If anyone due to sickness has undergone a surgical operation, or if he has been castrated by barbarians, he is allowed to remain among the clergy. But if anyone enrolled among the clergy has castrated himself when in perfect health, it is good for him to leave the ministry. From now on, no such person should be promoted to the clergy. But since this applies only to those who willfully castrate themselves, if anyone has been made a eunuch by barbarians, or by his master, and is otherwise fit for office, church law admits him to the clergy.
It has occurred that men who recently converted to the faith from heathenism, after a short period of instruction, have been immediately brought to the spiritual bath and then advanced to the priesthood or even episcopate as soon as they have been baptized. Whether this has been done because of a lack of ministers or simply from impatience, it is contrary to church law. Therefore we have decided that this will not be done in the future. A catechumen needs more time for a longer trial after baptism. The apostolic saying is clear, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become blinded and fall into judgment and the Devil’s snare?” [1 Tim 3:6]. If, as time goes on, the man is discovered to have committed some sensual (psychikos) sin, and is convicted by two or three witnesses, let him leave the clergy. Anyone who violates these enactments will imperil his own position among the clergy, as a person who presumes to disobey the great Council.
The great Council has stringently forbidden any bishop, priest, deacon, or any of the clergy, to have a woman living with him, except a mother, sister, aunt, or some such person who is beyond all suspicion.
It is most proper for a bishop to be appointed by all the bishops in his particular province. If this proves impossible, either because there is not enough time, or there is too much distance to be traveled, at least three bishops should meet together, and the approval of the absent bishops should be given and communicated in writing. Only then should the ordination take place. But in every province the ratification of the ordination should be left to the metropolitan bishop.
As for the clergy and laity in the various provinces who have been excommunicated, the bishops should observe the provision of the canon which states that someone excommunicated by one bishop is not to be readmitted by another. Nevertheless, he should investigate to see if the excommunication has come about from excessive stringency, contentiousness, or any other ungracious attitude on the part of the excommunicating bishop.So that these matters may be duly investigated, we decree that in every province councils shall be held twice a year, so that when all the bishops of the province are assembled together, all such questions may be thoroughly examined by them. In this way, everyone can see how those who have confessedly offended their bishop have been justly excommunicated, unless it shall seem fit to the general meeting of the bishops to pronounce a milder sentence upon them. The first of these councils should be held before Lent, (that the pure Gift may be offered to God after all bitterness has been put away), and the second in the autumn.
Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction over them all, since a similar arrangement is the custom for the Bishop of Rome. Likewise let the churches in Antioch and the other provinces retain their privileges. It should be understood everywhere that if anyone is made bishop without the consent of the metropolitan bishop, this great council has declared he should not remain a bishop. If two or three bishops are prone to strife and oppose an ordination which has been duly approved by the majority in accordance with church law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.
Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of Jerusalem should be honored, let him, after giving due dignity to the metropolitan, have the next place of honor.
As for the so-called cathari (pure), if they return to the catholic and apostolic church, the great and holy council decrees that any of them who are ordained may remain among the clergy. But it will first be necessary for them to profess in writing that they will observe and follow the teachings of the catholic and apostolic church. In particular they must commune with those who have been married twice, and with those who have lapsed in persecution but have had a period of penance prescribed for them, and a date of restoration determined, so that in all things they will follow the teachings of the catholic church. In any area where all the clergy are of this type, whether in villages or in cities, they should keep their current rank. But if they are restored to the catholic church in an area where there is already a catholic bishop or priest, it is obvious that the existing bishop of the church must continue to hold the rank of bishop; and he who was named bishop by the so-called cathars must take the rank of priest (unless the bishop agrees to allow him to share in the honor of the title of bishop). Or, if this does not prove satisfactory, then the bishop may provide for him a place as rural bishop (chorepiscopus). This way, he can remain an eminent clergyman, without there being two bishops in the city.
If any priests have been promoted without a proper examination, or if during their examination they confessed crimes, but were nevertheless ordained notwithstanding their confession, church law does not allow such; for the catholic church requires that which is blameless.
