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Archive for December 31st, 2007

Today the Catholic church commemorates the death of Pope Silvester I.

Little is actually know of this Pope, but because it was during his reign that the 1st Ecumenical council was held various supporters of the papacy and those opposed to it have by my understanding made mountains out of mole hills.

Various Catholic e-polygists will state that the papacy called all the Ecumenical council. As if their authority is endangered if one failed to do so. First problem is that we have no original documents to refer to on this or what was later the second Ecumenical council.

The first bit of evidence comes from Rufinus who’s church history is very close(circa 400) to the time of the council which was in 325 A.D. Constantine made his decision “on the advice of the clergy”according to Rufinus, Hist. Eccl., 1:218. That’s pretty open ended. Likely it’s Hosius of Cordova

who was the Emperor’s consultant. Of the two extant lists by Mansi massive work “Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio” and two by Pope Gelasius the first name is always Hosius of Cordova followed by two priests of Rome Vincentius and Vitus, they are followed by much more famous personages who have much higher authority within the church:St. Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Nicholas of Myra(yes that’s Santa Claus).

It is significant that mere priests are listed ahead of metropolitans and other bishops and this is because they represent the Pope at the council.

Although the fact that the Pope did not attend this council the papacy used this as an excuse not to attend future councils, thereby maintaining the ability to veto items that it found displeasing.

Protestants will frequently note that this is the date of the birth of the Catholic church. Such a claim is very far from true. However what isn’t noted by either protestants nor Catholics sadly is Constantine’s change towards the church from 314

My own desire is, for the common good of the world and the advantage of all mankind, that your people should enjoy a life of peace and undisturbed concord. Let those, therefore, who still delight in error, be made welcome to the same degree of peace and tranquillity which they have who believe. For it may be that this restoration of equal privileges to all will prevail to lead them into the straight path. Let no one molest another, but let every one do as his soul desires. Only let men of sound judgment be assured of this, that those only can live a life of holiness and purity, whom you call to a reliance on your holy laws. With regard to those who will hold themselves aloof from us, let them have, if they please, their temples of lies: we have the glorious edifice of your truth, which you have given us as our native home. We pray, however, that they too may receive the same blessing, and thus experience that heartfelt joy which unity of sentiment inspires- Chapter 56

As for those who will not allow themselves to be cured of their error, let them not attribute this to any but themselves. For that remedy which is of sovereign and healing virtue is openly placed within the reach of all. Only let not any one inflict an injury on that religion which experience itself testifies to be pure and undefiled.-Chapter 59 – Book II Life of Constantine

The problem with this was two fold. One was the merging of the emperor acting as a bishop confusing the role of church & state on the one hand, which created issues btwn the latin and greek speaking church in centuries later and eventually to the schism in 1054 A.D.

The other was the entrance of crypto-pagans and heretics

Thus were the lurking-places of the heretics broken up by the emperor’s command, and the savage beasts they harbored (I mean the chief authors of their impious doctrines) driven to flight. Of those whom they had deceived, some, intimidated by the emperor’s threats, disguising their real sentiments, crept secretly into the Church. For since the law directed that search should be made for their books, those of them who practiced evil and forbidden arts were detected, and these were ready to secure their own safety by dissimulation of every kind. Chapter 66 book III.

Freedom of religion was desired initially to prevent Christians from being deprived of property, killed and shunned. However, it was realized by the Emperor that paganism was already dead and the only viable instrument to unite the empire he wanted to preserve was through Christianity.

The church leaders were slow to react to the changes, most having lived under the reign of VALERIUS DIOCLETIANUS

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