Saturday, July 11, 2009

Did Saint Athanasius Appeal to Rome?


In my recent conversation with James White on his Dividing Line we had a disagreement as to whether or not St. Athanasius appealed to Rome for help during the Arian crisis. So far every single historical source that I have found says that he did. I think Dr. White may have been mistaken on this particular issue. I understand that the crisis did not end in Rome, but according to my sources, Athanasius clearly appealed to Julius I around 341. When reading the history of the early Church it is hard to keep all of this stuff straight, at least for me anyways.

Scholar Warren H Carroll on pages 21-22 in his book The building of Christendom tells us that Athanasius placed himself under Pope Julius and appealed to him for help during the Arian crisis.

Scholar Adrian Fortescue tells us on page 71 of his book says that Athanasius' appeal went to Rome to Pope Julius I.



The Rev A H Hore M.A on pages 143-144 in his work called Eighteen centuries of the Orthodox Greek Church tells us that Pope Julian had a council exonerating St. Athanasius in 341. Of course we know that the heretics did not stop after that, but never the less, Athanasius did appeal to Rome.


Scholar Dom John Chapman tells us on pages 53-55
It is quite common to find well-read Englishmen speaking as though the history of Arianism was a difficulty in the way of the defenders of the Roman Primacy. They talk as if Rome had but an unimportant share in the troubles of the fourth century, and as if no testimony to the authority of the Papacy could be drawn from the relations between the East and West during the controversy.

This curious notion has its root, of course, in the Anglican manuals of history, in which the action of the Papacy is either ignored, or where this is impossible, minimized. In the following paper it will not be possible to go through the whole period of the Arian distress. I shall confine myself, therefore, to the time which elapsed between the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the Council of Sardica in 343 or 344. During these years the West was at peace, and all the troubles were caused by the Arianizing court party in the East.

Athanasius assembled in consequence a great Council at Alexandria of more than eighty Bishops, which addressed to Julius and to all Bishops a lengthy defense. [1] This letter was taken to Rome by the envoys of Athanasius. When their arrival became known to Macarius (the priest who had brought the letter to Eusebius) he left hurriedly in the night. His companions, two deacons, were unable to reply to the statements of the Egyptians, so they demanded a synod, and requested the Pope himself to be judge.

Commentary on Pope Julius as Judge (Socrates, Sozomen, others)

It is best to give the words of the authorities: (Athanasius, Apol c. Arian 20):

"The Eusebians (or Eusebius) also wrote to [Pope] Julius, and thinking to frighten us, they asked for a Council to be called, and that Julius himself, if he wished, should be judge."

Socrates, (H.E. ii, II):

"Eusebius having accomplished what he desired, sent an embassy to Julius, Bishop of Rome, calling upon him to be the judge of the charges against Athanasius, and to summon the case to Himself."

Sozomen, (H.E. iii, 7):

"Eusebius...wrote to Julius that he should be judge of what had been decreed at Tyre."
Theodoret, (H.E. ii, 3):

"Athanasius, knowing their plot, retired, and betook himself to the West. For to the Bishop of Rome (Julius was then the Shepherd of that Church) the Eusebians had sent the false accusations which they had put together against Athanasius. And he, following the laws of the Church, both ordered them to repair to Rome, and also summoned the divine Athanasius to judgment. And he, for his part, started at once on receiving the call; but they who had made up the story did not go to Rome, knowing that it would be easy to see through their falsehood."

Sozomen, (iii, 10):

"Julius learning that it was not safe for Athanasius to remain in Egypt then, sent for him to Rome."



Catholic Encyclopedia says,
"Athanasius had ignored the decision of a duly authorized synod. He had returned to his see without the summons of ecclesiastical authority (Apol. c. Ar., loc. cit.). In the year 340, after the failure of the Eusebian malcontents to secure the appointment of an Arian candidate of dubious reputation names Pistus, the notorious Gregory of Cappadocia was forcibly intruded into the Alexandrian See, and Athanasius was obliged to go into hiding. Within a very few weeks he set out for Rome to lay his case before the Church at large. He had made his appeal to Pope Julius, who took up his cause with a whole-heartedness that never wavered down to the day of that holy pontiff's death. The pope summoned a synod of bishops to meet in Rome. After a careful and detailed examination of the entire case, the primate's innocence was proclaimed to the Christian world."

Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

"In the midst of all this confusion a Cappadocian priest named Gregory was forcibly installed as patriarch of Alexandria by the city prefect, pagans and Arians having now joined forces against the Catholics. Confronted unceasingly by acts of violence and sacrilege, Athanasius betook himself to Rome to await the hearing of his case by the Pope. A synod was summoned, but the Eusebians who had proposed it failed to appear. The result was a complete vindication of Athanasius, a verdict afterwards endorsed by the Council of Sardica."

8 comments:

orthodox said...

It's amazing how the exact same events, couched in different terms and color, can lead to entirely different conclusions.

For example, we are told here that Athanasius "appealed" to Rome. That the Pope summoned him. That Athanasius went to Rome to await judgment.

