2.32.1 “Of eunuchs who castrated themselves:1 If someone underwent surgical operation because of disease or was castrated by barbarians, he may remain in the clergy. But if someone belonging to the clergy castrated himself while healthy, he must resign, and from now on no such person should be admitted. Because this obviously applies only to those who deliberately castrate themselves in their audacity, church law admits to the clergy those who were made eunuchs by barbarians or slaveowners but otherwise prove worthy.

2.32.2 Of those admitted to ordination from paganism: Whether by necessity or because people were in a hurry, it has often happened that men who had just come to faith from pagan life, having been briefly catechized, immediately received the spiritual bath and were promoted to bishop or priest as soon as they were baptized, contrary to the law of the church. We therefore thought it appropriate that nothing like this should occur in the future, for the catechumen needs time and further examination after baptism. The apostle’s rule is clear: ‘He must not be a recent convert, lest he become conceited and fall into judgement and the devil’s trap’ [1 Timothy 3:6-7]. If in the course of time a spiritual deficiency is discovered in a person and proven by two or three witnesses, this person should leave the clergy. Anyone who boldly violates this ruling of the great council will endanger his position in the clergy.

2.32.3 Of clergy who have housekeepers: As regards housekeepers, the great council generally decided not to allow bishops, priests, deacons, or anyone else in the clergy to have a housekeeper except for a mother, a sister, an aunt, or other such persons who are beyond all suspicion. Anyone who violates this ruling will endanger his reputation.2

2.32.4 Of the ordination of bishops: It is most proper for a bishop to be ordained by all the bishops in his province. If this causes difficulty because of urgent necessity or because of long distances, at least three should meet, with the absent bishops also participating in the election and agreeing in writing. Then they should carry out the ordination. The metropolitan bishop should confirm the ordinations which occur in his province.

2.32.5 Of the excommunicated: As regards the clergy and laity who are excommunicated by the bishops responsible for each province, church law shall apply the principle that those rejected by one bishop should not be admitted by another. He should, however, investigate to ensure they were not excommunicated out of pettiness, contentiousness, or some such hostility on the part of the bishop. To properly investigate this, we thought it appropriate to hold councils twice a year in each province so that all the bishops of the province might meet to review such questions together. In this way, those who by common consent have given offence to their bishop should accordingly be excommunicated by all until the community or their bishop sees fit to pass a milder sentence on them. The first council should occur before Lent so that a pure gift may be offered to God after every petty matter has been cleared up, and the second around autumn.

2.32.6 Of the special honorary rights granted under church law to those who govern greater dioceses: The ancient custom in Egypt, Libya, and the Pentapolis which grants the bishop of Alexandria authority over all of them shall remain in force, for this is also the custom for the bishop of Rome. The church in Antioch and the churches in the other provinces shall likewise retain their privileges. It is generally evident that if anyone has become bishop without the consent of the metropolitan, the great council has determined that he may not be bishop. If, however, two or three due to their belligerence oppose an ordination which has been duly approved by common vote in accord with the law of the church, the decision of the majority should stand.

2.32.7 Of the bishop of Aelia:3 Since custom and ancient tradition have established that the bishop of Aelia deserves honor, he shall have the next place of honor after the metropolitan, whose place of honor shall be preserved.

2.32.8 Of those who call themselves ‘pure’: Of those who once called themselves ‘pure’ but are now joining the holy catholic apostolic church, the holy great council thought it appropriate that they remain in the clergy after being ordained. Before all this, however, they must confess in writing that they agree with and follow the doctrine of the catholic apostolic church, namely, that they will commune with those who have remarried and those who have apostatized under persecution, for whom a time and a season has been established to follow the doctrine of the catholic church in everything. Wherever all the ordained are of this faction, be it in a village or a city, they shall retain their rank in the clergy. But if they join where there is already a bishop or priest of the catholic church, it is evident that the bishop of the church shall retain the rank of bishop while the one named bishop by the ‘pure’ shall have the rank of priest, unless the bishop is willing to share the honor of his title. But if he is unwilling, he shall create a position as either country-bishop or priest so that the one named bishop by the ‘pure’ may remain in the clergy, lest there be two bishops in the city.

2.32.9 Of the ordination of priests: If any priests were promoted without examination or confessed their sins when questioned, yet people, contrary to church law, ordained them despite their confession, church law does not admit such men. The catholic church demands irreproachable behavior.

2.32.10 Of apostates who were ordained in ignorance: Whether apostates were ordained in ignorance or with the knowledge of those who ordained them makes no difference in the law of the church. When they are convicted, they will be deposed.

2.32.11 Of those who sinned without compulsion: Of those who sin without compulsion, removal of possessions, danger, or the like, which happened under the tyrant Licinius, the council decided to show mercy to them even though they were unworthy of mercy. Those who sincerely repent shall spend three years as hearers and seven as prostrators, then may join the congregation in prayer for two years without receiving the Eucharist.

