Blast from the Past: Donatists and Sex Abuse

Blast from the Past: (a daily feature where we take some bedtime reading from history with relevance to a contemporary issue)
“A hard-line party emerged in the fourth century, called Donatists after one of their leaders. They believed that any contact with lapsed clergy, including those traditores or traitors who without offering pagan sacrifice had nevertheless handed over books or Church goods, contaminated a church and all its members, and invalidated the sacraments which were administered in it. The Donatists formed a separate pure Church, with their own elders and bishops.”
Eamon Duffy, renowned Church historian, on an early controversy after the Decian persecutions. The Donatists did not win the day and the Church affirmed the teaching “ex opere operato,” which holds that the moral worthiness of the minister of a sacrament does not affect the validity of the sacrament. If you think that there are not some Donatists in the contemporary Church, who might use the sex abuse scandal to push their cause, think again. And, like the Donatists, some would turn to Constantine to get their way.

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.