Sunday, April 5, 2015

HISTORY LESSON: WHEN "THE WHOLE WORLD GROANED TO FIND ITSELF ARIAN"

Several times on this blog I have restated the quote from St. Jerome: "The whole world groaned to find itself Arian." 

I used the quote in response to the many times we have heard from the Kiko's about how many bishops or cardinals support them, etc., etc, etc. For at the height of the Arian heresy, there were more bishops who sided with the heretic Arius than sided with the successor of Peter. 

But I've used the quote from St. Jerome for another reason. As Kiko's theology leaks out, it suspiciously sounds like Arianism, specifically the extremely troublesome teaching of a certain neo-priest who was recorded teaching local diaconate candidates that "Jesus was a sinner". This is Arianism. 

It is also interesting to note how Kiko rejects Constantine and the church after Constantine until, in Kiko's mind, the Church was restored at Vatican II. This is evidenced in his drawing of his version of the timeline of church history:

As you can see, nothing happens in the history of the Catholic Church worth documenting on Kiko's timeline between Constantine and 1962, when Vatican II (and Kiko) arrive on the scene. Read more about this on Chuck White's blog


There's a reason for this. Constantine, while often a cruel ruler (as you shall read about below), was instrumental in stamping out Arianism and preserving the Church, specifically by calling the Council of Nicea, from which we get the Nicene Creed, and which Kiko also apparently rejects.

For at least two years now, many of us in the Archdiocese of Agana have been horrified at the blatant and flagrant actions taken against our church, our liturgy, our priests, our properties, our culture, and our very sense of decency by the very people we have been brought up to believe were there to guard all this. It has been a shock and many of us are still trying to stomach it. 

This is why at every opportunity I have encouraged readers and listeners to get to know the history of the Church so that we might arm ourselves against the errors that have brought so much destruction to our church in the past. 

Following is an excerpt form a book I constantly promote: Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, a 2,000-Year History by H. W. Crocker, which you can purchase at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Copies of the book will also be available at our upcoming village meetings along with copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

Let's continue on with the story about Constantine and Arius. I will have some comments [in red.]

*****

But Constantine found that he had less trouble from paganism than he had from a turbulent Libyan presbyter. His name was Arius, and he hammered a fissure into Christianity that would not be equaled until the Protestant Revolution, more than a thousand years later.

THE ARIAN HERESY

Arius taught what had been speculated for more than fifty years among Easter thinkers - that Jesus could not have been fully God, for there was only one eternal God, and that was God the Father. For the faith, this idea had horrific consequences. If Jesus were of a different substance from God, he was like all creation, subject to change and decay, capable of committing sin, [see the above referenced teaching "Jesus is a sinner"] and perhaps better described as a prophet than as God. If Christ was not eternally divine, He was what Constantine took himself to be - God's tool.

Arius defended his position as scriptural and logical in a way that Catholic belief in the Holy Trinity was not. As Arius argued, how could a father not exist before his son? God, the Father, is eternal, with no beginning and no end, but Jesus, the Son, was obviously subordinate, created, and therefore different in kind from God. Arius had more than the presumption of logic on his side. He was an inspiring preacher, and the Arian heresy soon began packing the churches, sweeping up believers, and giving Catholicism its greatest heretical challenge yet - a Christian schism that denied the divinity of Christ on the basis of reason and the Bible. 

The bishop of Alexandria tried to convince Arius - through private, personal appeals - to cease preaching what was obviously heresy. Arius refused, and at a regional council of North African bishops, he was excommunicated. But Arius did not go quietly into the night. With so much popularity at his back, not only among laypeople - including seven hundred women, self-proclaimed holy virgins, who campaigned on his behalf - but among Easter clerics, he knew that he could successfully mount a rhetorical army to challenge the supremacy of the Catholic Church. He was a clerical Caesar raising legions to overthrow the papal Augustus in Rome.

Before Protestants made schism and religious subjectivism acceptable, defining orthodoxy fired Christian passions. The Arian heresy ripped through the empire and tore individual families between fidelity to the Catholic Church and the attractions of a new, supposedly more rational doctrine. Soon there were riots among contending mobs - mobs that became gang armies. Penalties of exile and excommunication were inflicted on rival clerics. Under the Arian emperor Constantius II, ecclesiastical murder was sanctioned. The most famous case involved the Catholic bishop of Constantinople, Paul, who was repeatedly deposed and finally exiled, tortured, and then strangled to death, so that his Arian rival Macedonius could supersede him.

