Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12: 32.01.02 Letter X-XII

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12: 32.01.02 Letter X-XII

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 32.01.02 Letter X-XII

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Letter X. To the Bishops of the Province of Vienne. In the Matter of Hilary, Bishop of Arleshyperlink .

To the beloved brothers, the whole body of bishops of the province of Vienne, Leo, bishop of Rome.

I. The Solidarity of the Church Built Upon the Rack of S. Peter Must Be Everywhere Maintained.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of mankind, instituted the observance of the Divine religion which He wished by the grace of God to shed its brightness upon all nations and all peoples in such a way that the Truth, which before was confined to the announcements of the Law and the Prophets, might through the Apostles' trumpet blast go out for the salvation of all menhyperlink , as it is written: "Their sound has gone out into every land,and their words into the ends of the worldhyperlink ." But this mysterious functionhyperlink the Lord wished to be indeed the concern of all the apostles, but in such a way that He has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the Apostleshyperlink : and from him as from the Head wishes His gifts to flow to all the body: so that any one who dares to secede from Peter's solid rock may understand that he has no part or lot in the divine mystery. For He wished him who had been received into partnership in His undivided unity to be named what He Himself was, when He said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Churchhyperlink :" that the building of the eternal temple by the wondrous gift of God's grace might rest on Peter's solid rock: strengthening His Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it. But this most holy firmness of the rock, reared, as we have said, by the building hand of God, a man must wish to destroy in over-weaning wickedness when he tries to break down its power, by favouring his own desires, and not following what he received from men of old: for he believes himself subject to no law, and held in check by no rules of God's ordinances and breaks away, in his eagerness for novelty, from your use and ours, by adopting illegal practices, and letting what he ought to keep fall into abeyance.

II. Hilary is Disturbing the Peace of the Church by His Insubordination.

But with the approval, as we believe, of God, and retaining towards you the fulness of our love which the Apostolic See always, as you remember, expends upon you, holy brethren we are striving to correct these things by mature counsel, and to share with you the task of setting your churches in order, not by innovations but by restoration of the old; that we may persevere in the accustomed state which our fathers handed down to us, and please our God through the ministry of a good work by removing the scandals of disturbances. And so we would have you recollect, brethren, as we do, that the Apostolic See, such is the reverence in which it is held, has times out of number been referred to and consulted by the priests of your province as well as others, and in the various matters of appeal, as the old usage demanded, it has reversed or confirmed decisions: and in this way "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peacehyperlink " has been kept, and by the interchange of letters, our honourable proceedings have promoted a lasting affection: for "seeking not our own but the things of Christhyperlink ," we have been careful not to do despite to the dignity which God has given both to the churches and their priests. But this path which with our fathers has been always so well kept to and wisely maintained, Hilary has quilted, and is likely to disturb the position and agreement of the priests by his novel arrogance: desiring to subject you to his power in such a way as not to suffer himself to be subject to the blessed Apostle Peter, claiming for himself the ordinations of all the churches throughout the provinces of Gaul, and transferring to himself the dignity which is due to metropolitan priests; he diminishes even the reverence that is paid to the blessed Peter himself with his proud words: for not only was the power of loosing and binding given to Peter before the others, but also to Peter more especially was entrusted the care of feeding the sheephyperlink . Yet any one who holds that the headship must be denied to Peter, cannot really diminish his dignity: but is puffed up with the breath of his pride, and plunges himself into the lowest depth.