2.32.12 Of those who had renounced worldly life but returned to the world: Those called by grace who showed their first zeal by resigning from military service but then returned to their vomit4 by paying bribe money to regain their military rank shall spend three years as hearers and ten as prostrators. With all of them one must examine their conduct and the manner of their repentance. Those who demonstrate repentance with genuine fear, tears, perseverance, and good works, not just a show of them, shall complete the set time as hearers then may participate in the prayers. At that point the bishop may make a milder decision in their case. But those who indifferently accept the penance and think the prescribed manner of entering the church is enough for their repentance should in any case complete the whole time.

2.32.13 Of the dying who request communion: Of the dying, we must even now keep the ancient law of the church that the Lord’s provisions must not be withheld from anyone who is dying. But if hope of his recovery has been lost and he has received communion and partaken of the sacrifice, yet he survives, his place shall be with those who participate in prayer only. In general, the bishop should, with examination, distribute the sacrifice to any dying person who asks to partake of the Eucharist.

2.32.14 Of apostate catechumens: Of catechumens who apostatize during the catechumenate, the holy great council thought it appropriate that they spend three years as hearers and after this may again pray with the catechumens.

2.32.15 That clergy must not transfer from one city to another: Because of great tumult and quarrels which have arisen, we thought it appropriate to completely abolish the custom practiced in some regions contrary to church law. Consequently, neither bishop nor priest nor deacon may move from one city to another. In any case, if anyone tries any such thing after this ruling of the holy council or undertakes such an endeavor, the arrangement will be cancelled, and he must return to the church of which he was ordained bishop or priest or deacon.

2.32.16 Of those who do not remain in the churches where they were promoted: Those who neither fear God nor know the law of the church and so recklessly leave their church, be they priests, deacons, or anyone at all who belongs to the clergy, may not by any means be received into another church. Rather, they must certainly return to their parishes. If they remain, they must be excommunicated. If someone dares to snatch one who belongs to another and ordain him in his church without the consent of the bishop whom the clergy member has left, the ordination shall be invalid.

2.32.17 Of clergy members lending for interest: Since many clergy members, pursuing greed and vile profit, have forgotten the Scripture which says, ‘He does not lend his money for interest’ [Psalm 15:5, LXX 14:5], so that they demand percentages when they lend, the holy great council found it right that anyone discovered taking interest after this ruling, seeking it from business or otherwise, demanding half as much again, or contriving something else for vile profit, shall surely be removed from the clergy.

2.32.18 Of priests receiving the Eucharist from deacons: It has come to the attention of the holy great council that in certain regions or cities deacons give the Eucharist to priests, though neither church law nor custom has taught that those without authority to sacrifice may give the body of Christ to those who do sacrifice. We also learned that some deacons touch the Eucharist before even the bishops. This must be completely abolished. Deacons should remain within their proper sphere, knowing that they are servants of the bishop and inferior to priests. They should receive the Eucharist after priests, in accord with their rank, from either the bishop or a priest. Moreover, deacons must not be allowed to sit amidst priests, for this is contrary to church law and contrary to order. If anyone refuses to obey even after these rulings, he shall be removed from the office of deacon.

2.32.19 Of those who have joined or are joining the catholic church from the faction of Paul of Samosata: Of the former Paulianists who then converted to the catholic church, we have ruled that they should in any case be baptized again. As for any who formerly belonged to the clergy, if they appear blameless and irreproachable, the bishop of the church should ordain them after they are baptized again. But if they prove unfit under examination, they should be removed. The same procedure should likewise be observed with deacons5 and members of the clergy in general. As for the deaconesses who belong to this rank with them, we mentioned that they in any case belong to the laity because they have not been ordained.

2.32.20 Of those who kneel on Sunday: Seeing as some kneel on Sunday and the days of Pentecost, the holy council thought it appropriate that people stand while offering prayers to the Lord so that everything may unanimously be observed in the same way in every parish.”

2.32.21 The same holy assembly wrote these twenty laws regulating church government in the presence of the God-loving praiseworthy Emperor Constantine.

2.32.22 Some of the bishops planned to enact another law, but godly Paphnutius stopped them. I thought it necessary to recount this astonishing event. Some of the bishops thought it appropriate to introduce a new law for the church at the council and pass this law, as the council did with the other affairs of the church.


Next Chapter – 2.33 Concerning the need to not depose those who are priests and have their own wife

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Created by RR 8-20-21

  1. Cf. the Canons of Nicaea on FCC. The canon numbers are the same as the section numbers of this chapter.
  2. This sentence is absent in other versions of the Canons of Nicaea.
  3. This sentence is absent in other sources containing the Canons of Nicaea.
  4. Cf. Proverbs 26:11.
  5. Other sources containing the Canons of Nicaea have “deaconesses.”

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