St. Jerome and Rome

"The refutation has been so often repeated, and is so easy, that one feels almost the need to blush in reiterating it. I wish to give the answer here with all painstaking exactness, so that there may be no room for any other reply than misrepresentation or abuse; but one feels as though one were using a steamhammer to kill a flea...."


From Dom John Chapman's Studies on the Early Papacy and originally from the "Dublin Review" (January 1898).

Other comments included from Anglican historian Edward Giles Documents Illustrating Papal Authority AD 96-454 (Hyperion Press, 1979, orig SPCK, 1952)

See also Rome has Spoken; the Case is Closed -- St. Augustine, Pelagianism, and the Holy See

part II is Pope Zosimus and Pelagianism

also St. Cyprian on the Church and the Papacy

also St. Athanasius, Arianism, and the Holy See

also St. John Chrysostom on the Apostle Peter


St. Jerome and Rome

Errors die hard, especially Protestant fictions. One of the strangest of these, and one of the hardiest, is the disguisal of St. Jerome, hominis Romani, as a Protestant. I do not mean that he is travestied as an opponent of monasticism and virginity, or a preacher of the marriage of priests, or a denouncer of the veneration of relics. But he is claimed, in spite of his "advanced" views on these and similar points, as a Protestant at bottom; for he is represented as upholding the fundamental dogma of Protestantism -- the denial that the Roman Church is infallible in her faith and the necessary centre of Catholicity.

Now we should not a priori have expected to find such explicit statements on this point in the works of the great doctor as on those questions in which modern Protestantism was anticipated by those glorious pioneers of free thought -- Helvidius, Jovinian, and Vigilantius. Nevertheless, a happy chance led him to set down the most "ultramontane" views in two famous letters to the reigning Pope. An ordinary critic would consider the question of St. Jerome's belief to be decided. Not so the Protestant controversialist. The witness of this famous pillar of orthodoxy, and storehouse of Eastern and Western learning, cannot be so easily renounced. St. Jerome was young when he wrote thus; he died an old man: he must have changed his mind.

This brilliant idea occurred to Dr. Littledale -- or, more probably, he found it in the works of preceding controversialists; but it is not worth while to trace the pedigree of his contention to books which may now be presumed to be out of date. The only proofs offered of St. Jerome's conversion to Protestantism are two passages -- one from his work against Jovinian, and the other from a letter to Evangelus (or Evagrius) printed by Vallarsi among the last of his letters as of uncertain date. Dr. Littledale jumped to the conclusion that it was his last word on the subject, and dated the letter in the year of the saint's death, 420. This he altered in later editions, in deference to Dr. Ryder's reply in the Tablet, afterwards republished in book form. But, notwithstanding the complete refutation Dr. Littledale had received, he did not retract the statement that St. Jerome changed his mind, but repeated it in another publication called Words for Truth, a curious title for such a singularly unveracious compilation. [1]

It would be of little importance what a writer of this stamp might have admitted or not admitted, but that his book was apparently the poisoned fountain whence more respectable writers have drawn. Bishop Gore quoted the letter to Evangelus in his "Roman Catholic Claims," and was very completely answered by Dr. Rivington. Bishop Gore returned to the subject in The Church and the Ministry, and referred to this new discussion in a later edition of Roman Catholic Claims.

Bishop Gore actually says:

"The passage (i.e. from the letter to Evangelus) is not quoted by Roman controversialists, for a very plain reason: because it indicates that the authority of the Roman See rested for Jerome on what is variable in a theologian -- on sentiment, on expedience, on feeling -- not on what is invariable, the basis of doctrinal authority."

I do not know what Roman controversialists are referred to. I only know that the answer to this wonderful discovery is given by pretty well every one of those I have come across. Bishop Gore might have known Dr. Ryder's admirable little book (Cf. also Stone, The Invitation Heeded, NY 1870, page 287; Archbishop Kenrick, Vindication of the Catholic Church, Balt 1855, page 203, and plenty of others; not to speak of Father Rivington's reply, which Bishop Gore ignores).

This second attack on St. Jerome was more serious than the former, as it occurred in a distinctly scholarly work, with the greater part of which Catholics will be in complete sympathy, and in the course of a discussion of St. Jerome's views on the ministry which is as fair as it is careful. Yet it has not provoked any reply, from the very fact of its position in an uncontroversial work. [2]

From Bishop Gore the idea was borrowed by a writer whose piety does not make up for his want of learning, [3] and the story was also repeated in Puller's The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome. Then it gained the authority of Bishop Moorhouse, whose assertions were effectively answered by Fr. Bernard Vaughan in his very brilliant lectures. [4] Last of all [5], the episcopal chair of Manchester has been confirmed by the professorial cathedra of Christ Church. [6]

And, after all, the whole thing is the most commonplace of mare's nests, the most unkind of libels, the most grotestque of perversions of a couple of quite harmless expressions. The refutation has been so often repeated, and is so easy, that one feels almost the need to blush in reiterating it. I wish to give the answer here with all painstaking exactness, so that there may be no room for any other reply than misrepresentation or abuse; but one feels as though one were using a steamhammer to kill a flea, or proving the multiplication-table by counting it on one's fingers. And yet, of course, no one will be convinced who does not wish it.

Two Passages: Contra Jovinianum and Epistle 146 ad Evangelum

To begin with, I give the two passages in question:

PASSAGE A. [7] -- St. Jerome has been praising virginity, and exalting St. John above the other Apostles. He anticipates the objection:

"'But you say, the Church is founded upon Peter,' and replies: "Although the same is done in another place upon all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength of the Church is made solid upon them all equally, yet one of them is elected among the twelve, that by the setting up of a head the occasion of schism may be removed. But why was not John, the virgin, elected? Deference was had to age, because Peter was older, in order that a young man -- almost a mere lad -- should not be preferred above men of advanced age, and that the good Master (whose duty it was to take away all cause of dispute from His disciples, and who had said to them: 'My peace I give you, My peace I leave unto you,' and Whoso among you wishes to be greater, let him be the least of all') might not seem to afford a ground for jealousy in appointing the young man whom He had loved." (C. Jovin. PL 23, vol II, 279[258])

PASSAGE B. [8] --

"We read in Isaias, 'The fool will talk folly.' I hear that someone has burst out into such madness as to prefer deacons before priests -- that is, before bishops. When the Apostle clearly teaches that presbyters and bishops are the same, how can a server of tables and windows dare to exalt himself above those at whose prayer is made the Body and Blood of Christ? You ask my authority? Hear the proof." [He then quotes Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 4:14; 1 Peter 5; 2 John 1; 3 John 1; with comments and continues:] "As for the fact that one was afterwards elected to be set over the rest, this was done as a remedy for schism; lest each one should draw to himself the (net of the) Church of Christ, and so break it. Besides, at Alexandria, from Mark the evangelist until the episcopates of Heraclas and Dionysius, the priests always took one of their own number, whom they elected, and placing him in a higher rank, called him bishop, as though an army should make a general, or deacons should elect one of themselves, whom they know to be a practical man, and call him arch-deacon. For what does a bishop do that a priest does not, except ordain? Nor is the Church of the city of Rome one thing, and the Church of all the rest of the world another. Gaul and Britain, and Africia, and Persia, and India, and all barbarian nations, adore one Christ and observe one rule of charity. If authority is looked for, the world is greater than the city.

"Wheresoever a bishop is -- whether at Rome or at Eugubium, at Constantinople or at Rhegium, or at Alexandria, or at Tanis, he is of the same worth, and also of the same priesthood (ejusdem est meriti, ejusdem est et sacerdotii). The power of riches and the lowliness of poverty do not make a bishop more exalted or more low. Besides, they are all the successors of the Apostles (ceterum omnes Apostolorum successores sunt). But, you will say, how is it that at Rome a priest is ordained on the testimony of a deacon? Why do you produce the custom of one city [or of the city alone] ? Why do you put forward that small number from which pride has arisen against the laws of the Church? All rarities are more appreciated. Fleabane in India is more precious than pepper. The deacons are honored from their fewness, the priests are looked down upon because of their numbers. Besides, even in the Church of Rome the priests sit, and the deacons stand, although by gradual growth of abuses I have seen a deacon sit among the priests when the bishop was absent, and give his blessing to priests at private banquets. Let those who act thus learn that they do not rightly, and let them hear the Apostle," etc. (Ep. 146 ad Evangelum, vol I, 1081[1193])

[ Giles has: "If you ask for authority, the world outweighs the city. Wherever there is a bishop, whether at Rome or Gubbio, or Constantinople or Rhegium, or Alexandria or Tanis, his worth is the same, and his priesthood is the same. The power of riches or the lowliness of poverty does not make him a higher or a lower bishop. But all are successors of the apostles." (Jerome, Ep 146 to Evangelus, Migne PL 22:1192, Giles page 154) ]

In both of these passages we find the same theory of St. Jerome, that a head is necessary for prevention of divisions.