III. Celidonius Has Been Restored to His Bishopric, the Charges Against Him Having Been Found False.

Accordingly the written record of our proceedings shows what action we have taken in the matter of Celidoniushyperlink , the bishop, andwhat Hilary said in the presence and hearing of the aforesaid bishop. For when Hilary had no reasonable answer to give in the council of the holy priests, "the secrets of his hearthyperlink " gave vent to utterances such as no layman could make and no priest listen to. We were grieved, I acknowledge, brothers, and endeavoured to appease the tumult of his mind by patient treatment. For we did not wish to exasperate those wounds which he was inflicting on his soul by his insolent retorts, and strove rather to pacify him whom we had taken up as a brother, although it was he who was entangling himself by his replies, than to cause him pain by our remarks. Celidonius, the bishop, was therefore acquitted, for he had proved himself wrongfully deposed from the priesthood, by the clear replies of his witnesses made in his own presence: so that Hilary, who remained with us, had no opposition to offer. The judgment, therefore, was rescinded, which was brought forward and read to the effect that, as the husband of a widowhyperlink , he could not hold the priesthood. Now this rule we, maintaining the legal constitutionshyperlink , have wished scrupulously adhered to, not only in respect of priests but also of clergy of the lower ranks: that those who have contracted such a marriage, or those who are proved not to be the husbands of only one wife contrary to the apostle's discipline, should not be suffered to enter the sacred servicehyperlink . But though we decree that those, whom their own acts condemn, must either not be admitted at all, or, if they have, must be removed, so those who are falsely so accused we are bound to clear after examination held, and not allow to lose their office. For the sentence pronounced would have remained against him, if the truth of the charge had been proved. And so Celidonius, our fellow-bishop, was restored to his church and to that dignity which he ought not to have lost, as the course of our proceedings, and the sentence which was pronounced by us after holding the inquiry testifies.

IV. Hilary's Treatment of Projectus Does Not Redound to His Credit.

When this business was so concluded, the complaint of our brother and fellow-bishop, Projectushyperlink , next came before us: who addressed us in a tearful and piteous letter, about the ordaining of a bishop over his head. A letter was also brought to us from his own fellow-citizens, corroborated by a great many individual signatures, and full of the most unpleasant complaints against Hilary: to the effect that Projectus, their bishop, was not allowed to be ill, but his priesthood had been transferred to another without their knowledge, and the heir brought into possession by Hilary, the intruder as if to fill up a vacancy, though the possessor was still alivehyperlink . We should like to hear what you, brothers, think on the point: although we ought not to entertain any doubt about your feelings, when you picture to yourselves a brother lying on a sick-bed and tortured, not so much by his bodily weakness as by pains of another kind. What hope in life is left a man who is visited with despair about his priesthood whilst another is set up in his place? Hilary gives a clear proof of his gentle heart when he believed that the tardiness of a brother's death is but a hindrance to his own ambitious designs. For, as far as in him lay, he quenched the light for him; he robbed him of life by setting up another in his room, and thus causing him such pain as to hinder his recovery. And supposing that his brother's passage from this world was brief, but after the common course of men, what does Hilary seek for himself in another's province, and why does he claim that which none of his predecessors before Patroclus possessed? whereas that very position which seemed to have been temporarily granted to Patroclus by the Apostolic See was afterwards withdrawn by a wiser decisionhyperlink . At least the wishes of the citizens should have been waited for, and the testimony of the peoplehyperlink : the opinion of those held in honour should have been asked, and the choice of the clergy-things which those who know the rules of the fathers are wont to observe in the ordination of priests: that the rule of the Apostle's authority might in all things be kept, which enjoins that one who is to be the priest of a church should be fortified, not only by theattestation of the faithful but also by the testimony of "those who are withouthyperlink ," and that no occasion for offence be left, when, in peace and in God-pleasing harmony with the full approval of all, one who will be a teacher of peace is ordained.

V. Hilary's Action Was Very Reprehensible Throughout, and We Have Restored Projectus.

But Hilary came upon them unawares and departed no less suddenly, accomplishing many journeys with great speed, as we have ascertained, and traversing distant provinces with such haste that he seems to have coveted a reputation for the swiftness of a courier rather than for the sobriety of a priesthyperlink . For these are the words of the citizens in the letter that has been addressed to us:-"He departed before we knew he had come." This is not to return but to flee, not to exercise a shepherd's wholesome care, but to employ the violence of a thief and a robber, as saith the Lord: "he that entereth not by the door into the sheep-foldhyperlink , but climbeth up some other way, is a thief and a robber." Hilary, therefore, was anxious not so much to consecrate a bishop as to kill him who was sick, and to mislead the man whom he set over his head by wrongful ordination. We, however, have done what, as God is our Judge, we believe you will approve: after holding counsel with all the brethren we have decreed that the wrongfully ordained man should be deposed and the Bishop Projectus abide in his priesthood: with the further provision that when any of our brethren in whatsoever province shall decease, he who has been agreed upon to be metropolitan of that province shall claim for himself the ordination of his successor.

These two matters, as we see, have been settled, though there are many other points in them which seem to have violated the principles of the Church, and ought to be visited with just censure and judgment. But we cannot linger on them any further, for we are called off to other matters on which we must carefully confer with you, holy brethren.

