Saturday, July 16, 2016

On Vacation

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Carmel. It also happens to be my birthday, as well as the first day of my children's summer vacation. I shall be taking some time off - perhaps as much as a few weeks - to spend with my family, to refocus my prayer life, and to decompress from the recent events in the Church and the world. If you've enjoyed and/or benefited from this little blog-shaped effort, please consider saying a short prayer for its editor, a sinner.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Last week, the good people at OnePeterFive were gracious enough to publish an article I wrote entitled Pornography and the Prophet: Islam, Feminism and the Myth of the "Willing Whore." In the article, I discuss the very real threat that unregulated immigration from Muslim countries represents to European women. If you haven't read it, you can do so here.

I admit that, after having done a fair amount of research for the article, I have become more sensitive to the issue than I was before. But I don't go scouring the internet for stories which might substantiate my findings. Nonetheless, when they pop up in my news feed or Twitter timeline, I pass them along. Today, I started re-tweeting them with the hashtag #ShariaRape. This made me aware of just how many cases there are right now. These all appeared within the space of an hour:

I'm not a hashtag activist or whatever, I just decided to start indexing cases to make it easier to find them in the future. If you're on Twitter, please consider doing the same. If there is any kind of response, I might do a follow-up story in the future.

Christian Initiation in the Third Century

Reading N°56 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

In the third century, initiation into the Christian life was by Baptism, preceded by the catechumenate, and immediately followed by Confirmation and participation in the Holy Eucharist. When a pagan, disillusioned from the mysteries of his religion or touched by the courage of the martyrs or by the example of Christian virtues, comes to the bishop to ask for a share in the Christian mysteries, the bishop first makes him undergo a probation, vaguely mentioned by Hermas[1] and St. Justin,[2] clearly organized in the time of Tertullian,[3] and called the catechumenate. For several days, the postulant remains at the entrance to the Christian meeting during the celebration of the mysteries, for, right after the first prayers, the deacons exclude the catechumens. But the Church gives him instruction apart.[4] She then requires that he "renounce the devil and his pomp and his angels,"[5] that he prepare for the solemn initiation by prayer, fasting, vigils, and confession of his sins.[6] Such, at least, was the rule at Carthage, as described by Tertullian. He says that the Church is thus exacting with the candidate for Baptism in order to be assured that he will not fall back into sin once he is baptized.[7] The Church should be composed only of saints.

3rd century representation of Baptism
Catacomb of Ss. Marcellinus and Peter
Then comes the day of Baptism, "illumination," "reconciliation," "palingenesis" (new birth) as it is called.[8] Regularly the candidate is dipped three times in the water, in memory of Christ's burial; his threefold coming out of the water symbolizes the mystery of the Resurrection. At each immersion, the name of one of the three divine persons is pronounced.[9] In case of necessity, however, especially in case of sickness, Baptism was conferred by sprinkling or pouring. Some paintings of the third centtlry depict ceremonies which may go back to the end of the second century, showing the candidate standing in the baptistry, with the water reaching to his knees, and being sprinkled on the head.[10]

The days especially reserved for the initiation of the catechumens are the Saturday before Easter and the Saturday before Pentecost, but Tertullian declares that, strictly speaking, Baptism may be conferred on any Sunday or even on any ordinary day.[11]

When the baptismal ceremony is over, the new Christian is clothed in a white garment and introduced into the assembly of the faithful. The bishop, seated, presides at the meeting. The priests, at the bishop's side, and the deacons, whose duty it is to maintain order, are the only ones occupying places of honor. The rich are shoulder to shoulder with the poor, the freemen with the slaves. The newly initiated comes up to the bishop. The head of the Church, by the imposition of hands and anointing with holy chrism, confers on him the Sacrament of Confirmation, which makes him a perfect Christian and is looked upon as the complement of Baptism.[12]

At length the newly baptized is admitted to participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice. We have already given St. Justin's description of the principal ceremonies of this rite. Passages from Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and the canons of Hippolytus[13] enable us to complete the picture. From the middle of the second century, the "breaking of bread" is finally separated from the fraternal meal which accompanied it. The sacred function henceforth appears in all the purity of its rite, free from the abuses that so greatly afflicted St. Paul. We can easily imagille the neophyte's feeling when, for the first time, he was present at the mystery so long awaited.

3rd century representation of the Eucharist
Catacomb of Commodilla

A movement among the deacons and inferior ministers is a sign that the sacrifice is about to begin. Some go among the assembled faithful to see that each one stays in his proper place and to direct the liturgical acts; the others place on the altar the bread and the chalices prepared for the sacred repast.

"The Lord be with you all," says the bishop. "And with thy spirit," they respond. "Raise up your hearts," the bishop then says. To which they answer: "They are with the Lord." He continues: "It is fitting and just."

After several prayers, the chief of which is an invocation to the thrice holy God, the bishop, amid profound silence, slowly pronounces over the bread and wine the mysterious words first uttered by the Savior the night before He died. The mystery is consummated. Christ is on the altar, in the midst of His faithful, under the mystical veils of the consecrated elements. Again the prayer begins, more earnestly, addressed to the God here present, though invisible. Suddenly a deacon's voice cries out: "Sancta sanctis" (holy things are for the holy). "Amen," the people respond. The bishop receives communion, then the priests and deacons, and lastly all those present. The bishop lays the consecrated host in the communicant's right hand, which is open and held up by the left hand. The deacon holds the chalice, from which each one drinks directly. At each communion, the bishop says: "The body of Christ," and the deacon: "The blood of Christ." Each communicant responds "Amen."

When the communion is over, the deacon gives the signal for prayer. All pray, sometimes kneeling or even prostrate, in sign of humiliation and penance, sometimes standing up, with arms extended and the hands open like Jesus on the cross, to testify that they are ready to endure every suffering. Says Tertullian:
Thither [toward Heaven] we lift our eyes, with hands outstretched, because free from sin; with head uncovered, for we have nothing whereof to be ashamed. [...] With our hands thus stretched out and up to God, rend us with your iron claws, hang us up on crosses, wrap us in flames, take our heads from us with the sword, let loose the wild beasts on us - the very attitude of a Christian praying is one of preparation for all punishment.[14]


[1] Hermas, Visions, III, vii, 3.
[2] First Apology, 61.
[3] De praescr., 41. Tertullian's De poenitentia was addressed to catechumens.
[4] Idem, De baptismo, 1.
[5] Idem, De corona militis, 3.
[6] Idem, De baptismo, 20.
[7] Idem, De poenitentia, 6; De baptismo, 20.
[8] Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, I, 6.
[9] On the triple immersion, see Tertullian, Adversus Praxean, 26.
[10] De Rossi, Roma sotterranea, II, 334.
[11] Tertullian, De baptismo, 19.
[12] On Confirmation, see St. Irenaeus, Haereres, IV, xxxviii, 2; Tertullian, De baptismo, 7f; St. Cyprian, Letters, 73. The Sacrament of Confirmation is sometimes called consignatio.
[13] The authority of Tertullian and St. Cyprian is well known. As to the Canons of Hippolytus, Batiffol says, "we possess no more complete and explicit description of the institutions of the early Church: it is a document of the highest rank." (Anciennes littératures chrétiennes, p. 158.) Save for a few easily recognized retouchings, the Canons of Hippolytus agree admirably with whatever we know about the liturgy in use at the beginning of the third century. (Ibid.)
[14] Tertullian, Apol., 30.


Join the discussion at:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Ghost of John XXII: Prelates, Clerics & Scholars Request Clarification of Amoris Laetitia

Pope John XXII
During a sermon delivered on Gaudete Sunday, AD 1329, Pope John XXII made a statement - repeated on the Feast of All Saints, AD 1331 - which the pious considered scandalously offensive and the learned deemed potentially heretical: that the souls of those who have died in Christ will not enjoy the beatific vision until after the general judgment at the end of days. The statement might have received less attention than it did had it been made at some other period in Church history. As it happened, however, the Second Council of Lyons had solemnly defined in 1274 that "the souls of those who, after having received holy baptism, have incurred no stain of sin whatever, also those souls who, after contracting the stain of sin, either while remaining in their bodies of being divested of them, have been cleansed [...] are received immediately into heaven." While Pope John XXII's statement was not a direct contradiction of this definition - he did not deny that the blessed departed enter heaven immediately upon death, but merely that they enjoy the vision of the Divine Essence prior to the Resurrection - it came close enough to a contradiction that it raised serious concerns among the faithful. Theologians felt duty-bound to respond, and in 1333 a number of them gathered in Paris to evaluate the question on its theological merits, concluding that the opinion of the pope was, in fact, erroneous. Though John XXII initially attempted to quell any opposition to his view, going so far as to have a Dominican, Thomas of England, thrown into prison for contradicting him, he was eventually brought to his senses and retracted his statement before his death in AD 1334. His successor, Pope Benedict XII, went on to effectively censor John XXII's opinion - uttered not as pope, but as a private theologian - as heresy in his 1336 dogmatic constitution Benedictus Deus.

While not a particularly glorious moment for the papacy of John XXII, this incident nonetheless represents a victory for the Church insofar as it underscores the fact that all Catholics - including the Pope - are bound to uphold the truth and eschew error, regardless of its source.

And it is a lesson which bears repeating.

It cannot be denied that, like John XXII, Pope Francis has a penchant for dropping theological bombs in his sermons. It was, for example, in a sermon that he accused the Blessed Virgin Mary of doubting God, of wanting to say "Lies! I was deceived!" as she looked upon her Son suffering on the Cross. Note that this was not some unfortunate slip of the tongue: he repeated the scandalous claim, almost verbatim, two years later in a talk given to a group of gravely ill children. Though it appears to directly contradict the certain teaching of the Church on the freedom of the Blessed Virgin from all personal sin, this is evidently what Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, believes and teaches. A century ago, such a statement would have been unthinkable, and had it been uttered, would have provoked widespread shock and vociferous objection. Today, such things are hardly noticed, and when some poor soul feels obliged to speak up, he's shouted down as an uncharitable troublemaker. After all, we're told, only the weak of faith are scandalized by such things.

Pope Francis has made so many statements which are offensive to pious ears that one has to wonder whether this is an integral part of his method of evangelization, i.e., to garner attention by making a statement which smacks of heresy but, upon close inspection, merely flirts with it without crossing the line.[1] Engaging in this kind of rhetoric has a three-fold effect: (1) it thrills the heretics who are already on their way out of the Church, suggesting to them that they should bide their time as the Magisterium is about to give in to their demands, (2) it provides just enough cover to enable moderate commentators to run interference for the Pope, maintaining the illusion that "everything is awesome," (3) and it frustrates the orthodox while simultaneously rendering them virtually powerless in their efforts to restore doctrinal and liturgical order: if they remain silent, they are seen as giving tacit approval to the implied heresy; if they speak up, they are reprimanded for impugning the impeccable orthodoxy of the Pope and fomenting a "schismatic mentality".

