Pope Zosimus and Pelagianism
Loraine Boettner, in the popular anti-Catholic work Roman Catholicism posits the following as a contradiction to papal infallibility:
"Zozimus (417-418) pronounced Pelagius an orthodox teacher, but later reversed his position at the insistence of Augustine." (page 248)
This example of so-called "papal error" was answered by Karl Keating in his Catholicism and Fundamentalism by pointing out that it was not an attempt to exercise infallibility with regard to faith or morals. It is a case of a Pope being better informed on the sincerity of heretics who pretended to be orthodox in order to escape condemnation and excommunication. As Dom John Chapman shows in great historical detail below, "the mistake of Pope Zosimus, and it was serious enough, was to believe Celestius [and Pelagius] to be sincere in [their] submission." There is no question that
Former Catholics turned Evangelical apologists Eric Svendsen and William Webster, who are generally weak in their history (compared to such scholars as Chapman), disagree and have tried to reply to Keating as follows:
"Keating, thinking that Zosimus declared a person orthodox and not a doctrine per se, does not see this as an 'attempted exercise of infallibility' (226). But Keating is misinformed: Zosimus did indeed declare a heretical teaching orthodox, for he made the declaration on the basis of the confession of faith that he received from both men! In spite of Keating's optimistic thinking to the contrary, Zosimus did indeed err. Nor does it matter (contra Keating) that Zosimus may have had an incomplete knowledge of all the issues. After all, Keating has argued that infallibility is anegative protection against error (215-217 passim). Yet, Zosimus made positive declarations about a heretical doctrine. Is this not the very thing against which infallibility is supposed to guard him?" (Svendsen, Evangelical Answers, page 60, note 42)
"This is not a case of a pope expressing a private opinion, then becoming better informed and changing his mind. This pope not only reversed the judgment of a previous bishop of
In response to this, Chapman shows once again:
(1) The Bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter has the final say on issues of Catholic faith and doctrine -- this is clearly recognized by St. Augustine, the African Bishops, and the Pelagian heretics themselves (before, during and after the reign of Pope Zosimus 417-418);
(2) The "mistake" or "error" of Pope Zosimus during the Pelagian controversy was not a "doctrinal issue" -- it was in accepting the submission and confessions of Celestius and Pelagius as sincere; this has nothing to do with papal infallibility since it is not an exercise of papal infallibility (in other words, Keating is right);
(3) St. Augustine, the great opponent of Pelagianism, himself says the Pelagian heretics "were unable to deceive the Apostolic See to the end" (although they tried) and, along with the African Bishops, highly praises Popes St. Innocent, St. Zosimus, and St. Boniface recognizing their authority not only to define orthodox Catholic doctrine but to "cut off" (excommunicate) heretics from holy Mother Church.
The following from Dom John Chapman Studies on the Early Papacy (Kennikat Press, 1971), chapter 6 "The Condemnation of Pelagianism", the second part (pages 157-183)
Pelagius and Celestius had been condemned by St. Innocent, but they had no intention of submitting in silence. The former had already imposed successfully upon the council of Diospolis, and both were now ready to assure the Pope that they had never taught the heresies which had been proscribed.
The moment was a propitious one, though they did not know it. Only four days after his consecration,  the new Pope St. Zosimus sent a letter to the bishops of Gaul, confirming the "ancient right" of the bishop of Arles, as Primate of Gaul, to consecrate the metropolitans of Vienne and of the two Narbonnenses, and stating that he would receive henceforward no cleric coming from Gaul who was not furnished with litterae formatae from Patroclus, Bishop of Arles, "to whom we have conceded this privilege in special contemplation of his merits."  Now the new privilege was as undeserved as the ancient right was apocryphal.  Patroclus was an intruder, and the lawful bishop whom he had dispossessed was no other than Heros, the accuser of Pelagius.
The cause of the Pope's favor for Patroclus is hard to discover. It has been said, but without proof, that Patroclus was present in
Celestius Arrives in
It was just then that Celestius arrived in
He now presented himself to the judgment of the new Pope, on the ground that he had formerly appealed to him when condemned at
"Great matters demand a great weight of examination, that the balance of judgment be not less weighty than the matters dealt with. In addition there is the authority of the Apostolic See, to which the decrees of the Fathers have in honor of St. Peter sanctioned a particular reverence. We must pray, therefore, and pray incessantly, that by the continued grace and unceasing assistance of God, from this fountain the peace of the faith and of the Catholic brotherhood may be sent into the whole world, etc... Celestius, priest, presented himself to us for examination, asking that he might be acquitted of the things of which he had been wrongfully accused to the Apostolic See. And although many occupations distracted our care and solicitude with greater bonds of ecclesiastical business, yet that the expectation of your fraternity as to his arrival and trial might not be delayed, we put them all aside, and on the day of examination we sat in the basilica of St. Clement....in order that the authority of so great a bishop might be an example for salutary discipline to the present investigation.
"Therefore we discussed all that had been done heretofore, as you will learn from the acts appended to this letter. [These acts are lost.] Celestius being admitted, we caused the libellus which he had given in to be read; and not content with this, we repeatedly inquired of him whether he spoke from his heart or with his lips only the things which he had written."