VI. Hilary's Practice of Using Armed Violence Must Be Suppressed.

A band of soldiers, as we have learnt follows the priest through the provinces and helps him who relies upon their armed support in turbulently invading churches, which have lost their own priests. Before this courthyperlink are dragged for ordination men who are quite unknown to the cities over which they are to be set. For as one who is well known and approved is sought out in peace, so must one who is unknown, when brought forward, beestablished by violence. I beg and entreat and beseech you in God's name prevent such things, brethren, and remove all occasion for discord from your provinces. At all events we acquit ourselves before God in beseeching you not to allow this to proceed further. In peace and quietness should they be asked for who are to be priests. The consent of the clergy, the testimony of those held in honour the approval of the orders and the laity should be requiredhyperlink . He who is to govern all, should be chosen by allhyperlink . As we said before, each metropolitan should keep in his own hands the ordinations that occur in his own province, acting in concert with those who precede the rest in seniority of priesthood, a privilege restored to him through us. No man should claim for himself another's rights. Each should keep within his own limits and boundaries, and should understand that he cannot pass on to another a privilege that belongs to himself. But if any one neglecting the Apostle's prohibitions and paying too much heed to personal favour, wishes to give up his precedence, thinking he can pass his rights on to another, not he to whom he has yielded, but he who ranks before the rest of the priests within the province in episcopal seniority, should claim to himself the power of ordaining. The ordination should be performed not at random but on the proper day: and it should be known that any one who has not been ordained on the evening of Saturday, which precedes the dawn of the first day of the weekhyperlink , or actually on the Lord's day cannot be sure of his status. For our forefathers judged the day of the Lord's resurrectionhyperlink as aloneworthy of the honour of being the occasion on which those who are to be made priests are given to God.

VII. Hilary is Deposed Not Only from His Usurped Jurisdiction, But Also from What of Right Belongs to Him, and is Restricted to His Own Single Bishopric.

Let each province be content with its own councils. and let not Hilary dare to summon synodal meetings besides, and by his interference disturb the judgments of the Lord's priests. And let him know that he is not only deposed from another's rights, but also deprived of his power over the province of Vienne which he had wrongfully assumed. For it is but fair, brethren, that the ordinances of antiquity should be restored, seeing that he who claimed for himself the ordinations of a province for which he was not responsible, has been shown in a similar way in the present case also to have acted so that, as he has on more than one occasion brought on himself sentence of condemnation by hisrash and insolent words, he may now be kept by our command in accordance with the clemency of the Apostolic Seehyperlink to the priesthood of his own city alone. He is not to be present then at any ordination: he is not to ordain because, conscious of his deserts, when he was required to answer for his action, be trusted to make good his escape by disgraceful flight, and has put himself out of Apostolic communion, of which he did not deserve to be a partakerhyperlink : and we believe this was by God's providence, who brought him to our court, though we did not expect him, and caused him to retire by stealth in the midst of holding the inquiry, that he should not be a partner in our communionhyperlink .

VIII. Excommunication Should Be Inflicted Only on Those Who are Guilty of Some Great Crime, and Even Then Not Hastily.

No Christian should lightly be denied communionhyperlink , nor should that be done at the will of an angry priest which the judge's mind ought to a certain extent unwillingly and regretfully to carry out for the punishment of a great crime. For we have ascertained that some have been cut off from the grace of communion for trivial deeds and words, and that the soul for which Christ's blood was shed has been exposed to the devil's attacks and wounded, disarmed, so to say, and stript of all defence by the infliction of so savage a punishment as to fall an easy prey to him. Of course if ever a case has arisen of such a kind as in due proportion to the nature of the crime committed to deprive a man of communion, he only who is involved in the accusation must be subjected to punishment: and he who is not shown to be a partner in its commission ought not to share in the penalty. But what wonder that one who is wont to exult over the condemnation of priests, should show himself in the same light towards laymen.