While many have grown tired of parsing the sloppy theology of the Pope's private sermons and disarming the pastoral zingers he regularly delivers at 30,000 feet, prelates and scholars have remained attentive to the official statements made by Pope Francis wherever they touch upon matters of faith and morals. As done retroactively with John XXII, Pope Francis has been given more or less carte blanche as a private theologian; it is when he speaks in his capacity as Supreme Pontiff that his words are held to the loftier standard of Tradition. Thus, when the Pope issued Amoris Laetitia, the Apostolic Exhortation which followed the 2014-15 Synod on the Family, his words came under an appreciable amount of careful scrutiny by cleric and scholar alike.

  • U.S. Jesuit James V. Schall has described key sections of Amoris Laetitia as "an exercise in sophisticated casuistry."
  • German philosopher Robert Spaemann remarked that "chaos has been turned into a principle with one stroke of a pen. The Pope should have known that he will split the Church with such a step and that he leads her into the direction of a schism - a schism that would be not at the periphery, but in the middle of the Church."
  • American professor of philosophy and theology Peter Kwasniewski noted that Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia poses "a serious problem in moral theology and contradicts not only Veritatis Splendor but the entire framework of Christian ethics that we see in the New Testament, in the [Church] Fathers, in St. Thomas, in [the Council of] Trent, wherever you look."
  • Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in response to an open letter from the president of American Catholic Lawyers Inc., Christopher A. Ferrara, noted: "In using our reason and in respecting the proper sense of the words, one can hardly interpret some expressions in Amoris Laetitia according to the holy immutable Tradition of the Church."
  • U.S. philosopher and former dean of the School of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America Jude P. Dougherty observed: "Authors and telecasters use [equivocation] when they are not sure of the facts. Politicians often employ it in creating legislation that subsequently permits freedom of contradictory interpretation by courts, regulators, and prosecutors. Pope Francis, who never speaks clearly, uses it to such an extent that in doctrinal matters what was certain before has become problematic."
  • Cardinal Carlo Caffarra recently remarked: "His Holiness realizes that the teachings of the Exhortation could give rise to confusion in the Church. Personally, I wish - and that is how so many of my brothers in Christ (cardinals, bishops, and the lay faithful alike) also think - that the confusion should be removed."

While each of these men is to be commended for speaking out, it is clear that, as individuals, they can accomplish very little in the way of moving Pope Francis to clarify the true intent behind the words of the Exhortation. Together, however, such critics might have a better chance. It is, therefore, unsurprising to learn that a group of prelates, clerics, scholars and professors have done just that.

A statement released by Dr. Joseph Shaw yesterday reads as follows:
A group of Catholic academics and pastors has submitted an appeal to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome, requesting that the Cardinals and Eastern Catholic Patriarchs petition His Holiness, Pope Francis, to repudiate a list of erroneous propositions that can be drawn from a natural reading of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. During the coming weeks this submission will be sent in various languages to every one of the Cardinals and Patriarchs, of whom there are 218 living at present. 
Describing the exhortation as containing “a number of statements that can be understood in a sense that is contrary to Catholic faith and morals,” the signatories submitted, along with their appeal, a documented list of applicable theological censures specifying “the nature and degree of the errors that could be attributed to Amoris Laetitia.” 
Among the 45 signatories are Catholic prelates, scholars, professors, authors, and clergy from various pontifical universities, seminaries, colleges, theological institutes, religious orders, and dioceses around the world. They have asked the College of Cardinals, in their capacity as the Pope's official advisers, to approach the Holy Father with a request that he repudiate “the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris Laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true.” 
“We are not accusing the pope of heresy,” said a spokesman for the authors, “but we consider that numerous propositions in Amoris Laetitia can be construed as heretical upon a natural reading of the text. Additional statements would fall under other established theological censures, such as scandalous, erroneous in faith, and ambiguous, among others.” 
The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that “According to the knowledge, competence, and expertise which they possess, they [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful” (CIC, can. 212 §3). 
The thirteen-page document quotes nineteen passages in the exhortation which seem to conflict with Catholic doctrines. These doctrines include the real possibility with the grace of God of obeying all the commandments, the fact that certain kinds of act are wrong in all circumstances, the headship of the husband, the superiority of consecrated virginity over the married life, and the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances.  The document also argues that the exhortation undermines the Church's teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who have made no commitment to continence cannot be admitted to the sacraments while they remain in that state. 
The spokesman said, “It is our hope that by seeking from our Holy Father a definitive repudiation of these errors we can help to allay the confusion already brought about by Amoris Laetitia among pastors and the lay faithful.  For that confusion can be dispelled effectively only by an unambiguous affirmation of authentic Catholic teaching by the Successor of Peter.”
In a subsequent clarification, Dr. Shaw revealed that, though the names of the 45 signatories have not been released to the public, they are attached to the document sent to Cardinal Sodano and will be known to all 218 Cardinals and Patriarchs of the Church. The reason for this anonymity appears to be less the fear of reprisal and more the fear of causing additional public scandal. As Dr. Shaw noted on Twitter:

It would be naive to assume that this action alone will move the Cardinals to make a formal petition to Pope Francis to repudiate any erroneous propositions contained in Amoris Laetitia. Nonetheless, it is a potentially significant step in that direction, particularly if it contains the request that Pope Francis provide "an unambiguous affirmation of authentic Catholic teaching." Admitting that the document contains error is one thing. Refusing to publicly confirm authentic Catholic teaching, on the other hand, is an altogether different matter. Pope Francis can easily avoid the former; the latter is much more difficult to avoid and, if done intentionally, can be used as evidence of obstinacy - something even Pope John XXII was careful to avoid.


[1] This is not unlike the popular "shocking statement" meme, of which there are literally thousands of iterations:

In modern parlance, one could say the Pope is "trolling" us.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Denial of Hell

Fourth in a Series on Hell

 Fr. François Xavier Schouppe, S.J.

There are some miserable men - let us rather say, fools - who, in the delirium of their iniquity, make bold to declare that they laugh at hell. They say so, but only with their lips; their consciences protest and give them the lie.

Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois
Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois, famous for his impiety as much as for is sanguinary ferocity, was the chief author of the massacres of Lyons in 1793; he caused the destruction of at least 1,600 individuals. Six years after, in 1799, he was banished to Cayenne, and used to give vent to his infernal rage by blaspheming the holiest things. The least act of religion became the subject of his jests. Having seen a soldier make the sign of the cross, "Imbecile!" he said to him. "You still believe in superstition! Do you not know that God, the Holy Virgin, Paradise, Hell, are the inventions of the accursed tribe of priests?" Shortly after, he fell sick and was seized by violent pains. In an access of fever he swallowed, at a single draught, a bottle of liquor. His disease increased; he felt as if burned by a fire that was devouring his bowels. He uttered frightful shrieks, called upon God, the Holy Virgin, a priest, to come to his relief. "Well, indeed," said the soldier to him, "you ask for a priest? You fear hell then? You used to curse the priests, make fun of hell! Alas!" He then answered: "My tongue was lying to my heart." Pretty soon, he expired, vomiting blood and foam.

The following incident happened in 1837. A young under-lieutenant, being in Paris, entered the Church of the Assumption, near the Toilers, and saw a priest kneeling near a confessional. As he made religion the habitual subject of his jokes, he wished to go to confession to while away the time, and went into the confessional. "Monsieur l'abbé," he said, "would you be good enough to hear my confession?" "Willingly my son; confess unrestrained." "But I must first say that I am a rather unique kind of a sinner." "No matter; the sacrament of penance has been instituted for all sinners." "But I am not very much of a believer in religious matters." "You believe more than you think." "Believe? I? I am a regular scoffer." The confessor saw with whom he had to deal, and that there was some mystification. He replied, smiling: "You are a regular scoffer? Are you then making fun of me, too?" The pretended penitent smiled in like manner. "Listen," the priest went on, "what you have just done here is not serious. Let us leave confession aside; and, if you please, have a little chat. I like military people greatly; and, then, you have the appearance of a good, amiable youth. Tell me, what is your rank?" "Under-lieutenant." "Will you remain an under-lieutenant long?" "Two, three, perhaps four years." "And after?" "I shall hope to become a lieutenant?" "And after?" "I hope to become a captain." "And after?" "Lieutenant-colonel?" "How old will you be then?" "Forty to forty-five years." "And after that?" "I shall become a brigadier general." "And after?" "If I rise higher, I shall be general of a division." "And after?" "After! there is nothing more except the Marshal's baton; but my pretensions do not reach so high." "Well and good. But do you intend to get married?" "Yes, when I shall be a superior officer." "Well! There you are married; a superior officer, a general, perhaps even a French marshal, who knows? And after?" "After? Upon my word, I do not know what will be after."
"See, how strange it is!" said the abbé. Then, in a tone of voice that grew more sober: "You know all that shall happen up to that point, and you do not know what will be after. Well, I know, and I am going to tell you. After, you shall die, be judged, and, if you continue to live as you do, you shall be damned, you shall go and burn in hell; that is what will be after."

As the under-lieutenant, dispirited at this conclusion, seemed anxious to steal away: "One moment, sir," said the abbé. "You are a man of honor. So am I. Agree that you have offended me, and owe me an apology. It will be simple. For eight days, before retiring to rest, you will say: 'One day I shall die; but I laugh at the idea. After my death I shall be judged; but I laugh at the idea. After my judgment, I shall be damned; but I laugh at the idea. I shall burn forever in hell; but I laugh at the idea!' That is all. But you are going to give me your word of honor not to neglect it, eh?" More and more wearied, and wishing, at any price, to extricate himself from this false step, the under-lieutenant made the promise. In the evening, his word being given, he began to carry out his promise. "I shall die," he says. "I shall be judged." He had not the courage to add: "I laugh at the idea." The week had not passed before he returned to the Church of the Assumption, made his confession seriously, and came out of the confessional his face bathed with tears, and with joy in his heart.

