Of course there were formalities, of course there were complexities. But you guys make it seem that "if we don't know whether Pontius Pilate is a saint, then we're doomed! How will we ever know what the true faith is?"
Let me say this first. I like this discussion. I would love to know the understanding of how it came about that Pontius Pilate was or was not a saint. It would be nice to see how the traditions developed. Maybe the empire has something to do with it, I don't know. And I'm tend to see that perhaps blaming the empire is a bit of a weak argument if there is no proof to indicate this.
However, when you start using the case of Pontius Pilate to say, "Oh my God! This is so despairing! How will we know the true faith if we can't even know whether Pontius Pilate was a saint based on imperial intrusion?" At this point, I'm going to say something that even Pontius Pilate, if he is in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, will yell back to us:
Yes, I know I oversimplified the situation. I think it is terrible that history is filled with such idiocies of the past to confuse people today. But now, I'm going to give another side of it. Part of the blame may be us, but the other part of the blame is also those who despair. To despair about this is foolish. "The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force." Suffer, pray, fast, do the research, sweat and try to understand. My example of standing up to the emperor worked for Arianism. But it caused schisms in other areas. Ya, I get that. So DO THE RESEARCH. Is the Holy Spirit bereft that he would leave you in despair not knowing the truth?
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
So forgive me for oversimplifying, but for anyone who despairs, then this is the simplistic answer I'll give. Stop being weak and start praying, and start taking your own relationship with God seriously. Then all things will be revealed to you little by little. Apparently the Church fathers did not care much if one local church venerated Pontius Pilate and another talked smack about him. (At least the OO Church does not care, and what more close relationship you get than Copts and Ethiopians who have opposing tradition on this situation?) So if the empire was involved, they probably thought, "ya, suer, whatever." But if the emperor would say, "there was a time when Christ was not" or "you must accept this council by force", brave bishops did not care about the emperor's personal feelings or the empire's disunity. And neither should you. Do the research. Every situation is a case-by-case basis. But overall, if the emperor is blamed, then he was blamed. If the emperor did something right, he was praised.
Now, let's get back to discussing Pontius Pilate. How was it strategic to spread Christianity? Did it make a difference with Nero quickly thereafter? For all we know, Nero treated Christians no differently than perhaps the pagan empire treated Pontius Pilate. At that moment, the truth about Pontius Pilate could have been made clear, since now the Christians have become the enemy of the state. Some bishops even believed it was against Christianity to join the military. So, if Pontius Pilate was a saint, it would be some of those Roman Christians who would also venerate Pontius Pilate to further a cause against the empire that was killing off Christians.