Governing his large diocese was not something that Augustine accomplished without making mistakes, or without having to address scandal. As the years passed, Augustine realised that his diocese was too large geographically for him to cover. He therefore suggested to the pope that Hippo be divided into smaller, more manageable dioceses. Fussala was the chief town in one of the new dioceses. The language there was primarily Punic. Augustine, whose monastery was a veritable training college for bishops, had set his heart on a certain candidate who spoke the Punic language.
A date was made for the primate of Numidia (i.e., the senior bishop of the whole region) to install the new bishop. To the horror and dismay of Augustine, the candidate failed to appear for the ceremony. The primate was old and Augustine did not want to force him to make the journey a second time. He might also have been embarrassed that one of his own community had failed him.
At any rate, there was present another local man from the monastery that Augustine led at Hippo. This man was named Antoninus. He had travelled with the bishop from Hippo and even though he was only a lector and barely twenty years of age, he had two factors in his favour. Firstly, Augustine had known him all his life and, secondly, Antoninus spoke the Punic language. It is difficult to imagine that Augustine suddenly appointed someone who had had no experience in leadership. But this happened, and the result was a disaster. No sooner had Augustine returned to Hippo than Antoninus showed his true colours. He appointed as his assistant a priest who had been expelled from the monastery at Hippo for causing trouble. He also selected a man who ran away from the army, and gave him the title of defender of the church. This "defender" engaged in extortion. He and Bishop Antoninus took lands and property that belonged to the local people. Antoninus actually confiscated the stones from the houses of others in order to build for himself a grand residence. He also engaged in improper sexual behaviour. The reign of terror by Antoninus in Fussala continued for years because the local people were too frightened to talk. When the truth came out, Augustine took responsibility for the appointment and presided over a church court to relieve him of many of his gains and privileges. Antoninus proved to be a clever adversary, however. He made a personal appeal to Pope Boniface, offering a false letter of recommendation from his primate.
The matter dragged out for a long time until an episcopal tribunal issued a damning report. Then Antoninus went to Rome to appeal to the new pope. Augustine had to write to this pope, and again took responsibility for the problem. What became of Antoninus is not clear. However, letters of Augustine written some years later indicate that Augustine as Bishop of Hippo was again administering Fussala.
Augustine could easily have made excuses for his hasty appointment of Antoninus and he could have given up trying to correct this error. Yet, he never stopped trying to set things right for the people of Fussala and he never stopped taking the blame. One author suggests that in the year 423 Augustine considered resigning over scandal involving Antoninus, for which he felt responsible. AN1206