The Thomas Pages homepage
Catholic Church Behaviour
Page One 200-999 AD  ::  Page Two 1000-2010 AD
This summary
statement of historian Paul Johnson is worth noting:
Roman Christianity, drawing its intellectual concepts exclusively from a static body of sacred and immutable texts, its forms, organisation and discipline from a military empire in decline, became the residual legatee of Rome. For a thousand years it lay across Europe like a winding-sheet, monopolising edcuation, culture, science, and technology, interposing a hieratic class of interpreters between the people and such learned texts as it possessed, banning any form of empirical inquiry which did not square with its fixed received notions, and limiting its intelletual activities to formal theological exercises, which merely played on words and were wholly barren of discoveries." (1992:172).
Victor, bishop of Rome, seeks closer unity among the loose federation of provincial synods, by emphasizing the leadership of Rome.
Callistus propagates the theory of the supremacy of the bishop of Rome (Zephyrinus) over other bishops to defend his relaxation of moral standards. (See 217).
Callistus becomes bishop of Rome.
A layman, Fabian, is ordained as bishop of Rome.
3rd cent.
Within the Roman empire Christian clergy begin to be considered as a distinct class from believers, similar to the status of pagan priests.
Relations with churches of Africa and Asia Minor are broken off.
Relations with churches of Africa and Asia Minor are resumed.
Rome is without a chief bishop (archbishop, in spite of claims to contrary by modern Catholics).
Constantine (306–312) begins the transfer of privileges to Christian clergy that were long enjoyed by pagan priests.
The Spanish Synod of Elvira condemns visiting the homes of Jews and prohibits Christian women from marrying Jews, unless they have converted. Essentially Jews are declared personae non gratae.
Donatist Christian dispute.
Galerius, senior emperor of the Tetrarchy, issues an edict granting Christians the right to practice their religion but does not restore any confiscated property to them.
Constantine announces toleration of Christianity in the Edict of Milan, which removed penalties for professing Christianity (under which many had been martyred in previous persecutions of Christians) and returns confiscated Church property.
Constantine acts as judge in the North African Christian dispute concerning the validity of Donatism. After deciding against the Donatists, Constantine leads an army of Christians against the Donatist Christians. Constantine establishes a precedent for the position of the emperor in the Christian Church in his dislike of the risks to social stability which religious disputes and controversies brought with them, and prefers to establish doctrinal orthodoxy
A layman, Philogonius, is ordained as bishop of Antioch.
Constantine instructs that Christians and non-Christians should be united in observing the "venerable day of the sun", referencing the esoteric eastern sun-worship which emperor Aurelian had helped introduce.
Constantine also grants the Donatist Christians freedom of conscience.
Constantine summons the Council of Nicea concerning Arianism.
The seventh canon of the Christian Council of Nicea decrees that 'custom and ancient tradition' require that the bishop of Aelia (Jerusalem) should hold an honoured position in the Christian Church.
Constantine is baptized by Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of the city where he was dying. His body is transferred to Constantinople and buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
In the Persian Empire – the increasing identification of western Christianity within the Roman Empire with the politics of Roman power causes the Christians within the Persian empire to be seen by its authorities as a danger to their State and steps are implemented to eliminate Christians. Many massacres occur which eventually cost more than 160,000 Christian lives as a consequence.
Council of Gangra in Asia Minor decrees –
"If anyone, on the pretext of religion, teaches another man's slave to despise his master, and withdraw from his service, and not to serve his master with good will and all respect, let him be anathema."
(Canon 3. C.J.C. Decreti Gratiani, II, CXVII, Q.IV, c.37.)
Unconditional support for slavery.
The Church Council held at Sardica (in the Balkans), trying to control the avarice frequently associated with acquiring the position of bishop, rules that transfers of bishops from one see to another is "a bad custom and wicked source of corruption". It further rules that
"If a rich man, or lawyer, or state official be offered a bishopric, he should not be ordained unless he has previously acted as a reader, deacon or priest, and so rises to the highest rank, the episcopate, by progressive promotion ...ordination should only be conferred on those whose whole life has been under review for a long period, and whose worth has been proved." (Johnson 1976 p.77).
The Council also accepts that in disciplinary matters concerning bishops the bishop of Rome is the final court of appeal. (Cohn-Sherbok 2002 p.162).
Monasticism begins in the West with Athanasius' 'Life of Antony'.
Christianity's use of state support against its enemies is criticized by Roman emperor Julian –
"Many whole communities of so-called heretics were actually butchered, as at Samosata, and Cyzious in Paphlagonia, Bythinia and Galatia, and among many other tribes villages were sacked and destroyed; whereas in my time exile has been ended and property restored." (Johnson 1976 p.86).
Flirtation with the State
Eusebius is ordained bishop of Caesara (by the military) while still only a catechumen.
