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Canon III.

Since our pious and Christian Emperor has addressed this holy and ecumenical council, in order that it might provide for the purity of those who are in the list of the clergy, and who transmit divine things to others, and that they may be blameless ministrants, and worthy of the sacrifice of the great God, who is both Offering and High Priest, a sacrifice apprehended by the intelligence:  and that it might cleanse away the pollutions wherewith these have been branded by unlawful marriages:  now whereas they of the most holy Roman Church purpose to keep the rule of exact perfection, but those who are under the throne of this heaven-protected and royal city keep that of kindness and consideration, so blending both together as our fathers have done, and as the love of God requires, that neither gentleness fall into licence, nor severity into harshness; especially as the fault of ignorance has reached no small number of men, we decree, that those who are involved in a second marriage, and have been slaves to sin up to the fifteenth of the past month of January, in the past fourth Indiction, the 6109th year, and have not resolved to repent of it, be subjected to canonical deposition:  but that they who are involved in this disorder of a second marriage, but before our decree have acknowledged what is fitting, and have cut off their sin, and have put far from them this strange and illegitimate connexion, or they whose wives by second marriage are already dead, or who have turned to repentance of their own accord, having learnt continence, and having quickly forgotten their former iniquities, whether they be presbyters or deacons, these we have determined should cease from all priestly ministrations or exercise, being under punishment for a certain time, but should retain the honour of their seat and station, being satisfied with their seat before the laity and begging with tears from the Lord that the transgression of their ignorance be pardoned them:  for unfitting it were that he should bless another who has to tend his own wounds.  But those who have been married to one wife, if she was a widow, and likewise those who after their ordination have unlawfully entered into one marriage that is, presbyters, and deacons, and subdeacons, being debarred for some short time from sacred ministration, and censured, shall be restored again to their proper rank, never advancing to any further rank, their unlawful marriage being openly dissolved.  This we decree to hold good only in the case of those that are involved in the aforesaid 363faults up to the fifteenth (as was said) of the month of January, of the fourth Indiction, decreeing from the present time, and renewing the Canon which declares, that he who has been joined in two marriages after his baptism, or has had a concubine, cannot be bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or at all on the sacerdotal list; in like manner, that he who has taken a widow, or a divorced person, or a harlot, or a servant, or an actress, cannot be bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or at all on the sacerdotal list.


Ancient Epitome of Canon III.

Priests who shall have contracted second marriages and will not give them up are to be deposed.  But those who leave off the wickedness, let them cease for a fixed period.  For he that is himself wounded does not bless.  But who are implicated in nefarious marriage and who after ordination have contracted marriage, after a definite time they shall be restored to their grade, provided they remain without offence, having plainly broken off the marriage.  But if after it shall have been prohibited by this decree they attempt to do so they shall remain deposed.


What things pertain to this third canon are only adapted to the time in which the canon was passed; and afterwards are of no force at all.  But what things the Fathers wished to be binding on posterity are contained in the seventeenth and eighteenth canons of the holy Apostles, which as having been neglected during the course of time this synod wished to renew.

Van Espen.

It is clear from this canon that the Emperor very especially intended that the indulgence which the Church of Constantinople extended to its presbyters and deacons in allowing them the use of marriage entered into before ordination, should not be allowed to go any further, nor to be an occasion for the violation of that truly Apostolic canon, “The bishop, the presbyter, and the deacon must be the husband of one wife.” I Tim. iii. 2.

For never did the Constantinopolitan nor any other Eastern Church allow by canon a digamist (or a man successively the husband of many wives) to be advanced to the order of presbyter or deacon, or to use any second marriage.

Antonio Pereira.

(Tentativa Theologica. [Eng. trans.] III. Principle, p. 79.)

In the same manner a second marriage always, and everywhere, incapacitated the clergy for Holy Orders and the Episcopate.  This appears from St. Paul, 1 Tim. Chap. iii., and Titus, Chap. i., and it was expressly enacted by the sixteenth of the Apostolical Canons, renewed by the Popes Siricius, Innocent and Leo the Great, and may be gathered from the ancient fathers and councils generally received in the Church.

Nevertheless we know from Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, that many bishops remarkable for their learning and sanctity, frequently dispensed with this Apostolical law; as Alexander of Antioch, Acacius of Berea, Praylius of Jerusalem, Proclus of Constantinople, and others, by whose example Theodoret defends his own conduct in the case of Irenæus, in ordaining him Archbishop of Tyre, although he had been twice married.  But what is more surprising in this matter is that, notwithstanding the eleventh Decretal of Siricius, and the twelfth of Innocentius the First, that they who had either been twice married, or had married widows, were incapable of ordination, and ought to be deposed; the Council of Toledo, Canon 3, and the First Council of Orange, Canon 25, both dispensed with these Pontifical laws.  The first, in order that those who had married widows might remain in holy orders; the second, that such as had twice married might be promoted to the order of subdeacon.  Socrates also observes that although it was a general law not to admit catechumens to orders, the bishops of Alexandria were in the habit of promoting such to the order of readers and singers.


(H. E., Liv. XL., chap. 1.)

These canons of the Council of Trullo have served ever since to the Greeks and to all the Christians of the East as the universal rule with regard to clerical continence, and they have been now in full force for a thousand years.  That is to say, It is not permitted to men who are clerics in Holy Orders to marry after their ordination.  Bishops must keep perfect continence, whether before their consecration they are married or not.  Priests, deacons, and subdeacons already married can keep their wives and live with them, except on the days they are to approach the holy mysteries.

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