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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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3.

 Whereas our Pious and Christ-loving Emperor, in his address to this holy and Ecumenical Council, has suggested that those enlisted the Clergy and conveying to others the Divine truths should be pure and faultless ministers, and worthy of the intellectual sacrifice of the great God and victim and high priest, and eliminate the hatred due to friction resulting from illicit marriages; and, in addition to this, seeing that the most holy Church of the Romans is disposed to observe the Canon of strict conformity; while, on the other hand, we under the throne of this God-guarded and imperial capital city, have neither carried meekness to excess nor have left on acrid impression of austerity; and especially in view of the fact that failure due to ignorance extends to a multitude of not a few men — therefore we concur in decreeing that, as regards bigamists who have been enslaved to sin and have not chosen to recede therefrom, as of the fifteenth day of the month of January last past, in the last fourth Indiction, in the year six thousand one hundred and ninety, they are to be subjected to canonical deposition; but as for those bigamists who have taken cognizance of their own interest before we had notice of their doing anything wrong, and who cut out the evil besetting them, and chased this foreign and spurious engagement far away; or even those whose wives by a second marriage have died, if they too have seen their way to return to good sense after later learning sobriety, and have quickly come to forget their former misdeeds and violations of the law, whether they happen to be Presbyters or Deacons — it has seemed best to us for these men to be dismissed from every sacerdotal office, or priestly activity, having already been penanced for an express length of time. But we have decided that in the case of those who have committed the iniquitous act unwittingly and who are weeping to the Lord to be pardoned therefor, they deserve to share in the honor of standing and sitting in the place reserved for the presidency: for to bless one that ought to take care of his own wounds is inconsistent. But, on the other hand, as for those who have contracted but one marriage, and this with a woman that was a widow, and likewise as for those who after ordination have involved themselves in an illegal marriage,[135] that is to say, Presbyters and Deacons and Subdeacons, not long ago excluded from the sacred liturgy and penanced, we order them to be restored to their former ranks, without being in any way promoted to any higher rank, it being obvious that their illegal marriage has been dissolved. We have made these decrees effective as of the said fifteenth day of the month of January, in the fourth Indiction, in regard to those guilty of the offenses before specified and in priestly offices; but besides this we henceforth decree and renew the Canon prescribing that anyone who has become involved in two marriages after baptism, or has acquired a concubine, “cannot become a Bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon, or anything else in the roll of the priesthood. Likewise in regard to anyone that has taken a widow, or a divorcee, or a harlot, or house servant, or an actress to wife, we decree that he cannot be a Bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon, or anything else in the roll of the priesthood.”

 

Interpretation.

The Fathers of the present Council, both correcting the evil condition then obtaining, and securing matters as respecting the future, issued the presenteconomicCanon. For inasmuch as the Emperor had asked them to cleanse those in holy orders at that time from the uncleanliness of illicit marriages, and unlawful ones, into which they had fallen; and, on the one hand, the legates and representatives of Rome had proposed that the strict letter of the Canons be observed in regard to them, while, on the other hand, the bishops under the Patriarch of Constantinople were disposed to allow them some leniency and philanthropy, they themselves, deeming it wise to conjoin both — to temper strictness, I mean, with leniency — (and especially in view of the fact that a great number of those then in holy orders had fallen into marriages unwittingly as a result of ignorance), on account of the Emperor’s request, they decreed that, as concerning all those in holy orders who had married a second time and had remained unrepentant down to the time of this Council, and had not abandoned the illegal marriages, they were to be deposed altogether and to be made laymen. All those, on the other hand, who were bigamists in holy ordersPresbyters, that is to say, or Deacons — before the Council was held, and who had repented and had abandoned that illegal marriage, or who had returned to sobriety and repentance because of their second wiveshaving died, they, I say, it was judged reasonable for them to cease officiating or performing any functions in connection with the duties of holy orders for a certain length of time, but to participate in the honor outside the sanctuary of sitting and standing with those in holy orders, while weeping to God to be pardoned for the iniquitous act which they had committed as a result of their own ignorance, and not blessing anyone. For it is not fitting anyone to bestow a blessing upon others when he himself ought to be healing the wounds of his soul through the process of repentance, just as c. XXVII of St. Basil the Great says. All those Presbyters, again, Deacons, and Subdeacons, on the other hand, who have taken a widow to wife, or who, after being ordained, married likewise too, after being suspended from every sacred office for a short while, are again to perform the duties of their priestly offices; yet they are not to be elevated to any higher rank, but each one of them is to stay in the rank in which he happened to be at the time when he was suspended. This, however, is to occur only after they have dissolved the illegal marriages. Having decreed these thingseconomically,” and as a matter of leniency, these Fathers, in regard to those in holy orders previously mentioned, henceforth renew, or, in other words, vote for the continuance in force of, Canons XVII and XVIII of the Holy Apostles, that is to say, those which they set forth verbatim — the Interpretation of which see, together with that of Ap. c. XIX.

 

 




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