After the election battle for the bishopric of Rome between Damasus and Ursinus, 137 bodies are found in a church – on the site of what later became St Maria Maggiore (Rome).
Bishop Damasus of Rome holds a synod which demands state intervention to ensure that western bishops are subject to the bishop of Rome, and that the bishop of Rome could not be compelled to appear in court. 
He also institutes a great annual ceremony in honour of Peter and Paul as giving primacy to Rome over eastern Christianity, and as continuing protectors of the imperial city. He latinizes the Mass, which had up to now be conducted in Hellenistic Greek (the language of the New Testament), and changes its simple ceremony into a lengthier and more formal one with an element of grandeur to counterbalance impressive pagan ritual. (From this the West acquired the 'kyrie', the 'sanctus', the 'gloria', and creed rituals of episcopal Christianity).
February 28: Emperor Theodosius I decrees that all Christians shall believe in God as defined by the Nicene Creed, thereby legislating the principle of religious intolerance.
Emperor Theodosius I summons a council of bishops of the whole church within the empire (the so-called Second Ecumenical Council of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed) which ratifies his doctrinal decree for all Christendom.
A layman, Nectarius, is ordained as bishop of Constantinople.
Pope Siricius: he is the first pope to make celibacy compulsory for all Christian clerics.
About this time Pseudo-Ambrose (Ambrosiaster) teaches that slavery comes from God's curse on Ham the son of Noah. His exegesis is used for the following 1400 years to justify slavery and particularly the view that African blacks are cursed by God to be slaves. (Gen.IX 25-27)
See: Slavery in Christianity
Bishop Ambrose of Milan rebukes emperor Theodosius I for daring to punish Christians for burning down a Jewish synagogue (at Callinicum on the Euphrates) at the instigation of the local bishop. Ambrose writes to the emperor –
"The maintenance of civil law is secondary to religious interest". 
The emperor submits.
Under Bishop Ambrose's support the veneration of relics and their use as amulets spreads across the Christian world.
November 8: Emperor Theodosius I completely prohibits the worship of pagan gods.
Christianity is made the official religion of the Roman Empire, and the Olympic Games is prohibited.
Bishop Innocent of Rome argues for his leadership of the Western provinces after Alaric the Goth sacks that city. He also teaches that 'confirmation' is a sacrament reserved for bishops.
A layman, Synesius, is ordained as bishop of Ptolemais.
Bishop Augustine of Hippo, North Africa, employs the duty of Roman magistrates to control Christian heretics and religious dissent within the North African church. He gives this a theological base from Luke 14:23 ('compel') with dire consequences for both Jewish and Christian history, particularly in central and western Europe (i.e. the Inquisition).
Church conference at Carthage, North Africa, condemns Donatism and Pelagianism as heretical.
Emperor Valentinian III proclaims that the papal court in Rome is preeminent over all others.
Bishops of the Western provinces submit to the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome.
Bishop Gelasius of Rome asserts the supremacy of Rome against Constantinople and that the world is ruled independently by two powers; the sacred authority of the priesthood and the authority of kings.
Symmachus and Laurentius are both elected as bishop of Rome.
King Theodoric (of the Goths) rules in favour of Symmachus but in Rome Laurentius continues to be recognized as bishop until 506. (Cohn-Sherbok 2002 p284).
Pope Boniface appoints Vigilius as his successor but this is declared uncanonical
Vigilius is eventually declared Pope with support of the Byzantine military after promising to restore Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus and condemn the Council of Chalcedon, but he keeps neither promise.
Pope Vigilius rejects Emperor Justinian's condemnation of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret and Iras, but after being summoned before the emperor issues his 'Iudicatum' accepting the condemnation to the consternation of the Western churches who excommunicate him at the Synod of Carthage.
In consequence of this the Pope withdraws his 'Iudicatum'.
  553 Pope Vigilius refuses to preside at the Council of Constantinople.  
Pope Gregory sends his own troops to defend Rome from the Lombards when imperial forces refuse to do so.
Gregory asserts the universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome. He also encourages monasticism and the veneration of relics.
Pope Gregory explains the loss of supernatural signs in the Church's ministry as superior:
'Now, my brethren, seeing that ye work no such signs, is it that ye believe not?' and then he answers
'Not so. For holy church worketh daily now in the spirit, whatever the Apostles then wrought in the body ... And indeed these miracles are the greater for being spiritual:
all the greater, as uplifting not the bodies but the souls of men.'
February 16: Pope Gregory decrees that the proper response to a sneeze is 'God Bless You'.
Pope Honorius replies to Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople that "we confess one will of the Lord Jesus Christ".
Isidore of Seville reminds Abbots and monks that under Visigothic law it is illegal to free the slaves of a monastery, since they are not the personal owners.
Support for slavery.