The Pope goes on to inveigh against Heros and Lazarus for not appearing at the Synod of Diospolis. They had rightly been deposed from their sees, and Celestius had scarcely seen Heros, and never Lazarus; the latter, however, he had satisfied of his orthodoxy. The Africans had attended too easily, continues St. Zosimus, in the fervor of their faith, to the letters of these two bishops, and he proves from Scripture that even the wise may err through want of caution. For this very reason the Pope had come to no hasty or immature decision, but merely wrote an account of the trial. The former libellus, which Celestius had presented at
Celestius Submits to Pope Zosimus
The libelli and confession here referred to have not come down to us. With regard to the former libellus of 411, since Celestius had appealed to
"In the libellus which he gave at Rome when he had explained his faith from the Trinity to the Resurrection (about all of which no one had asked him, and as to which no question had been raised), when he arrived at the crucial question he said: 'If any questions have arisen beyond that which is of faith, about which there should be contention among many, I have not decided these matters with definite authority as the originator of any dogma, but what I have received from the fountain of the Prophets and Apostles, we offer to be approved by the judgment of your Apostleship; in order that if by chance any error of ignorance has crept in upon us being but men, it may be corrected by your decision.' Here you see that in this introduction he takes care that, if any error should be found, he may seem to have erred not in faith, but in questions which are beyond the faith."
No wonder that Zosimus absolved from formal heresy the author of so complete a submission to Apostolic authority, and so seemingly generous a submission of private judgment. Doubtless the insinuation that the question was not one of faith was not noticed at the time, and
"This opinion of Pelagius was afraid or ashamed to bring out to you; but his disciple without any dissimulation was neither afraid nor ashamed to publish it openly before the Apostolic See. But the very merciful prelate of the See, when he saw him carried headlong with such presumption like a madman, until he might come to himself, if that were possible, preferred binding bit by bit by question and answer to striking him with a severe sentence, which would thrust him down that precipice over which he seemed to be already hanging. I do not say 'had fallen,' but 'seemed to be hanging'; for earlier in the same libellus he had promised before speaking of such questions: 'If by chance, being but men, some error should creep in, let it be corrected by your decision.' So the venerable Pope Zosimus holding to this preparatory statement, urged the man inflated with false doctrine, to condemn what he was accused of by the deacon Paulinus, and to give his assent to the letters of the Apostolic See which had emanated from his predecessor of holy memory. He refused to condemn what the deacon objected, but he dared not resist the letters of Blessed Pope Innocent, nay, he promised to 'condemn whatever that See should condemn.' Thus gently treated, as if a madman, that he might be pacified, he was still not thought fit to be released from the bonds of excommunication. But a delay of two months was decided, that an answer might be received from
Anglicans Wrong that Pope Zosimus Approved Pelagianism
"Quidquid interea lenius actum est cum Caelestio, seruata dumtaxat antiquissimae et robustissimae fidei firmitate, correctionis fuit clementissima suasio, non approbatio exitiosissimae prauitatis"  says St. Augustine, and he absolutely denies that any approbation of the denial of original sin can be found either in the acts of the trial of Celestius or in the letters of the Pope to Africa. 
On Dr. Bright's theory this is definitely a falsehood; but what a silly falsehood, if it could be refuted out of the very documents to which it appeals.
There is, therefore, no doubt whatever that Dr. Bright is wrong, and Tillemont also, in saying that Zosimus approved the error; while Mercator,
The above letter of the Pope was written some time in September 417,  and was soon followed by another written on the 21st of that month. 
"After the priest Celestius had been heard by us and had professed plainly his sentiments as to the faith, and had confirmed the statements of his libellus with repeated protestations, we wrote fully of him to your charity. And now, behold, we have received a letter from Praylius, bishop of
The Pope then accuses Lazarus of having on a former occasion been condemned by the Council of Turin for bearing false witness against St. Britius of Tours, and declares that both he and Heros were unlawful bishops set up by the usurper Constantine. Into the truth of these statements we need not enter here.  He goes on :
"See, Pelagius and Celestius present themselves before the Apostolic See by their letters and confessions. But where is Heros? Where is Lazarus? Shameful names. Where are those young men, Timasius and Jacobus, who produced writings, as it was said, of Pelagius? When these accused make such Catholic confessions before the Apostolic See, you yourselves judge whether the things reported of them by men of evil character and of no weight, and by vague rumor, should be believed. Love peace, love charity, study concord. For it is written: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' Who are more neighbors one to another than we, who ought all to be one in Christ? Not every wind that enters your ears is a messenger of the truth."
Pelagius Submits to Pope Zosimus
With Scripture texts St. Zosimus urges the danger of receiving false witness and the duty of caution. He enclosed the letter of Pelagius, addressed by him to Pope Innocent, of whose death he was not yet aware,  and his libellus. The letter is lost, save for some quotations in
"This is the faith, most blessed Pope, which we have learned in the Catholic Church, which we have ever held and hold. If we have by chance set down aught in it unskillfully or without due caution, we desire to be corrected by you, who hold both the faith and the See of Peter, emendari cupimus a te qui Petri et fidem et sedem tenes. If, however, this confession of ours is approved by the judgment of your apostleship, then, whosoever desires to blacken me, will prove not me to be a heretic, but himself unskilfull, or else ill-willed, or even not a Catholic."
Pelagius and Celestius Submission Insincere
The African bishops may well have been disturbed at the receipt of these two letters. They could see at once that the submission of Celestius was insincere, and that Pelagius had carefully omitted in his libellusthe condemnation of the particular heresies with which he was charged. It was on September 24th that
Council of 214 African Bishops
The council which met in December or January consisted of no less than 214 bishops, and is called by St. Augustine Africanum concilium,  as being representative of all
"We establish that the sentence against Pelagius and Celestius published by the venerable Bishop Innocent from the See of Blessed Peter, remain firm, until they confess that by the grace of God," etc. 
