St. John Chrysostom and Skulls

There are various forms of a quotation, all attributed to St. John Chrysostom: “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops,” or: “The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”

It’s an ancient fauxtation–John Wesley uses it–and known for well over 150 years to be a fake. I give you T.J. Buckton in Notes & Queries ser. 1. V.117 (1852) p. 92:

Hell paved with the Skulls of Priests (Vol. iv., p. 484.).  [This refers to the volume in which the question was asked whether the quotation was accurate]— The French priest referred to in this Query had most probably quoted, at second or third hand, and with rhetorical embellishment — certainly not from the original direct — an expression of St. Chrysostom, in his third homily on the Acts of the Apostles :

“οὐκ οῖμαι εῖναι πόλλους ἐν τοῖς ἰερευσι τοὺς σωζομένους, ἀλλὰ πολλῳ πλείους τοὺς ἀπολλυμένους”

I know not if there be many in the priesthood, who are saved, but I know that many more perish.”

Gibbon has also quoted this passage at second hand (v. 399. note z.), for he says :

“Chrysostom declares his free opinion (tom. ix. hom. iii. in Act. Apostol. p. 29.) that the number of bishops who might be saved, bore a very small proportion to those who would be damned.”

It may be safely asserted that the above expression of Chrysostom is the strongest against the priesthood to be found in any of the Christian Fathers of authority in the Church.

T. J. Buckton.

There is really little excuse for a knowledgeable Catholic (or knowledgeable anything else) to continue to attribute the saying to St. John Chrysostom.

Further reading (and the places that told me where to look on Google Books):

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/11/is-road-to-hell-paved-with-skulls-of.html
http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2009/10/08/chrysostom-on-corrupt-priests-part-2/

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