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“OPTATUS ON THE ORIGINS OF DONATISM - Latin text with English translation”

A long lasting Church schism which began at Carthage in the early 4th century when Majorinus was consecrated as bishop in rivalry with Caecilian. Majorinus' successor was Donatus from whom the controversy takes its name.

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XV. The schism took its rise from the consecration of Majorinus. It was not long after this, that these very persons whom I have mentioned, of the character I have described, Betrayers, men who had offered incense to idols, and murderers, proceeded to Carthage, and there, although Caecilian was already the Bishop, made the Schism by consecrating Majorinus----on whose Chair, Parmenian, you sit. And since I have shown, that men who were guilty of Betrayal were your first fathers, it follows that Betrayers were also the originators of your Schism. In order to make this matter clear and beyond doubt to all, we shall have to prove from what root the branches of error have stretched themselves forth to the present day, and from what fountain this your rivulet of noxious water, creeping stealthily along, has flowed down even to our times. We shall have to point out whence, and where, and from whom this evil of schism has arisen; what were the causes which met together to produce it; who were the persons who effected it; who were the authors of this wicked thing; who fostered it; by whom appeal was made to the Emperor, that he should judge between the parties; who were they that sat in judgement; where the Council was held; what were its decrees.The question is about a Division. Now in Africa, as in other parts of the world, the Church was One, before it was divided by those who consecrated Majorinus ---- whose Chair you have inherited, and now occupy. We shall have to see who has remained in the root, with the whole world; who went forth; who sits on a second chair, which had no existence before the Schism; who has raised altar against altar; who has consecrated a Bishop when another was in undisturbed possession; who it is that lies under the judgement of John, the Apostle, when he declared that many Anti-Christs should go forth without, 'because they were not of us, for if they had been of us they would have remained with us.' Therefore, he who was unwilling to remain with his brethren in unity has followed the heretics, and gone forth without, as an Anti-Christ.

XVI. The quarrel of Lucilla against Caecilian. No one is unaware that the Schism, after the consecration of Caecilian, was effected at Carthage through a certain mischief-making woman named Lucilla. When the Church was still in tranquillity, before her Peace had been disturbed by the storms of persecution, this woman could not put up with the rebuke which she received from the archdeacon Caecilian. It was said that she kissed a bone of some martyr or other----if he was a martyr----before she received the spiritual Food and Drink. Having then been corrected for thus touching----before she touched the Sacred Chalice----the bone of a dead man (if he was a martyr, at least he had not yet been acknowledged as such ), she went away in confusion, full of wrath. This was the woman upon whom, whilst she was angry and afraid that she might fall under the discipline of the Church, on a sudden, the storm of persecution broke.

XVII. Mensurius when summoned to the court entrusted the ornaments of the Church to certain seniors. It was at this time also that a deacon called Felix who had been summoned before the tribunals on account of a much spoken-of letter which he had written concerning the usurping Emperor, fearing his danger, is said to have lain hidden in the house of Bishop Mensurius. When Mensurius publicly refused to give him up, an account of the matter was despatched. A rescript came back that unless Mensurius would surrender the deacon Felix, he should be himself sent to the palace On receiving this summons he found himself in no small difficulty, for the Church possessed very many gold and silver ornaments, which he could neither hide under ground, nor take away with him. So he confided them to the care of some of the seniors, whom he believed to be worthy of trust, not, however, before he had made an inventory, which he is said to have given to a certain old woman. He charged her, that, when peace was restored to Christians, she should hand this over, if he himself did not return home, to whomsoever she found sitting on the Bishop's Chair. He went away and pleaded his cause; he was commanded to return, but was not able to reach Carthage.

XVIII. The Consecration of Caecilian as Bishop of Carthage. The cause and the beginning of the Schism. The storm of persecution passed over, and subsided. By the disposition of God, Maxentius sent pardon, and liberty was restored to Christians. Botrus and Celestius----so it is said----wishing to be consecrated Bishops at Carthage, arranged that, without inviting the Numidians, only the neighbouring bishops should be asked to perform the ceremony at Carthage. Then, by the vote of the whole people, Caecilian was chosen, and was consecrated Bishop, Felix of Autumna laying his hand upon him. Botrus and Celestius were disappointed of their hope. The inventory of the gold and silver, as had been ordered by Mensurius, was handed over, in the presence of witnesses, to Caecilian, who was now in possession of the See. The above-mentioned seniors were summoned; but they had swallowed up in the jaws of their avarice, as booty, that which had been entrusted to their keeping. When they were commanded to make restitution, they withdrew from communion with Caecilian. The ambitious intriguers, who had failed to obtain their consecration, did likewise. Lucilla, too, that influential, mischief-making woman, who had before been unwilling to brook discipline, together with all her retainers, separated herself from her Bishop. Thus wickedness produced its effect through the meeting together of three different causes and sets of persons.

XIX. The unlawful consecration by Numidian bishops of Majorinus against Caecilian. In this way it came to pass, that at that time the Schism was brought to birth by the anger of a disgraced woman, was fed by ambition, and received its strength from avarice. It was by these three that the accusations were concocted against Caecilian, so that his Consecration might be declared void. They sent to Secundus of Tigisis to come to Carthage, whither the Betrayers, of whom we have already made mention, proceeded. They received hospitality----not from Catholics, at whose request Caecilian had been consecrated ----but from the avaricious, from the ambitious, from those who had been unable to govern their tempers. Not one of them went to the Basilica, where all the people of Carthage had assembled with Caecilian. Then Caecilian demanded: 'If there is anything to be proved against me, let the accuser come out and prove it.' Nothing could at that time be got up against him by all these enemies of his; they imagined, however, that he might be blackened by his Consecrator being falsely alleged to have been a Betrayer. So Caecilian gave a second demand----that, since----so they thought ----Felix had bestowed nothing upon him, they should themselves ordain him, as if he were still a deacon. Then Purpurius, relying upon his usual ribaldry, thus spoke, as though Caecilian had been his sister's son: 'Let him stand forth as if he were to be consecrated Bishop, and let his head be well smacked in Penance.' When the bearing of all this was seen, the whole Church [of Carthage] retained Caecilian, in order not to hand itself over to murderers. The alternatives were, either that he should be expelled from his See as guilty, or that the Faithful should communicate with him as innocent. The church was crowded with people; Caecilian was sitting in his episcopal Chair; the altar was set up in its own place ----that very altar upon which Bishops acknowledged by all had in past times offered sacrifice----Cyprian, Carpophorius, Lucian and the rest. In this manner they went forth, and altar was raised against altar; and there was an unlawful consecration; and Majorinus, who had been lector when Caecilian was archdeacon ----Majorinus, a member of the household of Lucilla----at her instigation, and through her bribes----was consecrated Bishop by Betrayers, who in the Numidian Council had (as we have already said) acknowledged their crimes and granted pardon to one another. It is, therefore, clear that both the Betrayers who consecrated, and Majorinus who was consecrated, went forth from the Church.

 



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De Schismate Donatistarum, 1.15-19
Vassall-Phillips
 

 

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