Rejoinder to Erick Ybarra’s First Reply to Ubi Petrus | Part 1 | When Plagiarism Goes Wrong

In reaction to my rebuttal to his initial article, Mr. Ybarra went into full “peacock mode” and wrote nearly 60 pages here in response to my initial 10 pages article. Due to this, I have broken my second rebuttal into two parts, the second of which will appear soon. In this first section, I will address the following:

  1. Mr. Ybarra denies that at the time of writing the article he believed the Tome to be an Ex Cathedra statement.
  2. Mr. Ybarra denies the Latin term “auctoritas,” when referring to authority, meant “authority” in terms of soft power but instead argues it refers to really anything he wants it to refer to, namely the ability to proactively go out and make binding decisions and decrees, depose bishops, etc. He does this with, it must be noted, absolutely no knowledge of Latin and no scholarly sources supporting his position.

As before, Mr. Ybarra’s words will be in blue and set apart in quotation boxes but this time, in the same font he used in his initial article. I have left out some sections of what he has written (indicated by […] typically because those are off topic or extraneous and including them would simply add far more text. In some cases, where indicated, I have re-entered text to try and add some organisation into his article for the purposes of response.

Ubi Petrus attempts to prove two things in his article. (1) That I’ve not read the Acts of Chalcedon, nor am I familiar with the history of the Council except from secondary sources and quote mines, and (2) That neither Pope St. Leo nor the Bishops at the Council considered the Tome to be an ex-cathedra, or something “foisted on the bishops”; instead, both the Pope and the Council considered the Tome to be a statement of one Patriarch (of the West) submitted to the higher authority of the Council to review it for either approval or disapproval.

My preliminary answer to these two points as as follows: (1) I have not read the absolute entirety of the Acts. After all, there are pages which include hundreds of names and bishoprics. There are pages which consist of the repetitious record of the bishops saying they agree with the Council. There is also a rehearsing of the Acts of the Council of Ephesus (449) in Session I of Chalcedon, and so one reads this Council as well as Chalcedon if we were to read it in its entirety. Maybe one day I can find the time to read every word from cover to cover, but I believe I’ve read extensively the pertinent sum which pertain to the dispute that is central to the topic at hand. And many times, at that.

He failed to answer why, if he had read from Fr. Price’s translation and commentary (the only complete English language translation there is) he never once cited from it in his initial article but instead cited English language quote mines in addition to works he lacks the linguistic skills to access, namely Migne’s Patrologia and Mansi. Perhaps after writing his first response he did read Fr. Price’s translation of the acts but when he says “I believe I’ve read extensively the pertinent sum which pertain to the dispute that is central to the topic at hand”, he does not know that as one does not know what they do not know. In other words, until he has read the entirety of the Acts, he has no clue what he is missing.

Ubi Petrus (UP from here forward) claims that my article seeks to argue that Leo’s tome is an exercise of the infallible magisterium of the Pope. […] As far as I recall, I did not intend to argue in my article for the extraordinary infallibility of the Leo’s tome. While I believe a good case can be made for it to be an ex-cathedra decree, that is not the proposition I was committed to in the article, and so I am puzzled by this first statement. I used the phrase “Magisterium of Rome“, and the author immediately assumed I intend to mean the extraordinary and infallible magisterium of Papal ex-cathedra definitions. I cannot recall if that is what I had in mind or not, but the author should take note that “Magisterium of Rome” is not an exclusive reference to the infallible magisterium of of the Pope’s teaching ministry.

In truth, my article is committed to answering one specific question, namely, as the title suggests, was Leo’s tome critically examined by the Council of Chalcedon? I believe what prompted me to write this article were the claims made by both Orthodox and Protestant historical theologians who claim that the Tome was intellectually spanked by the council fathers before it finally was deemed to be acceptable, or, in harmony with the more prominently revered writings of St. Cyril of Alexandria. I believe this to be a revision, and ergo, my article. UP doesn’t actually plant his two feet in front of that position as I laid it down, and so his confrontation is with a straw monster.

Behold, Exhibit A. Mr. Ybarra left this comment in his Papacy group on Facebook at roughly the same time he wrote his initial article. Having ‘jogged’ his memory on what he considered the Tome when he wrote this article, we can proceed onto Mr. Ybarra’s second set of arguments.

(2) He then moves to concede that the Council of Chalcedon and pertinent figures associated with it recognized that the Pope had authority, but authority understood by the Latin noun auctoritas […] So we have here the claim that Pope Leo only claims to possess an auctoritas over the universal Church, whereas the Latin word for juridical power, “potestas”, is purposefully avoided. In other words, UP would have us believe that Pope St. Leo claimed to have an authority of influence and persuasion, a “soft power”, but not the kind of authority which puts a binding requirement on the subject to obey or face legal penalties.This is a gross oversimplification of the use of these terms in the 5th century Church, let alone how St. Leo uses it. Nevertheless, I will give a brief run down of how these two words were used in the late antique Rome, and how they developed.

Much later in the article, he tops that when he states:

I think UP’s rebuttal to my first article doesn’t really do justice to the meaning of the term auctoritas in the relevant Latin literature. While, in a Roman classical perspective, auctoritas has a pretty clear and standard definition, it still carried with it a divine foundation in the Pope’s ministry, and which could therefore be the cause for making binding decisions in the Church. As we saw, there were times where even potestas and auctoritas could be nearly interchangeable. Not that their definitions become the same, but they can be so bound up with one another that to say one is to imply the other.

This is where it gets really fun: lacking the Latin skills to even decline a second declension noun, Mr. Ybarra will now educate us, in detail, on what two Latin terms mean – psychologists call that the “Dunning Kruger Effect.”[1] Despite that, he does an ok job of summarizing one definition of auctoritas but leaves pretty much all the others out. Had he gone to the dictionary I linked to in the first article, Lewis and Short’s standard, “A Latin Dictionary,” he could have seen a full list of definitions up to the year 600AD. Further, without mentioning he was summarizing Oakeshott’s words or just simply directly quoting him and using quotation marks, Mr. Ybarra instead shamelessly plagiarises Oakeshott and then tells readers to “consult” the book he plagiarised. Oakeshott’s words in brown:

For the Romans, government or the act of governing was a compound of exercising initiative and power, otherwise called auctoritas and potestas. The noun auctoritas referred to the qualities possessed by the auctor, i.e. the subject who has auctoritas. A man who is an auctor is a man who originated something, like an author, designer, founder, or progenitor.

“As an abstract noun, the word auctoritas stood for the qualities which belonged to an auctor. And an auctor was a man who originated something – an author, a creator, a founder, or a progenitor.”

Therefore, the word stood for the character of origination, or causation, i.e. being the source from which the other comes from. If an author wrote a book, a architect designed a building, or an inventor invented a machine, or if someone initializes an event which extends into a further sequences, etc.,etc., these were auctores.

“Consequently, auctoritas mean having the quality of characteristic of ‘inventiveness’ or ‘initiative,’ or of being the source, or cause, or origin of something. Thus auctor and auctoritas were words which could be used in connection with a number of different activities, such as writing a book, designing a building, inventing a machine, or even setting going a course of events.”

Now, when we are thinking in terms of the auctoritas of a leader over other human beings, we have to see what it would mean to be an auctor in relation to persons.