If some have lapsed, but then have been ordained through the ignorance of the bishops who ordained them (or even with the previous knowledge), it must not influence the decision of the church. When such men are discovered, they must be deposed.
As for those who transgressed without being compelled to do so, without the seizure of their property, without danger or the like, as happened during the tyranny of Licinius, the Council declares that they should be dealt with mercifully, though they in no way deserve it. If they truly repent, they will spend three years among the hearers, seven years as prostrators, and then for two years they may join with the congregation in prayers, but without receiving the Eucharist.
As for those who were called by grace and at first zealously threw away their military uniforms, but then later returned like dogs to their own vomit (so that some regained their military positions through bribes and gifts), let these spend three years as hearers and ten years as prostrators. But in all such cases it is necessary to carefully examine their intentions and their repentance. If they give evidence of their conversions by their actions (and not mere pretence), with fear, tears, perseverance, and good works, then they may properly join the assembly in prayers once they have fulfilled their appointed time as hearers. Beyond that, the bishop may make an even more lenient (philanthropion) decision concerning them. But those who take the matter with indifference, and who think the prescribed form of entering the church is sufficient for their readmission, must fulfill the whole time.
As for those who are dying, the ancient church law is still to be maintained, i.e., that if any man is at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the most indispensable final Eucharist. But, if anyone is restored to health again who received communion when his death was considered imminent, let him remain among those who commune in prayers only. But in general, and in the case of any dying person, let the Bishop, after making examination, give the Eucharist to whoever asks to receive it.
Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, the holy and great Council has decreed that, after they have passed just three years as hearers, they shall again pray with the catechumens.
Because of the great disturbances and disagreements that have occurred of late, we decree that the custom which prevails in certain places must be totally done away with: neither bishop, priest, nor deacon shall move from city to city. And if any one, after this decree of the holy and great council, shall attempt such a thing, or continue in any such course of action, his actions shall be utterly void, and he must return to the church where he was ordained bishop or priest.
Churches ought not to receive priests, deacons, or other clergy, who without the fear of God and in disregard for church law, recklessly abandon their own churches. Such men should be encouraged by all available means to re-join their own parishes. If they will not return, they must be excommunicated. The ordination will be void if anyone dares to secretly ordain a man who belongs to another church without the consent of his bishop whose jurisdiction the latter has left, even if he had previously been enrolled on the list of clergy.
Many clergymen, being covetousness and desirous for gain, have forgotten the divine Scripture which says, “He does not lend at usury” (Ez 18:8), and when lending money ask for one percent of the total as monthly interest. The holy and great council thinks it just that if after this decree any one is found to receive usury, secretly or otherwise, such as by demanding the whole and one half, or by using any other contrivance at all for filthy profit’s sake, he shall be deposed from the clergy and his name stricken from the list.
It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great council that in some districts and cities, deacons are administering the Eucharist to the priests, even though neither church law nor custom permits that those who have no right to offer it should give the body of Christ to those who can offer it. It has also become known to us that certain deacons now handle the Eucharist even before the bishops. Let all such practices be abolished, and let the deacons remain within their own bounds, knowing that they are the servants of the bishop and at a lower rank than the priests. Let them receive the Eucharist according to their rank, after the priests, and let either the bishop or the priest administer it to them. Furthermore, do not let the deacons sit among the priests, for that is contrary to canon and order. And if, after this decree, any one shall refuse to obey, let him be deposed from the diaconate.
Concerning the followers of Paul of Samosata who have flown for refuge to the catholic church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized. If any of them in past time were on the list of their clergy and are found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the bishop of the catholic church. But if the examination should show that they are unfit, they ought to be deposed. Like treatment should be given in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy. We mean by ‘deaconesses’ those who have assumed the habit, but who, since they have not had hands laid upon them, are to be numbered only among the laity.
There are certain persons who kneel for prayer on the Lord’s Day [Easter] and in the days of Pentecost. But so that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere, it seems good to the holy Council that prayers should be made to God while standing during those times.