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Canon IV.

Let those who truly and sincerely lead the monastic life be counted worthy of becoming honour; but, forasmuch as certain persons using the pretext of monasticism bring confusion both upon the churches and into political affairs by going about promiscuously in the cities, and at the same time seeking to establish Monasteries for themselves; it is decreed that no one anywhere build or found a monastery or oratory contrary to the will of the bishop of the city; and that the monks in every city and district shall be subject to the bishop, and embrace a quiet course of life, and give themselves only to fasting and prayer, remaining permanently in the places in which they were set apart; and they shall meddle neither in ecclesiastical nor in secular affairs, nor leave their own monasteries to take part in such; unless, indeed, they should at any time through urgent necessity be appointed thereto by the bishop of the city.  And no slave shall be received into any monastery to become a monk against the will of his master.  And if any one shall transgress this our judgment, we have decreed that he shall be excommunicated, that the name of God be not blasphemed.  But the bishop of the city must make the needful provision for the monasteries.


Ancient Epitome of Canon IV.

Domestic oratories and monasteries are not to be erected contrary to the judgment of the bishop.  Every monk must be subject to his bishop, and must not leave his house except at his suggestion.  A slave, however, can not enter the monastic life without the consent of his master.


Like the previous canon, this one was brought forward by the Emperor Marcian in the sixth session, and then as number one, and the synod accepted the Emperor’s proposed canon almost verbally.  Occasion for this canon seems to have been given by monks of Eutychian tendencies, and especially by the Syrian Barsumas, as appears from the fourth session.  He and his monks had, as Eutychians, withdrawn themselves from the jurisdiction of their bishops, whom they suspected of Nestorianism.


Here observe (1) the definite assertion of episcopal authority over monks, as it is repeated for greater clearness in the last words of the canon, which are not found in Marcian’s draft, “It is the duty of the bishop of the city to make due provision for the monasteries,” and compare canons 8, 24.  Isidore says that the bishop must “keep an eye on the negligences of monks” (Epist., i. 149).  The Western Church followed in this track (see Council of Agde, canon xxvii., that “no new monastery is to be founded without the bishop’s approval,” and Ist of Orleans, canon xix., “Let abbots be under the bishop’s 271power,” and also Vth of Paris, canon xij., Mansi, viii., 329, 354, 542, etc.), until a reaction set in against the oppressiveness of bishops, was encouraged by Gregory the Great (Epist., i. 12; ii. 41), the IVth Council of Toledo (canon li.), and the English Council of Hertford (canon iij., Bede, iv. 5, and Bright’s Chapters of Early Engl. Ch. Hist., p. 244), and culminated in the system of monastic exemptions, of which Monte Cassino, St. Martin’s of Tours, Fulda, Westminster, Battle (see Freeman, Norm. Conquest, iv. 409), and St. Alban’s were eminent instances.

This canon, cut up and mutilated, is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian’s Decretum, Pars II., Causa XVI., Quæst. L, can. xij., and Causa XVIII., Quæst. II., Canon X.

I have followed the reading of the Prisca, and of Dionysius, of Routh, and of Balsamon, “they were set apart,” i.e. (as Balsamon explains) where they received the monastic tonsure.  This reading substitutes ἀπετάξαντο for ἐπετάξαντο , which would mean “over which they had been put in authority,” or possibly (as Johnson) “where they are appointed,” or as Hammond, “in which they have been settled.”  Isidore reads “ordinati sunt.”

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