“We are interested in it when it was used in connection with human activities which entail a relationship between a man (said to be an auctor and having auctoritas was in connection with a family”

Most obviously, the progenitor or father of a family who be the auctor. Adam and Abraham would be two perfect examples of auctores in relation to humanity, in the case of the first, and the household of Israel, in the case of the second. Not only would this be the case in terms of physical generation, but even another sort of cause and effect, such as Adam’s sin bring ruin to the human race, thereby being the auctor of humanity’s fall. To get more specific, the verb augere, from which auctor and auctoritas derive, means to augment or increase.

“The ‘founder’ of a family, its original progenitor (so far as recorded history is concerned), was its auctor. (Thus, in one image of the human race, not of course a Roman image, Adam would be recognized as its auctor, indeed, Adam is thought of, by Augustine for example, as ‘the author of all our misery. And the Israelites looked back to ‘father’ Abraham as their preeminent auctor or progenitor.[…] Both auctor and auctoritas derive from the verb augere, which meant to ‘increase’, to ‘enlarge’, to augment, or ‘to add more luster to’.”

Bringing this concept of auctor and auctortias from the basic level of origination to the populus Romanus (the Roman people), there is none other than the mythical figure of Romulus as the founding father of the Roman people, and thus would be the auctor of these people.

“Now, we have seen the powerful pull of the analogy of the family upon Roman political thought; and it is a short step from auctoritas in the familia to auctoritas in connection with the populus Romanus and res publica. The founding father of Rome was Romulus. In the legend, […]”

What role did the auctores who came thereafter have when they stood as leaders of Rome? Historically because Romulus was believed to have ordained 100 heads from prestigious families of early Rome to serve as counselors, it was the Senate which bore pre-eminent auctoritas.

“Now, Romulus had, reputedly, chosen a hundred of the heads of the most distinguished families of early Rome to be his counselors, and this was the reputed origin of the senate.” And the senate, being composed of patres, the ‘fathers’ of the populus Romanus, was recognized as the preeminent possessor of auctoritas”

This sort of influence was to give teaching, guidance, education, and moral initiative to the production of policy, but not the sort which could make commands and execute legal direction.

“The relationship between an auctor and the populus Romanus was, fundamentally, a tutorial relationship: to exercise auctoritas was to advise, to give guidance, and to educate.”

The rest is just further plagiarism. Now, I am unaware of any institution of higher learning that would tolerate such blatant theft and plagiarism is theft as it is stealing someone else’s work and presenting that work as one’s own so there is the double insult of theft followed by lying. If Mr. Ybarra is still bewildered as to why I consider him a “poser” in my reply to his initial article or if he is still wondering where I had pointed out he had plagiarised others, he must understand by now.

However, as the Roman republic developed its constitution, it was the Augustus (lit. exalted/venerable; the title given to Octavian, the first Roman Emperor), interestingly derived from the verb augere (as we saw, lit. to augment/increase), who was seen to have acquired auctoritas together with potestas, and he was also referred to as the princeps (a word used later to refer to St. Peter in the Apostolic College, and the Pope of Rome in relation to the universal Church), which means literally first in order, but effectively meaning the Leader of the Roman Empire when attributed to Augustus. This Princeps, then, brought together the aucoritas and potestas in a single subject. If we add the notion of potestas as imperium, as well, then we have the ruler of the imperium Romanum and the supreme ruler of the Roman people.

Augustus killed the Republic and pulled a tremendous power grab. As a way to downplay how much power he had assumed, he took on the term “princeps,” which does indeed mean “first” but as a title, simply meant the most senior senator[2] and was analogous in power perhaps to a Speaker of the House in the US system. It is often times translated as “first citizen” but in Medieval Latin, was translated as “prince.” The early Roman Empire is broken into two periods: the Principatus (from “princeps”) and the Dominatus (from “dominus”) based off of the titles emperors used for themselves. When Diocletian took control of the Empire in 284, he formally disavowed the title “princeps” and instead took on the title “dominus,” (“lord”) thus inaugurating the “Dominatus.” By the time popes were using the term “princeps” to refer to St. Peter, it had fallen largely out of usage as an imperial title and by the time Pope St. Leo specifically was using the title “princeps apostolorum” to refer to St. Peter, it had practically ceased being used for an emperor for more than 150 years[3] and therefore no longer had the ring in the ears of the listener Mr. Ybarra imagines.

(For more information on this, consult prestigious political theorist Michael Oakeshott’s Lectures in the History of Political Thought , pages 213-229)

Not a reference, simply a recommendation for further reading. Again, he never indicates he was summarizing or quoting that text but presents it as his own words.

I will give plenty of references further below, but the most famous text where auctoritas and potestas is used is that of the Tome of Pope St. Gelasius, and this passage, ironically enough, appears to rank the auctoritas of bishops above that of the potestas of the Imperium. Gelasius writes: “There are in fact two..Emperor Augustus, by whom the world is originally (principaliter) governed: the consecrated authority of bishops (auctoritas sacrata pontificum) and the royal power (regalis potestas). Of these, the responsibility of the bishops is the more weighty, since even for rulers of men they will have to give account at the judgment seat of God. For you know, most gracious son, that, though in your office you preside over the human race , yet you bow your head in devout humility before those who govern the things of God and await from them the means of your salvation; you realize that in the use and fitting administration of the heavenly sacraments you ought to submit to Christian order, not to be its master, and that in these matters you ought to be subject to their judgment” (Epistolae Romanorum pontificum 557; English taken from Trevor Jalland’s “Church and Papacy” , pg. 326)

On the distinction between auctoritas and potestas, Anglican historian Dr. Trevor Jalland, during his lecture series delivered at Oxford in 1942 entitled “Church and Papacy” (now put into book form, see above reference), stated:“Here lies a distinction familiar to students of Roman constitutional law. Auctoritas belonged to the ideal and moral sphere, and just because its force was derived from tradition or from public opinion, it was strictly an ethical concept, as in the case of the Roman Senate, and so differed from the physical potestas endowed with executive imperium, which in the republican period belonged to the populus and was entrusted to the magisttrates only for the period of their office. There was therefore a clear though undefined sense in which auctoritas if compared with potestas could be regarded as the higher of the two, just as moral influence is superior to physical force” (ibid. p. 327)

Similarly, the Medieval historian Dr. Walter Ullman states:“Whilst, however, this fundamental difference between the pontifical auctoritas and the imperial potestas was clear to anyone versed in Roman juristic terminology and ideology, Gelasius superimposed a typical Christian argument upon it: in a Roman-Christian world, the sacred pontifical auctoritas is all the greater, as it has to render an account even for the doings of the kings themselves on the day of judgment” (The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages, pg. 21-22)

Here, Mr. Ybarra is confusing the term “higher” with the term “juridical” or “more (legally) powerful.” There is no question that a conscience and moral code has to guide one first and foremost above and beyond juridical law but that is not what we are debating here. What we are debating is this: does auctoritas refer to a juridical power to proactively give out orders that must be followed?

