An early Christian sect devoted to Novatian (c.200–258), held a strict view that refused readmission to communion of Lapsi (those baptized Christians who had denied their faith or performed the formalities of a ritual sacrifice to the pagan gods under the pressures of the persecution sanctioned by Emperor Decius in AD 250). The Church of Rome declared the Novatianists heretical following the letters of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.
Antipope from 251 to c.258. His early life is known to us principally through the letters of Pope Cornelius to Fabius of Antioch. While a catechumen he was thought to be possessed and was consequently exorcised. Because of a serious illness he was baptized by affusion, but was not confirmed, which made him irregular for ordination. In spite of opposition he was ordained by Pope Fabian in 250, and subsequently appointed to a prominent position in Rome. He hoped to be elected as successor of Fabian who was martyred in 251. Cornelius was chosen, and Novatian caused himself to be elected by three rural Italian bishops. The Council of Carthage in 251 supported the claims of Cornelius who at once excommunicated Novatian. He set up a schismatical church, appointed himself as head of the sect, and had a large number of adherents who enlarged the scope of his heresy. The sect was still flourishing in the Orient in the 5th century. Though Saint Jerome mentions a number of writings of Novatian, only two have come down to us, De Cibis Judaicis and De Trinitate. That Novatian died a martyr's death during the persecution of Valerian, as is sometimes claimed, is doubtful.
For more detailed treatment of Novatian and Novatianism, see the Catholic Encyclopedia article.
- from the ; it has the Imprimatur of Cardinal Patrick Hayes, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 1 October 1929; this is part of a series of articles on heresies and blasphemies