A young person who had become an unbeliever in consequence of her dissipation, kept incessantly shooting sarcasm at religion, and making jests of its most awful truths. "Juliette," some one said to her one day, "this will end badly. God will be tired of your blasphemies, and you shall be punished." "Bah," she answered insolently. "It gives me very little trouble. Who has returned from the other world to relate what passes there?" Less than eight days after she was found in her room, giving no sign of life, and already cold. As there was no doubt that she was dead, she was put in a coffin and buried. The following day, the grave-digger, digging a new grave beside that of the unhappy Juliette, heard some noise, it seemed to him that there was a knocking in the adjoining coffin. At once, he puts his ear to the ground, and in fact hears a smothered voice, crying out: "Help! help!" The authorities were summoned; by their orders, the grave was opened, the coffin taken up and unnailed. The shroud is removed; there is no further doubt, Juliette was buried alive. Her hair, her shroud were in disorder, and her face was streaming with blood. While they are releasing her, and feeling her heart to be assured that it still beats, she heaves a sigh, like a person for a long time deprived of air; then she opens her eyes, makes an effort to lift herself up, and says: "My God, I thank thee." Afterward, when she had got her senses well back, and by the aid of some food, recovered her strength, she added: "When I regained consciousness in the grave and recognized the frightful reality of my burial, when after having uttered shrieks, I endeavored to break my coffin, and struck my forehead against the boards, I saw that all was useless; death appeared to me with all its horrors; it was less the bodily than the eternal death that frightened me. I saw I was going to be damned. My God, I had but too well deserved it! Then I prayed, I shouted for help, I lost consciousness again, until I awoke above ground. O, goodness of my God!" she said, again shedding tears, "I had despised the truths of faith; thou hast punished me, but in thy mercy, I am converted and repentant."

They who deny hell will be forced to admit it soon; but alas! it will be too late.

[The following video contains a Lenten retreat sermon delivered by a traditional Catholic priest on the subject of Heaven and Hell.]

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Hierarchy in the Third Century

Reading N°55 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

While Christian apologetics was speaking in tones of confidence, the Church was enjoying comparative freedom. The last six years of Emperor Commodus and the first nine years of Septimius Severus were a time of peace. She profited thereby to develop her hierarchical, sacramental, and liturgical institutions, to complete the organization of Church property, to promote the study of theology, and to give a new impulse to her Apostolic expansion. We have now reached the point where we should take a general view of this internal activity of the Church. And then we shall have to resume the story of her struggles against persecution and heresy.

(l. to r.) Priest, Bishop and Deacon
from the Raganaldus Sacramentary, c. AD 845

Tertullian's works show us the Church as an essentially graded society. The laity are subject to the deacons and priests, and all owe obedience to the bishop. No longer is there any mention of the presbyterial council. The monarchical episcopate is established everywhere. The lists of bishops which the historian Hegesippus gives in the middle of the second century leave no doubt on this point. The bishop's authority comes from the fact that he is the depositary of Apostolic authority, handed down to him through an uninterrupted series of bishops connected with the Apostles. Unlike the Apostles, the bishop has a limited territory, first called a "parish," later a "diocese."

The first bishops were chosen and instituted by the Apostles; but at an early date it became the custom to nominate bishops by election. When a see became vacant, the lower clergy of the diocese met and elected one of their number, after obtaining from the people a good testimony in favor of the candidate. Then they presented this candidate to the bishops of the neighborhood, who assembled in the principal city of the vacant diocese to preside at the election and to give canonical institution to the bishop-elect. The documents of the second century and of the early third show us the bishop administering his diocese in complete independence of the lower clergy. Yet in many instances he takes counsel of them and sometimes even asks the advice of the people.

Simple priests and deacons, unlike bishops, are promoted to Orders only upon the good testimony of the people. They can exercise no function without the approval of the bishop who ordained them; in case of serious fault, they can be deposed by the bishop. They are his helpers in the work of instructing the faithful and in the administration of the Sacraments. At the meetings of the Christian community, they take their places around the bishop - as it were, his crown. While the episcopal see is vacant, they assume charge of the administration of the diocese and render an account of their administration to the new bishop.

The duties of deacons are: to preach, baptize, and - under the bishop's control - to administer the property of the Church, to serve the bishop at the altar, to announce the meetings of the faithful, to maintain order, to receive the offerings of the faithful and to divide them among the poor.

Virginity, so earnestly recommended by St. Paul and exemplified by the Savior, His blessed Mother, and the Apostle St. John, is the ideal which the faithful, and especially the clergy, endeavor to approach. But as yet it is not made obligatory upon the clergy by any positive rule. The imperial laws forbidding celibacy placed too great an obstacle in the way of recruiting the clergy if celibacy were made a strict obligation. The only requirement is that, following the precept of the Apostle (1 Corinthians 4:12; 9:7 ff; Acts 20:34) the candidate for the clerical state be not twice married.


Join the discussion at:

Monday, July 4, 2016

Apparitions of the Damned

Third in a Series on Hell

 Fr. François Xavier Schouppe, S.J.

St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, relates in his writings a terrible fact which, about the middle of the fifteenth century, spread fright over the whole North of Italy. A young man of good stock, who, at the age of 16 or 17, had had the misfortune of concealing a mortal sin in confession, and, in that state, of receiving Communion, had put off from week to week, month to month, the painful disclosure of his sacrileges. Tortured by remorse, instead of discovering with simplicity his misfortune, he sought to gain quiet by great penances, but to no purpose. Unable to bear the strain any longer, he entered a monastery; there, at least, he said to himself, I will tell all, and expiate my frightful sins. Unhappily, he was most welcomed as a holy young man by his superiors, who knew him by reputation, and his shame again got the better of him. Accordingly, he deferred his confession of this sin to a later period; and a year, two years, three years, passed in this deplorable state; he never dared to reveal his misfortune. Finally, sickness seemed to him to afford an easy means of doing it. "Now is the time," he said to himself; "I am going to tell all; I will make a general confession before I die." But this time, instead of frankly and fairly declaring his faults, he twisted them so artfully that his confessor was unable to understand him. He hope to come back again the next day: an attack of delirium came on, and the unfortunate man died.

The community, who were ignorant of the frightful reality, were full of veneration for the deceased. His body was borne with a certain degree of solemnity into the church of the monastery, and lay exposed in the choir until the next morning when the funeral was to be celebrated.

A few moments before the time fixed for the ceremony, one of the Brothers, sent to toll the bell, saw before him, all of a sudden, the deceased, encompassed by chains, that seemed aglow with fire, while something blazing appeared all over his person. Frightened, the poor Brother fell on his knees, with his eyes riveted on the terrifying apparition. Then the damned soul said to him: "Do not pray for me, I am in here for all eternity;" and he related the sad story of his false shame and sacrileges. Thereupon, he vanished, leaving in the church a disgusting odor, which spread all over the monastery, as if to prove the truth of all the Brother just saw and heard. Notified at once, the Superiors had the corpse taken away, deeming it unworthy of ecclesiastical burial.

After having cited the preceding example, Monsignor de Segur adds what follows:

In our century, three facts of the same kind, more authentic than some others have come to my knowledge. The first happened almost in my family. 
It was in Russia, at Moscow, a short while before the horrible campaign of 1812. My maternal grandfather, Count Rostopchine, the Military Governor of Moscow, was very intimate with General Count Orloff, celebrated for his bravery, but as godless as he was brave. 
One day, at the close of a supper, Count Orloff and one of his friends, General V., also a disciple of Voltaire, had set to horribly ridiculing religion, especially hell. 'Yet,' said Orloff; 'yet if, by chance, there should be anything the other side of the curtain?' 'Well,' took up General V., 'whichever of us shall depart first, will come to inform the other of it. Is it agreed?' 'An excellent idea,' replied Count Orloff; and both interchanged very seriously their word of honor not to miss the engagement. 
A few weeks later, one of those great wars which Napoleon had the gift of creating at that time, burst forth. The Russian army began the campaign, and General V. received orders to start out forthwith to take an important command. 
He had left Moscow about two or three weeks, when one morning, at a very early hour, while my grandfather was dressing, his chamber door is rudely pushed open. It was Count Orloff, in dressing-gown and slippers, his hair on end, his eye wild, and pale like a dead man. 'What, Orloff, you? at this hour? and in such a costume? What ails you? what has happened?' 'My dear,' replies Count Orloff, 'I believe I am beside myself. I have just seen General V.' 'Has General V., then, come back?' 'Well, no,' rejoins Orloff, throwing himself on a sofa, and holding his head between his hands; 'no, he has not come back, and that is what frightens me!' 
My grandfather did not understand him. He tried to soothe him. "Relate to me," he says to Orloff, "what has happened you, and what all this means." Then, striving to stifle his emotion, the Count related the following: "My dear Rostopchine, some time ago, V. and I mutually swore that the first of us who died should come and tell the other if there is anything on the other side of the curtain. Now, this morning, scarcely half an hour since, I was calmly lying awake in my bed, not thinking at all of my friend, when, all of a sudden, the curtains of my bed were rudely parted, and at two steps from me I see General V. standing up, pale, with his right hand on his breast, and saying to me: 'There is a hell, and I am there!' and he disappeared. I came at once to you. My head is splitting! What a strange thing! I do not know what to think about it." 
My grandfather calmed him as well as he could. It was no easy matter. He spoke of hallucinations, nightmares; perhaps he was asleep... There are many extraordinary unaccountable things... and other common-places, which constitute the comfort of freethinkers. Then he ordered his carriage, and took Count Orloff back to his hotel. 
Now, ten or twelve days after this strange incident, an army messenger brought my grandfather among other news, that of the death of General V. The very morning of the day, Count Orloff had seen and heard him, the same hour he appeared at Moscow, the unfortunate General, reconnoitering the enemy's position, had been shot through the breast by a bullet, and had fallen stark dead.

"There is a hell, and I am there!" These are the words of one who came back.

Mgr. de Segur relates a second fact, which he regards as alike free from doubt. He had learned it in 1859, of a most honorable priest, and Superior of an important community. This priest had the particulars of it from a near relation of the lady of whom it had happened. At that time, Christmas Day, 1859, this person was still living, and little over forty years.

She chanced to be in London in the winter of 1847-48. She was a widow, about twenty-nine years old, quite rich and worldly. Among the gallants who frequented her salon, there was noticed a young lord, whose attentions compromised her extremely, and whose conduct, besides, was anything but edifying.

One evening, or rather one night, for it was close upon midnight, she was reading in her bed some novel, coaxing sleep. One o'clock struck by the clock; she blew out her taper. She was about to fall asleep when, to her great astonishment, she noticed that a strange, wan glimmer of light, which seemed to come from the door of the drawing-room, spread by degrees into her chamber, and increased momentarily. Stupefied at first, and not knowing what this meant, she began to get alarmed, when she saw the drawing-room door slowly open and the young lord, the partner of her disorders, entered her room. Before she had time to say a single word, he seized her by the left wrist, and with a hissing voice, syllabled to her in English: "There is a hell!" The pain she felt in her arm was so great that she lost her senses.

