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Medieval Sourcebook:
Ninth Ecumenical Council:
Lateran I 1123


The Canons of the First Lateran Council, 1123

[Note: Fr. Schroeder's notes have been retained here. They are often factually well-informed and useful. But Schroeder's perspective -- basically pro-papacy and clericalist-- is not the only one possible. He fails to bring out the revolutionary nature of the claims of the Gregorian reform papacy and accepts, without questioning, the basically monastic approach to Catholicism which promoted a sexually abstinent clergy and rejected lay involvement in Church governance. It needs to be emphasized that while such a view may be valid, it represents as much an ideological position much more than a historical one.]

[Schroeder Introduction] History. The chief historical significance of the reign of Pope Callixtus II (1111-24) is his settlement of that long and bitter investiture quarrel. The settlement, though not entirely satisfactory, was at least sufficient to give assurance of a long-desired and much needed peace. The agreement between the Pope and Henry V of Germany was concluded at Worms, September23, 1122, and is known in history as the Pactum Callixtinum, or more commonly as the Concordat of Worms. It was the first concordat, that is, the first agreement of its kind made between the papacy and a civil power. It provided for the Emperor's renunciation of the right of spiritual investiture with ring and crosier, and his receiving instead the right of lay investiture with the scepter, a symbol of temporal authority. It abolished the arbitrary bestowal of ecclesiastical offices and benefices by laymen; provided for the freedom of episcopal and abbatial elections and consecrations; drew a sharp line between spiritualities and temporalities; secured recognition of the principle that ecclesiastical jurisdiction can come from the Church only, and tacitly abolished the unwarranted claim of the Emperor to interfere in papal elections. Moreover, the Emperor promised to protect the Roman Church and to restore to the Holy See whatever possessions had found their way into his hands. On his part the Pope granted the Emperor the right of presence at elections of bishops and abbots when the vacancy occurred within the limits of the Kingdom of Germany, with the exclusion, however, of simony and constraint. In contested elections the Emperor, after hearing the advice and verdict of the provincial bishops, was to give his support and approval to the better side. In Germany the elected candidate was to receive investiture with the scepter before consecration, in Italy and Burgundy after consecration. Finally, the Pope agreed not to molest those who during the controversy had sided with the Emperor. It was a compromise solution of a vexed problem, and although the Pope made some important concessions, he remained master of the field.

So great was the satisfaction created by this agreement that the year 1122 was hailed in many contemporary documents as the beginning of a new era. For its more solemn ratification and in deference to the wish of the Archbishop of Mainz, the Pope convened (March, 1123) in Rome the First Lateran Council, the first general council to be held in the West.

Owing to the absence of the official acts, it is impossible to state with any degree of definiteness what was the procedure of the council or even what was the number of sessions held. It was opened most probably on March 18, 1123 , the third Sunday of Lent; the canons were drawn up on March 27, and the concluding session was held on April 6. The council was attended by over three hundred bishops and many abbots from all parts of Europe and was presided over by Callixtus II in person. It solemnly approved and confirmed the agreement that had been arrived at with Henry V, and then gave consideration to some other matters of importance. The exact number of disciplinary canons issued by the council is a matter of uncertainty. So far as we know, no complete list of them has come down to us. What lists we have are not only incomplete but they also differ in the arrangement of the canons. The order here followed is that given by Mansi [[1]]

Note 1. Mansi, XXI, 277 ff.; Hefele-Leclercq, Hist. des conciles, V, 602-44; Hergenröther, Handbuch d. allg. Kirchengeschichte, II, 5th ed, 400-404; Robert, Histoire du pape Calixte II, Paris, 1891; Dict. de théol. Cath., VIII, 2628-37.

CANON I

Summary. Ordinations and promotions made for pecuniary considerations are devoid of every dignity.

Text. Following the example of the holy fathers and recognize ng the obligation of our office, we absolutely forbid in virtue of the authority of the Apostolic See that anyone be ordained or promoted for money in the Church of God. Has anyone thus secured ordination or promotion in the Church, the rank acquired shall be devoid of every dignity. [[2]]

Note 2. This and the following canon are a textual reproduction of canons 1 and 2 of the

Synod of Toulouse (1119) presided over by Callixtus in person. Denzinger, no. 359.

