Confession In 32 Seconds! 

Chapter 22

Student: Four objections occur to me against what has just been stated. First of all it appears that since governor Festus knew that such a question did not pertain to his jurisdiction, it was inopportune for Paul to have appealed from him on that account, because an appeal is either from a harm or from a judgement. But Paul did not appeal from the judgement of Festus since none was rendered, nor from harm since Festus had no intention to inflict any: indeed had Paul not appealed, Festus wanted to release him. Secondly, it appears that Paul ought not to have appealed to Caesar because he knew him to be an enemy of the faith, who would render judgement against Paul. Thirdly, it appears that Paul was actually lying by recognizing Caesar as his judge, since the latter would have been neither his judge nor his superior, especially in a cause of faith. Fourthly, it appears that one may appeal to a man of different religious persuasion as to someone capable of resolving and defining a question of faith. For one is permitted to appeal in this manner about a cause of faith to someone who can be a judge in a case of faith and who possesses the authority to define what is relevant to the truth of orthodox belief. But this can be done by a man of a different religious persuasion, for as is made clear in the book On the altercation of Athanasius against Arius, [Vigil of Tapsus, Altercatio Athanasii contra Arium coram Probo iudice, in PL 62, cols. 179-238] Athanasius and his enemies selected a pagan individual to be their judge in a cause of faith. Therefore it is likewise permitted to appeal about a cause of faith to a man of different religious persuasion. These are the objections which move me to oppose what was earlier advanced. Do explain to me how one responds to them.

Master: The answer to the first objection is that Paul appealed from Festus because of his fear of being harmed. He was afraid that just as Pilate, although he did not consider Christ worthy of death, nevertheless did surrender Christ to the Jews for crucifixion, so Festus, even though he considered that Paul had committed no crime worthy of death, likewise would surrender Paul to the Jews who accused him so that Paul might be killed. This is what blessed Paul openly suggests when he says to Festus: "but if there be none of these things whereof they accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal to Caesar". [Acts 25:11]

Student: Why did Paul fear that Festus wanted to surrender him to the Jews.

Master: From the fact that he had asked Paul if he wanted to ascend to Jerusalem and be judged there before Festus, and from the fact that he favoured the Jews who were accusing Paul. Indeed from the very fact that Festus wanted to interfere with an issue he was not entitled to adjudicate even according to the laws and customs of the Romans, Paul felt suspicious of him, and therefore issued his appeal. To be sure Paul had another reason for appealing, namely that once he was freed from the persecution of Jews in Judaea he might be transported to Rome in order to preach the gospel there, in accordance with the precept of Christ (this appears in Acts 23), who charged him with this duty, and said: "be of good cheer, for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome". [Acts 23:11] The answer to the second objection is that Paul had not known Caesar to be an obvious enemy of his doctrine, because Caesar had not yet persecuted the Christians. Even had Paul known Caesar to be an enemy, he still could have appealed to him, because one is permitted to appeal to an enemy for a reasonable cause, just as it is likewise permitted to someone to submit himself for cause to the judgement of an enemy. Therefore Paul, who wanted to be liberated from the Jews and to be brought to Rome in order to preach the gospel, proceeded to appeal, and he would have appealed even had he known that Caesar was an enemy of the faith. The response to the third objection is twofold. One way is to say that Paul was inferior to Caesar, and that Caesar was his normal judge. Otherwise one may say that although Caesar was not Paul's normal judge, Paul nevertheless could have submitted himself to Caesar's judgement just as the pope can submit himself to the judgement of his subject (2 q. 7 Nos), [col. 496] and therefore when Paul appealed to Caesar he submitted himself to the judgement of the non-believer Caesar, which he was allowed to do for reasonable cause.

Student: How is it that Paul was permitted to submit himself to the judgement of the non-believer Caesar, when it is not permitted to clerks to submit themselves to the judgement of faithful secular authorities.

