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CHAPTER 4 The Church Fathers And Heresies The Popes, the Church Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils, led by the Holy Spirit, guided the Church through the treacherous waters of heresy.


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Title: CHAPTER 4 The Church Fathers And Heresies The Popes, the Church Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils, led by the Holy Spirit, guided the Church through the treacherous waters of heresy.

CHAPTER 4 The Church Fathers And Heresies The
Popes, the Church Fathers, and the Ecumenical
Councils, led by the Holy Spirit, guided the
Church through the treacherous waters of heresy.
CHAPTER 4 The Church Fathers And Heresies
  • The persecutions endured by the early Church were
    followed by a series of heresies that rocked the
    Church to its foundations.
  • From the beginning, many Christian thinkers used
    Greek philosophy and tradition to help explain
    Christian truths.
  • Over the course of the third to fifth centuries,
    Popes and bishops led the Church through a number
    of Ecumenical Councils addressing new
    controversies and developing new theological

CHAPTER 4 The Church Fathers And Heresies
  • The Athanasian Creed that emerged expresses the
    Catholic belief in the three Divine Persons of
    the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation of God
    the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. It
    emphasizes the equality of each of the three
    persons of the Trinity.
  • The Creed begins and ends with an anathema (a
    condemnation) on those who do not accept it.
  • Each sentence, word, and phrase of the Creed was
    carefully selected in order to adequately express
    the Catholic Faith. While some of these terms
    may seem difficult to understand, members of the
    early Church suffered torture, exile, and death
    in order to preserve and transmit the
    unadulterated Deposit of Faith.

PART I Early Heresies
  • St. Thomas Aquinas defines heresy as a species
    of unbelief, belonging to those who profess the
    Christian Faith but corrupt its dogmas.
  • Orthodox Catholicism derives from the Deposit of
    Faith (the sum of all truths revealed in Sacred
    Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and entrusted to
    the care of the Church).
  • Heresy derives from the same Deposit of Faith,
    but denies or alters some part of it.
  • A person may enter into heresy in one of two
  • Material heresy entered into through ignorance
    of the truth, or misunderstanding or
    incomprehension of some aspect of the Faith.
    This species is merely a mistake that needs
  • Formal heresy freely choosing, with full
    understanding of the teachings of the Church, to
    hold doctrines that are contradictory to those of
    the Church.

PART I Early Heresies
  • The first heresies were particularly dangerous
    because they attacked the figure of Christ
  • Greek philosophy spoke of the logos, a term used
    by St. Paul referring to God the Son.
    Neo-Platonic thought taught that the logos was
    the most exalted creation of the Father, rather
    than God himself.
  • They also viewed the material world as inferior
    to the world of ideas.
  • Therefore, these heresies denied the divinity of
    Jesus, and de-emphasized, if not denied, his
    humanity. They made Jesus inferior to the
    Father, and set the stage for Arianism, the worst
    crisis that the Church would ever endure.

  • Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis
    meaning knowledge. It refers to a heresy in the
    early Church that taught that salvation came from
  • Gnosticism taught that secret knowledge had been
    given to a few. It pitted the Demiurge, the
    creator god of the material world, against the
    remote and unknowable Divine Being. Therefore,
    the material world was against and inferior to
    the spiritual world.

  • The redeemer was sent by the Divine Being to
    release the divine sparks, found among some
    people, so that they could return to the Divine
    Being. This was only possible if the individual
    understood the secret knowledge and practiced the
    Gnostic rituals.
  • Gnosticism rejected the Churchs teaching
    regarding both Christs human and divine nature.
    It taught that Jesus did not inhabit a human
    body, nor did he die on the Cross.
  • The principle of finding the light within oneself
    through pagan ceremonies is the essence of New
    Age religions.

  • Tradition teaches that Marcion was excommunicated
    by his father, a bishop, on grounds of
    immorality. Going to Rome, he started his own
    Christian community AD 140. This heresy grew into
    one of the greatest threats to orthodox
    Christianity and lasted well into the fifth
  • Adopting the idea from Gnosticism, he taught that
    the God of the Jews was the Demiurge. He believed
    that Christ was sent from the God of Love, who
    has no connection to the law, to bring about the
    destruction of the Jewish God.

