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Churches of the East, the deputation of Træneus to Rome, and his subsequent correspondence with the Pope, are all circumstances which go decidedly to shew us, that the Bishop of that City was then considered, both in the East and the West, as competent to judge and to punish, by ecclesiastical censures, the errors of those, who might any where presume to stray, either from the established faith, or from the general disci. pline of the Church.
I remain, &c.
Bath, Nov. 7, 1813.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Did not Cyprian resist Pope Stephen?
The disputes which existed between St. Cyprian and St. Stephen, are events, in the denial, or in the concealment of which no Catholic can feel any degree of particular interest. That such disputes did exist, is a fact which cannot be doubted; and it is painful to observe, that they were conducted, on both sides, with no inconsiderable degree of warmth ;-a circumstance, which adds another melancholy proof to the many already before us, of the extreme imperfection of human nature, even in the best and the most virtuous of characters.
The disputes in question, arose out of a custom which, for some years, had been prevalent in Africa, and for a still longer period of time in some provinces of the East, of repeating the Baptism of all those Sectaries which had separated from the communion of the Catholic Church. The ideas of St. Cyprian, and of those Churches which adhered to this custom, were founded, as it after. wards appeared, in error, and were in opposition to the usage of the far greater number of churches, ,
and to the general voice of tradition. St. Cyprian found the custom in question, established in Africa, at the time of his elevation to the See of Carthage; and his opinion of its lawfulness was, moreover, supported by the authority of two provincial, and of one national Couneils.
Under these circumstances, he was led to con. ceive, that resistance to the decisions of Rome, on this subject, was justifiable; and as no judgment of the Universal Church had yet been pronounced, and as tradition, on this head, was not every where the same, it is certain, that, on Catholic principles, he did not err against the integrity of Catholic faith. From his conduct, and from his proceedings, on this occasion, it may be inferred, that he did not admit the infallibility of the Pope; which is perfectly consistent with Catholic faith: but it cannot be inferred, that he rejected the belief of his supremacy.
If this be the conclusion of Mr. * * * * * * * I will refer him for more correct information to St. Cyprian himself. Speaking of some of the Sectaries of his own times, he says: They are bold enough to cross the seas, and to address themselves to the chair of St. Peter, and to that supreme Church, from which flows the unity of the priesthood.* Does not this go
Ep. 3. L. 1. Ed. Basil, ex officina Fioben, p. 14.
plainly to shew us, that the supremacy of the Roman See was acknowledged both by St. Cyprian, and even by other Societies of Christians, whose doctrines, on some other points, were at variance with those of the Catholic Church? Speaking on another occasion, to his own people, he says: There is one God, and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair, established by the voice of the Lord, on PETER. It is not in our power to erect another altar, or to establish a new priesthood. Whoever gathereth elsewhere, scattereth.* Writing to the very Pope Stephen, with whom he was so much at variance, on the subject of re-baptism, he says: Write letters into the province and to the people of Arles, in order that Marcianus being deposed, another (Bishop) may be substituted in his place.t
By what authority, now,I should be glad to be informed, does a Bishop in Africa, advise the foreign Bishop of Rome, to interfere in the concerns of a distant Church in Gaul, to depose, by his letters, a Bishop of that Church, and to have another appointed in his stead? And by what authority, again, I should be glad to be informed, does the Bishop of Rome thus interfere, without resistance from any quarter, unless we suppose, that both St. Cyprian, and the Bishops of Gaul, acknowledged the supremacy of Rome? Before I conclude this article, I will also take leave to observe, on the authority of St. Augustine, that had St. Cyprian lived long enough to have heard the decision of Nice, on this subject, there is no doubt but he would have resigned his erroneous opinions, respecting the point in dispute, and would liave conformed, as all the other mistaken Churches did, to the universal discipline, as well as the established faith of the Catholic Church.
* P. 35
+ P. 90.