A. That was the reason, says he, that our Lord placed St. Peter above the other Apostles. It was a necessity, and the age of Peter fitted him for the post. The Apostles qua Apostles, he carefully explains (following St. Cyprian) [9], were all equal. They had the same rank; all were equally foundations of the Church (cf. Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14), all received the keys (Matt 18:18; John 20:23). St. Peter receives over and above the Apostleship a headship of primacy, to prevent a schism. To suppose that by this is meant a primacy of honor and not of jurisdiction is to pay but a poor compliment to St. Jerome's sense. Any one can see, if he chooses to see, that a primacy "such as that enjoyed by the Duke of Norfolk among English Peers" might conceivably be a fruitful source of jealousy, but could not conceivably be of any use to guard against divisions.

Beyond this, the conception of an empty primacy of honor being established by our Lord among His Apostles is so revoltingly anti-Christian as to be nothing less than blasphemous. Only the exigencies of controversy could have driven sensible men to attribute such a view to St. Jerome or St. Cyprian. Only the blindness of anti-Catholic rage could induce earnest and pious men to think they hold it themselves.

B. In the second passage the same necessity of avoiding divisions is said by St. Jerome to have induced the Apostles to set one of the bishops or presbyters above the rest in each city, and to this one was limited the title of episcopus, as that of presbyter remained peculiar to the rest, while the name sacerdos was in St. Jerome's time common to both. This is a theory which St. Jerome is very fond of.

The Western view, that the essence of Priesthood is the offering of Sacrifice, and that the High Priesthood or Episcopate is only a higher rank of Priesthood, and not a different order, was evidently current and dominant in St. Jerome's time, else he could not have appealed to it. The more logical Eastern view counts three major orders: Bishops, Priests, Deacons; whereas the ancient Latin computation is still in force in the Latin Church, Priests (including Bishops), Deacons, Subdeacons. Thus St. Jerome's argument "a Priest is the same as a Bishop," is still the teaching of Western theologians, and represents the official usage of the Latin Church. There is, of course, no difference of doctrine on the subject, between Easterns and Westerns; nor is St. Jerome's further statement that the distinction between Priests and Bishops is merely one of custom consistent with the teaching of the Church or with his own admission that only a Bishop can ordain or consecrate the Chrism.

In the dialogue against the Luciferians, written about the year 379, he uses it as an argument for the necessity of Bishops:

"The safety of the Church depends on the dignity of the High Priest. If to him is not given a certain independence and eminence of power (exsors et eminens potestas), there will be made in the Church as many schisms as there are priests. This is the reason that without chrism and the command of a bishop neither a priest nor a deacon has the right to baptize." (C. Lucif 9, vol II, 182[173])

In his commentary on the Ep. of Titus, written in 387, he uses the same view to give good advice to priests to be submissive, and to bishops to be humble and not arrogant:

"A priest is then the same as a bishop, and before party-spirit in religious matters arose by the devil's suggestion, and it was said among the peoples: 'I am of Paul, I of Apollos, and I of Cephas,' the Churches were governed by a common council of presbyters. But after each of them came to think that those whom he had baptized were his own and not Christ's, it was decreed in the whole world that one of the priests should be elected to be placed above the others, and that to him the whole care of the Church should belong, and thus the seeds of division should be destroyed."

He then proves his point from Scripture, and proceeds:

"This was to prove that among the ancients, priests were the same as bishops; but by degrees, in order that the young shoots of dissensions might be uprooted, the whole solicitude was given to one man. As therefore the priests are aware that by the custom of the Church they are subject to him who is set over them, so let bishops remember that it is rather by custom than by the truth of the Lord's disposition that they are greater than priests, and that they ought to rule the Church in common with them, as Moses, did," etc. (Commentary on Ep. of Titus, vol VII, 694-5[597])

In accordance with this theory, St. Jerome always paid great respect to bishops at every period of his life, but at the same time is very sensitive as to any depreciation of the priesthood. He holds this office to be distinguished from that of bishops by ecclesiastical custom only, which gives to the bishop, besides the exclusive right of ordaining (Ep. ad Evang above), and of consecrating the chrism (Dial c. Lucif above) [10], the care and responsibility of the rule of the whole of his Church. It was this authority and jurisdiction which was rendered necessary, according to his view (with the truth of which we have nothing to do here) by the divisions of Apostolic times.

In a letter to Theophilus against his own bishop, John of Jerusalem:

"We are not so puffed up as to ignore what is due to the bishops (sacerdotes) of Christ. For whoso receives them, receives not so much them as Him whose bishops they are. But let them be content with their due honor, and recognize that they are fathers and not lords." (Ep 82, al 62, 521[743], AD 399)

Or, in a rather sharp letter to St. Augustine: "Farewell, my dearest friend, in age my son, in dignity my father" (Ep 105 [al 92], 641[837] AD 403). If St. Jerome frequently lectures bishops in general (e.g. Comm in Ezek, c. 34, AD 414), he still more often lectures priests, and sometimes both together -- e.g. Istum locum episcopi et presbyteri non intelligentes, aliquid sibi de Pharisaeorum assumunt superbia (In Matt c 26:18, Bk 3, 124[122], AD 398).

Now, like causes have like effects. If, to avoid schism among the Apostles, St. Peter was given by our Lord a primacy of honor only, then among the priests the bishop need have received no more. But if the avoidance of schism among the priests necessitated their subjection to a bishop, then the avoidance of schism among the Apostles involved their subjection to St. Peter.

We thus have obtained from passage B a confirmation of our interpretation of passage A; we must now consider passage B alone.

We learn from an anonymous contemporary writer [11] that a certain deacon [12] "out of stupidity and the boastfulness of the city of Rome," taught the equality of deacons with priests, and almost their superiority. The original number of seven deacons was still retained at Rome, and they were set over the seven regions of the city, while the priests, many in number, were distributed in the various parishes. The deacons, called diaconi regionarii, or later cardinales, were the chief officials of the Pope, and it was often from amongst their number that the Pope was elected. Owing to the many flatterers by whom they were surrounded, our anonymous informant tells us, they came to forget sometimes in practice their inferiority of order. What wonder if St. Jerome had seen a deacon sit in the presence of priests, when the Pope was absent, and the liturgical ceremonial was therefore less elaborate; or if their host at dinner should have asked the great man, though a deacon, to say grace, instead of a humbler priest?

The thing was natural, and St. Jerome treats it as an abuse, though not with great violence. As a fact, the Church has not so treated it, and up to the present day has continued to look upon ecclesiastical rank as not altogether dependent on the degrees of holy orders; so that a Cardinal Antonelli would rank not merely before priests, but before bishops, no more regard being had to his inferior order than to his personal merit.

Another Objection Answered: Epistle 41 on Ordination

A lesser objection, met both by St. Jerome and by the author of the Questiones, is the fact that at Rome a priest was ordained on the testimony of a deacon. In this neither Anglicans nor Catholics can find any gross abuse, as the practice remains to this day in the directions of the Roman Pontifical and of the English Book of Common Prayer. In both, the candidates for ordination are presented to the Bishop by the Archdeacon. The author of the Questiones explains that this is a service which the deacon renders the priests, and not a position of superiority.

St. Jerome condemns these instances of pride in the Roman deacons as contrary to the laws of the Church. But his method of proving the inferiority of deacons to priests is at first sight somewhat surprising. Why does he not simply say, as in fact the anonymous writer does, that a priest is a deacon, and something more, since he was ordained first deacon and then priest? Because then he might be answered, "For the same reasons, then, a priest is below a bishop." And St. Jerome is most anxious to impress on every one his theory (doubtless not generally accepted or known) that while the distinction between priests and deacons is one of order, and of Divine institution, the distinction between priests and bishops is one of jurisdiction only, and of ecclesiastical, or at the utmost, of Apostolic institution.

He, therefore, at once enunciates against the deacon the dictum that bishops and priests are one, adding the minor premise that of course deacons cannot compare themselves with bishops. The conclusion that they cannot compare themselves with priests is obvious. So St. Jerome proceeds to prove his major premise from Holy Scripture, adding the explanation that bishops had been introduced as a remedy for divisions, though a college of priest-bishops had survived at Alexandria for two centuries and a half, with the right of electing the patriarch from among themselves. Bishop Gore's account (Church and Ministry, 2nd ed, p. 137-139) is excellent. He gives good reasons also for thinking that St. Jerome was mistaken as to the fact. But in reality Jerome only says the priests "nominated" one of their number to be bishop.

Elsewhere, though often the people and the clergy chose, the appointment rested with the metropolitan, or (in the case of metropolitans) with the Patriarch, and so forth. In the case of the Patriarch of Alexandria, the actual appointment was not by any bishop or bishops, but by the Alexandrian priests -- so St. Jerome believed. His point is not that the Patriarch was not consecrated (as he assuredly was) but that he was appointed by inferiors, who were therefore not inferiors. St. Jerome had been at Alexandria, and his statement had doubtless some foundation. It is probably as near to the fact as an intelligent traveller would get.

"For what does a bishop do that a priest does not, except ordain?"