On the other hand, the matter here is not as clear for some other scholars. One British historian, Jeffery Richards, surveys the various views on the above Tome: “In this letter Gelasius appears to contrast auctoritas and potestas. Much ink and fury has been expended over the years in trying to define just what he meant. There have been four main interpretations. Erich Caspar argued that potestas meant power and auctoritas meant moral authority and that Gelasius was restating the strictly dualist view of the world. Walter Ullman has argued that in Roman legal terms, auctoritas meant the God-given right to rule and potestas merely delegated executive power and that this is a statement of Papal supremacy. Francis Dvornik has argued that in Roman legal terms, potestas meant sovereignty and auctoritas merely traditional authority and that it is a statement of Imperial supremacy. A.K. Ziegler has suggested that it is merely a rhetorical device to avoid using the same word twice, and he quotes a letter written by Gelasius for Felix III in which he is clearly using auctoritas and potestas as synonyms” (The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages: 476-752, link)

Contrary to what one may think, therefore, the precise definition of auctoritas in contrast to potestas, when it comes to understanding how the authority of the Pope was understood in St. Leo’s day, is not  as easy to discern.

Except, as the above quotation states right out, these scholars have differing opinions not on the terms “auctoritas” and “potestas” in and of themselves, but in terms of how those two terms were being used specifically by Pope St. Gelasius and specifically in his letter to the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius (popularly knowns as the “Two Swords”) in 494 during the Acacian Schism. In other words, these scholars are not differing on how Pope St. Leo, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, or anyone else for that matter used “auctoritas” and “potestas” but in how they were used in what has come to be seen as an exceptional situation.[4]

It would appear that auctoritas should be less “binding” than potestas, as something which doesn’t inherently require obedience and conformity, strictly. But in this case, the auctoritas of the Pope seems to carry with it the function of representing something sacred, even divine. In that case, it can be seen to cover far more than any sort of potestas could have, either imperial or ecclesiastical. It is from this vantage point that I believe Dr. James Greenaway, whose dissertation was in the field of medieval political philosophy, and whose published book is on the subject of authority in the medieval context, gets closest to what is being described by the Pope’s when they claim auctoritas over the whole universal church. Greenaway writes: “..papal auctoritas signified an ‘activity of guardianship rather than “rule”, a right to advise, and to teach, and to admonish’. Papal authority, then, extended to the custodianship of Christian doctrine as its sole authoritative interpreter” (The Differentiation of Authority: The Medieval Turn Toward Existence, pg. 208)

Greenaway then immediately quotes Oakeshott: “The Pope had authority to ‘guard and to augment and to interpret Christian belief…But the Pope was not only recognized to have auctoritas over Christian doctrine; he claimed, as he often successfully exercised, auctoritas over kings and emperors of Christendom…The ground of this auctoritas was the Pope’s position as guardian of the Christian Church; and it was often used to instruct kings and emperors in their duties as Christian rulers and protectors of the Church’” (ibid)

I looked up Mr. Ybarra’s reference and even took the time to read the book, which is actually very good, but the quotation he is providing is actually from the part of the book on the Catholic Church in the 13th century, not the fifth. The author posits it in his section on the about face the Papacy had done during and after the Gregorian Reforms and how it had repurposed terms leading up to Unam Sactam so it is 700+ or so years after the time period we are talking about (Chalcedon in 451). Further, the quotation is not from Greenaway but from Oakeshott and is from a section in Oakeshott’s work on the same period of time (13th century). Had Mr. Ybarra actually read the book, he would know the author discusses the development of the term auctoritas during the Gregorian Reforms until it actually indicated the role of doctrine’s “sole authoritative interpreter.” Further, the book does not claim to cover the period of Chalcedon but starts nearly two-and-a-half decades later (the title of the book is a big clue: “The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages: 476-752)

Here are the pertinent pages leading up the quotation he provided:

There is no way Mr. Ybarra read the sections he is quoting from. If he did, he was then purposefully taking the quotation out of context.

What is highly amusing, though is via the hyperlink Mr. Ybarra has provided to his source, he inadvertently linked directly to his google search and reveals he simply googled “papal authority auctoritas potestas” and then searched for quotations in materials he clearly has not read.


Again, this is regarding the usages within the post-Gregorian Reform Catholic Church, not the year 451.

I think a good definition is one provided by Ullman: auctoritas ” is the faculty of shaping things creatively and in a binding manner, while potestas is the power to execute what the auctoritas has laid down“. (Growth of Papal Government, pg. 21).

Sounds impressive until you see the full quotation from Ullman: “And this auctoritas being divinely conferred for the purpose of governing the Chrstian body corporate, is logically enough sacrata, whilest the emperor’s power is a simple “regalis potestas.” That is a thoroughly juristic terminology employed by Gelasius. Auctoritas is the faculty of shaping things creatively and in a binding manner, while potestas is the power to execute what the auctoritas has laid down. The Roman senate had auctoritas, the Roman magistrate had potestas. The antithesis between auctoritas and potestas stated already by Augustus himself, shows the outstanding ‘charismatic political authority’ which his auctoritas contained.” (Growth of Papal Government, p. 21)

Here, Ullman admits the type of binding the pope had is on the same level as that of the Roman Senate, which actually lacked any binding power but could only propose legislation to the magistrates for ratification. If you remember from Mr. Ybarra’s newest article, he admits the Senate had no legally binding authority whatsoever. In a series of sentences largely plagiarized from Oakeshott but still accurate, Mr. Ybarra had earlier stated:

“…it was the Senate which bore pre-eminent auctoritas. This sort of influence was to give teaching, guidance, education, and moral initiative to the production of policy, but not the sort which could make commands and execute legal direction. It was the wise teacher, and not the commander, of the res publica. Therefore, the senatorial auctoritas didn’t include rights to be obeyed, but only the right to be heard and considered, and based off moral authority or for being prestigious, wise, and learned.”

Inadvertently, Mr. Ybarra has disqualified his own supporting evidence.

Since we have Church Fathers using auctoritas to describe the authority of almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Scripture, Ecumenical Councils, and the binding Patristic tradition ( consensus patrum), we should understand that even if auctoritas were to be that of “prestige” and “persuasive gravitas”, it should still be understood as persuasive gravitas of the highest and most supreme value. It could not be subsumed into the idea of “soft power”, or something which does not require obedience. Such would be absurd.

Mr. Ybarra uses this same reasoning later on in his examples: that persuasion and prestige are commands requiring obedience. But “to persuade” means to convince via argument or pleading,[5] there is nothing “binding” about it. Further, several times in his reply, Mr. Ybarra ridicules the idea of God having auctoritas in the sense of soft power. To that, Professor Karla Pollman, who specializes in early Christianity with a focus on St. Augustine of Hippo says:

“In pagan Roman religious thought the auctoritas of the gods is an exceedingly rare concept. The pagan gods are conceded potestas: they have, as it were, the function of large-scale magistrates. This is also the case in the Bible: divine [Greek term] is rendered in Latin with potestas. Auctoritas divina used in connection with the Christian God is only first found in Tertullian, then also in Augustine and others, with far-reaching theological consequences. Here

I select only two examples. In Tertullian, auctoritas divina denotes the divine will that reveals itself to humans and gives them moral instructions. Such an auctoritas divina can legitimate the actions and initiatives of a human being.”

“Augustine differentiates this further by demonstrating that God’s auctoritas is revealed to perfection in the humilitas of Jesus Christ: the combination of superior potestas and merciful clementia is the essence of divine auctoritas. This phenomenon certainly deserves closer investigation, taking a broader spectrum of authors into account, but it is presumably a safe working hypothesis to emphasize that the authority of the Christian God is more intimately linked to humility and compassion than to coercion and control, and that the emphasis lies more in the consent and self-fulfilment of the believers than on their being overpowered.