IX. Leontius is Appointed in Hilary's Room.

Wherefore, because our desire seems very different to this (for we are anxious that the settled state of all the Churches and the harmony of the priests should be maintained,) exhorting you to unity in the bond of love, we both entreat, and consistently with our affection admonish you, in the interests of your peace and dignity, to keep what has been decreed by us at the inspiration of God and the most blessed Apostle Peter, after sifting and testing all the matters at issue, being assured that what we are known to have decided in this way is not so much to our own advantage as to yours. For we are not keeping in our own hands the ordinations of your provinces, as perhaps Hilary, with his usual untruthfulness, may suggest in order to mislead your minds, holy brethren: but in our anxiety we are claiming for you that no further innovations should be allowed, and that for the future no opportunity should be given for the usurper to infringe your privileges. For we acknowledge that it can only redound to our credit, if the diligence of the Apostolic See be kept unimpaired among you, and if in our maintenance of Apostolic discipline we do not allow what belongs to your position to fall to the ground through unscrupulous aggressions. And since seniority is always to be respected, we wish Leontiushyperlink , our brother and fellow-bishop, a priest well approved among you, to be promoted to this dignity, if it please you that without his consent no further council be summoned by you, holy brethren, and that he may be honoured by you all as his age and good fame demands, the metropolitans being secured in their own dignity and rights. For it is but fair, and no injury seems to accrue to any of the brethren, if those who come first in seniority of the priesthood should, as their age deserves, have deference paid to them by the rest of the priests in their own provinces, God keep you safe, beloved brethren.


1 Cf. Introduction p. vi.

2 Per Apostolicam tubam in salutem universitatis (Gk. thsoikoumenhj ) exiret, cf. Letter IX. Chap. Ii. Apostoli a Domino proedicandi omnibus gentibus evangelii tubam sumunt.

3 Ps. xix. 4.

4 Huius muneris sacramentum, his mind is running forward to his favourite sacramentum, that of Peter as the rock-man of the Church.

5 Cf. Letter XXVIII. Chap. v. a principali petra (B. Petrus), soliditatem et virtutis traxit et nominis, etc. . . also Cyprian de unit. eccl. chapt. iv.

6 S. Matt. xvi. 18.

7 Eph. iv. 3.

8 Phil. ii. 21.

9 Cui cum proe (Quesnel conj. Pro) coeteris solvendi et ligandi tradita sit potestas, pascendarum tamen ovium cura specialius mandata est. Cf. S. John xxi. 15-17.

10 Celidonius was probable either bishop of Vienne or of Vesontis (Besancon): see Perthel, p. 25.

11 Quesnel well refers this phrase to 1 Cor. xiv. 25.

12 Cf. Letter IV. Chap. iii.

13 Servantes legalia constituta, these are taken to be not so much the canons of the Church as the provisions of the Mosaic Law, e.g. Lev. xxi. 14.; Ezek. xliv. 22.

14 Militiam (lit. military service).

15 Projectus was perhaps a bishop of the province of Gallia Narbonensis I.:Perthel, p. 27.

16 Quod Projecto episcopo suo oegrotare liberum non fuisset, eiusque sacerdotium in alium proeter suam notitiam esse translatum, et tamquam in vacuam possessionem ab Hilario pervasore hoeredem viventis inductum. the construction is changed from quod....fuisset, to the ordinary accus. And infin.

17 Patroclus had been Bishop of Arles circa. 416, and the then Bishop of Rome, Zosimus, had granted him metropolitan rights over the provinces of S. E. Gaul which did not gain the acceptance of the other chief bishops in the district, and Boniface I. (Ep 12) in 422. seems to have withdrawn the rights granted by Zosimus (Schaff, I, p. 297).

18 Civium : populorum.The former are apparently called lower down fidelium, and the latter, qui foris sunt.

19 1 Tim. iii. 7.

20 Gloriam de scurrili velocitate potius quam de sacerdotali moderatione captasse.

21 In Cortem ovium: the low Latin word (cors) is in the Vulgate changed to ovile.

22 Ante hoc officium.

23 Cf. Cypr. Ep. Lv. Cap. Vii., factus est Cornelius episcopus de Dei et Christi eins iudicio, de clericorum poene omnium testimonio, de plebis, quoe tunc adfuit, suffragio et sacerdotum antiquorum et bonorum virorum collegio.

24 Quesnel appositely quotes Pliny (Paneg. Traiani) imperaturus omnibus eligi debet ex omnibus.

25 Quod lucescit in prima sabbati; the phrase is repeated from Letter IX., chap. Ii., to which refer to the whole passage.

26 Viz., Sunday.

27 Pro apostolicoe sedis pietate, or "as loyalty to the Apostolic See demands."

28 This does not mean that Hilary is excommunicated, but that he is to have no share in episcopal privileges as a successor of the apostles.

