Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Greatest Pope You Never Hear About?

It might be St. Callistus I. He was pope back in the third century and, quite frankly, had to put up with a lot of crap.

From the get-go, most folks probably would have thought him something of a long shot for any sort of greatness. He started out a slave. His master put him in charge of his money, which Callistus promptly lost by some means. He would go on to be arrested for causing commotion among some Jewish people. This got him sentenced to hard labor in the mines of Sardinia. Once paroled, his life started to turn the corner a bit. He became a caretaker of the Christian cemetery in Rome and was ordained a deacon.

Eventually, he was elected to the Chair of Peter. This didn't go well with another saint we've talked about previously, St. Hippolytus. Hippolytus, who had already feuded with Callistus's predecessor, Zephrynius, accused the new pope of Monarchianism. This is basically the idea that Son (and one would assume the Holy Spirit as well) are somehow inferior to the Father. Callistus, on the other hand, regarded Hippolytus of being a ditheist, a believer in two gods (the Father and the Son). Hippolytus piled on with some other accusations, including a primitive version of Donatism by saying that mortal sin was a good enough reason to depose a bishop. Callistus, doing a major favor to our current bishops, disagreed with this.

Attempts at reconciliation were fruitless, and Hippolytus eventually went so far as to have himself consecrated Bishop of Rome. Despite his status as the first antipope, he would later be reconciled with the Church. Callistus himself would be martyred in the year 223 (or so). If you read the Catholic Encyclopedia article about him, the closing paragraph hypothesizes that he might have been one of the greatest popes ever. This is truly remarkable when one considers that the bulk of what we know about Callistus comes from nasty polemics written by Hippolytus that don't do much more than call him a heretic and a lout. Strange how these things work out.

St. Callistus, pray for us.


Karl said...

This would be the Hippolytus whose sketch of a Eucharistic prayer was used as the model for Everyone's Favorite EP II (because it's short.)

Didn't the policy on the reconciliation of heretics have something to do with the dispute?

Throwback said...

That would be him, except that, despite what folks claim, the "mini-canon" of now really doesn't sound much like what Hippolytus wrote.

On the last bit, I think there was some issues with his not requiring public penance from heretics and pagans who converted. There were some issues with his affirming it was OK to give absolution to people guilty of sexual sins. I might be getting these confused with another controversy though.

dcf said...

Just one note. The Monarchianism that Callistus and Zephyrinus were accused of holding by Hippolytus was Modalistic Monarchianism and not Dynamic Monarchianism as you noted in your post.

Hippolytus was strong on the distinction of Persons in God (hence he was accused of ditheism) and in his zeal for that, he violently accused Zephyrinus and Callistus of being Modalists.

Dynamic Monarchianism is basically adoptionism. Interestingly the adoptionists were around at this time as well and they publically criticized Zephyrinus because they thought he had corrupted the Apostolic Faith, which of course they viewed as being Adoptionistic.

-Bonaventure from DCF

Throwback said...

Much obliged, Bon. If you get the chance, check the Synod Weirdness post as well. I've gotten an email on that one and need someone to break the tie on whether or not I should edit it.

dcf said...

I read it before, but I'll read it again and try to get back to you (either here or in a DCF pm) later today.