FOURTH CENTURY

DONATISTS: Heretical followers of Donatus the Great, an African Bishop, who played a prominent part in the Donatist schism (named after another Donatus) of the fourth century, which preceded and paved the way for the heresy of the same name. He succeeded Majorinus in 815 as Bishop of Carthage, and being a man of forceful character gave great impetus to the Donatist movement.
   They held that the true Church consisted only of the elect, and declared baptism to be invalid unless conferred by a Donatist.

AUDAEANS: A sect that took its rise and name from Audaeus, a native of Mesopotamia, who was banished to Scythia in 338 and died about 370 in the country of the Goths. He incurred the enmity of the clergy by censuring their luxuries and vices.
     The Audaeans held that God has a human form, and taught erroneous opinions concerning the administration of the Sacrament of Penance.

ARIANS: The strongest heretical sect with which the early Church had to contend. Its leader was Arius, an Alexandrian priest, theologian and controversialist. Arius was ordained deacon by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, but was subsequently excommunicated by him for joining in with the Meletian schism. He later repented and was restored, being advanced to the priesthood and given sole charge of a Church. After some time he was excommunicated again for his heretical views. He was a rigorous ascetic, a persuasive speaker and ardent propagandist. Tall, gloomy, fanatical, with down-cast eyes and tangled hair, he went about singing his doctrines, which he had set to the music of the theaters. Before long they were being sung by priests, boatmen, bakers and all sorts of people. The first ecumenical council, that of Nicea, was convened to condemn the heresy. Arius was banished to Illyria but later succeeded in returning in order to replace Athanasius, his chief opponent, as Bishop of Alexandria, but the popular up-roar did not allow him actually to do so. He died in his errors.

    The Arians denied the divinity of Christ, and taught that God the Son was not eternal, Christ being made the partaker of the divine nature as a reward for the work of the redemption.

MACEDONIANS: The followers of Macedonius, who was intruded into the See of Constantinople by the Arians (342), and enthroned by Constantius, who had for the second time expelled Paul, the Catholic Bishop. Macedonius is known in history for his most cruel persecution of the Catholics and Novatians. Subsequently he fell into disgrace. Constantius caused him to be deposed and succeeded by Eudoxius in 360. He died about 364.
       The Macedonians denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost.

MASSALIANS: A sect founded by a native of Mesopotamia named Adelphus.
      They were a kind of vagrant quietists. Sacraments they held to be useless, though harmless, the only spiritual power being prayer, by which one drove out the evil spirit which baptism had not expelled, received the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and arrived at union with God, becoming so perfect that the passions ceased to trouble. They disregarded regulations in the matter of  fasting; wandered from place to place, and in summer were accustomed to sleep in the streets. They engaged in no occupations.

AERIANS: Adherents of Aerius, a priest ordained by Eustathius, Bishop of Sebaste (355) and placed over the hospital or asylum in that city. He soon fell out with Eustathius, began to preach a doctrine of his own and for a time had many followers.
      He insisted that there was no sacred character distinguishing bishops and priests from laymen. Taught that the observance of the feast of Easter was a Jewish superstition; that it was wrong to prescribe fasts or abstinence by law, and held that it was useless to pray for the dead.

APOLLINARISTS: The sect started by Apollinaris, Bishop of Laodicea. At first this prelate was highly esteemed by such men as St. Athanasius, St. Basil, and St. Jerome for his classical culture, his biblical learning, his defense of Christianity and his loyalty to the Nicene faith. But later, having fallen into heresy, he failed to submit to the solemn condemnation of his doctrine by the Council of Constantinople in 381, and died in his error about 392.
      Apollinaris taught that Christ had a human body and a human sensitive soul, but no human rational mind, the Divine Logus taking the place of this last; held that there were three different degrees of dignity in the Trinity itself; and maintained erroneous views on the Incarnation, one of which was that the Divine Substance of the Word was converted into flesh.

PRISCILLIANISTS: A sect originally founded by an Egyptian from Memphis by the name of Mark. One of his early disciples was Priscillian, a man of noble birth, great riches, bold, restless, eloquent. learned and ready at debate and discussion, who soon became leader of the sect which now bears his name. He was ordained to the priesthood and appointed Bishop of Avila by his heretical followers, among whom were two bishops. About 383 he was condemned to death. His errors were condemned in the Council of Saragossa by St. Damasus.
       The Priscillianists held that angels and the souls of men were severed from the substance of the Deity; that Christ only appeared to be a man and that His death was only apparent; prohibited meat; rejected the narrative of creation in the Old Testament, and denied the Trinity.

ELVIDIANS: Disciples of Elvidius, who himself was a disciple of the Arian Auxentius, who was intruded into the See of Milan by the Emperor Constans when he banished St. Dionysius. Elvidius, who was a poor peasant with scarcely any education, began to disseminate his heretical doctrines about 382.
     The Elvidians denied the virginity of Mary.

JOVINIANS: Followers of Jovinianus, a monk for a while but subsequently an advocate of anti-ascetical tendencies. His views, promulgated mostly by writing, were condemned by Pope Siricius in a Council held at Rome in the year 390, and soon after in another Council held by St. Ambrose in Milan. In the end Jovinianus was exiled by the Emperor Theodosius, and afterwards by Honorius, to Boss, a maritime town of Dalmatia, where he died in misery in the year 412.
    He taught that a virgin, as such, is no better in the sight of God than a wife; held abstinence to be no better than the taking of food in the proper disposition; that a person baptized with the Spirit as well as with water cannot sin; that all sins are equal; that there is but one grade of punishment and one of reward in the future state, and denied the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

VIGILANTIANS: A Sect started by Vigilantius, a Gallic writer and priest of the last years of the fourth century. He was born in Western Gaul and became an inn-keeper, but about 395, through the influence of Sulpicius Severus, was ordained to the priesthood. He went to visit St. Jerome and immediately quarreled with him on religious matters, accusing him of being a heretic. St. Jerome later refuted his errors.
     Vigilantius condemned the veneration of images and relics; the invocation of the Saints; the celibacy of the clergy; and monasticism: and held it useless to pray for the dead.

 

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Last edited March 17, 1998