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.  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."