I’ve heard it said that the Protestant Reformation was a battle of Augustine vs. Augustine. It’s sad to read how he strengthened the precedent of the government using force to enforce the state-sanctioned faith. This would bear terrible fruit a millennium later – and give birth to the movements that would proclaim biblical freedom of conscience.
Augustine aligns himself with the civil arm to persecute the Donatists and bring them forcibly within the walls of Catholicism. He subsequently writes the first Catholic justification for state persecution of those in error: error has no rights; to disbelieve in forced conversions is to deny the power of God; and God must whip the son he receives – “per molestias erudito” (“true education begins with physical abuse”). This from the man who condemned the “punishments and cruel threats” of his childhood classroom. Augustine, the last great man of Roman antiquity, is going over the edge. The doctrine he has enunciated will echo down the ages in the cruelest infamies, executed with the highest justification. Augustine, the father of many firsts, is also father of the Inquisition.Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, pp. 64-65