Today is the ‘Feast of Saint Callistus,’ But Catholics May Wish to Reconsider


October 14th is observed as the feast day for the Bishop of Rome named Callistus.  There is a church built on top over a pagan temple in Rome that is dedicated to him, which my wife and I have visited.

Catholics would generally be surprised to hear that Callistus was the first Bishop of Rome to openly allow abortion and that he generally lowered standards during his ‘reign’ in Rome.

In circa 217 A.D., Callistus became bishop of Rome and somehow succeeded Zephyrinus.  After he did, as the Roman Catholic saint Hippolytus reports, Callistus lowered standards and many who professed Christ liked that:

Callistus…a man cunning in wickedness, and subtle where deceit was concerned, (and) who was impelled by restless ambition to mount the episcopal throne. Now this man moulded to his purpose Zephyrinus, an ignorant and illiterate individual, and one unskilled in ecclesiastical definitions. And inasmuch as Zephyrinus was accessible to bribes, and covetous, Callistus, by luring him through presents, and by illicit demands, was enabled to seduce him into whatever course of action he pleased. And so it was that Callistus succeeded in inducing Zephyrinus to create continually disturbances among the brethren, while he himself took care subsequently, by knavish words, to attach both factions in good-will to himself. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VI)

The impostor Callistus … And the hearers of Callistus being delighted with his tenets, continue with him, thus mocking both themselves as well as many others, and crowds of these dupes stream together into his school. Wherefore also his pupils are multiplied, and they plume themselves upon the crowds (attending the school) for the sake of pleasures which Christ did not permit. But in contempt of Him, they place restraint on the commission of no sin, alleging that they pardon those who acquiesce (in Callistus’ opinions). For even also he permitted females, if they were unwedded, and burned with passion at an age at all events unbecoming, or if they were not disposed to overturn their own dignity through a legal marriage, that they might have whomsoever they would choose as a bedfellow, whether a slave or free, and that a woman, though not legally married, might consider such a companion as a husband. Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time!  And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church! And some, under the supposition that they will attain prosperity, concur with them. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VII)

Notice that Callistus’ allowance of biblically condemned sin led to an increase in Roman Church attendance, and that Callistus allowed (or at least permited) abortion and adultery.  Callistus apparently thus caused many pagans to become part of the Church of Rome.

Note what The Catholic Encyclopedia admitted this about Callistus:

Callistus…Our chief knowledge of this pope is from his bitter enemies…He obtained great influence over the ignorant, illiterate, and grasping Zephyrinus by bribes. We are not told how it came about that the runaway slave (now free by Roman law from his master, who had lost his rights when Callistus was condemned to penal servitude to the State) became archdeacon and then pope

Again Callistus…permitted noble ladies to marry low persons and slaves, which by the Roman law was forbidden; he had thus given occasion for infanticide. (Chapman , Pope Callistus I)

A book sold at the Vatican included the following information:

Zephyrinus was…not exceptionally learned or cultured…

CALLISTUS, ST. (217-222)…He was born in Rome…After a tumultuous and certainly not edifying life which saw him imprisoned and exiled for common crimes…{he was} chosen by Zephyrinus as his private secretary…

Hippolytus, was…elected with the support of some bishops and presbyters, …thus became the first anti-pope…

Callistus…before his death became reconciled with the Church…(Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, pp. 5-6)

Obviously it appears that the corrupt Callistus attempted to buy the office from Zephyrinus (where his money came from has not been determined, but may have had something to do with his role related to the catacombs).  And since he was trying to buy an ecclesiastical office, he violated the warning from the Apostle Peter against Simon Magus first who tried to buy the gift of God for money:

20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23).

Yet Callistus (and the bribe-taking Zephyrinus) is listed as part of the claimed apostolic successors of this same Peter according to the Church of Rome.

Were not Zephyrinus and Callistus heretics and apostates?  Should one who allowed abortion/infanticide and apparently bribed his way into his office be considered a true Christian?  Or instead should not those in Asia Minor who condemned Marcion’s lawlessness be considered as true apostolic successors?

