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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 265: Five African Bishops Write to Innocent

Extract

ARTICLE 265

Five African Bishops Write to Innocent

Beside the synodal letters of Carthage and Mileve, five African bishops, to wit Aurelius, Alypius, Augustine, Evodius, and Possidius, wrote a third letter as a friendly message to Innocent.1 They treated the Pelagius’ affair more extensively and precisely2 and explained how the Eastern bishops could have absolved Pelagius under the supposition they had done so.3 These five bishops did not yet possess the acts of the Council of Diospolis.4 They indicated to the pope the need for him to remedy this heresy.5 Many Roman Pelagians would no longer dare open their mouths against divine grace if Pelagius’ books and errors were anathematized by episcopal authority, principally by the authority of his Holiness.6 The pope would doubtless carry more weight than any other bishop.7

They indicated to Innocent he ought to order Pelagius to come to Rome for a careful examination of his recognition of the Savior’s grace. At the very least the pope should examine him by letter. After that they could recognize Pelagius as a true member of the Church and rejoice in his conversion. The bishops indicated the necessity of condemning Pelagius’ works written against the necessity of divine grace. If Pelagius disavowed these books or claimed his opponents had supplemented them, it would still be necessary for the pope by his authority and paternal exhortations to oblige him to condemn and anathematize what he might maintain is not his teaching. Particular attention should...

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