St. Paul's Rebuke of St. Peter
“But when Cephas was come to Antioch,
I withstood him to the face,because
he was to be blamed.”
St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 2:11
But this is not an evidence that it is necessary to oppose a Pope who endangers the Faith, without labeling him a formal heretic! We need to look at what St. Peter did that caused St. Paul’s rebuke. What did St. Peter do? Did he teach heresy? Was he telling the Jews who were persecuting him that their covenant with God was still valid, as John Paul II and Francis did? Was he inviting pagans to offer sacrifice to their idols to obtain true peace, thus legitimizing their false religion, as John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis did in Assisi?
No, not exactly. The popular Challoner Douay-Rheims Bible has the following note on this passage:
“The fault that is here noted in the conduct of St. Peter, was only a certain imprudence, in withdrawing himself from the table of the Gentiles, for fear of giving offence to the Jewish converts; but this, in such circumstances, when his so doing might be of ill consequence to the Gentiles, who might be induced thereby to think themselves obliged to conform to the Jewish way of living, to the prejudice of their Christian liberty.” (Challoner Note on Galatians 2:11)
The conduct of St. Peter was nothing but a “certain imprudence.” That’s it. This is seconded in the Bible commentary of the famous Fr. George Haydock:
“The opinion of St. Augustine is commonly followed, that St. Peter was guilty [only] of a venial fault of imprudence.” (Haydock Note on Galatians 2:11)
St. Peter was simply afraid of giving offense to the Jewish converts by eating with the Gentiles; hence, he withdrew from the Gentile converts when the Jews arrived. Because this conduct can give the false impression that Christians are still bound by the Old Law, it was imprudent for St. Peter to act this way, though he probably simply sought to avoid giving so-called “scandal of the weak,” and so his intention was good. In any case, St. Peter humbly accepted St. Paul’s rebuke, and that was the end of it.
We see, then, that there is absolutely nothing in here to help their false accusations. For, while an action indifferent in itself can nonetheless, due to special circumstances, “accidentally” endanger the Faith, such as St. Peter’s conduct mentioned here (eating separately with Jewish converts was not wrong in and of itself, after all, but only became imprudent due to particular circumstance), this is in no wise comparable to actions which are directly and in and of themselves sins against the Faith, such as joining today’s apostate Jews in singing a hymn awaiting the Messiah, or approving of the religions of the pagans (such as Jainism, Voodoo, Hinduism, etc.), or saying that papal primacy as defined at the First Vatican Council may be erroneous, as John Paul II and Benedict XVI have done.
To this we respond that even if it was a sin against Faith, this had no bearing on the Papacy whatsoever because St. Peter was not yet Pope when he denied his Lord. Although the Papacy had been promised him in the Gospel of St. Matthew 16:18, it was not actually conferred upon him until in the Gospel of St. John 21:15 -17, as confirmed by the First Vatican Council:
“And upon Simon Peter alone Jesus after His resurrection conferred the jurisdiction of the highest pastor and rector over his entire fold, saying: ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘Feed my sheep’ [John 21:15 ff.]” (Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 1; Denz. 1822; underlining added).
If Not? Who Made the "Excommunication"?
Pope Julius died on the 22nd of May in 353. Pope Liberius was chosen as his successor; he died in 366 on the 23rd or 24th of September, and thus led the Church for a period of fourteen years and a little over four months. Liberius wrote several letters which D. Coustant collected among the correspondence of the sovereign pontiffs. For anyone familiar with the period, it is clear that it was difficult for the chosen pontiff to manage his apostolic office with complete perfection and success. The Church was profoundly afflicted by Arianism. St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, suffered the most iniquitous persecution at the hands of the Arians solely because he defended the Catholic faith against Arianism with admirable constancy. Things had even reached the point where defending the Catholic cause was linked in the public mind with defending Athanasius.
Now, we will prove to be false that Liberius ever adhered to the Arian heresy in any way whatsoever.
Pope Pius IX, Quartus Supra (# 16), January 6, 1873,
On False Accusations:
“And previously the Arians falsely accused Liberius, also Our predecessor, to the Emperor Constantine, because Liberius refused to condemn St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, and refused to support their heresy.”
Pope Benedict XV, Principi Apostolorum Petro
(# 3), October 5, 1920:
“Indeed, lest they should prove faithless from their duty, some went fearlessly into exile, as did Liberius and Silverius and Martinus.”
According to Pope Pius IX and Pope Benedict XV, Pope Liberius didn’t falter in any way during the Arian crisis, and was falsely accused by the Church’s enemies for standing firm. Pope St. Anastasius I bears witness to this as well.
Pope St. Anastasius I, epistle Dat mihi plurimum, about 400 AD:
“For at this time when Constantius of holy memory held the world as victor, the heretical African faction was not able by any deception to introduce its baseness because, as we believe, our God provided that the holy and untarnished faith be not contaminated through any vicious blasphemy of slanderous men… For this faith those who were then esteemed as holy bishops gladly endured exile, that is Dionysius, thus a servant of God, prepared by divine instruction, or those following his example of holy recollection, LIBERIUS bishop of the Roman Church, Eusebius also of Vercelli, Hilary of the Gauls, to say nothing of many, on whose decision the choice could rest to be fastened to the cross rather than blaspheme God Christ, which the Arian heresy compelled, or call the Son of God, God Christ, a creature of the Lord.”
It was not Pope Liberius, but the pseudo-bishop Ischyras, who, before he usurped the See of Alexandria, ejected St. Athanasius from his See.
Pope Pius VI, Charitas (# 14), April 13, 1791:
“Perhaps in appreciation of these actions, the bishop of Lidda, Jean Joseph Gobel, was elected Archbishop of Paris, while the archbishop was still living. He is following the example of Ischyras, who was proclaimed bishop of Alexandria at the Council of Tyre as payment for his sinful service in accusing St. Athanasius and ejecting him from his See.”