Canons “37b, 38 and 39” of the Breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

In Mansi’s edition of the Breviarium, canon 37 is longer than it is in Munier; and there are two more canons given.  Thankfully Munier does explain this, and in the interests of completeness, I think it’s worth giving the material here, to tie up a loose end.

Around 500 AD Dionysius Exiguus compiled a collection of church canons, which included a good slab of material from Africa.  He gave the canons of the council of 419 and then inserted after them a digest of earlier African canons, which is referred to today as the “Register ecclesiae Carthaginensis“.  The canons are numbered sequentially as if a continuation of the canons of 419.

All this material was translated by the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers collection, so there is no need for me to do so.  But let’s give the Latin from Munier and NPNF English.

The extra material in canon 37 of the Breviarium is in fact from the Register, where it is canon 47.  The Register states that it is from the Council of Carthage on 13 August in 397, the same council at which the Breviarium was compiled.  So this is a little odd.

(“37”) De Donatistis placuit ut consulamus fratres et consacerdotes nostros Siricium et Simplicianum de solis infantibus qui baptizantur penes eosdem, ne quod suo non fecerunt judicio, cum ad ecclesiam Dei salubri proposito fuerint conuersi, parentum illos error impediat ne promoveantur sacri altaris ministri. (Munier, p.186)

Concerning the Donatists it seemed good that we should hold counsel with our brethren and fellow priests Siricius and Simplician concerning those infants alone who are baptized by Donatists: lest what they did not do of their own will, when they should be converted to the Church of God with a salutary determination, the error of their parents might prevent their promotion to the ministry of the holy altar.

From which we may infer that someone in that situation was indeed seeking to be ordained.

The “canon 38” is in fact canons 49 and 50 of the material from the Register, which also assigns it to the Council of Carthage in 397, but to a second session on 28 August.

(38) Honoratus et Urbanus dixerunt : Et illud nobis mandatum est, ut quia proxime fratres nostri Numidiae duo episcopi ordinare praesumpserunt pontificem, nonnisi a duodecim censeatis celebrari episcoporum ordinationes.

Aurelius episcopus dixit: Forma antiqua servabitur, ut non minus quam tres sufficiant, qui fuerint destinati, ad episcopum ordinandum. Praeterea, quia in Tripoli forte et in Arzuge interiacere videntur barbarae gentes – nam in Tripoli, ut asseritur, episcopi sunt quinque. tantummodo, et possunt forte de ipso numero vel duo necessitate aliqua occupari; difficile est enim ut de quolibet numero omnes possint occurrrere – numquid debet hoc ipsum impedimento esse ecclesiasticae utilitati? Nam et in hac ecclesia, ad quam dignata est vestra sanctitas convenire, crebro ac paene per diem dominicam ordinandos habemus; numquidnam frequenter potero duodecim vel decem vel non multo minus advocare episcopos? Sed facile est mihi duos adiungere meae parvitati vicinos. Quapropter cernit mecum caritas vestra hoc ipsum observari non posse.

Sed illud est statuendum, ut quando ad eligendum convenerimus, si qua contradictio fuerit oborta, quia talia tractata sunt apud nos, non praesumant ad purgandum eum qui ordinandus est tres iam, sed postuletur ad numerum supradictorum unus vel duo, et in eadem plebe cui ordinandus est discutiantur primo personae contradicentium, postremo etiam illa quae obiciuntur pertractentur; et cum purgatus fuerit sub conspectu publico, ita demum ordinetur. Si hoc cum vestrae sanctitatis animo concordat, roboretur vestrae dignationis responsione.
Ab universis episcopis dictum est: Satis placet.

Honoratus and Urbanus, the bishops, said: We have issued this command, that (because lately two of our brethren, bishops of Numidia, presumed to ordain a pontiff,) only by the concurrence of twelve bishops the ordination of bishops be celebrated.

Aurelius, the bishop, said: The ancient form shall be preserved, that not less than three suffice who shall have been designated for ordaining the bishop. Moreover, because in Tripoli, and in Arzug the barbarians are so near, for it is asserted that in Tripoli there are but five bishops, and out of that number two may be occupied by some necessity; but it is difficult that all of the number should come together at any place whatever; ought this circumstance to be an impediment to the doing of what is of utility to the Church? For in this Church, to which your holiness has deigned to assemble we frequently have ordinations and nearly every Lord’s day; could I frequently summon twelve, or ten, or about that number of bishops? But it is an easy thing for me to join a couple of neighbours to my littleness. Wherefore your charity will agree with me that this cannot be observed.

But this should be decreed, that when we shall have met together to choose a bishop, if any opposition shall arise, because such things have been treated by us, the three shall not presume to purge him who was to be ordained, but one or two more shall be asked to be added to the aforesaid number, and the persons of those objecting shall first be discussed in the same place (plebe) for which he was to be ordained. And last of all the objections shall be considered; and only after he has been cleared in the public sight shall he at last be ordained. If this agrees with the mind of your holiness, let it be confirmed by the answer of your worthiness.

All the bishops said, We are well pleased.

It is shocking to read that “in Arzug the barbarians are so near”… and that Aurelius does not seem to consider this a more pressing concern than these legal minutiae.

The next item, “canon 39” is in fact from the council of 13 September, 401.  It appears as canon 72 in the Dionysius Exiguus’ Register.

