Persistent Donatists were no longer merely heretics; they were rebels and incurred the confiscation of their church property and the forfeiture of their civil rights.
The Donatists themselves repudiated the designation, which was applied to them by their opponents as a reproach.
On the other hand, sanctity of life on the part of the minister is not necessary in order to the validity of the sacraments which he confers, although this was held to be the case by the Donatists in the 4th century, and following them by the Waldensians and Albigenses in the 12th, and by the followers of Hus and Wycliffe in the 14th.
On the other hand, Augustine, bishop of Hippo, after several years' negotiation, arranged a great conference between the Donatists and the orthodox, which was held under the authority of the emperor at Carthage in 411.
Honorius was equally severe on heretics, such as the Donatists and Manichaeans.
Before entering on the proceedings the Catholics pledged themselves, if defeated, to give up their sees, while in the other event they promised to recognize the Donatists as bishops on their simply declaring their adherence to the Catholic church.
In 321 Constantine, seeing probably that he had been wrong in abandoning his usual policy of toleration, sought to retrace his steps by granting the Donatists liberty to act according to their consciences, and declaring that the points in dispute between them and the orthodox should be left to the judgment of God.
An article by him on the Donatist schism appearing in the Dublin Review in July 1839 made a great impression in Oxford, Newman and others seeing the force of the analogy between Donatists and Anglicans.
The number of referees was afterwards increased to twenty, and the case was tried at Rome in 313.2 Ten bishops appeared on each side, the leading representative of the Donatists being Donatus of Casae Nigrae.