Comment. The council opened its series of canons with a condemnation of simony. The social conditions and the ecclesiastic0-political relations existing in Western Europe under the feudal system, contributed in no small measure to the growth of two notorious evils that afflicted the Church during that period, namely, simony and clerical incontinency and of the two the former was productive of the greater real detriment to the Church. Efforts of civil and ecclesiastical authorities during and after the time of Charlemagne availed little to banish the evil from the sanctuary. It grew, and its growth kept pace with the increase of the civil power of the bishops and the consequent ever increasing influence that the state exercised over the affairs of the Church. The episcopal office gradually came to be regarded as much a civil office as an ecclesiastical one. The Church was the holder of great landed possessions. In Germany three of the seven electors of the Empire were churchmen. Moreover, within the Empire was a number of prince-bishops and mitered abbots whose temporal rule was more powerful and more extensive than that of many secular barons. Nor was Germany an isolated instance. True, Germany was the greatest offender, but the same conditions prevailed in France, Spain, England, Scotland, and other countries. The result was the enslavement of the Church by the state. Rulers who endowed the Church with crown lands in gratitude for her work in bringing order out of chaos in Western Europe, thought they thereby acquired a right to have something to say in the nomination of those who were to be set over these lands. They claimed the right of investiture of spiritual offices. Elections were disputed. Church offices were obtained at the price of money, and noble families sought by dishonest methods, by bribery, intimidation, and other species of corruption to place their own members in episcopal and abbatial offices and at times even on the papal throne. Simony reached the highest point of its career in the eleventh century, which may well be termed its classic period. Papal and synodal decrees had indeed been issued against it but with little or no effect. The gigantic struggle initiated by Leo IX and Gregory VII and continued by their successors to restore the independence of the Church by freeing her from the demoralizing clutches of the state, was the beginning of the fall of simony. Enactments against the evil by popes and synods during the eleventh and, twelfth centuries are very numerous. [[4]]

Note 4. Mention may be made of Clement II in the Roman synod, 1047 (Mansi, XIX, 627); Leo IX, Rome, 1049 (id., XIX, 721); Reims, I049 (id., XIX, 741); Mainz, 1049 (id., XIX, 749); Nicholas II, Rome, 1059 (id., XIX, 909); Alexander II, Rome, 1063 (id., XIX, 1023); Gregory VII, Rome, 1073 (id., XX, 173); Rome, 1074 (id., XX, 408); Rome, 1078 (id., XX, 503); Rome, 1078 (id., XX, 509); Urban II, Melfi, 1089 (id., XX, 721); Piacenza, 1095 (id., XX, 805); Clermont, 1095 (id., XX, 916); Rome, 1099 (id., XX, i); Callixtus II, Toulouse, 1119 (id., XXI, 225); Reims, 1119 (id., XXI, 235); Second Lateran (1139), canons 1 and 7.; Third Lateran (1179), canons 7 and 15; Fourth Lateran (1215), canon 63.

CANON 2

Summary. Only a priest may be made provost, archpriest, and dean; only a deacon ay be archdeacon.

Text. No one except a priest shall be promoted to the dignity of ,provost, archpriest, or d

ean; and no one shall be made archdeacon unless he is a deacon.

Comment. The purpose of this canon was to put an end to the intrusion of laymen and of persons who had not received any major orders into the offices mentioned. The prohibition had already found frequent expression in earlier synods. Because of their importance, not only from the standpoint of revenue but also from that of political expediency, the higher ecclesiastical offices offered an excellent vantage-ground for the realization of secular ambitions. Members of royal and noble families who had not received any sacred orders intruded themselves. Many of the men promoted by Charles Martel to the principal offices of the Church were laymen, who were either totally unworthy or else had naught but their military qualifications to recommend them; some of them refused afterwards to receive sacred orders.

CANON 3

Summary. Priests, deacons, and subdeacons are forbidden to live with women other than such as were permitted by the Nicene Council.

Text. We absolutely forbid priests, deacons, and subdeacons to associate with concubines and women, or to live with women other than such as the Nicene Council (canon 3) for reasons of necessity permitted, namely, the mother, sister, or aunt, or any such person concerning whom no suspicion could arise.[[5]]

Note 5. In content this canon is closely related to that which in conciliar collections is given as canon 21 of this series. Denzinger, no 360.

CANON 4

Summary. Lay persons, no matter how pious they may be, have no authority to dispose of anytfiing that belongs to the Church.

Text. In accordance with the decision of Pope Stephen [[6]], we declare that lay persons, no matter how devout they may be, have no authority to dispose of anything belonging to the Church, but according to the Apostolic canon (39) the supervision of all ecclesiastical affairs belongs to the bishop, who shall administer them conformably to the will of God. If therefore any prince or other layman shall arrogate to himself the right of disposition, control, or ownership of ecclesiastical goods or properties, let him be judged guilt y of sacrilege.

Note 6. A pseudo-Isidorian ordinance. Mansi, I, 892 c. 10. Denzinger, no- 36i.

