Decretals

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Translated by the Rev. S. D. F. Salmond.

Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional introductionary material and notes provided for the American edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.


Introductory Notice to The Decretals

The learned editors of the Edinburgh series have given us only a specimen of these frauds, which, pretending to be a series of "papal edicts" from Clement and his successors during the ante-Nicene ages, are, in fact, the manufactured product of the ninth century,--the most stupendous imposture of the world's history, the most successful and the most stubborn in its hold upon enlightened nations. Like the mason's framework of lath and scantlings, on which he turns an arch of massive stone, the Decretals served their purpose, enabling Nicholas I. to found the Papacy by their insignificant aid. That swelling arch of vanity once reared, the framework might be knocked out; but the fabric stood, and has borne up every weight imposed upon it for ages. Its strong abutments have been ignorance and despotism. Nicholas produced his flimsy framework of imposture, and amazed the whole Church by the audacity of the claims he founded upon it. The age, however, was unlearned and uncritical; and, in spite of remonstrances from France under lead of Hincmar, bishop of Rheims, the West patiently submitted to the overthrow of the ancient Canons and the Nicene Constitutions, and bowed to the yoke of a new canon-law, of which these frauds were not only made an integral, but the essential, part. The East never accepted them for a moment: her great patriarchates retain the Nicene System to this day. But, as the established religion of the "Holy Roman Empire," the national churches of Western Europe, one by one, succumbed to this revolt from historic Catholicity. The Eastern churches were the more numerous. They stood by the Constitutions confirmed by all the OEcumenical Synods; they altered not a word of the Nicene Creed; they stood up for the great Catholic law, "Let the ancient customs prevail;" and they were, and are to this day, the grand historic stem of Christendom. The Papacy created the Western schism, and contrived to call it "the schism of the Greeks." The Decretals had created the Papacy, and they enabled the first Pope to assume that communion with himself was the test of Catholic communion: hence his excommunication of the Easterns, which, after brief intervals of relaxation, settled into the chronic schism of the Papacy, and produced the awful history of the mediæval Church in Western Europe.

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In naming Nicholas I. as the founder of the Papacy, and the first Pope, I merely reach the logical consequence of admitted facts and demonstrated truths. I merely apply the recognised principles of modern thought and scientific law to the science of history, and dismiss the technology of empiricism in this science, as our age has abolished similar empiricisms in the exact sciences. For ages after Copernicus, even those who basked in the light of the true system of the universe went on in the old ruts, talking as if the Ptolemaic theory were yet a reality: and so the very historians whose lucid pages explode the whole fabric of the Papal communion, still go on, in the language of fable, giving to the early Bishops of Rome the title of "Popes;" counting St. Peter as the first Pope; bewildering the student by many confusions of fact with fable; and conceding to the modern fabric of Romanism the name of "the Catholic Church," with all the immense advantages that accrue to falsehood by such a surrender of truth, and the consequent endowment of imposture with the raiment and the domain of Apostolic antiquity.

The student of this series must have noted the following fundamental facts:--

1. That the name papa was common to all bishops, and signified no pre-eminence in those who bore it.

2. That the Apostolic Sees were all equally accounted matrices of unity, and the roots of other Catholic churches.

3. That, down to the Council of Nicæa, the whole system of the Church was framed on this principle, and that these were the "ancient customs" which that council ordained to be perpetual.

4. That "because it was the old capital of the empire," and for no other reason (the Petrine idea never once mentioned), the primacy of honour was conceded to Old Rome, and equal honour to New Rome, because it was the new capital. [2681]It was to be named second on the list of patriarchates, but to be in no wise inferior to Old Rome; while the ancient and all-commanding patriarchate of Alexandria yielded this credit to the parvenu of Byzantium only on the principle of the Gospel, "in honour preferring one another," and only because the imperial capital must be the centre of Catholic concourse.

Now, the rest of the story must be sought in post-Nicene history. The salient points are as follows:--

1. The mighty centralization about Constantinople; the three councils held within its walls; the virtual session of the other councils under its eaves; the inconsiderable figure of "Old Rome" in strictly ecclesiastical history; her barrenness of literature, and of great heroic sons, like Athanasius and Chrysostom in the East, and Cyprian and Augustine in the West; and her decadence as a capital,--had led Leo I., and others after him, to dwell much upon "St. Peter," and to favour new ideas of his personal greatness, and of a transmitted grandeur as the inheritance of his successors. As yet, these were but "great swelling words of vanity;" but they led to the formulated fraud of the Decretals.

2. Ambition once entering the pale of Catholicity, we find a counter idea to that of the councils at the root of the first usurpation of unscriptural dignity. John "the Faster," bishop of New Rome, conceived himself not merely equal (as the councils had decreed) to the bishop of Old Rome, but his superior, in view of the decrepitude of the latter, and its occupation by the Goths, while the imperial dignity of Constantinople was now matured. He called himself "OEcumenical Bishop."