  • The dualism of Law and Love is the main thesis of
    his system.
  • He only recognized the writings of St. Paul
    because of their teachings on the Law. He felt
    the Apostles were blinded by the Jewish Law and
    so rejected their writings, accepting only a
    purified version of St. Luke.
  • Unwittingly, this heresy helped the Catholic
    Churchs development of the New Testament Canon
    of Scripture.

MANICHAEISM (250s1000s)
  • Manichaeism was the most developed branch of
    Gnosticism. Founded by Mani (AD 216-276) it
    taught the dualist conflict between darkness and
    light. The heresy taught that Satan had stolen
    light particles and placed them in the brains of
    humans. The goal of Manichaeism was to release
    this light so that it could return to its
    original source.
  • Manichaeism borrowed heavily from St. Paul, and
    its followers practiced strict asceticism. It
    appealed to many Romans by demanding a stricter
    moral life than Christianity, and by appealing to
  • St. Augustine was a fervent follower of
    Manichaeism for many years.
  • Similar heresies, such as the Albigensians
    (Cathars) appeared in the Middle Ages.

MONTANISM (156-200s)
  • Montanism was an apocalyptic movement founded by
    Montanus based on private revelations. He taught
    that a new, heavenly kingdom was about to begin
    in Pepuza, a small town in Phrygia.
  • Montanism taught that Christians who had fallen
    from grace could never be forgiven or redeemed.
    It also placed a high emphasis on the ascetical
  • Its most famous adherent was Tertullian.

DOCETISM (30s-100s)
  • Docetism, believing that matter was corrupt,
    denied that Christ was truly human or that he
    suffered the pain of the crucifixion. Its name
    comes from the Greek dokesis meaning appearance.
    It often taught that someone else miraculously
    switched places with Jesus before the

PART II The Ecumenical Councils
  • In order to meet the challenges posed by various
    heresies, the Church convened a number of
    Ecumenical Councils.
  • The word ecumenical comes from the Greek meaning
    the whole inhabited world.
  • The first was in Nicaea AD 325.
  • Altogether there have been twenty-one Ecumenical
    Councils, the last one being the Second Vatican
    Council (1962-1965).
  • The first six councils addressed Christological
    issues providing theological answers to the
    question, Who is Jesus Christ?

PART II The Ecumenical Councils
  • Types of councils
  • Ecumenical Council A council for the entire
    Catholic Church. At present it must be convened
    by the Pope who governs the Council and he alone
    has the power to accept or reject its decrees.
    Its teachings on doctrine are considered
  • Plenary council A council including all of the
    bishops of a nation.
  • Provincial council An assembly of the
    metropolitan archbishop with his suffragan
  • Diocesan council A synod, or meeting of a
    bishop with representatives of the clergy,
    religious, and laity in matters of diocesan
    discipline or procedure.
  • The first seven Ecumenical Councils are
    recognized by both the East and West.

PART III The Church Fathers
  • A number of great and holy leaders arose to lead
    the Church, explain the faith, and meet the
    unique challenges posed by different heresies.
  • These Fathers shared orthodoxy in doctrine,
    holiness, notoriety, and antiquity.
  • While there is no definitive list of Church
    Fathers, they are typically divided between the
    Latin (West) and Greek (East).
  • The study of Church Fathers is known as patrology
    or patristics.
  • Their writings offer an opportunity to learn and
    appreciate the wealth of the earliest Christian
  • Because of their proximity to the Apostles, their
    clarification and interpretation of Scripture is
    a standard reference point.
  • A Doctor of the Church is a specific title
    granted by the Pope to those whose development of
    theology and personal sanctity are exemplary.

