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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VIII:
The Decretals.: Part II

Early Church Fathers  Index     

II.

(Of accusations against doctors.)

Moreover, let no one take up an accusation against a doctor (teacher), because it is not right for sons to find fault with fathers, nor for slaves to wound their masters.  Now, all those whom they instruct are sons of doctors; and as sons ought to love their fathers after the flesh, so ought they to love their spiritual fathers.  For he does not live rightly who does not believe rightly, or who reprehends fathers, or calumniates p. 614 them.  Doctors therefore, who are also called fathers, are rather to be borne with than reprehended, unless they err from the true faith.  Let no one, consequently, accuse a doctor by writing (per scripta); neither let him answer to any accuser, unless he be one who is trustworthy and recognised by law, and who leads also a life and conversation free from reproach.  For it is a thing unworthy that a doctor should reply to a foolish and ignorant person, and one who leads a reprehensible life, according to the man’s folly; as Scripture says, Answer not a fool according to his folly. 2728   He does not live rightly who does not believe rightly.  He means nothing evil who is faithful.  If anyone is faithful (a believer), let him see to it that he make no false allegations, nor lay a snare for any man.  The faithful man acts always in faith; and the unfaithful man plots cunningly, and strives to work the ruin of those who are faithful, and who live in piety and righteousness, because like seeks like.  The unfaithful man is one dead in the living body.  And on the other hand, the discourse of the man of faith guards the life of his hearers.  For as the Catholic doctor, and especially the priest of the Lord, ought to be involved in no error, so ought he to be wronged by no machination or passion.  Holy Scripture indeed says, Go not after thy lusts, but refrain thyself from thine appetites; 2729 and we must resist many allurements of this world, and many vanities, in order that the integrity of a true continence may be obtained, whereof the first blemish is pride, the beginning of transgression and the origin of sin; for the mind with lustful will knows neither to abstain nor to give itself to piety.  No good man has an enemy except in the wicked, who are permitted to be such only in order that the good man may be corrected or exercised through their means.  Whatever, therefore, is faultless is defended by the Church Catholic.  Neither for prince, nor for any one who observes piety, is it lawful to venture anything contrary to the divine injunctions.  Consequently an unjust judgment, or an unjust decision (diffinitio), instituted or enforced by judges under the fear or by the command of a prince, or any bishop or person of influence, cannot be valid.  The religious man ought not to hold it enough merely to refrain from entering into the enmities of others, or increasing them by evil speech, unless he also make it his study to extinguish them by good speech. 2730   Better is a humble confession in evil deeds, than a proud boasting in good deeds. 2731   Moreover, all who live the blessed life, choose rather to run that course in the proper estate of peace and righteousness, than to involve themselves in the avenging pains of our sins. 2732   For I am mindful that I preside over the Church under the name of him whose confession was honoured by our Lord Jesus Christ, and whose faith ever destroys all errors.  And I understand that I am not at liberty to act otherwise than to expend all my efforts on that cause in which the well-being of the universal Church is at stake (infestatur).  I hope, too, that the mercy of God will so favour us, that, with the help of His clemency, every deadly disease may be removed, God Himself expelling it, and that whatever may be done wholesomely, under His inspiration and help, may be accomplished to the praise of thy faith and devotion.  For all things cannot otherwise be safe, unless, as far as pertains to the service of the divine office, sacerdotal authority upholds them.  Given on the 21st day of November in the consulship of the most illustrious Antoninus and Alexander. 2733

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Footnotes

614:2728

Prov. xxvi. 4.

614:2729

Ecclesiasticus 18.30.

614:2730

See Augustine’s Confessions, book ix. ch. ix.

614:2731

See Augustine on Ps. xciii.

614:2732

See Ambrose, Epistle xxi.

614:2733

In the year 222.


Next: To All the Bishops of Gaul.

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