3. Gregory was then bishop of "Old Rome," and that was the time to assert the principle of the Decretals, had any such idea ever been heard of. How did he meet his brother's arrogance? Not appealing to decretals, not by asserting that such was his own dignity derived from St. Peter, but by protesting against such abasement of all the other patriarchs and all other bishops (who were all equals), and by pronouncing the impious assumption of such a nefarious title to denote a "forerunner of Antichrist." Plainly, then, there was no "Pope" known to Christendom at the close of the sixth century.

4. But hardly was Gregory in his grave when court policy led the Emperor Phocas (one of the most infamous of men) to gratify the wicked ambition of the new Bishop of Rome by giving to him the titular honour of being a "forerunner of Antichrist." Boniface III. (607 a.d.) assumed the daring title of "Universal Bishop." But it was a mere court-title: the Church never recognised it; and so it went down to his successors as mere "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal" till the days of Charlemagne.

5. In his times the Petrine fable had grown upon the Western mind. All Western Europe had but one Apostolic See. As "the Apostolic See" it was known throughout the West, just as "the Post-Office" means that which is nearest to one's own dwelling. What was geographically true, had grown to be theologically false, however; and the Bishop of Rome began to consider himself the only inheritor of Apostolic precedency, if not of all Apostolic authority and power.

6. The formation of the Western Empire favoured this assumption: but it did not take definite shape while Charlemagne lived, for he regarded himself, like Constantine, the "head of the Church;" [2682] and in his day he acted as supreme pontiff, called the Council of Frankfort, overruled the Roman bishop, and, in short, was a lay-Pope throughout his empire. That nobody refused him all he claimed, that Adrian "couched like a strong ass" under the burden of his rebukes, and that Leo paid him bodily "homage," demonstrated that no such character as a "Pope" was yet in existence. Leo III. had personally "adored" Charlemagne with the homage afterwards rendered to the pontiffs, and Adrian had set him the example of personal submission.

7. But, Charlemagne's feeble sons and successors proving incapable of exercising his power, the West only waited for an ambitious and original genius to come to the See of Rome, to yield him all that Charlemagne had claimed, and to invest him with the more sacred character of the Apostolic head to the whole Church.

8. Such a character arose in Nicholas I. He found the Decretals made to his hand by some impostor, and he saw a benighted age ready to accept his assumptions. He therefore used them, and passed them into the organic canon-law of the West. The "Holy Roman Empire" reluctantly received the impious frauds [2683] the East contemptuously resisted. Thus the Papacy was formed on the base of the "Holy Roman Empire," and arrogated to itself the right to cut off and anathematize the greater part of Christendom, with the old patriarchal Sees. So we have in Nicholas the first figure in history in whose person is concentrated what Rome means by the Papacy. No "Pope" ever existed previously, in the sense of her canon-law; and it was not till two centuries longer that even a "Pope" presumed to pronounce that title peculiar to the Bishop of Rome. [2684]

Such, then, are the historical facts, which render vastly important some study of the Decretals. I shall give what follows exclusively from "Roman-Catholic" sources. Says the learned Dupin: [2685] --

1. All these Decretals were unknown to all the ancient Fathers, to all the Popes and all the ecclesiastical authors that wrote before the ninth century. Now, what rational man can believe that so vast a number of letters, composed by so many holy Popes, containing so many important points in relation to the discipline of the Church, could be unknown to Eusebius, to St. Jerome, to St. Augustine, to St. Basil, and, in short, to all those authors that have spoken of their writings, or who have written upon the discipline of the Church? Could it possibly happen that the Popes, to whom these epistles are so very favourable, would never have cited and alleged them to aggrandize their own reputation? Who could ever imagine that the decisions of these Decretals should be never so much as quoted in any council or in any canon? He that will seriously consider with himself, that, since these Decretals have been imposed upon the world, they have been cited in an infinite number of places by Popes, by councils, and as often by canonists, will be readily convinced that they would have acquired immense credit, and been very often quoted by antiquity, if they had been genuine and true.