This was nothing more than St. Zosimus himself had decided, since he had insisted on Celestius declaring his assent to the letters of St. Innocent, and even then had not released him from excommunication, so that he might also deny the doctrines Paulinus had accused him of, and meet any further objections the Africans might bring.
They further explained to the Pope that it was not sufficient for slow-minded men that Celestius should say in general that he consented to the letters of Pope Innocent, but that he ought openly to anathematize such false teaching as was contained in his own libellus, lest, if he did not, it should be supposed by the unlearned that the poison was approved by the Apostolic See, because the libellus was itself declared Catholic, rather than that it was atoned for by his consent to St. Innocent's letters.  They reminded Zosimus how his predecessor had judged that Pelagius had rather escaped condemnation at Diospolis by subterfuge than had been acquitted,  and they tried to show him the deceitful and evasive nature of the profession of faith which Pelagius had sent to
African Bishops Appeal to Pope Zosimus
At the same time Paulinus sent the following libellus :
"I beseech justice of your blessedness, Lord Zosimus, venerable Pope. The true faith is never disturbed, and above all in the Apostolic Church [Rome], in which teachers of false faith are as truly punished as they are easily discovered, that they may die in the evils they have committed, unless they correct them, so that in them may be that true faith which the Apostles taught, and which the Roman Church holds together with all the doctors of the Catholic faith. And if like the other heresiarchs (who, long since judged by the Apostolic See or by the Fathers, and expelled from the bosom of the Catholic Church, are given over to eternal death) these also, who are or shall be discovered, remain in their perfidy, let them be delivered to the spiritual sword to be destroyed; even as now Pelagius and Celestius, who were condemned by the predecessor of your blessedness, Pope Innocent, of blessed memory, if they cast off the true faith, and remain in their perverse doctrine."
Here is a disciple of Ambrose and friend of Augustine, a deacon of Milan and dweller in Africa, declaring with the decision of a Cyprian that "the true faith is never disturbed in the Apostolic Church," by which he means that of Rome, otherwise "especially," maxime, has no sense. He attributes to that Church the right and duty of cutting off heretics with the "spiritual sword," of which St. Prosper spoke, viz. excommunication. He continues:
"Following his sentence, your blessedness gave Celestius the following command, among others, when he was heard by the Apostolic See: 'Do you then condemn all those things which are contained in the libellus of Paulinus?' And in another place: 'Are you acquainted with the letters which the Apostolic See sent to our brothers and fellow-bishops of the African province?' And then: 'Do you condemn all that we have condemned, and hold all that we hold?' And, again, 'Do you condemn all the doctrines to which your name is given?' And, again, 'Or those things which Paulinus exposed in his libellus?' And when he said that I might be proved a heretic by my accusations of himself, you, filled with the Holy Spirit, by your Apostolic authority, rejected his wild and calumnious words, and gave a judgment by which at once I was declared Catholic, and he might be cured if he would. 'I will not have you lead us in a circle; do you condemn all that was objected against you by Paulinus, or spread about by rumor?' To whom is this decision not sufficient? Who would reject so healthy, so fit to be embraced, so pious a decision, except one who is astray from the faith? And he who had above confessed that he would condemn whatever was objected against him, if you judged it to be contrary to the faith, hears the word 'condemn,' and not only does not condemn, but to the insult of so great a See (reading injuriam tantae, for tantam, sedis), he contests your judgment. Whence the Roman Church is no longer ignorant of the character of the accused, who has dared in so audacious a spirit to contradict, and not to condemn what your holiness decreed he should condemn."
Thus Paulinus proves that the Pope did urge Celestius to condemn his denial of original sin explicitly, as it stood in the former libellus of the deacon. Still more to our purpose is his comment on Celestius' refusal. It was an insult to the Apostolic See to doubt its judgment; to contradict it by mere hesitation was to show himself a heretic; unde non ignorat jam Ecclesia Romana reum suum. 
Paulinus goes on to thank God that the doctrines he had accused Celestius of holding should have been thus condemned by the Apostolic See, "by which this heresy was to be condemned, by the mouth of two Pontiffs [Popes Innocent and Zosimus]." Pelagius also holds these doctrines, and both of them are refuted by the Council of Diospolis, by many doctors of east and west, south and north, Cyprian, Ambrose, Gregory, Innocent, and also by many yet alive,
"or, rather, since he ought to follow you, if he prefers learning the truth to teaching falsehood, he has, which is first of all, quod primum est, your blessedness, whose sentence he ought to have obeyed, when he heard you say 'condemn.' ....Wherefore I pray your Apostleship to receive this libellus of mine, that I may be able to give thanks to your great See (tantae sedi), and to its most just decisions given in my favor. I write it because the subdeacon Basiliscus summoned me, though only by word of mouth, at
Celestius Insincerity is Made Clear to Pope Zosimus
Paulinus continues, that by Zosimus' order to condemn, and Celestius' refusal, Celestius' insincerity is clear:
"Let that which could no longer be hid, but has been publicly brought to light, be now cut off by your holiness with the spiritual sword, that the flock of the Lord, which you govern as a good Shepherd with anxious solicitude, may no longer be torn by this wild beast's teeth." 
