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Donatism was a Christian
sect A sect is a subgroup of a religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Diff ...
leading to a
schism A schism ( , , or, less commonly, ) is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, s ...
in the Church, in the region of the
Church of Carthage The Archdiocese of Carthage, also known as the Church of Carthage, was a Latin Catholic diocese established in Carthage, Roman Empire, in the 2nd century. Agrippin was the first named bishop, around 230 AD. The temporal importance of the city of ...
, from the fourth to the sixth centuries. Donatists argued that
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koi ...

Christian
clergy must be faultless for their ministry to be effective and their prayers and
sacrament A sacrament is a Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ...
s to be valid. Donatism had its roots in the long-established Christian community of the
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Roman
Africa province Africa Proconsularis was a Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and ...
(present-day
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Tunisia
, the northeast of
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , religion = , official_languages = , languages_type = Oth ...

Algeria
, and the western coast of
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to Egypt–Libya border, th ...

Libya
) in the persecutions of Christians under Diocletian. Named after the Berber Christian bishop
Donatus Magnus Donatus Magnus, also known as Donatus of Casae Nigrae, became leader of a Schism (religion), schismatic sect known as the Donatism, Donatists in North Africa. He is believed to have died in exile around 355. Life Little is known of his early life ...
, Donatism flourished during the fourth and fifth centuries.


Origin and controversy

The Roman governor of North Africa, lenient to the large Christian minority under his rule throughout the Diocletianic Persecutions, was satisfied when Christians handed over their
scripture Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of ...
s as a token repudiation of faith. When the persecution ended, Christians who did so were called '' traditores''—"those who handed (the holy things) over"—by their critics (who were mainly from the poorer classes). Like third-century
Novatianism Novatianism was an Early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a ...
, the Donatists were
rigorists In Catholic moral theology, probabilism provides a way of answering the question about what to do when one does not know what to do. Probabilism proposes that one can follow an authoritative opinion regarding whether an act may be performed morall ...
; the church must be a church of "saints" (not "sinners"), and sacraments administered by ''traditores'' were invalid. In 311
Caecilian Caecilians (; New Latin New Latin (also called Neo-Latin or modern Latin) is the revival of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...
(a new bishop of Carthage) was consecrated by Felix of Aptungi, an alleged ''traditor''. His opponents consecrated Majorinus, a short-lived rival who was succeeded by Donatus.Chapman, John. "Donatists." The Catholic Encyclopedia
Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 15 March 2021
Two years later, a commission appointed by Pope Miltiades condemned the Donatists. They persisted, seeing themselves as the true Church with valid sacraments. Because of their association with the Circumcellions, the Donatists were repressed by Roman authorities. Although they had local support, their opponents were supported by Rome and by the rest of the Catholic Church. The Donatists were still a force during the lifetime of Augustine of Hippo, and disappeared only after the seventh- and eighth-century Muslim conquest of the Maghreb, Muslim conquest.. The Donatists refused to accept the sacraments and apostolic succession, spiritual authority of priests and bishops who were ''traditores'' during the persecution. The ''traditores'' had returned to positions of authority under Constantine I; according to the Donatists, sacraments administered by the ''traditores'' were invalid. Whether the sacrament of Penance could reconcile a ''traditor'' to full communion was questioned, and the church's position was that the sacrament could. The church still imposed years- (sometimes decades-) long public penance for serious sins. A penitent would first beg for the prayers of those entering a church from outside its doors. They would next be permitted to kneel inside the church during the Divine Liturgy, Liturgy. After being allowed to stand with the congregation, the penitent would finally be allowed to receive the Eucharist again. According to Donatists, apostasy would permanently disqualify a man from church leadership. The validity of sacraments administered by priests and bishops who had been ''traditores'' was denied by the Donatists. According to Augustine, a sacrament was from God and ''ex opere operato'' (Latin for "from the work carried out”). A priest or bishop in a state of mortal sin could continue to administer valid sacraments. The Donatists believed that a repentant apostate priest could no longer consecrate the Eucharist. Some towns had both Donatist and Catholic congregations.