Comment. This canon was directed against lay investiture of ecclesiastical dignities. Like canon 10 of this series, it was one of the chief provisions of the Concordat of Worms, and contributed perhaps more than any other to the termination of the struggle between the papacy and the

Empire. It asserts without compromise the principle that ecclesiastical jurisdiction can emanate only from the Church. As the power of conferring sacred orders, so also does that of conferring benefices belong exclusively to the bishops. Among the Germanic tribes the national laws gave to the builder of a church, to the feudal lord or to the administrator, full right over the church built or founded by him. As it was his ecclesia propria, he exercised full authority over the ecclesiastics, whom, with the consent of the bishop in each case, he appointed and also dismissed at pleasure. In the course of the investiture conflict private right over churches was abolished, the jus patronatus, however, remained and the builder or feudal lord was granted the jus praesentandi whenever a vacancy occurred in the church. In the case of major benefices, that is, those of episcopal or supra-episcopal rank, ecclesiastical rights were safeguarded by a distinction between the spiritual and secular elements in the filling of such vacancies. The collation of the ecclesiastical offices was clearly distinguished from that of the temporalities. The bestowal of the former pertained obviously to the authority of the Church, that of the latter was conceded to the secular authority. Any encroachment on these ecclesisastical rights the council characterizes as a sacrilegious act. This canon was renewed by the Second and Third Lateran Councils in canons 25 and 14 respectively.

CANON 5

Summary. Marriages between blood-relatives are forbidden.

Text. We forbid marriages between blood-relatives because they are forbidden by the divine and secular laws. Those who contract such alliances, as also their offspring, the divine laws not only ostracize but declare accursed, while the civil laws brand them as infamous and deprive them of hereditary rights. We, therefore, following the example of our fathers, declare and stigmatize them as infamous.

Comment. The evil here condemned attained its widest extent during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the synods of Rome and Reims, both held in 1049, Leo IX made a determined effort to check it, but his measures went unheeded. Similar action was taken by subsequent popes, Especially by Alexander II. In respect to the degrees within which marriage among blood-relatives was forbidden, the council adheres to the prevailing discipline, which prohibited marriage in the direct line ascending and descending in infinitum and in the collateral line to the seventh degree of consanguinity inclusive. Whether the impediment was at that time universally regarded as diriment is a matter of dispute. It seems certain, however, that in most countries the last three degrees were looked upon as impedient and not as diriment. The present canon was renewed by the Second Lateran Council in canon 17, but even after that the binding force of the last two degrees was a matter of doubt. The Fourth Lateran Council in canon 50 limited the prohibition to the fourth degree of the collateral line. This discipline remained unchanged till the most recent matrimonial legislation, which retains the earlier law governing the impediment of consanguinity in the direct line but restricts it to the third degree of the collateral line.

CANON 6

Summary. Ordinations by Burdinus and the bishops consecrated by him are invalid.

Text. The ordinations made by the heresiarch Burdinus after his condemnation by the Roman Church, as also those made by the bishops consecrated by him after that point of time, we declare to be invalid.

Comment. Mauritius Burdinus, once the archbishop of Braga, was the antipope set up by Henry V to succeed Paschal II ( 1099- 1118). He took the name of Gregory VIII. At the time of his appointment to the papal throne he was under excommunication, incurred a few months previously when he crowned the Emperor, whose cause he had espoused. The ordinations made by him after this excommunication and by the bishops consecrated by him since then, the council declared to be null and void. [[7]]

Note 7. . I Nicaea, note 106.

CANON 7

Summary. No one is permitted to arrogate to himself the episcopal authority in matters pertaining to the cura animarum and the bestowal of benefices.

Text. No archdeacon, archpriest, provost, or dean shall bestow on another the care of souls or the prebends of a church without the decision or consent of the bishop; indeed, as the sacred canons point out, the care of souls and the disposition of ecclesiastical property are vested in the authority of the bishop. If anyone shall dare act contrary to this and arrogate to himself the power belonging to the bishop, let him be expelled from the Church.