Here I must direct attention to the all-important fact, that whatever may have been the authorship of these forgeries, the Roman pontiffs, and the "Roman Catholic" communion as such, have committed themselves over and over again to the fraud, as Dupin remarks above, and that, long after the imposture was demonstrated and exposed; in proof of which I cite the following, from one whose eyes were opened by his patient investigation of such facts, but who, while a member of the Roman communion, wrote to his co-religionist Cardinal Manning as follows: [2686] --

Is it credible that the Papacy should have so often appealed to these forgeries for its extended claims, had it any better authorities--distinctive authorities--to fall back upon? Every disputant on the Latin side finds in these forgeries a convincing argument against the Greeks. `To prove this,' the universal jurisdiction of the Pope, said Abbot Barlaam, himself converted by them from the Greek Church, to convert his countrymen, `one need only look through the decretal epistles of the Roman pontiffs from St. Clement to St. Sylvester.' In the twenty-fifth session of the Council of Florence the provincial of the Dominicans is ordered to address the Greeks on the rights of the Pope, the Pope being present. Twice he argues from the pseudo-decretal of St. Anacletus, at another time from a synodical letter of St. Athanasius to Felix, at another time from a letter of Julius to the Easterns, all forgeries. Afterwards, in reply to objections taken by Bessarion, in conference, to their authority, apart from any question of their authenticity, his position in another speech is, `that those decretal epistles of the Popes, being synodical epistles in each case, are entitled to the same authority as the Canons themselves.' Can we need further evidence of the weight attached to them on the Latin side?

"Popes appealed to them in their official capacity, as well as private doctors; (1) Leo IX., for instance, to the pseudo-donation in the prolix epistle written by him, or in his name, to Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople, on the eve of the schism. (2) Eugenius IV. to the pseudo-decretals of St. Alexander and Julius, during the negotiations for healing it, in his instructions to the Armenians. (3) But why, my lord, need I travel any further for proofs, when in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, that has been for three centuries the accredited instructor of the clergy themselves, recommended authoritatively by so many Popes, notwithstanding the real value of these miserable impostures had been for three centuries before the world, I find these words: [2687]`On the primacy of the Supreme Pontiff, see the third epistle (that is, pseudo-decretal) of Anacletus'! Such is, actually, the authority to which the clergy of our own days are referred, in the first instance, for sound and true views on the primacy. (4) Afterwards, when they have mastered what is said there, they may turn to three more authorities, all culled likewise from Gratian, which they will not fail to interpret in accordance with the ideas they have already imbibed. Nor can I refrain from calling attention to a much more flagrant case. On the sacrament of confirmation there had been many questions raised by the Reformers, calculated to set people thinking, and anxious to know the strict truth respecting it. On this the Catechism proceeds as follows: [2688] --

"`Since it has been already shown how necessary it would be to teach generally respecting all the sacraments, by whom they were instituted, so there is need of similar instruction respecting confirmation, that the faithful may be the more attracted by the holiness of this sacrament. Pastors must therefore explain that not only was Christ our Lord the author of it, but that, on the authority of the Roman pontiff St. Fabian (i.e., the pseudo-decretal attributed to him), He instituted the rite of the chrism, and the words used by the Catholic Church in its administration.'

"Strange phenomenon, indeed, that the asseverations of such authorities should be still ordered to be taught as Gospel from our pulpits in these days, when everybody that is acquainted with the merest rudiments of ecclesiastical history knows how absolutely unauthenticated they are in point of fact, and how unquestionably the authorities cited to prove them are forgeries.

"Absolutely, my lord, with such evidence before me, I am unable to resist the inference that truthfulness is not one of the strongest characteristics of the teaching of even the modern Church of Rome; for is not this a case palpably where its highest living authorities are both indifferent to having possible untruths preached from the pulpit, and something more than indifferent to having forgeries, after their detection as such, adduced from the pulpit to authenticate facts?

"This, again, strongly reminds me of a conversation I had with the excellent French priest who received me into the Roman-Catholic Church, some time subsequently to that event. I had, as an Anglican, inquired very laboriously into the genuineness of the Santa Casa: and having visited Nazareth and Loretto since, and plunged into the question anew at each place, came back more thoroughly convinced than ever of its utterly fictitious character, notwithstanding the privileges bestowed upon it by so many Popes. On stating my convictions to him, his only reply was: `There are many things in the Breviary which I do not believe, myself.' Oh the stumbling-blocks of a system in the construction of which forgeries have been so largely used, in which it is still thought possible for the clergy to derive edification from legends which they cannot believe, and the people instruction from works of acknowledged imposture!

Further, Dupin remarks: [2689] --

"The first man that published them, if we may believe Hincmar, was one Riculphus, bishop of Mentz, who died about the ninth century. It is commonly believed, seeing the collection bears the name of Isidore, that he brought them from Spain. But it never could have been composed by the great Archbishop of Seville; and there is great reason to believe that no Spaniard, but rather some German or Frenchman, began this imposture,

"It likewise seems probable that some of these Decretals have been foisted in since the time of Riculphus. Benedict, a deacon of the church of Mentz, who made a collection of canons for the successors of Riculphus, may have put the last hand to this collection of false Decretals attributed to one Isidore, a different person from the famous Bishop of Seville, and surnamed Peccator, or Mercator. About his time a certain Isidore did come from Spain, along with some merchants, and then withdrew to Mentz. Not improbably, therefore, this man's name was given to the collection, and it was naturally believed that it was brought from Spain.

