Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Article 233: Execution of Marcellinus
Execution of Marcellinus
No matter how certain the innocence of Marcellinus was, there was fear of a powerful man easily doing whatever he wanted.1 Such a man could do anything to please the wicked without concern for his reputation and perhaps for secret and even more shameful reasons, for example Donatist bribery. At that time under the pretext of the odious crime of rebellion anyone could be put to death on the testimony of a single witness. A criminal willing to say what was necessary to obtain pardon could easily be found.
In face of this Augustine and other bishops overlooked nothing in attempting to prevent Marinus from causing the Church extreme sorrow by the death of Marcellinus and from even killing his own soul by so great a crime. Caecilianus, who may have authorized this imprisonment, joined his entreaties to those of the Church and prayed for relief from Marcellinus’ execution. Caecilianus gave Augustine reason for hope in this affair and often protested to the bishops he would do what he could. In fact Caecilianus showed the bishops what was necessary to maintain Marcellinus’ reputation.
Marinus used hopeful language and promises. However he used such language to deceive the bishops and prevent them from saving the prisoners. The bishops, it was believed, could prevent the execution by either intercession or appeal to the imperial power or by snatching them from prison by violence so as to keep them in...