“This intriguing concept has its noteworthy theological counterpart in a relatively rare constellation, found in Ambrose, namely that humans have auctoritas with God.57 It is faith (Expositio de psalmo 118.7.3), a good conscience (De interpellatione Iob et David 1.17), or morally good behavior (De officiis 3.85) which lends the authority to a believer to trust in God’s succour. The subtle difference from potestas is vital, as such behaviour cannot, of course, force God to react in a favourable way. But auctoritas augments the position of those who bear it, validated by extraneous activity, in these cases not pertaining to social hierarchy but to ethical behaviour. Ambrose uses the term auctoritas in good Roman fashion as an entity between violence and request, which in this way, for instance, guaranteed the power of the Roman Senate for centuries.”[6]

Mr. Ybarra continues…

The auctoritas of the Creator is absolute and supremely binding upon all of creation. Therefore the auctoritas of the Apostolic See , being rooted in the divine plan of Christ our Lord in blessed Peter and his successors, is not an attempt to claim Rome’s pre-eminence, albeit as “soft power”. It could very well be a reference to an absolutely binding authority, opposition to which results in the peril of the soul. With that being stated, I would have to turn to UP and ask if he/she is comfortable with saying God, Christ, the Church, the consensus patrum, and Ecumenical Councils are all a “soft power” which doesn’t strictly bind the conscience with an infallible force of authority? It would appear as if UP sees auctoritas as belittling the Papal authority from that of absolute and supreme to something along the lines of moral prestige. I am curious if the same logic would belittle God’s authority (auctoritas). Now, here below are several instances from the 4th to the 8th centuries on the usage of auctoritas, and I believe we get a different picture than what UP drew for us.

Before beginning, going further, I recommend reading the entirety of Prof. Karla Pollmann’s article “Antiquity: The Transformation of the Concept of Auctoritas” which I quoted from above. You can find this article here and she actually explains why auctoritas was applied to the Scriptures, God, etc.

Mr. Ybarra is faced with a dilemma because if he admits auctoritas means what it really means, he will have to throw away almost all of the evidence for the Roman Catholic doctrines on the Papacy wherein it differs from what the Orthodox Church is willing to accept. But in order for him to continue claiming otherwise, he has to do so without period appropriate scholarly evidence. 

First, classical Latin (100BC-200AD) is broken into the Golden Age (100BC-14AD) and then Silver Age (14AD-200AD) and what makes the Golden Age of Latin the “Golden Age” is that writers, roughly around 14AD, realised the Latin used by the upper class from the preceding century was exceptionally elegant so instead of simply allowing the written and oratorical language to develop however it might, these post-14AD authors began to consciously mimic the style, grammar, and vocabulary of the preceding century and this kept up until around the year 200AD when centuries of military conquests and acculturation of other groups, as well as an increased influx of auxiliary troops into the military over the preceding centuries, finally caught up with Latin and foreign words, primarily from Greek, poured in becoming part of the accepted literary vocabulary while authors typically simplified their style and began to prefer some less common terms present in classical Latin over formerly more common ones. There was also some repurposing of words but typically, due to an increasing number of non-native speakers, the trend moved towards simplifying definitions. The grammar of the written language stayed almost entirely the same and as the study of rhetoric was common, students were taught using classical authors, most notably Cicero, and were taught to mimic them.[7] Because of this, authors such as Pope St. Leo, St. Augustine, and anyone from the upper class (i.e. who were almost universally educated in rhetoric to one degree or another) wrote and delivered public speeches in a more classical style despite utilizing more ecclesiastical terms where necessary. Furthermore, legal terms, regardless of the language, change much more slowly than other terms due to their actual codification.

Second, (I am paraphrasing and summarising all of these definitions from the three dictionaries I cite and have linked below), auctoritas can only be understood in terms of the root term: “auctor.” An auctor is:

  1. An originator (whether by crafting an object, writing a book; inventing something; starting a family; founding a school of thought, city, a building, etc.).
  2. An advisor or instigator.
  3. A guarantor or witness (in sales and contracts).
  4. A confirmer/authoriser. A guardian (Latin “tutor”) of minors and women whose authorization (auctoritas) was required for the minor to buy or sell something of significant value – think land and slaves. The tutor could not issue commands, they could only authorise/confirm or deny their ward’s transactions but they could always give counsel. The paterfamilias.

Auctoritas develops from those and, as alluded to in our previous article, it had a variety of meanings used at varying frequencies between 100 BC and 600 AD:

  1. Social prestige, moral authority, command over an audience (usually due to being linked to an auctor).
  2. Counsel, opinion, advice. The Senate and the jurists had it in the sense of formal counsel. This is why a decree of the Senate that was not ratified by magistrates (who had potestas) was called “senatus auctoritas” while those that passed were called a “senatus consultum.” (Lewis and Short)
  3. Bill of ownership. i.e. a title/deed.
  4. “A record, document The things which serve for the verification or establishment of a fact.” and “A warrant, security for establishing a fact [or] assertion, etc., credibility”[8]
  5. Authorization/confirmation/ratification/assent. For example, the authorisation of a paterfamilias to authorise/confirm his son’s use of potestas in contracting a marriage. The authorization of a guardian for their ward to make financial transaction. (Bergers). The Senate, despite lacking legal power, could, by the act of appointing a magistrate, authorise them to use potestas to pass laws, raise legions, lead armies, etc. A bishop crowning an emperor; bishop lacks potestas but authorises/legitimises another to use theirs in the role of a king to use his.
  6. An example, pattern, model[9] This is particularly true in the Roman jurors usage of “auctoritas et ratio” (“authority and reason”) in formulating new legislation or handling legal cases. They could use past cases as an example for how to handle present ones or they could use reason and argumentation to develop something new.

To substantiate these statements, I used Lewis and Short “A Latin Dictionary,” which is the Latin dictionary[10] with the most “auctoritas” and covers up to the year 600AD (the one downfall is it does not list definitions in order of frequency but will indicate frequency next to each definition). It is the dictionary I linked to in my previous article and the one whose definitions Mr. Ybarra disregarded either because its definitions do not support his beliefs and/or because, not being familiar with Latin, he does not realise the place Lewis and Short holds within Latin studies.

A second source, if one is particularly interested in Latin legal terminology, is Adolph Bergers “The Encyclopedic  Dictionary of Roman Law[11] and covers up until just after Emperor St. Justinian’s (527-565) legal reforms. As Lewis and Short stops at roughly 600AD, to go later than that, consult Niermeyer’s “Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus,”[12] which picks up at 550AD and goes until 1050AD, generally including definitions not in Lewis and Short due to being the time period. All three of these dictionaries are considered the standards in their respective fields and I paraphrased and summarised their definitions above. I encourage you not to take my word for it but to actually read through those dictionary entries linked to above as an effort to use accessible materials has been made so anyone can verify what is being repeated here. Notice that Mr. Ybarra never once used a Latin dictionary or a historian commenting on the time period under discussion to support his belief in what he desperately needs auctoritas to mean.