(39)  Item placuit de infantibus, quoties inveniuntur certissimi testes, qui eos baptizatos esse sine dubitatione testentur, ne que ipsi sunt per aetatem de traditis sacramentis idonei respondere, absque ullo scrupulo eos esse baptizandos, ne ista trepidatio eos faciat sacramentorum purgatione privari. Hinc etiam legati Maurorum, fratres nostri, consuluerunt, quia multos tales a barbaris redimunt.  – Munier p.201

Likewise it seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the Moorish Legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such from the barbarians.

Sobering stuff to witness.

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Canons 37 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

The final canon, 37, in the summary of the canons of the council of Hippo is as follows.  I did get rather stuck at one point, so comments are very welcome.

37.  Placuit etiam ut, quoniam praecedentibus conciliis statutum est ne quis Donatistarum cum honore suo recipiatur a nobis, sed in numero laicorum, propter salutem quae nulli deneganda est — tantum autem inopia clericorum ordinandorum in Africa patiuntur ecclesiae, ut quaedam loca omnino deserta sint — servetur quidem in istis quod iam ante decretum est, sed exceptis his quos, aut non rebaptizasse constiterit, aut qui cum suis plebibus ad communionem catholicam transire voluerint. Si enim scriptum est quod duobus si convenerit Christianis, quidquid petierint, impetrabunt, non oportet dubitare quod, remoto scandalo dissensionis, universae plebis, in unitate [pacis]** redacta concordia, idonea sit impetrare de misericordia Domini, ut ipsius pacis compensatione et sacrificio caritatis aboleantur quae, maiorum suorum auctoritatem sequentes, repetitione baptismi commiserunt.

Sed hanc rem placuit non confirmari, priusquam inde transmarina ecclesia consulatur.

Note that “pacis” is found in Mansi’s text, but not in Munier.

Here’s my attempt to translate this:

37.  It was also agreed that, seeing that it was ordained by preceding councils that a Donatist shall be received by us, not with honour, but among the number of the laity; on account of the salvation which must not be refused to any, – for the churches suffer so much from the lack of ordained clergy in Africa, so that some places have been entirely deserted –  it [the rule] shall be maintained even in those who already [crossed over] before it was decreed, but excepting those who either did not wait to be rebaptised, or who wished to cross over to the Catholic communion with their congregation. For if it was written “that if two Christians shall agree,** whatever they ask, they shall obtain”, [then] it is not right to doubt that, having been freed from the scandal of dissention, the concord of the whole laity in [the] unity [of peace] having been restored**, it shall be proper to procure from the mercy of God, that, in a return** of his peace with the return of peace and by the sacrifice of charity, those people shall be abolished who, following the authority of their forefathers, have committed** the repetition of baptism, in exchange for peace itself and by the sacrifice of charity [i.e. thanks to this sacrifice of charity], those things [sc. sins] that following the authority of their ancestors, they committed by the repetition of baptism, may be abolished.

But it was agreed that these things are not to be confirmed, until after the church overseas has been** consulted.

The bit in Italics is an allusion to Mt. 18:19, which in the Vulgate and Douai is:

Iterum dico vobis, quia si duo ex vobis consenserint super terram, de omni re quamcumque petierint, fiet illis a Patre meo, qui in caelis est.

Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.

“duobus si convenerit Christianis” – I have assumed this is an impersonal verb plus dative.

“redacta concordia” – I’m reading this as an ablative absolute, “concord having been restored”.

The bit that I am unsure about is “ut ipsius pacis compensatione et sacrificio caritatis aboleantur”.  I don’t see how the dative [update: or not!] fits with the verb, to be honest.  Anybody got any ideas?  And … “compensation”?  [Update: see comment below by Alexander Macaulay – thank you!]

This is the last of the canons in the Breviarium.  Mansi gives a couple more, followed by the signatures of the bishops, but these are not part of the Breviarium, but rather material from the Council of Carthage in 397, in which the Breviarium was put together.  We’ll have a look at this context material in a bit.

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Canons 29-36 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

Let’s have a few more canons.

29.  Ut nulli episcopi vel clerici in ecclesia conviventur; nisi forte transeuntes hospitiorum necessitate illic reficiant; populi etiam ab huiusmodi conviviis, quantum potest fieri, prohibeantur.

That none of the bishops or clergy shall dine together in the church; except perhaps those travelling may refresh themselves in that place through the necessity of being guests**; the people shall also be prohibited from meals of this sort, as much as possible.

“hospitiorum”, literally “of hospitalities”?

30.  Ut paenitentibus secundum differentiam peccatorum episcopi arbitrio paenitentiae tempora decernantur.  Et ut presbyteri inconsulto episcopo non reconcilient paenitentes; nisi absentia episcopi, & necessitate cogente.  Cuiuscumque autem paenitentis publicum et vulgatissimum crimen est, quod universam ecclesiam commoverit**, ante apsidam manus ei imponatur.

That, for penitents, the durations of the penitences shall be decided by the decision of the bishop according to the different kinds of sins/sinners.  And that presbyters shall not reconcile penitents without consulting the bishop; except in the absence of the bishop (and) from urgent necessity.**  But wherever the offence of the penitent is public and very widely known, so that it affronted the whole church, hands shall be laid on him in front of the apse (of the church).**

“commoverit” is “noverit” in Mansi, “known.”  “from urgent necessity” is an ablative absolute present, lit. “when necessity is compelling”.  “in front of the apse”, i.e. in full view of everyone.

31. Ut virgines sacrae, cum parentibus a quibus custodiebantur privatae fuerint, episcopi vel presbyteri, ubi episcopus absens est, providentia gravioribus feminis commendentur; aut simul habitantes invicem se custodiant: ne passim vagando ecclesiae laedant existimationem.

