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Fathers Of The Church, Catholic Edition

As to the question concerning the Puritans the custom of every country is to be observed, since they who have discussed this point are of various sentiments. The [baptism] of the Pepuzenes I make no account of, and I wonder that Dionysius the canonist was of another mind. The ancients speak of heresies, which entirely break men off, and make them aliens from the faith. Such are the Manichaeans, Valentinians, Marcionites and Pepuzenes, who sin against the Holy Ghost, who baptize into the Father, Son and Montanus, or Priscilla. Schisms are caused by ecclesiastical disputes, and for causes that are not incurable, and for differences concerning penance. The Puritans are such schismatics. The ancients, viz. Cyprian and Fermilian, put these, and the Encratites, and Hydroparastatae, and Apotactites, under the same condemnation; because they have no longer the communication of the Holy Ghost, who have broken the succession. They who first made the departure had the spiritual gift; but by being schismatics, they became laymen; and therefore they ordered those that were baptized by them, and came over to the Church, to be purged by the true baptism, as those that are baptized by laymen. Because some in Asia have otherwise determined, let [their baptism] be allowed: but not that of the Encratites; for they have altered their baptism, to make themselves incapable of being received by the Church. Yet custom and the Fathers, that is bishops, who have the administration, must be followed; for I am afraid of putting an impediment to the saved; while I would raise fears in them concerning their baptism. We are not to allow their baptism, because they allow ours, but strictly to observe the canons. But let none be received without unction. When we received Zois and Saturninus to the Episcopal chair, we made, as it were, a canon to receive those in communion with them.

Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years’ penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not.

A deacon guilty of fornication, is deposed, not excommunicated; for the ancient canon forbids a single crime to be twice punished. And further, a layman excommunicated may be restored to the degree from which he falls, but a clergyman deposed cannot. Yet it is better to cure men of their sins by mortification, and to execute the canon only in cases where we cannot reach what is more perfect.

They that marry a second time, used to be under penance a year or two. They that marry a third time, three or four years. But we have a custom, that he who marries a third time be under penance five years, not by canon, but tradition. Half of this time they are to be hearers, afterwards Co-standers; but to abstain from the communion of the Good Thing, when they have shewed some fruit of repentance.

Heretics, upon their death-bed, giving good signs of their conversion, to be received.

Let it not be counted a marriage, when one belonging to the canon commits fornication, but let them be forced to part.

They who have committed sodomy with men or brutes, murderers, wizards, adulterers, and idolaters, have been thought worthy of the same punishment; therefore observe the same method with these which you do with others. We ought not to make any doubt of receiving those who have repented thirty years for the uncleanness which they committed through ignorance; for their ignorance pleads their pardon, and their willingness in confessing it; therefore command them to be forthwith received, especially if they have tears to prevail on your tenderness, and have [since their lapse] led such a life as to deserve your compassion.

He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of wilful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and undesignedly kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defence, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it die upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees.

Our Lord is equal, to the man and woman forbidding divorce, save in case of fornication; but custom requires women to retain their husbands, though they be guilty of fornication. The man deserted by his wife may take another, and though he were deserted for adultery, yet St. Basil will be positive, that the other woman who afterward takes him is guilty of adultery; but the wife is not allowed this liberty. And the man who deserts an innocent wife is not allowed to marry.

That they who swear that they will not be ordained, be not forced to break their oath. Severus, Bishop of Masada, who had ordained Cyriacus priest to a country church, subject to the Bishop of Mesthia, is referred to the divine tribunal, upon his pretending that he did it by surprise. Cyriacus had upon his ordination, been forced, contrary to canon, to swear that he would continue in that country church; but the Bishop of Mesthia, to whom that church properly belonged, forced him out. St. Basil advises Amphilochius to lay the country church to Masada, and make it subject to Severus, and to permit Cyriacus to return to it and save his oath; and by this means he supposes that Longinus, the lord of that country, would be prevailed upon to alter his resolution of laying that church desolate, as he declared he would upon Cyriacus’s expulsion.

He that is guilty of involuntary murder, shall do eleven years’ penance—that is, if the murdered person, after he had here received the wound, do again go abroad, and yet afterward die of the wound.

The canon excludes from the ministry those who are guilty of digamy.

Our fathers did not think that killing in war was murder; yet I think it advisable for such as have been guilty of it to forbear communion three years.

An usurer, giving his unjust gain to the poor, and renouncing his love of money, may be admitted into the clergy.

Not properly canons, but explications of Scripture.

The Second Canonical Epistle of the Same.

I made a canon, that they at Antioch, who had sworn not to perform the sacred offices should not do it publicly, but in private only: As to Bianor, he is removed from thence to Iconium, and therefore is more at liberty; but let him repent of his rash oath which he made to an infidel for avoiding a small danger.