29 These words of course refer to Hilary's journey on foot to Rome, and his subsequent escape from something very much like prison: see Introduction, p. vi: for his degradation, cf. Letter XII.. chap ix., where a similar punishment is enacted.

30 Here, no doubt, excommunication pure and simple is meant. Cf. note 4, supr.

31 Leontius seems to have had little but his age to recommend him for this promotion: the name of his bishopric is unknown, and the weakness of the appointment may, I think, be gathered from Leo's insisting so strongly on the principle of seniority both here and in chap vi. Above.

Letter XI. An Ordinance of Valentinianus III.

(Confirming Leo's sentence upon Hilary.)

Letter XII.

Leo, bishop of the city of Rome, to all the bishops of Mauritania Caesariensis in Africa greeting the Lord.

I. The Disorderly Appointments of Bishops Which Have Been Made in the Province are Reprehensible.

Inasmuch as the frequent accounts of those who visited us made mention of certain unlawful practices among you with regard to the ordination of priests, the demands of religion required that we should strive to arrive at the exact state of the case in accordance with that solicitude which by the Divine command we bestow on the whole Church: and so we delegated the charge of this to our brother and fellow-priest, Potentius. who was setting out from us: and who, according to what we wrote and addressed to you by him, was to make inquiry as to the facts about the bishops whose election was said to be faulty, and to report everything faithfully to us. Wherefore, because the same Potentius has most fully disclosed all to our knowledge, and has by his truthful account made clear to us, under what and what manner of governors some of Christ's congregations are placed in certain parts of the province of (Mauritania) Caesariensis, we have found it necessary to open out the grief wherewith our hearts are vexed for the dangers of the Lord's flocks, by sending this letter also to you beloved: for we are surprised that either the over-bearing conduct of intriguers or the rioting of the people had so much weight with you in a time of disorder, that the chief pastorate and governance of the Church was handed over to the unworthiest persons, and such as were farthest removed from the priestly standard. This is not to consult but harm the peoples' interests: and not to enforce discipline but to increase differences. For the integrity of the rulers is the safeguard of those who are under them: and where there is complete obedience, there the form of doctrine is sound. But an appointment which has either been made by sedition or seized by intrigue, even though it offend not in morals or in practice, is nevertheless pernicious from the mere example of its beginning: and it is hard for things to be carried to a good issue which were started with a bad beginning.

II. In No Case Ought Bishops to Be Ordained Hastily.

But if in every grade of the Church great forethought and knowledge has to be employed, lest there be any thing disorderly or out of placehyperlink in the house of the Lord: how much more carefully must we strive to prevent mistakes in the election of him who is set over all the grades? For the peace and order of the Lord's whole household will be shaken, if what is required in the body be not found in the head. Where is that precept of the blessed Apostle Paul uttered through the Spirit of God, whereby in the person of Timothy the whole number of Christ's priests are instructed, and to each one of us is said: "Lay hands hastily on no one, and do not share in other men's sinshyperlink ?" What is to lay on hands hastily but to confer the priestly dignity on unproved men before the proper agehyperlink , before there has been time to test them, before they have deserved it by their obedience, before they have been tried by discipline? And what is to share in other men's sins but for the ordainer to become such as is he who ought not to have been ordained by him? For just as a man stores up for himself the fruit of his good work, if he maintains a right judgment in choosing a priest: so one who receives an unworthy priest into the number of his colleagues, inflicts grievous loss upon himself. We must not then pass over in the case of any one that which is laid down in the general ordinances: nor is that advancement to be reckoned lawful which has been made contrary to the precepts of God's law.

III. The Apostolic Precept About the Marriage of the Clergy Based Upon the Marriage of Christ with the Church of Which It is a Figure.

For as the Apostle says that among other rules for election he shall be ordained bishop who is known to have been or to be "the husband of one wife," this command was always held so sacred that the same condition was understood as necessary to be observed even in the wifehyperlink of the priest-elect: lest she should happen to have been married to another man before she entered into wedlock with him, even though he himself had had no other wife. Who then would dare to allow this injury to be perpetrated upon so great a sacramenthyperlink , seeing that this great and venerable mystery is not without the support of the statutes of God's law as well, whereby it is clearly laid down that a priest is to marry a virgin, and that she who is to be the wife of a priesthyperlink is not to know another husband? For even then in the priests was prefigured the Spiritual marriage of Christ and His Church: so that since "the man is the head of the womanhyperlink ," the spouse of the Word may learn to know no other man but Christ, who did rightly choose her only, loves her only, and takes none but her into His alliance. If then even in the Old Testament this kind of marriage among priests is adhered to, how much more ought we who are placed under the grace of the Gospel to conform to the Apostle's precepts: so that though a man be found endowed with good character, and furnished with holy works, he may nevertheless in no wise ascend either to the grade of deacon, or the dignity of the presbytery, or to the highest rank of the bishopric, if it has been spread abroad either that he himself is not the husband of one wife, or that his wife is not the wife of one husband.