That the holy consecrated virgins, when they have been separated from the parents by whom they used to be watched over, [then] bishops or presbyters, where the bishop is absent, shall be entrusted with providing** for these important women shall be entrusted by the providence of the bishop (or presbyter, if the bishop is absent) to more dignified women; or likewise the inhabitants in turn shall watch over themselves: lest by wandering in many places they may injure the reputation of the church.

Treating “providentia” as an accusative present participle of “provideo”, taking the dative.

32.  Ut aegrotantes, si pro se respondere non possint, cum voluntatis eorum testimonium sui** periculo proprio dixerint, baptizentur.

That the sick shall be baptised, if they are unable to answer for themselves, when their own people declare** (that there is), in particular danger, evidence of their wish.

Mansi gives “possunt” rather than “possint.”

“sui” gave me quite a bit of trouble, but all the variants seem to understand it as a nominative.  So I treat it as a nominative plural “their own [people]”, and the subject of “dixerint”, treated as subjunctive here “shall say”, because of “cum” meaning “when”.  This understanding is supported by Mansi’s text variant here, “hi qui sui sunt”, “those who are of them”.  Then I assume that some part of “esse” should be understood, followed by “testimonium”, “evidence”.  I’m not quite sure about why “periculo proprio”, either dative or ablative.

33. Ut scenicis vel apostaticis conversis vel reversis ad Dominum gratia vel reconciliatio non negetur.

That grace or reconciliation shall not be denied to actors or apostates converted or reverted to God.

Actors enjoy a poor reputation, I see.

34.  Ut presbyter non consulto episcopo virgines non consecret; crisma vero numquam conficiat.

That a presbyter shall not consecrate virgins without consulting the bishop; indeed he shall never sanctify** the chrism.**

“conficio” is used by Niemeyer “to accomplish the sacrifice of the mass”; Blaise as “consecrate”.  Usually it would be “prepare”.  Chrism is consecrated oil used for anointing during baptism.

35. Ut clerici in aliena civitate non immorentur, nisi causas eorum justas episcopus loci vel presbyteri locorum perviderint.

That clergy shall not linger in a strange town, unless the bishop of the place or the presbyters of the places have been overseeing** their justified lawsuits.

“perviderint” is future perfect active indicative, “shall have overseen”, so a paraphrase seems right here.

The next canon gets quoted a lot.

36.  Ut praeter scripturas canonicas nihil in ecclesia legatur sub nomine divinarum scripturarum.

Sunt autem canonicae scripturae: Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numeri. Deuteronomium. Jesu Nave. Judicum. Ruth. Regnorum libri iiii. Paralipomenon libri ii. Job. Psalterium. Salomonis libri v. liber xii Prophetarum Minorum. Item Isaias. Hieremias. Ezechiel. Danihel. Tobias. Judith. Esther. Esdrae libri ii. Machabeorum libri ii.

Novi autem testamenti: Evangelia libri iiii. Actus Apostolorum liber i. Pauli apostoli epistolae xiiii. Petri ii. Johannis iii. Jude i. Jacobi i. Apocalipsis Johannis.

Ita ut de confirmando isto canone transmarina ecclesia consulatur.

Liceat etiam legi passiones martyrum, cum anniversarii dies eorum celebrantur.

That, other than the canonical scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of the divine scriptures.

Moreover these are the canonical scriptures: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 4 books of Kings, Chronicles 2 books, Job, Psalms, 5 books of Solomon, 12 books of minor prophets.  Likewise Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 2 books of Ezra, 2 books of Maccabees.

Moreover of the New Testament: Gospels 4 books, Acts of the Apostles 1 book, Letters of the Apostle Paul 14, 2 of Peter, 3 of John, 1 of Jude, 1 of James, the Apocalypse of John.

Thus that the overseas church shall be consulted concerning confirming** this canon.

“confirmando” is a gerundive, requiring to be confirmed, “concerning this canon that needs to be confirmed”.

Only one more (long) canon to go.

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Canons 25-28 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

Let’s have some more of the canons of Hippo.  Dull as they are, they provide context as to what we can expect of a set of canons.

25. Ut primae sedis episcopus non appelletur princeps sacerdotum, aut summus sacerdos, aut aliquid huiusmodi, sed tantum primae sedis episcopus.

That the bishop of the first see shall not be called “chief of the priests” or “highest priest” or something of this sort, but only bishop of the first see.

This also reappears as canon 39 in the Register of canons in the council of Carthage of 419.

26.  Ut clerici edendi vel bibendi causa tabernas non ingrediantur, nisi peregrinationis necessitate.

That clergy shall not enter taverns for the purpose of eating or drinking except from the necessity of a journey.

So does this; canon 40.

27.  Ut episcopi trans mare non proficiscantur, nisi consulto primae sedis episcopo suae cuiusque provinciae, ut ab eo praecipue possint formatas accipere. Hinc etiam dirigendae litterae concilii ad transmarinos episcopos.

That bishops shall not travel overseas, except after consulting the bishop of the first see of his own province**, so that from him they shall chiefly be able to receive letters of recommendation**.  From now on also the letters of the council (sing) that need to be sent (gerundive) to overseas bishops.

The “cuiusque” bit is a bit of a guess.  It means “of each”, and is singular, so must line up with suae provinciae.  The “formata” is from Niemeyer, who gives this meaning based on … a canon from an African council!  A bit circular, but the idea of a letter of authorisation is probably right.  Another canon then says that clergy who turn up overseas without such a letter should be shown the door.  Clearly Aurelius of Carthage did not intend to let people bypass him; and other archbishops thought the same.