As to the deacon's argument from what took place at Rome, he says we cannot consider Rome apart and the rest of the world apart. There is one law for every nation under the sun; and if we are looking for auctoritas, that is for precedent, the world is greater than the city. The local customs of Rome are not a law for the whole world. Twice St. Jerome says the same thing with regard to frequency of communion (Ep 48 [al 50] ad Pammach, c. 15, 227[506] AD 393, and Ep 71 [al 28] ad Lucin, 434[672] AD 398).

St. Augustine took the same view in his famous letter to Januarius (Ep 54); and against a Roman who wrote under the pseudonym Urbicus [13] to prove that all the world ought to fast on Saturday, because St. Peter taught the Romans to do so, he thinks ridicule the most suitable reply (Ep 36). So that even the good customs or Rome are not binding on the rest of the Church; nor are we Catholics bound in England to observe the feast of St. Philip Neri as a bank-holiday [14], or to cease putting real flowers on our altars.

"Wheresoever," continues St. Jerome, "a bishop may be, whether he be the successor of Peter at Rome or a suffragan at Gubbio, bishop of the imperial city Constantinople or of Rhegium, Patriarch of Alexandria, the second see of Christendom, to which jurisdiction over Libya and Pentapolis had been confirmed by the Council of Nicaea, or simple bishop of a small Egyptian town -- he has just the same worth, the same sacerdotium. Similarly, riches and poverty make no more difference than does jurisdiction, and they are all successors of the Apostles." (Cf. Ep 41:3, 189[476]: Apud nos Apostolorum locum episcopi tenent, written at Rome, AD 384)

All this glorification of the episcopal office is meant to emphasize the difference between bishops -- "that is, priests" -- and deacons. A priest is the same so far as order is concerned as a bishop, notwithstanding the difference of jurisdiction; and one bishop has the same orders as another, even though the see of Rome or Alexandria may have more authority, and the see of Constantinople more riches. It follows that every priest and St. Jerome himself has the same spiritual dignity by his ordination as a patriarch or a pope. Surely this is majesty enough to make even a Roman deacon feel shy! For the rest, he explains that, though these Roman deacons had gained importance and pride from their limited number, yet even in Rome the theory of their spiritual inferiority was observed, so that a few obvious abuses ought not to have been quoted as customs. The above paraphrase gives the sense of the passages as St. Jerome intended it. About this there can be no question.

Did St. Jerome Deny the Bishop of Rome's Authority?

The Anglican interpretation was that St. Jerome denied the Bishop of Rome to have any more authority than the Bishop of Gubbio. There are four objections to this view. First, he does not say so; for he says ejusdem sacerdotii, not ejusdem auctoritatis. Secondly, he would have had no object in saying so; for he does not even suggest that the Bishop of Rome was answerable for the conduct of his deacons, still less that he approved the theory of Mercurius, which, of course, no pope ever did or could. Thirdly, he could not have said so, or he would be also denying that the Bishop of Alexandria had any more authority than the Bishop of Tanis, and thus contradicting the Council of Nicaea. Besides Gubbio was under the Pope as metropolitan.

Fourthly, St. Jerome's point is that bishops have exactly the same powers by their ordinations, whatever the immense difference in their jurisdiction. This point is lost unless we realize that the difference between the bishop of Rome, the successor of the Prince of the Apostles, or the Pope of Alexandria, who ruled the bishops of Egypt with despotic power, and an ordinary bishop of Tanis or Rhegium or Eugubium was enormous, and similarly with the bishop of Constantinople, the Emperor's advisor and a would-be Patriarch.

If St. Jerome had invented a new heresy to the effect that all bishops had equal authority, he would have expressed it with his usual plainness of speech, and (I suppose) would have been condemned by the Church. If two canons of Westminster and Christ Church and the Bishop of Manchester wish to uphold the same view on St. Jerome's authority, I suppose they will hardly expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to be pleased.

Out of all this discussion, what can we gather as to St. Jerome's opinion of the Church of Rome? Presumably that he had felt some personal irritation at its deacons, and certainly that its local customs are not laws for the whole Church, especially if they are abuses -- a very obvious remark. I do not see what more against Rome can be got out of the passages.

Peter's Primacy of Jurisdiction and Succession at Rome

In favor of Rome, on the contrary, we have extracted the statement that while all the Apostles, as apostles, are exactly equal, yet St. Peter had from our Lord Himself a primacy of jurisdiction over the others, in addition to his apostleship. Further, while all bishops, as bishops, are exactly equal, some of them have also a similar primacy of jurisdiction by ecclesiastical law. So far when we have the distinct assertion of the primacy of St. Peter, and the distinct implication of at least patriarchal authority for the Bishop of Rome. But a very little logic will carry us a great deal further.

No one doubts that St. Jerome believed St. Peter to have been the first Bishop of Rome, even though they think him mistaken. He said so in AD 376 ("chair of Peter," "successor of the fisherman", Ep 15), in AD 380 (Chron Euseb), in AD 387 (Roman translatum, In Galat, vol VII, 410[366]), in AD 389 (Orig in Luc hom 6, vol VII, 261[245]), in AD 392 in his short Life of St. Peter (De uiris ill, c, i, 828[638]), in AD 402 (cathedra Petri, Ep 97), in AD 411 (Comm in Isai, c, 52, 15, 612[523]), and he implies it in using the common title "Apostolic See," and in many important passages which will be quoted later on.

Since, therefore, St. Jerome believes one bishop to be the successor of St. Peter, will he not believe him to succeed to his primacy as well as to his episcopate? Since he declares that a primate was necessary even among the Apostles, and that without a monarchy over the priests of one city there "will be as many schisms as there are priests," it follows that he must a fortiori believe in the necessity of a primacy over the universal Church.

Our Protestant friends believe that external unity is not necessary to the Church, and that in the midst of mutually exclusive schisms an inexplicable and transcendental unity is preserved. A head therefore is unnecessary, as schisms, though regrettable, are not destructive to unity (as to this Anglican theory, I never have understood what can destroy unity if schism does not). But no one will pretend that St. Jerome ever dreamt of such a theory; and his belief (unquestioned by any one, so far as I know) of the necessity of external unity imperatively demanded a central and supreme authority.

St. Peter was, according to St. Jerome, apostle, primate, and bishop. In his apostleship, strictly speaking, he had no successor, any more than the other Apostles; but he had successors in his episcopate. That these successors succeeded to his primacy also is proved to have been the belief of St. Jerome, not merely by a logical deduction from the two passages which Protestants have brought forward to prove the contrary, but by the direct evidence of many other passages scattered throughout his works. It remains to examine these.

Letters from St. Jerome to Pope Damasus

The two famous letters to St. Damasus were written about the years 376-377. St. Jerome was then twenty-nine years old, if we follow Cavallera. Born in Pannonia, he had passed his youth at Rome, and was converted to a life of holiness while journeying in Gaul. His baptism at Rome is considered to have been subsequent to this by Tillemont; but Vallarsi shows that it probably took place earlier. In 372-373 he journeyed to the East, and retired to the Syrian desert to lead a life of asceticism. It is from thence that he wrote his two famous letters to St. Damasus, before referred to.

In these he begs for the Pope's decision as to which of the three claimants of the patriarchal see of Antioch is to be communicated with. Vitalis was an Apollinarian; St. Meletius he suspected of Arian heresy, on account of the circumstances of his election; but he was afraid of embracing the party of Paulinus, because the East in general sided with Meletius. The ambiguity of the word hypostasis increased his distress, for the followers of St. Meletius, by whom he was surrounded, refused to accept the explanation he gave of his belief on the subject, and he complains bitterly of the persecution he underwent from them, declaring that Arian tendencies were latent beneath their rejection of the expression "one hypostasis" in the Holy Trinity.

The letters are written in the elaborate style of St. Jerome's early years, and are of startling vigor and cleverness, in spite of their affectations and exaggerations:

"Since the East, dashed against itself by the accustomed fury of its peoples, is tearing piecemeal the undivided tunic of Christ, woven from the top throughout, and foxes are destroying the vine of Christ, so that among the broken cisterns which have no water it is hard to know where is the sealed fountain and the garden enclosed, I have considered that I ought to consult the Chair of Peter and the faith praised by the mouth of the Apostle [Rom 1:8], asking now the food of my soul where of old I received the garment of Christ. Neither the vast expense of ocean nor all the breadth of land which separate us could preclude me from seeking the precious pearl. Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. Now that an evil progeny have dissipated their patrimony, with you alone is the inheritance of the Fathers preserved uncorrupt. There the fertile earth reproduces a hundredfold the purity of the seed of the Lord. Here the corn cast into the furrows degenerates into lolium and wild oats. It is now in the West that the sun of justice rises; whilst in the East, Lucifer, who fell, has set his seat above the stars. You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. Here the vessels of clay or wood will be destroyed by the rod of iron and the fire everlasting.