When, half an hour after, she came to again, she rang for her chamber-maid. The latter, on entering felt a keen smell of burning. Approaching her mistress, who could hardly speak, she noticed on her wrist so deep a burn, that the bone was laid bare, and the flesh almost consumed; this burn was the size of a man's hand. Moreover, she remarked that, from the door of the saloon to the bed, and from the bed to that same door, the carpet bore the imprint of a man's steps, which had burned through the stuff. By the directions of her mistress, she opened the drawing-room door: there, more traces were seen on the carpet outside.

The following day, the unhappy lady learned with a terror easy to be divined that, on that very night, about one o'clock in the morning, her lord had been found dead drunk under the table, that his servants had carried him to his room, and that there he had died in their arms.

I do not know, added the Superior, whether that terrible lesson converted the unfortunate lady, but what I do know is that she is still alive, and that to conceal from the sight the traces of her ominous burn, she wears on the left wrist, like a bracelet, a wide gold band, which she does not take off day or night. I repeat it, I have all these details from her near relation, a serious Christian, in whose word I repose the fullest belief. They are never spoken of, even in the family; and I only confide them to you, suppressing every proper name.

Notwithstanding the disguise beneath which this apparition has been, and must be enveloped, it seems to me impossible, adds Mgr. de Segur, to call in doubt the dreadful authenticity of the details.

Here is a third fact related by the same writer. In the year 1873, he writes, a few days before the Assumption, occurred again one of these apparitions from beyond the grave, which so efficaciously confirm the reality of hell. It was in Rome. A brothel, opened in that city after the Piedmontese invasion, stood near a police station. One of the bad girls who lived there had been wounded in the hand, and it was found necessary to take her to the Hospital of Consolation. Whether her blood, vitiated by bad living, had brought on mortification of the wound, or from an unexpected complication, she died suddenly during the night. At the same instant, one of her companions, who surely was ignorant of what had just happened at the hospital, began to utter shrieks of despair to point of awaking the inhabitants of the locality, creating a flurry among the wretched creatures of the house, and provoking the intervention of the police. The dead girl of the hospital, surrounded by flames, had appeared to her, and said: "I am damned! and if you do not wish to be like me, leave this place of infamy and return to God."

Nothing could quell the despair of this girl, who, at daybreak, departed, leaving the whole house plunged in a stupor, especially as soon as the death of her companion at the hospital was known.

Just at this period, the mistress of the place, an exalted Garribaldian, and known as such by brethren and friends, fell sick. She soon sent for a priest to receive the sacraments. The ecclesiastical authority deputed for thus task, a worthy prelate, Mgr. Sirolli, the pastor of the parish of Saint-Saviour in Laura. He, fortified by special instructions, presented himself, and exacted of the sick woman, before all, in the presence of many witnesses, the full and entire retractation of her blasphemies against the Sovereign Pontiff, and the discontinuance of the infamous trade she plied. The unhappy creature did so without hesitating, consented to purge her house, then made her confession and received the holy Viaticum with great sentiments of repentance and humility.

Feeling that she was dying, she besought, with tears, the good pastor not to leave her, frightened as she always was by the apparition of that damned girl. Mgr. Sirolli, unable to satisfy her on account of the proprieties which would not permit him to spend the night in such a place, sent to the police for two men, closed up the house, and remained until the dying woman had breathed her last.

Pretty soon, all Rome became acquainted with the details of these tragic occurrences. As ever, the ungodly and lewd ridiculed them, taking good care not to seek for any information about them; the good profited by them, to become still better and more faithful to their duties.

[The following video contains a sermon delivered by a traditional Catholic priest entitled We Can't Imagine the Pain of Hell.]

Friday, July 1, 2016

Responding to the Crisis: A Layman's Guide

If I've learned anything from my study of the history of the Catholic Church, it's that God is not in a hurry. 

I assume it has to do with His being eternal and all. Our temporal limitations predispose us to become frustrated with a situation rather quickly. We see a problem, we see a solution, and we want it done. Yesterday. The clock is ticking, you know. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Not God. It appears His preferred method for resolving conflict is that most tedious, if thorough, of stratagems: inevitability. Painstakingly slow, dust-grinding inevitability.

Keeping this in mind is important because, due to our limited perspective, we easily fail to see how our brief time on the stage fits into the larger scheme of things. As we see it, the problem started just before we were born, and is reaching its crescendo right about next year - regardless of when we were born or which year comes next. If this isn't solved by lunch time next Tuesday, I'm painting a bull's eye on the roof of my house for the Sweet Meteor of Death. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Believe it or not, at this point in the morality play that is the crisis currently affecting the Catholic Church, establishing whether or not Pope Francis is a heretic is relatively unimportant. As laypeople, we do not have to prove heresy - or even error, for that matter. That's not our job, thank God. Our job right now is to demonstrate that the pope's many statements are offensive to pious ears (propositio piarum aurium offensiva), that they are badly expressed (propositio male sonans), that they are captious (propositio captiosa) and that they excite scandal (propositio scandalosa). That is to say, we must leave it up to qualified theologians to determine whether any of Pope Francis' statements are temerarious (propositio temeraria), false (propositio falsa), erroneous (propositio erronea), whether opposed to a revealed truth (error in fide ecclesiastica) or the common teaching of the theologians (error theologicus), suspect of heresy (propositio haeresim sapiens), proximate to heresy (propositio heresi proxima) or outright, full-blown heresy (propositio haeretica).

Luckily for us, to demonstrate that a statement is offensive to pious ears and/or scandalous doesn't require a degree in theology or extensive knowledge of dogmatics. All it requires is authentic participation in the sensus fidei - the sense of the faith - possessed by the Catholic laity.

What is the sensus fidei? In 2014, the International Theological Commission provided the following definition:
On the one hand, the sensus fidei refers to the personal capacity of the believer, within the communion of the Church, to discern the truth of faith. On the other hand, the sensus fidei refers to a communal and ecclesial reality: the instinct of faith of the Church herself, by which she recognises her Lord and proclaims His word. (Sensus Fidei, §3)
The sensus fidei is a supernatural instinct imparted by the Holy Spirit to the Catholic faithful for the purpose of detecting truth and rejecting error in matters of faith and morals. It is a free gift, not the product of academic learning, which can do no more than deepen and intensify the sensus fidei. It enables us to sentire cum Ecclesia, i.e. to "think with the mind of the Church," and is that which prompts the common, unlettered man - perhaps without even knowing why - to reject statements which are false or heretical. In short, the sensus fidei is that which moves us not only to accept the truths of the Faith, but also to take offense when confronted with dubious or erroneous teaching. When we reject something as "offensive to pious ears," it is the sensus fidei which moves us to do so.

But what prevents heretical or even apostate groups from rejecting the authentic teaching of the Church on the same grounds? Contributors to National Catholic Reporter, for example, regularly appeal to the sensus fidei when criticizing or rejecting magisterial pronouncements. They are correct, after all, in pointing out that millions of Catholics reject Church teaching on matters such as contraception. Doesn't this represent a new "communal and ecclesial reality," a shift in the sensus fidei of the Catholic laity? Is the sensus fidei an ultimately subjective criterion of truth? Or are there objective criteria to determine whether or not a person possesses the sensus fidei?

Fortunately, there are such criteria. They were enumerated in the ITC document Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church (§89) as follows: 
  • perseverance in prayer
  • participation in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist
  • regular reception of the sacrament of reconciliation
  • discernment and exercise of gifts and charisms received from the Holy Spirit
  • active engagement in the Church's mission and in her diakonia
  • acceptance of the Church's teaching on matters of faith and morals
  • willingness to follow the commands of God
  • courage to correct one's brothers and sisters, and also to accept correction oneself

Formal membership in the Church is not enough to lay claim to authentic participation in the sensus fidei; one must be a faithful, orthodox, practicing Catholic. Thus, a person cannot reject one or more points of Church doctrine and then claim they do so at the prompting of their sensus fidei. The sensus fidei inspires us to greater fidelity to Christ and His Church, not to dissent and revolution against them.

If, therefore, we wish to voice our concerns regarding the many problematic statements being made by Pope Francis - and we should - we must first make sure that our own spiritual life is in order. Are we in a state of grace? Are we saying our daily prayers? Are we properly disposed when we receive Holy Communion? Do we go to confession regularly? Do we follow the Commandments of God? Do we believe all that the Church proposes as objects of divine and catholic faith? Are our actions aimed at increasing the glory of God? If we can answer such questions in the affirmative, then we can get down to the serious business of communicating our objections to our parish priest, our bishop, and even the pope himself.

But does the sensus fidei entitle us to object to the teaching of our legitimate pastors? Are we not bound to accept their words with docility in a spirit of humble obedience? Not if we, the faithful, do not hear in their words the voice of Christ:
Alerted by their sensus fidei, individual believers may deny assent even to the teaching of legitimate pastors if they do not recognize in that teaching the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd. 'The sheep follow [the Good Shepherd] because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers' (John 10:4-5). For St. Thomas, a believer, even without theological competence, can and even must resist, by virtue of the sensus fidei, his or her bishop if the latter preaches heterodoxy. In such a case, the believer does not treat himself or herself as the ultimate criterion of the truth of faith, but rather, faced with materially 'authorized' preaching which he or she finds troubling, without being able to explain exactly why, defers assent and appeals interiorly to the superior authority of the universal Church. (Sensus Fidei, §63)
When a priest, bishop or pope speaks in a manner which is scandalous and offensive to pious ears, not only does our sensus fidei urge us to resist them, but canon law obliges us to make our objections known:
According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Canon 212 §3)
The current crisis has prompted several prelates to underscore this right and encourage the faithful to voice their concerns. Bishop Athanasius Schneider has called for the composition of a "Credo of the People of God" to stand in opposition to the "ambiguous and objectively erroneous expressions" contained in the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Bishop Emeritus René Gracida went so far as to encourage the laity to stand up - literally and in the middle of a homily, if necessary - and shout down the men spreading confusion from the pulpits of our churches. There is some talk that theologians are gathering together the material required to address a formal plea to the pope that he recant his problematic statements and, one can assume, make a profession of orthodox faith. A group of priests has been gathering such data for more than a year, and has produced a lengthly list of detailed briefs contrasting the various utterances of Pope Francis to the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church. Yet, while that list of potentially damning briefs continues to grow on an almost daily basis, it offers little in the way of actionable items. The Modernist heresy is, after all, a notoriously slippery beast.

What is actionable, however, is scandal among the faithful laity; actionable, not necessarily in the legal sense, but in the moral sense. There are bishops, priests and theologians who want to act, but they need our help and our initiative.

