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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: To Constantius, Bishop.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Epistle XXXIX.

To Constantius, Bishop.

Gregory to Constantius, Bishop of Mediolanum (Milan).

Having read the letter of your Holiness, we find that you are in a state of serious distress, principally on account of the bishops and citizens of Briscia (Brescia) who bid you send them a letter in which you are asked to swear that you have not condemned the Three Chapters 1564 .  Now, if your Fraternity’s predecessor Laurentius did not do this, it ought not to be required of you.  But, if he did it, he was not with the universal Church, and contradicted what he had sworn to in his security 1565 .  But, inasmuch as we believe him to have kept his oath, and to have continued in the unity of the Catholic Church, there is no doubt that he did not swear to any of his bishops that he had not condemned the Three Chapters.  Hence your Holiness may conclude that you ought not to be forced to do what was in no p. 160b wise done by your predecessor.  But, lest those who have thus written to you should be offended, send them a letter declaring under interposition of anathema that you neither take away anything from the faith of the synod of Chalcedon nor received those who do, and that you condemn whomsoever it condemned, and absolve whomsoever it absolved.  And thus I believe that they may be very soon satisfied 1566 .

Further, as to what you write about many of them being offended because you name our brother and fellow-bishop John of the Church of Ravenna during the solemnities of mass, you should enquire into the ancient custom; and, if it has been the custom, it ought not now to be found fault with by foolish men.  But, if it has not been the custom, a thing ought not to be done at which some may possibly take offence.  Yet I have been at pains to make careful enquiry whether the same John our brother and fellow-bishop names you at the altar; and they say that this is not done.  And, if he does not make mention of your name, I know not what necessity obliges you to make mention of his.  If indeed it can be done without any one taking offence, your doing anything of this kind is very laudable, since you shew the charity you have towards your brethren.

Further, as to what you write of your having been unwilling to transmit my letter to Queen Theodelinda on the ground that the fifth synod was named in it, if you believed that she might thereby be offended, you did right in not transmitting it.  We are therefore doing now as you recommend, namely, that we should only express approval of the four synods.  Yet, as to the synod which was afterwards held in Constantinople, called by many the fifth, I would have you know that it neither ordained nor held anything in opposition to the four most holy synods, seeing that nothing was done in it with respect to the faith, but only with respect to persons; and persons, too, about whom nothing is contained in the acts of the Council of Chalcedon 1567 but, after the canons had been promulged, discussion arose, and final action was ventilated concerning persons.  Yet still we have done as you desired, making no mention of this synod.  But we have also written to our daughter the queen what you wrote to us about the bishops.  Ursicinus, who wrote something to you against our brother and fellow-bishop John, you ought by your letters addressed to him, with sweetness and reason, to restrain from his intention.  Further, concerning Fortunatus 1568 , we desire your Fraternity to be careful, lest you be in any way surreptitiously influenced by bad men.  For I hear that he ate at the table of the Church with your predecessor Laurentius for many years until now, that he sat among the nobles, and subscribed, and that with our brother’s knowledge he served in the army.  And now, after so many years, your Fraternity thinks that he should be driven from the position which he now occupies.  This seems to me altogether incongruous.  And so I have given you this order through him, but privately.  Still, if there is anything reasonable that can be alleged against him, it ought to be submitted to our judgment.  But, if it please Almighty God, we will send letters through your man to our son the Lord Dynamius.



See above, Epistle II., note 1.


Cautionis suæ, as to the meaning of which expression, see above, Epistle II., note 2.  It appears certain from what Gregory says, here and in Epistle II., that Laurentius, the predecessor of Constantius, had pledged himself by oath to the bishop of Rome to uphold the condemnation of “The Three Chapters.”  But it seems that some of his suffragans now asserted that he had sworn to them that he had not assented to such condemnation, and that on this understanding they had remained in his communion.  Gregory does not seem certain how the matter stood:  but he goes on the supposition that he could not have perjured himself as the bishops alleged.


See above, Ep. II., note 4.


Here Gregory is in error, for in the eighth, ninth, and tenth sessions of the council of Chalcedon Theodoret and Ibas, whose writings were anathematized in that fifth council, were heard in their own defence, and definitely acquitted of heresy.  It is true that there is no mention of them in the Definition of faith, agreed upon in the fifth session of Chalcedon, or in the Canons which were perhaps all that Gregory had before him.  It is true also that there was no reference at Chalcedon to Theodore of Mopsuestia, who was especially and personally anathematized at the fifth council, he having died many years before the council of Chalcedon was held.  But the cases of Theodoret and Ibas had been prominently before the synod; and this not, as Gregory here goes on to intimate, in a supplementary sort of way at the end of the main proceedings:  for the eighth, ninth, and tenth sessions had been occupied with them, after which there had been other sessions.  For similar inaccuracy on Gregory’s part in referring to past events, see II. 51, note 2; and for an instance of his imperfect acquaintance with the history of past controversies, see VII. 4.


Concerning this Fortunatus, see also V. 4.

Next: Epistle XLVI