Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Fourth Ecumenical Council. The Council of Chalcedon.: Canon XXVIII
Following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and acknowledging the canon, which has been just read, of the One Hundred and Fifty Bishops beloved-of-God (who assembled in the imperial city of Constantinople, which is New Rome, in the time of the Emperor Theodosius of happy memory), we also do enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges (ἴσα πρεσβεῖα) to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that, in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to him.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XXVIII.
The bishop of New Rome shall enjoy the same honour as the bishop of Old Rome, on account of the removal of the Empire. For this reason the [metropolitans] of Pontus, of Asia, and of Thrace, as well as the Barbarian bishops shall be ordained by the bishop of Constantinople.
It is certain that this canon was expressly renewed by canon xxxvi. of the Council of Trullo and from that time has been numbered by the Greeks among the canons; and at last it was acknowledged by some Latin collectors also, and was placed by Gratian in his Decretum, although clearly with a different sense. (Pars I., Dist. xxii., C. vj.)
Here is a great addition to the canon of 381, so ingeniously linked on to it as to seem at first sight a part of it. The words καὶ ὥστε are meant to suggest that what follows is in fact involved in what has preceded: whereas a new point of departure is here taken, and instead of a mere “honorary pre-eminence” the bishop of Constantinople acquires a vast jurisdiction, the independent authority of three exarchs being annulled in order to make him patriarch. Previously he had προεδρία now he gains προστασία. As we have p. 288 seen, a series of aggrandizements in fact had prepared for this aggrandizement in law; and various metropolitans of Asia Minor expressed their contentment at seeing it effected. “It is, indeed, more than probable that the self-assertion of Rome excited the jealousy of her rival of the East,” and thus “Eastern bishops secretly felt that the cause of Constantinople was theirs” (Gores Leo the Great, p. 120); but the gratification of Constantinople ambition was not the less, in a canonical sense, a novelty, and the attempt to enfold it in the authority of the Council of 381 was rather astute than candid. The true plea, whatever might be its value, was that the Council had to deal with a fait accompli, which it was wise at once to legalize and to regulate; that the “boundaries of the respective exarchates…were ecclesiastical arrangements made with a view to the general good and peace of the Church, and liable to vary with the dispensations to which the Church was providentially subjected,” so that “by confirming the ἐκ πολλοῦ κρατῆσαν ἔθος in regard to the ordination of certain metropolitans (see Ep. of Council to Leo, Leon. Epist. xcviij., 4), “they were acting in the spirit, while violating the letter, of the ever-famous rule of Nicæa, τὰ αρχεῖα ἔθη κρατείτο (cp. Newman, Transl. of Fleury, iii., 407). It is observable that Aristenus 295 and Symeon, Logothetes reckon this decree as a XXIXth canon (Justellus, ii., 694, 720).
After the renewal of this canon by the Council of Trullo, Gratian adds “The VIIIth Synod held under Pope Hadrian II., canon xxj.” (Decretum Pars I., Dist. xxij., C. vij.) “We define that no secular power shall hereafter dishonour anyone of these who rule our patriarchal sees, or attempt to move them from their proper throne, but shall judge them worthy of all reverence and honour; chiefly the most holy Pope of Old Rome, and then the Patriarch of Constantinople, and then those of Alexandria, and Antioch, and Jerusalem.”
Some Greek codices have the following heading to this canon.
“Decree of the same holy Synod published on account of the privileges of the throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople.”
This canon seems to recognise no particular authority in the Church of Rome, save what the Fathers had granted it, as the seat of the empire. And it attributes in plain words as much to Constantinople as to Rome, with the exception of the first place. Nevertheless I do not observe that the Popes took up a thing so injurious to their dignity, and of so dangerous a consequence to the whole Church. For what Lupus quotes of St. Leos lxxviij. (civ.) letter, refers rather to Alexandria and to Antioch, than to Rome. St. Leo is contented to destroy the foundation on which they built the elevation of Constantinople, maintaining that a thing so entirely ecclesiastical as the episcopate ought not to be regulated by the temporal dignity of cities, which, nevertheless, has been almost always followed in the establishment of the metropolis, according to the Council of Nicea.
St. Leo also complains that the Council of Chalcedon broke the decrees of the Council of Nice, the practice of antiquity, and the rights of Metropolitans. Certainly it was an odious innovation to see a Bishop made the chief, not of one department but of three; for which no example could be found save in the authority which the Popes took over Illyricum, where, however, they did not claim the power to ordain any Bishop.
Such is not the case in Aristenus as found in Beveridge, Tom. I., p. 147.
Next: Excursus on the Later History of Canon XXVIII.
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