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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils
IntraText CT - Text
In view of the fact Holy Scripture clearly teaches us that which is embodied in the following passage, to wit: “Thou shall not intrude upon any relative of thy flesh to expose his private parts” (Lev. 18:6), God-bearing Basil merely enumerated some of the forbidden marriages in his Canons relating thereto, passing over most of them in silence, and pointing out to us on both hands that which is of benefit. For after eschewing the multitude of obscene appellations, as though to avoid defiling his discourse with the words, he dealt with the filth in general terms, in which he pointed out concisely the marriages that are unlawful. But inasmuch as such silence and inability to discern what marriages are prohibited as illicit led nature to get confused, we have concurred in seeing fit to present the facts concerning this matter more nakedly. Accordingly, we decree that henceforth anyone who enters into matrimonial relationship with his own (female) cousin; or any father and his son who likewise take a mother and her daughter, or two sisters; or a mother and her daughter likewise take two brothers; or two brothers take two sisters — shall incur a seven years’ canon (or penance), after they have canceled the unlawful marriage contract.
Since the divine Scripture clearly teaches us by telling us, “O man, thou shalt not take in marriage any carnal relative of thine,” in reference to this saying St. Basil the Great in his c. LXXVI enumerated some marriages forbidden in his Canons (as, for instance, in his c. LXXVI that of a man taking his sister-in-law to wife; in his c. LXXVIII, that of one who takes two sisters; and others in other cc.), but passed over the most in silence, on the ground of their being too shameful to mention, in order to avoid defiling his discourse with the names of them, but concisely alluded to all unlawful marriages by the general designation of them as filth (but as for what the Council says that Basil said, Basil asserts that Scripture has said it — which is to say, divine St. Paul, who said: “But fornication and all (other) filth, let it not even be named among you,” etc. (Eph. 5:3). As a result of this silence men’s nature was confused by consanguinity, and for this reason we define these matters more clearly in the present Canon by decreeing that from this time forth whoever takes to wife his (female) cousin, or any father and his son if they take to wife a mother and her daughter, or two sisters, or if two brothers take a mother and her daughter, or two sisters — all these persons must first be separated from this unlawful marriage contract, and afterwards be canonized (i.e., penanced) seven years. St. Basil, however, in his c. LXVIII decrees generally that marriage within forbidden degrees of relationship is to be canonized with the penalty of adulterers, i.e., 15 years. See also in the teaching concerning marriage contracts.