Comment. During the first three centuries of the Christian era there were no parish priests as we understand the term today. There was only one church in each diocese or district, namely, the episcopal church or cathedral, situated in the residential city of the bishop. This was the center to which people living in the city and its suburbs came on Sundays and festivals to attend divine services and from which the bishop exercised the cura animarum throughout the district. The gradual expansion of Christianity with the resultant growth in Church membership necessitated the erection of churches in rural districts. In these rural churches, which were under the direct administration of the bishop, divine services were conducted by priests residing at the cathedral. Further growth in membership brought about the organization during the fourth century rural churches or parishes with a distinct administration of their own . [[8]] A similar situation and development we find in the West, though here, for obvious reasons, the change came less rapidly. The erection of rural churches kept pace with the spread of Christianity in the rural districts, in the temporal and spiritual administration of which the bishop was assisted by his archdeacon. The rapid Christianization of the people of Western Europe, however, rendered it impossible for the clergy of the episcopal church satisfactorily to supply the spiritual needs of a population scattered throughout the rural districts. To meet this exigency the larger rural centers were provided with their own churches, their own resources, and a permanent clergy. These were the baptismal or mother churches, at which all the people of the parish were obliged to attend the principal mass on Sunday and to which they paid their tithes. All baptisms and burials took place here. Through the devotion of the faithful numerous chapels, oratoria, and martyria were erected within the parish, on Church lands and on monastery lands, and also on the estates kings and nobles. All these chapels (tituli minores) which from the eighth century on multiplied rapidly and in which only instructions, the usual devotions and daily mass were permitted, had their own clergy but were dependent on and subject to the mother-church. At the head of the clergy attached to these mother-churches was the archpriest. He was the head also of all the clergy within his parish, that is, those attached to the various chapels, and was responsible for the proper discharge of their ministerial duties. His parish was called an archipresbyterate and he was subject in certain matters to the archdeacon, whose scope of authority covered a variety of activities; in fact, when necessity required, he was the bishop's representative in the exercise of the many duties of the episcopal office. During the Carolingian period many of these chapels became independent parishes. Then, the division of large dioceses into several archidiaconal districts for the purpose of facilitating supervision necessitated the appointment in such dioceses of a corresponding number pf archdeacons. Several of such large rural parishes, that is, archipresbytes, constituted an archidiaconate at the head of which was an archideacon. The archdeacon of the cathedral, who was usually the provost or praepositus of the chapter, supervised the urban clergy, while the rural archdeacons, who were provosts of the principal churches in towns, had the supervision of the rural deans or archpriests. The authority of the archdeacons, both urban and rural, attained its height during the eleventh and twelfth centuries when they exercised within their territorial limits a quasi-episcopal jurisdiction. The power and influence of the deans or archpriests also kept pace with the march of time and events. The importance of these offices from an ecclesiastical but particularly from a secular viewpoint brought them under the influences of intrigue. Archdeacons and archpriests often overstepped the limits of their authority by usurping that of the bishop. This is the abuse which the canon condemned.[[9]]

Note 8. Cf. Council of Chalcedon, canons 6 and 7. The Synod of Neocaesarea (315) speaks in canons 13 and 14 of rural priests and bishops, the chorepiscopi.

Note 9. Zorell, "Die Entwickelung d. Parochialsystems," in Archiv f. kath. Kirchenrecht, 1902-03; Imbart de la Tour, Les paroisses rurales du IVe au VIO siècles, Paris,1900; Thomassin, Vetus et nova ecclesiae discipline, I, 221-30, 274-87; Schröder, Die Entwickelung d. Archidiakonats bis zum ii. jahrh., München, 1890; Stutz, Gesch. d. kirchl. Benefizialwesens v. Anfang bis Alexander III, Berlin, 1896; Sagmüller, Die Entwickelung d. Archipresbyterats u. Dekanats bis zum Ende d. Karolingerreiches, Tübingen, 1898.

CANON 8

Summary. Military persons are forbidden under penalty of anathema to invade or forcibly hold the city of Benevento.

Text. Desiring with the grace of God to protect the recognized possessions of the Holy Roman Church, we forbid under pain of anathema any military person to invade or forcibly hold Benevento, the city of St. Peter. If anyone act contrary to this, let him be anathematized.

Comment. Benevento was the ancient seat of the Lombard rulers. Through Charlemagne it became part of the territory of the Church, with the provision, however, that he retain its government. In 891 it was taken by the Greek Emperor, but was restored to the Church in 962 through the assistance of Otto 1. In subsequent years it was threatened by the Saracens and Greeks and in 1047 fell into the hands of the Normans. Henry III in 1053 drove out the Norman conquerors and turned the city together with the surrounding territory over to Leo IX in payment of the annual tax rendered to the Holy See by the diocese of Bamberg, which Henry had previously donated to the Roman Church. Shortly afterward, Benevento was retaken by the Normans. Leo IX placed himself at the head of a powerful army, but after a severe struggle the papal forces were defeated and Leo himself taken prisoner (1053). Regardless of their triumph, the Norman leaders now swore fealty to the sovereign pontiff and became loyal champions of the Holy See. Thenceforth Benevento belonged to the territory of the Church. In formulating this canon Callixtus no doubt had in mind chiefly the terrible and wily Normans.

CANON 9

Summary. Those excommunicated by one bishop, may not be restored by others.

Text. We absolutely forbid that those who have been excommunicated by their own bishops be received into the communion of the Church by other bishops, abbots, and clerics.

Comment. This prohibition is an ancient one, going back in all likelihood to Apostolic times. It was restated by the First General Council in canon 5 and frequently renewed in subsequent councils. In a period when confusion and violence were the order of the day and when the penalty of excommunication was resorted to without moderation, it was but natural that eventually there should have developed a contempt for it in certain circles.

