Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/52

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generation previous die aged Polycarp had not thought it too much trouble to journey to Rome in order to discuss the problem with his fellow priests. It was impossible to reach an agreement and so it was decided that both days were proper. But later the Bishop of Rome endeavoured to enforce unity of observance, basing his position on a synodal resolution which decreed the excommunication of the non-conforming Churches. This somewhat dictatorial attitude was resented by the Asiatics. They answered that the Bishop should re- main mindful of peace, harmony and brotherly love. The old Bishop of Ephesus dealt lightly with this Roman decision: One mightier than he had said that God must be obeyed rather than man. Pope Victor was also counselled not to place whole congregations under the ban because they clung to an ancient traditional custom by Irenaeus of Lyons, though this bishop had advocated die priority of Rome more vigorously than anyone before his time. His pen had rendered busy service in the struggle against the Gnostics, These, he said, built not upon the One Rock, but upon quicksand in which there were many little stones. This defense against them rested firmly on the teaching and the custom which prevailed everywhere in the churches of the East and West. Though he was born in Asia and kept sacred the remembrance of Polycarp, John's disciple and the unforgettable light of his own early years, throughout his mature and later life in the Occident he sought to bring about unity under the monarchical au- thority of the Roman Church. Rome had always been, he said, the central point of the whole Church as well as the source of unity in belief; and so it was meet that each congregation, that is, the faithful in each place, should acknowledge its higher authority. Irenaeus himself decided to conform to Roman usage in the Easter observance, but he nevertheless petitioned the Romans to exercise clemency in matters that did not affect unity of belief. Victor was unable to prevail, but a hundred years later, when at least a part of the East conceded this point, his deeper political insight was borne out.

Inner Christian tension of thought as well as of living sometimes evoked crises in which an authoritative pronouncement was necessary. The cathedra Petri> more and more conscious of the rights that grew out of its priority, felt itself called upon to make these pronouncements and therewith automatically became a sign of contradiction.