"And since these letters first appeared in an unlearned, dark age, what wonder is it that they were received with very little opposition? And yet Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, with other French bishops, made great difficulty in accepting them, even in that time. Soon after, however, they acquired some authority, owing to the support of the court of Rome, the pretensions of which they mightily favoured.

On the twin imposture of the "Donation of Constantine," it may be well to cite the same learned authority. But this shall be found elsewhere. [2690]

Let me now recur to the same candid Gallican doctor, Dupin, who remarks as follows:--

"2. The imposture of these letters is invincibly proved from hence: because they are made up of a contexture of passages out of Fathers, councils, papal epistles, and imperial ordinances, which have appeared after the third century, down to the middle of the ninth.

"3. The citations of Scripture in all these letters follow the Vulgate of St. Jerome, which demonstrates that they are since his time (a.d. 420), and consequently do not proceed from Popes who lived long before St. Jerome.

"4. The matter of these letters is not at all in keeping with the ages when those to whom they are attributed were living.

"5. These Decretals are full of anachronisms. The consulships and names of consuls mentioned in them are confused and out of order; and, moreover, the true dates of the writers themselves, as Bishops of Rome, do not agree with those assumed in these letters.

"6. Their style is extremely barbarous, full of solecisms; and in them we often meet with certain words never used till the later ages. Also, they are all of one style! How does it happen that so many different Popes, living in divers centuries, should all write in the same manner?"

Dupin then goes on to examine the whole series with learning and candour, showing that every single one of them "carries with it unequivocal signs of lying and imposture." To his pages let the student recur, therefore. I follow him in the following enumeration of the frauds he calmly exposes with searching logic and demonstration:--

1. St. Clement to St. James the Lord's Brother.--Plainly spurious.

2. The Second Epistle of Clement to the Same.--Equally so.

3. St. Clement to all Suffragan Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Others of the Clergy: to all Princes Great and Small, and to all the Faithful.

Dupin remarks: "This very title suffices to prove the forgery, as, in the days of St. Clement, there were no "princes great or small" in the Church." He adds that it speaks of "subdeacons," an order not then existing, and that it is patched up from scraps of the apocryphal Recognitions.

4. A Fourth Letter of the Same. It is self-refuted by "the same reasons."

5. The Fifth Letter to St. James of St. Clement, Bishop of Rome and Successor of St. Peter.

"But," says Dupin, "as St. James died before St. Peter, it necessarily follows, that this epistle cannot have been written by St. Clement." Further, "We have one genuine epistle of St. Clement, the style of which is wholly different from that of these Decretals."

6. The Epistle of Anacletus.--Barbarous, full of solecisms and falsehoods.

7. A Second Epistle of Anacletus.--Filled with passages out of authors who lived long after the times of Anacletus.

8. A Third Letter, etc..--Spurious for the same reasons.

9. An Epistle of Evaristus.--Patched up out of writings of Innocent in the fifth century, dated under consuls not contemporaries of the alleged writer.

10. A Second Epistle of the Same.--Stuffed with patchwork of later centuries.

11. An Epistle of Alexander.--Contains passages from at least one author of the eighth century.

12. A Second Epistle of the Same.--Refers to the Council of Laodicea, which was held (a.d. 365) after Alexander was dead.

13. A Third Epistle, etc.--Quotes an author of the fifth century.

14. An Epistle of Xystus.--Dated under a consul that lived in another age, and quotes authors of centuries later than his own day.

15. A Second Epistle of the Same.--Subject to the same objections, anachronisms, etc.

16. An Epistle of Telesphorus.--False dates, patched from subsequent authors, etc.

17. An Epistle of Hyginus.--Anachronisms, etc.

18. A Second of the Same.--Stuffed with anachronisms, and falsely dated by consuls not of his age.

19. An Epistle of Pius I.--Full of absurdities, and quotes "the Theodosian Code"!

20. A Second.--It is addressed to Justus, etc. Bad Latin, and wholly unknown to antiquity, though Baronius has tried to sustain it.

21. A Third Letter, etc.--Addressed to Justus, bishop of Vienna. False for the same reasons.

22. An Epistle of Anicetus.--Full of blunders as to dates, etc. Mentions names, titles, and the like, unheard of till later ages.

23. An Epistle of Soter.--Dated under consuls who lived before Soter was bishop of Rome.

24. A Second Letter, etc.--Speaks of "monks," "palls," and other things of later times; is patched out of writings of subsequent ages, and dated under consuls not his contemporaries.