That the ancients received a professed virgin that had married, as one guilty of digamy, viz., upon one year’s penance; but they ought to be dealt with more severely than widows professing continency, and even as adulterers: But they ought not to be admitted to profess virginity till they are above sixteen or seventeen years of age, after trial, and at their own earnest request; whereas relations often offer them that are under age, for their own secular ends, but such ought not easily to be admitted.

That men, though they seem tacitly to promise celibacy, by becoming monks, yet do it not expressly; yet I think fit that they be interrogated too, and that a profession should be demanded of them, that if they betake themselves to a carnal life, they may be punished as fornicators.

Women professing virginity, though they did marry while they were heretics, or catechumens, yet are pardoned by baptism. What is done by persons in the state of catechumens, is never laid to their charge.

A married man committing lewdness with a single woman, is severely punished as guilty of fornication, but we have no canon to treat such a man as an adulterer; but the wife must co-habit with such a one: But if the wife be lewd, she is divorced, and he that retains her is [thought] impious; such is the custom, but the reason of it does not appear.

That they who have stolen virgins, and will not restore them, be treated as fornicators; that they be one year mourners, the second hearers, the third received to repentance and the fourth be co-standers, and then admitted to communion of the Good Thing. If the virgins be restored to those who had espoused them, it is at their discretion to marry them, or not; if to their guardians, it is at their discretion to give them in marriage to the raptors, or not.

That a man ought not to marry two sisters, nor a woman two brothers: That he who marries his brother’s wife, be not admitted till he dismiss her.

A widow put into the catalogue of widows, that is, a deaconess being sixty years old, and marrying, is not to be admitted to communion of the Good Thing, till she cease from her uncleanness; but to a widower that marries no penance is appointed, but that of digamy. If the widow be less than sixty, it is the bishop’s fault who admitted her deaconess, not the woman’s.

He that marries a woman that he has corrupted, shall be under penance for corrupting her, but may retain her for his wife.

Fornication is neither marriage, nor the beginning of marriage. If it may be, it is better that they who have committed fornication together be parted; but if they be passionate lovers, let them not separate, for fear of what is worse.

As for the priest that is engaged, through ignorance, in an unlawful marriage, I have decreed, that he retain the honour of the chair; but forbear all sacred operations, and not give the blessing either in private, or public, nor distribute the Body of Christ to another, nor perform any liturgy; but let him bewail himself to the Lord, and to men, that his sin of ignorance may be pardoned.

That it is ridiculous to vow not to eat swine’s flesh, and to abstain from it is not necessary.

That princes ought not to swear to wrong their subjects: that such rash oaths ought to be repented of, and evil not to be justified under pretence of religion.

That they who steal women, and their accomplices, be not admitted to prayers, or be co-standers for three years. Where no violence is used, there no crime is committed, except there be lewdness in the case. A widow is at her own discretion. We must not mind vain pretences.

She, whose husband is absent from home, if she co-habits with another man, before she is persuaded of his death, commits adultery.

The clergyman who is deposed for mortal sin, shall not be excommunicated.

That a woman being delivered of a child in a journey, and taking no care of it, shall be reputed guilty of murder.

That the crime of women under penance for adultery, upon their own confession, or otherwise convicted, be not published, lest it occasion their death; but that they remain out of communion the appointed time.

If a woman leave her husband, and if it do upon inquiry appear, that she did it without reason, she deserves to be punished; but let him continue in communion.

A soldier’s wife marrying after the long absence of her husband, but before she is certified of his death, is more pardonable than another woman, because it is more credible that he may be dead.

That he, who having another man’s wife or spouse taken away from him, marries another, is guilty of adultery with the first, not with the second.

If a woman run after him that has corrupted her, she shall be under penance three years, though the parents be reconciled to her.

She, who continues to live with an adulterer, is all that time an adulteress.

She that [being a slave] gives herself up to the will of a man, without the consent of her master, commits fornication; for pacts of those who are under the power of others are null.

A widow being at her own discretion, may marry to whom she will.

Slaves marrying without the consent of their masters, or children without consent of their fathers, it is not matrimony but fornication, till they ratify it by consenting.

That he who gives a mortal wound to another is a murderer, whether he were the first aggressor, or did it in his own defence.

The deaconess that has committed lewdness with a pagan is not to be received to communion, but shall be admitted to the oblation, in the seventh year—that is, if she live in chastity. The pagan, who after [he has professed] the faith, betakes himself again to sacrilege, returns [like the dog] to his vomit: we therefore do not permit the sacred body of a deaconess to be carnally used.

