It is an ungrateful task to dwell on the one instance of weakness and unfaithfulness which is associated with the name of Julius' immediate successor, who in other respects was a good and true man. But as an attempt has been made which might be called gallant, if it were not so desperate, to nullify the evidence for the lapse of Liberius, one must see what that evidence is, and what it proves. Liberius had been zealous for Nicene orthodoxy: and when Constantius had terrorised the Council of Milan in 355, his attempts to gain Liberius, then at Rome, had been repelled with a defiant indignation, which, but for later events, might have seemed to indicate a "rock-like" constancy. [1] But two


years of exile in Thrace made a difference, the extent of which must be carefully estimated. First, according to what is implied in a postscript to Athanasius' " Apology against the Arians," and asserted in a passage of that "History of the Arians" which has been sometimes thought to be not throughout of his own writing, [2] Liberius, longing to return home, consented to sign a document renouncing communion with Athanasius. [4] intimates a belief that


they are spurious. But it would be unfair to cite them as implying that Liberius went further, and actually signed a heretical creed. On the other hand, their silence on this point might be due to a characteristic generosity, and cannot outweigh the evidence of Hilary in his pamphlet against Constantius, "I know not whether you showed more impiety in banishing him (Liberius) than in restoring him," which can only mean that his restoration was purchased by a compromise of his orthodoxy. The passage in St. Hilary's sixth Fragment, in which certain "letters of Liberius" are exhibited, with fierce comments anathematising him as a "prevaricator" or betrayer of trust involves a well-known difficulty; for the creed which he signed, and which is branded as a "perfidia," is said to have been framed by Easterns at Sirmium. Now Hilary, who put the best possible construction on Semiarian formulas, and, in particular, on the long Sirmian creed (which was several years prior to Liberius' exile), could not here be thinking of it; and while the short Sirmian creed of 357 would suit the description, inasmuch as he himself calls it a "blasphemia," it was a Western or Latin composition, drafted by the bishop of Lisbon in a small meeting at


Sirmium. [5] It is true that a later Sirmian creed, compiled in 358 by Easterns in a Semiarian interest out of three older formularies, is identified by Sozomen with the one which Liberius accepted in substitution for the Nicene, [6] but except as such a substitute, Hilary would not have denounced it as "perfidia." However, Jerome is distinct in affirming that Liberius did under pressure sign something "heretical," [7] and, in another passage; that being overcome by the weariness of exile, "et in haereticam pravitatem subscribens," he had entered Rome as a conqueror. [8]


Jerome, in deed, as attached to Damasus (formerly a partisan of Felix), was not likely to be partial to the memory of Liberius; but he must have known that Liberius had, at any rate in his later years, been energetically Catholic, and he was not the man to blacken the name of a Roman bishop, in a series of biographies and in a Chronicle, without evidence of a solid character; nor would even schismatics like Marcellinus and Faustinus, themselves bitterly hostile to Damasus, have ventured, in default of such evidence, on affirming in the preface to their memorial to Valentinian II. and Theodosius I. that Liberius "manus perfidiae dederat," and on those terms had regained his see. [9] The impulse which drives Roman advocates, in certain awkward cases, to take an ultra-sceptical line about evidence, is pretty sure to place them on quaking ground. [10]


[1] See the remarks of Newman, The Arians, p. 329. Mr. Rivington speaks of Liberius on this occasion as "knowing himself to be the Atlas whom our Divine Lord had appointed to bear the world of Divine revelation on his shoulders" (p. 189), because Theodoret in his rhetorical account makes Liberius say, "The cause of the faith is not weakened because I am alone." But Theodoret makes him add, "For, in the ancient story, three only are found to rgsist the decree" (ii. 16).

[2] But see Robertson's St. Athanasius (Lib. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers), p. 266.

[3] Apol. c. Ari. 89: "He did not endure to the end the affliction (qliyin) of banishment." Hist. Ari. 41: "Liberius ... broke down, and, in fear of threatened death, signed" (i.e. against Athanasius; cf. ib. c. 31). To refrain from quoting either passage, and to say that the former "does not speak of a fall, but merely of Libenius not having completed his term of exile (Rivington, p. 186), is most disingenuous. Hefele (who rejects the evidence of the Hilarian fragment) says that "it is useless trouble to try to find in these words any other meaning than this, that he did not hold out," etc., and that both passages are additions by Athanasius himself. The "History of Arians" was evidently written piecemeal; see Robertson, loc. cit.

[4] Stilting, in Vit. Liberii, Act. SS. Sept. 23. "No," exclaims Mr. Rivington; "what Liberius did sign for certain was all in support of Athanasius." When Bellarmine owns "Liberium, etsi non expresse, tamen interpretative, in haeresim consensisse" (de Rom. Pont. iv. 9), he must seem to Mr. Rivington to concede far too much.

[5] Newman, The Arians, p. 435. This creed is given in the original Latin by Hilary, De Synodis, 11, and in a Greek version by Athanasius, De Synodis, 28. It condemns both Homoousion and Homoiousion, and says, "no one can doubt that the Father is greater than the Son ... in Godhead." But it does not absolutely affirm the Anomoion.

[6] Soz. iv. 15. Cf. Newman, Arians, p. 437. Döllinger considers (Fables respecting Popes, p. 183) that he signed both the long Sirmian creed and the compilation, the latter involving a "sacrifice of the Nicene doctrine."

[7] De Vir. Illustr. c. 97. The statement cannot be invalidated by a mistake, as we must consider it, as to the exact date, which is here implicitly placed at the beginning of the exile.

[9] See this in Sirmond, Op. vol. 1. To whatever extent he lapsed, he lapsed not as a private Christian, but in his public ecclesiastical capacity as bishop of Rome.

[10] Renouf says that Stilting's "article on Liberius is calculated to impose upon precisely those who have no notion of the difference between ... Pyrrhonism and sound criticism" (On Pope Honorius, p. 44. We need not dwell on the strange perversion of history by which it was once maintained on the Roman side - as by Anglo-Roman prelates "in their address to queen Elizabeth - that Athanasius was "censured by pope Liberius, and the emperor reprimanded Athanasius for opposing the head of the Church. But in this," proceeds Collier gravely (Eccl. Hist. vi. 290), "they plainly misreport the case; for Athanasius never received a rebuke from the emperor for non-submission to the papal supremacy. Nothing of the modern pretensions were challenged [i.e. claimed] at that time of day; and Elizabeth reminded the memorialists that "Athanasius was right, and the pope" (Liberius) "was wrong, in the Arian contest."