|The same church bearing this mosaic|
puts an "S" before Liberius' name
Here in Tradistan, we struggle with the concept of the heretical pope for some reason, probably the spirit of Vatican I—which is not what that Council's fathers enshrined in Pastor Aeternus. There are plenty of heterodox popes in history, among them the notorious John XXII and heresiarch Honorius I—whose papacy earned him the condemnation of an ecumenical council and of three succeeding centuries of popes. St. Marcellinus lapsed from the faith, although he did return. John XII invoked pagan gods during dice games and toasted the devil during feasts! With such a diverse cast of characters in the darker acts of the papacy's twenty century long drama, I continue to be incredulous that traditionalists keep focusing on that ridiculous myth about St. Liberius.
Here is an article from a leading trad blog which gives generally solid advice, but continues that old nonsense that Liberius was the first non-saint pope and that he, under duress, signed a heretical formula of Arianism. As I have recounted elsewhere, this line is complete rubbish and based on myopic scholarship. I will not review the entirety of the saintly pope's troubles, but it suffices to say that he held fast to the faith, he supported the patriarch of Alexandria (the Emperor said "You support Athanasius contra mundum"), was listed in all the martyrologies until the Counter-Reformation, was admired by St. Ambrose, and is described as "S. Liberius" in both the Pauline and Vatican Basilicas. For whatever reason, Bellarmine de facto un-canonized him when the liturgy was trimmed for popular use. Sixtus V and Benedict XIV would un-canonize other saints by removing them from popular devotion, including Origen's teacher, St. Clement of Alexandria. The libelous myth about St. Liberius begins in earnest when the patristic movement of the 19th and early 20th century began reading old texts through modern eyes and could find neither a problem with Liberius nor any devotion to him in modern day. They seem to have assumed that he must have been involved in some misdeed in order to have missed elevation to the altars. The problem may well relate to the perfect society view that prevailed until Pius XII, a view which held the pope to be the perfect leader of a perfect community. The unwillingly heterodox Liberius leaves the perfect society intact by means of legal gymnastics, but Honorius must be ignored entirely (or derided as a myth, as Anthony Cekada once suggested to me).
I think early and medieval Christians, aware of the role of politics in the Church and for the most part under the rule of their local bishops, held a healthier view of the pope than their Counter-Reformation successors, who, we must not forget, were defending the papacy from protestants and not offerings a history exposition. Let us not be afraid of history, for we have nothing to fear from it. Let us confront it head on, suppress the libel around a great pope, and restore the reputation of the man who stood with St. Athanasius contra mundum.