Volume 51, Issue 1, 2020
David G. Hunter
Between Discipline and Doctrine
Augustine’s Response to Clerical Misconduct
This article explores a possible tension in Augustine’s thought between his response to the misconduct of clergy, which stressed swift discipline, and his anti-Donatist theology of sacraments, which emphasized the efficacy of sacraments apart from the moral worthiness of the clergy. I identify five principles that Augustine followed in his handling of clerical misconduct: 1) Decisive action that usually resulted in removal of the offenders from ministry; 2) concern for the rights of the victim over clerical privilege; 3) a just hearing for the accused clergyman; 4) concern for transparency in all proceedings; 5) personal accountability of the bishop for the behavior of his clergy. I conclude by noting several aspects of Augustine’s anti-Donatist ecclesiology and sacramental theology that help to resolve the apparent tension.