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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

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 267: Pope Innocent



Pope Innocent

Through Bishop Julius, Pope Innocent received three letters: one from the Council of Carthage, one from the Council of Mileve, and one from the five bishops.2 The pope may have been surprised because he did not as yet know to what extent Pelagianism had spread. He responded to the three letters by three of his own at the beginning of 417.3 His letter to the Council of Mileve is dated January 27, under the consuls Honorus and Constantius (417). The other two letters are dated at the same time in the recent editions on manuscript authority.4 Innocent may have written them after holding his own council on this subject: popes at the time were not accustomed to act and write on affairs of this magnitude without assembling their clergy and Roman and nearby bishops. Innocent’s letters were sent to Africa through Bishop Julius.5

In these letters Innocent praised the erudition, zeal, and vigilance of the African bishops.6 They cared for the churches they governed and extended their concern universally. He praised the two councils for what they addressed to the Holy See and emphasized the dignity and authority of both.

Some time previously Innocent had received the acts of the Council of Diospolis in Rome through laymen.7 He noted a lack of sincerity in Pelagius’ responses. These acts arrived without letters from either Pelagius or the absolving bishops. These failures in and of themselves did not cause him...

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