Saturday, August 13, 2005

Do you believe in plentious redemption? A Pope and his Antipope

Today's saints, Pontian and Hippolytus, give us a case study of tensions that we see replayed again in our own time.

Pontian was elected bishop of Rome immediately following a period of fierce persecution, and, believing in the plentious redemption, he set to work facilitating the reconciliation and restoration of those poor people who had not remained faithful during the persecution, who ran away or who denied the faith in the trial.

Hippolytus was one of his presbyters, like Pontian a confessor of the faith, and he was utterly opposed to the reconciliation of those who had not stood during the trial, except, maybe, possibly, on their death-beds, if they'd been penitent enough by his lights. Hippolytus believed that Pontian was horribly lax and soft on sinning (not to mention dishonoring the sacrifices of the holy martyrs and courageous confessors!) --- and was so sure of his rightness that he allowed himself to be invalidly elected bishop by the other priests who agreed with him, becoming the Church's first antipope. Yet, in the end, Hippolytus renounced his error and his supposed episcopacy, and when the persecution heated up again, was arrested and exiled to hard labor in the mines along with Pontian, and they died as friends and martyrs together.

With God, all things are possible. All people are capable of redemption. No one, no matter how far fallen, is incapable of restoration. No one can be unworthy of our prayers, we who are also sinners. God can and will remake each one of us, if we only allow Him.
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