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NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils
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Canon XCIII.  (Greek xcvi.)

The character of the Commonitory which the legates received against the Donatists.

The Commonitorium for our brothers Theasius and Evodius, sent as legates from the Council of Carthage to the most glorious and most religious princes.  When by the help of the Lord they are come into the presence of the most pious princes, they shall declare to them with what fulness of confidence, according to the direction of the council of the year before, the prelates of the Donatists had been urged by the municipal authority to assemble, in order that if they really meant their professions, they might by fit persons chosen from their number, enter into a peaceful conference with us in Christian meekness, and whatever they held as truth they might not hesitate to declare it frankly; so that from such conference the sincerity of the Catholic position, which has been conspicuous for so long a time, might be perceived even by those who from ignorance or obstinacy were opposing themselves to it.  But deterred by their want of confidence they scarcely ventured to reply.  And forsooth, because we had discharged toward them the offices which become bishops and peacemakers, and they had no answer to make to the truth, they betook themselves to unreasonable acts of brute force, and treacherously oppressed many of the bishops and clergy, to say nothing of the laity.  And some of the churches they actually invaded, and tried to assault still others.

And now, it behoves the gracious clemency of their Majesties to take measures that the Catholic Church, which has begotten them as worshippers of Christ in her womb, and has nourished them with the strong meat of the faith, should by their forethought, be defended, lest violent men, taking advantage of the times of religious excitement, should by fear overcome a weak people, whom by argument they were not able to pervert.  It is well known how often the vile gatherings (detestabilis manus) of the Circumcelliones471471    Vide Kraus.  Real. Encyclopædie. have been forbidden by the laws, and also condemned by many decrees of the Emperors, their majesties most religious predecessors.  Against the madness of these people it is not unusual nor contrary to the holy Scriptures to ask for secular [θείας in the Greek] protection, since Paul the Apostle, as is related in the authentic Acts of the Apostles, warded off a conspiracy of certain lawless men by the help of the military.  Now then we ask that there be extended to the Catholic Churches, without any dissimulation, the protection of the ordinum [i.e. companies of soldiers, stationed] in each city, and of the holders of the suburban estates in the various places.472472    The text is corrupt and the Greek and Latin do not agree in many places.  At the same time it will be necessary to ask that they give commandment that the law, set forth by their father Theodosius, of pious memory, which imposed a fine of ten pounds of gold upon both the ordainers and the ordained among heretics, and which was also directed against proprietors at whose houses conventicles were held, be confirmed anew; so that it may be effective with persons of this sort when Catholics, provoked by their wiles, shall lay complaint against them; so that through fear at least, they may cease from making schisms and from the wickedness of the heretics, since they refuse to be cleansed and corrected by the thought of the eternal punishment.

Let request be also made that the law depriving heretics of the power of being able to receive or bequeath by gift or by will, be straightway renewed by their Piety, so that all right of giving or receiving may be taken away from those who, blinded by the madness of obstinacy, are determined to continue in the error of the Donatists.

With regard to those who by considerations of unity and peace are willing to correct themselves, let permission be granted to them to receive their inheritance, the law notwithstanding, even though the bequest by gift or inheritance was made while they were yet living in the error of the heretics; those of course being excepted, who under the stress of legal proceedings have sought to enter the Catholic Church; for it may well be supposed, that persons of this latter sort desired Catholic unity, not so much from fear of the judgment of heaven, as from the greed of earthly gain.

For the furtherance of all these things the help of the Powers (Potestatum) of each one of the provinces is needed.  With regard to other matters, whatever they shall perceive is for the Church’s interests, this we have resolved that the legation have full authority to do and to carry into effect.  Moreover it seemed good to us all, that letters from our assembly should be sent to the most glorious Emperors and most Excellent Worthinesses, whereby they may be assured of the agreement of us all that the legates should be sent by us to their most blessed court.

Since it is a very slow business for us all to set our names to these letters, and in order that they may not be burdened with the signature of each one of us, we desire thee, brother Aurelius, that thy charity be good enough to sign them in the name of us all.  And to this they all agreed.

I, Aurelius, Bishop of the Church of Carthage have consented to this decree and have subscribed my name.  And so all the other bishops subscribed.

Letters ought likewise to be sent to the judges that, until the lord permit the legates to return to us, they give protection through the soldiers of the cities, and through the holders of the farms of the Catholic Church.  It ought also to be added concerning the dishonest Equitius, which he had shewn by laying claim to the jus sacerdotum, that he be rejected from the diocese of Hippo according to the statutes of the Emperors.  Letters ought also to be sent to the Bishop of the Church of Rome in commendation of the legates, and to the other Bishops who may be where the Emperor is.  To this they assented.

Likewise I, Aurelius, Bishop of the Church of Carthage, have consented to this decree, and having read it, have set my name to it.

And all the other bishops likewise subscribed.

Notes.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XCIII.

The Emperors who were born in the true religion and were educated in the faith, ought to stretch forth a helping hand to the Churches.  For the military band overthrew the dire conspiracy which was threatening Paul.

Here follows a brief declaration of what things were decreed in this Synod.

When Stilico a second time and Anthemius, those illustrious men, were consuls, on the tenth before the calends of September, at Carthage in the basilica of the second region.  I have not written out in full the acts of this council473473    In the Greek, “The acts of the present synod have not been written out here in full, etc.” because they treat of the necessities of the time rather than of matters of general interest, but for the instruction of the studious I have added a brief digest of the same council.474474    The Greek text here is much to be preferred, “wherefore a brief synopsis of what was studiously enacted in this synod is here set forth.”


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