While reading Mr. Ybarra’s quotations, recall that in Vatican I’s “Pastor Aeternus,” which defined universal immediate and ordinary jurisdiction as well as papal infallibility, though the term “auctoritas” appears numerous times in the document, it is never used within the document to define jurisdiction or infallibility. Instead, it uses the term “potestas,” which is the same term used in Roman Catholic theology to refer to a priest’s sacramental powers (because it refers to the ability to change or bend reality to one’s will with or without the cooperation of other parties). Finally, take note of his use of the word-concept fallacy: ‘the quotation says “authority” in English, therefore it means Pastor Aeternus.’

Into each quotation Mr. Ybarra provides, in black font and brackets, I have inserted which meaning auctoritas is utilizing in that instance. In a few instances, I have left his commentary, but as it does not rely on any scholarly descriptions and tends to ramble, in the interest of keeping the article of manageable length, I have left out most of it. 


“Here we have suffered from troublesome men, dangerous to our law and tradition — men of undisciplined mind, whom both the authority (auctoritas) [counsel] of our God, which is with us, and our tradition and the rule of truth reject, because they have neither reason in their argument, nor any moderation in their accusations, nor was their manner of proof to the point. Therefore by the judgment of God and of Mother Church, who knows and approves her own, they have been either condemned or rejected” (taken from E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority A.D. 96-454, p. 88; Latin text from Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 26.206)

In a council, both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe the Holy Spirit becomes present among the bishops and counsels them on what to produce, guiding and inspiring them (which relies on cooperation) towards correct definitions and decisions. In this case, ‘auctoritas” is referring to God’s counsel and confirmation that is present with the bishops (i.e. the Holy Spirit, John 14). Because we do not believe God suspends the bishops’ free will and turns them into robots, God’s guidance in the council cannot be forced, but must be a cooperative effort. This is why they use auctoritas here. If they used potestas, it would infer that they are unable to resist (i.e. Calvinism). Now, if Mr. Ybarra is a faithful Catholic, he should have no issues whatsoever with that understanding of a council but he is inadvertently arguing for Calvinism by denying God uses counsel, which is definitely a type of “soft power.”

Additionally, because he does not have a background in classics, Mr. Ybarra misses a reference they are likely making by using the terms “auctoritas” and then “ratio” shortly thereafter. Auctoritas and ratio were the two principles in Roman law used to come to legal decisions. In that framework, auctoritas refers to the prestige of tradition in previous judgements, and can be translated as “an example, pattern, model” (Lewis and Short) and ratio refers to reasoned arguments both of which could be used to come to a decision in legal matters. St. Augustine actually wrote extensively on the topic of auctoritas and ratio[13] and went so far as to apply it to how one was to come to the knowledge of God.   


“Wherefore I beseech your holiness, by the crucified Saviour of the world, that you will write and authorize me to say or refuse the hypostases..Likewise inform me with whom I ought to communicate at Antioch; for the Campenses are joined to the heretical Tarsenes, and desire nothing but to preach three hypostases in the old sense, as if supported by the authority (aucoritate)
[prestige, good reputation] of your communion” (ibid)

It is clear from the above that St. Jerome understands the Roman communion to be absolutely indispensable…

The key word is “authorize.” St. Jerome, a priest directly under Pope St. Damasus but on sabbatical in the Levant, is asking for counsel and confirmation/authorization on whom he should commune with.  

Nota bene: Pope St. Damasus and St. Jerome were actually both mistaken as St. Meletius of Antioch, whom Rome considered an episcopal intruder and in schism, is now considered to have been the true bishop of Antioch, not the Roman backed claimants. St. Meletius, while out of communion from Rome, ordained St. John Chysostom and then famously went on to preside at Constantinople II in 381 where he reposed midway through the Council. He had been in communion with the Three Cappadocians who, most notably St. Basil, defended him against the claims of Rome and Alexandria urging Rome and Alexandria to enter communion with him. So whether St. Jerome believed “Roman communion to be absolutely indispensable,” St. Meletius, the Three Cappadocians, and all the other hierarchs who maintained communion with that great saint did not share St. Jerome’s views.


“We consider that by the help of the mercy of our Lord God, who deigns both to direct your counsel and to hear your prayers, those who hold such perverse and pernicious opinions will more easily yield to the authority (auctoritati)
[advice, counsel] of your holiness, drawn from the authority (auctoritate) [guarantee] of Holy Scripture, so that we may be congratulated by their correction, than saddened by their ruin” (Council of Milevis to Pope St. Innocent; Augustine Ep. 176; PL 33.763)

First, “yield” means to voluntarily stop, not to be stopped, that requires cooperation.

Second, they state outright the Pope will use his respect and prestige to settle the issue before it gets worse. We know because they tell us when they say “God, who deigns both to direct your counsel…” Counsel to whom except the Pelagius and Celestus? Those two taken together give a clearer picture of the situation: Pelagius and Celestus have already been excommunicated by multiple synods, another excommunication is not going to do much more so at this point, the synod is asking the pope to persuade the two heretics to renounce their ways before issuing yet another condemnation lest they die before repenting.

Third, in Late Latin Christian literature, the Scriptures and Church Fathers are usually referred to in terms of “auctoritas”[14] because they were documents/records used to substantiate a fact, they were considered inanimate witnesses and a guarantee to the events they describe. In the words of Lewis and Short, “The things which serve for the verification or establishment of a fact. A record, document.”[15]


“You decided that it was proper to refer to our judgment , knowing what is due to the Apostolic See….So also, you have by your priestly office preserved the institutions of the fathers , and have not spurned that which they decreed by a sentence not human but divine, that whatever is done, even though it be in distant provinces, should not be ended until it comes to the knowledge of this See, that by its authority (auctoritate)
[confirmation] the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened, and that from there the other churches (like waters proceeding from their natal sources and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of an uncorrupt head) should take up what they ought to enjoin…” (Pope St. Innocent to Carthage; PL 33.780).

“Firmaretur” is the imperfect passive subjunctive of “firmare,” which means “to strengthen,” “to establish,” and “to stabilize”[16] but was used in Ecclesiastical Latin to refer to ratifying decisions. It is the same term Pope St. Leo uses in letter 120 when he speaks of the bishops as “ratifying” the Tome.[17] Second, here, auctoritas is being used in terms of confirming another in their use of potestas.


“It is therefore with due care and fitness that you consult the secrets of the Apostolic Office (that Office, I mean, to which belongs, besides those things that are outside, the care of all the churches) as to what opinion should be held on doubtful matters, following the form of the ancient rule which, you and I know, has ever been kept in the whole world….Especially as often as questions of faith are to be ventilated, I think all our brothers and fellow bishops ought to refer to none but Peter, that is to the author [auctore] of their name and office, even as your affection has now referred [to us], a matter which may benefit all churches in common throughout the world….Therefore your charity will do a double good ; for you will obtain the grace of having observed the canons, and the whole world will share your benefit…..We declare that Pelagius and Celestius , that is the inventors of new doctrines which, as the Apostle said, are wont to produce no edification, but rather utterly empty questionings, should by the authority (auctoritate)
[confirmation] of apostolic vigor be deprived of apostolic communion..” (Pope St. Innocent to Milevis ; PL 33.784)

I highlighted “consult” and “opinion” to draw attention the fact that the council to whom this letter was addressed had asked both for advice and confirmation and the Pope understands it this way. I also added in “auctor” (auctore in the dative singular) in brackets to show, as we compiled in another florilegium, despite Rome holding the place of Peter par excellence, all bishops hold the place of Peter, he is the archetype of bishops. Third, they are asking for the pope to use his auctoritas to authorise their potestas (potestas is the term always used when referring to sacramental power, in this case, the power to excommunicate).

