- As negotiations held at Rome in October 313 had failed to settle the dispute between the Catholics and the Donatists, the emperor Constantine summoned the first general council of his western half of the empire to meet at Arles by the 1st of August following.
Honorius was equally severe on heretics, such as the Donatists and Manichaeans.
On the other hand, sanctity of life on the part of the minister is not necessary in order to the validity of the sacraments which he confers, although this was held to be the case by the Donatists in the 4th century, and following them by the Waldensians and Albigenses in the 12th, and by the followers of Hus and Wycliffe in the 14th.
An article by him on the Donatist schism appearing in the Dublin Review in July 1839 made a great impression in Oxford, Newman and others seeing the force of the analogy between Donatists and Anglicans.
DONATISTS, a powerful sect which arose in the Christian church of northern Africa at the beginning of the 4th century.'
The number of referees was afterwards increased to twenty, and the case was tried at Rome in 313.2 Ten bishops appeared on each side, the leading representative of the Donatists being Donatus of Casae Nigrae.
The Donatists themselves repudiated the designation, which was applied to them by their opponents as a reproach.
Persistent Donatists were no longer merely heretics; they were rebels and incurred the confiscation of their church property and the forfeiture of their civil rights.
Force was met with force; the Circumcelliones, bands of fugitive slaves and vagrant (circum cellas) peasants, attached themselves to the Donatists, and their violence reached such a height as to threaten civil war.
In 321 Constantine, seeing probably that he had been wrong in abandoning his usual policy of toleration, sought to retrace his steps by granting the Donatists liberty to act according to their consciences, and declaring that the points in dispute between them and the orthodox should be left to the judgment of God.
The power which they had been the first to invoke having thus declared so emphatically and persistently against them, the Donatists revived the old world-alien Christianity of the days of persecution, and repeated Tertullian's question, "What has the emperor to do with the church ?"
In 405 an edict was issued by the emperor Honorius commanding the Donatists, under the severest penalties, to return to the Catholic church.
His influence in Oxford was supreme about the year 1839, when, however, his study of the monophysite heresy first raised in his mind a doubt as to whether the Anglican position was really tenable on those principles of ecclesiastical authority which he had accepted; and this doubt returned when he read, in Wiseman's article in the Dublin Review on "The Anglican Claim," the words of St Augustine against the Donatists, "secures judicat orbis terrarum," words which suggested a simpler authoritative rule than that of the teaching of antiquity.
On the other hand, Augustine, bishop of Hippo, after several years' negotiation, arranged a great conference between the Donatists and the orthodox, which was held under the authority of the emperor at Carthage in 411.
Before entering on the proceedings the Catholics pledged themselves, if defeated, to give up their sees, while in the other event they promised to recognize the Donatists as bishops on their simply declaring their adherence to the Catholic church.