IV. Premature Promotions are to Be Avoided.

But when the Apostle warns and says: "and let these also first be proved, and so let them ministerhyperlink ," what else do we think must be understood but that in these promotions we should consider not only the chastity of their marriages, but also the deserts of their labours, lest the pastoral office be entrusted to men who are either fresh from baptism, or suddenly diverted from worldly pursuits? for through all the ranks of the Christian army in the matter of promotions it ought to be considered whether a man can manage a greater charge. Rightly did the venerable opinions of the blessed Fathers in speaking of the election of priests reckon those men fit for the administration of sacred things who had been slowly advanced through the various grades of office, and had given such good proof of themselves therein that in each one of them the character of their practices bore witness to their liveshyperlink . For if it is improper to attain to the world's dignities without the help of time and without the merit of having toiled, and if the seeking of office is branded unless it be supported by proofs of uprightness, how diligently and how carefully ought the dispensing of divine duties and heavenly dignities to be carried out, lest in aught the apostolic and canonical decrees be violated, and the ruling of the Lord's Church be committed to men who being ignorant of the lawful constitutions anti devoid of all humility wish not to rise from the lowest grade, but to begin with the highest: for it is extremely unfair and preposterous that the inexpert should be preferred to the expert, the young to the old, the raw recruits to those who have seen much service. In a great house, indeed, as the Apostle explainshyperlink , there must needs be divers vessels, some of gold and of silver, and some of wood and of earth: but their purpose varies with the quality of their material, and the use of the precious and of the cheap kinds is not the same. For everything will be in disorder if the earthen ware be preferred to the golden, or the wooden to the silver. And as the wooden or earthen vessels are a figure of those men who are hitherto conspicuous for no virtues; so in the golden or silver vessels they no doubt are represented who, having passed through the fire of long experience, and through the furnace of protracted toil have deserved to be tried gold and pure silver. And if such men get no reward for their devotion, all the discipline of the Church is loosened, all order is disturbed, while men who have undergone no service obtain undeserved preferment by the wrongful choice of the electing body.

V. He Distinguishes Between Laymen Who Have Been Raised to the Bishoprics and Digamous Clerks, Forgiving the Former and Not the Latter.

Since then either the eager wishes of the people or the intrigues of the ambitious have had so much weight among you that we understand not only laymen, but even husbands of second wives or widows have been promoted to the pastoral office, are there not the clearest reasons for requiring that the churches in which such things have been done should be cleansed by a severer judgment than usual, and that not only the rulers themselves, but also those who ordained them should receive condign punishment? But there stand on our one hand the gentleness of mercy, on our other the strictness of justice. And because "all the paths of the Lord are loving-kindness and truthhyperlink ," we are forced according to our loyalty to the Apostolic See so to moderate our opinion as to weigh men's misdeeds in the balance (for of course they are not all of one measure), and to reckon some as to a certain extenthyperlink pardonable, but others as altogether to be repressed. For they who have either entered into second marriages or joined themselves in wedlock with widows are not allowed to hold the priesthood, either by the apostolic or legal authority: and much more is this the case with him who, as it was reported to us, is the husband of two wives at once, or him who being divorced by his wife is said to have married another, that is, supposing these charges are in your judgment proved. But the rest, whose preferment only so far incurs blame that they have been chosen to the episcopal function from among the laity, and are not culpable in the matter of their wives, we allow to retain the priesthood upon which they have entered, without prejudice to the statutes of the Apostolic See, and without breaking the rules of the blessed Fathers, whose wholesome ordinance it is that no layman, whatever amount of support he may receive, shall ascend to the first, second, or third rank in the Church until he reach that position by the legitimate stepshyperlink . For what we now suffer to be to a certain extenthyperlink venial, cannot hereafter pass unpunished, if any one perpetrates what we altogether forbid: because the forgiveness of a sin does not grant a licence to do wrong, nor will it be right to repeat an offence with impunity which has partlyhyperlink been condoned.

