Emperors Impose Strict Restrictions and Penalties on Donatists

Emperors Impose Strict Restrictions and Penalties on Donatists

Emperor Theodosius II

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Emperors Honorius and Theodosius II impose strict restrictions and penalties on Donatists: confiscation of property, denial of wills and inheritances, exile, and more.

The new anti-Donatist law says:

"We decree that Donatists and heretics who have benefited from lenience until now will be severely punished. They are intestable and have no power of entering into contracts of any kind. They are to be branded with perpetual infamy and separated from honorable gatherings and from public assemblies.

The places where their dire superstition has been preserved will be handed over to the venerable Catholic Church. Their bishops, priests, prelates, and all ministers will be despoiled of all their property while they are sent into exile to separate islands and provinces. Anyone who attempts to harbor them as they flee punishment will have his patrimony confiscated and will be further exiled just like the fugitives.

If anyone with the rank of proconsul, vicar, or count of the first order has not converted to the Catholic religion, he will be fined two hundred pounds of silver....." [CTh 16.5.54]

Donatism is a heretical Christian sect which got its start in Africa as a consequence of the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian. The Donatists, named after one of their leaders Bishop Donatus Magnus, believed that any sacraments performed by any Christian who collaborated with the Roman government in Africa — for example, by handing over Christian scriptures to officials for destruction — were invalid.

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