Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Seventy-Fifth Letter (Item 130): Pope Julius to the Eastern Bishops

We get more harping on Nicaea after the fake Lateran synod. This time it’s a decretal in the name of Julius, addressed to all eastern bishops and headed by a rubric: What follows, we read, concerns those who convene synods for the condemnation of bishops, absent apostolic authority, and either expel or even condemn said bishops. Without the pope, apparently, no such judgments can be issued. Next comes the address, “Julius to all the venerable brothers, the eastern bishops,” and then a long scriptural pastiche consisting of verses from Luke, Galatians, 1 Peter, Zachary, Wisdom, 1 John, Proverbs, and Job. Some of these excerpts wander pretty far afield, but most of them line up behind benign themes like fraternal charity and harmony.

Then Pseudo-Julius gets around to the meat of his letter. Borrowing from Benedictus Levita, he informs us that nothing is worse than citizens persecuting fellow citizens or brothers persecuting fellow brothers  and raising calumnies against one other. The bishops gathered at Nicaea, we read, were willing to bear persecution in order to legislate about the Christian life and to establish “laws that we call sacred canons.” So far so good – that’s all out of the Historia tripartita. But then Julius steps out on his own to assert that Nicaea established “multa pernecessaria” for the church and the support of its columns, the bishops. Those who violate these statutes or attempt to harm the columns/bishops will be demoted if they are clergy, and anathematized if they are monks or laity.

Now, I’m not sure whether the average reader of the Nicene canons would agree that the several bits of pertinent legislation therein contained (really only canon 4 on episcopal ordination and canon 18 on bishops and priests getting communion before deacons) really add up to “many” canons established for the support of bishops. But in case you had any doubts, Pseudo-Julius leaps quickly from mild characterization to bold-faced lie. He says, more specifically, that the bishops at Nicaea established the following: 1) No bishop is to be judged except at a legitimate synod, convened “in suo tempore” by apostolic authority; 2) proceedings convened otherwise have no force; 3) the right to call general synods and judge bishops is a singular privilege conceded by evangelical, apostolic and canonical decree, because many authorities prove that the judgment of major cases is to be referred to the apostolic see and that greaters are not to be judged by lessers; 4) councils in general are not to be celebrated without apostolic authority, nor (again) can a bishop be condemned, since the Roman see is the primate of all churches, just as Peter was the first of the apostles; and finally 5) once again, nobody can condemn bishops without the say-so of Rome. It was also decided at Nicaea, Julius goes on to say, that accusers and accusations not permitted by secular law cannot be brought against priests. Repetitive and insistent as usual, and naturally none of this is to be found anywhere in the authentic canons of Nicaea.

With that out of the way, we’re on the home stretch. We get a lot of quotes from Leo, punctuated with some scriptural spice and Pseudo-Julius's own sententious inserts. Julius’s correspondents are to remain steadfast in faith (Leo); the apostolic church will not abide infringement of its rights (canon 101 from the Dionysio-Hadriana African council) with respect to major cases and bishops (Pseudo-Julius); he who improperly condemns a bishop and drives him from his see is irrevocably damned (Pseudo-Julius) and bishops condemned in this way are to be restored (Benedictus Levita); there’s another reference to Nicaea in case you forgot; all the members of Christ’s body have different duties, and when each member correctly performs its duties the whole body is healthy (Leo); clergy should bear the cross of Christ and suffer with their brothers, rathern than persecute them (Benecitus Levita) and he who opens a pit for his brother merits a like punishment (Pseudo-Julius); everyone should observe the canons of the apostles and their apostolic successors, by which Julius and co. are delighted, surrounded, pleased and armed (Pseudo-Julius); the papal office requires frankness and the bishop of Rome is not at liberty to keep quiet about abuses (Siricius), lest through silence the popes condone or consent to the injury of brothers (Pseudo-Julius).

Given on 1 October 337 -- just a week after item 129 if we adopt the earliest possible date.


Recipients: eastern bishops

Date: 1 October 337 (Feliciano et Maximiano viris clarissimis consulibus: just like last time, and unsurprisingly, since they're the only set on offer in the LP)

Sources: the Bible, the Historia Tripartita, the Lateran council of 649, Benedictus Levita and the Capitula Angilramni, letters of Innocent I, Leo the Great, Siricius, Gelasius I, the African council of the Dionysio-Hadriana, the Liber Pontificalis (only for the consuls)

Words: 2000

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