sensus fidelium


There should be a revival of interest in Dom John Chapman, the early 20th century abbot of Downside, patrologist and Church historian. As far as I can see, he was at least as learned as Adrian Fortescue, and without Fortescue’s occasional slapdashness. He could be almost as witty as him, too, when he chose.

Chapman’s Studies on the Early Papacy, though having an apologetical inspiration, particularly against Puseyism, is a little masterpiece of scholarship. In the chapter on ‘The Age of Justinian’, he describes the unfortunate pope Vigilius. Vigilius was popularly supposed to be in cahoots with the monophysite Empress Theodora, and to have been responsible for the early death of his predecessor Silverius. The Roman people called on the emperor to investigate. Justinian, not one to fall short of his own prerogatives, or indeed to be reluctant to overstep them, acquiesced for his own purposes:

Justinian ordered Vigilius to be brought to Constantinople. He was seized in the Church of St Cecilia and put on board a ship. The crowd asked his blessing, to which they cried ‘Amen’. Then they pelted him with stones and sticks and crockery, shouting: ‘Thy famine be with thee: thy plague be with thee: thou hast done evil to the Romans. Mayest thou find evil where thou goest’ (‘Studies on the Early Papacy’, 1928, p.229).

I confess that all men from Adam, even to the consummation of the world, having been born and having died with Adam himself and his wife, who were not born of other parents, but were created, the one from the earth, the other, however, from the rib of the man [cf. Gen 2:7], will then rise again and stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he has done, whether it be good or bad [Rom 14:10, 2Cor 5:10]; and indeed by the very bountiful grace of God he will present the just, as vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory [Rom 9:23], with the rewards of eternal life; namely, they will live without end in the society of the angels without any fear now of their own fall; the wicked, however, remaining by choice of their own with vessels of wrath fit for destruction [Rom 9:22], who either did not know the way of the Lord, or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, He will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire, that they may burn without end. This, then, is my faith and hope, which is in me by the gift of the mercy of God, in defence of which blessed Peter taught [cf. 1 Peter 3:15] that we ought to be especially ready to answer everyone who asks us for an accounting. 

– Pope Pelagius I, Humani Generis, 557 [D228a/DH443]