Pope Gregory instructs Augustine of Canterbury to convert pagan temples to churches and pagan usages to dedication ceremonies or feasts of martyrs as far as possible because "he who would climb to a lofty height must go up by steps, not leaps" (letter of Gregory to Mellitus, in Bede, i, 30).
The fourth Council of Toledo, under presidency of Isidore of Seville, reverses the decision of the Council of Orleans (541AD) and decrees that slaves of the Church may only be freed if the Church is compensated, and that if a bishop does not make such compensation to the Church his successor may recall such freedmen into slavery to the Church. (This ruling is later incorporated into the canons of the Western Church).
Support for slavery.
Pope Honorius' "one will" statement (see 630) is incorporated into the Ecthesis statement of faith of the Monothelites, which is later condemned.
Pope Martin is arrested by Theodore Calliopias, brought to Constantinople and banished from the Empire for his condemnation of Monothelitism and rejection of the emperor's decree ('Typos') which forbade controversy on the issue.
The ninth Council of Toledo decrees that the penalty of enslavement will be imposed, not on the priests who violate their vow of celibacy, but on their offspring, who will remain permanently in slavery to the Church.
Church imposed slavery
The Pope (Vitalian) appoints the Greek, Theodore of Tarsus, as Archbishop of Canterbury and sends Hadrian of North Africa with him to ensure that no Greek religious customs are introduced into the English church.
Pope Honorius (625-38) is formally anathematized by the Council of Constantinople and Monothelitism condemned. (See 630).
The Pope (Constantine) accuses the Archbishop of Ravenna of rebellion and orders that his eyes be put out.
Byzantine emperor Leo III orders the destruction of church images (iconoclasm) because they obstruct the conversion of Jews and Muslims.
The Pope (Gregory II) condemns his action and refuses to pay the taxes due to the imperial government in Byzantium.
8th cent.
A 'letter' (the 'Donation of Constantine') is forged, dated 30 March 315, pretending to be from Emperor Constantine to Pope Sylvester I granting pre-eminence to the pope, as vicar of the apostle Peter, over all the patriarchal sees, including Constantinople (which did not then exist), and all other churches; the imperial palace of the Lateran and the imperial insignia of Rome; and all imperial powers in Rome, Italy and the western provinces of the empire.
Roman-style baptism, prayers and mass receive the force of law in the Carolingian empire, including the Roman manner of chanting, administration of the sacraments, clergy dress and the wearing of sandals.
The General Council of Nicea's attempt to heal the iconoclastic split within Christianity is repudiated by the Carolingian Church as:
"stupid, arrogant, erroneous, criminal, schismatic and lacking in sense or eloquence filthy pond of Hell".
(Libri Carolini, Johnson 1976, p.180).
Pope Leo (III) flees Rome under attack by his predecessor's relatives to the protection of King Charlemagne of the Franks.
December 23: Pope Leo kneels before Charlemagne in the Lateran Palace, Rome, and swears on oath that he is guiltless of the accusations against him. Charlemagne accepts that Leo has "justified himself". (Johnson 1976 p.125).
Charlemagne then accepts the advice of French monks Witto and Fridugis (representing Alciun his chief advisor) to regard himself as emperor in view of the situation in Constantinople.
December 25: While Charlemagne and his generals celebrate Christmas in St Peter's Basilica, Pope Leo insists on performing a Roman ritual by placing a crown on Charlemagne's head and prostrating himself in an act of emperor-worship.
The Council of Aachen quotes verbatim the teaching of Isidore of Seville to justify social class structure between enslaved and free persons as God's hidden dispensation of judgement on human sin.
'Slavery was
invented by God'[?]
Pope Leo (IV) introduces the Asperges ceremony of sprinkling holy water over the altar and congregation at the Sunday Mass.
In France, the so-called Decretals of Isidore are forged to 'prove' papal property rights.
Pope Nicholas (I) makes use of the forged Decretals, knowing them to be false, to uphold papal property rights and depose Archbishop John of Ravenna.
He also deposes the Archbishops of Trier and Cologne from their sees.
His success in increasing the prestige of Rome is a large factor in his later canonisation
  897 Pope Formosus is posthumously tried, convicted, his fingers cut off, and his corpse thrown into the River Tiber.  
John (XII) becomes Pope at the age of 18 and leads a dissolute life that offends many.
Pope John (XII) crowns King Otto I as Emperor in Rome, in return for his help against the Italian ruler, and gives the emperor rights in the papal election. Later, regretting this, Pope John negotiates with Otto's enemy (Berengar II).
Emperor Otto returns to Rome to call a synod which deposes Pope John (who flees) and elects another pope. John returns to Rome and calls another synod to reassert his authority.
April 3: Gerbert of Aurillac is elected as the first French pope, Sylvester II.

Page Two 1000 – 2010 AD

Papal Continuity  Apostolic Succession

to Behaviours Menu
Copyright © Lloyd Thomas 2003-2017. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Please feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included.