Canon CXXXVIII. (Not numbered in the Greek.)
Here beginneth the epistle of the African synod to Pope Celestine, bishop of the City of Rome.
To the lord and most beloved and our honourable brother Celestine, Aurelius, Palatinus, Antony, Totus, Servusdei, Terentius, Fortunatus, Martin, Januarius, Optatus, Ceticius, Donatus, Theasius, Vincent, Fortunatian, and the rest of us, assembled at Carthage in the General Council of Africa.
We could wish that, like as your Holiness intimated to us, in your letter sent by our fellow presbyter Leo, your pleasure at the arrival of Apiarius, so we also could send to you these writings with pleasure respecting his clearing. Then in truth both our own satisfaction, and yours of late would be more reasonable; nor would that lately expressed by you concerning the hearing of him then to come, as well as that already past, seem hasty and inconsiderate. Upon the arrival, then, of our holy Brother and fellow-Bishop Faustinus, we assembled a council, and believed that he was sent with that man, in order that, as he [Apiarius] had before been restored to the presbyterate by his assistance, so now he might with his exertions be cleared of the very great crimes charged against him by the inhabitants of Tabraca. But the due course of examination in our council discovered in him such great and monstrous crimes as to overbear even Faustinus, who acted rather as an advocate of the aforementioned person than as a judge, and to prevail against what was more the zeal of a defender, than the justice of an inquirer. For first he vehemently opposed the whole assembly, inflicting on us many injuries, under pretence of asserting the privileges of the Roman Church, and wishing that he should be received into communion by us, on the ground that your Holiness, believing him to have appealed, though unable to prove it, had restored him to communion. But this we by no means allowed, as you will also better see by reading the acts. After however, a most laborious inquiry carried on for three days, during which in the greatest affliction we took cognizance of various charges against him, God the just Judge, strong and long suffering, cut short by a sudden stroke both the delays of our fellow-bishop Faustinus and the evasions of Apiarius himself, by which he was endeavouring to veil his foul enormities. For his strong and shameless obstinacy was p. 510 overcome, by which he endeavoured to cover, through an impudent denial, the mire of his lusts, and God so wrought upon his conscience and published, even to the eyes of men, the secret crimes which he was already condemning in that mans heart, a very sty of wickedness, that, after his false denial he suddenly burst forth into a confession of all the crimes he was charged with, and at length convicted himself of his own accord of all infamies beyond belief, and changed to groans even the hope we had entertained, believing and desiring that he might be cleared from such shameful blots, except indeed that it was so far a relief to our sorrow, that he had delivered us from the labour of a longer inquiry, and by confession had applied some sort of remedy to his own wounds, though, lord and brother, it was unwilling, and done with a struggling conscience. Premising, therefore, our due regards to you, we earnestly conjure you, that for the future you do not readily admit to a hearing persons coming hence, nor choose to receive to your communion those who have been excommunicated by us, because you, venerable Sir, will readily perceive that this has been prescribed even by the Nicene council. For though this seems to be there forbidden in respect of the inferior clergy, or the laity, how much more did it will this to be observed in the case of bishops, lest those who had been suspended from communion in their own Province might seem to be restored to communion hastily or unfitly by your Holiness. Let your Holiness reject, as is worthy of you, that unprincipled taking shelter with you of presbyters likewise, and the inferior clergy, both because by no ordinance of the Fathers hath the Church of Africa been deprived of this authority, and the Nicene decrees have most plainly committed not only the clergy of inferior rank, but the bishops themselves to their own Metropolitans. For they have ordained with great wisdom and justice, that all matters should be terminated in the places where they arise; and did not think that the grace of the Holy Spirit would be wanting to any Province, for the bishops of Christ (Sacerdotibus) wisely to discern, and firmly to maintain the right: especially since whosoever thinks himself wronged by any judgment may appeal to the council of his Province, or even to a General Council [i.e. of Africa] unless it be imagined that God can inspire a single individual with justice, and refuse it to an innumerable multitude of bishops (sacerdotum) assembled in council. And how shall we be able to rely on a sentence passed beyond the sea, since it will not be possible to send thither the necessary witnesses, whether from the weakness of sex, or advanced age, or any other impediment? For that your Holiness should send any on your part we can find ordained by no council of Fathers. Because with regard to what you have sent us by the same our brother bishop Faustinus, as being contained in the Nicene Council, we can find nothing of the kind in the more authentic copies of that council, which we have received from the holy Cyril our brother, Bishop of the Alexandrine Church, and from the venerable Atticus the Prelate of Constantinople, and which we formerly sent by Innocent the presbyter, and Marcellus the subdeacon through whom we received them, to Boniface the Bishop, your predecessor of venerable memory. Moreover whoever desires you to delegate any of your clergy to execute your orders, do not comply, lest it seem that we are introducing the pride of secular dominion into the Church of Christ which exhibiteth to all that desire to see God the light of simplicity and the day of humility. For now that the miserable Apiarius has been removed out of the Church of Christ for his horrible crimes, we feel confident respecting our brother Faustinus, that through the uprightness and moderation of your Holiness, Africa, without violating brotherly charity, will by no means have to endure him any longer. Lord and brother, may our Lord long preserve your Holiness to pray for us. 497
Ancient Epitome of Canon CXXXVIII.
Those excommunicated by us, ye are not be willing to admit afterwards to communion, according to the decree of the Nicene Synod. For Apiarius, who was restored by you, has resisted the Synod, and treated it with scorn, and at length has been converted and confessed himself guilty with sighs and tears.
This translation is by Allies.