bishop (c. 308), opponents within his church rejectedhim. Agroup ofNumidian bishops supported Caecilian's enemies. About seventy Numidians assembled at a synod in a private home in Carthage. They excommunicated Caecilian, in part because one of his three consecrators, Felix of Aphthugni, was allegedly a traditor (i.e., someone who surrendered Bibles and liturgical books to the authorities), and they replaced him by a certain Maiorinus.149 Maiorinus soon died and was succeeded by Donatus of Casae Nigrae - apparently an enemy of Caecilian.
Although there were traditores among the Numidian bishops who triggered the schism, the Donatists styled themselves the pure church of the martyrs, the one whose sacraments were valid. According to the Donatists, Caecilian's church was defiled, its clergy illegitimate. For them, Caecilian's invalid ordination spread like a contagion through the whole Catholic Church, invalidating every other ordination or baptism in the community.150 As the only 'true church', the Donatists expected the emperor to hand over church buildings and church property to them. Constantine, however, backed the Catholics. In April 313 the Donatists sent Constantine a libellus detailing the charges against Caecilian and requested judges from Gaul to decide the matter.151 Constantine assembled a tribunal of nineteen bishops (three from Gaul, the rest from Italy, with Pope Miltiades as the chair) who rejected the charges against Caecilian on 4 October 313. But the Donatists appealed and Constantine assembled another tribunal in Arles (August 314). Bishops from all parts of his Western empire were to take part. Caecilian attended the council, as did four Donatist bishops. The Donatist party failed again, but persisted. So Constantine summoned bishops to Milan and, in autumn 316, Caecilian was vindicated a third time.152
At this point, Constantine ordered a reunion of the two sides. One source complains of attempts at bribing Donatists, violence from the police and the military and the forceful profanation of Carthage churches.153 Outside Carthage, the imperial order was probably ignored. In 321, the emperor is provided byJ.-L. Maier, Le dossier du Donatisme. For the early phase, see T. D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 54-61, with dissident proposals.
149 Optatus, Against Parmenian 1.17-20 (SC 412: 208-17); Augustine, Letter 43.2.3 (CSEL 342: 86-7). In 315, an investigation ordered by Constantine cleared Felix of Aphthugni of the charge of traditio.
150 See B. Kriegbaum, Kirche der Traditoren.
151 Eusebius, H.E. 10.5.15-17,10.6.1-5,10.7.1-2; Augustine, Letter 88.2 (CSEL 34:408); Optatus, Against Parmenian 1.22 (SC 412: 220-3).
152 Augustine, Against Cresconius 3.71.82 (CSEL 52: 487); Letter 43.7.20 (CSEL 342: 102).
153 Augustine, Letters 88.3, 93.4.14 and 105.2.9 (CSEL 342: 408-9; 458-9; 601-2); c. litt. Petil. 2.92.205 (CSEL 52:129-30); Sermo depassione sancti Donati episcopi Abiocalensis (in Maier, Dossier du Donatisme, I: 201-11). See K. Schaferdiek, 'Der Sermo de passione sanctorum Donati et Advocati'.
Was this article helpful?