Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: Epistle VI
To the Neapolitans.
Gregory to the clergy, nobles, gentry, and commonalty 1397 dwelling at Naples.
Although the sincere devotion of spiritual sons in behalf of their mother Church needs no exhortation, nevertheless, it ought to be stirred up by letter, lest it should suppose itself slighted. On this account I approach your love with an admonition of paternal charity, that with many tears and with one accord we may render thanks to our Redeemer, who has not suffered you to walk along pathless ways under so perverse a teacher, but has made publicly known the crimes of your unworthy pastor. For Demetrius, to wit, who even before had not deserved to be called a bishop, has been found to be involved in transactions to such an extent and of such a kind that, if he had received judgment without mercy according to the character of his deeds, he would undoubtedly have been condemned to a most hard death by both divine and human laws. But since, being reserved for penance, he has been deprived of the dignity of the priesthood, we cannot suffer the Church of God to remain long without a teacher, since it is laid down by canonical rules that, on the death or removal of a pastor, the church should not be long deprived of the priesthood 1398 . Wherefore, I have thought it necessary to admonish your Charity by this present writing that neither delay nor the discord which has been wont to generate scandals ensue to hinder your election of a pontiff. But seek you out with all care such a person as all by common consent may rejoice in, and as is in no respect rejected by the sacred canons; to the end that the office which the most wicked of men had polluted by his evil administration may be worthily filled and administered by him, whoever he may be, who, by the grace of Christ, and with His approval, shall be ordained.
Clero, nobilibus, ordini et plebi. Ordo seems to denote persons of official or other rank, above the commonalty, but below the nobility. In some cases the corresponding address is to clero, ordini et plebi (as in I. 81; V. 26); in others to clero et nobilibus only. All such expressions shew that the election of bishops rested with the members, laity as well as clergy, of each church, though the bishop of Rome, wherever his jurisdiction extended reserved to himself the power of approving or disallowing the election. In the election at Naples, referred to in this Epistle, there appears to have been a difficulty in arriving at an unanimous choice. Other Epistles referring to the case are II. 9, 10, 15, 26; III. 35. From the last of these it appears how it was eventually settled. See especially note 6 under II. 9.101b:1398
Sacerdotii; meaning here episcopacy. See I. 78, note 2.
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