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“Siricius Decretal to Himerius” Latin text with English translation

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Click here to read at in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (1, 2, 3 and 20) and Ayer, A Sourcebook for Ancient Church History (9-10) and with the summary chapter headings from Kidd, A History of the Church.

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1…. In view of our office, we are not free to dissemble or to keep silent, for our zeal for the Christian religion ought to be greater than anyone's. We bear the burdens of all who are heavy laden, or rather the blessed apostle Peter bears them in us, who in all things, as we trust, protects and defends those who are heirs of his government.

2. That Arians must not be rebaptized. At the beginning of your page, you have observed that many who were baptized by the wicked Arians are hastening to the catholic faith, and that some of our brethren wish to baptize them again: this is illegal, being forbidden by the apostle, by the canons, and in a general order sent to the provinces by my predecessor Liberius of revered memory, after the quashing of the Ariminum council. As has been laid down in synod, we admit these persons, in common with Novatianists and other heretics, into the congregation of catholics, only through the invocation of the sevenfold Spirit, by the laying on of hands of a bishop. All the East and West keep this rule; and in future it is by no means fitting that you, either, should deviate from this path, if you do not wish to be separated from our college by sentence of the synod.

3. That baptism is only to be bestowed, save under stress of necessity, at Easter and Pentecost..... Up to now there have been enough mistakes of this kind. In future all priests must keep the above rule who do not wish to be torn away from the solid apostolic rock upon which Christ build the universal Church.

4. That renegades to heathenism are to be excommunicated and, if penitent, to be reconciled only at death.

5. That a girl who is betrothed may not be married to another man.

6. That Christians who, after penance, return to heathen lusts, are to be denied Communion.

7. That unchaste ‘religious’ are to be expelled from their convents.

8-11 That married men, after ordination, are not to cohabit with their wives.

9. Why did He admonish them to whom the holy of holies was committed, Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy? [Lev. 20:7]. Why were they commanded to dwell in the temple in the year of their turn to officiate, afar from their own homes? Evidently it was for the reason that they might not be able to maintain their marital relations with their wives, so that, adorned with a pure conscience, they might offer to God an acceptable sacrifice. After the time of their service was accomplished they were permitted to resume their marital relations for the sake of continuing the succession, because only from the tribe of Levi was it ordained that any one should be admitted to the priesthood.

10. Wherefore also our Lord Jesus, when by His coming He brought us light, solemnly affirmed in the Gospel that He came not to destroy but to fulfil the law. And therefore He who is the bridegroom of the Church wished that its form should be resplendent with chastity, so that in the day of Judgment, when He should come again, He might find it without spot or blemish, as He taught by His Apostle. And by the rule of its ordinances which may not be gainsaid, we who are priests and Levites are bound from the day of our ordination to keep our bodies in soberness and modesty, so that in those sacrifices which we offer daily to our God we may please Him in all things.

12. That digamists are not to be ordained.

13. What qualifications are necessary for the several Orders;

14. What for a layman who, in middle life, wishes to be ordained.

15. That digamist clerks are to be deposed.

16. That superfluous women are to be removed from the houses of clerks.

17. That monks might well be ordained.

18. That, as no clerk may be put to penance and remain a clerk, so a layman, after penance, is disqualified for Holy Orders.

19. That, where penitents, digamists, and such as have married widows, have been ordained, they must not be promoted to higher rank.

20. The contents of this letter are to be communicated to other provinces in Spain and followed. We have explained, as I think, dearest brother, all the matters of which you complained, and to every case which you have referred, by our son Bassian the presbyter, to the Roman Church, as to the head of your body, we have I believe returned adequate replies. And now we urge the mind of your brotherhood more and more to observe the canons and keep the decretals which have been framed, so that what we have replied to your inquiries you may bring to the notice of all our fellow bishops, and not only of those who are in your diocese: but let what we have profitably ordained be sent, with your letters also, to all the Carthaginians and Baeticans, Lusitanians and Gallicians, and to those in the provinces adjoining your own. And though no priest of the Lord is free to be ignorant of the statutes of the apostolic see, or the venerable provisions of the canons, yet it would be more useful, and, on account of the seniority of your priesthood, a very high honour for you, beloved, if those things which have been written generally, and to you especially by name, were brought by your care to the notice of all our brethren; so that what has been profitably drawn up by us, not without consideration, but with care and great caution and deliberation, may remain inviolate, and that the way may be stopped for all excuses in future, which are now open to no one among us. Issued on the 11th February, in the consulship of Arcadius and Bauto.


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original Latin text
Siricius Epistolae et Decreta
Siricii Papae ad Himerium Episcopum Tarraconensem
First papal decretal
Himerius of Tarragona
Migne Latin
Patrologiae Latinae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Latina


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