He that assumes the name of a Christian, but reproaches Christ, shall have no advantage from his name.

She that marries a man who was deserted for a while by his wife, but is afterward dismissed upon the return of the man’s former wife, commits fornication, but ignorantly: she shall not be prohibited marriage, but it is better that she do not marry.

Encratites, Saccophorians, and Apotactites, are in the same case with the Novatians. We re-baptize them all. There is a diversity in the canons relating to the Novatians, no canon concerning the other. If it be forbid with you, as it is at Rome for prudential causes, yet let reason prevail. They are a branch of the Marcionists; and though they baptize in the name of the three divine Persons, yet they make God the author of evil, and assert, that wine and the creatures of God, are defiled. The bishops ought to meet, and so to explain the canon, that he who does [baptize such heretics] may be out of danger, and that one may have a positive answer to give to those that ask it.

A woman dismissed from her husband, ought to remain unmarried, in my judgment.

If a slave be forced by her master, she is innocent.

We look on third marriages as disgraceful to the Church, but do not absolutely condemn them, as being better than a vague fornication.

The Third Epistle of the Same to the Same.

That one punishment be inflicted on lapsing clergymen, viz.: deposition, whether they be in dignity, or in the ministry which is given without imposition of hands.

A woman delivered in the road, and neglecting her child, is guilty of murder, unless she was under necessity by reason of the solitude of the place, and the want of necessaries.

A widow slave desiring to be married a second time, has, perhaps, been guilty of no great crime in pretending that she was ravished; not her pretence, but voluntary choice is to be condemned; but it is clear, that the punishment of digamy is due to her.

That it is in the bishop’s power to increase or lessen penance for involuntary murder.

They that are not ecclesiastics setting upon highwaymen, are repelled from the communion of the Good Thing; clergymen are deposed.

He that wilfully commits murder, and afterwards repents, shall for twenty years remain without communicating of the Holy Sacrament. Four years he must mourn without the door of the oratory, and beg of the communicants that go in, that prayer be offered for him; then for five years he shall be admitted among the hearers, for seven years among the prostrators; for four years he shall be a co-stander with the communicants, but shall not partake of the oblation; when these years are completed, he shall partake of the Holy Sacrament.

The involuntary murderer for two years shall be a mourner, for three years a hearer, four years a prostrator, one year a co-stander, and then communicate.

The adulterer shall be four years a mourner, five a hearer, four a prostrator, two a co-stander.

The fornicator shall be a mourner two years, two a hearer, two a prostrator, one a co-stander.

Professed virgins and monks, if they fall from their profession, shall undergo the penance of adulterers.

The thief, if he discover himself, shall do one year’s penance; if he be discovered [by others] two; half the time he shall be a prostrator, the other half a co-stander.

He that abuses himself with mankind, shall do the penance of an adulterer.

And so shall he who abuses himself with beasts, if they voluntarily confess it.

The perjured person shall be a mourner two years, a hearer three, a prostrator four, a co-stander one.

He that confesses conjuration, or pharmacy, shall do penance as long as a murderer.

He that digs the dead out of their graves, shall be a mourner two years, a hearer three years, a prostrator four years, a co-stander one year.

Incest with a sister is punished as murder.

All incestuous conjunction, as adultery.

A reader or minister lying with a woman he has only espoused, shall cease from his function one year; but if he have not espoused her, he shall [wholly] cease from his ministry.

The priest or deacon that is polluted in lips, shall be made to cease from his function, but shall communicate with the priests or deacons. He that does more shall be deposed.

He that is convicted to have been conscious to any of these crimes, but not discovered it, shall be treated as the principal.

He that gives himself to divination, shall be treated as a murderer.

He that denied Christ, is to be communicated at the hour of death, if he confess it, and be a mourner till that time.

[The bishop] that has the power of binding and loosing, may lessen the time of penance, to an earnest penitent.

He that commits incest with a half-sister, shall be a mourner three years, a hearer three years, a co-stander two years.

And so shall he be who takes in marriage his son’s wife.

He that divorces his wife, and marries another, is an adulterer; and according to the canons of the Fathers, he shall be a mourner one year, a hearer two years, a prostrator three years, a co-stander one year, if they repent with tears.

So shall he who successively marries two sisters.

So shall he who madly loves his mother-in-law, or sister.

The Fathers say nothing of polygamy as being beastly, and a thing unagreeable to human nature. To us it appears a greater sin than fornication: Let therefore such [as are guilty of it] be liable to the canons, viz.: after they have been mourners one year—let them be prostrators three years—and then be received,

They who in the invasion of the barbarians have after long torments, eaten of magical things offered to idols, and have sworn heathen oaths, let them not be received for three years; for two years let them be hearers, for three years prostrators, so let them be received; but they who did it without force, let them be ejected three years, be hearers two years, prostrators three years, co-standers three years, so let them be admitted to communion.

