Christianity had enjoyed several years of peace and growth under Pope Caius and Pope Marcellinus,but a renewed pagan movement against Christians threatened to bring it down. Emperor Diocletian took a new,harder stance and a new persecution confiscated Church properties and forbid Christians from serving in the Roman army. This was the time of St Sebastian and St George,two Roman soldiers who defiantly proclaimed their faith and were martyred for it;and then we have Pope Marcellinus.
How ever he handled this new persecution,it was apparently poor,because rumors swirled of him denouncing Christ and praying to pagan gods in exchange for his life. Other sources say he recanted just days later and was martyred. There is no definite concrete proof one way or the other because most Church records at the time were destroyed,but his papacy ended suddenly,under a dark cloud of suspicion and mistrust. Did he die of natural causes? Was he executed? Christians debated over his fate for over a hundred years after his death,and even the great Church doctor St Augustine weighed in on the matter;saying that there was no proof of Marcellinus’ apostasy. Whatever he did,it haunts his legacy to this day. It also gives the Papacy an different depth;that it humanizes it,it shows that these are human beings with the same fears and faults as the rest of us.