Medieval Sourcebook: Constantine I: Laws for Christians
[pagination of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers edition preserved]
No sooner had Constantine I made his decision in favour of the Church than he bagen to regulate it. Many of his laws worked to the advantage of the Church, although they also implied a hitherto unknown state control and interest in interenal Church matters. Eusebius recorded many of these laws in his Ecclesiastical History.
Law: Restoration of Goods only to Catholic Christians
Eusebius: Book 10, Chapter 5
Copy of another imperial decree which they issued, indicating that the grant [of free worship] was made to the Catholic Church alone.
"Greeting to thee, our most esteemed Anulinus.
It is the custom of our benevolence, most esteemed Anulinus, to will that those things which belong of right to another should not only be left unmolested, but should also be restored. Wherefore it is our will that when thou receivest this letter, if any such things belonged to the Catholic Church of the-Christians, in any city or other place, but are now held by citizens (15) or by any others, thou shalt cause them to be restored immediately to the said churches. For we have already determined that those things which these same. churches formerly possessed shall be restored to them. Since therefore thy devotedness perceives that this command of ours is most explicit, do thou make haste to restore to them, as quickly as possible, everything which formerly belonged to the said churches,-whether gardens or buildings or whatever they may be, -- that we may learn that thou hast obeyed this decree of ours most carefully. Farewell, our most esteemed and beloved Anulinus."
Law: Ordering a Synod in Rome
Copy of an epistle in which the Emperor commands that a synod of bishops be held at Rome in behalf of the unity and can-card of the churches .
"Constantine Augustus to Miltiades, bishop of Rome, and to Marcus.
Since many such communications have been sent to me by Anulinus, the most illustrious proconsul of Africa, in which it is said that Caecilianus, bishop of the city of Carthage, has been accused by some of his colleagues in Africa, in many matters; and since it seems to me a very serious thing that in those provinces which Divine Providence has freely entrusted to my devotedness, and in which there is a great population, the multitude are found following the baser course, and dividing, as it were, into two parties, and the bishops are at variance, -- it has seemed good to me that Caecilianus himself, with ten of the bishops that appear to accuse him, and with ten others whom he may consider necessary for his defense, should sail to Rome, that there, in the presence of yourselves and of Retecius (22) and Maternus (23) and Marinus, (24) your colleagues, whom I have commanded to hasten to Rome for this purpose, (25) he may be heard, as you may understand to be in accordance with the most holy law. But in order that you may be enabled to have most perfect knowledge of all these things, I have subjoined to my letter copies of the documents sent to me by Anulinus, and have sent them to your above-mentioned colleagues. When your firmness has read these, you will consider in what way the above-mentioned case may be most accurately investigated and justly decided. For it does not escape your diligence that I have such reverence for the legitimate Catholic Church that I do not wish you to leave schism or division in any place. May the divinity of the great God preserve you, most honored sirs, for many years."
Law: A Synod to be Held Against Dissension
Copy of an epistle in which the emperor commands another synod to be held for the purpose of removing all dissensions among the bishops.
"Constantine Augustus to Chrestus, bishop of Syracuse.