"Therefore, though your greatness makes me fear, yet your kindness invites me. From the priest I ask the salvation of the victim; from the shepherd the safety of his sheep. Away with envy, away with all canvassing of the Roman power; it is but with the successor of the fisherman and the disciple of the Cross that I speak. Following none in the first place but Christ, I am in communion with your beatitude, that is, with the Chair of Peter. On that rock I know the Church is built. Whosoever shall eat the Lamb outside that house if profane. If any be not with Noah in the Ark, he shall perish beneath the sway of the deluge. And because for my sins I have migrated to this solitude, where Syria borders on the barbarians, and I cannot always at this great distance ask for the Holy One of the Lord from your holiness, therefore I follow here your colleagues the Egyptian confessors; and under these great ships my little vessel is unnoticed. Vitalis I know not, Meletius I reject; I know not Paulinus. Whoso gathereth not with thee scattereth; that is to say, whoso is not with Christ is of Antichrist.

"Now, alas! After the creed of Nicaea, after the decree of Alexandria joined to the West, the new expression of three hypostases is required of me, a Roman, by that progeny of Arius, the Campenses [i.e. the followers of Meletius]. What new Paul, doctor of the nations, has taught this? ....

"Decide so, I beseech you, if you will, and I will not fear to acknowledge three hypostases. If you order it, let a new creed be composed, after that of Nicaea, and we orthodox will confess our faith in the words of the Arians. But the whole literary faculty uses hypostasis in the sense of [Greek], etc...

"Are we to be separated from Arius by walls [i.e. in different Churches], but united in heresy? As well might Ursicinus be joined to your beatitude, Auxentius to Ambrose! Far be this from the faith of Rome; may the religious hearts of the people drink no such impiety! Let three hypostases be no more mentioned, if you please, and let one be held....Or if you think fit that we should say three hypostases with the necessary explanations, we do not refuse. But believe me, there is a poison hidden beneath the honey....Where I beseech your holiness by the crucified Salvation of the World, by the Trinity of one Substance, to say three hypostases. And lest perchance the obscurity of the place in which I dwell may escape the letter-carriers, please send your letters to the priest Evagrius, whom you well know. At the same time let me know with whom to communicate at Antioch; for the Campenses having joined the heretical Tharsenses desire nothing but to preach three hypostases in their old sense, supported by the authority of communion with you." (Ep 15 (al 57), vol I, 38[355], c. AD 376)

A few months later he wrote again, having received no answer:

"The importunate woman in the Gospel merited at length to be heard, and, though at midnight, the door being closed, the friend received bread from his friend. God Himself, who can be overcome by no adverse power, is conquered by the prayers of the publican. The city of Ninive, which was to be destroyed by its fault, was saved by its prayer. Why commence with this long list? So that your greatness may look upon my littleness, the rich shepherd not despise a sick sheep. Christ brought the thief into Paradise from the cross; and thus, lest any should think repentance can come too late, the reward of murder was changed into a martyrdom, etc.

"I, therefore, as I wrote before, who received the garment of Christ in the city of Rome, now am dwelling at the barbarian limit of Syria, and (that you may not think I received this sentence from another) I myself decided my own punishment. But, as the gentile poet says: Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. My incessant enemy has dogged my steps, so that I have but fiercer battles in the desert. On the one side storm the raging Arians, supported by the powers of the world. On the other, a Church, torn in three parts, tries to seize me. The authority of ancient monks who dwell around rises against me. Meantime I cry aloud: If any is joined to the Chair of Peter, he is mine! Meletius, Vitalis and Paulinus say that they adhere to you. If one of them asserted it, I could believe him. But now either two of them or all three are lying. Therefore I beseech your beatitude by the Cross of the Lord, by the essential glory of our Faith, the Passion of Christ, that you are the successor of the Apostles in dignity should be their successor in merit also. May you sit in judgment on a throne with the Twelve, may another gird you with Peter in old age, may you gain with Paul the citizenship of Heaven, if you will tell me by letter with whom I ought to communicate in Syria. Depise not a soul for which Christ died."

[ Giles comments: "The doctrine implied in these two letters seems to be: Pope Damasus is the successor of Peter sitting in his chair (Ep 15:1,2). The chair of Peter is the rock on which the Church is built (15:2). To follow Christ is to be in communion with the Pope, and therein lies the only security (15:2). The Roman church bears fruit a hundredfold, because her faith is reliable (15:1). Three of the rival claimants to the see of Antioch all profess to cleave to the Pope (Ep 16:2). The Pope is asked to say which of the rivals is the true bishop (15:5; 16:2). The Pope is asked to give a definite ruling on the wording of the creed, and, if he thinks fit, to alter the Nicene creed (15:4). On the letters of Jerome, [Anglican] Puller [author of Primitive Saints and the See of Rome] says: 'Of course no catholic would dream of departing from the general teaching of the Fathers in order to adhere to the exaggerated statements of one young man in sore perplexity.' [Anglican] Denny [author of Papalism] writes more or less to the same effect. [Anglican] Kidd says that Epistle 15 'was the letter of a young man in a hurry.' (Jerome was not less than 28 years old). Gore also discounts the terms of this letter in view of what he believes to be Jerome's changed attitude towards the papacy in later years." (Giles, page 151) ]

Passing over the difficulties of translation and of exact date, let us sum up the doctrine which the letter implies concerning the Pope.

That the Pope sat in the Chair of Peter, and was successor of the fisherman, was repeated frequently by St. Jerome in later years, as we have seen. But some more remarkable points may be gathered. First, the Chair of Peter is the rock on which the Church is built. Everyone knows that the Rock is, in the first place, Christ; and Peter, or Peter's faith, from his likeness and union with Christ; Petrus a Petra, says St. Augustine often, and St. Leo explains the same thing in a passage too well known to need quotation (St. Aug Serm 295, vol VI, 1349 [Migne] et alibi; St. Leo, Serm 3 in Anniu Assump; Ego inuiolabilis Petra, etc). As a foundation must be permanent, St. Peter's successors, or their faith, remain the Church's foundation in the same sense. St. Augustine's words are well known:

Numerate sacerdotes uel ab ipsa Petri sede,
Et in ello ordine patrum quis cui successit uidete;
Ipsa est Petra quam non uincunt superbae inferorum portae.
(Ps c. partes Donati)

[ Giles translates: "Number the priests even from that seat of Peter; And in that order of fathers see who to whom succeeded: that is the rock which the proud gates of hades do not conquer." (Augustine, Psalmus contra Partem Donati, AD 393, Giles page 182) ]

Note: We know that St. Augustine did not change his view in later years as to the substance of this saying, for his actions prove it; and no doubt, had he done so, his Retractations would have been most explicit on the subject. As a fact, though he came to prefer the view (untenable though it will appear to most), that the words super hanc petram refer to our Lord Himself, yet he not only did not reject his former interpretation, but he assumes that there was no fault to be found with the doctrine he had based upon it and upon the following words. I have to say this because of Fr. Puller's remark that St. Augustine was young when he wrote this, and changed his mind later (see Retract I, vol I, 618).

Secondly, the Roman See is consequently the centre of communion for the whole Church; and any one who is out of communion with it is outside the Church. "I am in communion with your beatitude, that is, with the Chair of Peter, and on that rock I know the Church is built. Whosoever shall eat the Lamb -- that is, receive communion -- outside that house is proface [Exod 12:45-6]. If any be not with Noah in the Ark he shall perish." "Whoso gathereth not with Thee scattereth; whoso is not with Christ is of Antichrist."

And it appears that the Easterns agreed with this view. St. Jerome is unconscious of any dissension with them on this vital point, and would have at once declared that they were not in the Ark, had they denied this necessity of union with Rome. The followers of St. Meletius "desire nothing else than to preach three hypostases in the heretical sense, auctoritate communionis uestrae fulti." And in the second letter, the answer to St. Jerome's cry, "If any be joined to the Chair of Peter he is mine," is an assertion from the three rival claimants of the Petrine chair of Antioch that they have that communion with St. Damasus which will authorize both their claim and their teaching, tibi haerere se dicunt.

[Anglican] Dr. Bright coolly says:

"This obviously means to agree with Damasus as to the faith; which, indeed, Meletius did." (Roman See in the Early Church, page 107)

This is really unpardonable carelessness. "I could believe it," continues St. Jerome, "if one of them asserted it; now either two of them are lying, or else all three." This "obviously means" that only one of three rival bishops could be in communion with Rome, and not that only one of three could possibly be orthodox!

Nor did St. Jerome's exclamation mean: "I will communicate with whosoever is the lawful bishop, proved to be so by communion with Rome," for no one had ever suspected the orthodoxy of Paulinus (the accusations of Sabellianism were not quite serious, but a sort of tu quoque), and he has not ventured finally to condemn his two rivals, or there would have been no need to write to the Pope. He meant, of course, "I will communicate with whosoever is the lawful bishop." There was no metropolitan or patriarch above Antioch, and the question was one for Rome to decide.

