The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview
Save to active project

37 Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene

Election of Bishops by the Laity

In Cyprian's time at Carthage the laity in north African cities had a substantial voice in the election of a bishop. In the fourth century there appears a tendency for the vocabulary to be assimilated to that of electing a magistrate, which was also a privilege or right of the plebs or populus. They exercised a 'suffrage', choosing a candidate who had offered to stand and who conducted a campaign for success, perhaps against competition from a rival. The result easily produced faction such as Ambrose coped with at Vercelli, where he had to admonish the people that as consecrator he had the ultimate responsibility. The bishops of the province, especially the metropolitan, had the delicate task of mediating between the parties, and tactfully indicating which candidate they would be willing to consecrate. Decisions were formally recorded in 'ecclesiastical acts' with the acclamations and record of the numbers. Unanimity was always reckoned a sign of a divinely authorized choice; it was not always easily achieved, though at Milan Ambrose received it and the laity could put pressure on their chosen candidate, e.g. by blocking any attempt to leave the town. In 371 the pressure from the laity was enough to force the consecration of Martin of Tours on unwilling bishops who thought him unsuitable (and in the outcome were proved wrong). Martin himself believed he had suffered a loss of charism when the hands of the bishops, in his eyes a worldly lot, were laid upon his head. In 426 Augustine of Hippo wrote (ep. 213. 1): 'I know that at the death of bishops the peace of the churches is often disturbed by rivalries and ambitions.' The laity were increasingly coming to expect their bishop to have the social influence to protect them when they were in trouble with taxmen or magistrates or when they needed a favourable reference for a job, and this capacity counted more than holiness. The office of a bishop was inevitably politicized.

-314-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 730

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?