Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Epistle XXXIV.

To Pantaleo, Præfect.

Gregory to Pantaleo, Præfect of Africa.

How the law urgently prosecutes the most abominable pravity of heretics is not unknown to your Excellency 1557 .  It is therefore no light sin if these, whom both the integrity of our faith and the strictness of the laws condemn, should find licence to creep up again in your times.  Now in those parts, so far as we have learnt, the audacity of the Donatists has so increased that not only do they with pestiferous assumption of authority cast out of their churches priests of the catholic faith, but fear not even to rebaptize those whom the water of regeneration had cleansed on a true confession.  And we are much surprised, if indeed it is so, that, while you are placed in those parts, bad men should be allowed thus to exceed.  Consider only in the first place what kind of judgment you will leave to be passed upon you by men, if these, who in the times of others were with just reason put down, find under your administration a way for their excesses.  In the next place know that our God will require at your hand the souls of the lost, if you neglect to amend, so far as possibility requires it of you, so great an abomination.  Let not your Excellency take amiss my thus speaking.  For it is because we love you as our own children that we point out to you what we doubt not will be to your advantage.  But send to us with all speed our brother and fellow-bishop Paul 1558 , p. 158b lest opportunity should be given to any one under any excuse for hindering his coming; in order that, on ascertaining the truth more fully, we may be able, with God’s help, to settle by a reasonable treatment of the case how the punishment of so great a crime ought to be proceeded with.



As to imperial edicts against the African Donatists, see I. 74, note 8.  It would seem from this and the following letter that enforcement of the laws for their repression had been relaxed of late.  It will be observed from this and other instances that Gregory, though often in general terms deprecating the use of force in matters of faith, did not scruple, when occasion arose, to call in the aid of the secular arm; and in this case with some heat and acrimony.  Cf. IV. 35, below.


This Paul was one of the bishops of Numidia, against whom some charges of misconduct, not specified, had been brought.  His case has some significance as shewing that, though the spiritual authority of the bishop of Rome over the Church in Africa had now come to be acknowledged in a way that it had not been in the age of Cyprian, yet there seems to have been still some resistance to its exercise.  This appears also from the fact that it was not the primate of Numidia, but Columbus, a bishop notable for his devotion to the Roman See, that Gregory mainly and most confidentially corresponded with in relation to ecclesiastical affairs (see II. 48, note 1), and that this Columbus complained of being in disfavour with many on the ground of the frequent communications he received from Rome (VII. 2).  In the case before us Gregory’s desire (urgently expressed in this letter to Pantaleo, and in that which follows to the primate and Columbus, jointly), that Paul should at once be sent to Rome for trial was not complied with.  For two years later (VI. 63) Gregory complains of this, and also expresses surprize that the accused bishop should have been excommunicated by the African authorities, and no news sent thereof to himself by the primate.  Then, in the following year (VII. 2), writing to Columbus, he finds himself unable to refuse his assent to Paul’s resorting to Constantinople to lay his case before the Emperor.  However in the year after this it seems that he did go at length to Rome, but not so as to have his case decided there:  for Gregory sends him back to Africa to have his case inquired into, only enjoining Columbus, to whom he writes, to do his utmost to see justice done, he himself believing the accused to be innocent, and attributing the charges against him to odium incurred by his measures against the Donatists.  The final issue does not appear.  See also XII. 8.

Next: To Victor and Columbus, Bishops.