The Mythical Fall of Pope St. Marcellinus

Originally posted 12/9/2009.

Pope St. Marcellinus apostatized, turned over the sacred books, and offered incense to pagan gods

Unprovable Charge Comes From Unreliable Sources
1. Anglican scholar John Norman Davidson Kelly (†3/31/1997), author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes says that Pope St. Marcellinus (6/30/296-10/25/304) gave up the Sacred Books and offered incense to pagan gods.{1} The most that the historian can conclude from the accusation of Donatist Bishop Petilianus of Constantine in Africa is that there were rumors to to that effect in Africa.{2} The heretic could not provide any proof of his assertion, nor could anyone else,{3} or else the Doctor of Grace, Bishop St. Augustine the Great of Hippo [Against the Letters of Petilianus], could not have so firmly vouched for the maligned pope.{4} Furthermore, the holy pope was not named in the document brought by the Donatists to the Catholic-Donatist conference in Carthage, “the Acts of confiscation of the church buildings at Rome.”{5}

Pope St. Marcellinus Was Not A Martyr
2. It is not the case that Pope St. Marcellinus apostatized, repented, and sought and obtained martyrdom. Not one reliable source from the fourth and fifth centuries calls him a martyr.{6} He is not in the list of martyrs in the 354 Roman “Chronograph,” nor is he in the Martyrology of St. Jerome{7}. Eusebius of Caesarea would have expressly stated that Pope St. Marcellinus was a martyr if he in fact died for the faith.{8}
Notes & References
{1} “Marcellinus, St.” The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. J. N. D. Kelly. with new material by Michael Walsh. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Fordham University. 9 December 2009 <>.
{2} Kirsch, Johann Peter. “Pope Saint Marcellinus.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 Dec. 2009 <>.
{3} Ibid.
{4} Ibid.
{5} Ibid.
{6} Ibid.
{7} Ibid.
{8} Ibid.

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