Ante-nicene fathers



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(Of conspiracies and other illicit pursuits, that they be not engaged in, and of the restoration of the lapped after penitence.)

Callistus to our most dearly beloved brethren, all the bishops settled throughout Gaul.

By the report of very many, we learn that your love, by the zeal of the Holy Spirit, holds and guides the helm of the Church so firmly in the face of all assaults, that by God’s will it is conscious neither of shipwreck nor of the losses of shipwreck. Rejoicing, therefore, in such testimonies, we beg you not to permit anything to be done in those parts contrary to the apostolic statutes; but, supported by our authority, do ye check what is injurious, and prohibit what is unlawful.

I.

(Of those who conspire against bishops, or who take part with such.)

Now we have heard that the crime of conspiracies prevails in your parts, and it has been shown us that the people are conspiring against their bishops; of which crime the craft is hateful, not only among Christians, but even among the heathen, and it is forbidden by foreign laws. And therefore the laws not only of the Church, but of the world, condemn those who are guilty of this crime; and not only those indeed who actually conspire, but those also who take part with such.1 Our predecessors, moreover, together with a very numerous body of bishops, ordained that any guilty of this offence among those who are set in the honour of the priesthood, and who belong to the clergy, should be deprived of the honour which they enjoy; and they ordered that others should be cut off from communion, and expelled from the Church; and they decreed, at the same time, that all men of both orders should be infamous (infames); and that, too, not only for those who did the deed, but for those also who took part with such. For it is but equitable that those who despise the divine mandates, and prove themselves disobedient to the ordinances of the fathers, should be chastised with severer penalties, in order that others may fear to do such things, and that all may rejoice in brotherly concord, and all take to themselves the example of severity and goodness. For if (which may God forbid) we neglect the care of the Church, and are regardless of its strength, our slothfulness will destroy discipline, and injury will be done assuredly to the souls of the faithful. Such persons, moreover, are not to be admitted to accuse any one: neither can their voice, nor that of those who are under the ban, injure or criminate any man.

II.

(Of those who have intercourse with excommunicated persons, or with unbelievers.)

Those, too, who are excommunicated by the priests, let no one receive previous to the just examination of both sides; nor let him have any intercourse with such in speech, or in eating or drinking, or in the salutation with the kiss, nor let him greet such; because, whosoever wittingly holds intercourse with the excommunicated in these or other prohibited matters, will subject himself, according to the ordinance of the apostles,2 to like excommunication. From these, therefore, let clergy and laity keep themselves if they would not have the same penalty to endure. Also do not join the unbelievers, neither have any fellowship with them. They who do such things, indeed, are judged not as believers, but as unbelievers. Whence the apostle says: “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? or what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? ”3



III.

(That no bishop should presume in anything pertaining to another’s parish, and of the transference of bishops.)

Let no one, again, trespass upon the boundaries of another, nor presume to judge or excommunicate one belonging to another’s parish; because such judgment or ordination, or excommunication or condemnation, shall neither be ratified nor have any virtue; since no one shall be bound by the decision of another judge than his own, neither shall he be condemned by such. Whence also the Lord speaks to thiseffect: “Pass not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set: ”4 Moreover, let no primate or metropolitan invade the church or parish of a diocesan (dioecesani), or presume to excommunicate or judge any one belonging to his parish, or do anything without his counsel or judgment; but let him observe this law, which has been laid down by the apostles5 and fathers, and our predecessors, and has been ratified by us: to wit, that if any metropolitan bishop, except in that which pertains to his own proper parish alone, shall attempt to do anything without the counsel and good-will of all the comprovincial bishops, he will do it at the risk of his position, and what he does in this manner shall be held null and void; but whatever it may be necessary to do or to arrange with regard to the cases of the body of provincial bishops, and the necessities of their churches and clergy and laity, this should be done by consent of all the pontiffs of the same province, and that too without any pride of lordship, but with the most humble and harmonious action, even as the Lord says: “I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”6 And in another passage He says: “And whosoever of you is the greater, shall be your servant,”7 and so forth. And in like manner the bishops of the same province themselves should do all things in counsel with him, except so much as pertains to their own proper parishes, in accordance with the statutes of the holy fathers (who, although they have preceded us by a certain interval of time, have yet drawn the light of truth and faith from one and the same fountain of purity, and have sought the prosperity of the Church of God and the common advantage of all Christians by the same enlightening and guiding Spirit), that with one mind, and one mouth, and one accord, the Holy Trinity may be glorified for ever. No primate, no metropolitan, nor any of the other bishops, is at liberty to enter the seat of another, or to occupy a possession which does not pertain to him, and which forms part of the parish of another bishop, at the direction of any one, unless he is invited by him to whose jurisdiction it is acknowledged to belong; nor can he set about any arrangement or ordinance, or judgment there, if he wishes to keep the honour of his station. But if he presume to do otherwise, he shall be condemned; and not only he, but those who co-operate and agree with him: for just as the power of making appointments (ordinatio) is interdicted in such circumstances, so also is the power of judging or of disposing of other matters. For if a man has no power to appoint, how shall he judge? Without doubt, he shall in no wise judge or have power to judge: for just as another man’s wife cannot intermarry with anyone (adulterari), nor be judged or disposed of by any one but by her own husband so long as he liveth; so neither can it in anywise be allowed that the wife of a bishop, by whom undoubtedly is meant his church or parish, should be judged or disposed of by another without his (the bishop’s) judgment and good-will so long as he liveth, or enjoy another’s embrace, that is, his ordaining. Wherefore the apostle says: “The wife is bound by the law so long as her husband liveth; but if he be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.”8 In like manner also, the spouse of a bishop (for the church is called his spouse and wife) is bound to him while he liveth; but when he is dead she is loosed, and may be wedded to whomsoever she will, only in the Lord, that is, according to order. For if, while he is alive, she marry another, she shall be judged to be an adulteress. And in the same manner, he too, if he marry another of his own will, shall be held to be an adulterer, and shall be deprived of the privilege of communion. If, however, he is persecuted in his own church, he must flee to another, and attach himself to it, as the Lord says: “If they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another.”9 If, however, the change be made for the sake of the good of the church, he may not do this of himself, but only on the invitation of the brethren, and with the sanction of this holy seat, and not for ambition’s sake, but for the public good.

IV.




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