The "flock of the Lord" is here clearly the whole Church. Doubtless this document was seen by some of the Fathers of the African Council, with whose letter it was sent to
Summary of the Situation
Let us now sum up the situation arrived at. At
In his fatherly joy he writes the two gushing letters above quoted to
Pope Zosimus Responds to the African Bishops
"Although the traditions of the Fathers has attributed to the Apostolic See so great authority that none would dare to contest its judgment, and has preserved this ever in its canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline in its laws still pays the reverence which it ought to the name of Peter, from which it has itself its origin, for canonical antiquity (canonica antiquitas) willed that this apostle should have such power by the decisions of all (per, or super sententias omnium); and by the promise of Christ our God, that he should loose the bound and bind the loosed, and an equal condition of power has been given to those who with his consent have received the heritage of his See. For he himself has care over all the Churches, and above all of that in which he sat, nor does he suffer anything of its privileges or decisions to be shaken in any wind, since he established it on the foundation, firm and immovable, of his own name, which no one shall rashly attack but at his peril.
"Since, then, Peter is the head of so great authority, and has confirmed the suffrages of our forefathers since his time, so that the Roman Church is confirmed by all laws and disciplines, divine or human; whose place we rule, and the power of whose name we inherit, as you are not ignorant, my brethren, but you know it well, and as bishops you are bound to know it; yet, though such was our authority that none could reconsider our decision, yet we have done nothing which we did not of our own accord refer to your cognizance by letter, giving this much to our brotherhood, in order that by taking counsel in common, not because we did not know what ought to be done, or because we might do something which might displease you as being contrary to the good of the Church, but we desired to treat together with you of a man who was accused before you (as you yourself wrote), and who came to our See asserting that he was innocent, not refusing judgment on his original appeal; of his own accord calling for his accusers, and condemning the things of which he said he was falsely accused by rumor.
"We thought, and indeed we know, that the entire petition was explained in our former letter; and we believe that we had sufficiently replied to the letters you wrote in answer. But we have unfolded the whole roll of your letter which was sent later by the deacon Marcellinus. You have understood the entire text of our letter as if we had believed Celestius in everything and had given our assent, so to speak, to every syllable without discussing the words. Matters which need a long treatment are never rashly postponed, nor without great deliberation must aught be decided on which a final judgment has to be given. Wherefore let your brotherhood know that we have changed nothing either since we wrote to you or you wrote to us;  but that we have left all in the same state in which it was when we informed your holiness of the matter in our letter; in order that your earnest request might be acceded to. Farewell."
Pope Zosimus Condemns the Pelagian Heretics in Tractoria
It was not long before St. Zosimus wrote a very different letter, the famous tractoria or tractatoria, which finally condemned the heretics. Let Marius Mercator tell the story:
"When the bishops of Africa wrote an answer exposing the whole cause which had been threshed out there, sending the acts of their councils which had been held about him whether present or absent, he was then called for a fuller hearing, that he might hasten to fulfil his promise of condemning the aforesaid chapters [of Paulinus], and so be absolved from the excommunication he had undergone from the African bishops.  But not only did he not appear, but he fled from Rome, and for this was condemned by the said Bishop Zosimus, of blessed memory, in a very long and complete document, in which the chapters of which he was accused are contained, and the whole case of Celestius himself and his yet more depraved master Pelagius is plainly related. Of these writings we note that similar copies were sent to bishops, to the Churches of the East, to the province of Egypt, to Constantinople and Thessalonica and Jerusalem."
After quoting passages of Pelagius' writings, Mercator continues:
"All these chapters are contained in that letter of Bishop Zosimus, of blessed memory, which is called tractoria, by which Celestius and Pelagius are condemned." 
Here is St. Augustine's account with regard to Celestius:
"When afterwards the awaited letters from Africa arrived in Rome....then when his presence was demanded, that by certain and clear answers it might be brought to light whether it was deceitful or orthodox, he absconded and refused the examination. Nor was that decision to be delayed any longer which might avail for the good of others, if not of their own obstancy and madness." 
And of Pelagius he writes:
"He deceived the judgment of the Palestinians; therefore he was acquitted there. But the Church of Rome, where you know that he is well known, he could by no means deceive, although he tried his best; but, as I said, he could not succeed. For the Blessed Pope Zosimus called to mind what his predecessor, worthy of imitation, had thought of his acts. He attended likewise to the opinion felt by that Roman faith which is worthy of being proclaimed in the Lord (praedicanda in Domino Romanorum fides); he saw their common zeal inflamed in concord against his error on behalf of Catholic truth. Pelagius had long lived amongst them, and his doctrines could not be unknown; and they well enough knew Celestius to be his disciple, so as to be able to give a most fanciful and firm testimony to the fact." 
Further on he speaks again of the manner in which Pelagius tried to deceive the "episcopal judgment of the Apostolic See" (ibid xvii. 19) :
"He seemed for a time to say what was in accord with the Catholic faith [viz. in his letter and libellus], but he was unable to deceive that See to the end. For after the rescripts of the African Council, into which province his pestilent doctrines had crept, but which it had not so widely pervaded, other writings of his were made public by the care of faithful brethren in the city of Rome, where he had lived a very long time, and had first been occupied with these conversations and disputes. These were attached by Pope Zosimus, to be anathematized, to his letters which he wrote to be carried throughout the Catholic world" (ibid xxi. 24).
The tractoria of Zosimus is lost, and we do not know its date. The trial of Celestius would naturally be as soon as might be after March 18th or 21st, when the Pope wrote to Africa. This is implied by the passages from Mercator and St. Augustine just quoted. In fact the Pope had been waiting for nothing but the reply of the council, and he had already waited six months instead of two. At all events it took place before April 30th, for on that date a rescript of the Emperor Honorius expelled Celestius and Pelagius and their partisans from Rome; any summons to attend and any condemnation for non-appearance must have been previous to this, unless they were a mere farce; while Celestius could just as well be expelled after he had fled as could Pelagius, who had not been there for years.
