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Marcellinus [1]

a native of Rome, son of Projectus, is said to have been made bishop of Rome May 3, 296. As he lived in a period of violent persecution, we have but little certain information concerning him; the acts of a svnod said to have been held at Sinuessa in 303 (published by Mansi, Coll. 1:1250 sq.; and Hardouin, Coll. Cone. 1:217 sq.) relate as follows: Diocletian had succeeded in compelling the hitherto steadfast bishop to come with him into the temple of Vesta and His, and to offer up incense to them; this was afterwards proclaimed by three priests and two deacons who had witnessed the deed, and a synod was assembled to investigate the affair at Sinuessa, at which no less than three hundred bishops were present "a number quite impossible for that country, especially in a time of persecution" (Dr. I. B. Smith, in Dillinger's Fables, p. 82, foot note). Marcellinus denied everything for the first two days, but on the third came in, his head covered with ashes, and made a full confession, adding that he had been tempted with gold. The synod declared that Marcellinus had condemned himself, for the prima sedes nonjudicatur a quoquam. This resulted, however, in Diocletian causing a large number of the bishops who had taken part in the synod, and even Marcellinus himself, to be put to death, August 23, 303.

Although the Roman Breviary itself credits this account of the weakness and punishment of Marcellinus (in Nocturn. ii, April 26), this account of the synod is now considered spurious both by Romanists and by Protestants. Indeed, Augustine (De unico baptismo contra Petilianuml, c. 16) and Theodoret (Hist.  Ecclesiastes 1:2) declared the statement of Marcellinus having betrayed Christianity and offered sacrifices to idols false. Dr. Dollinger, in his Fables respecting Popes in the Middle Ayes (edit. by Dr. H. B. Smith, N. Y. 1872, 12mo), p. 84, says "the acts of the pretended synod are evidently fabricated in order to manufacture a historical support for the principle that a pope can be judged by no man. This incessantly-repeated sentence is the red thread which runs through the whole; the rest is mere appendage. By this means it is to be inculcated on the laity that they must not venture to come forward as accusers of the clergy, and on the inferior clergy that they must not do the like against their superiors." As the date and occasion of the fabrication, Dr. Dollinger assigns "those troubled sixteen years (498-514) in which the pontificate of Symmachus ran its course. At that time the two parties of Laurentius and Symmachus stood opposed to one another in Rome as foes. People, senate, and clergy were divided; they fought and murdered in the streets, and Laurentius maintained himself for several years in possession of part of the churches. Symmachus was accused by his opponents of grave offenses. . . The hostile party were numerous and influential... and therefore the adherents of Symmachus caught at this means of showing that the inviolability of the pope had been long since recognized as a fact and announced as a rule... This was the time at which Eunodius wrote his apology for Symmachus, and this, accordingly, was also the time at which the Synod of Sinuessa, as well as the Constitution of Sylvester, was fabricated." Marcellinus is commemorated in the Romish Church April 24. See Pagi, Crit. in annaless Baronii ad ann. 302, n. 18; Papebroch, Acta Sancta in Propyl. Meji, t. 8; Xaver de Marco, Difesa di alcuni pontefici di errore, c. 12; Bower, Hist. of the Popes, 1:80 sq.; Hefele, Conciliengesch. 1:118; 3, § 10, note 2, where the main authorities against the fable are cited. (J. H. W.)