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The Canons of Carthage

(A.D. 345-419)

This is a collection of 'canons' [= ecclesiastical bye-laws] passed in the course of time at a number of local Synods in Carthage, North Africa


Translation from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII. Italics in the text by John Wijngaards.

That priests may not bless chrism, consecrate women or reconcile penitents.

Source: MANSI III, 693  

Can 3. Numidius episcopus Maxulitanus dixit: Si jubet sanctitas vestra, suggero, nam memini praeteritis conciliis fuisse statutum, ut chrisma, vel reconciliatio paenitentium, necnon & puellarum consecratio a presbyteris non fiant. Si quis autem emerserit hoc faciens, quid de eo statuendum est? Genethlius episcopus dixit: Audivit dignatio vestra suggestionem fratris et coepiscopi nostri Numidii:quid ad hoc dicitis? Ab universis episcopis dictum est: Chrismatis confectio, & puellarum consecratio a presbyteris non fiant: vel reconciliare quemquam publica missa prebytero non licere, hoc omnibus placet.


Canon 3. Numidius, the bishop of Maxulita, said: "If your holiness wishes me to do so, I will make a suggestion. For I remember that it was laid down in previous councils that chrism, or the reconciliation of penitents, nor the consecration [= ordination] of women should be done by priests. But if it turns out that some (priest) has done this, what should be laid down about it? ”

Bishop Genethlius stated (to the assembly): "Your worthiness(es) have heard the suggestion of our brother and fellow bishop Numidius. What is your response to this?"

All bishops declared: "(1) The confection of chrism and the consecration of women should not be done by priests. (2) Also, reconciling a penitent in a public release (ceremony) may not be done by a priest."

All agreed to this.

Note: The consecration of women here seems to refer to the installation of ministering widows.

Of the different orders that should abstain from their wives.

CANON 4. FAUSTINUS, the bishop of the Potentine Church, in the province of Picenum, a legate of the Roman Church, said: It seems good that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon, or whoever perform the sacraments, should be keepers of modesty and should abstain from their wives.

By all the bishops it was said: It is right that all who serve the altar should keep pudicity from all women.

Concerning bishops and the lower orders who wait upon the most holy mysteries. It has seemed good that these abstain from their wives.

CANON 15. (Greek xxviii.) AURELIUS, the bishop, said: We add, most dear brethren, moreover, since we have heard of the incontinency of certain clerics, even of readers, towards their wives, it seemed good that what had been enacted in divers councils should be confirmed, to wit, that subdeacons who wait upon the holy mysteries, and deacons, and presbyters, as well as bishops according to former statutes, should contain from their wives, so that they should be as though they had them not and unless they so act, let them be removed from office. But the rest of the clergy are not to be compelled to this, unless they be of mature age.

And by the whole council it was said: What your holiness has said is just, holy, and pleasing to God, and we confirm it.

What clerics should abstain from their wives.

CANON 70. (Greek lxxiii.) MOREOVER since incontinence has been charged against some clergymen with regard to their own wives it has seemed good that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should according to the statutes already made, abstain even from their own wives; and unless they do so that they should be removed from the clerical office. But the rest of the clergy shall not be forced to this but the custom of each church in this matter shall be followed.

Of the prayers to be said at the Altar.

CANON 103. (Greek cvi.) THIS also seemed good, that the prayers which had been approved in synod should be used by all, whether prefaces, commendations, or laying on of the hand, and that others contrary to the faith should not be used by any means, but that those only should be said which had been collected by the learned.

That Virgins, even when minors, should be given the veil.

CANON 126. (Greek cxxvii.) ITEM, it seemed good that whatever bishop, by the necessity of the dangers of virginal purity, when either a powerful suitor or some ravisher is feared, or if she shall be pricked with some scruple of death that she might die unveiled, at the demand either of her parents or of those to whose care she has been entrusted, shall give the veil to a virgin, or shall have given it while she was under twenty-five years of age, the council which has appointed that number of years shall not oppose him.

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