separatist movement among African Christians dedicated to the purification
of the church and its ministry after the persecutions.
Donatist movement took place in North Africa
out of African controversies over how to regard Christians who had lapsed
during persecutions. The Donatist party maintained that in order to remain
pure and holy the church could not accept the ministry of those who had
lapsed during persecution. The movement was occasioned by the consecration
of a newly named bishop by another bishop suspected to have lapsed.
This, in the eyes of the Donatists, made the consecration of the new bishop
invalid. The Donatists then created a schism by naming and consecrating
a bishop of their own choosing. The successor of this bishop was Donatus,
after whom the movement is named. Donatists maintained that sacraments
administered by an unworthy priest were invalid. Augustine
of Hippo was the principal opponent of Donatism. Augustine held that
the sacraments were valid and effective without regard to the moral character
of the officiant. This became the Catholic norm. The Donatist schism endured
until the church in northern Africa was destroyed by Arabs in the seventh
and eighth centuries.