The brothers Ballerini think that the summons took place within a week after the Pope's letter, for Easter fell on April 7, and Palm Sunday, March 31st, would have been the proper day for absolving Celestius, in order that he might communicate at Easter. In itself this seems most likely. Only one wonders why the Pope should have written to Africa without waiting for the result of the trial a few days later. Perhaps, because he foresaw that the Africans would turn out to be in the right, he preferred to send them at once a rebuke and an excuse, before he was obliged to acknowledge his own mistake. 
Pope Zosimus Final Decision to be Signed by All Bishops
As a fact, nothing could be more generous than the way in which he repaired the error of his kind heart had prompted, for to his tractoria he appended the constitutions of the African council, to be signed with it by all the bishops of the world. This subscription was made doubly obligatory by a second decree of the Emperor Honorius in the following year; it already obliged as a Papal demand. No one will suppose that Pope Zosimus considered that the signatures of the bishops would give to his decision an ecumenical force which it would otherwise have lacked. It was to be a notification of a decree, and the subscription to it would be a submission, as well as an episcopal judgment increasing the moral weight of the document. The Gallican view is no more countenanced by other contemporaries than by St. Augustine. All hail the decision as final,  and none lays any stress on the consent of Christendom as giving it validity.
On the contrary, St. Prosper says the Pope had "armed all the bishops with the sword of Peter," (Africanorum conciliorum decretis beatae recordationis Papa Zosimus sententiae suae robur annexuit, et ad impiorum destruncationem gladio Petri dexteras omnium armauit antistitum).  Again, he says that the approbation of the African council was a condemnation of Pelagianism throughout the world: "Concilio apud Carthaginem habito ccxiv episcoporum, ad Papam Zosimum synodi decreta perlata sunt, quibus probatis, per totum mundum haeresis Pelagiana damnata est."  He thus introduces a quotation from the tractoria: "Sacrosancta beati Petri sedes ad uniuersum orbem sic loquitur."  (The sacred see of Peter thus addresses the whole world.)
Marius Mercator writes:
"(The tractoria) was sent to Constantinople and throughout the world, and was strengthened (roborata) by the subscriptions of the Holy Fathers. Julian and his accomplices refusing to sign it, and to consent (consentaneos se facere) to those Fathers, were deposed not only by imperial laws, but also by ecclesiastical decrees, and banished from all Italy. Many of them came to their senses, and being corrected of their errors, returned as supplicants to the Apostolic See, and being accepted, received back their sees." 
The last portion of the passage is sufficient indication that "roborata" in the first portion does not mean a strengthening of the weak, but a reinforcement to the strong. St. Possidius, who was one of the five bishops who sent to St. Innocent a common letter, writes in his life of St. Augustine:
"And since these heretics were trying to bring the Apostolic See round to their view, African councils of holy bishops also did their best to persuade the holy Pope of the City (first the venerable Innocent, and afterwards his successor, St. Zosimus), that this heresy was to be abhorred and condemned by Catholic faith. And these bishops of so great a See (tantae sedis) successively branded them, and cut them off from the members of the Church, giving letters to the African Churches in the West, and to the Churches of the East, and declared that they were to be anathematized and avoided by all Catholics (eos anathemandos et deuitandos ab omnibus Catholicis censuerunt). The judgment pronounced upon them by the Catholic Church of God was heard and followed also by the most pious Emperor Honorius, who condemned them by his laws, and ordered them to be treated as heretics. Wherefore many of them have returned to the bosom of holy Mother Church, whence they had wandered, and are yet returning, as the truth of the right faith becomes known and prevails against the detestable error." 
Clearly St. Possidius considers that the Popes had the right which they claimed, of deciding the faith for all Catholics.
In the last month of this year, 418, St. Zosimus died, after a lingering illness. He is numbered among the saints, and the generosity of his character shines through the unfortunate mistakes which fill his short pontificate, and which history is not allowed to pass over. His contemporaries, with the exception of those heretics to whom he was too kind, have nothing but praise for his memory.
African Bishops Write to Pope Zosimus
Meanwhile in Africa another great council, this time a plenary one, was being held. It was opened on the first of May, the third letter of St. Zosimus, rebuking the Africans, arriving two days earlier. If it be true that Celestius had been condemned before Palm Sunday, the news of this may have already arrived. At all events, we know that the first canons the council drew up were nine canons against the Pelagians, which St. Augustine describes as a resume of the constitutions of the preceding council. Ten more canons concerning discipline were drawn up, and finally a resolution was passed that from each province three delegates should be chosen to continue the council, that the remainder of the bishops might be free to return. It is hardly probable that the tractoria had yet arrived, so that the letter in answer was doubtless sent to the Pope by those fifteen deputies,  who included the Primates of Africa and Numidia, Aurelius and Donatian, with Augustine and Alypius. A fragment of the letter is preserved by St. Prosper: The African bishops writing in answer to the same Pope Zosimus, and praising him for the salubrity of this sentence say:
"As you have placed in your letters which you have caused to be sent to all, saying: 'By the assistance (instinctu) of God (for all good things are to be referred to their Author from whom they have their being), we have brought all these things to the knowledge of our brothers and fellow-bishops.' This we understand thus; that you cut off, as it were in passing, with the drawn sword of truth, those who extol the liberty of human free-will against the assistance of God. For what more free than your bringing all these matters to the knowledge of our lowliness? Yet you have faithfully and wisely seen that it was by the assistance of God, and you have truly and confidently said so," etc.