  • St. Ambrose, the son of the Praetorian Prefect
    for Gaul, studied law, became a lawyer, and
    eventually became governor.
  • Upon the death of Milans Arian bishop, the
    people clamored for St. Ambrose to succeed him,
    although he was only a catechumen at the time. He
    was soon baptized, ordained, and installed as
  • St. Ambrose defended the Churchs independence
    from the state. When Emperor Theodosius
    slaughtered 700 people AD 390, St. Ambrose
    excommunicated him and forced the emperor to make
    public penance. The emperor was pardoned after
    eight months of prayer and penance.
  • As bishop he was an ardent opponent of Arianism,
    he encouraged monasticism, introduced hymns into
    the liturgy, and facilitated theological exchange
    with the east.

  • Although the contents are based upon the New
    Testament, and it is a profession of faith in the
    Apostles teaching, the author and exact date of
    the Apostles Creed are unknown. It was first
    mentioned by St. Ambrose AD 390.
  • It is based on a baptismal creed used in Rome,
    known as the Roman Creed, and for this reason it
    was particularly accepted in the West where it
    was always associated with the baptismal rite.
  • The creed is divided into three sections The
    Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  • St. Jerome spent five years in the Syrian desert
    leading an ascetical life with companions. It
    was there that he learned Hebrew, which would be
    vital for his future work.
  • Always leading a penitential life, he served as a
    secretary to Pope St. Damasus I, and later spent
    the last years of his life in Bethlehem as the
    head of a new monastery.
  • Although a learned scholar and writing on many of
    the important issues in his day, his most
    important work was the translation of the Bible
    from original sources into Latin known as the
  • This version of the Bible is still the normative
    text in the Church today.

  • It is widely believed that St. Jeromes Vulgate
    translation of the Bible is the most faithful
    translation because he had access to manuscripts
    of the original languages that no longer exist.
  • The Douay-Rheims translation into English was
    based on the Latin Vulgate.
  • The Church teaches that the books of the Bible
    are divinely inspired.
  • After careful study, the Catholic Church will
    grant its imprimatur (ecclesiastical approval) to
    books, including translations of the Bible, in
    which it finds nothing that is contrary to
    Catholic Faith or morals.
  • At present there are five English translations of
    the Bible which have been given an imprimatur
    (ecclesiastical approval) The Douay-Rheims,
    the New Jerusalem Bible, the New American Bible
    (used in liturgies), The Revised Standard Version
    (those editions which have the deuterocanonical
    books), and the New Revised Standard Version.

  • The word canon comes from the Greek meaning
    reed or measuring rod.
  • As applied to Scriptures it means the list of
    writings that have been included in the Bible and
    proclaimed by the Church to be divinely inspired.
  • The Synod of Rome (AD 382) found 27 books of the
    New Testament and 46 books of the Old Testament
    to be divinely inspired.
  • However, the status of seven books of the Old
    Testament were still disputed. These books,
    called deuterocanonical, were written in Greek,
    rather than Hebrew, and were included in the
    Jewish Septuagint (Greek translation of the
    Hebrew Scriptures) that was used by the early
  • The Councils at Hippo (AD 393) and Carthage (AD
    397 and 419) established that the
    deuterocanonical books were divinely inspired and
    were to be included in the Old Testament.
  • The Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea II (787),
    Florence (1335), and Trent (1545) ratified this

  • St. John Chrysostom studied law in Antioch and
    later theology in the influential Antiochene
  • First deciding to be a monk he spent eight years
    following the Pachomian Rule with the last two
    spent as an anchorite or hermit.
  • Returning to Antioch due to ill health he was
    ordained a priest AD 386.
  • He became a renowned preacher and earned the name
    Chrysostom, which means golden mouthed.
  • His sermons captured the deep spiritual meaning
    of Scripture without excluding their literal

  • He combined this biblical meaning with
    real-world, practical application to the
    Christian life.
  • He also wrote a book on the importance and duties
    of a priest.
  • Against his wishes, the emperor named him
    Patriarch of Constantinople AD 398.
  • Preaching against moral laxity, including that in
    the imperial family, made him unpopular with the
    empress who twice had St. John Chrysostom removed
    as patriarch and banished.

