St. Augustine points out that St. Cyprian was wrong about some things—but he was wrong in the right way. It is angelic to refrain from judging those who have different opinions on obscure things, but the presumption of the devil to divide the Church over those differences.
It often happens that something is imperfectly revealed to the more learned, so that their patient and humble charity, from which comes the greater fruit, may be proved—either in the way in which they preserve unity when they hold different opinions on matters of comparative obscurity, or in the temper with which they receive the truth when they learn that it has been declared to be con- trary to what they thought.
The blessed Cyprian shows us both of these ways. He shows us the first in the way in which he preserved unity with those from whom he differed in opinion. For he says, “Judging no one, and not depriving anyone of the right of commu- nion if he differs from us.” And he shows us the other in the way he could receive the truth when he found it to be different from what he thought it was. Though his letters are silent on the point, his good temper is still proclaimed by his merits. If there is no letter extant to prove it, it is witnessed by his crown of martyrdom; if the Council of bishops does not declare it, it is declared by the host of angels.
For it is a considerable proof of a very peaceful soul that he won the crown of martyrdom in that unity from which he would not separate, even though he differed from it. After all, we are only human; and one of the temptations to which humans are subject is that we should hold views that differ with the truth on some point. But if we have too great love for our own opinion, or too much jealousy of our betters, we may come even to the sacrilege of dividing the communion of the Church, and of founding heresy or schism, and that is a presumption worthy of the devil. But never to have an opinion that differs from the truth in any point is a perfection found only in the angels. –St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, 2.5
Am I tempted toward the presumption of the devil when I see things in the Church I don’t like? How could I be more of a force for unity?
Guardian Angel, keep all presumption far from me, and lead me to accept the decisions of the Church in patient and humble charity.
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