The Latin of this sentence goes like this “….sui nominis et honoris auctorem referre debere”. Right there we see our auctor-word, which is translated as “author” or “beginning”. This confirms that auctoritas carries the meaning of origin or authorship, and so Rome’s auctoritas involves its being the foundation of origin in ecclesiastical organization.

In his commentary on that passage, Mr. Ybarra then tries his hand at Latin…and fails. Auctoritas does not ‘carry the meaning of “author” or “beginning”’ – but “auctor” does. “Auctor” is the thing which causes “auctoritas” to exist and is the thing an “auctor” has and then passes down. They are etymologically related, but they do not mean the same thing.


“Although the tradition of the fathers has assigned such great authority (auctoritatem) [confirmation] to the Apostolic See, that no one would dare to dispute its judgment, and has kept this always by canons and rules and church order, and in the current of its laws pays the reverence which it owes to the name of Peter, from whom it descends; for canonical antiquity , by the consent of all, has willed such power (potestatis) [sacramental power] to this apostle , so that the promise of Christ our God, that he should loose the bound and bind the loosed, is equally given to those who have obtained, with his assent, the inheritance of his See; for he [Peter] has the care of all the churches , especially for this where he sat, nor does he permit any of its privileges or decisions to be shaken by any blast, since he established it on the firm and immovable foundation of his own name, which no one shall rashly attack , but at his peril. Peter then is the head of so great authority (auctoritatis) [confirmation], and has confirmed the devotion of all the fathers who followed him, so that the Roman church is established by all laws and discipine, whether human or divine. His place we rule, and we inherit the power of his name; you know this, dearest brothers, and as priests you out to know it. Such then being our authority (auctoritatis) [confirmation], that no one can revise our sentence ….”) Pope St. Zosimus to the Council of CarthagePL 20.676

The note from Giles in the book Mr. Ybarra takes this from points out the English is almost “unreadable” and thought I would not say that, I would definitely say it is clumsy. 


“This above all is clear to me: never depart from the authority (auctoritate) of Christ. I find none stronger. (Augustine Contra Academicos III.20.43; English translation taken from Robert Eno’s Teaching Authority in the Early Church , p. 138)

St. Augustine adheres to the Roman understanding of there being two ways to come to a legal decision: either through “auctoritas” and “ratio”[18] but he transfers this onto religious knowledge. Being that Contra Academicos was St. Augustine’s first Christian writing, his worldview is still a very traditional Roman worldview and he wrestles to understand Christianity from within this paradigm that is very natural to him so he is arguing against the Platonist view that man can discover truth on his own by use of reason (“ratio”). Below is the entire passage:

“XX. 42. […] For it is not the philosophy of this world, which our sacred writings very rightly abhor, but of another intelligible world to which the most subtle reasoning would never recall souls enveloped in the manifold darkness of error and defiled by the sordid appetites of the body, if the Omnipotent God in His mercy toward mankind did not abase and degrade the greatness of His divine Mind by assuming a human body in order that souls, enkindled not only by His words but also by His example,76 might be able to return to themselves and without the wrangling of arguments to have a taste of their true country.

“XX. 43. Meanwhile I have convinced myself, in so far as I was able, in regard to this probability of the Academicians. If it is false, it does not concern me since it is now sufficient for me not to believe that truth cannot be attained by man. But whoever is of the opinion that the Academicians thought this should listen to Cicero himself. For he says that they were accustomed to conceal their doctrine and to hide it from everyone except those who lived with them to the period of old age.

“77 What their doctrine really is, however, (only) God will know; and yet I think it was that of Plato. But in order that you may briefly hear my unqualified statement as to what human wisdom is of itself, I admit that I have not apprehended (its nature). Yet, although I am now in my thirty-third year, I do not think I ought to despair of ever attaining wisdom. Having despised all other things which men consider good, I have set out to devote my efforts to search for it. Since the doctrines of the Academicians did not lightly deter me from this important business, I have been well fortified against their teachings, I believe, by this argument of yours. But no one doubts that we are incited to learn by the double weight of authority and of reason. Therefore I am sure that I shall never depart from the authority of Christ; for I find no other more reliable. But what ought to be attained by the most subtle reasoning for at the present time I am so disposed as impatiently to desire to apprehend truth not only by believing, but also by knowing I trust I shall find meanwhile in the works of the Platonists,79 what is not in contradiction with our sacred writings.'”[19] [emphasis mine]

In the footnotes, the translator and commentator states:

“76 In his early works Augustine seems to assign to the Incarnate God the special rôle of a Divine Teacher and Exemplaran intellectual Guide, as it were, through whom man could arrive at a knowledge of truth. Cf. Epistulae, XI, 4.

“78 At the very beginning of his conversion Augustine stresses that there are two sources of religious knowledge: reason and authority. This thesis is also developed in De ordine, II, ix, 26.” [emphasis mine]

Contra his interlocutor, in the preceding paragraph and the St. Augustine turns around and claims that ratio is not sufficient for coming to a knowledge of God but that one must be guided by God and only through God’s permission can one start to know Him. St. Augustine is speaking of the auctoritas of Christ in terms of “An example, pattern, model.” (Lewis and Short) Footnote 76 from the translator/commentator support this.

“But if you come across a person who does not yet believe the Gospel, what would you do, if he said to you: ‘I do not believe’? As for myself, I would not believe the Gospel unless the authority (auctoritas)
[guarantee] of the Catholic Church moved me to.”  (Against the Manichaean, V.6; English from Eno, p. 135)

Here, auctoritas is serving the purpose of a guarantee, something that verifies an assertion.


“When, then, all protested  against the newness of this practice (rebaptizing), and the priests everywhere each as his zeal prompted him , opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, prelate of the Apostolic See, acting indeed with his colleagues, but even so efore them, opposed it, thinking it right, as I imagine, so far to excel all the rest in is devotion to the faith as he surpassed them by the authority (auctoritate)
[prestige, good name] of his place ” (Commonitorium 6; English from E. Giles, p. 272;  Patrologia Latina 50.645)

A clearer translation is that provided by NFPF at EWTN:

When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority [prestige, good name] of his place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith.”[20]

Mr. Ybarra says…

This is a well known episode from the mid-3rd century. Pope St. Stephen attempted to excommunicate persons who did not conform to the traditional understanding of baptism outside the true Catholic Church, and this move to do so is described by St. Vincent as auctoritate, or rather being founded upon it. This would entail that auctoritas could carry implications of an ability to exercise jurisdiction in a binding way (at least in the mind of St. Stephen).

It is not describing his action as “auctoritas” at all. It is simply saying his bishopric, Rome, had more prestige and social standing than other sees, it is being used to describe his place, not his actions. I really am curious as to how Mr. Ybarra came to the conclusion that they excommunications were described “as auctoritas.” At the same time, and harkening back to the point Mr. Ybarra made about St. Jerome and “Roman communion” as “indispensable,” St. Cyprian died out of communion with Rome.

