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54 Jurist 591 (1994)
Shorter Studies

handle is hein.journals/juristcu54 and id is 597 raw text is: THE JURIST 54 (1994) 591-604

Shorter Studies
The lapidary formula cum Petro et sub Petro appears frequently in
the documents of the Magisterium but with no reference to a source.
John Paul II has used it throughout his pontificate, from his inaugural
address as the Bishop of Rome in 1978 to the encyclical Veritatis
splendor in 1993 and the African Synod in 1994.
Ecclesiologists find the use of the expression cum Petro et sub Petro
intriguing for several reasons. First, its origins are obscure: it is not
scriptural; if it is found in patristic writings at all, it is not common. A
computer search that read over five million words in the works of
Augustine found an occasional cum Petro but no instance of sub and
Petro within five words of one another.' Second, the formula appears
to have a juridical quality to it, but it is not found in either the 1917 or
the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Third, the expression is not present in the
final texts of Vatican I, even though the dogmatic constitution Pastor
aeternus focused on papal primacy and infallibility. Fourth, it appears
only once in Vatican II in the Decree on the Missionary Activity of the
Church. Thus, Ad gentes 38 states that bishops have a universal mission
and the mandate of Christ to preach the Gospel to every creature
primarily and immediately concerns them, with Peter and under Peter
(cum Petro et sub Petro).
Why, then, does the Magisterium continue to use this formula? Is
cum Petro et sub Petro a subtle sign from Rome indicating a weakening
* Ph.D. (Pontifical Institute of Saint Anselm, Rome, 1958), S.T.D. (The Catholic
University of America, 1962). Professor of Systematic Theology, Department of The-
ology, The Catholic University of America.
I am grateful to Rev. Allan Fitzgerald, O.S.A. of Villanova University for his
help in the computer search. I also appreciate the research assistance provided by Anders
Tune, David Dawson, and Christopher Malloy.

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