It will perhaps come as a great surprise to many Roman Catholics but they ARE NOT REQUIRED to believe that Peter either went to Rome or that he established his church there.
Any doctrine of faith or morals which is necessary for all Catholics to believe at all times is classified as a "dogma de fide." All de fide dogmas are listed in "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Dr. Ludwig Ott. There is no "dogma de fide" about Peter's residence in Rome. Catholics must simply believe that:
- According to Christ's ordinance, Peter is to have successors in his primacy over the whole church and for all time. (p.282)
- The successors of St. Peter in the primacy are the Bishops of Rome. (p.283)
And from Sacred Canon Law, which binds all believing Catholics:
Canon 331 - "The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church the Rome. He is the head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ and the Pastor of the Universal Church here on earth. Consequently, by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power."
An interesting quote from the Catholic Encyclopaedia, where the Papal Primacy is defined under pain of anathema for doubters and disbelievers:
"The primacy of St. Peter and the perpetuity of that primacy in the Roman See are dogmatically defined in the canons attached to the first two chapters of the Constitution "Pastor Aeturnus" -
(a) "If any one shall say that Blessed Peter the Apostle was not constituted by Christ our Lord as chief of all the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant: or that he did not receive directly and immediately from the same Lord Jesus Christ a primacy of true and proper jurisdiction, but one of honour only: let him be anathema."
(b) "If any one shall say it is not by the institution of the Christ our Lord Himself or by divinely established right that Blessed Peter has perpetual successors in his primacy over the universal Church: or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of Blessed Peter in the same primacy: - let him be anathema." http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm
So we have established that although many Roman Catholics believe that Peter established their church in Rome, they are under no obligation to do so. Sacred Canon Law, the Constitution "Pastor Aeturnus," and Dr. Ludwig Ott all claim that the Roman Pontiff holds the primacy from Peter by a divine ordinance. How this primacy was transferred from Peter to the Bishop of Rome is left totally unexplained. Dr. Ott merely states that he records "the more usual theological viewpoint." From this it follows that Roman Catholics are simply required to believe that Peter passed on the primacy to the popes, and they are under no obligation to produce evidence by way of explanation or substantiation.
Asserting Peter's ministry in Rome would surely imply that the required historical evidence is available. In the next post, we will examine what evidence the 'authorities' can produce.