Note: As a fact, none of the three was lying, since Rome had as yet excommunicated none. Later on, as every one knows, Damasus, like Athanasius, gave full communion to Paulinus, without venturing to excommunicate St. Meletius, whose adherents were tolerated, and who was upheld by the entire East. It was an uncomfortable state of things, but perhaps, after the long and unfortunate delays which made St. Basil so angry, there may have been no better way. If any one chooses to find fault with the policy and conduct of Rome and Egypt, I have no objection to make, for St. Basil was on the spot. But a Catholic is more inclined to think Rome's proverbial slowness was more prudent than the impetuosity of so great a saint; and St. Basil was less careful than St. Athanasius about orthodoxy.

Thirdly, as the See of Rome is the necessary centre of orthodoxy, Roman faith must be perfect and unalterable. The bishop and his Church are one; for he is the representative of her faith, and its teacher. In early centuries, therefore, "Roman faith" was a proverb for its purity and indefectibility. When the Bishop of Rome decided a point of faith, he was declaring the unalterable faith of his Church; the faith of Peter praised by Christ, the faith praised by Paul in his epistle. It was the pride of every Roman to share this faith, and it is a pride that St. Jerome felt throughout his life. This is the first place in which he speaks of the Chair of Peter and the faith praised by Paul, but we shall see that it is the first in a long series. "The evil progeny have dissipated their patrimony," in the midst of heresy the East has lost the inheritance of faith; at Rome only is the true seed sown and nurtured to full growth;

"you [the whole West might be meant] are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. A new creed is taught me, hominem Romanum -- a Roman by spiritual birth -- in the words of the Arians. Far be this from Roman faith! May the religious hearts of the people drink no such impiety!"

For to the Roman people St. Jerome attributes a special gift of devotion and simplicity of faith which guards them from error. Individuals, and even large numbers, might, of course, go wrong; and we shall see later the distress of St. Jerome when he thinks that the Roman faith is being deceived and misled by Rufinus or the Pelagians.

Lastly, St. Jerome implies two powers in the Pope; the one, as we have seen, of deciding which is the true Bishop of Antioch, the other of deciding a point of doctrine. Was it right or not to say there are three hypostases in the Blessed Trinity? He will obey even if the Pope's decision is an addition to the creed of Nicaea, and contrary to literary usage, though he argues strongly against an affirmative decision. In the second letter he begs the Pope, who follows Apostles in office, to follow them also in goodness (ut qui apostolos honore sequeris sequaris et merito). We cannot take apostolos for all the Apostles; since the Pope has not succeeded to their office, and is not strictly an Apostle. St. Peter and St. Paul are probably rather meant. But the expression is only an oratorical amplification of the habitual apostolica sedes, apostolatus uester (as a form of address). Yet it certainly implies more than that the Pope is bishop of a see founded by an Apostle.

I do not wish to press all this as being a distinct statement of the Pope's infallibility ex cathedra, or of his superiority to the only General Council. These are modern expressions; I only suggest that the idea of them was not very far off from St. Jerome's mind.

What are we to think of Janus's [von Dollinger] remarks:

"He then urges the Pope with courtly and high-sounding professions of unconditional submission to his authority, but at the same time in a strictly menacing tone, to pronounce upon this term in the sense needed for justifying him."

Fancy a young laymen threatening the Pope! Janus continues:

"In fact he gave St. Cyril of Jerusalem to whom he had sent his profession of faith, as high a place as the Pope. But Cyril, with good ground, thought the case a suspicious one, and gave him no answer." (The Pope and the Council, Engl trans, 1873, pref p. xxv, note)

The reference is to Ep. 17:4, where an unknown Cyril is mentioned, probably (as Cavallera says, p. 55) a bishop or priest of the neighborhood. The whole sentence is of course a tissue of absurdities and has no foundation but the ingenious imagination of the apostate who penned it. May I be pardoned here for mentioning myself, and rendering to Dr. Littledale and to Janus the thanks which are their due for the help they gave me when a Protestant towards my conversion? The attempt to verify some of their statements was most enlightening.

With these letters may be compared Ep. 17 ad Marcum, while the elaborate enumeration of Scripture texts in requesting an answer can be paralleled by Ep 11 ad Virgines Aemonenses, written also in the saint's youth. But we have now his later life to consider.

In September 382, after the Council of Constantinople, St. Jerome, who had in the meantime sat at the feet of "the theologian," Gregory of Nazianzum, accompanied by St. Epiphanius and Paulinus to Rome. He had been ordained priest by the latter some time before at Antioch. He was appointed his secretary by St. Damasus, as he tells us when relating the story of the woman who was buried in a sort of public triumph by her twenty-third husband, she being his twenty-second wife; "when I assisted Damasus, Bishop of Rome, in his ecclesiastical papers (in chartis ecclesiasticis iuuarem), and answered the synodical consultations of East and West." (Ep 123 [al 11], c. 10, 907[1052])

The letters of St. Damasus have nearly all perished, but many of those of his immediate successors have survived. All are in the same style: assuming and often stating the prerogatives of the Apostolic See, and exercising a jurisdiction over the whole Church, deposing bishops, enforcing laws under excommunication, confirming or annulling the decisions of synods, reproving, praising, and exhorting in all parts of the world. It is this kind of decretal letter which St. Jerome had to write. Did he come to look upon them afterwards as Fr. Puller and Dr. Bright would do, as mere examples of arrogance contrary to the laws of the Church? He does not, at least, show any sign of repentance in this bare mention, written in old age, AD 409.

An Objection from Bishop Gore: Jerome Changed His Mind

At Rome St. Jerome continued his ascetic habits, and was much courted as a favorite with the Pope. But when he undertook to be the spiritual guide of the noble lady Paula, he declares that he suddenly found the adulation of the city turned to abuse. The death of the Pope had doubtless something to do with the change, and the holy man's violent tongue still more. He found Rome unbearable, and returned to the East. In a letter written at Rome (Ep 33, 154[447]), he refers to the Aristippi and Epicuri of the Roman clergy, but in his farewell letter to Asella (Ep 45 [al 99], August 385) he speaks of Roman society in general as his detractors. He says that till lately omnium pene judicio dignus summo sacerdotio decernebar. Hence Bishop Gore's note:

"In Jerome's earlier years his tone is papal, e.g. in his letters to Damasus from the East, AD 375-380 (Epp 15-16). Afterwards, disgusted with the Roman manners and disappointed of the Roman episcopate, he broke with the Church there AD 385, and his abusive tone about the Roman clergy is subsequent to this date, e.g. Ep 52 ad Nepotian is after AD 393. His commentaries on the N.T., which contain the passages minimizing the episcopal office by comparison with the presbyterate, date AD 386-392. His letter to Evangelus (Ep 146) is marked by its hostile tone towards Rome to belong to the period subsequent at any rate to AD 385, and Ep 69 ad Oceanum is about AD 400." (Gore, The Church and the Ministry, 2nd ed, chap 3, p. 172, note)

There is a ring of scholarship about this elaborate note which is calculated to deceive the unwary. But (a) St. Jerome could hardly mention disappointment at not being elected Pope in so open a manner. He is merely relating what was said of him, and said insincerely. (b) St. Jerome's abuse of the Roman clergy was written before he left Rome, and was the cause of his being persecuted and of his leaving, and not its effect. The famous letter to Eustochium on virginity contains a passage (Ep 22, c. 28, 112[413], AD 384) which was a great cause of offense (Cf. Ep 27 [al 120] and Ep 40 [al 100], both written shortly before leaving Rome). The preface to the translation of Didymus De spiritu sancto was written not long after his departure, and need not refer principally to the clergy. (c) The letter to Nepotian, written nine years later at Bethlehem, and sent to Altinum, contains nothing whatever about the Roman clergy, though it does include certain warnings against the arrogance of bishops, which would be more probably suggested by his quarrel just commencing with John of Jerusalem than by any disappointment at not being made Pope.

One gathers that Bishop Gore regards his depreciation of the episcopal office as a question of the fox and the grapes. But we have seen above that this depreciation is grounded on a theory which appears in the dialogue against Luciferians, which was written before he even went to Rome; though he uses the theory there to show the necessity of epicopacy, a necessity which he never doubted at any time of his life.

(d) As to the commentaries on the N.T., it is evident that the passage from that on the Epistle to Titus, already quoted, is intended. What on earth has this "depreciation of the episcopal office" to do with the Pope? (e) The letter to Evangelus we have seen to be marked by no hostile tone towards Rome; while its date is quite unimportant in view of other evidence, even if it were really anti-papal. (f) The letter to Oceanus does indeed mention St. Jerome's view of the identity of bishops and priests, but, I repeat, he had held that view before he went to Rome. This letter (Ep 69, written after 395 and before 401) upholds a view as to second marriage which is contrary to the decision of Siricius in his decretal to Himerius, written Feb 385. St. Jerome was perhaps just in the first troubles which succeeded the death of St. Damasus, and apparently he knew nothing of the letter.

