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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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12.

 And this too has come to our knowledge, that both in Africa and Libya and other regions the most God-beloved Presidents there continue living with their own wives even after the ordination has been conferred upon them, and will not abandon their wives, thus becoming an object of offense and a scandal to others. We have therefore made it a matter of great concern to us to do everything possible for the benefit of the flocks under hand, and it has seemed best not to allow such a thing to occur hereafter at all. We assert this, however, not with any intention of setting aside or overthrowing any legislation laid down Apostolically, but having due regard for the salvation and safety of peoples and for their better advancement with a view to avoiding any likelihood of giving anyone cause to blame the priestly polity. For the divine Apostle says: “Do all for the glory of God. Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the Church of God: even as I try to please all men in everything, without seeking any advantage of mine own, but the advantage of the many in order that they may be saved. Become ye imitators of me, just as I also am (an imitator) of Christ (1 Cor. 10:3233 and 11:1). If anyone should be shown to be doing this, let him be deposed from office.

 

Interpretation.

Since we have learned that in Africa and Libya (either two names are applied to the same region, since one of the four continents of the earth which is situated to the south was formerly called Libya, and the name was afterwards changed to Africa, according to Chrysanthus, or else the name Libya is applied generally to the whole of that continent, and the name Africa to a particular province contained therein, according to Meletius), and in other regions, the prelates there, even after being ordained, keep on living with their wives, and thus cause others a scandal. Hence we are making it our serious business to do everything possible that is calculated to contribute to the common benefit of the Christians who are being pastured and shepherded by us, and to this end we decree that from now on no prelate may live with his wife after he has been ordained.[140] We decree this, not with a view to overthrowing and setting aside so much the common Canon of the Apostles, their c. V, that is to say, which excommunicates any bishop who on the pretext of reverence forcibly separates his wife, as the injunction which St. Paul addresses specially to Titus in saying: Ordain elders (or presbyters) in every city, as I have appointed thee, if any be blameless, the husband of one wife(Titus 1:56) (in this passage the wordeldersmeans bishops, according to St. Chrysostom, since a bishop also takes the name of elder, as we have said previously at the beginning of Ap. c. I. This fact is plainly evident also from what the Apostle goes on to say, when he adds “For a bishop must be blameless,” etc.): no, I say, we decree this not by way of refuting them, but by way of providing for their salvation, and for the advancement of Christians to a state of greater perfection, and to prevent their causing any accusation against the prelacy. For though prelates may live with their wives in sobriety and continence, yet the common people are scandalized and are inclined to accuse them, supposing the contrary to be the actual result of their living together in such a manner. The divine Apostle commands that whatever we do we must do it for the glory of God, and that we must not become a scandal to Jews and Greeks and Christians. Just as I, says he, try to please all persons by not seeking my own interest, but that of the multitude, that they may be saved, “become ye imitators of me, just as also I am an imitator of Christ.” If any of the prelates is living with his wife, let him be deposed. See also Ap. c. V.

 

 




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