Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Jovinianus

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An opponent of Christian asceticism in the fourth century, condemned as a heretic (390). Our information about him is derived principally from the work of St. Jerome in two books, "Adversus Jovinianum". He was a monk at one time in his life, but subsequently an advocate of anti-ascetical tendencies. He became the head of a party, and in the act condemning him Auxentius, Genialis, Germinator, Felix, Prontinus, Martianus, Januarius and Ingeniosus are designated as his disciples. His views were promulgated in writings which were condemned at a synod held in Rome under Pope Siricius, and subsequently at a synod convened at Milan by St. Ambrose. The writings of Jovinianus were sent to St. Jerome by his friend Pammachius; Jerome replied to them in a long treatise written in 393. From this work it would appear that Jovinianus maintained

  • that a virgin as such is no better in the sight of God than a wife;
  • abstinence is no better than the partaking of food in the right disposition;
  • a person baptized with the Spirit as well as water cannot sin;
  • all sins are equal;
  • there is but one grade of punishment and one of reward in the future state.

From a letter of the synod at Milan to Pope Siricius (Ambrose, Ep. xlii) and from St. Augustine (lib. I contra Julian., ii) it is clear that Jovinianus denied also the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The reply of St. Jerome was couched in language that terrified Pammachius, who found fault with it because it was excessive in praise of virginity and in depreciation of marriage. The efforts to suppress it failed and St. Jerome's work obtained a wide circulation. Nothing is known of the later career of Jovinianus. From a remark in St. Jerome's work against Vigilantius, written in 409, that he "amidst pheasants and pork rather belched out than breathed out his life", it is inferred that he was then dead. HEFELE, Konziliengeschichte, II, 50; HALLER, Jovinianus, die Fragmente seiner Schriften, die Quellen zu seiner Geschichte sein Leben und seine Lehre (Leipsig, 1897); Texte und Untersuchungen, new series, II, 2; BROCHET, St. Jerome et ses Ennemis (Paris, 1906); GRUTZMACHER, Hieronymus, Eine biographische Studie zur alten Kirchengeschichte, II (Berlin, 1906).

PATRICK J. HEALY