They who by force have been driven to perjury, let them be admitted after six years; but if without force, let them be mourners two years, hearers two years, the fifth year prostrators, two years co-standers.

They that follow heathenish customs, or bring men into their houses for the contriving pharmacies, or repelling them, shall be one year mourners, one year hearers, three years prostrators, one year co-standers.

We do not judge altogether by the length of time, but by the circumstances of the penance. If any will not be drawn from their carnal pleasures, and choose to serve them rather than the Lord, we have no communication with them.

Let us take care that we do not perish with them; let us warn them by night and day, that we may deliver them out of the snare or however save ourselves from their condemnation.

From an Epistle of the Same to the Blessed Amphilochius on the Difference of Meats.

Against the Encratites, who would not eat flesh.

Of the Same to Diodorus Bishop of Tarsus, concerning a Man who had taken Two Sisters to Wife.

Contains the preface of his letter to Diodorus Bishop of Tarsus, in which he tells him of a letter shewed him in justification of a man’s marrying two sisters bearing his name; but he hopes it was forged.

Contains the rest of the letter, in which he argues and inveighs against this practice.

Of the Same to Gregory a Presbyter, that He Should Separate from a Woman who Dwelt with Him.

A letter to Gregory, an unmarried priest, charging him to dismiss a woman whom he kept, though he was 70 years of age, and declared himself free from all amorous affections; and St. Basil would seem to believe him in this particular; but cites the III. canon of Nice against this practice, bids him avoid scandal, place the woman in a monastery, and be attended by men: he threatens him that if he does not comply, he shall die suspended from his office, and give account to God: that he shall be an anathema to all the people, and they who receive him [to communion] be excommunicated.

Of the Same to the Chorepiscopi, that No Ordinations Should Be Made Contrary to the Canons.

A letter to his Village-bishop: he complains of the want of discipline of the multiplying of the clergy, and that without due examination and enquiry into their morals; that they had dropped the old custom, which was for the priests and deacons to recommend to the Village Bishop, who taking the testimonial, and giving notice of it to the [City] Bishop, did afterwards admit the minister into the sacerdotal list; that the number of the inferior clergy was unreasonably increased, especially in time of war, when men got into orders to avoid the press: he orders a list of the clergy in every village to be sent to him, and who admitted him, if any have been admitted into the inferior orders by priests, that they be looked on as laymen. Let not who will, put his name into the list. Re-examine those who are there, expel the unworthy, admit none without my consent for the future; if you do he shall be counted a layman.

Of the Same to His Suffragans that They Should Not Ordain for Money.

One letter to the bishop subject to him, wherein he prohibits to take money for orders, and to bring merchandize into the church, which is entrusted with the Body, and Blood of Christ; they had their pay after the ordination was performed; this he calls an artifice, and declares, that he who is guilty of it shall depart from the altar in his country, and go buy and sell the gift of God where he can.

From Chapter XVII. of the Book St. Basil Wrote to Blessed Amphilochius on the Holy Ghost.

He speaks of the written doctrine, and the unwritten tradition of the Apostles, and says, that both have the same efficacy as to religion. The unwritten traditions which he mentions, are the signing those who hope in Christ with the Cross; praying toward the East, to denote, that we are in quest of Eden, that garden in the East from whence our first parents were ejected (as he afterwards explains it), the words of invocation at the consecration of the Bread of Eucharist, and the cup of eulogy; the benediction of the baptismal water, the chrism and of the baptized person; the trine immersion, and the renunciations made at baptism; all which the Fathers concealed from those who were not initiated. He says the dogmata were always kept secret, the Kerugmata published; he adds the tradition of standing at prayer on the first day of the week, and the whole Pentecost (that is, from Easter to Whitsunday), not only to denote our rising with Christ, but as a prefiguration of our expecting an eternal perfect day, for the enjoyment of which we erect ourselves; and lastly, the profession of our faith in Father, Son and Holy Ghost at baptism.

He asserts the Doxology [in these words] “with the Holy Spirit,” to be an unwritten, Apostolic tradition. For this is a dogma full of authority, venerable for its antiquity.

From the Letter of Basil the Great to the Nicopolitans.

There is also in Tilius and Bishop Beveridge here inserted an epistle of St. Basil the Great to the Nicopolitans, comforting them under the loss of their church or oratory, and telling them, that they ought not to be concerned that they worship God in the open air, for that the eleven Apostles worshipped God in an upper room, where they were cooped up, while they that crucified Jesus performed their worship in a most famous Temple.

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