28.  Ut sacramenta altaris nonnisi a jejunis hominibus celebrentur, excepto uno die anniversario quo Cena Domini celebratur. Nam si aliquorum postmeridiano tempore defunctorum sive episcoporum sive clericorum sive ceterorum commendatio facienda est, solis orationibus fiat, si illi qui faciunt iam pransi inveniantur.

That the sacraments of the altar shall not be celebrated except by men fasting, except on the one anniversary day** on which the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.  For if a service of commendation of some of the dead, whether bishops or clergy, is to be made in the afternoon, let it be with prayers only, if those who shall be available** have already had breakfast.**

“excepto… anniversario” seems to be an ablative absolute.  “inveniantur” is present subjunctive, so we’re rendering all these subjunctives as “shall”, with an eye to a future action.  “faciunt” is present indicative, but refers to a time before the time when people are available to officiate at the service.  I hope that’s right!

There’s a definite air in some of these canons of an exasperated archbishop saying, “OK you bums, listen up and listen gooood….”  It’s noticeable how almost everything is about the clergy, and the laity are almost invisible.  We are not really in the early church any more, but well on our way to the medieval church.

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Canons 21-24 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

Let’s try translating a few more of the canons, in the summary of the canons of Hippo made for the council of Carthage in 397.

21. Ut nemo in precibus vel Patrem pro Filio, vel Filium pro Patre nominet; et cum altari assistitur semper ad Patrem dirigatur oratio. Et quicumque sibi preces aliunde describit, non eis utatur, nisi prius eas cum instructioribus fratribus contulerit.

That no-one in the prayers shall name the Father for the Son, or the Son for the Father; and when he is officiating at the altar, let the prayer be directed always to the father.  And anyone who transcribes the prayers for him from elsewhere, he shall not use them,** unless he has discussed them first with the better-educated brothers.

** “utor” is deponent, and takes the ablative.

22.  Ut nullus clericorum amplius recipiat, quam cuiquam commodaverit, sive pecuniam det, sive quamlibet speciem.

That none of the clergy shall receive more than he lent to anyone, whether he gives money, or in kind,** however much.

** “species” in late Latin is goods, wares, the annona.

23.  Ut in sacramentis corporis et sanguinis Domini, nihil amplius offeratur, quam ipse Dominus tradidit, hoc est panem et vinum aquae mixtum. Primitiae vero seu lac et mel, quod uno die solemnissimo pro infantum mysterio solet offerri, quamvis in altari offerantur, suam tamen habent propriam benedictionem, ut a sacramento dominici corporis et sanguinis distinguantur. Nec amplius in primitiis offeratur quam de uvis et frumentis.

That nothing else shall be offered in the sacraments of the body and blood of the Lord, than the Lord himself handed down, that is bread and wine mixed with water.  But the first-fruits, whether milk or honey, which are accustomed to be offered on one most solemn day for the service of the infants, however much they shall be offered on the altar, they shall have however their own blessing, so that they may be distinguished from the sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood.  Nor shall more in the first fruits be offered than that from grapes and corn.

This is repeated as canon 37 of the Register of canons issued in 419.

24. Ut clerici continentes ad viduas, vel virgines, nisi ex jussu vel permissu episcoporum vel presbyterorum, non accedant; et hoc non soli faciant, sed cum clericis, aut cum his cum quibus episcopus aut presbyter jusserit.  Sed nec ipsi episcopi aut presbyteri soli habeant accessum ad huiusmodi feminas, sed aut ubi clerici praesentes sunt, aut graves aliqui christiani.

That celibate clergy shall not approach widows or virgins, except by order or permission of the bishops of presbyters; and they shall not do so alone, but with clergy, or with those with whom the bishop or presbyter ordered.  But the bishops or presbyters themselves shall not have access to women of this kind, except where either some clergy are present or some respectable Christians.

This is repeated as canon 38 of the Register of canons issued in 419.

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The decretal “Consulenti tibi” (JK 293) and the canon of the bible

During the fourth century a change comes over the church, and indeed the bishop of Rome.  By the end of the century the medieval papacy is coming into existence.  The accession of Pope Damasus was attended with rioting in the streets and in the churches of Rome, as supporters of the candidates sought to impose their man by means of violence; and the lifestyle of Damasus was such that the Urban Prefect, Praetextatus, was reported as saying to him, by St Jerome (To Pammachius, against John of Jerusalem, c. 8):

“Facite me Romanae urbis episcopum , et ego protinus Christianus.”

“Make me bishop of Rome and I will at once become a Christian!”

Various pieces of imperial legislation require the church courts to follow the practices of the secular courts when hearing appeals.  Likewise it is in this period that the church began its collections of canon law, and papal decretals, and the other apparatus of a institution.

My attention was drawn to the letter of Pope Innocent I to Exsuperius of Toulouse in 405, which contains a canon of scripture.  This turns out to be a papal decretal. I have never known anything about these.  Apparently D. Jasper’s paper “Papal letters and decretals from the beginning through the pontificate of Gregory the Great (to 604)”, pp. 7 ff in D. Jasper & H. Fuhrmann, Papal letters in the Early Middle Ages, CUA (2001) is the orientation to read. (Preview).  A decretal is a papal letter, containing a ruling in response to an appeal for such a ruling from a subordinate bishop.

There is a catalogue of decretals, begin by Ph. Jaffé, Regesta pontificum romanorum; the 2nd edition, co-edited with S. Lowenfeld (who did 882-1198 AD), J. Kaltenbrunner (everything up to 590 AD), and P. Ewald (590-882 AD), appeared at Lepizig in two volumes in 1885 (here) and 1888 (here).  This lists all the decretals and gives them a number, with a brief summary of content.