25. An Epistle of Eleutherus.--Subject to like objections.

26. A Second Letter, etc.--Anachronisms.

27. A Third Letter, etc.--Addressed to "Desiderius, bishop of Vienna." There was no such bishop till the sixth century.

28. A Fourth Letter, etc.--Quotes later authors, and is disproved by its style.

29. An Epistle of Zephyrinus.--Little importance to be attached to anything from such a source; but Dupin (who lived before his bad character came to light in the writings of Hippolytus) convicts it of ignorance, and shows that it is a patchwork of later ideas and writers.

30. A Second Letter.--"Yet more plainly an imposture," says Dupin.

31. An Epistle of St. Callistus.--What sort of a "saint" he was, our readers are already informed. This epistle is like the preceding ones of Zephyrinus.

32. A Second Epistle, etc.--Quotes from writings of the eighth century.

33. An Epistle of Urban.--Quotes the Vulgate, the Theodosian Code, and Gregory the Fourth.

34. An Epistle of Pontianus.--Anachronisms.

35. A Second Epistle, etc.--Barbarous and impossible.

36. An Epistle of Anterus.--Equally impossible; stuffed with anachronisms.

37. An Epistle of Fabianus.--Contradicts the facts of history touching Cyprian, Cornelius, and Novatus.

38. A Second Epistle, etc.--Self-refuted by its monstrous details of mistake and the like.

39. A Third Epistle, etc.--Quotes authors of the sixth century.

40. An Epistle of Cornelius.--Contradicts historical facts, etc.

41. A Second Epistle, etc.--Equally full of blunders. "But nothing," says Dupin, "shows the imposture of these two letters more palpably than the difference of style from those truly ascribed to Cornelius in Cyprian's works."

42. A Third Letter, etc.--Equally false on its face. Dupin, with his usual candour, remarks: "We find in it the word `Mass,' which was unknown to the contemporaries of Cornelius."

43. An Epistle of Lucius.--It is dated six months before he became Bishop of Rome, and quotes authors who lived ages after he was dead.

44. An Epistle of Stephen.--"Filled with citations out of subsequent authors."

45. A Second Epistle, etc.--Open to the like objection; it does not harmonize with the times to which it is referred.

Here Dupin grows weary, and winds up his review as follows:--

For like reasons, we must pass judgment, in like manner, on the two Epistles of Sixtus II.; the two of Dionysius; the three of St. Felix I; the two of Eutychianus; one of Caius; two of Marcellinus and those of Marcellus; the three of Eusebius; those of Miltiades, and the rest of Isidore's collection: they are full of passages out of Fathers, Popes, and councils, more modern than the very Popes by whom they are pretended to be written. In them are many things that clash with the known history of those times, and were purposely framed to favour the court of Rome and to sustain her pretensions against the rights of bishops and the liberties of churches. But it would take up too much time to show the gross falsehood of these monuments. They are now rejected by common consent, and even by those authors who are most favourable to the court of Rome, who are obliged to abandon the patronage of these epistles, though they have done a great deal of service in developing the greatness of the court of Rome, and ruining the ancient discipline of the Church, especially with reference to the rights of bishops and ecclesiastical decisions.

The following is the Translator's Preface to these frauds:--

In regard to these Decretals, Dean Milman says: "Up to this period the Decretals, the letters or edicts of the Bishops of Rome, according to the authorized or common collection of Dionysius, commenced with Pope Siricius, towards the close of the fourth century. To the collection of Dionysius was added that of the authentic councils, which bore the name of Isidore of Seville. On a sudden was promulgated, unannounced, without preparation, not absolutely unquestioned, but apparently overawing at once all doubt, a new code, which to the former authentic documents added fifty-nine letters and decrees of the twenty oldest popes from Clement to Melchiades, [2691] and the donation of Constantine; [2692] and in the third part, among the decrees of the popes and of the councils from Sylvester to Gregory II., thirty-nine false decrees, and the acts of several unauthentic councils." [2693]

In regard to the authorship and date of the False Decretals, Dean Milman says: "The author or authors of this most audacious and elaborate of pious frauds are unknown; the date and place of its compilation are driven into such narrow limits that they may be determined within a few years, and within a very circumscribed region. The False Decretals came not from Rome; the time of their arrival at Rome, after they were known beyond the Alps, appears almost certain. In one year Nicholas I. is apparently ignorant of their existence; the next he speaks of them with full knowledge. They contain words manifestly used at the Council of Paris, a.d. 829, consequently are of later date. They were known to the Levite Benedict of Mentz, who composed a supplement to the collection of capitularies by Ansegise, between a.d. 840-847. The city of Mentz is designated with nearly equal certainty as the place in which, if not actually composed, they were first promulgated as the canon law of Christendom." [2694]