Impact

The sect developed and grew in North Africa, with unrest and threatened riots in Carthage connected to the bishop controversy. Constantine, hoping to defuse the unrest, gave money to the non-Donatist bishop
Caecilian Caecilians (; New Latin New Latin (also called Neo-Latin or modern Latin) is the revival of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...
as payment for churches damaged or confiscated during the persecution. Nothing was given to the Donatists; Constantine was apparently not fully aware of the seriousness of the dispute, which his gift exacerbated. The Donatists appealed to Rome for equal treatment; Constantine tasked Miltiades with resolving the issue, which led to the 313 commission. The Donatists refused to abide by the decision of the Roman council, demanding that a local council adjudicate the dispute and appealing directly to Constantine. In a surviving letter, a frustrated Constantine called for what became the Synod of Arles (314), first Council of Arles in 314. The council ruled against the Donatists, who again appealed to Constantine. The emperor ordered all parties to Rome for a hearing, ruled in favor of Caecilian and warned against unrest. A delegation from Rome traveled to Carthage in a vain attempt to seek compromise. The Donatists fomented protests and street violence, refusing to compromise in favor of the Catholic bishop. After the Constantinian shift, when other Christians accepted the emperor's decision, the Donatists continued to demonize him. After several attempts at reconciliation, in 317 Constantine issued an edict threatening capital punishment, death to anyone who disturbed the imperial peace; another edict followed, calling for the confiscation of all Donatist church property. Donatus refused to surrender his buildings in Carthage, and the local Roman governor sent troops to deal with him and his followers. Although the historical record is unclear, some Donatists were apparently killed and their clergy exiled. Outside Carthage, Donatist churches and clergy were undisturbed. Constantine's efforts to unite the church and the Donatists failed, and by 321 he asked the bishops to show moderation and patience to the sect in an open letter. During the brief reign of Julian the Apostate, Julian, the Donatists were revitalized and, due to imperial protection, occupied churches and carried out atrocities. Laws against the Donatists were decreed by Valentinian I after the defeat of the Donatist Roman usurper, usurper Firmus (4th-century usurper), Firmus in North Africa.


Opposition

Augustine of Hippo campaigned against Donatism as bishop; through his efforts, orthodoxy gained the upper hand. According to Augustine and the church, the validity of sacraments was a property of the priesthood independent of individual character. Influenced by the Old Testament, he believed in discipline as a means of education. In his letter to Vincentius, Augustine used the New Testament Parable of the Great Banquet to justify using force against the Donatists: "You are of opinion that no one should be compelled to follow righteousness; and yet you read that the householder said to his servants, 'Whomsoever ye shall find, compel them to come in. Marcellinus of Carthage, Emperor Honorius (emperor), Honorius's secretary of state, condemned with decree the Donatists as Heresy#Christianity, heretical and demanded that they surrender their churches in 409. This was made possible by a ''collatio'' in which St. Augustine legally proved that Constantine had chosen the church over the Donatists as the imperial church. The Donatists were persecuted by the Roman authorities to such a degree that Augustine protested their treatment. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) taught that in the divine sacrifice of the Mass in the Catholic Church#Communion rite, Holy Mass "is contained and immolated, in an unbloody manner, the same Christ that offered Himself in a bloody manner upon the Altar#antiquity, altar of the Cross. Hence, it is the same victim, the same sacrificing-priest who offers Himself now through the ministry of priests and who once offers Himself upon the Cross". The worth of the sacrifice does not depend by the celebrating priest (or bishop), but on the "worth of the victim and on the dignity of the ''High Priest of Israel#n Christianity, chief priest''- no other than Jesus Christ Himself"


Decline

The effects of Augustine's theological success and the emperor's legal action were somewhat reversed when the Vandals conquered North Africa. Donatism may have also gradually declined because Donatists and orthodox Catholics were equally marginalised by the Arian Vandals, but it survived the Vandal occupation and Justinian I's Byzantine Empire, Byzantine reconquest. Although it is unknown how long Donatism persisted, some Christian historians believe that the schism and its ensuing unrest in the Christian community facilitated the seventh-century Muslim conquest of the Maghreb, Muslim conquest of the region.