In resolving the Arian dispute, ecclesiastical councils were of no use because they could not agree. Some synods confirmed Arianism and others repudiated it. The only institution that stood firmly against Arianism was the papacy. Even after Arius's death in 336, and after the final defeat of his doctrine with the Roman Empire in 381 at the Second General Council of the Church, it returned in degraded form, because the barbarian tribes overrunning the Western Empire had been converted to Arian Christianity. Its heretical embers continued to glow for the next three hundred years, until completely quenched by the Church of the Middle Ages [a period Kiko rejects].

The great hero in the fight against Arianism was St. Athanasius, the doughtiest Catholic fides defensor of the age, gaining the title "Father of Orthodoxy". Even the historian Edward Gibbon, through himself a mocking skeptic, wrote that "Athanasius displayed a superiority of character and abilities which would have qualified him, far better than the degenerate sons of Constantine, for the government of a great monarchy." 

Well educated in the most philosophically sophisticated of cities, Alexandria, Athanasius was a prodigy, ordained (according to his critics) before he was legally entitled ot the honor. His liberal education and natural gifts made him confident, quick in argument, brilliant in rebuttal. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, he found Catholic dogma more intellectually compelling than Arian speculation

But this wasn't an issue of mere intellectual preference; if the deposit of faith were true, defending it was a sacred duty - a duty Athansius freely accepted. The Arians diligently courted patrons to punish their enemies, and Athanasius suffered exile five times - one under sentence of death. But he never wavered. 

He began his career as secretary to the bishop of Alexandria and wrote many books during the course of his life, including a biography of St. Anthony (of Egypt), whom he apparently met. Throughout his exceedingly active career in combatting Arianism, he dreamt of pursuing a monastic vocation. For one short period of exile, when he was under threat of execution, he temporarily achieved it. But his life was fulfilled not in the peace of the cloister, but in the battle against Arian heresy. [Some say that we should just pray and do nothing. Here is the example of a saint who prayed...and did battle.]

Constantine and Athanasius made natural early allies. Constantine, like the Church in Rome, scorned lucubrations that challenged Catholic unity. To a practical soldier like Constantine, the Arian controversy was the product of "misused leisure." He condemned "those who dared with the senseless levity to rend the worship of the people into separate sects." Such sectarianism was the temptation of the Devil, who knew as well as any soldier the strategy of "divide and conquer." 

Politically, Constantine had only just forcibly united his empire. In 320, Licinius, the Augustus of the East, began stripping the Church of its rights. He purged believers from his government, demanded sacrifice to pagan gods, burned churches, and sent Christians to slave labor, torture, and death. Like so many rulers to come, Licinius saw the Church as a barrier to his absolute power. 

In 323, he found a more difficult barrier. Constantine's legions, flying their Christian battle standard, marched against Licinius, hurling back his soldiers, then crushing his fleet. Constantine advance to the strategic point of Byzantium (Istanbul), while his son Crispus brought Rome's navy from the Aegean through the Dardanelles, which divides modern Turkey. Together, they seized the city. At the final show-down, in the battle of Chrsopolis, tens of thousands of Licinius's men fell before he surrendered to promises of mercy. 

Constantine held him for a year before ordering his execution, the execution of his wife (Constantine's half sister), and one of his sons; another son was eventually reduced to slavery. When it suited him in matters of state, Constantine could act without Christian compassion. He proved that most notoriously when he ordered the execution of  his own golden son Crispus and his second wife, Fausta, in circumstances that remain unclear. 

So Arius had no reason to expect mercy from Constantine. But in this case, the emperor acted through the Church, not via the legions. In 325 he called the Council at Nicea, over which he would preside, paying the costs of every representative coming to do the Lord's and Constantine's work. The task was to find agreement on Christian truth. Such agreement would prove elusive. 

The next village meeting will be Thursday, April 9, 6pm at the Mongmong-Toto-Maite Community Center. Books and documents will be made available. 




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