Footnotes

[2681] Compare these Canons: Nicæa, vi.; Constantinople, ii., iii.; Ephesus, viii.; and Chalcedon, xxviii. [2682] Episcopus ab extra; i.e., head of temporalities. [2683] Hincmar of Rheims opposed them as he could. See Prichard's Hincmar, Oxford, 1849. [2684] See vol. v. p. 154, Elucidation III. [2685] See his Eccles. History, Cent. iii. p. 173, ed. London, 1693. [2686] Ed. Hayes, London, 1868. [2687] De Ord. Sacram., 49. [2688] 5. [2689] P. 173, as above. [2690] Elucidation II., infra. [2691] [Elucidation I.] [2692] [Elucidation II.] [2693] History of Latin Christianity, vol. iii. p. 191. [2694] History of Latin Christianity, vol. iii. p. 193. [In the marvellous confusion of vol. ix. of the Edinburgh series, these Decretals are mixed up with genuine works as "Fragments of the Third Century."] .

The Epistles of Zephyrinus. [2695]

The First Epistle.

To All the Bishops of Sicily.

Of the final decision of the trials of bishops, and graver ecclesiastical cases in the seat of the apostles.

Zephyrinus, archbishop of the city of Rome, to all the bishops settled in Sicily, in the Lord, greeting.

We ought to be mindful of the grace of God to us, which in His own merciful regard has raised us for this purpose to the summit of priestly honour, that, abiding by His commandments, and appointed in a certain supervision of His priests, we may prohibit things unlawful, and teach those that are to be followed. As night does not extinguish the stars of heaven, so the unrighteousness of the world does not blind the minds of the faithful that hold by the sure support of Scripture. Therefore we ought to consider well and attend carefully to the Scriptures, and the divine precepts which are contained in these Scriptures, in order that we may show ourselves not transgressors, but fulfillers of the law of God.

Now patriarchs and primates, in investigating the case of an accused bishop, should not pronounce a final decision until, supported by the authority of the apostles, they find that the person either confesses himself guilty, or is proved so by witnesses trustworthy and regularly examined, who should not be fewer in number than were those disciples whom the Lord directed to be chosen for the help of the apostles--that is, seventy-two. Detractors also, who are to be rooted out by divine authority, and the advisers of enemies (auctores inimicorum), we do not admit in the indictment of bishops or in evidence against them; nor should any one of superior rank be indicted or condemned on the accusations of inferiors. Nor in a doubtful case should a decisive judgment be pronounced; nor should any trial be held valid unless it has been conducted according to order. No one, moreover, should be judged in his absence, because both divine and human laws forbid that. The accusers of those persons should also be free of all suspicion, because the Lord has chosen that His pillars should stand firm, and not be shaken by any one who will. For a sentence should not bind any of them if it is not given by their proper judge, because even the laws of the world ordain that that be done. For any accused bishop may, if it be necessary, choose twelve judges by whom his case may be justly judged. Nor should he be heard or excommunicated or judged until these be chosen by him; and on his being regularly summoned at first to a council of his own bishops, his case should be justly heard by them, and investigated on sound principles. The end of his case, however, should be remitted to the seat of the apostles, that it may be finally decided there. Nor should it be finished, as has been decreed of old by the apostles or their successors, until it is sustained by its authority. To it also all, and especially the oppressed, should appeal and have recourse as to a mother, that they may be nourished by her breasts, defended by her authority, and relieved of their oppressions, because "a mother cannot," and should not, "forget her son." [2696]For the trials of bishops and graver ecclesiastical cases, as the apostles and their holy successors have decreed, are to be finally decided along with other bishops [2697] by the seat of the apostles, and by no other; because, although they may be transferred to other bishops, it was yet to the blessed Apostle Peter these terms were addressed: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." [2698]And the other privileges which have been granted to this holy seat alone are found embodied both in the constitutions of the apostles [2699] and their successors, and in very many others in harmony with these. For the apostles have prefixed seventy [2700] decrees, together with very many other bishops, and have appointed them to be kept. For to judge rashly of the secrets of another's heart is sin; and it is unjust to reprove him on suspicion whose works seem not other than good, since God alone is Judge of those things which are unknown to men. He, however, "knoweth the secrets of the heart," [2701] and not another. For unjust judgments are to be guarded against by all, especially however by the servants of God. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive," [2702] nor harm any one. For bishops are to be borne by laity and clergy, and masters by servants, in order that, under the exercise of endurance, things temporal may be maintained, and things eternal hoped for. For that increases the worth of virtue, which does not violate the purpose of religion. You should be earnestly intent that none of your brothers be grievously injured or undone. Therefore you ought to succour the oppressed, and deliver them from the hand of their persecutors, in order that with the blessed Job you may say: "The blessing of him that was ready to perish will come upon me, and I consoled the widow's heart. I put on righteousness, and clothed myself with a robe and a diadem, my judgment. I was eye to the blind, and foot to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out most carefully. I brake the grinders of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth;" [2703] and so forth. You, therefore, who have been placed in eminence by God, ought with all your power to check and repel those who prepare snares for brethren, or raise seditions and offences against them. For it is easy by word to deceive man, not however God. Therefore you ought to keep these off, and be on your guard against them, until such darkness is done away utterly, and the morning star shines upon them, and gladness arises, most holy brethren. Given on the 20th September, in the consulship of the most illustrious Saturninus and Gallicanus. [2704]

