Sources and translations

This blog provides our draft translation of Carolingian texts, mostly linked to Hincmar of Rheims or the divorce of Lothar II and Theutberga.

The texts translated are as follows:

Page references are given in square brackets in the translation. All these translations are works in progress and have not been checked for errors or readability. Readers are strongly advised to check the Latin text themselves.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

On punishing and rooting out the abduction (raptus) of widows, girls and nuns (Part 2: appendix of excerpts)


Excerpts from sacred canons and the deeds of the holy fathers about the religious life of nuns (cultus sanctimoniae) and about the constancy of declaring the truth

From the decrees of Pope Siricius, chapter 4: That it is not allowed to obtain the betrothed of another man according to the laws of marriage

But about marital violation you asked, if one could take the betrothed girl of another in marriage. We prohibit by all means that this should happen: since the blessing which the priest places on the girl to be married is like a certain sacrilege for the faithful, if it is violated by any transgression.[1]

In the council of Ancyra, chapter 10, about betrothed girls corrupted by others.

It pleases that girls who have been betrothed, and afterwards taken by others, should be plucked up and restored to those to whom they had been betrothed first, even if force should have been inflicted on them by the abductors.[2]

From the decrees of Pope Innocent, chapter 20. About non-veiled virgins, if they should deviate.

Those who are not yet covered by the sacred veil, yet who have simulated that they will always remain in the virginal intent although they are not veiled: if perhaps they should marry, penance is to be done by these for some time, since their solemn promise (sponsio) was held by the Lord. For if a contract of good faith between men is not accustomed to be dissolved without reason, how much more ought that promise which they agreed with God not to be dissolved without punishment? For if the apostle Paul said that those who had departed from the intent of widowhood had condemnation, since they had made original faith invalid, how much more do virgins who have tried to break their original promise of faith?[3]

From the decrees of Pope Leo, chapter 27. That those who, not forced but by their own will, have received the way of life of virginity, offend if they marry, even if they have not yet been consecrated.

Girls who have received the way of life and habit of virginity, not forced by the command of parents, but by their free will decision: if afterwards they should choose marriage, they are prevaricating, even if the grace of consecration should not yet reached them: whose gift they would not be cheated of if they were to remain in their way of life.[4]

Again of the same Pope Leo to Rusticius. About girls who are now consecrated; if afterwards they should marry, they admit a double crime of both way of life and consecration.

About these who are now consecrated, if they should marry afterwards, it cannot be doubted that a great crime is admitted, where both the way of life is forsaken and the consecration is violated. For if human pacts cannot be violated with impunity, what will happen to those who break the faith of divine sacrament?[5]

From the decrees of Pope Gelasius, chapter 20. That these who associate themselves with holy virgins, and unite in incestuous pacts, cannot communicate, unless they do public penance.

But we have learned that certain men dare to associate themselves with holy virgins and after a way of life dedicated to God, they mix incestuous crime with sacrilege. It is just that these forthwith should be expelled from Holy Communion and not received in any way unless through public and proved penance: but if they are passing away from the world, certainly the viaticum, if yet they should be penitent, is not denied to them.[6]

From the decrees of Pope Siricius, chapter 6: about monks and virgins not preserving the way of life.

 Moreover, you attest that certain monks and nuns, having cast away the way of life of sanctity, are sunk in such great wantonness that first secretly, as if under the pretext of monasteries, they mix themselves with illicit and sacrilegious contagion, and afterwards, led into a steep descent by desperation of conscience, they willingly procreate sons from illicit embraces. This both public laws (leges) and ecclesiastical laws (iura) condemn. We order these shameless and detestable persons to be eliminated from the company of monasteries and the meetings of churches: so that thrust back in their workhouses, weeping for such a crime with continuous lamentation, they may be able to boil away with the purifying fire of penance, so that by consideration of mercy, pardon may be able to relieve them through the grace of communion only at their death.[7]

 Again from the Council of Blessed Pope Gregory

 Gregory the apostolic Pope spoke before the body of the venerable prince of the apostles of Christ to declare this judgement. If someone should take in marriage a nun, whom they call a handmaid of God, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage his spiritual co-mother, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage the wife of his brother , may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage a cousin (consobrina), may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage a wife from his own cognatio, or whom a cognatus has married, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should steal a widow as wife, even with her consenting to it, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should steal a virgin as wife whom he should not have betrothed to himself, even if she consented to it, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. I, Gregory the Bishop of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome signed these things constituted and promulgated by us. And twenty-two other bishops, fourteen priests and fifty deacons signed.[8]

 From the Council of Orléans I, chapter 2

 But about abductors we reckon this to be constituted, that if an abductor should flee to a church with an abducted woman, and it should be known that the same woman has suffered violence, at once she is to be liberated from the power of the abductor, and let the abductor, after immunity from death or punishments has been conferred upon him, be subject to the condition of serving or let him have free ability of redeeming himself. If indeed she who is abducted is known to have a father and the girl consented to the abductor, let her be excused and returned to the power of the father, and let the abductor be held liable to be punished by the father in satisfaction of the above condition.[9]

 From the Council of Valence, chapter 2. About girls devoted to God, if they should pass over into earthly marriage, that they handed over to penitence

 Indeed about girls who should vow themselves to God, if they should voluntarily pass over into earthly marriage, we have decreed it is to be maintained that penance is not immediately given to these, and when it has been given, unless they have fully satisfied God in as much as reason should demand, their communion should be delayed.[10]

 From the Council of Elvira, chapter 13. About virgins consecrated to God, if they commit adultery

 If virgins who have devoted themselves to God lose their pact of virginity and preserve the same desire, not understanding what they should have lost, it pleases that communion not be given to them in the end. If women of this kind, once persuaded or marred by the lapse of an infirm body, do penance for their whole lives, so that they abstain from the intercourse by which they seemed rather to have lapsed, it pleases that they ought to receive communion in the end.[11]

 From the Council of Toledo I, chapter 16. If a devoted woman should commit adultery, let her do penance for ten years. If she should take a husband, she is not to be permitted to penance, unless her husband dies.

