HERESIES AND THE FIRST COUNCILS
is said that the devil first attacked the early Church from without
through persecution. But, failing in this, he changed his strategy.
This time, he attacked from within, through heresies. The saints
fought the heresies; while Holy Mother Church protected her flock
through Ecumenical Councils.
the third century, the Church existed in relative calm and, in some
parts, even in luxury. There was much time for everything specially
for speculative theology. Instead of being concerned with how to
live holy lives, people were speculating on the nature of God. The
Hierarchy began to enter into politics and Emperors began to
manipulate the hierarchy. The Church became splintered into several
Jerome observed: that one day the whole world woke up to find itself
Arian, a heresy propagated by the priest, Arius, and backed up by a
the Church could win her battle against the heresy of the priest,
Arius, a bishop, Nestorius, arose with another heresy, denying that
the Blessed Virgin was the Mother of God. This was followed by the
heresy of the monk, Eutyches. As usual, God raised champions to
refute the heresies; the Church summoned councils to protect the
faithful: the Council of Nicea, to expose the heresy of Arius; the
Council of Ephesus, to expose Nestorius; and the Council of
Chalcedon, to expose Eutyches.
fighting heresies, St. Irenaeus gave the cardinal rule: if anyone
wants to know with certainty what is true in religious matters, he
should study the teachings of the Church written by a line of holy
bishops going back to the apostles, i.e., the Fathers, which are in
the possession of the Catholic Church.
heresies, the Church needed no attacks from without. The enemy was
now within; from her own bosom, among her own priests, her own
bishops and her own religious.