Like other Protestants, Fundamentalists say Christ never appointed Peter as the earthly head for the simple reason that the Church has no earthly head and was never meant to have one. Christ is the Church’s only foundation, in any possible sense of that term.
In other Fathers Know Best tracts we have shown that the Fathers recognized Peter as the rock on which Jesus declared he would build his Church; that this gave Peter a special primacy; and that Peter traveled to Rome, where he was martyred. In this tract we will show that the Fathers also recognized that the bishop of Rome—the pope—continued to serve in Peter’s role in subsequent generations of the Church.
In other Fathers Know Best tracts we have shown that Jesus made Peter the rock on which the Church is built and that this gave Peter a special primacy. Here we will show that Peter went to the city of Rome and was martyred there.
In another Fathers Know Best tract, Peter the Rock, we showed that the early Church Fathers recognized that Peter is the rock of whom Christ spoke when he said, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church." This tract highlights some of the implications of that fact.
Because Peter was made the foundation of the Church, there were practical implications: it gave him a special place or primacy among the apostles. As the passages below demonstrate, the early Church Fathers clearly recognized this.
One of the points I try to emphasize when giving a seminar is that you can begin to be an effective apologist right away; you don’t have to wait until you become a theological whiz. Just work with what you know, even if it’s only one fact.
I illustrate this from my own experience, and you can use this technique the next time you have verses thrown at you by an anti-Catholic.
There is ample evidence in the New Testament that Peter was first in authority among the apostles. Whenever they were named, Peter headed the list (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13); sometimes the apostles were referred to as "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32). Peter was the one who generally spoke for the apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and he figured in many of the most dramatic scenes (Matt. 14:28-32, Matt. 17:24-27, Mark 10:23-28).
The Catholic Church’s teaching on papal infallibility is one which is generally misunderstood by those outside the Church. In particular, Fundamentalists and other "Bible Christians" often confuse the charism of papal "infallibility" with "impeccability." They imagine Catholics believe the pope cannot sin. Others, who avoid this elementary blunder, think the pope relies on some sort of amulet or magical incantation when an infallible definition is due.
The New Testament contains five different metaphors for the foundation of the Church (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:5–6, Rev. 21:14). One metaphor that has been disputed is Jesus Christ’s calling the apostle Peter "rock": "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
Some have tried to argue that Jesus did not mean that his Church would be built on Peter but on something else.
In another Catholic Answers tract, The Authority of the Pope: Part I, we looked at the views of the popes and the other Church Fathers up to the year A.D. 341 and showed that they recognized the unique authority of the pope, the bishop of Rome, in his role as the successor of Peter. In this tract, we will see that the later popes and Church Fathers retained a similar understanding of the Petrine office.
In other Catholic Answers tracts, we have shown that the Church Fathers recognized that Jesus made Peter the rock on which he would build his Church, that this gave Peter a special primacy, that Peter went to Rome, and that he left successors there. In this tract we will show that they also understood that Peter’s successors shared in his special authority or primacy.
"Approaching, do not come with your palms stretched flat nor with fingers separated. But making your left hand a seat for your right, and hollowing your palm, receive the Body of Christ, responding Amen. And having with care hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, take it, vigilant lest you drop any of it."
~ Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church, Saint; on the proper technique for receiving Holy Communion in the hand (circa A.D. 347).