First, they need us to voice our objections publicly, with both sufficient charity and clarity. This has been stated repeatedly by prelates of every rank. If you have a blog or webpage, consider documenting the ways in which you have been scandalized by this papacy. If you're married, for example, there's a good chance you didn't take Pope Francis' estimation regarding the validity of your marriage very well. Write it down. Are you or someone you love suffering from same-sex attraction, and feel betrayed by the pope's comments regarding homosexuality? Tell your story. If you don't have your own platform, tweet it, comment it on another good Catholic blog, write a letter, anything, just get it out there. It's a drop in the bucket, but little drops add up to big waves. And don't be afraid to name names. These crazy statements didn't fall out of the clear blue sky. They came from the man currently sitting in the Chair of Peter. Say it, and encourage others to say it. It's got to get worse before it can get better.

Second, they need us to stop playing armchair theologian and canonist. For a layperson to assume the authority to adjudicate in matters of heresy - material or formal - is not merely improper to our station in life, it can actually hinder the correction of the situation, as it gives the subverters license to reject all such objections out of hand. As far as we know, Pope Francis is the legitimate pope deserving of our prayers. Leave the adjudication to the real experts.

Third, they need our prayers. Not the kind you promise to the woman reporting a lost cat on Facebook, either. They need prayers combined with penance and mortification. The real deal. Consider starting a novena, adding an extra decade of the Rosary, or an extra litany to your daily prayers. Pray the Angelus three times a day. Whatever it is, do it.

As I've said before, God chose to put us here at this crucial moment in history for a good reason. We all have a role to play. Make sure you're focusing your precious energy where it counts: on doing what God put you here for.

The General Council of Ephesus (431)

Fourth in a Series on the History of the General Councils

 Msgr. Philip Hughes

Council of Ephesus
Basilica of Fourvière, Lyon (click to enlarge)

One of the minor activities of the General Council of AD 381 was to provide a new bishop for the see it thought worthy of the second place in the Church - Constantinople - in place of Gregory of Nazianzen who had been forced out. The bishops chose an old retired veteran of the high places of the imperial administration: Nectarius. He ruled for sixteen years, and gave general satisfaction. And it is recorded that, in his quiet and peaceful way, this practiced administrator began to turn the new primacy of honour into something very like a primacy of fact. It gradually became the fashion to send appeals of various kinds to Constantinople, and for the bishop there to deal with them as though to do so were part of his jurisdiction. When Nectarius died, in AD 397, the question who should succeed him was, then, something to interest the whole East.

St. John Chrysostom
The personage who moved immediately was the bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus. He had a candidate, one of his own priests, one of his chief confidants in fact. But the court had a candidate also - the court being no longer the emperor who had called the council in AD 381, Theodosius,[1] but the minister Eutropius who governed in the name of Theodosius' youthful successor, Arcadius. The court had its way, and brought from Antioch an ascetic personage, the monk John, famed as the great preacher of the day, known to later ages thereby as Chrysostom, the man with 'the tongue of gold.' He was consecrated, by Theophilus, in February 398. But Theophilus went home bitter, it is thought. Alexandria had failed to place its man in 397, as it had failed on the like occasion in 381, in the time of its late bishop Timothy; and it was only the threats of Eutropius - that there were serious charges on file against Theophilus - that had brought that bishop to accept the appointment of the monk from Antioch.

A few words about the actual power of the bishop of Alexandria will revive some of the faded colour of the tragic history that is to follow. He was, first of all, more absolutely lord, in all matters of daily life, of the bishops dependent on him than was, at that time, any other bishop in the Church; and of these dependent bishops there were something like one hundred. He chose them all, and he personally consecrated them, the metropolitans no less than their suffragans. He was also, whether himself a monk or not, a kind of supreme patriarch of the monks, in this country where the monastic life had begun - and he thereby enjoyed unique prestige in the whole monastic world. He was immensely wealthy, with revenues coming from such extraordinary sources as his see's monopoly of the right to sell salt, and nitrates and papyrus, and all the various lugubrious paraphernalia needed in funerals. Alexandria, until Constantinople rose to the fullness of its promise, was the wonder city of the whole Roman world, the greatest of all trade centres, the queen of the Mediterranean. And of nothing was the great city prouder than of its see. The bishop of Alexandria moved in an habitual popularity and power that made of him a kind of native king, with mobs willing to demonstrate in his favour at a moment's notice. For forty-five years the see had had in Athanasius a saint for its bishop, a saint whose endless contests with the never much loved imperial government, whose many exiles, and inflexible fidelity to Nicaea, had achieved for his successors a position the like of which has probably never been known. This, in the hands of a saint! But Theophilus was far from being a saint. The saint, now, was at Constantinople, and in a world of Theophilus' kind he was soon to be hopelessly lost.

The space given to these considerations - and to the story of St. John Chrysostom - in a study of the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon is due to the simple facts that rivalry between the two sees, Alexandria and Constantinople, ceaseless after AD 381, mattered very greatly in the history of these councils; that Alexandria sought endlessly to control Constantinople; that at Ephesus in 431 and again in 449 a bishop of Alexandria was the very willing agent of the deposition and excommunication of a bishop of Constantinople; and that at Chalcedon, in AD 451, the all but impossible happened and a bishop of Alexandria was deposed and excommunicated; and Alexandria - civic, popular Alexandria no less than the clerical world and the monks - never forgot this, and never forgave it. And it being the fifth century and not the twentieth, the more human side of these grave ecclesiastical contentions ultimately brought down to ruin the wealthiest province of the empire.

Key sees involved in the Council of Ephesus (click to enlarge)

Chrysostom, as he is commonly called, the first effective bishop his see had known for many years, found abundance of employment for his zeal, and inevitably made as many enemies as friends; wealthy enemies and highly placed, clergy among them, and even the young empress. The first occasion of his clash with the bishop of Alexandria was the kind reception he gave to alleged victims of Theophilus' harsh rule. This was some three years after his appointment. On the heels of these fugitives there came other monks, sent by Theophilus, with counter-accusations of heresy. But they failed to prove their case before the emperor and were themselves condemned. And the fugitives brought it about that Theophilus was summoned to answer their charges in person. He arrived (AD 403) with a cohort of twenty-nine of his bishops in attendance, blaming Chrysostom for all that had happened, and swearing openly that he had come to the capital "to depose John."

And this is what his familiarity with the great world, his political skill and his lavish expenditure, actually achieved. John, when bidden by the emperor to summon a council for the trial of Theophilus, had refused: Alexandria lay outside his jurisdiction. He now, in turn, was bidden by the emperor to take his trial, Theophilus his judge with his twenty-nine suffragans and a chance half-dozen visiting bishops picked up in the capital - the group called the "Synod of The Oak," from the country seat at Chalcedon where these bishops met.

John again refused to acknowledge an uncanonical jurisdiction. Whereupon, for his refusal to appear, he was condemned and deposed. The ultimate outcome of these proceedings was his exile to the farthest limits of the empire; and his treatment was so harsh that he died of it (AD 407). Theophilus celebrated his victory by composing a book against John filled, it would seem, with all manner of hideous calumnies. And in John's place there ruled one of the priests of Constantinople whom the saint had had to censure.

These bare facts, which seemingly all writers accept, are sufficient witness to the existence of malevolence at Alexandria, and to the corruption of life at the court of a Christian emperor. The other feature of this story is the action of the pope,[2] when the full account of these deeds reached him - letters from Theophilus (wholly misleading), from John (a full account, down to the day he wrote) and the minutes of the Synod of The Oak. This last the pope refused to accept as a council at all. Its sentence on John was mere words. He took John to be still the lawful bishop of Constantinople, and when he was asked to recognise Atticus, put in John's place, he refused, and broke off relations with both Alexandria and Antioch who had recognised him.

Emperor Theodosius II
Theophilus was still out of communion when he died (AD 412). His successor, a nephew, Cyril, began his long career as bishop equally under the ban. Antioch was the first see to surrender and make the symbolic submission, by restoring John's name "to the diptychs" - placing him in the list of deceased bishops officially prayed for. Then Atticus did the same, explaining fearfully to Alexandria that he really had no choice but to do this. Cyril, very young, as self-confident and absolute as was ever his uncle, stubbornly - even passionately? - refused. "You might as well ask to put Judas back in the company of the Apostles," he wrote. Cyril had been with his uncle at The Oak. But in the end, he, too, restored John's name. It was fifteen years or so since these terrible scenes of episcopal vindictiveness. But the saint's body had now been brought back with honour to his cathedral, and in a kind of public amende for the crime of the emperor Arcadius in banishing him, his son, Theodosius II, knelt before the coffin and kissed it. And between Rome and all the major sees of the East there was communion and peace.

The new troubles came then, as it were, out of a blue sky. Alexandria and Constantinople had long made their peace with Rome. And when Atticus died in AD 424, the new bishop, an elderly civil servant, managed the affairs of the turbulent capital so as to please all parties, his clergy, the monks, and the court. But with the appointment of Nestorius as his successor, in April 428, the peace was suddenly, and very rudely, broken. Like St. John Chrysostom, the new bishop was a monk from Antioch. There he, too, had been a famous preacher, whose appointed task was the public explanation of the Scriptures. And he began his new career with a great oration, in which he called on the emperor to root out the remnants of the many heresies, pockets of which still existed in Constantinople.

Pope St. Celestine
In the new controversy which this sermon heralded, the natural characters of Nestorius and of Cyril of Alexandria play a great part - not more so perhaps than the personalities of such chiefs always play, but for once we are well supplied with evidence about this. As to the precise point on which Nestorius soon fell foul of all his world, he is himself our earliest witness - in two letters to the pope, Celestine I (AD 422-431), written in the early months of his administration. He is explaining to the pope the difficulties he has to face in his war against the heretics, and he proceeds to say that one very serious matter is the unconscious heresy of good Catholics, of monks and even some of his clergy, about the meaning of the belief that Christ is God. They are confused in their minds about the great mystery that Christ is both God and man, and they speak as though what is human in Christ was divine. They talk, for example, of God having been born, and of God being buried, and invoke the most holy virgin Mary as the "God-bringing-forth," the mother of God (using the Greek word that expresses this so succinctly, Theotokos). They should, of course, be more careful in their speech, and say she is Christotokos - the one who brought forth Christ, the mother of Christ. "The Virgin," he told the pope, "is certainly Christotokos: she is not Theotokos." In speaking and acting as they do, these Catholics are reviving, says Nestorius, "the corruption of Arius and Apollinaris," heretics notoriously condemned long ago. And Nestorius speaks feelingly of "the fight which I have to put up over this."[3]

By the time Nestorius had written these letters, his public support of preachers whom he brought in to "correct" his ignorant clergy, and his own sermons, his prohibition of the use of the word Theotokos and the punishments he meted out to the disobedient had set the capital in an uproar. And the trouble was crossing the seas. For the news of his ill treatment of the monks had spread to the land which was the centre of the monastic movement, Egypt, and when the Egyptian monks laid the theological problem before their bishop, Cyril - the accusation that the traditional Catholic piety towards the God-man and his mother was heretical - there entered the field the very unusual combination of a first-rate theologian who was also a finished man of affairs and an experienced politician. Cyril wrote, for his monks, a theological defence of the tradition which was necessarily a severe denunciation of Nestorius.[4] This was sometime after the Easter of AD 429, and the reply was presently circulating in Constantinople. And Cyril also wrote to Nestorius.

