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    November 25, 1897

    “After the Creed was Made: How the Papacy Ruled and Ruined. The Spirit of Lawlessness” The Present Truth 13, 47, pp. 742, 743.


    IN mentioning the peace and quietness which the reign of Theodoric, the Arian, gave to Italy, we remarked that this did not apply to the city of Rome. The spirit of papal lawlessness ruled there.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.1


    In A.D. 499, there was a papal election. As there were as usual rival candidates—Symmachus and Laurentius—there was a civil war. “The two factions encountered with the fiercest hostility; the clergy, the Senate, and the populace were divided;” the streets of the city “ran with blood, as in the days of republican strife.” (Milman.)PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.2

    The contestants were so evenly matched, and the violent strife continued so long, that the leading men of both parties persuaded the candidates to go to Theodoric at Ravenna, and submit to his judgment their claims. Theodoric’s love of justice and of the rights of the people, readily and simply enough decided that the candidate who had the most votes should be counted elected; and if the votes were evenly divided, then the candidate who had been first ordained. Symmachus secured the office. A council was held by Symmachus, which met the first of March, 499, and passed a decree “almost in the terms of the old Roman law, severely condemning all ecclesiastical ambition, all canvassing either to obtain subscriptions, or administration of oaths, or promises, for the Papacy” during the lifetime of a pope. But such election methods as these were now so prevalent that this law was of as little value in controlling the methods of the aspiring candidates for the bishopric, as in the days of the republic the same kind of laws were for the candidates to the consulship.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.3

    Laurentius, though defeated at this time, did not discontinue his efforts to obtain the office. For four years he watched for opportunities, and carried on an intrigue to displace Symmachus, and in 503 brought a series of heavy charges against him. “The accusation was brought before the judgment-seat of Theodoric, supported by certain Roman females of rank, who had been suborned, it was said, by the enemies of Symmachus. Symmachus was summoned to Ravenna and confined at Rimini,” but escaped and returned to Rome. Meantime, Laurentius had entered the city, and when Symmachus returned, “the sanguinary tumults between the two parties broke out with greater fury;” priests were slain, monasteries set on fire, and nuns treated with the utmost indignity.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.4

    The Senate petitioned Theodoric to send a visitor to judge the cause of Symmachus in the crimes laid against him. The king finding that the matter was only a Church quarrel, appointed one of their own number, the bishop of Altimo, who so clearly favored Laurentius that his partisanship only made the contention worse. Again Theodoric was petitioned to interfere, but he declined to assume any jurisdiction, and told them to settle it among themselves; but as there was so much disturbance of the peace, and it was so long continued, Theodoric commanded them to reach some sort of settlement that would stop their fighting, and restore public order. A council was therefore called. As Symmachus was on his way to the council, “he was attacked by the adverse party; showers of stones fell around him; many presbyters and others of his followers were severely wounded; the pontiff himself only escaped under the protection of the Gothic guard” (Milman), and took refuge in the church of St. Peter. The danger to which he was then exposed he made an excuse for not appearing at the council.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.5


    THE majority of the council declared Symmachus “absolved in the sight of men, whether guilty or innocent in the sight of God,” for the reason that “no assembly of bishops has power to judge the pope; he is accountable for his actions to God alone.” (Bower.) They then commanded all, under penalty of excommunication, to accept this judgment, and submit to the authority of Symmachus, and acknowledge him “for lawful bishop of the holy city of Rome.” Symmachus was not slow to assert all the merit that the council had thus recognized in the bishop of Rome. He wrote to the emperor of the East that “a bishop is as much above an emperor as heavenly things, which the bishop administers and dispenses, are above all the trash of the earth, which alone the greatest among the emperors have the power to dispose of.” (Bower.) He declared that the higher powers referred to in Romans 13:1, mean the spiritual powers, and that to these it is that every soul must be subject.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.6

    At another council held in Rome in 504, at the direction of Symmachus, a decree was enacted “anathematising and excluding from the communion of the faithful, all who had seized or in the future should seize, hold, or appropriate to themselves, the goods or estates of the church; and this decree was declared to extend even to those who held such estates by grants from the crown.” (Bower.) This was explicitly to put the authority of the Church of Rome above that of any State.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.7


    JUSTIN was emperor of the East A.D. 518-527. He was violently orthodox, and was supported by his nephew, the more violently orthodox Justinian. It was the ambition of both, together and in succession, to make the Catholic religion alone prevalent everywhere. They therefore entered with genuine Catholic zeal upon the pious work of clearing their dominions of heretics. The first edict, issued in 523, commanded all Manicheans to leave the empire under penalty of death; and all other heretics were to be ranked with pagans and Jews, and excluded from all public offices. This edict was no sooner learned of in the West, than mutterings were heard in Rome, of hopes of liberty from the “Gothic yoke.” The next step was violence.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 742.8