While still at Carthage, St. Augustine addressed to Albina, Pinianus and Melania the two books "De gratia Christi" and "De peccato originali," from which we have had occasion to quote. He explains in the former the fallacies in Pelagius' theory of grace, and in the latter he relates the recent condemnation of the two heretics, and explains the dogma of original sin. Especially noticeable is the way in which St. Augustine defends the Holy See from the charge of having approved error before condemning it. Celestius "could not deceive that See"; Pelagius "could not deceive that See to the end." St. Augustine takes pains to refute Pelagius out of the mouth of St. Ambrose, because Pelagius had given him the highest praise in his book on free-will. The words are:
"Beatus, inquit, Ambrosius, in cujus praecipue libris Romana elucet fides, qui scriptorum inter Latinos flos quidam speciosus enituit, cujus fidem et purissimum in Scripturis sensum, ne inimicus quidem ausus est reprehendere." 
St. Augustine continues: Ecce qualibus et quantis praedicat laudibus, and in the next book: Quem tanto praeconio laudauit.  He quotes the whole passage again on two separate occasions,  and refers to it at least ten times.  The inference is that St. Augustine agreed with Pelagius that Romana fides [the faith of Rome] and integerrima fides [the faith of the whole Church] are synonyms.
St. Augustine Praises Popes St. Innocent, St. Zosimus, and St. Boniface
The council over, St. Augustine went by order of Pope Zosimus to Caesarea in Mauretania, on an unknown errand.  He also had there a conference with the Donatist Bishop Emeritus, and was greatly occupied. He felt obliged, however, to answer the letter of a Bishop Optatus, who consulted him whether "creationism" could be held by a Catholic. He tells him how Pelagius and Celestius, "by the vigilance of Episcopal councils, by the help of the Savior who guards His Church, have been condemned in the whole Christian world by two venerable bishops of the Apostolic See, Pope Innocent and Pope Zosimus, unless they amend and do penance." 
He quotes a passage from the tractoria, and comments: "In these words of the Apostolic See, so ancient and founded, so certain and clear is the Catholic faith, that it would be a sin for a Christian to doubt it."  We cannot pass over the expression "words of the Apostolic See"; they mean "the authoritative words of the successor of Peter," not merely the doctrine of an eminent bishop.
Returning to Hippo, St. Augustine found awaiting him a letter from Marius Mercator, together with a book by him against Pelagianism. He replies warmly, praising his dear son's zeal for their conversion. Doubtless it is to this encouragement that we owe the writings of Marius, so often quoted above.
The innocence of Pelagius had been defended at Rome by the priest Sixtus, afterwards Pope St. Sixtus III, who was to confirm the Council of Ephesus. He had now publicly renounced their championship, and St. Augustine wrote him a letter of congratulation (Ep 191). Sixtus replied, and St. Augustine wrote a long answer, in which he says:
"We must acknowledge to your charity that we were very sad when rumor was that you favored the enemies of the grace of Christ. But that this sadness might be wiped away from our hearts, a like rumor declared, first, that you had been the first to pronounce anathema against them in a crowded concourse of people. Next, when the letters of the Apostolic See about their condemnation were sent into Africa, your letter to the venerable Aurelius followed also; and, though short, it indicated sufficiently your vigor against their error. But now, when you write more clearly and fully your opinion of that dogma, it is the very faith of the Roman Church itself which speaks -- that Church to which the Apostle Paul spoke at such length of the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
About the beginning or middle of the year 419, two letters of Pelagian authorship (the one ascribed to Julian, Bishop of Eclanum, and addressed to the new Pope Boniface, the other, by eighteen other dispossessed bishops) were much read. The vigilance of the Roman faithful brought these to the Pope's notice, and he sent them to St. Augustine by St. Alypius of Tagaste, the famous companion of that saint's conversion, who had been on a voyage to the court at Ravenna, and had stayed a short time at Rome. St. Augustine at once wrote the four books Contra duas Epistolas Pelagianorum, and dedicated them to the Pope in the following words : 
"I knew, by the voice of fame, and frequent and trustworthy messengers had brought me word, blessed and venerable Pope Boniface, how full you are of the grace of God. But after that my brother Alypius had seen you in bodily presence, and (being received so kindly and heartily and having conversations with you full of mutual affection, and dwelling with you, though for so short a time, yet joined to you by great love) since he has poured himself and me also into your heart, and has brought you back to me in his own, my knowledge of your holiness has become as much more intimate, as our friendship has become more sure. And you do not disdain, you who are not uplifted in mind, though sitting on a prouder seat (qui non alta sapis, quamuis altius praesideas), to be the friend of the lowly, and to return the friendship which is bestowed upon you. For what but this is friendship, whose name is derived from love (amicitia, from amor), and which is never fruitful save in Christ, in Whom alone it can also be eternal and happy?
"Therefore, taking greater confidence through my brother, by whom I have learned to know you more familiarly, I have dared to write something to your beatitude of the matters which now excite anew all our episcopal care to vigilance on behalf of the Lord's flock....
"Since the heretics do not cease to rage against the fold of the Lord's flock, and search all around for entrance, that they may tear to pieces the sheep bought at so great a price, and since the pastoral watchtower is common to all of us who fill the episcopal office (in which you, however, are lifted on a loftier pinnacle), I do what I am able, in the little portion of that duty which falls to my lot, in so far as the Lord gives me power, with the help of your prayers, to provide antidotes and remedies for their poisonous and insidious writings....
