About this period Liberius died, and Damasus succeeded to the see of Rome. A deacon named Ursicius, who had obtained some votes in his favor, but could not endure the defeat, therefore caused himself to be clandestinely ordained by some bishops of little note, and endeavored to create a division among the people and to hold a separate church. He succeeded in effecting this division, and some of the people respected him as bishop, while the rest adhered to Damasus. This gave rise to much contention and revolt among the people, which at length proceeded to the evil of wounds and murder. The prefect of Rome was obliged to interfere, and to punish many of the people and of the clergy; and he put an end to the attempt of Ursicius.
With respect to doctrine, however, no dissension arose either at Rome or in any other of the Western churches. The people unanimously adhered to the form of belief established at Nicæa, and regarded the three persons of the Trinity as equal in dignity and in power.
Auxentius and his followers differed from the others in opinion; he was then president of the church in Milan, and, in conjunction with a few partisans, was intent upon the introduction of innovations, and the maintenance of the Arian dogma of the dissimilarity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, according to the inquiry which had last sprung up, in opposition to the unanimous agreement of the Western priests. The bishops of Gaul and of Venetia having reported that similar attempts to disturb the peace of the Church were being made by others among them, the bishops of several provinces assembled not long after at Rome, and decreed that Auxentius and those who held his sentiments should be aliens from their communion. They confirmed the traditional faith established by the council of Nicæa, and annulled all the decrees that had been issued at Ariminum contrary to that faith, under the plea that these decrees had not received the assent of the bishop of Rome, nor of other bishops who agreed with them, and that many who had been present at the Synod, had disapproved of the enactments there made by them. That such was the decision really formed by the Synod is testified by the epistle addressed by Damasus, the Roman bishop, and the rest of the assembly, to the bishops of Illyria. It is as follows: --
|Damasus, Valerius, and the other bishops of the holy assembly convened at Rome to the dearly beloved brethren settled in Illyria, greeting in the Lord.
|We believe that you uphold and teach to the people our holy faith, which is founded on the doctrine of the apostles. This faith differs in no respect from that defined by the Fathers; neither is it allowable for the priests of God, whose right it is to instruct the wise, to have any other thought. We have, however, been informed by some of our brethren of Gaul and of Venice, that certain individuals are bent upon the introduction of heresy.
|All bishops should diligently guard against this evil, lest some of their flock should be led by inexperience, and others by simplicity, to oppose the proper interpretations.
|Those who devise strange doctrines ought not to be followed; but the opinions of our fathers ought to be retained, whatever may be the diversity of judgment around us.
|Hence Auxentius, bishop of Milan, has been publicly declared to be condemned pre-eminently in this matter. It is right, therefore, that all the teachers of the Roman world should be of one mind, and not pollute the faith by divers conflicting doctrines.
|For when the malice of the heretics first began to mature itself, as the blasphemy of the Arians has even now done, -- may it be far from us, -- our fathers to the number of three hundred and eighteen elect, after making an investigation in Nicæa, erected the wall against the weapons of the devil, and repelled the deadly poison by this antidote.
|This antidote consists in the belief, that the Father and the Son have one Godhead, one virtue, and one substance (chrema). It is also requisite to believe that the Holy Ghost is of the same hypostasis. We have decreed that those who hold any other doctrines are to be aliens from our communion.
|Some have decreed to discolor this saving definition and adorable view; but in the very beginning, some of the persons who made the innovation at the council of Ariminum, or who were compelled to vote for the change, have since, in some measure, made amends by confessing that they were deceived by certain specious arguments, which did not appear to them to be contrary to the principles laid down by our fathers at Nicæa. The number of individuals congregated at the council of Ariminum proves nothing in prejudice of orthodox doctrines; for the council was held without the sanction of the bishops at Rome, whose opinion, before that of all others, ought to have been received, and without the assent either of Vincentius, who during a very long series of years guarded the episcopate without spot, or of many other bishops who agreed with those last mentioned.
|Besides, as has been before stated, those very persons who seemed inclined to something illusory, testified their disapprobation of their own proceedings as soon as they made use of a better judgment. Therefore your purity must see that this alone is the faith which was established at Nicæa upon the authority of the apostles, and which must ever be retained inviolate, and that all bishops, whether of the East, or of the West, who profess the Catholic religion, ought to consider it an honor to be in communion with us. We believe that it will not be long before those who maintain other sentiments will be excluded from communion, and deprived of the name and dignity of bishop; so that the people who are now oppressed by the yoke of those pernicious and deceitful principles, may have liberty to breathe. For it is not in the power of these bishops to rectify the error of the people, inasmuch as they are themselves held by error. Let, therefore, the opinion of your honor also be in accord with all the priests of God, in which we believe you to be holy and firm. That we ought so to believe along with you will be proved by the exchange of letters with your love.|