PART IV Heresies of the Fourth and Fifth
  • The fourth and fifth centuries AD saw the ending
    of persecutions and the rise of great Church
  • The new found freedom led to the rise of great
    theological and doctrinal developments, but also
    to the rise of heresies.
  • Ecumenical councils made pronouncements on
    Trinitarian and Christological beliefs.
  • Some of the causes of these heresies were
    inaccurate interpretations of the Bible and
    imprecise theological explanations.
  • The two great centers of theological learning
    were Alexandria and Antioch.

PART IV Heresies of the Fourth and Fifth
  • Both appealed to Apostolic founding and
    traditions in defining the theology of the
    Incarnation and the Trinity.
  • The School in Alexandria gave special status to
    the divinity of Christ and the unity of his
    person, along with an allegorical exegesis of the
  • The Antiochene School focused more on the literal
    and historical meaning of Scripture and tended to
    isolate Christs human and divine natures.

  • Arius (250-336) was a priest in Alexandria who
    had studied in Antioch.
  • He was charismatic and attracted huge crowds of
    listeners and devotees.
  • Arius claimed that Christ is neither God, nor
    equal to the Father, but rather an exceptional
    creature raised to the level of Son of God.
  • This heresy was especially dangerous because it
    denied the divinity of Christ, therefore
    effectively denying the most central beliefs of
    Christianity, including the Trinity and
  • This heresy found a wide following, and
    eventually spread to the entire Eastern Church,
    part of the Western Church, and the Germanic

  • St. Athanasius (296-373) marshaled the necessary
    orthodox forces to defeat the Arian heresy.
  • Even when almost all of the Eastern Church had
    become Arian, St. Athanasius remained firm and
    would not be silenced.
  • The Emperor Constantine pushed for a General
    Council at Nicaea in 325 to settle the issue of
    Arianism and to bring unity to the Empire.
  • This was the first of several Ecumenical
  • Pope St. Sylvester I, who was too old and infirm
    to travel, led the council through his legate
    Bishop Hosius of Cordova, Spain.
  • St. Athanasius proposed a statement using the
    Greek term homoousios which means of the same
    essence or substance. This term was accepted
    and the result was the Nicene Creed.

  • With the Arian view defeated, all of the bishops,
    except for two signed the agreed Creed. These
    two were exiled by the emperor.
  • Unfortunately, the Emperor Constantine reversed
    his decision, permitted the return of the exiled
    bishops, and forced the leaders of the Nicene
    party into exile, which included St. Athanasius.
  • Before the Emperor Constantine died AD 337, he
    was baptized on his deathbed by the Arian
    Patriarch of Contantinople.
  • The East soon succumbed to Arianism and the
    heresy even spread to the West.

  • Different forms of Arianism included
  • (1) Anomoeans who stressed the difference
    between the Father and the Son
  • (2) Scriptural purist who rejected the word
    homoousios because it does not appear in
    the Bible.
  • (3) Several semi-Arian groups who stressed
    differences and
    similarities between the Father and the Son with
    the Greek term homoiousios (similar
  • Later the Council of Paris affirmed the Nicene
    Creed and St. Athanasius returned from exile.
    This Nicene Creed was reaffirmed by the council
    of Constantinople (AD 381).

  • The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed came out of
    the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople
    (AD 381).
  • It is longer than the Nicene Creed in three
    distinct places
  • (1) The second section concerning the Son
  • (2) The third section concerning the Holy
  • (3) The last section concerning the Church,
    Baptism, the forgiveness of
    sins, and the Resurrection.
  • This Creed is recited on most Sundays as the
    Profession of Faith following the homily in the

  • St. Hilary of Poitiers was a leading Latin
    theologian of his day.
  • He ardently defended the orthodox position
    against the Arians, and so is called The
    Athanasius of the West.
  • Rather than condemning all heretics without
    exception, he often told semi-Arians who were
    moving toward reconciliation that their arguments
    were merely semantics and that their ideas were
    actually the same.

