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A Hstory Of The Councils Of The Church Volumes 1 to 5 by Charles Joseph Hefele D.D.

THE following is the note referred to at p. 246, taken from Mr. P. Le Page Renouf’s treatise on the Condemnation of Pope Honorius (Longmans, 1868), pp. 41, sqq., and which is here reprinted with his sanction. It will be seen that Mr. Renouf’s opinion differs from our Author’s in some important details of historical criticism, and especially as regards the genuineness of the disputed Fragments of S. Hilary. The closing paragraph, which discusses the official or ex cathedra character of the act of Liberius, has been purposely omitted, as dealing with a question Bishop Hefele does not touch upon, and which it would therefore be out of place to introduce here.

“The history of Arianism is full of historical and chronological difficulties, and those connected with the case of Pope Liberius are quite sufficient to have furnished opportunities to his apologists of extenuating, and even utterly denying, his fall. But although the precise details cannot be discovered from the evidence now existing, there is, on the other hand, very positive evidence that the Pope officially subscribed a heterodox creed; that he signed the condemnation of S. Athanasius; and that he entered into communion with the Arian leaders, and admitted their orthodoxy. All this is explicitly stated in the letters of Liberius himself; but before quoting them, I shall speak of the other evidence.

“S. Athanasius, in his Arian Hist., sec. 41, says: ‘Liberius, after he had been in banishment two years, gave way, and from fear of threatened death was induced to subscribe.’ And in his Apology against the Arians, sec. 89, Liberius ‘did not endure to the end the sufferings of banishment, but yet stood out two years in exile.’ Although Athanasius speaks with most noble tenderness of the fall both of Liberius and of Hosius, he has himself quoted the memorable words of Constantius: ‘Be persuaded, and subscribe against Athanasius; for whoever subscribes against him, thereby embraces with us the Arian cause.’

“S. Hilary of Poitiers says (Fragm. 6) that the Sirmian Creed signed by Liberius was the ‘perfidia Ariana’ (that is the second Sirmian, a thoroughly Arian confession), and for this he anathematizes him over and over again: ‘Iterum tibi anathema et tertio, prævaricator Liberi!’ In his letter to Constantius (c. 11), S. Hilary says: ‘Nescio utrum majori impietate relegaveris quam remiseris.’

“The meaning of these words of S. Hilary are clear enough. But the best commentary upon them is to be found in the statement of Faustinus and Marcellinus, contemporaries of Liberius, that when Constantius was petitioned by the Romans for the restoration of the Pope, he answered, ‘Habetis Liberium, qui qualis a vobis profectus est melior revertetur.’ They add: ‘Hoc autem de consensu ejus quo manus perfidiæ dederat indicabat.’

“The Arian historian Philostorgius (Epit. iv. 3) says that Liberius and Hosius wrote openly against the term ‘consubstantial,’ and against Athanasius himself when a synod had been convened at Sirmium, and had brought over the aforementioned prelates to its own opinion. The synod here mentioned is intended (rightly or wrongly) for the second Sirmian.

“Sozomen (Hist. iv. 15) says that Constantius, having summoned Liberius to Sirmium from Berœa, forced him (ἐβιάζετο αὐτόν), in presence of the deputies of the Eastern bishops, and of the other priests at the Court, to confess that the Son is not consubstantial with the Father. He adds that Liberius and other bishops were persuaded to assent to a document drawn up by Basil, Eustathius, and Eleusius. This document must have identified the ‘One in Substance’ with the doctrine of Paul of Samosata.

“S. Jerome, in his Chronicle, says that ‘Liberius tædio victus exsilii, et in hæreticam pravitatem subscribens Romam quasi victor intravit.’ And in his Liber de Viris Illustribus (c. 97), he says that Fortunatianus, bishop of Aquileia, ‘in hoc habetur detestabilis quod Liberium, Romanæ urbis episcopum … primus sollicitavit ac fregit, et ad subscriptionem hæreseos compulit’ The words of Jerome are repeated by many ecclesiastical authors.

“The fall of Liberius is related by more recent writers, and sometimes even grossly exaggerated in consequence of the fables current about the anti-Pope Felix, who, although intruded into the Holy See by the Arians, was for many centuries held as a saint, and is probably still so held by many, on the authority of Benedict XIV. The Liber Pontificalis represents Felix as having been canonically elected Pope with the consent of Liberius, when the latter went into exile for the faith, and as having suffered martyrdom when Liberius returned from exile, after having consented to the heresy of Constantius.

