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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren

The seventeenth century was the century of Saint Augustine. In 1695, Louis Sébastien, Le Nain de Tillemont, finished volume 13 of his Mémoires ecclésiastique, entitled La vie de saint Augustin. The volume consisted of approximately 1200 pages wherein Louis Sébastien gathered from the works of Augustine and elsewhere all extant passages relevant to the biography of Augustine of Hippo. Completed in 1695, the biography was published posthumously in 1700. The work lies in the tradition of Jansenism from Port-Royal and the Leuven. Though an ascetic recluse on the family estate for the last twenty years of his life, he was in touch with important French scholars and the ecclesiastical movements of his time. Louis’ work is the first modern biography of Augustine and the most comprehensive of all Augustinian biographies, even today. Modern authors consult him and frequently adopt his theories without citation. His method exercises influence on contemporary Parisian scholarship on Augustine. This English translation has been divided into three volumes covering three time periods: part 1: birth to episcopal consecration (354–396); part 2: the Donatist controversy (396–411); part 3: the Pelagian controversy (411–430).
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Article 221: Donatist Reactions

Extract

ARTICLE 221

Donatist Reactions

The truth had been clarified by the conference of 411 and confirmed by the law of Honorius. More than ever before, Donatist bishops, their clergy, and laity were re-uniting with the Church. They were embracing peace with generosity,1 but constantly suffered persecution from their members who remained stubborn, even to the point of losing corporeal members or their lives. The grace of conversion is not given everyone. Some said they would never leave the Donatist party.2 No one could show them the Catholic truth and the error of their ways.

Some Donatist bishops fled; others hid, still others, such as Emeritus of Algiers, retired.3 The Catholics permitted Emeritus to retire after the debate of 418. They freed several less considerable figures, doing them no harm. The Donatists publicly explained of all those who had fallen into Catholic hands no one had denied Catholicism.

Donatists complained they suffered persecution and had no place to hide.4 They held councils and ordained bishops to replace those who had burned themselves. One council among others, apparently before 420, consisted of more than more than thirty people, including Petilianus. The council offered bishops and priests who had communicated with Catholics pardon for their sin and re-entry to the sect with all their previous honors, provided they had not offered mass and preached publicly as a Catholic. This order actually destroyed the foundation of their sect.

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