  • St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nazianzus,
    and St. Gregory of Nyssa spent their lives
    working against the Arian heresy.
  • Their work bore fruit in the Council of
    Constantinople (AD 381) when Arianism was
    decisively defeated.

  • St. Basil was marked by his strong intellect
    combined with a deep personal holiness and keen
    administrative abilities.
  • He lived as a hermit and his ascetical life set
    the example for the structure and spirit of
    Eastern Monasticism.
  • Unlike the west, Eastern Monasticism never
    fractured into new orders and rules, but has
    remained together as an organic whole under St.
    Basils Rule.
  • He worked to see that priests were rigorously and
    properly trained, and worked to care for the
    material and spiritual needs of the laity. He
    developed a system of hospitals and social
    service institutions to serve the poor.
  • He authored the Liturgy of St. Basil which is
    still used in the East during Lent, and its
    influence is seen in the Eucharistic Prayer IV
    used in the Roman Missal.
  • As bishop St. Basil encountered opposition from
    the emperors and other churchmen regarding

St. Gregory of Nazianzus, The Theologian
  • St. Gregory received a classical education in
  • He has often been given the title Theologian
    because of his writings. He devoted much writing
    to the Holy Spirit. Through his preaching in
    Constantinople, he helped to bring the Arians
    back to the orthodox Faith.
  • Like St. Basil, he led a rigorous ascetical life
    and became a bishop in Sasima around 372.

  • St. Gregory, the younger brother of St. Basil,
    was forced into exile because of his deep
    opposition to Arian beliefs.
  • He utilized neo-Platonic philosophy in his
    theological work.
  • He defended the popular title of Mary,
    Theotokos, which is Greek for Mother of God, or
    more literally the one who gave birth to God.

  • Apollinaris ardently supported the orthodox
    position, especially against the Arians, but his
    unguided fervor led him into heresy.
  • Though he believed that Christ had a human body,
    he denied the existence of a human mind and will
    in Christ as a defense against Arianism.
  • Therefore, it would appear that Christ did not
    live a complete life as a man.
  • This is incompatible with the Churchs view that
    Jesus was true God and true Man.
  • Beginning with councils in Rome from 371380
    Apollinarianism was declared erroneous.

NESTORIANISM (ca. 351 ca. 451)
  • Nestorius became the Patriarch of Constantinople
    AD 428.
  • In an effort to escape Apollinarianism, Nestorius
    maintained that Christ was the unity of a divine
    person and a human person.
  • He attempted to eliminate the term Theotokos,
    teaching that Mary was the mother of Christ, but
    not the Mother of God. According to Nestorius,
    Jesus is the result of the union of two separate
    persons, one man and one God.
  • The orthodox position is that Jesus is one Person
    with two natures, human and divine.
  • St. Cyril of Alexandria described the
    relationship of the two natures as the Hypostatic
    Union. This doctrine was accepted in the Fourth
    Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.
  • The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus (431)
    declared Mary as the true Mother of God.
    Nestorius, who refused to recant, was exiled.

  • Monophysitism claimed that there is only one
    nature in Christ.
  • The name is derived from the Greek monos (alone,
    single) and physis (nature).
  • It was a reaction to Nestorianism, attempting to
    stress Christs divinity, with Christs human
    nature being assumed into his Divine nature.
  • One version, Eutychianism, was initiated by
    Eutyches who taught that Christs human nature
    was absorbed into the divine, like a drop of
    water is absorbed into the ocean.
  • Pope St. Leo spoke through his legates in the
    Council of Chalcedon (451) declaring that Jesus
    Christ is the God-man, one Person with two
    natures. It was declared, Peter has spoken
    through Leo.

  • The cumulative effect of these heresies was a
    weakening of the Roman Empire, and the creation
    of splinter Christian groups in the East.
  • Recent common declarations of faith between the
    Catholic and Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syrian
    Orthodox Churches have concluded that they no
    long hold a monophysite position.