VI. Donatus, a Converted Novatian, and Maximus, an Ex-Donatist, are Retained in Their Episcopal Office.

Donatus of Salacia, who, as we learn, has been converted from the Novatianshyperlink with his people, we wish to preside over the Lord's flock, on condition that he remembers he must send a certificate of his faith to us, in which he not only condemns the error of the Novatian dogma, but also unreservedly confesses the catholic truth. Maximus, also, although he was culpably ordained when a layman, yet if he is now no longer a Donatist, and has abjured the spirit of schismatic depravity, we do not depose from his episcopal dignity, which he has obtained irregularly, on condition that he declare himself a catholic by drawing Up a certificate for us.

VII. The Case of Aggarus and Tyberianus (Ordained with Tumult) is Referred to the Bishops.

But concerning Aggarus and Tyberianus, whose case is different from the others who were ordained from among the laity, in this that their ordination is reported to have been accompanied by fierce riots and savage disturbances, we have entrusted the whole matter to your judgment, treat relying upon your investigation of the case, we may know what to decide about them.

VIII. Maidens Who Have Suffered Violence are Not to Compare Themselves with Others.

Those handmaids of God who have lost their chastity by the violence of barbarians, will be more praiseworthy in their humility and shame-fastness, if they do not venture to compare themselves to undefiled virgins. For although every sin springs from the desire, and the will may have remained unconquered and unpolluted by the fall of the flesh still this will be less to their detriment, if they grieve over losing even in the body what they did not lose in spirit.

IX. These Injunctions to Be Carried Out Without Contentiousness.

And so now that you see yourselves, beloved, fully instructed through David, our brother and fellow-bishop, who is approved to us both by his personal character and his priestly worth, on[nearly]hyperlink all the points which our brother Potentius' account contained, it remains, brothers, that you receive our healthful exhortations harmoniously, and that doing nothing in rivalry, but acting unanimously with entire devotion and zeal, you obey the constitution of God and His Apostles, and in nothing suffer the well-considered decrees of the canons to be violated. For what we from the consideration of certain reasons have now relaxed must henceforward be guarded by the ancient rules, lest, what we have on this occasion with merciful lenity conceded, we may hereafter have to visit with condign punishmenthyperlink , acting with special and direct vigour against those who in ordaining bishops have neglected the statutes of the holy fathers, and have consecrated men whom they ought to have rejected. Wherefore if any bishops have consecrated such an one priest as ought not to be, even though in some measure they have escaped any loss of their personal dignity, yet they shall have no further right of ordination, nor shall ever be present at that sacrament which, neglecting the judgment of God, they have improperly conferred.

X. The Appointment of Bishops Over Too Small Places is Inexpedient and Must Be Discontinued.

That of course which pertains to the priestly dignity we wish to be observed in common with all the statutes of the canons, viz., that bishops be not consecrated in any place nor in any hamlethyperlink , nor where they have not been consecrated before; for where the flocks are small and the congregations small, the care of the presbyters may suffice, whereas the episcopal authority ought to preside onlyover larger flocks and more crowded cities, lest contrary to the divinely-inspired decrees of the holy Fathers the priestly office be assigned over villages and rural estateshyperlink or obscure and thinly-populated townships, and the position of honour, to which only the more important charges should be given, be held cheap from the very number of these that hold it. And this bishop Restitutus has reported to have been done in his own diocese, and he has with good reason requested that when the bishops of those places where they ought not to have been ordained die in the natural course, the places themselves should revert to the jurisdiction of the same prelate to whom they formerly belonged and were attached. It is indeed useless for the priestly dignity to be diminished by the superfluous multiplications of the office through the inconsiderate complaisance of the ordainer.

XI. Virgins Violated Against Their Will are to Be Treated as Somewhat Different to the Others, But Not to Be Denied Communion.

Now concerning those who, having made a holy vow of virginity[as we said above, chap. viii.], have suffered the violence of barbarians, and have lost their spotless purity not in spirit but in body, we consider such mode- ration ought to be observed that they should be neither degraded to the rank of widowshyperlink nor yet reckoned in the number of holy and undefiled virgins: yet, if they persevere in the virgin life, and in heart and mind guard the reality of chastity, participation in the sacraments is not to be denied them, because it is unfair that they should be accused or branded for what their wishes did not surrender, but was stolen by the violence of foes.

