19 Jul


On “20th July, one of the saints remembered by the Church is St Aurelius. In the late fourth century he was ordained Bishop of Carthage, which today is in Tunisia. At that time there were two heresies which needed to be countered and St Aurelius played a significant part in promulgating what was true Catholic teaching. These heresies, and then Catholic teaching, are summarised below:


The first heresy was Donatism. This heresy had implications both for the sacrament of confession and the other sacraments in general. Donatists believed that the sacrament of confession could not reconcile certain sinners back into full communion with the Church. This was in the context of certain clerics having previously gone against the Church during times of persecution. The Donatists had a rigorist position against them returning to the Church. The other belief of the Donatists which needed to be countered was their insistence that by sinful acts priests made themselves unable to celebrate valid sacraments. St Aurelius proclaimed the truth of the Catholic Faith that the sacrament of confession was precisely for everyone who repented and that there was a way back to full communion with the Church.

Also that the validity of any sacrament depended on the holiness of God, the priest being a mere instrument of God’s work. So any priest, even one in a state of sin, who speaks the formula of the sacrament with valid matter, as laid down by the Church, and with the intent of causing the sacrament to occur, acts validly. For example, a Catholic who receives the Eucharist from the hands of a priest, even if he has sinned, still receives Christ’s Body and Blood, their own sacramental life being undamaged by the priest’s sins.


The other heresy to be countered was that of Pelagianism. This taught that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will was still capable of choosing good or evil without God’s help. Human will alone was sufficient to live a sinless life and that human beings can earn their own salvation by their own efforts.

The Council of Carthage at that time corrected these errors. The statements include the teaching that death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin; newborn babies must be baptised on account of original sin; justifying grace not only avails for the forgiveness of past sins, but also gives assistance for the avoidance of future sins; without God’s grace it is not merely more difficult, but impossible to perform good works; not out of humility, but in truth we must confess ourselves to be sinners.

St Aurelius became a good friend of St Augustine of Hippo and the two of them, in writing and spoken word, actively confronted the teachings and tactics of these heretics. St Aurelius died in the year 430.”

From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”/2015


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