Footnotes

[2695] The little that is known of Zephyrinus is derived from Eusebius. That historian states that Zephyrinus succeeded Victor in the presidency of the Roman church "about the ninth year of the reign of Severus" (a.d. 201), and that he died in the first year of the reign of Antoninus (Heliogabalus, a.d. 218). He is several times alluded to in the fragments ascribed to Caius, or in connection with them. The two letters bearing his name are forgeries. They belong to the famous collection of False Decretals forged in the ninth century. [2696] Isa. xlix. 15. [2697] The word "bishops" is omitted in ms. [2698] Matt. xvi. 19. [2699] This means the seventy-third apostolic canon, in which it is ordained that episcopal cases be not decided but by superior bishops, councils, or the Roman pontiff. [See note 1, p. 612.] [2700] Another reading has sixty, and another fifty. Whatever be the reading, it is true that by these decrees are meant the apostolic canons: and although their number was only fifty, yet, because sometimes several decrees are comprehended in one canon, there would be no inconsistency between the number of sixty or seventy apostolic decrees and the number of fifty apostolic canons (Sev. Bin.). [2701] Ps. xliv. 21. [2702] 2 Tim. ii. 24. [2703] Job xxix. 13-17, according to the Vulgate version. [2704] Or, Gallus. But Saturninus and Gallus were consuls in the year 198, while Victor was yet alive. .

The Second Epistle.

To the Bishops of the Province of Egypt.

Zephyrinus, archbishop of the city of Rome, to the most beloved brethren who serve the Lord in Egypt.

So great trust have we received from the Lord, the Founder of this holy seat and of the apostolic church, and from the blessed Peter, chief of the apostles, that we may labour with unwearied affection [2705] for the universal Church which has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and aid all who serve the Lord, and give help to all who live piously by apostolic authority. All who will live [2706] piously in Christ must needs endure reproaches from the impious and aliens, and be despised as fools and madmen, that they may be made better and purer who lose the good things of time that they may gain those of eternity. But the contempt and ridicule of those who afflict and scorn them will be cast back upon themselves, when their abundance shall change to want, and their pride to confusion.

Footnotes

[2705] Or, diligence. [See note 2, p. 612.] [2706] 2 Tim. ii. 24.

I.

On the Spoliation or Expulsion of certain Bishops.