"This answer which I am sending to their two epistles, one of which is said to have been sent by Julian to Rome, in order, I suppose, to discover or to make partisans; the other, which eighteen other self-styled bishops, who share his errors, dared to write to Thessalonica, to try and gain by their wiles no less a person than the bishop of that city;  this answer, then, I have decided to send to your holiness, not that you may learn from it, but that you may examine it, and, wheresoever anything may chance to displease you, correct it. For my brother Alypius mentioned to me that you deigned yourself to give him the letters which could not have come into your hands but by the great watchfulness of our brethren your sons. I thank you for your cordial kindness, in that you did not wish these letters of the enemies of the grace of God to remain unknown to me, when you found my name openly calumniated therein."
This long passage, which needs no comment, may close our series of extracts from St. Augustine, though his labors against this heresy were to continue for ten years longer, till the time of his last illness.
Remaining History of Pelagianism After Augustine
The remaining history of the struggles of Pelagianism with the Holy See calls only for brief summary. Julian of Eclanum, who had refused to sign the tractoria, sent in a libellus to the Pope in the usual form. After a confession of faith, he concludes with submission:
"We have written and sent this to your Holiness, as it appears to us according to the Catholic rule. If you think we ought to hold otherwise, write us a reply. But if it is impossible to contradict us, and yet some wish to stir up scandal against us, we declare to your Holiness that we appeal to a plenary council."
Thus he does not think of appealing to a general council from the Pope's decision, but only to enforce the Pope's hypothetical approval of his doctrine. St. Augustine puts down the demand to a desire for notoriety.  Julian goes on to explain that his reason for not signing the Pope's letter is his unwillingness to condemn the innocent unheard, who had purged themselves by libelli, and declared themselves Catholics. Never will he renounce his zeal for justice! 
The remainder of the lives of Pelagius, Celestius and Julian is obscure and unimportant. Henceforward interest settles on the history of the semi-Pelagians, and this does not enter into our present plan. Celestius was again banished from Rome, by another edit,  under Pope St. Boniface. Pope St. Celestine also banished the Pelagians, and confirmed the decrees of his predecessors. He sent St. Germanus to Britain as his legate (vice sua mittit),  who had been chosen, with Lupus of Troyes, for this mission by a council in Gaul. Thus our island was liberated from the heresy to which it had given birth, and by its acceptance of a Papal delegate its Catholicity is testified.
Under the same Pope Celestine, Pelagianism was condemned by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), which declared in its letter to the Pope that it had confirmed all his decisions on the subject. Besides this, St. Prosper was made his legate in Gaul against the semi-Pelagians,  and he wrote a famous letter to the bishops of that country, approving the writings of St. Augustine, which St. Prosper treats as a final judgment which must for ever stop the mouths of those who had been fighting against them: maleloquentiae est adempta libertas. 
Writing his book conira Collatorem against Cassian, in the time of Sixtus III, the next Pope, St. Prosper states his confidence "that what God has worked in Innocent, Zosimus, Boniface, Celestine, he will work also in Sixtus, and that in the guardianship of the Lord's flock there is reserved to this shepherd the special glory of expelling hidden wolves, as they did the open ones."
To the letter of St. Celestine to Gaul is appended in all MSS and editions a short collection of quotations from recent decisions of the Apostolic See. It seems most likely that this appendix was composed by St. Prosper.  It testifies not only to the belief of its author in the infallibility of the Roman See, but to the profession of that same belief in Gaul also, and declares that any who disobeys is a heretic. The work is a defense of St. Augustine's doctrine, by appealing to higher authority; and no one can suppose that the author did not believe that saint, but lately dead, to have held the same view as himself of the authority of the Holy See in matters of faith, a view in which he supposes all Catholics to agree. The introduction commences thus:
"Since many who boast the Catholic name remain in the condemned opinions of heretics, whether by wickedness or by want of wisdom, and presume to dispute with pious champions of the faith; and since, while they do not hesitate to anathematize Pelagius and Celestius, they yet reproach our doctors with exceeding the right measure, and because they profess to follow and approve only what the most sacred See of the blessed Apostle Peter has sanctioned and taught against the enemies of the grace of God by the ministry of its prelates,  it has become needful to inquire diligently what the rulers of the Roman Church have judged concerning the heresy which arose in their time, and what they decided to be held as to the grace of God against the dangerous defenders of free will. At the same time we shall add some decisions of African councils, which the Apostolic prelates in fact made their own when they approved them. Therefore, in order that those who doubt as to any point may be instructed, we make the constitutions of the holy fathers plain in a compendious table, so that any who is not over-contentious may recognize that the whole dispute is summed up in the short quotations subjoined, and that no reason for contradiction remains to him, if he believes and professes as Catholics do."