Soon after St. Jerome's arrival in the East, he wrote a letter in the names of Paula and Eustochium, who had rejoined him, to Marcella, to invite that noble and saintly lady to join their incipient community at Bethlehem. He contrasts the noisiness of the great capital with the quiet and the holy memories of the Savior's birthplace. But there is no depreciation of Rome from an ecclesiastical point of view:

"There, indeed, is a holy Church, and the trophies of the Apostles and martyrs, and the true confession of Christ; there is that faith which was praised by the Apostle, and that name of Christian which daily rears itself upon the ruins of paganism; but," etc (Ep 46 [al 17] c. 11, 208[490], written about AD 386)

Somewhat later St. Jerome addresses Paula and her daughter in a similar strain:

"Do you wish to know, O Paula and Eustochium, how the Apostle has noted each province with its own particular characteristic? Even till our own day the vestiges of the same virtues or faults may be traced. It is the faith of the Roman people which he praises. And where else can we see so fervid a concourse to the churches and the tombs of the martyrs? Where does the 'amen' thus resound like the thunder of heaven, and shake the temples of the idols? Not that the Romans hold another faith than that of all the Churches of Christ, but that they have a greater devotion and simplicity [a constant expression of St. Jerome meaning unhesitating faith] in believing. The Apostle accuses them also of being easy-going, and also proud," etc (cf. Rom 16:17-19; 12:15-16, Comm in Gal II, vol VII, 427[381])

Here there is no question of irritation with Rome, nor of change in his estimation of the Roman gift of faith. In the same commentary we find much about St. Peter. In the first chapter St. Jerome enunciates (with Origen, Apollinarius, Chrysostom and others) the view to which St. Augustine later objected, viz. that the reprehension of St. Peter by St. Paul at Antioch (Gal 2:11) was only a make-believe. Here is a characteristic passage:

"'Then, after three years, I came to Jerusalem to see Peter.' Not that he might see his eyes and cheeks and countenance, whether thin or fat, whether his nose was curved or straight, whether his forehead was covered with hair, or (as Clement says in the Periodi) if his head was bald. Nor do I think it consistent with the gravity of an Apostle that he should have desired to see anything human in Peter, after this long three years' preparation. But he wished to see him with those eyes with which he himself is seen in his epistles. Paul looked on Cephas with those eyes by which he himself is seen by the wise. If any one disagrees, let him join this passage with the preceding words, that the Apostles taught him nothing. For that he thought fit to go to Jerusalem, that he went for the purpose of seeing the Apostle, was not for the desire of learning (for he also had the authority of Christ for his teaching), but of giving honor to the earlier (or more eminent priori) Apostle." (l.c. Bk I, c, i, v 18, vol VII 394[354]).

So much for the superiority of St. Peter to St. Paul. On ancient views of this passage of St. Paul and the testimony they give to the supremacy of St. Peter, see by all means Passaglia's great work, De praerogatiuis B. Petri, Ratisb 1850, Bk I, c. 24, p. 217-245. (With priori Apostolo cf. praecessori Apostolo, p. 402[360]; and posteriores -- inferiors, Ep 116 (Aug), p. 774[947]).

Further on he quotes Origen as to the translation of St. Peter from Antioch to Rome, as was mentioned above. In 393 St. Jerome wrote the book against Jovinian, who had published at Rome heresies till then unheard of, but now, ala, too well known. One passage of it has already been discussed at length. I quote further from it:

"Was there no other province in the world to receive this panegyric of voluptuousness into which this adder could have crept, but that one which was founded on Christ the Rock [cf. 1 Cor 10:4] by the doctrine of Peter?" (Bk II, vol II, p. 381[350])

No wavering to be traced here in his trust in Roman faith. He ends the book by the following appeal:

"Thee I address, who hast blotted out by the confession of Christ that blasphemy which was written upon thy head; city of power and dominion, city praised by the Apostle's voice. Interpret thy name, Rome, name of strength in the Greek, of loftiness in the Hebrew. Preserve that which thy name signifies, and let strength exalt thee, and not pleasure abase thee." (p. 383[352])

In the year 392 was published the book, De uiris illustribus, the first biography being that of "Simon Peter, prince of the Apostles," who held the sacerdotal chair at Rome for twenty-five years. At the end of 397 he writes to St. Pammachius, who after his wife's death was living an ascetic life at Rome, praising Rome, which now possessed what once the world knew not, viz. monastic life (Ep 66 [al 26], p. 395[641]); and in a letter to Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, during his dispute with his bishop, John of Jerusalem, he says:

"For your admonition concerning the canons of the Church we thank you, for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth....but know that we have nothing more at heart than to observe the laws of the Church, and not to move the landmarks of the Fathers, and ever to be mindful of that Roman faith which the Church of Alexandria boasts of participating." (Ep 63 [al 68], p. 353[607], AD 397)

So the faith of Rome, kept pure by a special gift of devotion, founded on the Rock, Christ, by St. Peter and praised by St. Paul, which it was folly in Jovinian to try and disturb, is the norm for the world, and the second see of Christendom glories in sharing it. What more is said in the letters to Damasus than is implied in these later passages?

In the book against John of Jerusalem he thus reproves his time-serving bishop:

"He (Bishop John) writes an apology to Bishop Theophilus which commences thus: 'You as a man of God and endowed with Apostolic grace sustain the care of all the Churches, especially of that which is in Jerusalem, though yourself disturbed by many solicitudes in that Church of God which is subject to you.' He flatters him and treats him as a prince! You who seek for ecclesiastical rules, and who quote the canons of the Council of Nicaea, and who try to appropriate the clerics of other bishops who are dwelling with them, answer me, how does Palestine appertain to the Bishop of Alexandria? If I mistake not, it was decided in that Council that Caesarea should be the metropolis of Palestine, and Antioch that of the entire East. Therefore, either you ought to have referred the case to the bishop of Caesarea, with whom you know that we are in communion, though we have rejected yours; or else, if the judgment was to be sought afar off, you should rather have sent your letter to Antioch. But I know why it was you would not send to Caesarea or Antioch; well did you know what you were escaping. You preferred the due honor to your own metropolitan."

John had accused St. Epiphanius of violating a Nicene canon by ordaining Paulinian, brother of St. Jerome, in Palestine. As a fact, Paulinian was not a subject of John, and the ordination did not take place within his diocese. St. Epiphanius for his part accused John of holding the errors of Origen. The Bishop of Jerusalem tried to get a testimony to his orthodoxy from Theophilus of Alexandria; hence his polite language to that prelate. It is noticeable that John, Epiphanius, and Theophilus all wrote to Pope St. Siricius, trying to get his influence on their side in this purely Eastern quarrel (Cf. Joannem Hieros, c. 37, vol II, 447[406]).

Of course St. Jerome knew quite well that John was far from intending to treat Theophilus as his metropolitan. The "care of all the Churches" refers to the paschal letters which Theophilus has published according to custom. The reminder that Jerusalem was subject to Caesarea, Caesarea itself to Antioch, would be particularly galling to the bishop of a see which within fifty years after was acknowledged as a patriarchate. The importance of this passage is merely that it shows how far St. Jerome was about the year 399 from saying that the bishop of Alexandria had no more authority than the Bishop of Tanis. This bishop of Jerusalem was as much a bishop as the bishop of Caesarea or of Antioch, but was inferior in jurisdiction.

Praise of Rome in Contra Rufinum (Against Rufinus)

A more serious quarrel was to disturb the serenity of Bethlehem. Rufinus published towards the end of 398 a translation of the [Greek] of Origen, in the preface of which he referred to St. Jerome, then at the height of his fame, as his example and model, thus seeming to accuse St. Jerome of approving the errors of Origen, because he had translated many of his homilies. Pammachius and Oceanus wrote from Rome to St. Jerome, sending him this preface, and asking him to clear himself.

In St. Jerome's reply to this letter, he says:

"Whosoever you be who assert new dogmas, I beg you to spare Roman ears, spare that faith which was praised by the mouth of the Apostle. Why after four hundred years do you try to teach us what we knew not till now? Why do you produce doctrines which Peter and Paul did not think fit to proclaim? Up to this day the world has been Christian without your doctrine. I will hold to that faith in my old age in which I was regenerated as a boy." (Ep 84 [al 65], VIII, p. 531[750], c. AD 400)

No question here about changing his mind. The faith of Rome which he received at the font is still his. He had learnt at Rome (Dr. Bright vouches for this) those strong expressions about the necessity of communion with the Holy See and the inviolability of her faith which he had used to St. Damasus when he was thirty; at fifty he is as proud as ever of being a Roman.

Rufinus sent an apology to the Pope, and finding Rome too hot for him, obtained a letter from St. Siricius (merely an ecclesiastical passport, like a modern celebret) and went to Aquileia, the place of his baptism. But St. Siricius soon died, and Anastasius, his successor, condemned his translation. In 401 Rufinus published three books against St. Jerome, which the latter answered without having seen them by two books Contra Rufinum, and he soon afterwards added a third.