It has been reported at the seat of the apostles by your delegates, [2707] that certain of our brethren, bishops to wit, are being expelled from their churches and seats, and deprived of their goods, and summoned, thus destitute and spoiled, to trial; a thing which is void of all reason, since the constitutions of the apostles and their successors, and the statutes of emperors, and the regulations of laws, prohibit it, and the authority of the seat of the apostles forbids it to be done. It has been ordained, indeed, in the ancient statutes, that bishops who have been ejected and spoiled of their property should recover their churches, and, in the first place, have all their property restored to them; and then, in the second place, that if any one may desire to accuse them justly, he should do so at the like risk; that the judges should be discreet, the bishops right-minded and harmonious in the Church, where they should be witnesses for every one who seemed to be oppressed; and that they should not answer till all that belonged to them was restored to them, and to their churches by law without detriment. Nor is it strange, brethren, if they persecute you, when they persecuted even to death your Head, Christ our Lord. Yet even persecutions are to be endured patiently, that ye may be known to be His disciples, for whom also ye suffer. Whence, too, he says Himself, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake." [2708]Sustained by these testimonies, we ought not greatly to fear the reproach of men, nor be overcome by their up-braidings, since the Lord gives us this command by Isaiah the prophet, saying, "Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, my people, in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings;" [2709] considering what is written in the Psalm, "Shall not God search this out? for He knoweth the secrets of the heart, [2710] and the thoughts of such men, that they are vanity," [2711] "They spoke vanity every one with his neighbour: with deceitful lips in their heart, and with an evil heart they spoke. But the Lord shall cut off all deceitful lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things; who have said, Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?" [2712]For if they kept these things in memory, they would by no means break forth into so great wickedness. For they do not this by laudable and paternal instruction (probabili et paterna doctrina), but that they may wreak their vengeful feeling against the servants of God. For it is written, "The way of a fool is right in his eyes;" [2713] and, "There are ways which seem right unto a man, but the end thereof leads to death." [2714]Now we who suffer these things ought to leave them to the judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his works; [2715] who also has thundered through His servants, saying, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." [2716]Assist ye, therefore, one another in good faith, and by deed and with a hearty will; nor let any one remove his hand from the help of a brother, since "by this," saith the Lord, "shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." [2717] Whence, too, He speaks by the prophet, saying, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" [2718] In a spiritual dwelling, I interpret it, and in a concord which is in God, and in the unity of the faith which distinguishes this pleasant dwelling according to truth, which indeed was more beauteously illustrated in Aaron and the priests [2719] clothed with honour, as ointment upon the head, nurturing the highest understanding and leading even to the end of wisdom. For in this dwelling the Lord has promised blessing and eternal life. Apprehending, therefore, the importance of this utterance of the prophet, we have spoken this present brotherly word for love's sake, and by no means seeking, or meaning to seek, our own things. For it is not good to repay detraction with detraction, or according to the common proverb to cast out a beam with a beam (excutere palum palo). Be it far from us. Such manners are not ours. May the Godhead indeed forbid it. By the just judgment of God, power is given sometimes to sinners to persecute His saints, in order that they who are aided and borne on by the Spirit of God may become more glorious through the discipline of sufferings. But to those very persons who persecute, and reproach, and injure them, there will doubtless be woe. Woe, woe to those who injure the servants of God; for injury done to them concerns Him whose service they discharge, and whose function they execute. But we pray that a door of enclosure be placed upon their mouths, as we desire that no one perish or be defiled by their lips, and that they think or publish with their mouth no hurtful word. Whence also the Lord speaks by the prophet, "I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue." [2720]May the Lord Almighty, and His only-begotten Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ, give you this incitement, that with all means in your power you aid all the brethren under whatsoever tribulations they labour, and esteem, as is meet, their sufferings your own. Afford them the utmost assistance by word and deed, that ye may be found His true disciples, who enjoined all to love the brethren as themselves.

Footnotes

[2707] By these apocrisarii are meant the deputies of the bishops, and their locum tenentes, as it were, who manage the affairs of the Church, hear the cases of individuals, and refer them to the bishops. They are therefore called apocrisarii, i.e., responders, from apokrinomai, to respond. Mention is made of them in Justinian Novell., Quomodo oporteat Episcopos, chap. xii. Albericus understands by them the legates of the Pope. [Note 3.] [2708] Matt. v. 10. [2709] Isa. li. 7. [2710] Ps. xliv. 21. [2711] Ps. xciv. 11. [2712] Ps. xii. 2-4. [2713] Prov. xii. 15. [2714] Prov. xiv. 12. [2715] Matt. xvi. 27. [2716] Rom. xii. 19. [2717] John xiii. 35. [2718] Ps. cxxxiii. 1. [2719] The ms. reads, "and those wearing the priestly dignity." [2720] Ps. xxxix. 1.

II.

On the Ordination of Presbyters and Deacons.

Ordinations of presbyters and Levites, moreover, solemnly perform on a suitable occasion, and in the presence of many witnesses; and to this duty advance tried and learned men, that ye may be greatly gladdened by their fellowship and help. Place the confidence of your hearts without ceasing on the goodness of God, and declare these and the other divine words to succeeding generations: "For this is our God for ever and ever, and He will guide us to eternity." [2721]Given on the 7th November, in the consulship of the most illustrious Saturninus and Gallicanus. [2722]

Footnotes

[2721] Ps. xlviii. 14. [2722] Or, Gallus. [See note 5, p. 610.] Notes by the American Editor. 1. The translator's reference to Canon 73 is a mistake, and quite misleading. See vol. vii. Canon 74, p. 504. 2. It is worth while to recall who and what Zephyrinus was. See vol. v. p. 156, Elucidation V.; also same volume of this series, p. 157, Elucidation VI. This unhappy prelate was a heretic; and his decrees and opinions are worthless, as Hippolytus shows. Hence this letter, even were it genuine, would be of no value whatever. Consult also vol. v. p. 156, in Elucidation IV.; also same volume, Elucidation III. 3. On p. 610, Ep. 2, sec. 1, observe the reference to the "statutes of Emperors," where the wily forger forgot himself, as if the Cæsars of this date had legislated for the Christian Church. On the spirit of the ancient Canons, refuting all these Decretals, compare the Canons of Nicæa, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 15; of Constantinople, 2 and 3; of Ephesus, 8; and of Chalcedon, 9 and 28. To these Canons, against the claims of the Paparchy, the Church of England appealed at her Restoration.
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