Early Church Fathers
The Second Canonical Epistle of the Same.
(This is found translated in the same volume last referred to, Epistle cxcix., p. 236 et seqq.)
I made a canon, that they at Antioch, who had sworn not to perform the sacred offices should not do it publicly, but in private only: As to Bianor, he is removed from thence to Iconium, and therefore is more at liberty; but let him repent of his rash oath which he made to an infidel for avoiding a small danger.
That the ancients received a professed virgin that had married, as one guilty of digamy, viz., upon one year's penance; but they ought to be dealt with more severely than widows professing continency, and even as adulterers: But they ought not to be admitted to profess virginity till they are above sixteen or seventeen years of age, after trial, and at their own earnest request; whereas relations often offer them that are under age, for their own secular ends, but such ought not easily to be admitted.
That men, though they seem tacitly to promise celibacy, by becoming monks, yet do it not expressly; yet I think fit that they be interrogated too, and that a profession should be demanded of them, that if they betake themselves to a carnal life, they may be punished as fornicators.
Women professing virginity, though they did marry while they were heretics, or catechumens, yet are pardoned by baptism. What is done by persons in the state of catechumens, is never laid to their charge.
A married man committing lewdness with a single woman, is severely punished as guilty of fornication, but we have no canon to treat such a man as an adulterer; but the wife must co-habit with such a one: But if the wife be lewd, she is divorced, and he that retains her is [thought] impious; such is the custom, but the reason of it does not appear.
That they who have stolen virgins, and will not restore them, be treated as fornicators; that they be one year mourners, the second hearers, the third received to repentance and the fourth be co-standers, and then admitted to communion of the Good Thing. If the virgins be restored to those who had espoused them, it is at their discretion to marry them, or not; if to their guardians, it is at theirdiscretion to give them in marriage to the raptors, or not.
That a man ought not to marry two sisters,nor a woman two brothers: That he whomarries his brother's wife, be not admittedtill he dismiss her.
A widow put into the catalogue of widows, that is, a deaconess being sixty years old, and marrying, is not to be admitted to communion of the Good Thing, till she cease from her uncleanness; but to a widower that marries no penance is appointed, but that of digamy. If the widow be less than sixty, it is the bishop's fault who admitted her deaconess, not the woman's.
He that marries a woman that he has corrupted, shall be under penance for corrupting her, but may retain her for his wife.
Fornication is neither marriage, nor the beginning of marriage. If it may be, it is better that they who have committed fornication together be parted; but if they be passionate lovers, let them not separate, for fear of what is worse.
As for the priest that is engaged, through ignorance, in an unlawful marriage, I have decreed, that he retain the honour of the chair; but forbear all sacred operations, and not give the blessing either in private, or public, nor distribute the Body of Christ to another, nor perform any liturgy; but let him bewail himself to the Lord, and to men, that his sin of ignorance may be pardoned.
That it is ridiculous to vow not to eat swine's flesh, and to abstain from it is not necessary.
That princes ought not to swear to wrong their subjects: that such rash oaths ought to be repented of, and evil not to be justified under pretence of religion.
That they who steal women, and their accomplices, be not admitted to prayers, or be co-standers for three years. Where no violence is used, there no crime is committed,except there be lewdness in the case. A widow is at her own discretion. We must not mind vain pretences.
She, whose husband is absent from home, if she co-habits with another man, before she is persuaded of his death, commits adultery.
The clergyman who is deposed for mortal sin, shall not be excommunicated.
That a woman being delivered of a child in a journey, and taking no care of it, shall be reputed guilty of murder.
That the crime of women under penance for adultery, upon their own confession, or otherwise convicted, be not published, lest it occasion their death; but that they remain out of communion the appointed time.
If a woman leave her husband, and if it do upon inquiry appear, that she did it without reason, she deserves to be punished; but let him continue in communion.
A soldier's wife marrying after the long absence of her husband, but before she is certified of his death, is more pardonable than another woman, because it is more credible that he may be dead.
That he, who having another man's wife or spouse taken away from him, marries another, is guilty of adultery with the first, not with the second.
If a woman run after him that has corrupted her, she shall be under penance three years, though the parents be reconciled to her.
She, who continues to live with an adulterer, is all that time an adulteress.
She that [being a slave] gives herself up to the will of a man, without the consent of her master, commits fornication; for pacts of those who are under the power of others are null.
A widow being at her own discretion, may marry to whom she will.
Slaves marrying without the consent of their masters, or children without consent of their fathers, it is not matrimony but fornication, till they ratify it by consenting.
That he who gives a mortal wound to another is a murderer, whether he were the first, aggressor, or did it in his own defence.
The deaconess that has committed lewdness with a pagan is not to be received to communion, but shall be admitted to the oblation, in the seventh year-that is, if she live in chastity. The pagan, who after [he has professed] the faith, betakes himself again to sacrilege, returns [like the dog] to his vomit: we therefore do not permit the sacred body of a deaconess to be carnally used.
He that assumes the name of a Christian, but reproaches Christ, shall have no advantage from his name.
She that marries a man who was deserted for a while by his wife, but is afterward dismissed upon the return of the man's former wife, commits fornication, but ignorantly: she shall not be prohibited marriage, but it is better that she do not marry.
Encratites, Saccophorians, and Apotactites, are in the same case with the Novatians. We re-baptize them all. There is a diversity in the canons relating to the Novatians, no canon concerning the other. If it be forbid with you, as it is at Rome for prudential causes, yet let reason prevail. They are a branch of the Marcionists; and though they baptize in the name of the three divine Persons, yet they make God the author of evil, and assert, that wine and the creatures of God, are defiled. The bishops ought to meet, and so to explain the canon, that he who does [baptize such heretics] may be out of danger, and that one may have a positive answer to give to those that ask it.
A woman dismissed from her husband, ought to remain unmarried, in my judgment.
If a slave be forced by her master, she is innocent.
We look on third marriages as disgraceful to the Church, but do not absolutely condemn them, as being better than a vague fornication.