Saint Firmilian is a pre-schism saint venerated by the Orthodox on October 28th. Perhaps the highlight of his long life was his leadership after Saint Dionysus of Alexandria’s death against the heresies of Paul of Samosata. This saint clearly did not even remotely conceive of the Vatican I doctrinal distinctives which the Roman Catholic Church has taught have been, for all time, the understanding of the Church. In fact, if the ideas that communion with the Pope prevents schism and that the Pope does not require consent in making dogmatic decrees were even implicitly understood in the third century, the following statements against a Pope (who himself is also a canonized saint) are unthinkable.
As follows are quotations from Saint Firmilian, writing to Saint Cyprian, about correspondence with Pope Saint Stephen I, pertaining to the issue of rebaptism.
Stephen has not done anything deserving of kindness and thanks. For neither can Judas be thought worthy by his perfidy and treachery wherewith he wickedly dealt concerning the Saviour (74:2)
oncerning the celebration of Easter, and concerning many other sacraments of divine matters, he may see that there are some diversities among them, and that all things are not observed among them alike, which are observed at Jerusalem, just as in very many other provinces also many things are varied because of the difference of the places and names. And yet on this account there is no departure at all from the peace and unity of the Catholic Church, such as Stephen has now dared to make (74:6).
[T]he foundation of the one Church which was once based by Christ upon the rock, may be perceived from this, that Christ said to Peter alone,
Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19 And again, in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the apostles alone, saying,
Receive the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins you remit they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins you retain they are retained. Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ordination. But the enemies of the one Catholic Church in which we are, and the adversaries of us who have succeeded the apostles, asserting for themselves, in opposition to us, unlawful priesthoods, and setting up profane altars [i.e. parallel churches] (74:16).
I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid, should introduce many other rocks and establish new buildings of many churches; maintaining that there is baptism in them by his authority…Nor does he understand that the truth of the Christian Rock is overshadowed, and in some measure abolished, by him when he thus betrays and deserts unity. (74:17).
And this indeed you Africans are able to say against Stephen, that when you knew the truth you forsook the error of custom. But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans’ custom we oppose custom, but the custom of truth; holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the apostles (74:19).
[I]ndeed you [Stephen] are worse than all heretics. For when many, as soon as their error is known, come over to you from them that they may receive the true light of the Church, you assist the errors of those who come, and, obscuring the light of ecclesiastical truth, you heap up the darkness of the heretical night…their souls will be required at your hands when the day of judgment shall come, for having denied to the thirsting the drink of the Church (74:23).
[W]hat strifes and dissensions have you stirred up throughout the churches of the whole world! Moreover, how great sin have you heaped up for yourself, when you cut yourself off from so many flocks! For it is yourself that you have cut off. Do not deceive yourself, since he is really the schismatic who has made himself an apostate from the communion of ecclesiastical unity (74:24).
[W]hat is more lowly or meek than to have disagreed with so many bishops throughout the whole world, breaking peace with each one of them in various kinds of discord: at one time with the eastern churches, as we are sure you know; at another time with yon who are in the south, from whom he received bishops as messengers sufficiently patiently and meekly not to receive them even to the speech of an ordinary conference…This is to have kept the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to cut himself off from the unity of love, and to make himself a stranger in all respects from his brethren, and to rebel against the sacrament and the faith with the madness of contumacious discord (74:25)!
But as far as he is concerned, let us leave him [be]…(74:26).
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