When some began wickedly and perversely to disagree among themselves in regard to the holy worship and celestial power and Catholic doctrine, wishing to put an end to such disputes among them, I formerly gave command that certain bishops should be sent from Gaul, and that the opposing parties
who were contending persistently and incessantly with each other, should be summoned from Africa; that in their presence, and in the presence of the bishop of Rome, the matter which appeared to be causing the disturbance might be examined and decided with all care. But since, as it happens, some, forgetful both of their own salvation and of the reverence due to the most holy religion, do not even yet bring hostilities to an end, and are unwilling to conform to the judgment already passed, and assert that those who expressed their opinions and decisions were few, or that they had been too hasty and precipitate in giving judgment, before all the things which ought to have been accurately investigated had been examined,-- on account of all this it has happened that those very ones who ought to hold brotherly and harmonious relations toward each other, are shamefully, or rather abominably, divided among themselves, and give occasion for ridicule to those men whose souls are aliens to this most holy religion. Wherefore it has seemed necessary to me to provide that this dissension, which ought to have ceased after the judgment had been already given by their own voluntary agreement, should now, if possible, be brought to an end by the presence of many. Since, therefore, we have commanded a number of bishops from a great many different places to assemble in the city of Arles, before the kalends of August, we have thought proper to write to thee also that thou shouldst secure from the most illustrious Latronianus, corrector of Sicily, a public vehicle, and that thou shouldst take with thee two others of the second rank whom thou thyself shalt choose, together with three servants who may serve you on the way, and betake thyself to the above-mentioned place before the appointed day; that by thy firmness, and by the wise unanimity and harmony of the others present, this dispute, which has disgracefully continued until the present time, in consequence of certain shameful strifes, after all has been heard which those have to say who are now at variance with one another, and whom we have likewise commanded to be present, may be settled in accordance with the proper faith, and that brotherly harmony, though it be but gradually, may be restored. May the Almighty God preserve thee in health for many years."
Law: Granting Money to Churches
Eusebius; Book 10, Chapter 6
Copy of an Imperial Epistle in which Money is granted to the Churches.
"CONSTANTINE AUGUSTUS to Caecilianus, bishop of Carthage.
Since it is our pleasure that something should be granted in all the provinces of Africa and Numidia and Mauritania to certain ministers of the legitimate and most holy catholic religion, to defray their expenses, I have written to Ursus, the illustrious finance minister of Africa, and have directed him to make provision to pay to thy firmness three thousand folles. Do thou there
fore, when thou hast received the above sum of money, command that it be distributedamong all those mentioned above, according to the briefs sent to thee by Hosius. But if thou shouldst find that anything is wanting for the fulfillment of this purpose of mine in regard to all of them, thou shalt demand without hesitation from Heracleides, (10) our treasurer, (11) whatever thou findest to be necessary. For I commanded him when he was present that if thy firmness should ask him for any money, he should see to it that it be paid without delay. And since I have learned that some men of unsettled mind wish to turn the people from the most holy and catholic Church by a certain method of shameful corruption, do thou know that I gave command to Anulinus, the proconsul, and also to Patricius, vicar of the prefects, when they were present, that they should give proper attention not only to other matters but also above all to this, and that they should not overlook such a thing when it happened. Wherefore if thou shouldst see any such men continuing in this madness, do thou without delay go to the above-mentioned judges and report the matter to them; that they may correct them as I commanded them when they were present. The divinity of the great God preserve thee for many years."
Law: Exempting Clergy from Civic Duties
Eusebius; Book 10, Chapter 7
Copy of an epistle in which the emperor commands that the rulers of the churches be exempted from all political duties.
"Greeting to thee, our most esteemed Anulinus.
Since it appears from many circumstances that when that religion is despised, in which is preserved the chief reverence for the most holy celestial Power, great dangers are brought upon public affairs; but that when legally adopted and observed it affords the most signal prosperity to the Roman name and remarkable felicity to all the affairs of men, through the divine beneficence,-- it has seemed good to me, most esteemed Anulinus, that those men who give their services with due sanctity and with constant observance of this law, to the worship of the divine religion, should receive recompense for their labors. Wherefore it is my will that those within the province entrusted to thee, in the catholic Church, over which Caecilianus presides, who give their services to this holy religion, and who are commonly called clergymen, be entirely exempted from all public duties, that they may not by any error or sacrilegious negligence be drawn away from the service due to the Deity, but may devote themselves without any hindrance to their own law. For it seems that when they show greatest reverence to the Deity, the greatest benefits accrue to the state. Farewell, our most esteemed and beloved Anulinus."
from Eusebius, Church History , trans in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, (repr. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955), I, 380-384
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(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996