Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Fourth Ecumenical Council. The Council of Chalcedon.: Canon VIII
Let the clergy of the poor-houses, monasteries, and martyries remain under the authority of the bishops in every city according to the tradition of the holy Fathers; and let no one arrogantly cast off the rule of his own bishop; and if any shall contravene this canon in any way whatever, and will not be subject to their own bishop, if they be clergy, let them be subjected to canonical censure, and if they be monks or laymen, let them be excommunicated.
Ancient Epitome of Canon VIII.
Any clergyman in an almshouse or monastery must submit himself to the authority of the bishop of the city. But he who rebels against this let him pay the penalty.
From this canon we learn that the synod of Chalcedon willed that all who were in charge of such pious institutions should be subject to the bishop, and in making this decree the synod only followed the tradition of the Fathers and Canons. Although in its first part the canon only mentions “clergymen,” yet in the second part monks are named, and, as Balsamon and Zonoras point out, both are included.
What a πτωχεῖον was may be seen from what Gibbon calls the “noble and charitable foundation, almost a new city” (iii. 252), established by St. Basil at a little distance from Cæsarea, and called in consequence the Basiliad. Gregory Nazianzen describes it as a large set of buildings with rooms for the sick, especially for lepers, and also for house-less travellers; “a storehouse of piety, where disease was borne philosophically, and sympathy was tested” (Orat., xliii., 63, compare Basil himself, Epist., xciv., on its staff of nurses and physicians and cl., 3). Sozomen calls it “a most celebrated resting-place for the poor,” and names Prapidius as having been its warden while acting as “bishop over many villages” (vi. 34, see on Nic., viij.). Another πτωχοτροφεῖον is mentioned by Basil (Epist., cxliij.) as governed by a chorepiscopus.
St. Chrysostom, on coming to the see of Constantinople, ordered the excess of episcopal expenditure to be transferred to the hospital for the sick (νοσοκομεῖον ), and “founded other such hospitals, setting over them two pious presbyters, with physicians and cooks.…so that foreigners arriving in the city, on being attacked by disease, might receive aid, both because it was a good work in itself, and for the glory of the Saviour” (Palladius, Dial., p. 19). At Ephesus Bassian founded a πτωχεῖτον with seventy pallets for the sick (Mansi, vii., 277), and there were several such houses in Egypt (ib., vi., 1013; in the next century there was a hospital for the sick at Daphne near Antioch (Evagr., iv., 35). “The tradition of the holy fathers” is here cited as barring any claim on the part of clerics officiating in these institutions, or in monasteries or martyries, to be exempt from the jurisdiction of the ordinary. They are to “abide under it,” and not to indulge selfwill by “turning restive” against their bishops authority” (ἀφηνιάζω is literally to get the bit between the teeth, and is used by Aëtius for p. 274 “not choosing to obey,” Mansi, vii., 72). Those who dare to violate this clearly defined rule (διατύωσιν, comp. τύπος in Nic., xix.), and to refuse subjection to their own bishop, are, if clerics, to incur canonical censure, if monks or laics, to be excommunicated. The allusion to laics points to laymen as founders or benefactors of such institutions.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratians Decretum, Pars II., Causa XVIII., Q. II., canon x., § 3.
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