It is right that what belongs to the Church be preserved with all care to the Church, with a good conscience and faith in God, the inspector and judge of all. And these things ought to be administered under the judgment and authority of the bishop, who is entrusted with the whole people and with the souls of the congregation. But it should be manifest what is church property, with the knowledge of the presbyters and deacons about him; so that these may know assuredly what things belong to the Church, and that nothing be concealed from them, in order that, when the bishop may happen to depart this life, the property belonging to the Church being well known, may not be embezzled nor lost, and in order that the private property of the bishop may not be disturbed on a pretence that it is part of the ecclesiastical goods. For it is just and well-pleasing to God and man that the private property of the bishop be bequeathed to whomsoever he will, but that for the Church be kept whatever belongs to the Church; so that neither the Church may suffer loss, nor the bishop be injured under pretext of the Churchs interest, nor those who belong to him fall into lawsuits, and himself, after his death, be brought under reproach.
All the clergy should be cognizant of ecclesiastical matters; so that when the bishop dies the Church may preserve her own goods; but what belongs to the bishop shall be disposed of according to his directions.
This canon shews the early discipline according to which the presbyters and deacons of the episcopal city, who were said to be “about him” or to pertain to his chair, represented the senate of the church, who together with the bishop administered the church affairs, and, when the see was vacant, had the charge of it. All this Martin of Braga sets forth more clearly in his version, and I have treated of the matter at large in my work on Ecclesiastical Law, Pars I., Tit. viii., cap. i., where I have shewn that the Cathedral chapter succeeded to this senate of presbyters and deacons.
This canon in a somewhat changed form is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratians Decretum, Pars II., Causa XII., Quæst. I., can. xx., and attributed to “Pope Martins Council”; also compare with this the ensuing canon, number XXI.
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