 The sinning devoted woman is not to be received in church, unless she should cease to sin, and if ceasing she should do suitable penance for ten years, thus she may receive communion. And first admitted into the church for prayer, let her not approach the company (convivium) of any Christian woman, and if she is admitted, let her who received her be held at a distance. Also let an equal punishment constrain the corrupter. But she who receives a husband is not to be admitted to penance unless she begins to live chastely, while her husband is still living or after he has died.[12]

 From the Council of Toledo IV, Chapter 56. About the distinction between secular and holy widows.

 There are two kinds of widows: seculars and nuns. Secular widows are those who are still arranging to marry and have not put down the lay habit. Nuns are those, who have now changed the secular habit and have appeared with religious practice (cultus) in the sight of a priest or church. If these go over to marriage, according to the Apostle they will not be without condemnation: since vowing themselves first to God, afterwards they have thrown away the intent of chastity.[13]

 From the Council of Toledo X, chapter 5.

 For all women who are now shown to have dressed in religious clothing in the past, let no objection of opponents be able to be an excuse, although they may want to represent themselves with diverse or cunning arguments of fallacy, but let a holier discipline hold them and subjugate them, bound to very sacred sanctions. Let them be clearly warned by the authority of the priest, so that they willingly return. If they do not wish to return, let them be led back to the habit of religion by the insistence of the priest, and after they are returned to the monasteries, let them be held with the sentence of worthy excommunication.[14]

 In the edicts of the very pious emperors[15]

 If anyone enters in a holy church to celebrate the divine mysteries or other holy mysteries and injures a bishop or clerics or other ministers of the church, we order that, subjected to torture, he should die in exile. But also if someone should disturb the holy prayers or divine mysteries in any way, let him be punished with capital punishment. This also is to be observed in the litanies [processions], in which bishops or clerics are found. So that if someone should make a disturbance, let him be dealt with through torture and exile: but if he should disturb the litany, let him submit to capital punishment. For we want not only all places dedicated to God to be free from all incursion, but much more all their bishops and clerics to be very safe from all danger: so that whoever, governor (praeses) or judge or military man (militaris), if he should dare to raise his hand or insult them, he should be able to expiate that by no manner other than either permanent exile or blood.

[1] Klaus Zechiel-Eckes and Jasper Detlev, Die erste Dekretale: der Brief Papst Siricius' an Bischof Himerius von Tarragona vom Jahr 385 (JK 255) (Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2013), c. 4, pp. 90-92.

 [2] Canons of the Council of Ancyra 314, edited by Cuthbert Hamilton Turner, Ecclesiae Occidentalis monumenta iuris antiquissima: Canorum et conciliorum graecorum interpretationes latinae, 2 vols (Clarendon Press, 1899-1939), vol 2, pp. 82-83.

 [3] Letter of Innocent I to Bishop Victricius of Rouen (Patologia Latina 20, col. 480).

 [4] Letter of Leo I to Rusticus of Narbonne (Patrologia Latina 54, col. 1208).

 [5] This canon is in some manuscripts transmitting Leo's letter: see Patrologia Latina 54, col. 1208 notes.

 [6] Letter of Gelasius to the bishops of Lucania, Bruttium and Sicily, edited by Andreas Thiel, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum genuinae et quae ad eos scriptae sunt a S. Hilario usque ad Pelagium II. Tomus 1: A S. Hilario usque ad S. Hormisdam: Ann. 461-523 (Edward Peter, 1868), pp. 373-374.

 [7] Zechiel-Eckes and Detlev, Die erste Dekretale, c. 6, p. 94.

 [8] Council of Rome 721, ed. G. D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collection, volume 12 (Florence, 1746), cols 263-264.

 [9] Council of Orléans 511, c. 2, ed. Carlo de Clercq, Concilia Galliae a. 511–695, CCSL 148A (Brepols, 1963). p. 5.

 [10] Council of Valence 374, c. 2, ed. Charles Munier, Concilia Galliae a. 314–a. 506, CCSL 148 (Brepols, 1963), p. 39.

 [11] Council of Elvira, c. 13, ed. José Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto Enrique Flórez, 1963), p. 4.

 [12] First Council of Toledo, 400, c. 16, ed. Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, pp. 23-24.

 [13] Fourth Council of Toledo, 633, c. 56, ed. Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, p. 210.

 [14] Tenth Council of Toledo 656, c. 5, ed. Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, p. 212.

 [15] A quotation from the Epitome Iuliani, no. 115, c. 52, ed. Gustav Haenel, Iuliani epitome latina Novellarum Iustinian (Leipzig, 1873), p. 159.

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