[ Giles comments: "Many extracts from the Apology against Rufinus are quoted by Chapman in Studies on the Early Papacy. They are intended to show that Jerome was as firm a believer in the papacy when he wrote this Apology as when he wrote to Pope Damasus twenty-five years before. The Popes who followed Damasus were Siricius, 384-399, and Anastasius, 399-402." (Giles, page 158) ]

Rufinus said in his preface that Jerome, in translating more than seventy homilies of Origen, had carefully purged them from all error. He cannot then, argues the saint, accuse me of being a heretic:

"'Nothing,' says he, 'will be found in them by a Latin reader which is in disaccord with our faith.' What does he call his faith? That which the Roman Church possesses? Or that which is contained in the volumes of Origen? If he answers, the Roman, it follows that he and I are Catholics, since we have translated none of Origen's errors." (C. Ruf I, 4, vol II, 461[418])

There is more about Roman faith and Roman ears that it is worthwhile to quote; but here are instances:

"When I read this and had compared it with the Greek, I perceived at once that Origen's impieties as to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which Roman ears could not born, had been changed for the better by the translator." (C. Ruf I, 6, 462[420])

"Never was any question raised about my translations of Origen: Rome never rose against them." (C. Ruf I, 8, 464[421], cf. 464[422])

St. Jerome urges Rufinus with the letters of St. Epiphanius and Theophilus against him, and with those of Pope Anastasius which follow up the heretic in the whole world (ibid, I, 10, p. 465[423], and I, 12, 468[425]). Rufinus had addressed an apology to the Pope, just as Pelagius, Celestius and Bachiarius did under similar accusations, and, like them, declares that he holds the Roman faith. He does not "wish to wipe any blot of suspicion from the Pope's holy mind, which, like some shrine of God, would receive nothing unjust, but to give him this confession of faith as a stick wherewith to beat off his enemies and rivals when they bark against him." (Rufinus: Apol ad Anast I, Migne vol XXI, 623)

He concluded:

"And I, besides this faith which I have exposed, that is, which the Roman Church, and the Alexandrian and my own Aquileian hold, and which is preached at Jerusalem, have never held any other, nor do I, in the name of Christ, nor ever will."

Of all this St. Jerome makes fun (cf. C. Ruf II, 1, p. 491[444-5]; 10, 498[451]; 14, 505[527]), and continually refers to the letters of St. Anastasius, which condemned his translation, though as a fact they did not condemn Rufinus himself. The principal of these letters, that to John of Jerusalem, and another to Simplicianus of Milan, are extant. I do not quote them as no one can doubt the decided way in which the popes of that day gave their decisions, and the view they held as to their prerogatives. If St. Jerome, who had once composed similar letters for St. Damasus, had come to disbelieve in the Papal supremacy, he was not a man to hold his tongue; and though the letters were in his favor, he would have protested against the insolent assumption of authority which they implied with that frankness which loves to call a spade by a more forcible name.

Rufinus had also translated an apology for Origen under the name of St. Pamphilus, the friend of Eusebius. St. Jerome denied its authenticity:

"Know that the Roman faith, praised by the voice of the Apostle, does not accept these strategems [viz. a heretical treatise under the name of a martyr]. Even though an angel [not merely a martyr] should announce another gospel than that once preached, know that, relying on the text of St. Paul (Gal 1:8), it would not be altered. Wherefore, brother, whether the book was forged by yourself (as many believe) or by another, and you were so rash as to believe the composition of a heretic to be by a martyr, at all events change the title of the book, and deliver Roman simplicity from so great a peril." (C. Ruf III, 12, 542[487])

"I wonder how Italy can have approved what Rome has despised, and how bishops can have accepted what the Apostolic See condemned." (C. Ruf III, 15, 545[489])

Rufinus accused St. Jerome of having forged the letter of St. Anastasius which condemned him. "Why," says the holy doctor, "don't you go and ask for it in the Roman chartarium?"

"You should go to Rome, and cross-examine Anastasius face to face, why it is he has insulted you, being innocent and absent; first, in that he would not receive the exposition of your faith, which all Italy, according to you, had approved, and that he would not use your letter 'as a stick to beat your dogs'; next that he sent letters against you to the East, and branded you with the stigma of heresy without your knowledge, and declared that the [Greek words] of Origen had been translated by you and given to the 'simple' Roman Church, in order that by your means they might lose that truth of the faith which they had learned from the Apostles....It is no light matter which the Pontiff of so great a city lays on your shoulders...." (C. Ruf III, 20, 549[493])

"You bring up the letter of Siricius, already asleep in the Lord, and you despise the words of the living Anastasius. For you say, What can that harm you which he wrote or did not write in your absence? And again, if he wrote it, 'the testimony of the whole world suffices you, in that it appears credible to no one that the bishop of so great a see could do injury either to an innocent or to an absent man.' You call yourself innocent, when Rome trembled at your translation? Absent, because you dared not answer the charges against you? And so anxious are you to fly from the judgment of the city of Rome that you can easier endure a siege by barbarians in Aquileia than the sentence of a peaceful city. Suppose it true that I forged the letter of last year. Who sent the recent writings against you to the East? In these Pope Anastasius pays you such compliments that when you have read them you will begin rather to defend yourself than to attack me." (C. Ruf III, 21, 550[494])

"If you can produce even a short note against me by the Bishop of Rome or any other Church, I will confess that all the crimes you are charged with were my own!" (C. Ruf III, 22, 552[495])

"Because you had a letter from Siricius, was not Anastasius allowed to write against you? O what a wealthy ship, which came to enrich the poverty of Rome with Oriental and Egyptian merchandise! 'You are that Maximus who restores the commonwealth by -- writing!' Alexandria [i.e. Origen] has taught you what Rome was ignorant of; Egypt has enriched you with what Rome had not!" (C. Ruf III, 24, 553[496]; 29, 558[501])

Enough of quotations from this witty and unkind book, which is hardly calculated to restore that faith and friendship which Rufinus had betrayed. St. Jerome wrote a most fulsome letter to Theophilus of Alexandria to congratulate him on his paschal letter against the Origenists, using such language as this:

"The voice of your beatitude has resounded throughout the world, and whilst all the Churches of Christ rejoice, the devils cease to utter their poison....The priest Vincent who has just returned from Rome....continually repeats that Rome and almost all Italy has been freed by your letters on Christ's behalf."

He begs him to write to the Western bishops and to send him any synodal letters he may have composed, that he may be the bolder tanti Pontificis auctoritate firmatus. He himself has just written to the West, and he considers that it is a special Providence that Theophilus should have written to the Pope just at the same time (Ep 88 [al 71], 537[755], AD 400). St. Epiphanius also writes to St. Jerome in delight at what Theophilus had written to the whole world (Ep 91 [al 73]). St. Jerome turned these paschal letters into Latin, and speaks of them with effusion when sending one of them to SS. Pammachius and Marcella:

"Again I enrich you with Oriental merchandise, and in early spring I sent the wealth of Alexandria to Rome....Origen, who was banished from Alexandria by Demetrius, is driven from the whole world by Theophilus, the same, doubtless, to whom Luke addressed the Acts of the Apostles, whose name speaks of the love of God! Where is the heresy? ....It is smothered by his authority and eloquence."

"Pray, therefore, that what is approved of in Greek may not displease in Latin, and that what the whole East admired may be joyfully received in the bosom of Rome. May the Chair of Peter the Apostle confirm by its preaching that of the Chair of Mark the Evangelist. Though it is also noised abroad everywhere that Pope Anastasius, too, has with the same fervor, for he is of the same spirit, followed the skulking heretics to their lairs; and his letters tell us that what has been condemned in the East [viz. by Theophilus in a synod, and by the bishops assembled at the Encaenia at Jerusalem] has been condemned in the West as well." (Ep 97 [al 78], 581[790]; 583[792], AD 402)

St. Jerome and St. Augustine

A pleasanter quarrel to look back upon is the unfortunate misunderstanding between St. Jerome and St. Augustine, which the gentlemanly and Christian courtesy of the latter brought to a friendly termination, followed by sincere admiration on the part of the generous if excitable Jerome for the younger doctor. The respect shown by Jerome for the episcopal diginity of Augustine communionis meae episcopum, and the view of the former as to St. Peter's reprehension of St. Paul, has already been touched upon. It only remains to remark that upon one point they were quite agreed, that is, upon the pre-eminant dignity of St. Peter. St. Jerome on the one hand argues that St. Peter could not have been really corrected by St. Paul, for St. Peter was the true author of the decree of the Council of Jerusalem on which St. Paul's reproof reposed. After a long demonstration, he concludes:

"It is, therefore, doubtful to no one that the Apostle Peter was the first author of this decision, which he is now accused of transgressing." (Ep 112, 742[920], AD 404)

St. Augustine, on the other hand, does not deny this statement, but argues that

"Peter gave a rarer and holier example to posterity that men should not disdain to be corrected by their inferiors (a posterioribus) than did Paul, that the lesser should resist the greater for the defense of evangelical truth, saving fraternal charity." (Ep 116, 774[947], AD 405)

Here are a few scattered quotations. In 403 he again praises the devotion of the Roman people: "The gilded Capitol is unswept; all the temples of Rome are covered with soot and cobwebs. The city is moved on her foundations, and a deluge of people pour past the decaying temples to the tombs of the martyrs." (Ep 107 [al 7], p. 678[868]) Also writing in 406 against Vigilantius, St. Jerome mentions how Jovinian had been condemned "by the authority of the Roman Church" (C. Vigil I, vol II, 387[355]).

