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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:
The Fourth Ecumenical Council.  The Council of Chalcedon.: Canon VI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Canon VI.

Neither presbyter, deacon, nor any of the ecclesiastical order shall be ordained at large, nor unless the person ordained is particularly appointed to a church in a city or village, or to a martyry, or to a monastery.  And if any have been ordained without a charge, the holy Synod decrees, to the reproach of the ordainer, that such an ordination shall be inoperative, and that such shall nowhere be suffered to officiate.


Ancient Epitome of Canon VI.

In Martyries and Monasteries ordinations are strictly forbidden.  Should any one be ordained therein, his ordination shall be reputed of no effect.

Van Espen.

The wording of the canon seems to intimate that the synod of Chalcedon held ordinations of this sort to be not only illicit but also invalid, irritis and cassis.  Nor is this to be wondered at, if we take into account the pristine and ancient discipline of the church and the opinion of many of the Scholastics (Morinus, De SS. Ordinat., Parte III., Exercit. V., cap. ix.).

p. 272 Hefele.

It is clear that our canon forbids the so-called absolute ordinations, and requires that every cleric must at the time of his ordination be designated to a definite church.  The only titulus which is here recognized is that which was later known as titulus beneficii.  As various kinds of this title we find here (a) the appointment to a church in the city; (b) to a village church; (c) that to the chapel of a martyr; (d) the appointment as chaplain of a monastery.  For the right understanding of the last point, it must be remembered that the earliest monks were in no wise clerics, but that soon the custom was introduced in every larger convent, of having at least one monk ordained presbyter, that he might provide for divine service in the monastery.

Similar prohibitions of ordinationes absolutæ were also put forth in after times.

According to existing law, absolute ordinations, as is well known, are still illicitæ, but yet validæ, and even the Council of Chalcedon has not declared them to be properly invalidæ, but only as without effect (by permanent suspension).  Cf. Kober, Suspension, S. 220, and Hergenröther, Photius, etc., Bd. ii., S. 324.


By the word μαρτυρίῳ (“martyry”) is meant a church or chapel raised over a martyr’s grave.  So the Laodicene Council forbids Churchmen to visit the “martyries of heretics” (can. ix.).  So Gregory of Nyssa speaks of “the martyry” of the Holy Martyrs (Op. ii., 212); Chrysostom of a “martyry,” and Palladius of “martyries” near Antioch (In Act. Apost. Hom., xxxviii. 5; Dial., p. 17), and Palladius of “the martyry of St. John” at Constantinople (Dial., p. 25).  See Socrates, iv. 18, 23, on the “martyry” of St. Thomas at Edessa, and that of SS. Peter and Paul at Rome; and vi. 6, on the “martyry” of St. Euphenia at Chalcedon in which the Council actually met.  In the distinct sense of a visible testimony, the word was applied to the church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem (Eusebius, Vit. Con., iii. 40, iv. 40; Mansi, vi. 564; Cyril, Catech., xiv. 3), and to the Holy Sepulchre itself (Vit. Con., iii. 28).  Churches raised over martyrs’ tombs were called in the West “memoriæ martyrum,” see Cod. Afric., lxxxiii. (compare Augustine, De Cura pro Mortuis, VI.).

This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian’s Decretum, Pars I., Dist. lxx., can. j.

Next: Canon VII

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