In the events of the next two years, the natural man in Cyril was to reveal itself fairly often. What of the same in Nestorius? What was it that so suddenly moved him to attack what was not a local piety peculiar to the city where he had just begun to live but, as the event showed (and as Nestorius must have known), a general, traditional way of regarding this doctrine? His own first letters on the subject are a curious mixture of orthodoxy and of novel statements, "startling to pious ears," as a later day would have said; statements capable indeed of being explained as in harmony with the tradition, but until so explained, and especially when set out in criticism of current practice, justifiably causing real suspicion that the speaker was himself a heretic - a man, that is to say, out to propagate a new, personal, anti-traditional version of a fundamental belief. What prompted all this? The vanity of the learned man who has found out something the generality do not know? The possession of key-knowledge that will "make all the difference"? The desire of a gifted man, promoted suddenly from obscurity to one of the highest places in the world of his time, to make his mark, to set all things right? For his point that, although Theotokos, rightly understood, is perfectly orthodox, it is better to use his own new word Christotokos, the suitable place to air this - a first time - might have been a conference of theologians or bishops. But Nestorius chose to do it in sermons to the multitudes that filled his cathedral, and not in terms of learned, anxious speculation, but in blood-and-thunder denunciation of universally practiced piety. There is a levity about the action which, given the gravity of the issue, is itself surely scandalous. And was Nestorius a really honest, straightforward type? In his first correspondence with the pope, when he tells of his problem with Pelagian refugees from Italy, he is even naively devious, and the pope in his reply points this out very bluntly. And once the major forces had been brought in against him, Cyril of Alexandria and the verdict of Rome, he certainly shows himself, in his manoeuvres with the court, a twister of the first order: Trop habile Nestorius.[5]

St. Cyril of Alexandria

When Cyril wrote directly to Nestorius, in February 430, seemingly, he said how surprised he was that he should disturb the peace of mind of the faithful by such very controvertible statements. Nestorius in return attacked the explanation Cyril had given the monks, called it untraditional, and said explicitly that it was the Apollinarian heresy all over again. Cyril had given him the news that Rome considered his views scandalous, and Nestorius ended his letter with a hint that the court was on his side. Cyril was not unaware that at Constantinople there were clerics from Egypt, gone there with a case against their chief bishop, and that Nestorius was taking care of these enemies. It was with reference to this situation that Cyril wrote to his agents in the capital, about this time:
This poor fellow does not imagine, surely, that I am going to allow myself to be judged by him, whoever the accusers are that he can stir up against me! It will be the other way round. I shall know well enough how to force him back to the defensive.[6]
The temperature is rising rapidly, on both shores of the Mediterranean.

It was now that Cyril first approached the court on the matter of Nestorius, sending explanations of the point at issue to the emperor, his wife and sisters.

The next move was a council in Egypt, sometime after Easter 430, and an elaborate report to the pope on the part of Cyril - his answer to the Roman query whether certain sermons that have come to the pope were really Nestorius' sermons.[7] Cyril's reply was a "skilfully written letter"[8] describing the situation at Constantinople, saying that all the bishops of the East are united in their anxiety about these errors of Nestorius. He is quite isolated in his denial that the Virgin is Theotokos, but flatters himself that he will bring the rest round, "so greatly has the power[9] of his see infatuated him." The bishops will not publicly break off relations with Nestorius without consulting the pope. "Deign then to make known to us what seems good to you, and whether we ought either to remain in communion with him or to declare publicly that no one should remain in communion with a man who thinks and teaches so erroneously." The pope's reply, Cyril recommends, should be sent to all the bishops of the East.

With this letter went copies of Nestorius' sermons (and a Latin translation of them), then the Cyril-Nestorius correspondence, then a list drawn up by Cyril of the errors said to be taught by Nestorius, and a compendium of texts from the classic theologians of the past on the doctrine called in question.

Pope St. Celestine I
Bartolomeo Romano
When this dossier reached Rome, Pope Celestine set it before a specially summoned gathering of bishops, and on August 11, 430, he wrote his judgment. This he sent, in the first place, to Cyril. In this letter, the pope speaks of Cyril's communication as a consolation amid his grief at the sermons Nestorius had been preaching. Already, that is, before receiving Cyril's letter, the pope had handed over these sermons to one of the great scholars of the day, the bilingual John Cassian, to be the basis of a book against Nestorius. But Cyril's letter, the pope continues, suggests how to cure this terrible evil. To the question about remaining in communion with the bishop of Constantinople, the pope replies that those whom Nestorius had excommunicated because they opposed him remain, nevertheless, in full communion, and those who obstinately follow the path that leads away from the apostolic teaching cannot be "in communion with us," i.e., the pope. Nestorius, he instructs Cyril, is to be summoned to make a written recantation of his errors, and to declare that his belief about the birth of Christ is what the church of Rome believes, the church of Alexandria, and the universal church. And Cyril is charged with the execution of this decision. He is to act in the pope's place, and, speaking with all the authority of the pope's see, is to demand this retraction of Nestorius, to be made in writing, within ten days of the notice given. If within this time Nestorius has not complied he is to be declared expelled from the church.

To the bishops of Antioch, Jerusalem, Thessalonica, and Philippi[10] the pope also wrote letters which follow the same line as that to Cyril, but make no mention of the commission to act which the pope had sent him. The pope merely says, with great gravity, "The sentence we pronounce, which is even more the sentence of our master, Christ who is God, is..." and so on, as in the letter to Cyril.

We possess, besides the letter to Cyril, the letter which the pope wrote, that same day, to Nestorius. In this, Celestine explains that lack of scholars who could translate the bishop's letters and sermons had delayed his reply, then came the dossier sent from Alexandria, which has been studied. The pope tells the bishop of Constantinople that his letters are "full of evident blasphemies." The sermons, for all their obscurity, plainly teach heresy. What a dreadful mistake it was to make Nestorius a bishop! The sheep have, indeed, been handed over to the wolf. And now, those whose lack of foresight brought this about are calling on the pope to help them out of the difficulty. The pope does not point out to Nestorius the particular places where he has gone astray, list any of "your many impious declarations, which the whole church rejects." But, as he tells him, this present letter is a final warning. The bishop of Alexandria is in the right in this controversy. "Brother, if you wish to be with us [...] openly show that you think as we think." "Our sentence is this," and the letter ends with a demand for a written declaration that Nestorius believes the very thing he has repudiated, with a notice of ten days allowed, and a warning that noncompliance means immediate excommunication. Celestine then tells him that all the papers concerning the process have been sent to Alexandria, that he has commissioned Cyril to act in his name and to inform him, Nestorius, and the other bishops what the pope has decided.

A letter, in much the same terms, also went from the pope to the clergy and faithful people of the capital. But the pope did not write to the emperor.

What the normal time was for a public letter to go from Rome to Alexandria, in the fifth century, and thence on to Constantinople - a business involving sea-journeys of something like a thousand miles - it is not easy to say. But it is surprising that not until December 7  was Nestorius officially summoned by Cyril to recant. And the bishop of Alexandria did not carry out his task in person - as, presumably, the pope designed. He sent the ultimatum by four of his suffragan bishops. Nor did he content himself with sending the pope's letters of commission, his own credentials in the matter. Before moving, he had called a synod of the bishops of Egypt, and he now sent on to Nestorius their synodal letter condemning his teaching. Finally, to make the expected retractation doubly sure, Cyril had drafted twelve statements about the heresies Nestorius was alleged to support, statements all of which ended: "Whoever believes this, may he be anathema," i.e., accursed. These Nestorius was to sign.

But in the long interval between August 11 and December 7, much had happened at Constantinople and elsewhere. Nestorius had had a correspondence with the bishop of Antioch, who urged him, in very plain language, to do as he was asked, and not to cause trouble merely about a word he disliked (Theotokos) but which he admitted could bear an orthodox meaning, and to which many saints and doctors of the past had given sanction by themselves using it. "Don't lose your head," wrote the Antiochean:
Ten days! It will not take you twenty-four hours to give the needed answer. [...] Ask advice of men you can trust. Ask them to tell you the facts, not just what they think will please you. [...] You have the whole of the East against you, as well as Egypt.
Nestorius, in his reply to this surely good friend, hedged. He gave no explicit answer, merely saying he had not been rightly understood, that if his book forbade the use of the famous word it was because heretics were using it with an heretical meaning. And that now he will just wait for the council,[11] which will settle this and all other problems. As to Cyril, it is he who is the troublemaker:
As to the Egyptian's insolence, it will scarcely surprise you, for you have many evidences of it, old and new.[12]
On November 19, the emperor had summoned a General Council of the Church, for certain vaguely described purposes, the summons said, but actually, no one doubted, to settle this controversy between Constantinople and Alexandria and - in the expectation of Nestorius - to be the scene of the trial for heresy (Apollinarianism) of Cyril. The council was to meet at Ephesus, at Pentecost (June 7) AD 431.

Nestorius of Constantinople
When Cyril's four bishops reached Constantinople, December 7, Nestorius refused to receive them. John of Antioch, in the letter just mentioned, had passed on to Nestorius copies of the pope's letter condemning him, and also of a letter he (John) had received from Cyril. Long before Cyril's four bishops walked into the sanctuary of the cathedral at Constantinople that December Sunday to hand over the ultimatum, Nestorius had known all about it. And he had not been idle. It was from Nestorius, it is often said, that the council idea had come. And in the emperor's letter inviting Cyril to the council there was much to make it evident that the glorification of Alexandria was no part of the programme. Cyril's writing separate letters to the emperor, the empress, and the princesses was here declared to be an attempt to divide the imperial family, and the bishop was ordered - not invited - to attend the council, under severe penalties.[13] On the other hand, the emperor's act had changed the whole situation for Nestorius. In summoning the council, Theodosius had forbidden all and every ecclesiastical change, no matter by whom, until the council had concluded. And when Nestorius now wrote to the pope of the crimes that were to be brought against Cyril when the council met, he made light of the theological controversy, gave not a hint that he knew of the pope's judgment, but wrote that Cyril, he hears, is preparing a "Faith in danger" campaign, in the hope of distracting the council from his own anxieties.

The pope made no difficulty about the emperor's plan to call a council, nor about the prohibition which - in fact - had called a halt to the summons to Nestorius. And when Cyril wrote to ask whether Nestorius was now to be treated as excommunicated, for the ten days had long since gone by, the pope in reply quoted the Scripture that God wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live. And Cyril is exhorted to work for peace with the rest of the bishops.

