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Councils of Orange

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Two councils were held at Orange (Arausio), a town in the present department of Vaucluse in southern France. The first met on 8 November, 441, in the church called "Ecclesia Justinianensis" or "Justianensis". The council is designated either by the name of the church, "synodus Justinianensis", or by that of the episcopal city, "Arausicana la" (first of Orange). St. Hilary of Arles presided, as the diocese formed part of his metropolitan district. Among the other sixteen bishops present was St. Eucherius who, as Metropolitan of Lyons, signed the acts in the name of all his suffragans. The council, as appears from its twenty-ninth canon, was held in obedience to an ordinance of the Synod of Riez (439) prescribing semi-annual provincial synods , The thirty canons which it issued have occasioned considerable controversy. Their subject-matter was: the administration of the sacraments (canons i-iv, xii-xvii), the right of sanctuary (v-vi), mutual episcopal relations (viii-xi), catechumens (xviii-xx), bishops (xxi, xxx), the marriage of clerics (xxii-xxv), deaconesses (xxvi), widowhood and virginity (xxvii-xxviii), the holding of councils (xxix). To these genuine canons Gratian and others added unauthentic ordinances printed in the "Corpus Juris canonici" and reproduced by Mansi in his collection of councils (VI, 441-3).

Much more important was the second council (held on 3 July, 529), the first in Gaul to publish a decision in matters of faith. The occasion was the dedication of a church built at Orange by Liberius, the pretorian prefect of Narbonensian Gaul. It was attended by fourteen bishops with St. Cæsarius of Arles as president, and its deliberations bore on the current errors concerning the doctrine of grace and free will, i.e. Semipelagianism. Cæsarius had informed Felix IV (III) of the pernicious activity of the Semipelagians in Gaul and had applied to him for support. The pope, in response, sent him a series of "Capitula", i.e. propositions or decrees drawn almost in their entirety from the works of St. Augustine and the "Sententiæ" of St. Prosper of Aquitaine. These "Capitula" became the basis of the twenty-five issued by the Synod of Orange, and these in turn were freely used by the Council of Trent in its condemnation of Luther. The acts of the Synod of Orange contain, after a preamble:

  • (a) eight canons or anathematisms ;
  • (b) seventeen merely declaratory propositions (both of these classes are known as "Capitula");
  • (c) a sort of demonstration of the defined doctrine against the objections of the Semipelagians.

The subjects of the "Capitula" are thus logically grouped by Portalié in "Dict. Théol. Cath." (I, 2526).

  • (1) Causes of the necessity of grace. They are:
    • (a) original sin which cannot be wiped out without it (can. ii);
    • (b) the weakness of the will resulting from the fall of man (i);
    • (c) the very condition of creature (xix).
  • (2) Operation of grace before justification. It precedes every effort conducive to salvation. From it proceed:
    • (a) prayer (can. iii);
    • (b) the desire of justification (iv);
    • (c) the inception of faith (v);
    • (d) every effort towards faith (vi);
    • (e) every salutary act (vii);
    • (f) every preparation to justification (viii, xii);
    • (g) all merit (xviii).
  • (3) Operation of grace in initial justification or baptism. It restores (xiii), justifies (xiv), improves (xv), confers the justice of Christ (xxviii).
  • (4) Work of grace after justification in the just. It is necessary for good actions (ix); perseverance (x); the taking of vows (xi); Christian fortitude (xvii); the life of Christ within us (xxiv); the love of God (xxv).
  • (5) Universal necessity of grace. This need of grace to do good and avoid evil is expressed in propositions ix, xx, and the variously interpreted proposition xxii.

In the demonstration which follows the "Capitula" the fathers also reject the doctrine of predestination to evil and declare salvation within the reach of all baptized. The acts of the council, which were signed by the bishops, the pretorian prefect Liberius and seven other distinguished laymen, were forwarded to Rome and approved by Boniface II on 25 January, 531 ( see BONIFACE II ). They consequently enjoy œcumenical authority and are printed in Denzinger's "Enchiridion Symbolorum" (10th ed., nos. 174-200).

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