  • Bishop Gregory the Illuminator (257337) began
    the Christianization of the Armenian people. He
    did so by first converting the king, Tiridates
    III, and then the people. This model of
    evangelization would be followed in the centuries
    to come.
  • Armenia enjoys the distinction of being the first
    nation to officially become Christian AD 314.
  • Unfortunately, most of the Armenian people broke
    away from the Church over the issue of
    monophysitism, although a segment is still in
    communion with Rome and has its own Eastern
    Catholic rite.

  • Pope St. Leo (d. 461) did much to consolidate
    papal power.
  • The origin of this authority is based on the
    words of Christ, You are Peter, and on this rock
    I will build my Church.
  • With a firm conviction of Gods will, Pope St.
    Leo secured a rescript from Emperor Valentinian
    III acknowledging papal jurisdiction in the West.
  • His strong leadership in dealing with heresies,
    his dealings with the barbarian threat, and his
    administration of the Church earned him the title
    the Great.

  • Monothelitism is the doctrine that professes the
    existence of only one will in Christ, but still
    maintains that he has two natures.
  • It name comes from the Greek mono (alone, single)
    and thelos (one who wills).
  • The heresy originated with the emperor as a way
    to reconcile the Monophysites with the church and
    to bring unity to the empire.
  • Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople approved the
    formula and wrote to Pope Honorius to clarify the
  • The Pope approved of Sergiuss handling of the
    matter and used the words one will in his
    reply, which the emperor and Patriarch used in an
    official document.

  • Two councils in Constantinople (not ecumenical)
    accepted this formula.
  • The Popes use of the term one will in this
    private letter to the Patriarch is often used as
    evidence against Papal Infallibility.
  • However, it does not meet the conditions for
    infallibility as the Pope did not define a matter
    of doctrine for the entire Church, nor was it his
    intention to descend into theological details.
  • It does show evidence that the other Churches,
    including the Patriarch of Constantinople, would
    appeal to the papacy to settle theological
  • Later, the Church developed precise language in
    defining its position that Jesus had two natures
    (human and divine) and two wills (human and

  • Donatism rejected the validity of the Sacraments
    celebrated by priests and bishops who had
    betrayed the Faith during persecution or who had
    in other ways sinned.
  • They identified the true Church only with
    themselves and even rebaptized those who joined
    their sect.
  • St. Augustine was their chief opponent.
  • He developed the Catholic position that Christ is
    the true minister of every Sacrament, even if the
    person celebrating the Sacrament is in a state of
  • St. Augustine separated the worthiness of the
    priest from the validity of the Sacrament.
  • The Donatists were suppressed by the state AD
    411, but were never fully defeated until Islam
    overran the Church in Africa in the seventh and
    eighth centuries.

PELAGIANISM (late 300s-431)
  • Pelagianism taught that man can be redeemed and
    sanctified without grace.
  • It denied the existence of Original Sin, as well
    as its transmission to the human family.
  • The Sacraments were superfluous since salvation
    could be obtained by human effort.
  • These views were condemned at the councils of
    Carthage and Milevis AD 416 and AD 418 the Pope
    excommunicated its founders.
  • These issues surrounding the Fall, Original Sin,
    and grace reappeared during the Middle Ages and
    again at the time of the Reformation.

  • St. Augustine (354430) was perhaps the greatest
    Father of the Church. He was a pastor, penitent,
    monk, preacher, bishop, teacher, and theologian.
    No other theologian rivaled his importance until
    St. Thomas Aquinas.
  • St. Augustine was born to a pagan father and a
    Christian mother (St. Monica). He lived a
    dissolute life for many years before converting
    to the Faith. During this time he cohabited with
    a woman with whom he had a child and later became
    deeply involved with the heresy of Manichaeism.

  • Upon moving to Milan he found great intellectual
    stimulation in neo-Platonic philosophy and the
    preaching of St. Ambrose.
  • After a conversion experience he resolved to
    become Catholic and to abandon his sinful life.
    He and his son were baptized. However, he soon
    suffered tragedy as his mother, who had prayed
    for her sons conversion her entire life, died,
    and his son died the following year.
  • He returned to his birthplace in North Africa
    where he established a monastic community and
    lived a life dedicated to prayer and penance.
    Upon a visit to Hippo, he was seized by the
    people and ordained a priest by the bishop. Four
    years later he became a bishop.