XII. The Care of Lupicinus is in Part Dealt with and in Part Referred to Them.

The case also of bishop Lupicinushyperlink we order to be heard there, but at his urgent and frequent entreaties we have restored him to communion for this reason, that, as he bad appealed to our judgment, we saw that while the matter was pending he had been undeservedly suspended from communion. Moreover there is this also in addition, that it was clearly rash to ordain one over his head who ought not to have been ordained until Lupicinus, having been placed before you or convicted, or having at least confessed, had opportunity to submit to a just sentence, so that, according to the requirements of ecclesiastical discipline, he who was consecrated might receive his vacant place.

XIII. All Disputes to Be Dealt with on the Spot First and Then Referred to the Apostolic See.

But whenever other eases arise which concern the state of the Church and the harmony of priests, we wish them to be first sifted by yourselves in the fear of the Lord, and a full account of all matters settled or needing settlement sent to us, that those things which have been properly and reasonably decided, according to the usage of the Church, may receive our corroborative sanction also. Dated 10th August.


1 Nihil sit inordinatum nihilque proeposterum: the two words are well chosen (as usual), and bearing a distinct meaning: the former expressing"disorder" in the sense of want of the divine commission, the latter "disorder" in the sense of choosing the younger over the old, the inferior over the superior, &c.; the same two epithets occur in Lett. XIX., chap. i.

2 1 Tim. v. 22.

3 Ante oetatem maturitatis. The Council of Carthage (a.d. 397), c. 4, fixed the downward limit for deacons at 25, and for priest at 30: and we may presume that that was the general rule in Leo's time, for we find the same ages ordained afterwards in the Novelloe of Justinian (535-565) and elsewhere.

4 Cf. Letter IV., chap ii., and elsewhere.

5 No one will by this time be surprised to find Leo calling Sacred Orders either a sacramentum, as here, or mysterium, as in the next sentence: the two terms are indeed in his usage almost equivalents.

6 Lev. xxi. 13.

7 Eph. v. 23.

8 1 Tim. iii. 10.

9 The shorter edition of this letter, which is extent, gives this sentence in a very different form: the qualifications are much more exactly defined, e.g. bishops are to have spent their lives in orders a puerilibus exordiis usque ad provectiores annos.I think Quesnel is right in considering this a later version and alteration the better to inculcate the usage of the Church. For although no doubt people were often mere boys [Readers (lectores) for instance: see Bright's note 46] when they entered minor orders yet the fact that one was an adult layman before taking orders could not ipso facto have precluded a man from becoming bishop, however desirable the rule and general principle might be. In fact Cyprian at least is evidence to the contrary.

10 Sc. 2 Tim. ii. 20.

11 9 Ps. xxv. 10.

12 Utcumque.

13 Per legitama augmenta, cf.n. 7 above. This passage makes it clear what is there required is not the puerilia exordia of the shorter edition of this letter, but the multum tempus of this longer edition.

14 Utcumque again.

15 Aliqua rations.

16 In the case of these two noted African schisms it is hardly necassary to do more than refer the reader to Smith's or any other standard dictionary.

17 Fere here added probably to account for the long tail of extraneous or repeated matter tacked on to the letter.

18 Here the shorter edition of the letter breaks off, and there are certainly difficulties in considering that the long coda or repetitions and fresh matter here attached formed part of the original draft of the letter. Is it possible that two letters (the one later than the other) have been welded into one ?

19 Castellis. Cf. Liv. xxi. chaps. 33, 34, where the word is used of the Alpine villages. In the Vulgate it represents, the Gk. kw/mh (e.g. S. Mark vi. 6: S. Luke v. 17.)

20 Possessionibus.

21 Cyprian (de hab. Virg.) speaks of women who have lost their virginity by their own viduoe antequam nuptoe, and S. Jerome, using the same expression (Lett to Eustochius on the preservation of Virginity), implies that they very often dressed like widows (plerasque viduas antequam nuptas infelicem conscientiam mentita tantum veste protegere): this will account for Leo's here providing that these unhappy women are not deiici in viduarum gradum. Ball.

22 The case of Lupicious seems somewhat similar to that of Projectus in Lett. X., chap iv, and was similarly referred to local experts .