TFI #32

32. How was Constantine a blessing to the Church? How was he in some ways a curse?

Constantine as a blessing: 

  • Legal protection under the law
  • Legal status for clergy
  • Built a number of basilicas (Lateran palace was given to the Bishop of Rome)
  • Supported the growth of many churches
  • Supported episcopal and papal decisions with the legitimacy of the law
  • Made huge social and moral strides in laws of the Empire
  • Provided political stability for the spread of the Gospel
  • Christianity is now not only tolerable but mainstream, although not necessarily the sole state religion.
  • Christians have freedom and even favored status in the Empire.

Constantine as a curse:

  • Ushered in an era of the Church which focused on the status of the Church in political life, which was at times helpful and at times distracting.  (Distracted away from the Gospel to politics and power, but could we have evangelized as well without being a political entity?)
  • Frequently participated in (meddled) in councils, doctrinal disputes, the election of bishops, etc.  He was not neutral.  Constantine did many things which should have been in the realm of the Holy Father, and this as an unbaptized “Christian”
  • Was not ardent in his own faith — he was baptized on his deathbed.
  • Even the state-encouraged Christianity (mass baptisms and conversions) were more political nad superficial than genuine.
  • Neither for the Empire as a whole, not for the Christian communities, was he able to address the polarizing dynamic shift from west to east, and the acrimony which followed
  • Fostered a growing distance between Pope and Emperor which would continue to deteriorate in successive generations

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