Even though Hippolytus is considered to be a saint by the Church of Rome, and even “was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era”(Kirsch, Johann Peter. St. Hippolytus of Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 12 Jun. 2009 The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York), it would seem that because Hippolytus clearly held to more of a binitarian view of the Godhead (Callistus considered him to be a Ditheist), the Roman Catholic Church decided to claim apostolic succession through Callistus instead of Hippolytus.  Hippolytus also complained about Callistus’ heretical view of the Godhead, which indicated that Callistus’ more “trinitarian” leaning was not universally accepted or Hippolytus would not likely have publicly complained about it as a heresy (Chapman J. Transcribed by Kevin Cawley. Fathers of the Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Hippolytus was the first to be labeled as an “antipope” because he and his followers refused to accept that Callistus could morally have apostolic succession.  Unlike Callistus (who some claim was elected, but may not have been), Hippolytus was actually elected “Bishop of Rome” right after Zephyrinus’ death (Kirsch.  St. Hippolytus of Rome).  But because of Callistus’ ‘liberal’ views, many chose to follow Zephyrinus’ archdeacon Callistus instead of Hippolytus.  If the Roman Church truly had apostolic succession how could they trace their church through the bride taking Zephyrinus and the abortion allowing Callistus than Hippolytus?

Those who associate with the Church of Rome should ask themselves if Hippolytus was elected as the Bishop of Rome in the 3rd century and Callistus was considered a corrupt “imposter” who somehow wrestled control, would it not make sense from a Roman Catholic perspective that it was Callistus who should be considered the first antipope and not Hippolytus?

Yet, most of those associated with Rome tend to ignore this.

What is even stranger is that the Roman Catholic Church currently claims that it never allowed abortion (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2271, p. 606) and the first/second century book called the  Didache clearly condemned abortions and infanticide (Didache, 2:1-3.  In Holmes, p. 253), yet at least two of its important theologians (one in each of the 3rd and 20th centuries respectively) reported that Callistus did allow abortion/infanticide.  It is also reported that other pontiffs, such as Gregory XIII and Gregory XIV, also allowed abortion (De Rosa, Peter. Vicars of Christ. Poolbeg Press, Dublin, 2000, p.p 374-375).   Apparently it seems that since Callistus’ view of the Godhead was less binitarian than Hippolytus, an individual who committed simony (attempting to buy a church office) and who condoned abortion/infanticide and immortality (Callistus) was more acceptable to Rome as an “apostolic successor”.

Because of Callistus’ decrees and actions, Tertullian, after he discontinued any fellowship with the Roman Church himself, sarcastically dubbed him “our good pontifex maximus” (Tertullian. De Pudicitia, Chapter 1, verse 10. Unfinished English translation by Gösta Claesson, 1950-1980. viewed 12/10/07) a title not then assumed by the bishops of Rome, but a title that the pagan Roman emperors had signifying that they were the bridge between humans and the gods.

But, obviously, from a biblical perspective, much of what Callistus did and allowed was not good.

It appears that many scholars (including Catholic ones) tend to understand that Callistus really did not have apostolic standards and often promoted doctrinal positions contrary to those taught by the original Apostles or held by the original Christians.  I do not believe that Callistus was a saint, a true successor of Peter, or even a genuine Christian.

His day should not be celebrated, but instead should remind everyone that the apostolic succession that the Greco-Roman faiths tend to claim to have, really do include individuals who held doctrinal positions in opposition to sacred scripture and those held by the original Apostles.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include the following:

Callistus (217-222) He is the first bishop known to have been a criminal prior to his election. He was also accused of a variety of corrupt acts, including allowing indulgences and infanticide (abortion).
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Abortion, the Bible, and a Woman’s Right to Choose Do you know what the Bible teaches on this? Has the Roman Catholic Church allowed abortions? What about the Living Church of God?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja viva do deus? Tambien Español: Cuál es fiel: ¿La iglesia católica romana o La Iglesia del Dios Viviente? Auch: Deutsch: Welches zuverlässig ist: Die Römisch-katholische Kirche oder die lebende Kirche von Gott?
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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