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Canon III.


Bishop Hosius said:  This also it is necessary to add,—that no bishop pass from his own province to another province in which there are bishops, unless indeed he be called by his brethren, that we seem not to close the gates of charity.

417And this case likewise is to be provided for, that if in any province a bishop has some matter against his brother and fellow-bishop, neither of the two should call in as arbiters bishops from another province.

But if perchance sentence be given against a bishop in any matter and he supposes his case to be not unsound but good, in order that the question may be reopened, let us, if it seem good to your charity, honour the memory of Peter the Apostle, and let those who gave judgment write to Julius, the bishop of Rome, so that, if necessary, the case may be retried by the bishops of the neighbouring provinces and let him appoint arbiters; but if it cannot be shown that his case is of such a sort as to need a new trial, let the judgment once given not be annulled, but stand good as before.


Bishop Hosius said:  This also it is necessary to add,—that bishops shall not pass from their own province to another province in which there are bishops, unless perchance upon invitation from their brethren, that we seem not to close the door of charity.

But if in any province a bishop have a matter in dispute against his brother bishop, one of the two shall not call in as judge a bishop from another province.

But if judgment have gone against a bishop in any cause, and he think that he has a good case, in order that the question may be reopened, let us, if it be your pleasure, honour the memory of St. Peter the Apostle, and let those who tried the case write to Julius, the bishop of Rome, and if he shall judge that the case should be retried, let that be done, and let him appoint judges; but if he shall find that the case is of such a sort that the former decision need not be disturbed, what he has decreed shall be confirmed.  Is this the pleasure of all?  The synod answered, It is our pleasure.


Ancient Epitome of Canon

No bishop, unless called thereto, shall pass to another city.  Moreover a bishop of the province who is engaged in any litigation shall not appeal to outside bishops.  But if Rome hears the cause, even outsiders may be present.

Van Espen.

According to the reading of Dionysius and Isidore, as well as of the Greeks, Balsamon, Zonaras and Aristenus, as also of Hervetus the provision is that bishops of one province shall not pass to another in which there are not bishops.


Not only are bishops prohibited from changing their cities, and passing from a smaller to a larger one, but also from passing from one province to another in which there are bishops, for the sake of doing any ecclesiastical work there unless they are called by the bishops of that province.

On the phrase “if it pleases you” the following from St. Athanasius is much to the point (cit. by Pusey, Councils, p. 143).  “They [i.e., the Council of Nice] wrote concerning Easter, ‘It seemed good’ as follows:  for it did then seem good, that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not ‘It seemed good,’ but ‘Thus believes the Catholic Church’; and thereupon they confessed how the faith lay, in order to shew that their sentiments were not novel, but apostolic.”


This form is very strong to shew that it was a right which the Pope had not had hitherto.

Van Espen.

Peter de Marca (De Concordia Sacerdotii et Imperii, Lib. VII., Cap. iij., § 8) says that Hosius here proposed to the fathers to honour the memory of St. Peter that he might the more easily lead them to consent to this new privilege; for, as De Marca has proved, the right here bestowed upon the Roman Pontiff was clearly unknown before.

It has been urged that the mention of the pope by name, intimates clearly that the provision of these canons of an appeal to Rome was of a purely temporary character; and some famous authors such as Edmund Richer, of the Sorbonne, have written in defence of this view, but Hefele quotes with great force the words of the learned Protestant, Spittler (Critical Examination of the Sardican Decisions, Spittler, Sämmtlichen Werken, P. viij., p. 129 sq.).


It is said that these Sardican decisions were simply provisional, and intended for the present necessity; because Athanasius, so hardly pressed by the Arians, could only be rescued by authorizing an appeal to the Bishop of Rome for a final judgment.  Richer, in his History of the General Councils, has elaborately defended this opinion, and Horix also has declared in its favour.  But would not all secure use of the canons of the councils be done away with if this distinction between provisional and permanent synodal decisions were admitted?  Is there any sure criterion for distinguishing those canons which were only to be provisional, from the others which were made for all future centuries?  The Fathers of the Synod of Sardica express themselves quite generally; is it not therefore most arbitrary on our part to insert limitations?  It is beyond question that these decisions were occasioned by the very critical state of the affairs of Athanasius; but is everything only provisional that is occasioned by the circumstances of individuals?  In this way the most important of the ancient canons might be set aside.


According to the Greek text, and that of Dionysius, those who had pronounced the first judgment were to write to Rome; and Fuchs rightly adds, that they were to do this at the desire of the condemned.  But, according to Isidore and the Prisca, the right or the duty of bringing the affair before Rome, also belonged to the neighbouring bishops.  I believe that the last interpretation has only arisen through a mistake, from a comment belonging to the next sentence being inserted in the wrong place.  It only remains to be remarked here, that Isidore and the Prisca have not the name Julio,…But Hardouin’s conjecture, that instead of Julio, perhaps illi may be read, is entirely gratuitous, contrary to the Greek text, and plainly only a stratagem against the Gallicans.

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian’s Decretum, Pars II., Causa VI., Quæst. iv., Canon j. 7, in Isidore’s version.  Dionysius’s version is quite wrong as given by Justellus and in the Munich edition, changing the negative into the affirmative in the phrase ne unus de duobus.

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