Before the reign of Emperor Constantine,
the Catholic Church was persecuted and Christians were hunted like
criminals. Then Constantine stopped the persecution and even made
Christianity a privileged status. He built churches and supported
convents and monasteries; he passed laws honoring Sunday as the Lord's
day and declared church holy days as civil holidays.
To many, this event in history seemed a great
blessing for the Catholic Church. But it was not; because in the absence of
persecution, the church became lax, preparing the grounds for heresy.
What persecution could not achieve, heresy was able to accomplish, i.e. the
weakening of the Christian spiritual life.
It was not Arius that hurt the Church; it was the
bishops who quarrelled and took sides in the Arian controversy. It was
not Arius who attacked St. Athanasius; it was an Arian bishop who persecuted
the saint. And these Arian bishops, in turn , convinced emperors to
discredit the Catholic Church, prompting St. Jerome to say: "The
entire world awoke and groaned to find that it had become Arian."