APPENDIX - S. VINCENT OF LERINS
"But," he asks, "what are we to do when it is some doctrine about which no such decree can be found? Then pains should be taken to consult and inquire as to what were the judgments and tenets, after collating them together, of the Fathers (Majorum), but of those only who, in different times and places, persevering in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, were regarded as approved teachers (Magistri probabiles extiterunt) and then whatever, we find, not one or two only, but all of them alike, with one and the same consent, openly, frequently, perseveringly, held and taught, this same we are to understand is to be believed by ourselves also without any further doubting."
S. Vincent then goes on to speak of the prevalence of the Donatist Schism in Africa, and of Arianism usurping the very place almost of the Catholic Church herself throughout Christendom, so that "the minds of nearly all the bishops of the Latin tongue were shrouded in darkness": and describes the action of those bishops who most manfully opposed the widespread heresy, of "restoring nearly the whole entire world from a new perfidy to the ancient faith, from the madness of novelty to ancient soundness, from the blindness of novelty to the ancient light." He then recalls how, in a more remote age, "Agrippinus, Bishop of Carthage, of venerable memory," and even "the most blessed Cyprian, that light of all saints, bishops, and martyrs," sanctioned the sacrilegious practice of re-baptising heretics, and thus gave occasion to Catholics of falling into error.
"So great," he says, "was the ability and force of argument with which the heresy was supported, so powerful the eloquence, so large the number of its advocates, such its plausibility and appearance of truth, so many the passages of Holy Writ cited in its behalf -- though clearly interpreted in a new and wrong sense" -- that for himself he does not think the plot (conspiratio) could have been put down in any other way than by denouncing it with being a novelty. "And this," says S. Vincent, "Pope Stephen, the Bishop of the Apostolic See, most effectually did by the decree, Nihil novandum, nisi quod traditum est, contained in the Epistle which he sent to Africa. For, while taking counsel with his colleagues, the Pope felt himself bound as much to surpass all the other bishops in devotion to the faith, as he was above them all by the authority of his place."*
Here there was no General Council to define, and yet S. Vincent evidently looks upon the judgment of S. Stephen as final, and deciding what was the Catholic truth to be believed on the question at issue.
He speaks of the subsequent --
"African Council with its decree, as, God so granting it, being of no force, and the whole matter become in the end as though a dream, or a tale that is told, superfluous, done away, antiquated, trodden under foot."
In summing up what was done for the condemnation of Nestorianism, S. Vincent marks out the authority of the Roman Pontiff in the following words: --