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Catholic Dictionary




Heretical teaching on grace of Pelagius (355-425), the English or Irish lay monk who first propagated his views in Rome in the time of Pope Anastasius (reigned 399-401). He was scandalized at St. Augustine's teaching on the need for grace to remain chaste, arguing that this imperiled man's use of his own free will. Pelagius wrote and spoke extensively and was several times condemned by Church councils during his lifetime, notably the Councils of Carthage and Mileve in 416, confirmed the following year by Pope Innocent I. Pelagius deceived the next Pope, Zozimus, who at first exonerated the heretic, but soon (418) retracted his decision. Pelagianism is a cluster of doctrinal errors, some of which have plagued the Church ever since. Its principal tenets are: 1. Adam would have died even if he had not sinned; 2. Adam's fall injured only himself and at worst affected his posterity by giving them a bad example; 3. newborn children are in the same condition as Adam before hi fell; 4. mankind will not die because of Adam's sin or rise on the Last Day because of Christ's redemption; 5. the law of ancient Israel no less than the Gospel offers equal opportunity to reach heaven. As Pelagianism later developed, it totally denied the supernatural order and the necessity of grace for salvation.