Thursday, January 4, 2018

Damasus and Jerome

Pope Damasus I was elected by the upper class supporters of the antipope Felix in 366 CE and commissioned Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin.  The election was hotly contested both by the deacons and laity, and the antipope Ursin was elected to serve in his stead.  When a violent clash ensued resulting in the massacre of 137 people, Ursin was banished to Gallia by the emperor Valentinian I.

In 370 CE Valentinian I passed laws against clergy or monks entering the houses of widows or single women who had lost their parents, and against receiving property from penitents unless they were legitimate heirs.  He died in 375 CE of natural causes and was succeeded by his brother Valens and son Gratian.  The same year the Apostolic Constitutions set up guidelines for ordaining women to the diaconate.  However, the scandal of clergy bilking wealthy widows of their fortunes, turned religious men and women away from Rome to the strict ascetic life of the desert monks in Egypt.  Saint Jerome called for a reform, but was opposed and exiled. 

At a synod held in 378 CE the antipope Ursin was officially condemned and Damasus I was declared the true pope.  Damasus I presided over the Council of Rome of 382 CE that determined the canon or official list of Sacred Scripture and spoke out against major heresies in the church.  He summoned Saint Jerome to Rome in 382 CE and arranged lodging for him with Marcella in her estate on the Avantine.  When Damasus I died in 384 CE, Saint Jerome went with two members of Marcella’s community of widows into the Nitrian desert.  The antipope Ursin tried to make a comeback and died later the same year.