    Under the just administration of Theodoric, and the safety assured by the Gothic power, many Jews had established themselves in Rome, Genoa, Milan, and other cities, for the purposes of trade. They were permitted by express laws to dwell there. As soon as the imperial edict was known, which commanded all remaining heretics to be ranked as pagans and Jews, as the Catholics did not dare to attack the Gothic heretics, they, at Rome and Ravenna especially, riotously attacked the Jews, abused them, robbed them, and burnt their synagogues. A legal investigation was attempted, but the leaders in the riots could not be discovered. Then Theodoric levied a tax upon the whole community of the guilty cities, with which to settle the damages. Some of the Catholics refused to pay the tax. They were punished. This at once brought a cry from the Catholics everywhere, that they were persecuted. Those who had been punished were glorified as confessors of the faith, and “three hundred pulpits deplored the persecution of the Church.” (Gibbon.)PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.1

    The edict of 523 was followed in 524 by another, this time commanding the Arians of the East to deliver up to the Catholic bishops all their churches, which the Catholic bishops were commanded to consecrate anew.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.2

    Theodoric addressed an earnest letter to Justin, in which he pleaded for toleration for the Arians from the Eastern empire. This was the letter in which was stated the principle of the rights of conscience, which we quoted last week. To this noble plea, however, Justin coolly answered:—PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.3

    I pretend to no authority over men’s consciences, but it is my prerogative to intrust the public offices to those in whom I have confidence; and public order demanding uniformity of worship, I have full right to command the churches to be open to those alone who shall conform to the religion of the State.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.4

    Accordingly, while pretending to no authority over men’s consciences, the Arians of his dominions were by Justin “stripped of all offices of honor or emolument, were not only expelled from the Catholic churches, but their own were closed against them; and they were exposed to all insults, vexations, and persecutions of their adversaries, who were not likely to enjoy their triumph with moderation, or to repress their conscientiously intolerant zeal.” (Milman.) Many of them conformed to the State religion; but those of firm faith sent to Theodoric earnest appeals for protection.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.5

    Theodoric did all that he could, but without avail. He was urged to retaliate by persecuting the Catholics in Italy, but he steadfastly refused. He determined to send an embassy to Justin, and most singularly sent the pope as his ambassador!PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.6

    This arrangement gave to the Bishop of Rome the most perfect opportunity he could have asked, to form a compact with the imperial authority of the East, for the further destruction of the Ostrogothic kingdom.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.7

    The Pope, John I., “was received in Constantinople with the most flattering honors, as though he had been St. Peter himself. The whole city, with the Emperor at its head, came forth to meet him with tapers and torches, as far as ten miles beyond the gates. The Emperor knelt at his feet, and implored his benediction.” Such an embassy could have no other result than more than ever to endanger the kingdom of Theodoric. Before John’s return, the conspiracy became more manifest; some senators and leading men were arrested. One of them, Boethius, though denying his guilt, boldly confessed, “Had there been any hopes of liberty, I should have freely indulged them; had I known of a conspiracy against the king, I should have answered in the words of a noble Roman to the frantic Caligula, You would not have known it from me.” Such a confession as that was almost a confession of the guilt which he denied. He and his father-in-law were executed. When the Pope returned, he was received as a traitor, and put in prison, where he died, May 18, 526.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.8

    He was no sooner dead than violent commotion and disturbances again arose amongst rival candidates for the vacant chair. “Many candidates appeared for the vacant see, and the whole city, the Senate as well as the people and clergy, were divided into parties and factions, the papal dignity being now as eagerly sought for, and often obtained by the same methods and arts as the consular was in the times of the heathen.” (Bower.) Theodoric, now seventy-four years old, fearing that these contentions would end in murder and bloodshed again, as they had at the election of Symmachus, suffered his authority to transcend his principles, and presumed, himself, to name a Bishop of Rome. The whole people of the city, Senate, clergy, and all, united in opposition. But a compromise was effected, by which it was agreed that in future the election of the Pope should be by the clergy and people, but must be confirmed by the sovereign. Upon this understanding, the people accepted Theodoric’s nominee; and July 12, 526, Felix III. was installed in the papal office.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.9

    The noble Theodoric died a month later, August 30, 526, and was succeeded by his grandson Athalaric, about ten years old, under the regency of his mother Amalasontha. Justin, the emperor, died, and was succeeded by Justinian, August 1, 527, and under Justinian’s reign the Papacy was to become fully established in its supremacy.PTUK November 25, 1897, page 743.10

    A. T. JONES.

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