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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 222: Use of Capital Punishment



Use of Capital Punishment

Suffering horrible crimes, for example murder, could be useful to the Church.1 Martyrdom and confession of faith by servants of God are an example of patience and generosity to the weak. Martyrdom is a glory to the entire Church and confounds those who claim inability to enter the Church lest they be soiled by the crimes of others.2 It puts to rest the argument that a human being possesses the truth merely because he has been persecuted.3 For this reason Augustine desired to have the authentic acts of the conference read publicly in the church of Hippo and the other churches of his diocese.4

Nevertheless neither Augustine nor any of his clerics denounced the guilty personally.5 Civil officers charged with the care of the police and civil discipline brought the affairs of Restitutus and Innocentius before Marcellinus. They sent the Circumcelliones and Donatist clerics, accused of assassinating these two priests, to the bishop of Hippo to inform him on the matter. Marcellinus had been given the duty of solving ecclesial cases,6 apparently by the law of January 30, 412 which speaks of an executor of laws against the Donatists.7 Dulcitius had this title of tribune and notary in the years following.8

In this matter Marcellinus was dealing with an enormous crime. However in dealing with this question he did not use the judicial seat where the criminals are heard, nor flames applied to their bodies,...

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