The author gives four short extracts from the letters of St. Innocent to the councils of Carthage and Milevis, and next two from the letter of St. Zosimus "to the bishops of the whole world." He adds to one of these the commentary given by the reply of the African council (which we have quoted above from St. Prosper, contra Collatorem). He next gives a quotation from the Carthaginian council of 214 bishops, saying of it: "Quasi proprium Apostolicae Sedis amplectimur." After these "inviolable sanctions of the most blessed Apostolic See" (beatissimae et Apostolicae Sedis inviolabiles sanctiones), he refers to the customary intercession at Mass, and to the law of infant baptism as testifying to the same effect, and concludes, that he leaves aside more subtle questions, for
"We believe to be amply sufficient whatsoever the writings of the Apostolic See have taught us, according to the aforesaid rules; so that we absolutely regard as not Catholic anything which is seen to be contrary to the decision we have just quoted." (satis sufficere credimus quicquid secundum praedictas regulas apostolicae sedis nos scripta docuerunt; ut prorsus non opinemur catholicum, quod apparuerit praefixis sententiis esse contrarium)
With this estimate of the authority of Pope St. Innocent and Pope St. Boniface we may conclude. Those who care to read the documents (given in the appendix to St. Augustine, volume x) concerning the semi-Pelagians, will find once more the whole question referred to the successor of Peter by an African bishop, Possessor; while the famous second council of Orange, the decrees of which are usually accepted by High Church Anglicans, was confirmed by Pope Boniface II at the request of its president St. Caesarius of Arles, and thus the last ghost of Pelagianism was laid, until modern rationalism should again deny the necessity of the grace of God.
ENDNOTES for Part II: Pope Zosimus and Pelagianism
(the longer technical notes have been edited for brevity)
 According to Coustant's reckoning.  Zosimus, Ep i, Migne, vol xx, p. 462.  St. Leo (Ep x,4) declares that no Bishop of Arles before Patroclus exercised the right.  So St. Prosper, Chron PL li, p. 578.  PL li, p. 86.  M. Mercator, Commonitorium, c. 3.  Zosimus, Ep 2 (in App Aug vol x, p. 1719).  De pecc orig xxiii,26.  Aug De pecc orig vi,6.  De pecc orig vi-vii, 6-8, p. 388-9. Paulinus' libellus is given further on. Mercator's account found in Common PL vol xlviii, p. 75 and App Aug vol x, p. 1687. Rebuttal to Dr. Bright and Tillemont omitted.  C. duas Ep Pel II,iii,5, p. 575.  l.c. p. 575. Much omitted.  In the letters to both councils, see C. duas Ep Pel l.c. for extract.  De pecc orig i-iv, p. 385-7.  See the passage quoted App Aug vol x, p. 1723.  So the Ballerini have shown, Opp St. Leon vol iii, p. 853 (1012).  Aug vol x, p. 1721.  See Chapman's article "Pope Zosimus and the C. of Turin" in Dublin Rev Oct 1904, and Duchesne in Rev Hist 1905, p. 278.  De gratia Christi xxx, 32; De pecc orig xvii, 19.  In Aug vol x, p. 1716.  see Aug De gr Christi xxxii, 35.  The sequence of events is hard to follow with certainty. Much omitted. The fact of this letter is gathered from Zosimus' reply of March 18th or 21st.  De pecc orig vii,8; viii,9; xx,24; Ep 215,2; etc.  C. Coll v,15 PL vol li, p. 319 (227), or in Aug vol x, p. 1724 and 1808. C. duas Ep Pel II,iii,5.  De pecc orig viii,9.  ibid xxi,24.  Compare the final sentence of Pelagius libellus, quoted above.  Libellus Paulini diaconi, in Aug vol x, p. 1724.  So Mercator, id uehementius expectabatur. Commonit cap I.  Other instances are Rufinus earlier, and Bachiarius later, both extant.  Read with the Ballerini, l.c. iv, p. 585 (1015) : Nihil nos post illa quae uobis scripsimus uel litteras uestras quas accepimus.  In 411. This had never been removed, though Celestius ignored it until confirmed by St. Innocent.  Commonit c. I, PL vol xlviii, p. 78; and in Aug vol x, p. 1687.  C. duas Ep Pel II,iii,5 p. 574.  De pecc orig viii, 9 p. 389.  Long technical note on dating omitted.  Aug Retract ii,50 vol i, p. 650.  C. Collat xxi (xli),57 p. 362 (271) or App vol x, p. 1831.  Chron ad an 418, p. 740 (591); Aug ibid p. 1724.  C. Collat xv and cf. Carmen de Ingratis, i. Much omitted.  Commonit vi,10 and ib PL 48 p. 107 and Aug vol x, p. 1689. Possidius, Vita Aug xviii (vol i, p. 48).  The words of Aurelius in Latin omitted.  De gr Chr xliii,47 p. 381.  De pecc orig xli,47-8 p. 409-10.  De nupt et conc I xxxv,40 p. 436 and C. Jul I vii,30 p. 661.  De nupt et II xxix,51 p. 466; C. duas Ep Pel IV xi,29; C. Jul I vii,35, p. 666, and 44 p. 671. Ibid II v,2 p. 681 etc. St. Jerome's pride in Roman faith is continual.  Ep 190,1; cf. Ep 193,1 and Retract ii,51; Possidius Vita Aug 14.  Ep 190,22.  ibid 23. vol ii, p. 866.  Ep 193.  l.c. I, i vol x, p. 550.  Metropolitan and Papal Legate.  C. duas Ep Pel IV xii,33 p. 638.  App vol x, p. 1732-6.  St. Prosper, in Chron an 429.  ibid, p. 1755.  St. Prosper (c. Coll xxi 58; l.c. p. 1831) sums of St. Celestine's action. Latin omitted.  Prosper, Resp ad cap Vinc I (ibid, p. 1843), and Celestine Ep xxi ad Gallos, PL 50, p. 528.  The continuation of the passage just quoted. The whole should be read.  So Coustant. Much omitted.  cf. Aug Op Imperf vi,xi p. 1520.