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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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Note 84: African Appeals to Rome

Extract

NOTE 841

African Appeals to Rome

The letter of the African bishops to Pope Celestine dated in 426 has occasioned many disputes. It is not the role of the historian to examine if these bishops had the right of forbidding an appeal to Rome or if the reasons they allege sufficiently prove they can or must forbid an appeal. Even so, examination of whether they actually forbad it is in order. No one contests the right of prohibiting appeals with regard to priests or minor clerics. The words of the letter are so precise on that matter as to be in no way contestable.2

With regard to bishops however, according to de Marca, the matter is not immediately clear;3 there is sufficient ground for doubt. In effect, what the letter says concerning the Council of Nicea which remands the matter to a provincial council does not formally exclude the appeal of bishops to the pope since the letter recognizes clerics can appeal to the general council of Africa. The entire purpose of the letter is clearly to terminate affairs in Africa without bishops and others carrying them farther. The reasons alleged for priests could nearly all be maintained for bishops. The fifth canon of Sardica says the pope can send a legate on his part to examine a judgment. This canon concerns only bishops. The letter of the African bishops rejects this policy as not found in any other council. Their reason for...

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