What I would have said, and what I read in the history books is that there was rioting in Alexandria. Athanasius' life was in immediate danger. And the pope invited him to Rome for a safe haven. There the two of them plotted victory for the orthodox faction.

Which spin is the correct spin? Both fit the raw facts. Each is written in the context of a different theological agenda. I want to see primary sources before going one way or the other.

What I notice is that nobody outside the Pope's jurisdiction considered the Pope's opinion decisive in any way at all. Sure, he was an important figure who you wanted on your side, but that is all.

Nowhere in Athanasius' extensive writings do we find the argument that everyone has to agree with the Pope or Rome, simply because he is the Pope in Rome. This is the great deafening silence we find not only in Athanasius, but in all the Fathers, in all the disputes.

Nowadays Catholic apologists paint the picture that the thing which always is the ultimate arbiter is the Pope. But this is the one argument completely absent from Athanasius. We have him, and others discussing the authority of the general council, but no mention of the Pope. But if Catholic theology is correct, the Pope was the one thing which could end the dispute. But it didn't. Not a single bishop switched sides because of the argument of what the Pope taught.

Matthew Bellisario said...

From reading the early Church history it seems to me that there is a real love hate relationship between the Eat and West. The East appeals to Rome many times, some of them in which they obey his decision. However we see new heresies springing up in the East at a very rapid pace, which never happened in the West. Despite claims against the Pope he never willingly became an Arian heretic. It is speculated that he signed the first Formulary of Sirmium which condemned Athanasius as a heretic, but it was not the profession of the Arian creed. The second article was and was never signed by Poe Liberius. If one reads the history of the early Church, in my opinion it is Rome who always has to go over to the East and try and settle disputes. No the other way around.

orthodox said...

"If one reads the history of the early Church, in my opinion it is Rome who always has to go over to the East and try and settle disputes."

The East settled the Arian dispute without much input from Rome, and rather quickly. On the other hand, the Arian heresy dragged on in the West for many many more centuries.

Rome always goes to the East to settle disputes?

The 1st General Council told Rome to mind its own business

The 2nd Council seemed to forget the Pope existed.

The 3rd Council ignored the fact the Pope had pronounced judgment on Nestorius, and treated him as Patriarch in good standing until it could render its own decision.

The 4th council tried to claim for Constantinople rights of being the #2 see. The East ultimately won, and Rome recognised this.

The 5th council anathemetized "Constitutum" which was Pope Vigilius' solemn judgment on faith and dogma. Vigilius recanted 6 months later, blaming the devil for misleading him.

The 6th council declared "Anathema to the heretic [Pope] Honorius"

The 7th council (8th century) forgot the Pope again. Even in the 9th century, Pope Nicholas I still only recognized the first 6 councils as did France as late as the 11th century. (~Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol 6, P 636 1972). Apparently the Popes were scared of iconoclasic Frankish Holy Roman Emperors.

In the 12th century, the Pope recanted Rome's approval of Constantinople IV (879-880) and instead elevated the previously condemned council of Constantinople of 869/870. (Constantinople 879 condemned anyone who would alter the Nicean-Constantinopolitan creed. (Hmm, why would 12th century Catholics need to undo this one?)


I don't see in this record a history of Popes settling anything much. All the settling was going on in the East.

Alex said...

Judging how the East dealt with Islam, I'm glad I'm in the West.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Mind its own business? Forgot the Pope existed? I will address these statements one by one when I get a chance.Just because some the Eastern bishops rebelled against the Pope does not mean he wasn't the head of the Church. Seeing that all of the major heresies were Eastern inventions speaks volumes on the situation in the relationship between East and West. I will elaborate when I get some time. I appreciate you coming over to discuss these issues. It is always good to examine these things.

orthodox said...

"Seeing that all of the major heresies were Eastern inventions speaks volumes on the situation in the relationship between East and West."

Not even nearly true. Marcion. The Donatist heresy. The Valentius movement. Pelagius. We could go on and on.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Montanism, Monarchianism, Arianism,Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Adoptionism, Macedonianism, all of these heresies, which were the worst Christological heresies that have ever existed, came out of the East, not the West. I could go on and on. If you really want to add them up and look at the influence they had on the early Church, there is no comparison.

orthodox said...

Of course, in this early era of the church you are talking about, 90% of the Church was in the East, so its hardly surprising that most of the activity was over there. Christianity had radiated out from Jerusalem, and Rome was the outer reaches of the movement.

Funnily though, the East dealt with this stuff quickly, whereas the West took it and ran with it. We are talking about who settles stuff, right?

I already mentioned how Arianism hung around in the West for many centuries after it had gone in the East. Abelard come up with Neo-Adoptionism in the West in the 12th century. The Montanists continued to exist in Carthage long after disappearing from the East. Monarchianism, although technically started by someone who came from the East, only actually started when he arrived at Rome, setting up his own church, complete with anti-Pope. And of course we know Popes were anathemetized over the Monophysite heresy AND the Nestorian heresy.

And what heresy has caused more upheaval in the church than all the others put together? I'll give you a clue. It started in the West in Wittenburg.