CANON 10

Summary. A bishop consecrated after an uncanonical election shall be deposed.

Text. No one shall be consecrated bishop who has not been canonically elected. If anyone dare do this, both the consecrator and the one consecrated shall be deposed without hope of reinstatement.

Comment. With bishops possessing an extensive civil jurisdiction over I :the clergy and laity of their respective dioceses, their office acquired a political importance that could not but prove detrimental to the Church. The greater the political importance of the higher ecclesiastical offices, the more the secular rulers strove to obtain control over them. One of the gravest evils resulting from this was the constant interference of lay authorities in episcopal elections. While in most countries such elections had become a mere formality, they were replaced in Germany by royal nomination, with the result that only such men were chosen or appointed to vacant sees as were willing to serve the interests of the emperor. In this canon, therefore, the council orders the observance of the ecclesiastical laws governing episcopal elections and threatens with perpetual deposition both the consecrator and the one consecrated in the event of violation.

CANON 11

Summary. To those who give aid to the Christians in the Orient is granted the remission of sins, and their families and possessions are taken under the protection of the Roman Church.

Text. For effectively crushing the tyranny of the infidels, we grant to those who go to Jerusalem and also to those who give aid toward the defense of the Christians, the remission of their sins and we take under the protection of St. Peter and the Roman Church their homes, their families, and all their belongings, as was already ordained by Pope Urban (II). Whoever, therefore, shall dare molest or seize these during the absence of their owners, shall incur excommunication. Those, however, who with a view of going to Jerusalem or to Spain (that is, against the Moors) are known to have attached the cross to their garments and afterward removed it, we command in virtue of our Apostolic authority to replace it and begin the journey within a year from the coming Easter. Otherwise we shall excommunicate them and interdict within their territory all divine service except the baptism of infants and the administration of the last rites to the dying.

Comment. The purpose of this canon was to promote the cause of the crusades against the Saracens in the Orient and against the Moors in Spain. The "remissions of sins" spoken of refers to the plenary indulgence granted to all who should either undertake the journey or in other ways contribute toward the furtherance of the cause, and is not to be understood as the actual remission by the pope of sins not yet remitted by the sacrament of penance. The property of those taking part in the crusade was to be regarded as sacred. Many who in the first fervor of enthusiasm had taken the cross and pledged themselves to undertake the journey, later manifested indifference in its execution. These the Pope commanded to begin the journey within a year from the coming Easter. The interdict, threatened in case of failure to heed the command, applied to princes and all others who owned vast landed estates.

[Added note (Halsall): The theology to make the distinction between and "indulgence" and a "forgiveness" of sins did not exist when this canon was promulgated. Fr. Schroeder here imposes later Catholic theology on a the canons.]

CANON 12

Summary. The property of the porticani dying without heirs is not to be disposed of in a manner contrary to the wish of the one deceased.

Text. With the advice of our brethren and of the entire Curia, as well as with the will and consent of the prefect, we decree the abolition of that evil custom which has hitherto prevailed among the porticani, namely, of disposing, contrary to the wish of the one deceased, of the property of porticani dying without heirs; with this understanding, however, that in future the porticani remain faithful to the Roman Church, to us and to our successors.

Comment. The porticani, it seems, were those people who dwelled in t he Vatican territory, or more properly, in the neighborhood of the portico of St. Peter's. They were chiefly travelers and merchants; their scholae or quarters were located principally on the left side of the Basilica. In making obedience to the Roman Church, to himself and to his successors, a condition of the abolition of that custom, Callistus had in mind the division among the porticani consequent upon the schism created by the Emperor in setting up Burdinus as antipope.

CANON 13

Summary. If anyone violates the truce of God and after the third admonition does not make satisfaction, he shall be anathematized.

Text. If anyone shall violate the truce of God he shall be admonished three times by the bishop to make satisfaction. If he disregards the third admonition the bishop, either with the advice of the metropolitan or with that of two or one of the neighboring bishops, shall pronounce the sentence of anathema against the violator and in writing denounce him to all the bishops.

Comment. The "truce of God" (treuga Dei) was a temporary suspension of hostilities, instituted to replace the "peace of God" (pax Dei) when the latter, which implied a perpetual suspension, had proved ineffective. With the dissolution of the Carolingian Empire, anarchy of the worst type set in, in consequence of which the two following centuries may well be called the nadir of order and civilization. It was a period of murder and rapine, of license and tyranny, and above all there raged an epidemic of private wars. What the conditions were even as late as the end of the eleventh century we learn from the address of Urban II to the multitude that had assembled for the Synod of Clermont (1095).

