Moreover this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa and Libya and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration, thereby giving scandal and offence to the people. Since, therefore, it is our particular care that all things tend to the good of the flock placed in our hands and committed to us,—it has seemed good that henceforth nothing of the kind shall in any way occur. And we say this, not to abolish and overthrow what things were established of old by Apostolic authority, but as caring for the health of the people and their advance to better things, and lest the ecclesiastical state should suffer any reproach. For the divine Apostle says: “Do all to the glory of God, give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the Church of God, even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be ye imitators of me even as I also am of Christ.” But if any shall have been observed to do such a thing, let him be deposed.
The fifth Apostolic canon allows neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon to cast forth his wife under pretext of piety; and assigns penalties for any that shall do so, and if he will not amend he is to be deposed. But this canon on the other hand does not permit a bishop even to live with his wife after his consecration. But by this change no contempt is meant to be poured out upon what had been established by Apostolic authority, but it was made through care for the peoples health and for leading on to better things, and for fear p. 371 that the sacerdotal estate might suffer some wrong.
In the time of this canon [of the Apostles so called] not only presbyters and deacons, but bishops also, it is clear, were allowed by Eastern custom to have their wives; and Zonaras and Balsamon note that even until the Sixth Council, commonly called in Trullo bishops were allowed to have their wives.
When the faith first was born and came forth into the world, the Apostles treated with greater softness and indulgence those who embraced the truth, which as yet was not scattered far and wide, nor did they exact from them perfection in all respects, but made great allowances for their weakness and for the inveterate force of the customs with which they were surrounded, both among the heathen and among the Jews. But now, when far and wide our religion has been propagated, more strenuous efforts were made to enforce those things which pertain to a higher and holier life, as our angelical worship increased day by day, and to insist on by law a life of continence to those who were elevated to the episcopate, so that not only they should abstain from their wives, but that they should have them no longer as bed-fellows; and not only that they no longer admit them as sharers of their bed, but they do not allow them even to stop under the same roof or in the house.
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