Master: The answer is that the fact that clerks are not permitted in many cases to submit themselves to the judgement of secular authorities is not based on divine law, nor on Christ's ordination, nor on natural law, but derives from positive human law, to which Paul was not obligated since it had not yet been established in his time. Therefore Paul was allowed to submit himself to the judgement of Caesar, which he in fact did by appealing to Caesar. The answer to the fourth objection is that someone may be judge in a case of faith in two distinct ways. The first is that someone is a normal judge in a case of faith, having official authority to determine questions of faith. It is permitted to appeal to such a judge for a cause of faith, but in a cause of faith a judge of this kind cannot be someone of a different religious persuasion. The second possibility is that someone can be a judge in the manner of a chosen umpire, and this can happen in two ways. For there are two ways to submit by agreement to an arbitrator in a cause of faith, namely, either by promising to maintain the view which the arbitrator would in his own conscience consider as needing to be firmly held, or else to maintain the view which the arbitrator would have judged as being in accord with the Christian faith. The first method would allow a believer to act as arbitrator if no human constitution prevented it. The second method allowed at some time in the past to submit by agreement to a given non-believer. Thus Athanasius and the heretics who were his enemies submitted by agreement to a certain diligent and erudite pagan, namely by promising that they would maintain what he would judge to be in accord with the Christian faith. Having heard the arguments of both parties, this arbitrator rendered a sentence in favour of Athanasius, namely by defining that the assertion of Athanasius was in accord with the books of the Christians and necessarily followed therefrom, the same books whose authority both Athanasius and his opponents recognized, although the judge himself in no way recognized the books as authoritative.

Student: It appears that Athanasius committed a mortal sin by submitting to arbitration by a pagan, since this would have obligated him to maintain a heresy if the pagan had rendered judgement that the assertion of the heretics was in accord with Christian faith.

Master: The answer is that Athanasius did not sin, because although he had promised to abide by the judgement of the aforementioned pagan, he had not, for all that, promised to abide by this pagan's unjust sentence, and therefore he did not bind himself to support a heresy had the pagan defined the assertion of heretics to be in accord with Christian faith. For an unjust verdict is not to be observed (Extra, De arbitris, c. Non sine [col. 230] and c. Exposita). [col. 236] Indeed in such an arbitration agreement the following condition must be implicitly understood even if it is not explicitly stated: 'if the arbitrator will not have rendered an unjust verdict'.

Student: It appears that Athanasius should not have accepted arbitration by a pagan on a question of faith, since according to canon law it is not even permitted to accept the arbitration of a layman in spiritual matters (Extra, De arbitris c. Contingit). [col. 235]

Master: One responds that it is a church ordination and not divine law, which forbade arbitration by a layman in spiritual matters. Therefore Athanasius was allowed to accept a pagan's arbitration because this was not forbidden at the time.

Student: I am amazed that Athanasius would have wanted to accept the arbitration of a pagan, since pagans cannot even be witnesses against Christians.

Master: The answer is that after the church had acquired the favour of emperors and kings it enacted many regulations against pagans, which did not previously exist either by divine law or by Christ's ordination. Many things are thus forbidden today which were permitted in earlier times. In those days, for instance, it was permitted to wage war under the leadership of an emperor who was an apostate, and so many holy martyrs and other Christians waged war under Julian the Apostate and obeyed him without sin in all matters that were not against the divine law. In our times however it would not be permitted to any Christian to wage war under an apostate emperor. Likewise it would not be permitted today to submit to a pagan's arbitration about the faith, but in the time of Athanasius this was not forbidden.

Student: What was the advantage gained by Athanasius' submitting to a pagan's arbitration.

Master: The answer is that there were numerous advantages. For after the pagan rendered his decision in favour of Athanasius, the catholics could preach the faith more freely, and the heretics lost the goodwill of many. Indeed the recorded history of those times will teach you how this came to pass.

Student: It appears that by selecting a pagan arbitrator Athanasius subjected both himself and the catholic faith to great danger, and this he definitely should have avoided.

Master: The answer is that Athanasius did not expose himself to any probable danger. For he knew that this pagan was a man of great loyalty and firmness of character as well as of outstanding intelligence, a man who knew how to grasp the meaningful relationship between assertions linked in logical sequence, and also the inconsistency of assertions which contradicted each other. And so Athanasius, knowing the aforementioned pagan to be a virtuous citizen and distinguished logician, committed himself to his judgement as earlier described, without probable danger though not without any possible danger whatsoever. But no one is obligated to avoid any kind of possible danger, because this would prevent the doing of very good things. Indeed someone that cautious would resemble the person about whom Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes 11: "he that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap". [Ecclesiastes 11:4]