Canons of the Council of Nicea

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Canons of the Council of Nicea

The Captions of the Arabic Canons Attributed to the Council of Nicea (325 AD)

Translation from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. XIV. For a complete electronic copy, visit the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, the New Advent Library. Italics in the text by John Wijngaards.

The cohabitation of women with bishops, presbyters, and deacons prohibited on account of their celibacy.

Canon IV. “We decree that bishops shall not live with women; nor shall a presbyter who is a widower; neither shall they escort them; nor be familiar with them, nor gaze upon them persistently. And the same decree is made with regard to every celibate priest, and the sameconcerning such deacons as have no wives.And this is to be the case whether the woman be beautiful or ugly, whether a young girl or beyond the age of puberty, whether great inbirth, or an orphan taken out of charity under pretext of bringing her up. For the devil with such arms slays religious, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and incites them to the fires of desire. But if she be an old woman, and of advanced age, or a sister, or mother, or aunt, or grandmother, it is permitted to live with these because such persons are free from all suspicion of scandal.

Deaconesses who convert from heresy

Canon XIX. “With regard to Paulianists who take refuge in the Catholic Church, it has been decided that they definitely need to be [re]baptized. If, however, some of them have previously functioned as priests, if they seem to be immaculate and irreprehensible, they need to be baptized and ordained by a bishop of the Catholic Church. In this way one must also deal with the deaconesses or with anyone in an ecclesiastical office. With regard to the deaconesses who hold this position we remind [church leaders] that they possess no ordination [=cheirotonia], but are to be reckoned among the laity in every respect.

Note. It is clear that this is no general statement about the ordination of women deacons. It refers to the followers of Paul of Samosata, a heresy with which the First Council of Niceae had to deal.

Of sponsors in baptism.

Canon XXII. “Men shall not hold females at the font, neither women males; but women females, and men males.”

Of being just towards one's first wife

Of taking a second wife, after the former one has been disowned for any cause, or even not put away, and of him who falsely accuses his wife of adultery.

Canon LXVI. “If any priest or deacon shall put away his wife on account of her fornication, or for other cause, as aforesaid, or cast her out of doors for external good, or that he may change her for another more beautiful, or better, or richer, or does so out of his lust which is displeasing to God; and after she has been put away for any of these causes he shall contract matrimony with another, or without having put her away shall take another, whether free or bond; and shall have both equally, they living separately and he sleeping every night with one or other of them, or else keeping both in the same house and bed, let him be deposed. If he were a layman let him be deprived of communion. But if anyone falsely defames his wife charging her with adultery, so that he turns her out of doors, the matter must be diligently examined; and if the accusation was false, he shall be deposed if a cleric, but if a layman shall be prohibited from entering the church and from the communion of the faithful; and shall be compelled to live with her whom he has defamed, even though she be deformed, and poor, and insane; andwhoever shall not obey is excommunicated by the Synod.”

Equal justice for man and woman at divorce

Canon LXVI, cont. “Whatever presbyter or deacon shall put away his wife without the offence of fornication, or for any other cause of which we have spoken above, and shall cast her out of doors . . . such a person shall be cast out of the clergy, if he were a clergyman; if a layman he shall be forbidden the communion of the faithful.. . . But if that woman [untruly charged by her husband with adultery], that is to say his wife, spurns his society on account of the injury he has done her and the charge he has brought against her, of which she is innocent, let her freely be put away and let a bill of repudiation be written for her, noting the false accusation which had been brought against her. And then if she should wish to marry some other faithful man, it is right for her to do so, nor does the Church forbid it; and the same permission extends as well to men as to women, since there is equal reason for it for each. But if he shall return to better fruit which is of thesame kind, and shall conciliate to himself the love and benevolence of his consort, and shall be willing to return to his pristine friendship, his fault shall be condoned to him after he has done suitable and sufficient penance.And whoever shall speak against this decree the fathers of the synod excommunicate him.”

On nuns, widows and deaconesses

Canon LXXIV. “How sisters, widows, and deaconesses should be made to keep their residence in their monasteries; and of the system of instructing them; and of the election of deaconesses, and of their duties and utility.”



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This website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Please, support our campaign
for women priests

Visit our two new websites:

Natural Law and Conscience

and

Catholics and Contraception

Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
Email:
Name:
Surname:
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An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.