“First they should ascertain whether anything has been decreed of old by all the priests of the Catholic Church with the authority (auctoritate) [confirmation] of a universal Council…” (Commonitorium, St Vincent of Lerins ;  Patrologia Latina 50.647 ;English from E. Giles p. 275)

“All the priest of the Catholic Church” are doing the decreeing and the guarantee for their decree is that it is done “with the authority of a universal Council.” Here, the council is acting as “The things which serve for the verification or establishment of a fact.” (Lewis and Short)


“And so, appropriating to yourself the authority (auctoritate) [prestige, confirmation] of our see, and using our position, you shall with resolute severity carry out this sentence….” (Celestine to Cyril , Epistle 11; English from E. Giles p. 241; Patrologia Latina 50.465)

It just means prestige and confirmation here. He is telling St. Cyril that he authorizes him to speak and act in Rome’s name. At several points in this article, Mr. Ybarra denies auctoritas carries the meaning of jurisdiction, but here, he affirms it. None of the Latin dictionaries I have consulted indicate anything like that. That begs the question, if auctoritas can mean “jurisdiction” and “binding decisions requiring obedience,” why does Pastor Aeternus only use potestas to describe those two abilities of the Pope?


“As for those things which the universal council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favour of the Church of Constantinople, let your holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet , keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the Church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it.
Even so the whole force and confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority (auctoritati)
[confirmation] of your blessedness” (Anatolius to Leo, Ep. 132; E. Giles, p. 330Patrologia Latina 54.1094)

Anatolius wrote in Greek, not Latin, and if you read the linked article by Prof. Pollman], you will know there was nothing even remotely equivalent in the Greek language so we are dealing with the Latin translator’s understanding of what is going on: a confirmation, which is a passive role, not an active one as it requires the auctor to be approached as opposed to preemptively act. It is a role Orthodox Christians have never begrudged the Pope and we hope and pray for the day the Pope realizes this is one of the extents of his power.


“Indeed resolutions of bishops which are repugnant to the rules of the holy canons composed at Nicaea, in conjunction with the loyalty of your faith, we dismiss as invalid, and
by the authority (auctoritatem)
[counsel and confirmation] of Peter, the blessed apostle, we absolutely disannul by a general decree in all ecclesiastical cases…” (Leo to Empress Pulcheria; Epistle 104; Patrologia Latina 54.998; English from E. Giles, p. 328)

“By the authority of St. Peter” is an interesting phrase as it appears and re-appears and it is a play on words here. First, it was believed the popes had a special relationship with St. Peter and operated under his influence (one of the reasons why the prestige of Rome was so high and related to the possession of St. Peter’s relics) so it is referring to the act being done with the counsel of St. Peter. Second, though “confirmation” sounds clumsy in English as he is not confirming but actually annulling, he is referring to the act of an auctor in terms of confirming or rejecting.  


“But other things, those which were done or simply talked about through foolish presumption, things which the Apostolic See in no way ordered, which were clearly and speedily rejected by the legates of the Apostolic See, which the Apostolic, even with the Emperor Marcian asking for them, in no way approved, which the Bishop of Constantinople at the time, Anatolius, claimed not to have sought and did not deny was in the power of the bishop of the Apostolic See: in sum, as we said, that which the Apostolic See has not accepted, because it was shown to be contradictory to the privileges of the universal Church, can in no way be accepted” (Epistolae Romanorum pontificum 557-559; English taken from Eno, p. 167)

This text, often referred to as the Bond of Anathema by Pope Gelasius, is particularly interested, for it uses the word “potestas” to describe the power of Pope St. Leo in annulling the 28th canon that attempted to get passed at the Council of Chalcedon. As shown above, St. Leo referred to the “auctoritas” of St. Peter to annul this canon, and yet St. Gelasius understands that “potestas” came out from this “auctoritas”. 

It is not referring to annulling but to the ability to make an actual change to the canonical order of sees. We know because St. Gelasius narrates how canon 28 was pushed for and that St. Anatolius claimed he had not wanted it but that he asked Rome to approve the canon and therefore change the order. Because potestas refers to the ability to manipulate or bend reality to one’s will, potestas is the correct term for Pope St. Gelasius to use here because he is denying he has the ability to change the reality of the canons.


Pope St. Martin I, attempting to address ecclesiastical ordinations of heretics in the East, wrote a letter to Bishop John of Philadelphia (Metropolis of West Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) appointing him as his Vicar to:…

Not even close. Philadelphia was in the province of Arabia[22] and is modern day Amman, Jordan (what should have caught Mr. Ybarra’s attention is the pope was appointing a vicar who was supposedly not even in the region he was supposed to be overseeing – Western Turkey is very far from Antioch and Jerusalem).

“correct things which are wanting, and appoint Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons in every city of those which are subject to the See both of Jerusalem and of Antioch; we charging you to do this in every way, in virtue of the Apostolic authority­­ (auctoritate) which was given us by the Lord in the person of most blessed Peter, prince of the Apostles; on account of the necessities of our time, and the pressure of the nations” (Mansi X.806; English from Thomas William Allies, The See of Peter, p. 120)

The letter is in the Patrologia Latina (Epistle V, pages 154-164 in vol. 87) and begins by stating the Pope had been referred to John of Philadelphia by Stephan of Dor (the previous papal vicar to the area and disciple of St. Sophronius) due to his holy way of life (“spiritualis tuae secundum Deum conversationis”). The part Mr Ybarra’s quotes is towards the beginning but, because he cannot read Latin, he was unable to read the rest of the letter and so missed out on the part immediately before the quotation he posted. The Pope states:

“Sic igatur procedentem in Domino, et ascensiones ad eum facientem de gloria in gloriam, charitatem tuam exhortamur, religiosissime frater, nostram istic vicem implere, id est, in Orientis partibus, in omnibus ecclesiasticis functionibus atque officiis, ut in hoc maxime sicut oportet, suscites gratiam Dei, quae in te est per impositionem sacerdotalis dignitatis, et nostrae apostolicae vicis. Non enim dedit Deus spiritum timoris sed fortitudinis, et dilectionis, et prudentiae (II Tim 3), ad tollendam omnem haeresim, quae verbo fidei adversator, et ad omne vitium expugnandum, quod virtuti divinae contrarium sit; ut sic prosperans in Domino, ea quae desunt corrigans,…” [the rest as in the picture Mr. Ybarra posted]

Directly from Latin, the entire quotation goes like this:

“Therefore, as we move forward in the Lord, and ascending to Him, going from glory to glory, we exhort Your Charity, Most Religious Brother, to fill this our role, that is, in the eastern parts, in all ecclesiastical functions and offices, that in this chiefly, as is proper, awaken the grace of God, which is in you through the imposition of priestly orders and our apostolic role. ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of strength, love, and discretion’ (II Tim 3) for the abolishment of all heresies which the word of faith is opposed to and for the purpose of purifying all because it is necessarily the opposite of divine virtue. So prospering in the Lord and correcting those things which are lacking, in all of their cities which are under the See of Jerusalem and then of Antioch, appoint bishops, priests, and deacons, this, in all ways, is our charge to you and from our apostolic authority (auctoritate), which was given to us by the Lord through the most holy Peter, First of the Apostles; by reason of our difficult times and the pressure of the heathen,…[23]

