independent bishops, patriarchs, cardinals, and high priests.

  1. Of Archbishops*. They are not the same as metropolitans, as has frequently been supposed. The two have ever been distinct in the Eastern church, and usually in the Western. The archbishop is the highest functionary, and as such presides over both metropolitans and bishops. The theory of Bingham is not altogether correct, who supposes that the bishops of larger cities, such as Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, etc. may have gained an ascendancy in the fourth and fifth centuries over the bishops and metropolitans of smaller towns, and assumed the name of archbishops to denote this superiority. The title however is known to have been first given to the bishop of Alexandria, and to have been adopted as an official title in the year 431. But it prevailed only until the introduction of the Jewish title, patriarch, to which the name of archbishop gave place, and yet it was very seldom used as exactly synonymous with it.

    The first bishop of any diocese was sometimes styled archbishop. The policy of the church of Rome in giving the occupants of such a place, the title of archbishop was to prevent them from exercising the rights of metropolitans. That church even bestowed the title upon such as had no diocese under their jurisdiction. In the Greek church the office was held in more respect.

  2. Metropolitans. These were so called because they presided over the principal town of the district or province,  but the limits of their authority were not necessarily the same as those of the slate; for there are many examples both in ancient and modern history of inconsiderable towns which yet were metropolitan sees. The title was not in use previous to the council of Nice. But instead of it, other titles were employed, such as *, etc. The third council of Carthage decreed that the chief bishop should neither be called princeps sacerdotum, nor summus sacerdos; but merely primae sedis episcopus, senior bishop. In Africa, and especially in Nicomedia and Mauritania, his title continued for a long time to be senex and senior, while the seniority of office continued to be carefully maintained and observed.
  3. Primates*. This title is not, as many suppose, derived from an ancient civil office in Rome. The term primas urhis, castelli, palatii, etc. primate of the city, palace, etc. is of much later origin, and probably was itself derived at first from the church. Bishops, venerable for their age or personal dignity, and those who held offices over other dignitaries of the church, were called primates. The distinction, however, between titular or honorary primates, and primates in power, was very early made. In Africa, the senior bishop, and the bishop of Carthage, were each respectively styled primate of all Africa. The term primate was often the same in signification as archbishop, metropolitan, and patriarch. In the eighth and ninth centuries it was common to style the chief dignitaries of the whole province, or empire, primates – such as primate of the kingdom, primate of Gaul, Germany, etc. But it has ever been the policy of the Roman church to take care that these splendid titles should not express any high prerogative.
  4. Exarchs. These were in the Eastern church the same as the primates of the Western church. Morini affirms it to be an ecclesiastical office inferior in dignity to that of patriarch, but superior to that of metropolitan. Evagrius asserts that the bishops of Antioch, Ephesus, Caesarea, and Heraclea were distinguished by the title of exarch, and that they exercised the right of the patriarch in consecrating the metropolitans of their diocese.  It is a disputed point whether the word originally denoted an ecclesiastical, or civil office. But the title of exarch of Italy, Ravenna, Africa, etc. of later times assuredly denoted a secular office.
  5. Absolute or independent bishops*, not subject to the authority of a superior. Such were all bishops and metropolitans who had the independent control of their dioceses. It was not in frequent use" because the Monophysites claimed the same title in another, but kindred sense. According to Bingham the four following classes received this title.
    1. All metropolitans anciently.
    2. Some metropolitans who remained independent' after the establishment of the patriarchal power, such as those of Cyprus, Iberia, Armenia, and Britain.
    3. Such bishops as acknowledged no subjection to metropolitans, but only to the patriarch of the diocese.
    4. Such as wore wholly independent of all others, and acknowledged no superior whatever. 

    In reality, however, none but the pope, in the height of his supremacy, can with propriety be said to be * or *. The independent bishops of the Western church were so only in regard to their archbishops and primates, and even the church of Ravenna, which for a long time refused to surrender her independence, submitted at last to the apostolic see. 

  6. Patriarchs. Few topics of antiquity have been so much the subject of strife among the learned, as this relating to the patriarchs of the ancient church. But it will be sufficient for our purpose, to take only a brief view of the points in question.

    This term originally applied to the archbishop, first occurs in the year 451, and was synonymous with * It was borrowed from the Jews who after the destruction of Jerusalem, styled the primates of their church patriarchs, and when this office became extinct, the name was conferred upon the dignitaries of the christian church. According to Jerome, the Monanists and Cataphryians had already appropriated this title previous to that event. 