The date of this letter is May 7, 431 - one month before the day appointed for the council, five months from the day Cyril's deputation tried to deliver the ultimatum to Nestorius. And in those five months, the twelve anathemas of Cyril, so to call them, had time to circulate; and - in the vast territories where the influence of Antioch was strong - they had raised issues which now quite overshadowed the differences between Cyril and Nestorius, or between Rome and Nestorius even. In the eyes of these Antiochean theologians, the language in which the bishop of Alexandria had framed his statements revealed him as a pure Apollinarian. And John of Antioch had organised a party to make this clear at the council, and had in the meantime induced two bishops - one of them held to be Cyril's equal as a scholarly writer, Theodoret of Cyrrhus[14] - to come out with public refutations of the Alexandrian's "heresies." And this group wrote to the bishops of the West for support, to Milan, for example, to Aquileia, and to Ravenna.

How much of this was known to Pope Celestine, when he wrote his letter of May 7, we do not know. But he surely knew that minds were inflamed, and as he gave Cyril the news that he was not himself able to make the journey to Ephesus, he urged "the Egyptian" to be moderate, to remember that what the pope wanted was that Nestorius should be won back. We must not, said the pope, again scripturally, be of those "swift to shed blood."

The day after this letter was written, the pope signed the instructions for the three legates who were to represent him at the council. They were told to act throughout with Cyril and to watch carefully that the authority of the Apostolic See was duly respected. And, finally, the pope sent a letter to the council. It is a moving document, in which Celestine reminds the bishops of the beloved apostle St. John, whose remains lie in the church at Ephesus where they are meeting, and reminds them that they are the successors of the twelve apostles, privileged to preserve what their labours had established. The pope speaks plainly about the Nestorian novelties: they are treason to the faith. He exhorts the bishops to unanimity, and to be courageous in act. Then he presents his legates, who will take part in the council and will tell the bishops, "the things which we decided at Rome were to be done." "Nor do we doubt your assent to all this," the pope goes on, "when it is seen how all that is done has been ordered for the security of the whole church."

To the legates the pope entrusted a letter for the emperor, announcing that he would be represented at the council by legates, and praying he would give no encouragement to these novel ideas now causing such trouble, the work of men who would reduce the idea of God to the limits of what a finite intelligence could explore. The pope leaves it in no doubt, in this as in the other letter, that Nestorius is already condemned; if the pope consents to the case being discussed once more, this is in the hope that the unfortunate man will retract.

The emperor had not convoked every single bishop of the empire to the council, but only a certain number from each of the fifty-nine provinces of his own jurisdiction, the choice being left to the metropolitans. In all, something like 230 or 250 ultimately arrived at Ephesus. Cyril came in a few days before the appointed date. He found Nestorius already established. He had been at Ephesus since Easter, with a small group of sympathetic prelates. Cyril had brought with him fifty Egyptian bishops. Sometime after Pentecost the (anti-Nestorius) bishop of Jerusalem arrived with fifteen supporters, and later came news from the Antiocheans, forty-six in all, that they had been delayed by accidents. This last group had chosen to travel by the land route, a thousand miles and more of difficult and - as it happened - famine-stricken country.

The most numerous group at the council was the bishops of what we, today, call Asia Minor, the nineteen provinces that then made up the (civil) dioceses of Asia and Pontus, and the district called Proconsular Asia which was subject to the emperor's direct rule. It was in this last that Ephesus itself was situated. In Asia Minor there were, in all, something like three hundred sees. It was the most Catholicized territory of all the empire. Something like a hundred of these bishops came to the council. The bishop of Ephesus, Memnon, acted as their leader, and they were to a man anti-Constantinople - the question of the Theotokos apart. The repeated attempts of successive bishops of the capital city, since AD 381, to turn the primacy of honour then voted it into an effective hold on the only territory not already dominated by Antioch or Alexandria made the bishops of Ephesus allies of the foe of Constantinople in all these disputes.

Meanwhile, the Antiocheans did not arrive, and the bishops waited, for a good two weeks after the appointed day, June 7, in the great city, two hundred of them nearly, each with his retinue, in the scorching latitude of 38 degrees north. Disputes were frequent, fights and riots with the Nestorian minority, in which the town naturally took an interested part.[15] But Cyril made no attempt to meet Nestorius. The two prelates avoided each other. Each, to the other, was a wicked heretic, awaiting his trial and deserved condemnation. And while the bishop of Ephesus forbade the churches of the city to Nestorius, Cyril was free to preach on Nestorius as the enemy of truth, the outcast already condemned by the pope.[16]

The ruins of the Basilica of Maria Theotokos
in Ephesus, where the Council convened on June 22, 431
On June 21, the long wait was broken. Cyril announced that the next day the council would hold its opening session. Immediately there were protests. From the imperial commissioner, in the first place, Count Candidian, who was charged with the safety of the council, under orders to prevent any but the bishops from entering the church where the meetings would take place,[17] and with keeping order in the council itself, i.e., to see that every bishop who wished to speak was allowed to speak, and to reply to attacks made on him; also to see that no bishop left Ephesus until the council had ended its business. Candidian demanded a delay until the Antiocheans arrived. So did no fewer than sixty-eight bishops, in a written protestation. And Nestorius, with his party, made their protest too, saying the council was no council until all the bishops were assembled. But Cyril stood to his announcement, and on June 22 the council opened - a memorable first session in which much was enacted, and in which still more lay mischievously latent, suppositos cineri a doloso indeed.[18]

The question has been raised by what authority Cyril thus opened the council, acting as though he was its acknowledged president. That the mass of the bishops at the time accepted the fait accompli without any sign of protest - even the sixty-eight signatories - is certain. It was also traditional that Alexandria was the first see of the East. Its bishop being present at a General Council, and neither pope nor emperor having named another to preside, he was surely its inevitable president. Nestorius, in the memoirs he wrote, many years later, says:
We expected that he who exercised authority (the emperor, through Candidian) would have chosen the president. No one thought you would have taken it for yourself.
But from the 159[19] bishops who were in the church as the day's work began, there was not a sign of objection to Cyril.

The first, unallowed-for incident was a protestation, to the council this time, not to Cyril, from Candidian. It was the emperor's will, he said, that there should not be any "fragmentary councils."[20] He was asked to show his instructions and did so. But the bishops stood firm, and begged him to leave, which he did, after a final plea to wait for the absentees, upon whose arrival Nestorius and his party would join the council.

The council then settled down to its business. A notary read a summary of the case against Nestorius, told how Cyril had intervened at Constantinople, and then at Rome, and how "the most holy bishop of the church of Rome, Celestine, has written what it behoved." And the notary announced that all the documents were here and at the disposition of the bishops.

Nestorius was then sent for. Three times - as the Law demanded - he was officially and personally summoned, a deputation going from the council to the place where he lived. He ignored all three citations, and the council passed to the study of his case.

From Cyril's Second Letter to Nestorius
The next act was the reading of the creed of Nicaea, and then of Cyril's letter to Nestorius. Cyril then rose, acknowledging the letter, and to put it to the bishops to vote whether the theology of his letter was in accord with the creed of Nicaea; 125 of the bishops followed him, each making profession of the Nicene faith, and affirming that the letter accorded with Nicaea. A demand was made for Nestorius' reply to the letter. When it was read, and the question put as to its accord with Nicaea, thirty-four bishops had individually answered in the negative when the patience of the assembly gave out. There was a call for a mass vote, and without a dissentient they shouted their views in a series of acclamations:
Whoever does not anathematize Nestorius, let him be anathema. Curses on him. The true faith curses him. The holy council curses him. We all say anathema to his letter and his views. We all say anathema to the heretic Nestorius. [...] The whole universal church says anathema to the wicked religion taught by Nestorius.
The bishop of Jerusalem now asked that the pope's letter to Nestorius be read. So far not a word had come from the president to say that Rome had condemned Nestorius already, and looked to the council to ratify this. It was in the name of Nicaea that Nestorius had been condemned. The council - or Cyril - had not merely begun the business before the Antiocheans had come in, but before the arrival of the pope's representatives also. The Jerusalem proposal, so to speak, was adopted and the pope's letter was read - and listened to as a matter of routine, one would say, without a single acclamation. Next was read the letter delivered to Nestorius by the four bishops, the letter of the Egyptian synod. But not the now famous twelve anathemas which Cyril had composed in order to stop every retreat for his wily opponent - or perhaps they were read? Historians do not agree. Then, after an account by one of the four bishops of their mission to Nestorius, the notary read out a long collection of texts from all the classic theologians of past days justifying the orthodoxy of the term Theotokos; and followed this with a long selection of passages from Nestorius that were evidence of his errors. Finally, in a solemn resounding sentence, the council deprived Nestorius of his bishopric of Constantinople and ejected him from the ranks of the episcopate. 198 signatures of bishops were attached to the sentence.

In all the day's proceedings, not a single voice had been raised to say that the views of Nestorius were what the faith really was. All that long day, crowds had stood round outside the great church, while the interminable routine had slowly worked to its inevitable end, echoes from within making their way to the streets, no doubt, in the more lively moments. When the result was known there were scenes of the wildest joy, and Cyril, in a pastoral letter written on his return to Alexandria, has left a vivid picture of it all.
The whole population of the city, from earliest dawn until the evening stood around, in expectation of the council's decision. And when they heard that the author of the blasphemies had been stripped of his rank, they all began with one voice to praise and glorify God, as for the overthrow of an enemy of the faith. And as we [the bishops] came forth from the Church, they led us with torches to our lodgings, for it was now evening. Throughout the city there was great rejoicing, and many lighted lanterns, and women who walked before us swinging thuribles.[21]
Was the Council of Ephesus now over? No, its history had hardly begun, although, without a shadow of opposition, it had carried out the task for which, in the eyes of all, it had been summoned. And although the justice of what it had done was not questioned, and no move was ever made to reverse the decision. These strange words promise a complicated story. There were to be six more sessions of the council, spread through the month of July, and then, for the mass of the bishops, a long dreary wait of weeks while, at the capital, rival delegations argued before the emperor about the orthodoxy of Cyril. It was late September, three months after this night of triumph, before the council was dissolved, and the bishops free to begin the long journey back to their sees.

Fresco depicting the General Council of Ephesus
in the narthex of St. Athanasius church on Mount Athos (click to enlarge)

The morrow of the celebrations was taken up with the task of notifying the decision to all the interested parties: letters from Cyril and his bishops to the emperor, and to the clergy and people of Constantinople; a report from Candidian to the emperor; and from Nestorius (who had been officially told his sentence at the conclusion of the session) a complaint about the way his friends had been dealt with.