First and foremost, the Pope starts by “exhorting” (not commanding, but strongly encouraging) John to take on the role he is laying out. This sets the tone for the rest of the letter where the Pope continues to try convincing John to accept his offer. The word translated at “charge” here is “praecipio” and it has a variety of meanings but primarily “to instruct, teach, command, advise, warn, charge, prescribe, preach, anticipate[24]Lewis and Short adds “to give rules or precepts to any one, to advise, admonish, warn, inform, instruct, teach; to enjoin, direct, bid, order, etc.”[25] Being that the Pope is in “exhortation” mode, it cannot be understood as a command per se but more in terms of ‘if you accept this offer, in order to have our backing, it needs to play out like this:…’

Second, the city of Jerusalem was de facto without a patriarch between 638 and 681 (some sources say 692) and had a quasi-locum tenens. This left Jerusalem the only patriarchate not to officially support the imperial policy towards Monothelitism at any point during the Monothelite controversy. Antioch was vacant due to its bishop being a Monothelite heretic and deposed by the Lateran synod so the Roman synod, headed by Pope St. Martin, is completely within their rights here.[26]

Pope St. Martin I is clearly exercising the power of jurisdiction in and through this Eastern bishop in the internal affairs of Antioch and Jerusalem, and he appeals to the auctoritas given to St. Peter and his successors as the legitimizing rationale. It would therefore be strange to justify the power to depose and/or ordain in foreign dioceses on the basis of auctoritas if the latter carried no significance of the ability to exercise potestas.

The “legitimizing rational” is, as Pope St. Martin writes “the necessities of our time and the pressure of the nations.” That is why. “Power of jurisdiction” is specified in Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus and gives the Pope the power to transfer a priest, promote a deacon, or excommunicate a lay person in any diocese in the world at any time without any intermediary and his decisions are final. That is not what is going on here, though as auctoritas is once again being used in the terms of confirming or authorizing John to use his potestas both here and its second occurrence.

Potestas is the term used, to this day, in the Roman Catholic Church to describe sacramental powers as potestas refers to the ability to ‘change’ reality, while auctoritas refers primarily to the ability to influence others to change reality or confirm them in doing so.

I said above that Ullman provided a good definition for auctoritas. However, in light of the data I’ve presented, I think he provides an even better one in his “A Short History” of the Papacy in the Middle Ages when he states: “Once more the ancient Roman constitution served the papacy well: it chose the term of auctoritas which designated the final and supreme and unchallengeable ruling in any controversial matter. Auctortias as claimed by the papacy from now onwards meant the faculty of laying down in a binding manner the fundamental guide lines that were to direct Christian soceity. That was the idea behind the (Roman) concept of the principatus of the Roman church which itself was the constitutional term for Roman monarchy” (p. 32). 

That goes quite nicely with what St. Leo said in Epistle 65: “Through the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, the holy Roman church holds the principiate over all the churches of the whole world” (Epistle #65, M.P.L. 54.879)

Rome did not have a “monarchy” when St. Leo wrote as it was an empire. Also, “principatus” just referred to the highest rank in any given office.[27] On top of that, the period in Rome’s history known as the Principatus had ended in 284 while Pope St. Leo writes in the mid-fifth century so Ullman is more than a century-and-a-half off there. Additionally, Ullman ends up claiming the Senate had “binding” powers,[28] when the Senate was, without debate, purely an advisory council to the rulers.

As we can see, despite normally being translated as “authority” into English, auctoritas was a word with a variety of meanings, but in none of the dictionaries I have consulted covering Latin up until 600 did it mean “jurisdiction” or “legal power” in the sense of being able to legally order others around and legally manipulate reality.[29] The closest it could possibly mean to that would be one who confirms and even then, one who confirms others is not the one holding the actual capabilities as they are simply giving assent to their actions. Instead, auctoritas meant prestige, counsel, that which confirms a fact, a guarantee, confirmation/authorization, example/pattern, or a record/document. In the instances where it could reasonably be translated “authority,” it means so in terms of soft-power, namely prestige or counsel.

To be continued…

[1] “Coined in 1999 by then-Cornell psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the eponymous Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. And not only do they fail to recognize their incompetence, they’re also likely to feel confident that they actually are competent.” 


[3] There are some rare and vague exceptions to this in terms of compound nouns such as a “contitutiones principium” but “princeps” as a title used to refer to the emperor or address him had, as far as I can tell, falled out of use.

[4] For whatever it matters, the majority of commentators I have come across in the last decade see no reason to interpret Pope St. Gelasius’ as using the terms any differently than their standard usage.


[6] Prof. Karla Pollman “Antiquity: The Transformation of the Concept of Auctoritas” found in “Being Christian in Late Antiquity.” P. 156-174

[7] St. Augustine bears witness to this in “Confessions” 3.3.6-3.5.9 when he speaks of the affect the style and content of Cicero’s “Hortensius” had on him as a young student or rhetoric.







[14]“To achieve a profound interpretation of the Bible, Cassiodorus recommends the consultation and study of the opinions of the fathers as practically indispensable. Their authority is close to that of the Scriptures themselves. This can be seen from the term auctoritas, which in this context is almost purely used to denote the authority of written Christian texts. [a few dozen examples follow]” p. 81 “The Baptized Muse, Early Christian Poetry as Cultural Authority” by Prof. Karla Pollman. Oxford University Press, 2017


[16]“Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin” by Leo F. Stelton Hendrickson Publishers, 2009

[17]It is also used, along with the broader “confirmo” by Pope St. Leo and the translators of the Acts of Chalcedon into Latin to describe Leo ratifying the Acts, the Emperor signing them into law, Leo refusing to accept canon 28, etc. In Ecclesiastical usage, though “confirmo” also means “to strengthen,” it carries the connotation of “upholding,” which is probably why it was chosen for the Sacrament of Confirmation and why councils can speak of “confirming” prior councils. On the other hand, firmo carries the connotation of “establishing” (a thing, a place, a document, a belief), “fixing” in place, “making firm.” “Ecclesiastical Latin Dictionary,” Leo F. Stelton


[19]“Against the Academicians, Medieval Philosophical Texts in Translation” Garvey, Mary Patricia. Marquette University Press, 1957, P. 81-82



[22]“The Acts of the Lateran Synod of 649” Fr. Richard Price, Liverpool University Press, 2014. P. 136

[23]Translation mine.

[24]“Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin” Leo F. Stelton


[26]Politics and questions of right or wrong aside (and minus the heresy aspect), this is essentially what the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew has recently done in Ukraine: supported elements within a local hierarchy yet he is not considered to have universal ordinary and immediate jurisdiction.

[27] p. 631

[28]“Auctoritas is the faculty of shaping things creatively and in a binding manner, while potestas is the power to execute what the auctoritas has laid down. The Roman senate had auctoritas, the Roman magistrate had potestas.” (Growth of Papal Government, p. 21)”

[29]A notable exception being Niermeyer’s who documents the Frankish kings used it for royal decrees.



3 thoughts on “Rejoinder to Erick Ybarra’s First Reply to Ubi Petrus | Part 1 | When Plagiarism Goes Wrong

  1. Pingback: When Plagiarism Goes Wrong (Part II) – Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia

  2. I can’t wade through all this, I assume the concern over whether the Tome of Leo was ex cathedra or not is because this webpage defends papalism and so forth. or at least that its acceptance was because it was from Pope Leo.

    the fact is, it was studied BEFORE it was proclaimed Peter’s voice and faith. it had to match the Christology of St. Cyril of Alexandria, who had become the standard. if it had failed to match that and the same faith held by the others at the council who represented the tradition of the Church in various lands, it would have been rejected.


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