Was Constantine really that bad?


"The Church was pure until Constantine"
I used to buy into this lie at one time.
Where can one find a good history and biography of this much maligned Roman emperor? Was he really as bad as anti-Catholics seem to think he was?


Well, I’m sure many anti-Catholics would love to hear that Orthodox and Eastern Catholics consider him a saint of the Church…:eek:

I’m not sure he was that horrible, but he certainly takes the rap for a lot of “corruption.” He definately held to some Pagan ideas, or he seemed to, but he was an emperor, not a bishop. He was baptized right before his death by an Arian hierarch. I guess that’s all the bad I can think of…

Prayers and petitions,

My 1200th post! Yeah!! :extrahappy:


I’m sure that they would have preferred that Christians be persecuted for their beliefs…:smiley:


Eusebius was kind enough to write a history on him See here. I figure it will be much more accurate than any biography written these days, especially considering he wrote it only a hundred years after he lived.

I’ll tell you the formula used to smear Constantine as a bad influence on the Church.

#1- He was a pagan
#2- It is/was questioned that his conversion was a political ploy. Most of this thought comes from the fact that he was such a high profile and it did indeed have an enormous effect on the Roman empire. There is actually no evidence (that I have seen), other than a hunch, pointing to the fact that he was not genuinely converted.
#3- He was an emperor not a religious leader, and anyone seeing a secular leader having such an impact on religion as him assumes it was a bad impact.

Regardless of what he actually did, these three things add up in many peoples minds as enough to write him off as bad.

I personally like Constantine. I feel he really tried to lead an empire into Christianity.

Also it should be noted Eusebius was credited with a work called Oration in Praise of Constantine. So a major church leader (bishop of Caesarea) has good things to say about him less than 100 years later. Pretty good indicator of whether the impact he had was good or bad.


I’m not sure Eusebius is the best source of history on Constantine. I heard that if it were up to Eusebius, Constantine would be a saint. More than one Catholic author has claimed that Eusebius judgment toward Constantine was overly rosy.


You think we should write off Eusebius because he favored Constantine? Does it not serve the purpose as a fit biography?

As said here:

Eusebius wasn’t the only one.


No, but I think the normally un-biased writings of Eusebius approached “idol-worship” when discussing the role of Constantine in the early Church.


Constantine is a Saint on the Eastern an Oriental calendars.


The noly bad thing as far as I can tell is that some later Emperors wanted to control the Church and tried to take some or all of that authority off the Pope, though Constantine himself didn’t


As far as Emperors go, Constantine was pretty good.

Maybe people just don’t like Emperors. :shrug:


I understand the call to Nicea was from Constantine, against the Pope’s wishes.

Although it was not an outright attempt to control the Church, it was still at the instigation of Constantine. In any event, it was meant to prevent a split in the Catholic Church (orthodox vs. Aryans).


The great social reform that was to culminate in the abolition of slavery and the remodelling of the Roman family was only made possible by discouraging the non-Catholics, for the Catholics alone were prepared for these profound reforms, they alone had learned to respect the slaves and to lead a healthy family life. It was more for political reasons that Constantine and his successors insisted with such a heavy hand on maintaining unity of faith in the Roman Empire. It emerges, both from one of Constantine’s letters, and from his speech to the Council of Nicea, that he turned to the Christians because, above all else, he found a social sense among them and a spirit of sacrifice up until then unexampled. In the face of endemic military revolutions, the Church seemed to him to be the sole institution in which any belief in authority and any moral stability remained. Christianity appeared to him and his successors to be the only bond of unity that could prevent the dissolution of the Empire. If they served the unity of the Church, it was because this unity alone could serve their political designs. And that is why every attempt against this unity seemed, at the same time, to be an attempt against the State."


This is an ooooold thread, but it hasnt been discussed in a while.
Revisionist church history would have us believe everything went to pot in 312 AD under Constantine. What about a proper view of Constintine and the Middle Ages? What are some writings that refute the so-called ‘Dark Ages’?


If I recall correctly, Constantine was still dead in the Middle Ages!

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist! :wink:




The mistake the Reformers made was in assuming that the Early Church was itself “pure”. The apostles themselves complained a lot about heretics and men with itchy ears who were always eager to listen to accursed men who taught their own “gospel” and doctrines and personal brand of Christianity or a new Christian inspired but competing religion. Well before Constantine is involved, Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism, Antinominism were all major heresies in the early church. These all certainly were among these sects of peoples who probably called themselves or thought of themselves a “Christian”. Ironic how non-Catholics will embrace the notion of denominations with an invisible church of believers but reject the pluralism that already started in the first century.

But these various factions were outside of the authority of the true apostolic teachings. It is just as we have today in Protestantism (and various pseudo-Christian cults like Mormonism, SDA, JWs etc.) a group who call themselves “Christian” but who for the most part would not be recognized as such by the apostles or thier direct disciples for their lack of submission to a bishop, priest or deacon (much more so for those who fail to break sacramental bread and confess their sins publicly or do strict penance). In apostolic days people aligned themselves with their teacher’s teachings.

Constantine did not teach anyone - he just set in motion the secular context that permitted Christians to compete on a level playing field without too much fear of persecution.

But not one Catholic teaching comes to us from Constantine.



Constantine can be credited for demanding the Church to settle many issues that were splitting Her apart from within. Although his reasons for doing this were secular (he wanted peace within the empire), it did lead to the Nicene Council.


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