The truce of God had its origin in the second quarter of the eleventh century and was the means employed by the Church to do what the lay authorities had been powerless to do, namely, to restore and enforce respect for public peace. In its earliest form, it seems, it was a decision that no one should attack his enemy from nine o'clock Saturday night to one O'clock Monday morning, for the reason ut omnis homo person debitum honorem diei dominico. Subsequently this prohibition was extended, in some localities to certain days of the week, for instance, Thursday, Friday , and Saturday, in memory of the ascension, passion, and resurrection, to which mysteries these three days were consecrated; in other places, to the Ember days and certain feast days, as the Exaltation of the Cross, All Saints, etc. Later the seasons of Advent and Lent were included in the truce. Uniformity as to the time and duration of the truce was brought about by the Synod of Clermont in its decision that the truce shall be observed "ab Adventu Domini usque ad octavam Epiphaniae et a Septuagesima usque as octavam Pentecostes, praeterea, ab occasu solis in quarta feria usque ad ortum solis in secunda feria." This canon became the general rule. It was renewed by the Second and Third Lateran Councils in canons 12 and 21 respectively. The penalty for violation was excommunication. It is with the penalty that the present canon concerns itself. [[10]]

Note 10. Huberti, Gottesfrieden und Landfrieden, Ansbach, 1892; Hefele-Leclercq, V,

passim.

CANON 14

Summary. Laymen are absolutely forbidden to remove offerings from the altars of Roman churches.

Text. Following the canons of the holy fathers, we absolutely and under penalty of anathema forbid laymen to remove the offerings from the altars of the churches of St. Peter, of The Savior (Lateran Basilica), of St. Mary Rotund, in a word, from the altars of any of the churches or from the crosses. By our Apostolic authority we forbid also the fortifying of churches and their conversion to profane uses.

CANON 15

Summary. Counterfeiters of money shall be excommunicated.

Text. Whoever manufactures or knowingly expends counterfeit money, shall be cut off from the communion of the faithful (excommunicated) as one accursed, as an oppressor of the poor and a disturber of the city.

CANON 16

Summary. Robbers of pilgrims and of merchants shall be excommunicated.

Text. If anyone shall dare attack pilgrims going to Rome to visit the shrines of the Apostles and the oratories of other saints and rob them of the things they have with them, or exact from merchants new imposts and tolls, let him be excommunicated till he has made satisfaction.

Comment. An excellent description of prevailing conditions, conditions that were by no means peculiar to his pontificate, is given by Gregory VII in a letter written in 1074 to the bishops of France. He says: Omnes malitia quasi quodam pestilentiae morbo repleti, horrenda et multum execranda facinora multoties nemine impellente committunt; nihil humani nihilque divini attendunt; perjuria sacrilega, incestum perpetrate, sese invicem tradere, pro nihilo ducunt et, quod nusquam terrarum est, cives, propinqui fratres, etiam alii alios propter cupiditatem capiunt, et omnia bona eorum ab illis extorqentes, vitam in extrema miseria finire faciunt. with regard to the matter with which the canon deals, he says in the same letter: Peregrinos ad Apostolorum limina euntes et redeuntes, uti cuique opportunum fit, capientes in carceres trudunt, et acrioribus quam paganus aliquis, tormentis afficientes, saepe ab illis plusquam habeant pro redemtione exigunt"' [[11]]

Note 11. Lib. II, epist. V ad episcopos Francorum, Mansi, XX, 129 ff. The writings of Gregroy VII are to be found under the title, Gregorii VII registri sive epistolarum libri, in Mansi, XX, 60-391.

CANON 17

Summary. Abbots and monks may not have the cura animarum.

Text. We forbid abbots and monks to impose public penances, to visit the sick, to administer extreme unction, and to sing public masses. The chrism, holy oil, consecration of altars, and ordination of clerics they shall obtain from the bishops in whose dioceses they reside.

Comment. In the earliest ages of the Church, abbots and monks were laymen. For divine service and the reception of the sacraments they proceeded in a body to the nearest church. When later by reason of their large number this became impractical, they built their own monastic churches, and the abbot or some other member of the community was invested with priestly orders to serve its spiritual needs. From the fourth century onward the number of monks raised to the priesthood and exercising spiritual functions gradually increased. This course, however, was not to go unchallenged, and as late as 1096 the Synod of Nimes in canon 2 condemned the statement that monks may not become priests, adding that Pope Gregory the Great, Martin of Tours, Augustine of Canterbury, and others had been monks [[12]]. In the following canon the synod [of Nimes] went so far as to declare that priests who are monks are better qualified to perform spiritual functions than are the secular priests. The rapid expansion of the Chrisin religion and the consequent demand for priests naturally invited them to the field of parochial activity. The discipline governing the care of souls and the administration of parishes by monks had not always been uniform, owing to the different views taken by different bishops and popes. Synods before and after the tenth century permitted and prohibited monks to have the care of souls outside of those within the monastery. The reason for the prohibition is to be found in the ever increasing encroachment of the monks on parochial ministrations, and much more so in their frequent and flagrant invasion of episcopal rights and privileges. That causes of this nature were at the bottom of the present canon, can scarcely be doubted. [[13]]