The next day, June 24, the Antiocheans arrived. They speedily learnt all that had happened, and were soon officially notified of the sentence against Nestorius and ordered, by Cyril, not to communicate with him in any way. Their immediate reaction was to form themselves into a council - along with some of the bishops who had held aloof from the great session of June 22. They gave Count Candidian audience and he, as well as protesting against what was then done, gave a full account of all the events of the week. It was then the turn of those bishops to speak, against whom Memnon had closed all his churches, shutting them out in this way from the liturgy at the great feast of Pentecost. There was speech of Cyril's autocratic conduct, of the heresy which his twelve anathemas contained and, finally, John of Antioch who presided over the gathering proposed a sentence that Cyril and Memnon be deposed as the authors of the heresies contained in the anathemas, the heresies of Arius and Apollinaris, and all the bishops be excommunicated who had allowed themselves to be led away by these chiefs. Notice of this sentence was served on all concerned, and once more the elaborate business gone through of officially informing the emperor and all the ecclesiastical world of the capital.

When these letters were despatched, whether June 26 or 28, the previous despatches to the emperor can hardly yet have reached Constantinople. His answer to Candidian's report on the session of June 22 is, in fact, dated June 29. It is a severe condemnation of all Cyril's proceedings. The emperor regards all that was done as of no effect, and orders the bishops to meet again, in accord, this time, with the instructions given to the count. None is to leave until this new discussion has taken place. And one of the highest officials of the court, it is announced, is on his way to regulate matters.

By the time this communication had reached Ephesus, something else had happened: the three Roman legates had arrived, the two bishops Arcadius and Projectus, and the priest Philip. In accord with the instructions given them, ten or eleven weeks before, they joined themselves to Cyril. On July 10, all the bishops who had taken part in the act of June 22 came together once more in session. The difference in the procedure is evident, notable, significant. Cyril presided,[22] and the session opened with a demand from the legates that the pope's letter to the council, which they had brought with them, should be read. This was done, and one of the legates then said, "We have satisfied what custom demands, namely, that first of all, the letters from the Apostolic See be read in Latin." They were next read in Greek - a translation brought by the legates.[23]

And now there were acclamations from the council. The papal sentence had anticipated the bishops' own vote. The counteraction of John of Antioch against themselves for their support of Cyril, the emperor's gesture of repudiation, were, perhaps, the lighter for this wholehearted confirmation. They called:
Celestine is the new Paul. Cyril is the new Paul. Celestine is the guardian of the faith. Celestine agrees with the council. There is one Celestine, one Cyril, one faith of the council, one faith of the world-wide Church.
And then one of the papal legates intervened to point out that what Celestine's letter had said was that it was the council's business to carry out what he at Rome had decided should be done. And another legate, acknowledging the acclamations, said in a terse phrase:
The members have joined themselves to the head, for your beatitude is not ignorant that the head of the whole faith, and furthermore of the Apostles, is the blessed apostle Peter.
And then this legate, the priest Philip, asked for the official record of what had been done on June 22, So as to be able to confirm the sentence passed, according to the instructions of "our blessed pope."

At the session of the following day, the same legate pronounced that the judgment of June 22 had been made "canonically and in accordance with ecclesiastical learning" and "conformably with the instructions of the most holy pope, Celestine," the judgment was confirmed. Whereupon the minutes of the session and the sentence against Nestorius were read, following which the legate Philip made a speech in which occurs this passage, that has never ceased to be quoted since:
No one doubts, nay it is a thing known now for centuries, that the holy and most blessed Peter, the prince and head of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith and the foundation on which the Catholic Church is built, received from Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the saviour and redeemer of the human race, the keys of the kingdom, and that to him there was given the power of binding and of loosing from sin; who, down to this day, and for evermore, lives and exercises judgment in his successors.[24]
Interior of the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Rome
In the report of these last proceedings made by the bishops to the emperor, the principal part which the Roman see has played in the condemnation of Nestorius, "before the present council was summoned," is stressed, and the fact that Cyril had been charged by the pope to act in his place. But the bishops do not excuse themselves for - once more - ignoring the emperor's commands as to what they shall do and how. In their letter notifying again to the clergy of Constantinople the deposition of their bishop, the next signature, after Cyril's is that of Philip, "priest of the church of the Apostles,"[25] then comes that of the bishop of Jerusalem, and next of the other two Roman legates.

It remained to resolve the council's situation vis-a-vis the Antioch group who, now nearly three weeks since, had declared these two hundred or so bishops excommunicated. John of Antioch and his adherents were now, three times, formally summoned to appear before the council, and upon their final refusal they were all solemnly excommunicated (July 17). And, once again, pope and emperor were formally notified of all that had been done.

At Constantinople, there were general rejoicings at the news that Nestorius' reign was over. But the emperor still refused to recognise the work done as it had been done. He did not reprove the bishops for ignoring his orders of June 29, and he wrote as though all the bishops then at Ephesus were one body - a single letter addressed to all.[26] But he confirmed all three depositions, i.e., of Nestorius and of Cyril and of the bishop of Ephesus. All the other acts he condemned. The faith as defined at Nicaea sufficed, he said. His new envoy, Count John, who brought the letter, would further instruct the bishops about "our divinity's plan for the faith." And the bishops were bidden return to their sees.

When the count arrived, with this somewhat confused, and confusing, decree, it must have been the beginning of August. He had all the bishops brought together in a single assembly to hear his news, their leaders with them. The effect was a general riot; Nestorius and Cyril had to be removed before order was restored. That evening they, with Memnon of Ephesus, were placed under arrest. "If I see the pious bishops to be irritable and irreconcilable (though what causes their rage and exasperation is a mystery to me), and if I find it necessary to take other measures, I shall as soon as possible give your majesty news of this;" so the count reported to Theodosius.

There were, of course, protestations to the court from the council. And Cyril, who knew well the world of Constantinople, made immediate use of the vast wealth of his see. "At the court every man had his price, and Cyril did not stop to count the price."[27] We have a list of the valuable presents that flowed in, carpets (of various sizes), furnishings, valuable silks, jewels, ivory chairs, ostriches, and good plain golden coin. Of this last, one group of fifteen high personages "touched," between them, the equivalent of nearly a million dollars. "Il est certain que Cyrille a paye tres cher."[28] No less effectively, he influenced the monks, and an abbot who in forty-eight years had never left his cell headed a great demonstration, that all the town turned out to cheer as it made its way to the palace. And the abbot solemnly warned Theodosius of the sin he committed when he interfered with the council's action.

What the emperor decided was to hold a conference, which both sides would attend. Eight delegates from each party came to the palace at Chalcedon, the town directly across the Bosporus from the capital. The legate Philip went with the party of the council. John of Antioch led the other group. Cyril was still under arrest; nor did any pleas on his behalf at Chalcedon overcome the emperor's determination not to see him. The conference began on September 4.[29] There were five meetings in all, and we have no record of what took place except what has survived of letters to the bishops still kicking their heels at Ephesus from their friends in the delegations - or rather in the delegation of John of Antioch's party, one of whom was the great Theodoret. The emperor's decision - presuming it was his office to decide - was sensible enough. He refused to condemn Cyril for his twelve anathemas, would not even have them examined; he refused to accept the Antioch policy that no more needed to be said than to repeat the definition of Nicaea; and he utterly refused to reconsider the personal question of Nestorius. "Don't talk to me of that fellow," he said. "He has shown the sort he is." As to the excommunicated John of Antioch and his party: "Never so long as I live will I condemn them," said the emperor in his edict. "When they appeared before me none were able to prove anything against them." Cyril and Memnon were tacitly allowed to keep their sees. The bishops were allowed to go home The great council was over.

Additional Resources:


[1] He had died January 17, 395, the last man to rule the whole Roman world as sole emperor; and he died a man in the prime of life.
[2] St. Innocent I, AD 402-417.
[3] Batiffol, Msgr. Pierre, Le Siege Apostolique, 359-451, 343.
[4] Whom, however, Cyril does not name.
[5] Batiffol, as before, 361; also, 343.
[6] Batiffol, as before, 348, n. 5. St. Cyril's Letters, no. X. Also quoted Bardy, Les debuts du Nestorianisme, F. and M., vol. 4, p. 172, n. 2.
[7] Batiffol, as before, 349, n. 1.
[8] Bardy, 172, fort habilement redigee.
[9] The word translated by "power" is dunameis. When the pope passes to state his decision to the clergy and faithful of Constantinople (August 11, 430) and says, "The authority of our see has decided," the noun used is authentia - i.e., supreme authority, where the other term dunameis is "high rank," or "resources."
[10] In the province of Macedonia (and therefore directly subject to the Holy See), 70 miles east of Thessalonica, 240 due west of Constantinople.
[11] Announced since John of Antioch's letter.
[12] For this correspondence, Batiffol, as before, 361-62.
[13] Cf. Newman on the emperor, "distrustful of Cyril": "Theodosius disliked Cyril; he thought him proud and overbearing, a restless agitator and an intriguer and he told him so in a letter that has come down to us." Trials of Theodoret, in Historical Sketches, II, 348. It seems safe to date this essay, first printed in 1873, in the 1860s.
[14] Whom John had already called in to induce Nestorius to admit the orthodoxy of the use of the word Theotokos.
[15] The leading prelates brought each his own bodyguard; Cyril, sailors from Alexandria, Nestorius, gladiators from the circus.
[16] Newman, as before, 349-50.
[17] The great church called Maria Theotokos.
[18] "Beneath ashes deceptively cool." The reference is to Horace's famous warning to historians, Odes, II, 1.
[19] "Round about 160," says Bardy, F. and M., 4, 180. The exact figure is a matter of dispute.
[20] Nolle particulures quasdam synodos fieri. Batiffol, as before, 371.
[21] The text of this letter, Greek and Latin, is printed in Kirch, Enchiridion Fontium Hist. Ecclesiasticae Antiquae, pp. 461-62.
[22] And the official record of the proceedings notes that he does so "taking the place of Celestine, the most holy and most reverend chief-bishop of the church of the Romans."
[23] The term used by the legate for his native Latin tongue is interesting - Romana oratio. Mansi, IV, p. 1288.
[24] Text, Greek and Latin, in Denzinger, no. 112.
[25] The Roman basilica of this title.
[26] To fifty-three, rather, by name, belonging to all parties; to the pope and the bishop of Thessalonica, also, who did not attend the council; and to St. Augustine, dead now eleven months.
[27] Batiffol, Msgr. Pierre, Le Siege Apostolique, 359-451, p. 388.
[28] Ibid., p. 389. See also Bardy, p. 188.
[29] Bardy says September 11, p. 190.