In the commentary on Isaias, AD 411

"This house (Is 2:1) is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, who are themselves mountains, as imitators of Christ....Wherefore upon one of these mountains Christ founds the Church, and says to Peter, 'Thou art Peter," etc (Commentary on Isaias, vol IV, 31[44])

He speaks of St. Peter and St. Paul as duo apostolorum principes (ibid, c. 54, p. 627[535]), elsewhere as ecclesiarum principes (cf. also Ad Gal vol VII, 372[336]). But more often St. Peter alone is princeps apostolorum (ibid, 373[335], De uiris illustr c. i. in Isai, ut supra, 609[521], etc), e.g. in the dialogue against the Pelagians, one of St. Jerome's very last writings, AD 415:

"As Plato was prince of philosophers, so is Peter of the Apostles upon whom the Church is founded in massive solidity, which is shaken by no surge of floods nor any storm." (Dialogue Against Pelagians I, 14, vol II, 707[529], cf. in the preface, 695[519], St. Jerome again speaks of Romana fides)

In the year 412 St. Jerome wrote a panegyric of St. Marcella, addressed to her daughter Principia:

"From priests of Alexandria and from Pope Athanasius, and afterwards from Peter, who to avoid the persecution of the Arians had fled to Rome, as to the safest port of their communion, St. Marcella had learned the life of St. Antony, then still living, and the discipline of the monasteries in the Thebaid of Pachomius, and of virgins and widows." (Ep 127 [al 16], 954[1089])

She made of Rome a very Jerusalem, says St. Jerome, He then recounts her services in fighting the Origenists, and in frightening Rufinus out of Rome:

"In this tranquility and service of the Lord the storm of heresies which arose in these provinces turned all upside down, and grew to such violence that it spared neither itself nor any good person. And, as if it were a light thing to disturb all here, it carried a ship full of blasphemies into the port of Rome. And the dish soon found a cover to fit it, and muddy footsteps defiled the pure fountain of Roman faith. What wonder if in the streets or market a mountebank plays his shameless and silly tricks, if this poisonous and filthy doctrine could find at Rome people to follow it. Then was the ill famed translation of [Greek]; then the disciple who would have deserved his name of Macarius had he never fallen in with such a master. The opposition to our friends was broken up, and the school of the Pharisees was upset. [15] The holy Marcella, who had long restrained herself lest she should seem to act out of rivalry, when she saw that faith praised by the Apostle was violated in very many, so that even priests and some of the monks, and especially men of the world, were being drawn to agree, and that the simplicity of the bishop (Siricius) was being played upon, who valued others at the rate of his own goodness, Marcella, I say, publicly resisted it, preferring to please God rather than men." (Ep 127, c. ix, 957[1092])

"Not long afterwards the illustrious Anastasius succeeded to the Pontificate. Rome did not merit to possess him long, lest the world's head should be severed under such a bishop [when Alaric took Rome, AD 410]. Nay, he was taken away, lest he should essay by his prayers to bend the sentence once decided, as the Lord said to Jeremias: 'Pray not for this people.' ... You say, what has this to do with the illustrious Marcella? She was the cause of the heretic's condemnation, by producing witnesses'..." (Ep 127, c. x, 958[1093])

In 414, being then nearly seventy years of age, St. Jerome wrote to Demetrias the often-quoted passage, which I cannot omit:

"I had nearly left out what is most important. When you were a child, and Bishop Anastasius of holy memory ruled the Roman Church, a fierce storm of (Origenist) heretics from the East tried to sully and destroy the simplicity of faith which was praised by the mouth of the Apostle. But that man of richest poverty and Apostolic solicitude straightway smote the noxious head and stopped the mouth of the hissing hydra. And because I am afraid, nay, I have heard the rumor, that these poisonous shoots are still alive and vigorous in some, I feel that I ought with the deepest affection to give you this advice, to hold the faith of holy Innocent, who is the successor and son of that man, and of the Apostolic See, and not to receive any foreign doctrine, however prudent and clever you may think yourself to be." (Ep 130 [al 8], 992[1120])

Jerome Loyal to Rome to the End

In the forty years since he wrote to St. Damasus, St. Jerome's views do not seem to have changed. He was the protege of Damasus; we have just heard him praise the next Pope Siricius, and extol still higher his successor Anastasius; now St. Innocent is the representative of the faith taught by Peter and praised by Paul.

It is doubtless the Pelagians who are referred to in the above quotation. Three years later they stormed the monasteries of St. Jerome and St. Eustochium, and the old man only escaped their hands by shutting himself up in a tower. The Pope wrote a very strong letter (Ep 137) to John of Jerusalem, whom he suspected of worse than negligence in not preventing this outrage, remonstrating as his superior and threatening him with ecclesiastical law. He wrote also to console St. Jerome (Ep 136), saying that he would have "seized the authority of the Apostolic See to restrain all wickedness," had he known the names of the offenders.

"But if you will depose an open and plain accusation against certain persons, I will either appoint competent judges, or, if anything else more urgent or more careful can be done by us, I shall not be behindhand, beloved son."

Such is the affection of St. Innocent for the aged saint, who is supposed to have been openly crying "no Popery." Nor did St. Jerome, any more than St. Augustine or St. Aurelius, the age primate of Carthage (to whom these two letters were sent by St. Innocent as an enclosure, to be sent on to St. Jerome) protest against this assumption of lecturing and threatening an Eastern bishop and of instituting a court of inquiry into his action in his diocese. Yet such procedure goes far beyond the warrant of the Sardican canons. Such was the protection asked for by St. Jerome's pupils, Eustochium and Paula the younger, and apparently by St. Jerome himself, for "tuus gemitus" in the Pope's letter implies that he had written.

The aged saint's life was drawing to a close; in 420 he died, worn out by troubles and old age. We have seen his relations with four successive popes, and a love of Rome and a tenacity of Roman faith which was as fresh at the end of his life as when he received the garment of Christ in the Lateran baptistery.


ENDNOTES

(some of the longer technical notes have been edited for brevity or included above)

[1] Tablet, Feb 28th, 1880. Catholic Controversy, by H.I.D. Ryder, 1884, p. 21-25. Littledale, Plain Reasons Against Joining the Church of Rome, SPCK, 3rd ed, p. 242-244. Words for Truth, 1886, p. 31. [2] Gore, Roman Catholic Claims, 3rd ed 1890, p. 116. The Church and the Ministry, 2nd ed, p. 173. Authority, by Luke Rivington, 5th ed, p. 113-117. [3] T.T. Carter, The Roman Question. Dr. Rivington quotes p. 23, but in the 2nd ed. 1890 I can find nothing of the kind, so perhaps the author omitted the passage. But he still quotes Gore on p. 87. [4] Vaughan, Ten Lectures delivered in Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 1896, p. 24-27 and 258-264. [5] W. Bright, Roman See in the Early Church,  p. 106, note. [6] St. Jerome, Ep. 97. [7] C. Jovin. PL 23, vol II, 279[258] written AD 393. The dates are those of Vallarsi, whose pages are given, with those of Migne in brackets. [8] Ep. 146 ad Evangelum, vol I, 1081[1193]. I will not discuss the date. [9] The passage: De Cath eccl unitate 4, was doubtless in St. Jerome's mind. It is noticeable that St. Jerome does not understand St. Cyprian's words, as Anglicans do, to deny the primacy of St. Peter! [10] See Vallarsi's note there, and cf. Comm in Soph, c. iii vol VI, 721 (I,443) AD 392. Sacerdotes quoque, qui dant baptismum et ad Eucharistiam Domini imprecantur aduentum; faciunt oleum christmatis; manus imponunt; catechumenos erudiunt; leuitas et alios constituunt sacerdotes, etc. [11] Ambrosiaster, Quaestiones ex utroque mixtim, 101, inter opp St. Augustini, vol III, app Souter's ed. (CSEL, vol 50, p. 194). The passage should be read entire. [12] The printed texts of Ambrosiaster, when I wrote this article in 1897, had nomen Falcidii, but the right reading is nomen falsi dei, and Prof C.H. Turner has shown that the reference is to a Roman deacon under Damasus, whose name was Mercurius. He seems to have written his book under the pseudonym of Urbicus. [13] Urbicus is evidently the same as Mercurius; thus his book is refuted by Augustine as well as by Jerome and Ambrosiaster. [14] When I wrote in 1897, this holiday of obligation was still kept in Rome. But the new Canon Law has abolished it. [15] Apparently Roman clerics, as in preface to Didymus De Sp S., who had till then been detractors of St. Jerome.


See also Rome has Spoken; the Case is Closed by Dom John Chapman

also St. Cyprian on the Church and the Papacy by Dom John Chapman

also St. Athanasius, Arianism, and the Holy See by Dom John Chapman

also St. John Chrysostom on the Apostle Peter by Dom John Chapman


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