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Epistle LII.

To Symmachus the Defensor 1371 .

Gregory to Symmachus, &c.

My son Boniface the deacon has told me that thy Experience had written to say that a monastery built by Labina, a religious lady, is now ready for monks to be settled in it.  And indeed I praised thy solicitude; but we wish that some other place than that which has been assigned for the purpose should be provided; but with the condition, in view of the insecurity of the time, that one above the sea be looked out for, which is either fortified by its position, or at all events can be fortified without much labour.  So may we send monks thither, to the end that the island itself, hitherto without a monastery, may be improved by having this way of life upon it.

For carrying out and providing for this business we have given directions to Horosius, the bearer of this present order, with whom thy Experience must go round the p. 95b shores of Corsica, and if any more suitable place in the possession of any private person should be found, we are prepared to give a suitable price, that we may be able to make some secure arrangement.  We have enjoined the aforesaid Horosius to proceed to the island Gorgonia; and let thy Experience accompany him, and do you so avenge the evils that we have ascertained to have found entrance there that through the punishment you shall inflict the aforesaid island may remain corrected for the future also.  Let the same abbot Horosius set in order the monasteries of this island, and so hasten to return to us.  Let, then, thy Experience so act that in both these matters, that is, both in providing for monasteries in Corsica, and in correcting the monks of Gorgonia, thou mayest make haste to obey, not our will, but that of Almighty God.

Moreover we desire that the priests who abide in Corsica shall be forbidden to have any intercourse with women, except it may be a mother, or a sister, or a wife, towards whom chastity should be observed 1372 .  But to the three persons about whom thy Experience has written to my son the aforesaid deacon Boniface, give whatsoever thou deemest sufficient for them, since they are in grievous need; and this we will allow thee afterwards in thy accounts.  Given in the month of July.



I.e. of the Church in Corsica, as appears from the letter.


The clergy who had been married before ordination were not required to put away their wives.  Can. Apostol. V. expressly forbids their doing so under pain of excommunication.  The 3rd Nicene Canon, which forbids any bishop, presbyter, or any of the clergy, to have a woman dwelling with him except a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are above suspicion, does not touch the case of wives, being directed against the custom of the clergy having females who where neither wives nor of their own kindred, to live with them, who were called synesactæ, or agapetæ.  Accordingly a law of Honorius and the younger Theodosius, made in pursuance of the Nicene Canon, adds to the above injunction, “That those who were married before their husbands were ordained should not be relinquished upon pretence of chastity, it being reasonable that those should be joined to the clergy who by their conversation had made their husbands worthy of the priesthood.”  (Cod. Theodor. lib. xvi. tit. ii. de Episc. l. xliv.  Also Cod. Just. lib. i. tit. iii. leg. xix.  See Bingham, Bk. vi. ch. ii. sect. 13).  But in the West it was now the established rule that neither bishops, priests, nor deacons should have conjugal intercourse with their wives after ordination:  and it has been seen under Ep. XLIV. how this rule had been extended to subdeacons.  Gregory tells us in his Dialogues (Lib. iv. cap. 11) of a holy presbyter in the province of Nursia, who at the time of his ordination had a wife (presbyteram suam), whom he thenceforth loved as a sister, but avoided as an enemy, never suffering her to come near him for fear of temptation:  and he adds, “For this is the way of holy men, that in order to keep far away from what is unlawful they cut themselves off even from what is lawful.”  Cf. IX. 60.  “Hoc tantummodo adjecto ut hi, sicut canonica decrevit auctoritas, uxores quas caste debent regere non relinquant.”

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