Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren
Article 306: Priscillianism
Concurrently with responding to Gaudentius Augustine was working on Contra mendacium addressed to Consentius.1 Consentius was apparently a Spanish Catholic; the Priscillianist heresy was imbedded in Spain. He sent Augustine through Leona a letter containing several items apparently Priscillianist teachings.2 After some research and learning various doctrines from a Fronton Consentius had written a summary.3 These notes are written in an intelligent and pleasant style from considerable knowledge of Scripture.4 Consentius was zealous in pursuit of hidden heretics and the negligence of Catholics in doing so caused him anxiety.
However his knowledge does not match his zeal.5 According to Consentius to discover heretics concealing their doctrine and disavowing it under oath one should be a member of their sect and follow their errors. Augustine disapproved of this dictum.6 Several pressing matters over many months prevented Augustine from responding. A year passed. At the time of Leona’s immanent departure from Hippo Augustine wrote a book entitled Contra mendacium. He openly responded to scriptural passages alleged by some, perhaps even Consentius himself, to justify lying.7 Augustine makes clear even if lying were somehow permissible it would set a dangerous precedent to lie on religious matters.8
Augustine strongly exhorts Consentius to write him concerning the Priscillianists.9 God had given Consentius this ability and his work should be ← 276 | 277 → made public and promulgated through bishops who had pastoral obligations to instruct their own people and others reading his book. Episcopal care could...