Regarding ordinations, the Second Council of Nicaea in canon 14 permitted abbots, provided they were priests and had received the solemn rite of benediction, to confer tonsure and advance their monks to the lectorate. This privilege was gradually extended until it embraced all the minor orders. Other orders, as our canon rules, must be conferred by the bishop in whose diocese the monastery is located. [[14]]

Note 12. Mansi, XX, 931-

Note 13. Cf. Hefele-Leclercq, V, 643 f

Note 14. Thomassin, op. cit., I, lib. III, cap. 13 f.

CANON 18

Summary. The appointment of priests to churches belongs to the bishops, and without their consent they may not receive tithes and churches from laymen.

Text. Priests shall be appointed to parochial churches by the bishops, to whom they shall be responsible f or the care of souls and other matters pertaining to them. They are not permitted to receive tithes and churches from laics without the will and consent of the bishops. If they act otherwise, let them be subject to the canonical penalties.

Comment. The first part of this canon was directed against the abuse by which patrons usurped the authority of the bishops in the appointment of priests to those churches over which they exercised the right of patronage, particularly the jus praesentandi. The evil was an old one and had been frequently outlawed by popes and synods. In canon 8 of the Synod of Nimes (1096) Urban 11 decreed: Clericus vel monachus qui ecclesiasticum de manu laici susceperit beneficium, quia non intravit per ostium sed ascendit aliunde, sicut fur et latro ab eodem separetur officio [[15]]

The second part forbids priests to accept tithes and churches from laymen without the approval of their respective bishops. The tithes here referred to are those ecclesiastical taxes which in the course of time had become alienated from the churches by lay proprietors. This alienation came about in various ways. The secularization inaugurated during the Merovingian period, especially by Charles Martel, brought about the transfer of much ecclesiastical property and its tithes or the tithes alone to laymen. It was Charles' way of compensating his partisans. In subsequent times, under pressure of circumstances, even bishops and abbots resorted to such alienation to secure vassals and protectors against violence and the only churches but also invasion of their civil rights. Then again, not only churches but also ecclesiastical property with its tithes or the tithes alone were taken forcibly by laymen. Finally, when churches, which had once been the property

of private individuals, became parish churches subject to the bishops, ,the former owner frequently appropriated the tithes belonging to that church. In his autumn synod of 1078 (canon 6) Gregory VII demanded from the laity the return to the Church of all tithes, no matter how or from whom they had received them, and declared guilty of sacrilege all who refused obedience to his decree. This demand was renewed by subsequent popes and synods, but to expect the return to the Church of tithes that had for centuries been in the possession of laymen, was expecting too much. They preferred to give them to monasteries or to their friends among the secular clergy. The churches that had been usurped by laymen were often bought by monks, or they were handed over by the usurper to the secular clergy. It was this acceptance of tithes and churches from laymen by monks and secular clergy without the approval of the bishops, that the present canon prohibited.[[16]]

Note 15. Mansi, XX, 936; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 449. Cf. canon 15 of the Synod of Clermont

(1095), Mansi, XX, 817

Note 16. Thomassin, op. cit., III, lib. 1, cap. i-ii; Stutz, Gescb. d. Beneficialwesens bis Alexander III; Perels, Die kirchl Zehnten im karoling. Reiche, Berlin, 1904; Stutz, "Das karoling. Zehngebot," in Zeitschr. d. Savigny-Stiftung f. Recbtsgesch. XXIX (1909), 191-240; Viard, Hist. de la dîme eccl. principalement en France jusqu' au dicret de Gratien, Dijon, 1909.

CANON 19

Summary. Taxes paid to bishops by monks since Gregory VII must be continued. Monks may not by prescription acquire the possessions of churches and of bishops.

Text. The tax (servitium) which monasteries and their churches have rendered to the bishops since the time of Gregory VII, shall be continued. We absolutely forbid abbots and monks to acquire by prescription after thirty years the possessions of churches and of shops.