The letter of Innocent to Exsuperius is JK 293 (on p.45, PDF page 86), with the incipit “Consulenti tibi”.  Here’s the entry:

This summarises the content, which falls into several chapters.  The last, as an appendix, gives a list of the canon of scripture, “which books are received in the canon.”

The Latin text of the letter / decretal is in PL20, 495-502, where it is labelled as Letter 6″ of Innocent I. Apparently a critical text was given by H. Wurm in 1939 in 87 Hubert Wurm, Decretales selectae ex antiquissimis romanorum Pontificum epistulis decretalibus, in: Apollinaris 12 (1939), 40-93, but this I have not seen; in fact I can’t even find any information about the journal.

A couple of chunks of the decretal were translated by Denzinger, and are online here.  An English translation of chapter 7 is online here with the Latin.

(2). . . It has been asked, what must be observed with regard to those who after baptism have surrendered on every occasion to the pleasures of incontinence, and at the very end of their lives ask for penance and at the same time the reconciliation of communion. Concerning them the former rule was harder, the latter more favorable, because mercy intervened. For the previous custom held that penance should be granted, but that communion should be denied. For since in those times there were frequent persecutions, so that the ease with which communion was granted might not recall men become careless of reconciliation from their lapse, communion was justly denied, penance allowed, lest the whole be entirely refused; and the system of the time made remission more difficult. But after our Lord restored peace to his churches, when terror had now been removed, it was decided that communion be given to the departing, and on account of the mercy of God as a viaticum to those about to set forth, and that we may not seem to follow the harshness and the rigor of the Novatian heretic who refused mercy. Therefore with penance a last communion will be given, so that such men in their extremities may be freed from eternal ruin with the permission of our Savior.

(7) A brief addition shows what books really are received in the canon. These are the desiderata of which you wished to be informed verbally: of Moses five books, that is, of Genesis, of Exodus, of Leviticus, of Numbers, of Deuteronomy, and Joshua, of judges one book, of Kings four books, and also Ruth, of the Prophets sixteen books, of Solomon five books, the Psalms. Likewise of the histories, job one book, of Tobias one book, Esther one, Judith one, of the Machabees two, of Esdras two, Paralipomenon two books. Likewise of the New Testament: of the Gospels four books, of Paul the Apostle fourteen epistles, of John three [cf. n. 84, 92] epistles of Peter two, an epistle of Jude, an epistle of James, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apocalypse of John. Others, however, which were written by a certain Leucius under the name of Matthias or of James the Less, or under the name of Peter and John (or which were written by Nexocharis and Leonidas the philosophers under the name of Andrew), or under the name of Thomas, and if there are any others, you know that they ought not only to be repudiated, but also condemned.

Here’s the relevant bit of a (very poor) scan of the PL.

The last sentence is telling:

Data x kalendas Martias, Stilicone secundo et Anthemio viris clarissimis consulibus.

Given on the 10th day before the kalends of March, the nobile Stilicho for the second time and Anthemius being consuls.

The sack of Rome by the Goths was a mere 5 years away.

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Canons 15-20 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

Let’s continue translating the summary (breviarium) of the canons of the council of Hippo, compiled at the Council of Carthage in 397.  As ever, corrections are welcome.  But somebody has to start.  Here’s what I have.

15.  Ut episcopi, presbyteri et diaconi non sint conductores aut procuratores privatorum neque ullo tali negotio victum quaerant, quo eos vel peregrinari vel ab ecclesiasticis officiis avocari necesse sit.

That bishops, presbyters and deacons shall not be the directors or the managers of private enterprises, nor shall they obtain their living by any such trade in which it may be necessary that they are either travelling or called away from their ecclesiastical duties.

16.  Ut cum omnibus omnino clericis extraneae feminae non cohabitent, sed solae matres, aviae, materterae, amitae, sorores, et filiae fratrum aut sororum, et quaecumque ex familia, domestica necessitate, etiam antequam ordinarentur, iam cum eis habitabant. Vel si filii eorum, iam ordinatis parentibus, uxores acceperint, aut servis non habentibus in domo, quas ducant, aliunde ducere necessitas fuerit.

That unrelated women shall not cohabit with any clergyman at all, but only mothers, grandmothers, maternal aunts, paternal aunts, sisters, and daughters of brothers and sisters, and anyone else from their family already living with them out of domestic necessity and before they were ordained.  Or, if their sons marry after having been ordained by their parents have been ordained, or [if] those [wives] whom they bring marry, not having slaves in the house, it shall be necessary to bring [them slaves] in from elsewhere. or [if], there being no slaves at the house [the wife’s former home] that they may bring, it shall be necessary to bring [them / slaves] from elsewhere.

I’m not convinced about the last two clauses.  Anyone got a better idea?  “quas” must mean “uxores”, I think; but is “ducant” and “ducere” being used in different ways?  Update: my thanks to Diego for clarifying this in the comments!

17.  Ut episcopi, presbyteri et diaconi non ordinentur priusquam omnes qui sunt in domo eorum Christianos catholicos fecerint.

That bishops, presbyters and deacons shall not be ordained before all who are in their house have become Catholic Christians.

18.  Ut lectores usque ad annos pubertatis legant; deinceps autem nisi aut uxores custodita pudicitia duxerint aut continentiam professi fuerint, legere non sinantur.

That readers shall read until the years of puberty; however thereafter unless either they have married after guarding their modesty, or have professed continence, they shall not be allowed to read.

