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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils
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Because many men, in a spirit of enmity and for purposes of slander being desirous to confound and subvert ecclesiastical discipline, connive to fabricate certain charges against Orthodox Bishops managing the churches, in an attempt designing nothing else but to sully the reputation of the priests and to raise disturbances among peoples who are at peace; on this account it has pleased the holy Council of the Bishops who have convened in Constantinople to decree that informers are not to be admitted without examination, nor are all men to be allowed to bring accusations against those managing the churches, nor yet are all to be excluded. But if anyone lay a personal grievance, that is, a private complaint, against a Bishop, on the ground that he has been a victim of the Bishop’s greed or other unjust treatment, in the case of such accusations neither the personality nor the religion of the accuser is to be inquired into. For then the conscience of the Bishop must be clear in every respect, and the man who claims to have been wronged should receive justice whatever be his religion. But if the indictment brought against the Bishop be of an ecclesiastical nature, then the personality of the informers must be considered, in order, first of all, not to allow heretics to make charges against Orthodox Bishops in regard to ecclesiastical matters. We call heretics those who have of old been proscribed from the Church, and those who have thereafter been anathematized by us; and in addition to these those who, though pretending to confess the sound faith, have schismatically separated and have gathered congregations in opposition to our canonical Bishops. Further, as regarding those who have previously been condemned by the Church on certain charges and have been ousted therefrom or excluded from communion, whether they belong to the clergy or to the ranks of laymen, neither shall these persons be allowed to accuse a Bishop until they have first cleared themselves of their own indictment. Likewise as regarding those who are themselves being accused from before, they are not to be permitted to accuse a Bishop, or other clergymen, until they have first proved themselves innocent of the charges placed against them. If, however, certain persons are neither heretics nor excluded from communion, nor condemned, nor previously charged with any offenses, should declare that they have an accusation of an ecclesiastical nature against a Bishop, the holy Council bids these persons to lodge their accusations before all the Bishops of the province and before them to prove the charges against the Bishop involved in the case. But if it so happen that the provincial Bishops are unable to or incompetent to decide the case against the Bishop and make the correction due, then they are to go to a greater synod of the Bishops of this diocese summoned to try this case. And they are not to lodge the accusation until they themselves have in writing agreed to incur the same penalty if in the course of the trial it be proved that they have been slandering the accused Bishop. But if anyone, scorning what has been decreed in the foregoing statements, should dare either to annoy the emperor’s ears or to trouble courts of secular authorities or an ecumenical council to the affrontment of all the Bishops of the diocese, let no such person be allowed to present any information whatever, because of his having thus roundly insulted the Canons and ecclesiastical discipline.
What the present Canon says may be stated as follows. Since many men wishing to confound the discipline and good order of the Church inimically slander Orthodox bishops, without accomplishing any other result than that of blackening the reputations of those in holy orders and disturbing the laity, on this account it has pleased this holy Council to decree that neither all accusers of Bishops be admitted nor again that all be excluded or refused admission. But if the charges are personal ones involving only financial loss, or, more specifically speaking, if anyone accuse a Bishop by complaining that he has treated him unjustly or greedily, by depriving him perhaps of some real or personal property, in such cases the person of the accuser must not be examined into, nor his religion; but, on the contrary, no matter what may be his religious views, he must have justice done to him in any circumstances. But if his accusations are of a criminal nature, such, that is to say, as might lower his ecclesiastical standing, as, for instance, sacrilege, the performance of sacred rites outside the confines of the parish, and the like, then and in that case the accusers ought to be examined, in the first place as to whether they are heretics, mistaken in doctrine, including both those who were anathematized by the Church long ago and those who have but now recently been anathematized by us. Secondly, as to whether they are schismatics or not, or, more specifically speaking, whether or not they have separated from the Church on account of any curable habits, according to c. I of Basil the Great, and contrary to the Canons, or, in other words, the catholic Bishops who have been ordained in the Orthodox manner and in accordance with the Canons, while they themselves are congregating apart by themselves. Thirdly, whether they are entirely excommunicated from the Church for some misdeeds of theirs, or have been temporarily excommunicated from the clergymen or the laymen. As for those, however, who have already been accused by others, they are not to be permitted to accuse a Bishop or other clergymen until they prove themselves innocent of the crimes imputed to them. In case, however, those bringing these ecclesiastical and criminal accusations against a bishop happen to be free from all the above enumerated defects, the holy Council commands that these persons first present their indictments of the accused bishop before the synod of all the bishops of that particular province. But if the synod of the province cannot dispose of such a case of crimes, then the accusers may carry the matter up to the greater synod of the bishops of the Diocese, and have the case terminate there. Because of the fact that in Book LX of the Basilica, Title XXVI, ch. 6, it is written that whosoever turns out to be a traitor and liar in the accusations which he makes, when it comes to the matter of punishment for this crime, shall receive that punishment which the accused one would have received if he had been found guilty, the present Canon pursuant to the civil law adds that provision that the accuser is not to commence a recital of his allegations unless he first gives a written promise to accept the same sentence and punishment as a rightly and truly and justly accused bishop would have to undergo, if it be proved that he accused him unjustly and falsely. Whoever scorns these regulations and affronts all the bishops of the Diocese, and should dare to appeal his case to the Emperor, or to civil courts of secular authorities, or to appeal to an ecumenical council, shall be completely estopped from lodging an information, seeing that he has insulted the Sacred Canons and has violated ecclesiastical discipline.
In much the same manner c. IX of the 4th decrees that when clergymen are at variance with one another and quarreling, they are liable to Canonical penances in case they leave their Bishop and resort to civil courts. Canon XIV of Carthage, on the other hand, says that any bishop or presbyter or deacon or clergyman shall forfeit his position in case he leaves an ecclesiastical court and goes to a civil court. But, besides this, c. XII of Antioch expressly decrees that if a presbyter or deacon deposed by his own bishop, or if a bishop deposed by a synod or council, does not resort to a greater synod or council of bishops, but, instead of doing so, annoys the emperor, he shall no longer have any right to submit an apology (i.e., enter a plea in his own defense) or any hope of restoration (sc. to his former ecclesiastical status). Canon XXXVI of Carthage excludes from communion clergymen and bishops that appeal their case to “peramatic” (a Greek word with a signification akin to “crossing” or “fording”), or what are more properly designated “hyperhorial” (a Greek word meaning about the same thing as the word extralimitary derived from the Latin, with reference to passing or going beyond the boundaries of a territory), tribunals, and not to the superiors of their own provinces. This very thing is what is decreed by c. CXXXIV of the same Council. Note, however, that lower ecclesiastical judges are not penalized by the higher ones to whom the decision of a case is appealed, unless they be proved to have judged wrongly and unjustly either by way of favoring someone or because of enmity. See also Ap. c. LXXIV and c. IX of the 4th.