  • St. Augustine was a voluminous writer who
    addressed all of the major heresies of his day
    Manicheans, Donatists, Pelagians, Arians, and the
  • His theology addresses the Trinity, grace, the
    Fall, Original Sin, repentance, Sacraments,
    predestination, and atonement.
  • St. Augustines theology and writings came to be
    adopted as the official teaching of the Church.
  • A number of religious orders adopted his rule in
    the Middle Ages.
  • By the time of his death the temporal, social,
    and economic order of the Roman Empire was
  • His writings set the theological tone in the
    West, and his philosophy and theology dominated
    Christian thought for some eight hundred years
    until the advent of Scholasticism and St. Thomas

PART V Christianity Official Religion of the
Roman Empire
  • For political reasons the state wanted religious
    unity and uniformity. The Church in the East,
    influenced by the growing power of the Patriarch
    of Constantinople under the strong influence of
    the emperor, tended to accept a role of the
    Church which was subservient to the interests of
    the state.
  • The dual role as head of state and leader of the
    Church on the part of the emperor was called
    caesaropapism. The emperor played a major role in
    selecting the patriarch who was then beholden to
    the emperor.

PART V Christianity Official Religion of the
Roman Empire
  • In the West as well, the papacy wanted a good
    working relationship with the state. However, the
    Church in the west did not allow anyone, even the
    emperor, to be above the law of Christ.
  • When Constantine abandoned Rome, it left the
    papacy with temporal power in addition to its
    spiritual power. When the state collapsed, the
    papacy was there to defend and preserve the Faith
    and culture of the people.

  • After the Edict of Milan, Constantine and
    Licinius ruled the Roman Empire.
  • AD 321 Licinius began a persecution of bishops
    and clergy, and AD 324 he declared war on
    Constantine. Licinius was defeated and religious
    toleration was enjoyed throughout the Empire.
  • Constantine freed the Church and priests from
    taxation, individual churches were permitted to
    receive donations, work on Sunday was forbidden,
    and crucifixion as a punishment was ended.

  • Constantine founded the city of Contantinople on
    the site of the Greek city of Byzantium. It was
    dedicated to the protection of Mary under the
    title of Theotokos and survived for over a
    thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks
    in 1453.
  • In moving the capital to Constantinople, the
    economic, cultural, and linguistic power shifted.
    The east was wealthier and more heavily
    populated. It looked upon the West as backward
    and poor.
  • On his deathbed Constantine was baptized by an
    Arian bishop. The East declared him a Saint.
    Although the West did not concur, he was given
    the title the Great.

  • Julian (332-363) was the nephew of Constantine.
    He became Caesar in 355. The title Apostate
    (one who willingly renounces the Faith) has been
    given to Julian because, though he was baptized a
    Christian, as emperor he tried to de-emphasize
  • Although he didnt persecute Christians, he
    promoted paganism placing it on an equal footing
    with Christianity, and attempted to strip the
    Church of all of the privileges with which it had
    been granted by Constantine.
  • The Emperors following Julian moved to reduce
    paganism to oblivion and re-established the
    special status of Christianity.

  • Theodosius I cemented the union between Church
    and state with his AD 391 decree declaring
    Christianity to be the official religion of the
  • Heresy became a legal offence and pagan sacrifice
    was outlawed.
  • This union of throne and altar became the
    standard relationship between Church and state
    until Vatican Council II. This union posed many
    challenges and occasioned many crises for the
    Church over the centuries.

  • The Edict of Milan brought about a moment of
    freedom to the Church. However, the Church was
    convulsed by one theological controversy after
    another for the next two centuries.
  • Only the leadership of the Popes, the Church
    Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils under the
    influence of the Holy Spirit guided the Church
    through the treacherous waters of heresy.
  • The proclamation of Christianity as the official
    religion of the Roman Empire by Theodosius I in
    391 inaugurated a new era in Christianity.

The End