19.  Ut clericum alienum, nisi concedente eius episcopo, nemo audeat vel retinere, vel promovere in ecclesia sibi credita. Clericorum autem nomen etiam lectores retinebunt.

That a clergyman from elsewhere, unless released by his bishop, no-one shall dare either to detain, or to appoint to a church committed to him.  But readers shall retain the rank of clergymen also.

promovere + in + ablative = “appoint to a benefice”, according to the Dictionary of Medieval Latin Compiled from British Sources (DMLBS), via Logeion.

Is the idea here that readers shall be considered as clergy, for the purpose of this canon?

20.  Ut nullus ordinetur, nisi probatus vel episcoporum examine, vel populi testimonio.

That none shall be ordained, unless approved, either by the judgement of the bishops or by the testimony of the people.

That’s an odd canon, isn’t it?  I wonder what lies behind it.

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Canons 9-14 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

The Council of Carthage in 397 began by creating a summary of the canons issued at Hippo in 393, the Breviarium. Here are the next few.

9. Sane quisquis episcopus seu clericorum, cum in ecclesia ei fuerit crimen institutum vel civilis causa fuerit commota, relicto ecclesiastico judicio publicis judi­ciis purgari voluerit, etiamsi pro illo fuerit prolata sen­tentia, locum suum amittat [in locum suum non restituatur]. Hoc in criminali. In civili vero perdat quod evicit; si locum suum obtinere maluerit.

However any bishop or member of the clergy, if in the church there had been a criminal indictment made against him, or a civil case had been started, and, having refused ecclesiastical judgment, he wished to be acquitted by the public courts, even if sentence has been given for him, he shall lose his office [he shall not be reinstated in his place].  This (is) in a criminal case.  But in a civil case he shall lose what he won, if he prefers to retain his office.

Cui enim ad eligendos judices undique ecclesiae patet auctoritas, ipse se indignum fraterno consortio judicat, qui de universa ecclesia male sentiendo, saeculari de judi­cio poscit auxilium: cum privatorum Christianorum causas apostolus ad ecclesiam deferri, atque ibi determinari praec­ipiat.

For he whom the authority of the church allows to choose judges from every side, he judges himself unworthy of the fraternal fellowship, who, thinking badly of the whole church, demands the remedy of a secular trial,  since the apostle instructs that the cases of private Christians are to be referred to the church, and settled there.

Interestingly this canon is quoted and translated in 1674 by Fr. Peter Walsh, in “The history et vindication of the Loyal Formulary or Irish Remonstrance of 1661 against all Calumnies and Censures in several treatises”, 1674, p.197, online here.

10.  Hoc etiam placuit, ut a quibuscumque judicibus ecclesiasticis ad alios judices ecclesiasticos, ubi est maior auctoritas, fuerit provocatum, non eis obsit, quorum fuerit soluta sententia, si convinci non potuerint vel inimico animo judicasse, vel aliqua cupiditate aut gratia depravato.  Sane si ex consensu partium judices electi fuerint, etiam a pauciore numero quam constitutum est, non liceat provocari.

This also was agreed, that (if) an appeal was made, from some ecclesiastical judges to other ecclesiastical judges, where there is greater authority, it shall not tell against them [the first set of judges], by whom the sentence was pronounced, unless it is shown** that they judged either with inimical intent, or having been corrupted by some cupidity or bribe. However if the judges have been chosen by the consent of the parties, even from a smaller number than decreed, it shall not be allowed to make an appeal.

11. Ut filii episcoporum et clericorum spectacula saecularia non exhibeant nec exspectent. [quandoquidem a spectaculis arcentur.]

That the sons of bishops and clergy should not give public shows nor attend them.  [seeing that they (bishops) are kept away from the shows]

12. Ut gentilibus vel haereticis et schismaticis filii episcoporum vel quorumlibet clericorum matrimonio non conjungantur.

That the sons of the bishops, or of any clergy whatever, shall not join in matrimony with pagans or heretics or schismatics.

13. Ut episcopi vel clerici filios suos a sua potestate per emancipationem exire non sinant, nisi de moribus eorum et de aetate fuerint securi, ut possint ad eos iam propria pertinere peccata.

That bishops or clergy shall not allow their sons to pass out of their power through emancipation, unless they have been certain of their morals and age, and their [the sons’] own sins now pertain to them.

14. Ut episcopi vel clerici eis qui christiani catholici non sunt, etiamsi consanguinei fuerint, nec per donationes, [nec per testamentum] rerum suarum aliquid conferant.

That bishops or clergy shall not convey anything of their goods by donations [nor by will] to those who are not catholic Christians, even if they are relatives.

These canons were probably brought into being by actual incidents where an obvious evil was occurring, and needed to be remedied.  As before, these are all practical concerns, affecting how people live in a society which, while nominally Christian, was in reality mostly secular.  But note how it’s all about the clergy, rather than the people.  Does this mean that the people had been given up?

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Canons 5-8 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

Let’s look at the next four canons of this summary of the decisions of the council of Hippo in 393, that was prepared for the council of Carthage in 397.  Something of this material found its way into the canons of the council of 419, often somewhat revised.  Since the NPNF translation exists of these, I have freely made use of it!

5.  Ut propter causas ecclesiasticas, quae ad perniciem plebium saepe veterescunt, singulis quibusque annis concilium convocetur, ad quod omnes provinciae quae primas sedes habent de conciliis suis ternos legatos mittant, ut minus invidiosi minusque hospitibus sumptuo­si conventus plena possit auctoritas esse.  De Tripoli vero, propter inopiam epis­coporum, unus episcopus veniat.

That, on account of ecclesiastical disputes, which are often drawn-out, to the ruin of the people, a council shall be called every year, to which all who hold the first sees of the provinces shall send three delegates, from their own (local) councils/synods, so that with less jealousy, and less expense to their hosts, after coming together,** it can be fully authoritative the authority of the assembly can be complete. But from Tripoli, on account of the lack of bishops, let (only) one bishop come.

(Cf. Carthage 419, Canon 18)

“plebs” seems to have the meaning of “the people”, “the local church”.

“plena possit auctoritas esse”  seems literally to be “shall be able to be a full authority”.  I’m not entirely convinced by what I have here.  The same phrase in NPNF: “ut conuentu plena possit esse auctoritas.” is given as “so that when the synod meets it may have full power to act.”

6. Ut quisquis episcoporum accusatur, ad primatem provinciae ipsius causam deferat accusator, nec a communione suspendatur cui crimen intenditur, nisi ad causam suam dicendam, primatis litteris evocatus, minime occurrerit, hoc est intra spatium mensis ex die qua eum litteras accepisse constiterit.  Quod si aliquas veras necessitatis causas probaverit, quibus eum occurrere non potuisse manifestum sit, causae suae dicendae intra alterum mensem integram habeat facultatem. Verum, post mensem secundum, tamdiu non communi­cet, donec purgetur.

That if any of the bishops is accused, the accuser shall refer the case to the primate of his [the bishop’s] own province, nor shall he to whom the crime is attributed be suspended from communion, unless, having been summoned by primatial letters, in order to discuss his case, he does not present himself; that is, within the space of a month from the day on which it is found that he received the letters. But if he shall show some genuine causes of necessity, by which it is clear that he was not able to present himself, he shall have the opportunity of stating his case within another month. However after the second month, then he shall not communicate/take communion until he is acquitted.

(Cf. Carthage 419, Canon 19)

7.  Si autem nec ad concilium universale anniversarium occurrere voluerit, ut vel ibi causa eius terminetur, ipse in se damnationis sententiam dixisse judicetur. Tempore sane quo non communicat, nec in sua plebe communicet.

Accusator autem eius, si numquam diebus causae dicendae defuerit, a communione non removeatur; si vero aliquando defuerit, restituto communioni episcopo, ipse removeatur; ita tamen ut nec ipsi adimatur facultas causae peragendae, si se ad diem occurrere non noluisse, sed non potuisse probaverit.

Sane placuit et illud: Ut cum agere coeperit in episcoporum iudicio, si fuerit accusatoris persona culpabilis, ad accusandum vel agendum non admittatur, nisi proprias causas, non tamen si ecclesiasticas, dicere voluerit.

However if he is not willing to come to the annual general council, so that at least there his case may be terminated, it shall be judged that he has pronounced sentence of condemnation on himself.  Obviously during the time in which he does not communicate, he shall not communicate in his (own) parish/diocese/congregation.

But his accuser shall not be removed from communion, if he has missed none of the days for pleading the case; but if he has missed some, the bishop shall be restored to communion, and himself shall be removed; so, however, that the opportunity of completing his case is not taken away from him,  if he shall prove that he on the day was not unwilling to come, but not able.

Obviously it was agreed also this: that when (the case) begins to be discussed in the judgement of the bishops, if the accuser is not a respectable character, he shall not be allowed to accuse or discuss, unless he is willing to state that the case is his own rather than ecclesiastical.

(Cf. Carthage 419, Canon 19)

In the first sentence, the bishop excommunicated by the general council may not do so in his own “plebe” either.  The canons of 419 have “in sua ecclesia vel parrochia” instead, in his diocesan church or parish.  It’s interesting to see this evolution of terminology.  I’d never seen the Latin for “parish” before!   Earlier in the sentence we have “vel”, which the NPNF ignores, but I find Lewis and Short (D2) allow can mean “saltem”, i.e. “at least”.

The middle sentence has an oddity – the two halves are connected only by a “ita”, “so”.  The meaning is clear enough, but something looks wrong to me with the Latin.  The sense is that absences from the court will be allowed if the accuser can show that he had no choice, rather than just not bothering to turn up.

Accusations against clergy are not new.  What perhaps lies behind this, however, is politics, and malicious accusations.

It is a very old political trick to undermine the authority of a religious body by producing and widely publicising lurid accusations.  Any church, indeed any caring profession will have clergy who abuse their office.  Diocletian deployed this tactic, as a preliminary to the Great Persecution.  The same method was used with success in Ireland recently to deprive the Catholic church of its moral authority just before the secularised rulers made a power-grab.  The truth or falsity of the accusations matters nothing to those making them – the accusation is just a tool.  Nor do they care anything about any victims of genuine wrongdoing, as their complaints later often testify.

In Africa it looks as if malefactors had learned to hire low-grade individuals to make such accusations, and then, by failing to turn up, keep the show going as long as possible.  This also is a classic trick.  In Evagrius Scholasticus we read of a group of depraved youths, “making accusations against him and themselves”, who were hired to smear the patriarch Macedonius as abusing youths.  (Unknown to his accusers, Macedonius was a eunuch and incapable of the crime!)  Samuel Pepys was kept in the court system on a charge of Catholic sympathies during the reign of Charles II, by just such delays – his political enemies boasted of how they “had him by the heels” for another term.  Indeed I read of one extraordinary case in the US recently where a libel accusation has been strung out for nine years so far.  In such cases “the process is the punishment”.

Such things are distasteful, but law by its very nature must deal with such things.

8.  Si autem presbyteri vel diaconi fuerint accusati, adjuncto sibi ex vicinis locis legitimo numero collegarum; id est: in presbyteri nomine quinque; et in diaconi, duobus: episcopi ipsorum causam, discutiant, eadem dierum et dilationum et a communione remotionum, et discussione personarum inter accusatores, et (eos) qui accusantur, forma servata. Reliquorum autem causas etiam solus episcopus loci cognoscat, et finiat.

But if presbyters or deacons have been accused, and a legitimate number of colleagues from nearby places have been joined with them – i.e. five for a presbyter, two for a deacon – the bishops shall discuss their case, and the same form, of days, and delays, and removals from communion, and in the discussion of persons, shall be preserved between accusers and those who are accused.

The divisions of the material into canons vary between manuscripts and in the material reused in Carthage in 419.  Clearly much of this is all the same problem.  Munier in his edition divides yet further, but I have ignored this here.

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Canons 1-4 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)

The first act of the Council of Carthage in 397 was to draw up a summary (breviarium) of the decisions of the Council of Hippo in 393, as many clergy claimed that they had never heard of them.  Let’s have a look at them.

INCIPIT BREVIS STATVTORVM

1. Vt lectores populum non salutent. Vt ante xxv aetatis annos nec clerici ordinentur nec uirgines consecrentur. Vt primum scripturis diuinis instructi uel ab infantia eruditi, propter fidei professionem et assertionem, clerici promoneantur.

2. Vt ordinatis episcopis uel clericis prius placita concilii conculcentur ab ordinatoribus eorum, ne se aliquid aduersus statuta concilii fecisse adserant.

3. Vt etiam per sollemnissimos paschales dies sacramentum catechumenis non detur, nisi solitum salis ; quia, si fideles per illos dies sacramenta non mutant, nec catechumenos oportet mutare.

4. Vt corporibus defunctis eucharistia non detur ; dictum est enim a Domino : Accipite et edite ; cadauera autem nec accipere possunt nec edere. Deinde canuendum est ne mortuos etiam baptizari posse fratrum infirmitas credat, cum eucharistiam non dari mor­tuis animaduertit.

SUMMARY OF THE STATUTES

1. That the readers shall not salute the people.  That clergy shall not be ordained, nor virgins consecrated, before the age of 25.

2. That, prior to ordaining bishops or clergy, the decisions of the council are impressed upon them by those ordaining them, lest they profess (later) that something was done contrary to the statutes of the council.

2. That for bishops and clerics who have been ordained, the decisions of the council first be thoroughly inculcated by those ordaining them, lest they declare (later) that they have done something contrary to the council’s statutes.

3. That also during the most solemn paschal days the sacrament shall not be given to catechumens, except for health reasons the custom of salt; because if the faithful do not receive change the sacraments during those days, it is not right that for catechumens to receive change (them).

4. That the eucharist shall not be given to the bodies of the deceased; for it was said by the Lord, “Take and eat”; but a cadaver cannot “take” or “eat”.  Then itshould be celebratedthat the weakness of the brother will not believe that it is possible to baptise the dead either, when he notices that the eucharist is not being given to the death.  Then care must be taken also that the weakness of the brothers shall not believe that it is possible to baptise the dead, when he notices that the eucharist is not being given to the dead..

Let me highlight a few funnies in this.

In canon 2, Munier (CCSL 149, p.32) prints “conculcentur”, which means that the decisions of the council “are trampled under foot” by those conducting the ordinations.  A solid search reveals only “despise” as the other meaning.

This makes little sense.  A look at the English NPNF translation of the Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Africanae here, canon 18, reveals this obviously parallel canon:

It seemed good that before bishops, or clerics were ordained, the provisions of the canons should be brought to their notice, lest, they might afterwards repent of having through ignorance acted contrary to law.

But how on earth does “conculcentur” fit in?

Then I happened to look at the old Mansi edition.  It reads “inculcentur”, the decisions of the council “are impressed upon them” by those conducting the ordinations.  A look at Munier’s apparatus reveals no sign of “conculcentur”.  Naturally at first I inferred a typo.  But in fact, if we look at one of the manuscripts that Munier used, the Vatican manuscript, Barberini 679, fol. 46v, we find exactly that reading:

Is this a medievalism?  I do not know.  It once again impresses on me that it helps to look at older editions where the editors could read and wrire Latin fluently and would have been ashamed to print meaningless rubbish.  (Update: see discussion in the comments)

The text of the canon is not that easy to follow.  It starts with “ordinatis episcopis uel clericis prius” – an obvious ablative absolute, which in fact cannot be one.  Here the NPNF gives the clue.  It might be some dative of time, but not one that I have come across.  “Prior to the bishops or the clergy having been ordained”, perhaps. (Update: probably not – see discussion in comments).

What is the canon all about, anyway?  It looks as if it was about compulsory ordinations, when men were forced to be ordained.

These did occur.  I remember reading somewhere, in Augustine, how a rich and truly devout man, coming to Africa, was seized by the mob and forcibly made bishop of their church.  Their motive was not piety.  It was money.  For a bishop would be expected to give his property to the church, which inevitably would benefit the congregation.  However their victim escaped, and asked Augustine to be excused his ordination.  Shockingly Augustine, while recognising the injustice, thought that the ordination was still valid.  The case dragged on.  But then the man came to lose his riches in the disorders of the times, and then the “ordination” was quietly forgotten by everyone.

In canon 3 we find “mutare” used, not with the classical meaning of “move”, “change”, but with the medieval meaning of “receive”.  Update: it seems not!

It’s quite hard work, but of course this is how you learn a language; working with the real thing.

Update: some modifications based on the comments.

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