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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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8.

 As concerning those who call themselves Puritans and who are claiming to be adherents of the catholic and apostolic Church, it has seemed right to the holy and great Council, when they have had hands laid upon them, to let them remain in the clergy. Above all, that it is fitting for them to confess to this in writing, to wit, that they will agree to and will adhere to the dogmas of the catholic and apostolic Church. That is, that they will hold communion with persons married a second time, and with those who in time of persecution have lapsed from the faith; regarding whom a length of time has been fixed, and a due season has been set, for their penance. So that they may adhere to the dogmas of the catholic Church in everything. Wherever they are the only ones found to have been ordained, whether in villages or in cities, they shall remain in the same habit (or order). But wherever there is a Bishop of the catholic Church, and some of them are joining it, it is obvious that, as the Bishop of the Church will keep the dignity of bishop, the one called a bishop among the so-called Puritans shall have the honor of a Presbyter, unless it should seem better to the Bishop that he should share in the honor of the name. But if this does not please him, he shall devise a position either of a chorepiscopus or of a presbyter, with the object of having him seem to be wholly in the clergy, lest there should be two bishops in the same city.

(Ap. cc. XLVI, XLVII, LXVIII; c. VII of the 2nd; c. XCV of the 6th; cc. VII, VIII of Laodicea; c. LXVI of Carthage; cc. I, XLVII of Basil; c. XII of Theophilus; c. XIV of the 7th; c. XIII of Ancyra; c. XIV of Neocaesarea; cc. VIII, X. of Antioch.)

 

Interpretation.

The ones called Puritans here were the Novatians.[12] The man Novatian himself was a presbyter in the Church of the Romans who would not accept those who had renegaded in time of persecution, but had repented, nor would he give communion to persons that had married twice. He had also declared that after baptism a sinner could no longer have mercy bestowed upon him, according to Epiphanius, Haer. 59, and Augustine, Haer. 38. So, although this man did not err as respecting the dogmas of the faith, nor was he a heretic, but was instead a schismatic (or sectarian), according to c. I of St. Basil, yet, because of his hatred of brethren, and his being of an unsympathetic frame of mind, and proud, he was anathematized by the Council held in Rome in the time of Pope Cornelius, according to Eusebius, and by the councils held in Carthage in the time of Cyprian, and by the councils held against him in Antioch and in Italy. Those who adhered to his misbelief were called after him Novatians. These facts being assumed to be known, the present Canon asserts that in case any such Novatians join the catholic Church, it has appeared reasonable that they should have hands laid[13] upon them, and thus be received, and be allowed to remain in their clergy, those, that is to say, who really were clergymen in the habit (thus c. LXVI of Carthage accepted the Donatists with an imposition of the hands); nevertheless, they must confess in writing that they have to keep all dogmas of the catholic Church, that they will accept those who have married twice, and those who were forced by necessity to deny Christ, and that they will accomodate them, according to fixed times, with the Canon of repentance applicable to deniers; and thus, wherever they happen to be, whether in cities or in villages, they shall be left in the clergy and rank in which each of them found himself when he was ordained: that is to say, a bishop shall remain a bishop; a presbyter, a presbyter; and a deacon, a deacon. However, a bishop shall remain a bishop where there is no Orthodox bishop of the catholic Church. But if in the same church there is also an Orthodox bishop, the latter shall have the office and dignity, and all the business, and the name of bishop, while the bishop formerly a Novatian shall have only the honor of a presbyter, and the nominal title of bishop,[14] but he shall not perform any priestly act as a bishop, in order to avoid having this improper and absurd situation arise in which two bishops are officiating in one and the same city (concerning which see Ap. c. XXXV, and c. XVI of the lst-&-2nd;[15] in case, however, he refuses to be content with this arrangement, the Orthodox bishop must allow him to have a position as a chorepiscopus,[16] or as a presbyter, in order that he too may be numbered among those who are in holy orders and clergymen, and not appear to be wholly deprived of the clergy.

 

 




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