On Councils and Emperors

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

If a decision was made by the bishops, what concern had the emperor with it? Or if it was but a threat of the emperor, what need then was there of the designated bishops? When in the world was such a thing ever before heard of? When did a decision of the Church receive its authority from the Emperor? Or rather, when was his decree even recognized? There have been many councils in times past, and many decrees made by the Church; but never did the Fathers seek the consent of the Emperor for them, nor did the Emperor busy himself in the affairs of the Church.

The Apostle Paul had friends among those who belonged to the household of Caesar, and in writing to the Philippians he sent greetings from them: but never did he take them as associates in his judgments. But now we witness a novel spectacle, which is a discovery of the Arian heresy: heretics have assembled together with the Emperor Constantius, so that he, by alleging the authority of the bishops, may exercise his power against whomsoever he will, and while he persecutes may yet avoid the name of persecutor. (The Monk’s History of Arian Impiety, 52)

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