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Related to Donatism: Pelagianism, Montanism, Gnosticism, Arianism


(dŏn`ətĭzəm), schismatic movement among Christians of N Africa (fl. 4th cent.), led by Donatus, bishop of Casae Nigrae (fl. 313), and the theologian Donatus the Great or Donatus Magnus (d. 355). The schism arose when certain Christians protested the election of the bishop of Carthage, charging that his consecration by Felix, bishop of Aptunga, was invalid because Felix was considered a traditor (i.e., one who turns over sacred books and relics to the civil authorities during a persecution). Condemnation was extended to all in communion with Felix. Behind their objection lay the heresy, familiar to MontanismMontanism
, apocalyptic movement of the 2d cent. It arose in Phrygia (c.172) under the leadership of a certain Montanus and two female prophets, Prisca and Maximillia, whose entranced utterances were deemed oracles of the Holy Spirit.
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 and NovatianNovatian
, fl. 250, Roman priest, antipope (from 251), and theologian. He opposed the election of St. Cornelius as pope and set himself up instead. He gained followers throughout the empire because of his espousal of the idea that those fallen from grace by compromising their
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, that only those living a blameless life belonged in the church, and, further, that the validity of any sacrament depended upon the personal worthiness of the priest administering it. The Donatist practice of rebaptizing was particularly abhorrent to the orthodox. Condemned by the Synod of Arles (314) and also by the Roman emperor, Constantine I, the Donatists seceded (316) and set up their own hierarchy. By 350 they outnumbered the orthodox Christians in Africa, and each city had its opposing orthodox and Donatist bishops. It was the teaching of St. AugustineAugustine, Saint
, Lat. Aurelius Augustinus, 354–430, one of the Latin Fathers of the Church and a Doctor of the Church, bishop of Hippo (near present-day Annaba, Algeria), b. Tagaste (c.40 mi/60 km S of Hippo). Life

Augustine's mother, St.
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, as presented in his writings and at the debate between orthodox and Donatist bishops at Carthage (411), that turned the tide against Donatism. Strong state suppression and ascetic excesses among some of their own members further reduced their number. The remnants of the schismatic movement had vanished along with African Christianity before the advent of the Islamic invaders.


See W. H. C. Frend, The Donatist Church (1952, repr. 1971).

References in periodicals archive ?
has overstated the connection between the treatment of Jesus herein and the problem of Donatism.
He used extended materials from Augustine's own writings to depict Augustine less as a novel theologian and more as a domesticated heir of Cyprian and the milieu that produced Donatism.
considers it a deliberately crafted hagiography, one that reveals--almost through a historical-critical reading--the trials and triumphs of the African episcopate in the late-fourth and early-fifth centuries through the life of a man schooled in the episcopal culture in the age of Donatism (83-84).
But surely it is the very rigorism at the heart of Donatism that provides such a reason: how do you include a community or movement into the larger whole when that community defines itself primarily by the rejection of the larger whole?
Donatism is most commonly understood today as the heresy that denies the validity of the sacramental acts of bad priests; however, in the Middle Ages the heresy was seen in broader terms as limiting the extension of the Church to some group that considered themselves as holier than the rest of the Church.
Such a perspective naturally leads to disillusionment culminating either in a rejection of the Church as a viable means of salvation or in the threat of Donatism.
This question received considerable attention when Augustine wrestled with perfectionist strands of Donatism and Pelagianism, and when Luther and Calvin confronted excesses of late medieval ecclesial practices.
But as early as the 320s Donatism forced Christians to ask what true freedom meant.
Each thematic chapter covers the whole ancient period, an arrangement which creates redundant and overlapping treatments of numerous subjects; Donatism, e.