Since in the former council it was decreed, as your unanimity remembers as well as I do, that those who as children were baptized by the Donatists, and not yet being able to know the pernicious character of their error, and afterward when they had come to the use of reason, had received the knowledge of the truth, abhorred their former error, and were received, (in accordance with the ancient order) by the imposition of the hand, into the Catholic Church of God spread throughout the world, that to such the remembrance of the error ought to be no impediment to the reception of the clerical office. For in coming to faith they thought the true Church to be their own and there they believed in Christ, and received the sacraments of the Trinity. And that all these sacraments are altogether true and holy and divine is most certain, and in them the whole hope of the soul is placed, although the presumptuous audacity of heretics, taking to itself the name of the truth, dares to administer them. They are but one after all, as the blessed Apostle tells us, saying: “One God, one faith, one baptism,” and it is not lawful to reiterate what once only ought to be administered. [Those therefore who have been so baptized] having anathematized their error may be received by the imposition of the hand into the one Church, the pillar as it is called, and the one mother of all Christians, where all these Sacraments are received unto salvation and everlasting life; even the same sacraments which obtain for those persevering in heresy the heavy penalty of damnation. So that which to those who are in the truth lighteneth to the obtaining of eternal life, the same to them who are in error tends but to darkness and damnation. With regard then to those who, having fled from error, acknowledge the breasts of their mother the Catholic Church, who believe and receive all these holy mysteries with the love of the truth, and besides the Sacraments have the testimony of a good life, there is no one who would not grant that without doubt such persons may be raised to the clerical office, especially in such necessity as the present. But there are others of this sect, who being already clergymen, desire to pass to us with their peoples and also with their honours, such as for the sake of office are converts to life, and that they may retain them seek for salvation [i.e., enter the Church]. I think that the question concerning such may be left to the graver consideration of our aforep. 472 said brothers, and that when they have considered by their more prudent counsel the matter referred to them, they may vouchsafe to advise us what approves itself to them with regard to this question. Only concerning those who as children were baptized by heretics we decree that they consent, if it seems good, to our decision concerning the ordination of the same. All things, therefore, which we have set forth above with the holy bishops, let your honourable fraternity with me adjudge to be done.
Of the three Introductions to Carthaginian Councils which precede this canon, the first refers to the synod held June 26, a.d. 397; the second to that held April 27, a.d. 399; and the third to that of June 15 (or 16), a.d. 401.
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