“Auxilius, a Roman priest (De Ordin. a Formoso factis, i. 25), says: ‘Quis nesciat quod Liberius, heu proh dolor! Arianæ hæresi subscripserit et per ejus transgressionem nefandissima scelera sint commissa.’

“Without accumulating an immense mass of similar evidence, it will be sufficient to say that till the sixteenth century the fall of Liberius was accepted as one of the simply indisputable facts of Church history. The Acts of S. Eusebius of Rome were considered authentic, and they represent the saint as a victim of the heretical Pope whose communion he called upon every one to avoid.

“Bede’s Martyrology (19 Kal. Sept.), and that of Rabanus Maurus says: ‘Natale Sancti Eusebii … qui sub Constantio Imperatore Ariano, machinante Liberio præsule, similiter hœretico, confessionem suam complevit.’ The Martyrology of Ado (14 Aug.) speaks of S. Eusebius, ‘qui præsente Constantio, cum fidem Catholicam constantissime defenderet et Liberium Papam doleret Arianæ perfidiæ consensisse,’ etc. These words occur in other mediæval martyrologies, and they were formerly in the Roman Breviary, from which they were only struck out in the sixteenth century.

“Of all the early testimonies which have been quoted, that of the Fragments of S. Hilary is the only one about which an honest doubt can be entertained. I have myself not the least doubt about it. Its genuineness is admitted by every critic of authority except Hefele, who also doubts the genuineness of certain epistles of Liberius, in the midst of which the words of Hilary occur as indignant interpolations. But there is even less reason for a doubt about the letters of Liberius; and Hefele’s arguments against them are exceedingly weak. The letters, like most other documents of the Arian controversy, contain historical difficulties which may not be easy to explain, particularly if a history like that of Dr. Hefele has been written without regard to them; but the question of style is quite out of place here. Popes, as we have seen in the history of Honorius, do not always write the letters for which they are responsible. Liberius may not have been the real author of the letter to Constantius which he admires, any more than of those letters which he considers unworthy of a pope. The conversation of Liberius with the Emperor in Theodoret’s history, to which Dr. Hefele refers, is probably not more authentic than the speeches in Livy; and a discourse of Liberius, in S. Ambrose’s works, has always been considered as thrown by S. Ambrose into his own language. The great Protestant critics admit the genuineness of the epistles in question; and among Catholic authorities Dr. Hefele stands alone in opposition to Natalis Alexander, Tillemont, Fleury, Dupin, Ceillier, Montfaucon, Constant, Möhler, Döllinger, and Newman.

“The first of these letters is addressed to the Eastern bishops, and informs them of the Pope’s consent to the just condemnation of Athanasius (‘amoto Athanasio a communione omnium nostrum’). It announces his acceptance of their confession drawn up at Sirmium, and proposed to him by the Arian bishop Demophilus. ‘Hanc ego libenti animo suscepi, in nullo contradixi, consensum accommodavi, hanc sequor, hæc a me tenetur.’ And it adds: ‘Jam pervidetis in omnibus me vobis consentaneum esse.’ A second letter is written to the Arian chiefs Ursacius, Valens, and Germinius, as being children of peace who love the concord and unity of the Catholic Church, to tell them that Athanasius had been condemned by him and ‘separated from the communion of the Roman Church, as all the Roman clergy can bear witness.’ He wishes them to inform their brethren Epictetus and Auxentius, Arian bishops, ‘pacem me et communionem ecclesiasticum cum ipsis habere.’ Liberius concludes: ‘Quicumque autem a pace et concordia nostra quæ per orbem terrarum, volente Deo, formata est, dissenserit, sciat se separatum esse a nostra communione.’

“A third letter, addressed to Vincent of Capua, who had formerly been the legate of Liberius, but had already in the year 352 signed the condemnation of Athanasius, is written in the same sense.

“Now, even if these letters were undoubtedly spurious, it would be idle to oppose the silence of Socrates and Theodoret to the positive testimonies of Athanasius, Faustinus, and Jerome. ‘Athanasius, Hilarius, et Hieronymus,’ says Bellarmine, who is certainly not a prejudiced judge in this matter, ‘rem non ut dubiam sed ut certam et exploratam narrant.’ Theodoret, it is argued, never speaks of Liberius but as of a glorious confessor for the faith. But the same argument would hold good with reference to Hosius, about whose fall no one can possibly entertain a doubt. The conduct of Liberius after the Council of Ariminum rehabilitated him in the esteem of the orthodox; and Theodoret, no doubt, knew the whole truth, though he was unwilling to publish it.








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