I think my man is undermining Petrine primacy:
"Of course Charlemagne was head of the Church (and Louis the Pious after him), again both de facto and de jure like their imperial Roman predecessors. It would also never even have occurred to most of their churchmen that the head of the Papal Republic, apostolicus as they acknowledged him to be, could possibly have aspired to anything remotely resembling the overarching religious authority that it was the God-given duty of the king-emperor to wield." [Heather, Peter (2014-02-21). The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders (Kindle Locations 5696-5699). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.]
As I am discovering, Peter Heather's book is indeed thought provoking, especially for me as a "Roman". Basically, the author is saying that in the history of the Church he who has called the shots is the one who wears the tiara, and that has been the "God-given" Christian emperor... every time. Which thesis or contention, for all its realism and for all the author's historical arguments about how the early ecumenical councils worked, still doesn't convince me that Christ is not ultimately in charge and so through His vicar, the successor of St. Peter in Rome. The Petrine Ministry of binding the Church together in love and thereby strengthening the brethren as Christ willed does not necessarily fall to the one who has kept the troops in order by most effectively cracking the whip.
Heather is claiming that the Church has only known orthodoxy and unity under the firmly wielded scepter of Christian emperors or powerful kings. But how can you call them guarantors of the faith? Was Henry VIII the exception to the rule or are this man's arguments fundamentally nefarious and standing somehow outside of Christ's will?
What does the Vicar of Christ have to do in order to be the Rock, the guarantor? The indefectibility of the Church must be factored in, pope martyrs (usually at the hands of the emperor) and all. Charlemagne might have paid the light bills in Rome, but there is more to the story. Maybe we are too quick to define Petrine Ministry and what it means to bind the Church together in love.
From almost time immemorial now, despite the critique of certain vaticanisti, all we have known are strong, charismatic popes, and maybe that is why Heather can make the claims he does. He makes it too easy for some to deny the Roman Pontiff his due in the plan of salvation, as if it were all based on something as serendipity as charisma.