Bishop Hosius said: But if any such person should be found so mad or audacious as to think to advance by way of excuse an affirmation that he had brought letters from p. 416 the people [laity], it is plain that some few persons, corrupted by bribes and rewards, could have got up an uproar in the church, demanding, forsooth, the said man for bishop. I think then that practices and devices of such sort absolutely must be punished, so that a man of this kind be deemed unworthy even of lay communion in extremis. Do ye therefore make answer whether this sentence is approved by you. They [the bishops] answered: What has been said is approved of.
Bishop Hosius said: Even if any such person should show himself so rash as perhaps to allege as an excuse and affirm that he has received letters from the people, inasmuch as it is evident that a few persons could have been corrupted by rewards and bribes—[namely] persons who do not hold the pure faith—to raise an uproar in the church, and seem to ask for the said man as bishop; I judge that these frauds must be condemned, so that such an one should not receive even lay communion at the last. If ye all approve, do ye decree it. The synod answered: We approve.
To understand this canon aright it must be remembered that in the first ages of the Church the people were accustomed to have a share in the election of their bishop; and he whom the people demanded was usually ordained their bishop.
This [penalty] is something unheard of and horrible, that he should not be deemed worthy of communion even at the hour of death; for it is a provision found nowhere else imposed by any canon, nor inflicted upon any sin.
The Greek author Aristenus [in the above remarks] probably has not erred from the truth when he asserts that to no crime was this penalty attached, if he refers to the Eastern Churches; for Morinus himself (in the xixth chapter of the ixth book, De Penitentia), confesses that this penalty was never attached to any crime among the Easterns: nevertheless in some Churches in the first ages the three crimes of idolatry, murder, and adultery were thus punished: that is, that to those who admitted any one of these, reconciliation was denied even at his death, “and this,” says Morinus, “I think no one can deny, who is at all versed in the testimony of the ancients on this point.”
The addition in the Latin text, qui sinceram fidem non habent, is found both in Dionysius Exiguus and in Isidore and the Prisca, and its meaning is as follows: “In a town, some few, especially those who have not the true faith, can be easily bribed to demand this or that person as bishop.” The Fathers of Sardica plainly had here in view the Arians and their adherents, who, through such like machinations, when they had gained over, if only a small party in a town, sought to press into the bishoprics. The Synod of Antioch moreover, in 341, although the Eusebians, properly speaking, were dominant there, had laid down in the twenty-first canon a similar, only less severe, rule.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Raymonds Decretales, cap. ii, De electione, but with the noteworthy addition “unless he shall have repented.” These words do not occur in the other Latin versions, and Hefele thinks them to have been added by Raymond of Pennaforte.
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