Comment. Originally all monasteries within a diocese were under the authority of the bishop. The Council of Chalcedon in canon 4 expressed this in the form of a law, and Justinian decreed that all complaints against clerics and monks should be laid before the bishop, "because they are

subject to him." [[17]]. The Synod of Orleans (511i) in canon 21 ruled that monks are under the authority of the abbot, but the abbot under that of the bishop. [[18]] In consequence, however, of episcopal oppression which frequently assumed the worst form of tyranny and rapine, monasteries were by degrees taken under the protection of the popes. At a later period this papal protection often developed into exemption from episcopal authority, at least so far as the temporalities were concerned. Beginning with the eleventh century, exemptions multiplied rapidly. Not only individual monasteries but entire orders obtained exemption in all things from the authority of the bishop. Since Urban II papal protection practically meant exemption from episcopal authority. But such exemption did not release monasteries and their churches from the obligation of paying to the local ordinary an annual pension (servitium). To put a stop to the oppressive exactions of the bishops, Gregory VII in 1078 not only condemned such excesses but also established a limit beyond which bishops were forbidden to extend their demands. It is this rule of Gregory that the council here confirms.

Note 17. Novella 123, C. 21.

Note 18. C. 16, C. XVIII, q. 2.

CANON 20

Summary. Churches and their possessions, as well as the person ans things connected with them, shall remain safe and unmolested.

Text. Having in mind the example of our fathers and discharging the duty of our pastoral office, we decree that churches and their possessions, as well as the persons connected with them, namely, clerics and monks and their servants (conversi), also the laborers and the things they use, shall remain safe and unmolested. If anyone shall dare act contrary to this and, recognizing his crime, does not within the space of thirty days make proper amends, let him be cut off from the Church and anathematized.

CANON 21

Summary. Clerics in major orders may not marry, and marriages already contracted must be dissolved.

Text. We absolutely forbid priests, deacons, subdeacons, and monks to have concubines or to contract marriage. We decree in accordance with the definitions of the sacred canons, that marriages already contracted by such persons must be dissolved, and that the persons be condemned to do penance.

Comment. This canon, together with the preceding and following canons, does not appear to have originated in the First Lateran Council. This seems to be true especially of the present one; for the matter dealt with in it had already been considered in canon 3, and it is hardly probable that the council dealt with the same subject in two distinct decrees. It is very probable that these three canons originated in a provincial council under Urban II and were later wrongly ascribed to this Council of the Lateran.

Although at the time of our council clerical celibacy had long been an established rule for ecclesiastics in major orders, the extent of its observance was reduced practically to a minimum during the period of war and moral disorder that followed the dissolution of the Carolingian Empire. In the maelstrom of corruption and lawlessness that prevailed, clerical morality reached its lowest ebb, and all sense of vocation had apparantly disappeared. During this dark period, this "Iron Age," there was no dearth of synodal enactments directed against the evil. But when all too frequently the government of monasteries was usurped by rude and ignorant laymen, and when into bishoprics were intruded creatures whose only gods were Greed and-Lust, synodal decrees meant nothing. The reforms initiated by Gregory VII with so much determination and vigorously continued by his successors, struck at the root of the evil and finally brought it under control.[[19]]

Note 19. The earliest conciliar enactment on the subject of clerical celibacy is canon 33 of the Spanish Synod of Elvira (305), which imposed it on the three higher orders, bishops, priests, and deacons. If they continued to live with their wives and bring forth-children after their ordination, they were to be deposed. An attempt to impose celibacy on the clergy was made at the first general council, but it seems the argument of Paphnutius againts it prevailed. The council then contented itself with the prohibition expressed in canon 3. Justinian permitted no one to be consecrated bishop who had children. The Synod of Melfi (1089) in canon 12 ruled that a subdeacon who refused to separate himself from his wife, was to be deprived of his office and benefice. If, on being warned by the bishop he did not put her away, the overlord was permitted to take here as a slave. Leclerq, "La législation conciliaire relative au célibat ecclésiastique," in Histoire des conciles, II, 1321-48, where an abundant literature on the subject is given.

CANON 22

Summary. The alienation of possessions of the exarchate of Ravenna is condemned, and the Ordinaries made by the intruders are invalid.

Text. The alienation that has been made especially by Otto, Guido, Jerome, and perhaps by Philip of possessions of the exarchate of Ravenna, we condemn. In a general way we declare invalid the alienations in whatever manner made by bishops and abbots whether intruded or canonically elected, and also the ordinations conferred by them whether with the consent of the clergy of the Church or simoniacally. We also absolutely forbid any cleric in any way to alienate his prebend or any ecclesiastical benefice. If he has presumed to do this in the past or shall presume to do so in the future, his action shall be null and he shall be subject to the canonical penalties .[[20]]

Note 20. These were the four schismatical successors of the antipope Guibert in the archiepiscopal see of Ravenna. Guibert was intruded into the Roman see by Henry IV.


From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937). pp. 177-94.

NOTE 1: B. Herder's list was bought by TAN books, of Rockford IL. TAN confirmed that US copyright was not renewed after the statuary 28 years and that the text is now in the public domain in the US.


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(c)Paul Halsall, November 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu