Five stray canons of the Council of Hippo (393) – canon 1

The canons of the council of Hippo in 393 are lost.  Indeed at the third council of Carthage in 397, delegates complained that many had never seen the canons.  This point was grimly noted by the presiding bishop, Aurelius of Carthage, who thereafter ensured that everything was written down.  Since he held annual councils for twenty years, this created quite a body of church law!  But the most that he could do for Hippo was to issue a summary, the Breviarium, which we were working on earlier this year.

However in 1968 Charles Munier published five canons of Hippo, which had somehow been preserved in a manuscript, Vercellensi 165, on folio 199v.  My copy of his publication has not yet arrived, but I have translated the canons anyway from the CCSL 149 pp.20-21 text.  Here’s the first one.

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(1) Aurelius episcopus dixit: Sancti fratris Elesii nobis suggestio plenam sollicitudinem ac diligentiam oportet incutiat, ut omnis omnino cavillatio amputetur, cunctisque excusationibus aditus omnino claudatur.

Bishop Aurelius said: It is right that the suggestion of the holy brother of Elesium should instill solicitude and diligence in us, so that every cavil may be entirely lopped off, and the pathway to any excuses entirely removed.

Quare censendum est, si placet vestrae caritati, ut semper filii sint in potestate parentum, adque disciplinae regulam ab ipsis vel maxime episcopis seu clericis redigantur, nullum in minoribus annis filium debere ab episcopo vel clerico emancipatione a potestate patria liberari, nisi tantummodo illum cuius vitam moresque probaverit, ut iam legibus cum fuerit et voluntatis suae arbiter, peccato ipse proprio possit astringi, ne eius malae conversationis macula quisquam episcopus vel clericus pergatur.

Wherefore it must be decreed should be established, if it pleases your Charity Charities, that young men shall always be under the authority of their parents, and that they shall draw up be instructed in the rule of discipline by themselves, or better with by the bishops or clergy; [that] no young man who is a minor ought to be released from his father’s authority by a bishop or clergyman, unless he himself only has proved his life and morals, so that, when he is in law also the arbiter of his own wishes, he can be made responsible for made an accessory his own sins in his own mistakes, lest any bishop or clergyman shall be drawn into the dishonour stain of his evil way of life.

I’m not sure about “astringi” as “made an accessory”, the Oxford Latin Dictionary meaning 10, but none of the others seem to fit.  [UPDATE:  from the comments: In the passive “astringere” should be “made responsible”, lit.”be bound”.]

Si quidem praeceptum, ut manentibus in errore ‘cibum cum his minime capiatur’, nec filiis debent de facultatibus suis aliquid derelinquere, quia melius est unus timens Deum quam mille filii.

For the commandment is, that, for those remaining in error, “with these do not even eat”, (1 Cor. 5:11), nor ought they to leave anything to the young men from their property, because “better is one fearing God than a thousand [ungodly] children.” (Ecclus. 16:3)

I have understood “si quidem” as “siquidem”, and “est” as the main verb.

We lack the context of this canon, but perhaps the sense of the sentence is for the bishops and clergy not to end up acting as replacement parents, in loco parentis, to junior clergy who then go bad, and bailing them out from church funds?

Comments and corrections are welcome.  I had quite a bit of difficulty with this one, I might add, which is why it did not appear in the summer!

More in my next post.

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