    The bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem particularly were called patriarchs. Several councils had bestowed upon these bishops peculiar marks of distinction, which encouraged them proudly to assume this title. Agreeably to the designs of Theodosius the Great, Constantinople maintained her proud prerogative, and became a second Rome in ecclesiastical power and dignity. These high pretensions of her rival, Rome herself reluctantly saw; Alexandria and Antioch uniformly protested against them; Jerusalem, retained indeed her empty honors, but not her patriarchal rights and privileges. The Romanists are careful to say that there were at first five patriarchs in the church, that those of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch were deservedly so called, per se et ex natura; but that those of Constantinople and Jerusalem were by mere accident, per accidens, graced with this title.

    In the sixth century Rome and Constantinople engaged in a bitter strife for the title of imperial patriarch, universalis ecclesiae papa*. But the primate of Rome finally ended the controversy by resigning the title of patriarch, and assuming only that of pope, or pontifex Maximus.

    The following summary of the prerogatives of the patriarch is given by Bingham, Book II. chap. 17.

    1. "They were to ordain all the metropolitans of their own diocese, and to receive their own ordination from a diocesan synod.
    2. To call diocesan synods and to preside over them.
    3. To receive appeals from metropolitans and provincial synods.
    4. To censure metropolitans and their suffragan bishops if metropolitans were remiss in censuring them.
    5. They might delegate metropolitans as their commissioners to hear ecclesiastical causes in any part of the diocese.
    6. They were to be consulted by metropolitans in all matters of moment.
    7. To communicate to their metropolitans such imperial laws as concerned the church, as the metropolitans were to notify the provincial bishops.
    8. Absolution of great criminals was reserved to them. 
    9. They were absolute and independent one of another.
  7. Cardinals . The order of cardinals really belongs to the Western church. The corresponding court in the church of Constantinople is the college of the Exocatacoeli. To the Russian church Peter the Great gave, after the resignation of the patriarchal power, the court of the holy synod, corresponding to the college of cardinals at Rome, and with that of the electors in the Roman catholic States of Germany.

The term has long been in use, and originally either signified the same as praecipuus, principalis, id quod rei cardo est, synonymous with praelatus; or else it was derived from cardinare or incardinare, to hinge or join together; and was applied to the regular clergy of the metropolitan church. In Italy, Gaul, etc., such churches early received the title of cardinal churches, the ministers of these churches were also called cardinals.

The following statements comprise the important historical facts relative to the office of Cardinal.

  1. The institution of the office has been ascribed by respectable Roman catholic writers to Christ himself, – to the apostle of their faith, – to the Roman bishop Evaristus, to Heginus, Marcellus, Boniface, III, and others. But we only know that cardinals, presbyters, and deacons occur in history about the sixth and seventh centuries, who were however not itinerant, but stationary church officers for conducting religious worship. The deacons and presbyters of Rome especially bore this name, who composed the presbytery of the bishop of the place. The title was also conferred upon the suffragan bishops of Ostia, Albanum, and others in the immediate vicinity, but without any other rights, than those which were connected appropriately with the ministerial office.
  2. The import of the term was varied still more in the ninth century, and especially in the eleventh, by Nicolaus II., who, in his constitution for the election of the Roman pontiff, not only appointed his seven suffragan bishops as members of the pope's ecclesiastical council, but also constituted them the only legitimate body for the election of the pope. To these he gave the name of cardinal bishops of the church of Rome, or cardinals of the Lateran church.

    This is the important period in history when the first foundation was laid for rendering the hierarchy of the church independent both of the clergy and of the secular power. This period has not been noticed so particularly by historians as its importance requires. They seem especially to have overlooked the fact that the famous Hildebrand, Gregory VII, in the year 1073, concerted these measures for the independence of the church, as the following extract will show. "It was the deep design of Hildebrand, which he for a long time prosecuted with unwearied zeal to bring the pope wholly within the pale of the church, and to prevent the interference, in his election, of all secular influence and arbitrary power. And that measure of the council which wrested from the emperor a right of so long standing, and which had never been called in question, may deservedly be regarded as the masterpiece of popish intrigue, or rather of Hildebrand's cunning. The concession which disguised this crafty design of his, was expressed as follows – that the emperor should ever hold from the pope, the right of appointing the pope" 