Related groups and individuals

Donatism is associated with a number of other groups, including:


Some non-gnostic Donatist groups

*The Rogatists were a pacifist breakaway faction who rejected the excesses of the Circumcellions and Donatists. *The Claudianists, who (with the Urbanists) were reconciled to the Donatists by Donatist Bishop Primian of Carthage *Ticonius was an influential thinker who was expelled by the Donatists for his rejection of rebaptism *Followers of Maximian (Bishop of Carthage), Maximian, who broke away from Donatism


Other Donatist groups influenced from some other precedent gnostic sects

*The Circumcellions, a name based on ''circum cellas euntes'' ("going around larders") because of their practice of living among the peasants they sought to indoctrinate. They were a disparate series of extremist groups who regarded martyrdom as the supreme Christian virtue (disagreeing with the Episcopal see of Carthage on the primacy of chastity, sobriety, humility, and Charity (virtue), charity). Attracted by their extremism, some Donatists found them useful allies. It is very likely that this breakaway group's condemnation of property and slavery, and advocation of free love, canceling debt, and freeing slaves derived from Carpocrates' Doctrine of libertinage, the refusal of marriage, the abolition of social castes and the communion of goods. *Apostolic churches, a sect emulating the Apostles about which little is known. But it is very plausible that they were influenced from precedent gnostic Apotactics.


The other Donatist groups

In Mauretania and Numidia, the splinter groups were so numerous that the Donatists could not name them all.


Bishops

The Donatists followed a succession of bishops: * Majorinus (311–313) *
Donatus Magnus Donatus Magnus, also known as Donatus of Casae Nigrae, became leader of a Schism (religion), schismatic sect known as the Donatism, Donatists in North Africa. He is believed to have died in exile around 355. Life Little is known of his early life ...
(313–355; exiled 347) * Parmenian (355–391) * Primian of Carthage, Primian (391–393) * Maximian (Bishop of Carthage), Maximianus (393–394) * Primian (394–c. 400)


Later influence

* Early Kharijites, a strict sect of Islam in the same Berber region.


Epithet

For several centuries during the High Middle Ages and the Reformation, accusations of Donatism were leveled against church-reform movements which criticized clerical immorality on theological grounds. The early reformers John Wycliffe and Jan Hus were accused of Donatism by their theological opponents. Wycliffe taught that the moral corruption of priests invalidated their offices and sacraments, a belief characterizing Donatism. Hus similarly argued that a prelate's moral character determined his ecclesiastical authority, a position his contemporaries compared to Donatism and condemned as heresy at the Council of Constance. During the Reformation, Catholic Counter-Reformation, Counter-Reformers such as Johann Eck accused the Magisterial Reformation, magisterial Reformers of Donatism (although the latter had partially distanced themselves from Wycliffe's theology to avoid such a charge).. Magisterial Reformers like Ulrich Zwingli labeled radical Reformation, radical Reformers, such as the Anabaptism, Anabaptists, as Donatists; Catholics were portrayed in Reformation rhetoric as Pelagianism, Pelagian, another early Christian heresy. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the Bezpopovtsy (priestless) strain of Old Believers believed that because the Russian bishops acquiesced to Patriarch Nikon's reforms they (and the other patriarchs) forfeited any claim to apostolic succession. Accusations of Donatism remain common in contemporary intra-Christian polemics. Conservative Lutheranism, Lutherans are sometimes called Donatists by their liberal brethren, referring to their doctrine of church fellowship and their position that churches which deny that Jesus’ body and blood are eaten during the Eucharist do not celebrate a valid Lord's Supper..


See also

* State church of the Roman Empire * Meletius of Lycopolis * Great Apostasy *
Novatianism Novatianism was an Early Christian The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a ...
* Maximian of Bagai


Notes


References


Sources

* * * . * . * * . * .


Further reading

*. *. * . * . *. *. * . * . * . * . * .


External links

* , a list of primary and secondary sources on the Donatists. * , written by a Donatist leader. * - new analysis of the textual, epigraphic and archaeological record. * . {{Beliefs condemned by the Catholic Church Donatism, 4th-century establishments in the Roman Empire Schisms in Christianity 4th-century Christianity 5th-century Christianity Christian denominations established in the 4th century 6th-century disestablishments Christian terminology Diocletianic Persecution