Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren
Note 84: African Appeals to Rome
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...