  3. As might have been expected, this privilege was afterwards contested by the princes of the German States, especially by those of Saxony, and the house of Hohenstaufen. But these conflicts uniformly resulted in favor of the ambitious designs of the pope. A momentary concession, granted under the pressure of circumstances, became reason sufficient for demanding the same ever afterwards as an established right. In the year A. D. 1179, Alexander III, through the canons of the Lateran, confirmed yet more the independent election of the pope, so that after this the ratification of the emperor was no longer of any importance. Something similar was also repeated by Innocent III, A. D. 1215, and Innocent IV, A. D. 1254. The former had already, in the year A. D. 1198, renounced the civil authority of Rome, and ascended the papal throne. In the year 1274, the conclave of cardinals for the election of the pope was fully established by Gregory X, and remains the same to this day.
  4. The college of cardinals, which, until the twelfth century, had been restricted to Rome and its vicinity, has since been greatly enlarged, so as to become the supreme court of the church universal. Priests of illustrious name in other provinces and countries, have been elevated to the dignity of cardinals. Of this Alexander III gave the first example in the year 1165, by conferring the honor upon Galdinus Sala, archbishop of Milan, and upon Conrad, archbishop of Mentz. But to the injury of the church, the greater part have ever been restricted to the limits of Rome and Italy.
  5. The formal classification of the cardinals into three distinct orders,
    1. Cardinal bishops;
    2. Cardinal presbyters;
    3. Cardinal deacons, was made by Paul II, in the fifteenth century.

    He also gave them, instead of the scarlet robe which they had worn since the year 1244, a purple role, from whence they derived the name of the purple, a title indicative not merely of their superiority to bishops and archbishops, but of their regal honors and rights. Boniface VIII, gave them) the title of eminentissimi, most eminent; and Pius V, in the year 1567, decreed that no other should have the name of cardinal.

  6. The number of cardinals was at first not less than seven, and, after having ranged from seven to fifty-three, it was reduced again in the year 1277, to the minimum above mentioned. The General Assembly of the church of Basil limited the number to twenty-four; but the popes from this time increased them at their pleasure. Under Leo X, there were sixty-five cardinals; Paul IV, and Pius V, decreed that the maximum should be seventy – equal in number to the disciples of Jesus. These were arranged under the following grades.
    1. Six cardinal bishops with the following titles – the bishops of Ostia, Porta, Albano, Frescati, Sasina, and Palaestrina.
    2. Fifty cardinal priests, who were named after the parochial and cathedral churches of Rome.
    3. Fourteen cardinal deacons, who were named after the chapels. This number was seldom full, but since 1814, they have again become quite numerous.

Lastly. Among the superior officers of the church may be mentioned the Pope, papa Romanus, pontifex Maximus. Upon this officer, elevated to the summit of ecclesiastical dominion, we can only bestow a complimentary notice. An entire volume would be required merely for an enumeration of the most important transactions of the pope, and they are recorded by innumerable authors both ancient and modern.

Rabiiaus Maur. de instit. cler. lib. i. c. 5.

Athanas. Apol. II. c. Ar. p. 791; Concii Epes. a, 431; Concii Chalcedon. c. 3. Act. Concii. Chalced. Act. 4. p. 471. Act 16. p. 818; Leonis Allatii consens. lib. i. c. 18; Jo. Morini Exercit. lib. i. c. 10 seq.

Rabaniis Mauranus. de instit. cler. lib. i. c. 5.

Concii. Nic. c. 4. Vgl. Can. 7; Concii. Antioch. a. 341. c. 9; ibid. Can. 13; Concii Carthag. III. c. 26. IV. c. 1.

Exercit. lib. i. c. 15.

Hist. eccl. lib. iii. c. 6.

Book II. c. 18.

Hieron. Rubei. Hist. Ravennat. lib. 4. p. 209.

Bingham's Ant. B. II. c. 17. Cornp. also Salmasius, Petavius, Schelstraie, Richerius, etc.

Concii. Chalced. Act. II. p. .388. III. 395.

Hieron. ep. 54. ad Marcell. adv. Mont.

Concii Nicen. c. 6, 7; Constant. 1. c. 2, 5; Epesen. Act. 7.

Bingham's Antiq. B. II. c. 17.

Hieron. Plati de Cardinalis dignitate et officio. Rom. 1602. 4. ed. IV. 1746. 4; Jo. Fr. Buddei de orlgine Cardinalitiae dignitatis. 1693. 4; Liid. Ant. Mnratorii Dissert, de Cardinaiium institutione. Ejusd. Antiquit. Ital. T. V. p. 152 seq.

Hardini Collect. Concil. torn. vi. P. I. p. 1064–7; Muratori Seriptor. rer. Ital. torn. ii. P. I. p. 645.

Voigt's Hildebrand. Weimar. 1815. 8. S. 54.

Critics are not agreed as to the origin of this name. The most probable is that of Du Cange who derives it from the fact that, those who were high in office were seated in public assemblies in high and more honorable seats erected for the purpose on either side of the patriarchal throne.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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