ACTS AND CANONS, CONCILIAR

I. Origins and propagation – II. Authority of canons. The Latin term canon, borrowed from Greek, originally had many meanings, leading up to its later meaning of law, norm, rule of appraisal or behavior. From the 4th c. it was increasingly used to mean conciliar decisions. The term was also used for papal decretals and no,moi, imperial edicts on church affairs. I. Origins and propagation. The African councils”the most technically elaborate of Christian antiquity, esp. those called by Aurelius of Carthage 391 428”allow us to observe the formation and diffusion of canons. This process must have been more or less the same for the councils of the other provinces during the same period: 1 first, the president proposed, always in the first person, to the assembly for their approval the measures that seemed called for by the circumstances, his own as well as those suggested by the Fathers. In this way two fundamental principles of conciliar assemblies were respected: a hierarchy of participants and unanimity of decisions. With time, the rigorous protocol of these procedures seems to have gradually diminished, to the point where the president no longer considered the suggestions of the Fathers, after correcting and improving them, but directly solicited the council’s approval; still later he set aside even the report and sometimes, assuming unanimous agreement, replied in the first person in the name of all. These minimal changes that occurred over time demonstrate the vitality and spontaneity of the conciliar assemblies, where pastoral care mattered more than legal formality, without, however, ever descending into anarchy. 2 The canonical norm thus voted had to be made known to those it concerned, specifically to all the bishops of the relevant regions, so that they could apply it in their respective churches. The African councils clearly say that the oral tradition played an important role in this Breviarium Hipponense, ch. 2: Ut ordinatis episcopis vel clericis prius placita concilii conculcentur ab ordinatoribus eorum concerning the ordination of bishops or clerics, the agreement of the councils should be consulted first in connection with their ordinations . This was the practice in Africa until the 6th c., exemplified by the local custom of reading, at the start of each council, large extracts from the decisions of previous councils. Normally too, provincial delegates legati per turmam returning to their sees took with them a brief account of the conciliar acts, which the primate had to then make known to the local bishops. We do not have the acts of the earliest councils; from some councils we have this or that decision, from others, some canons. From the 5th c. we also have the record of the interventions of some councils. Conciliar records to a certain extent can be considered the work of individual editors, usually someone close to the president. II. Authority of canons. Conciliar decisions, evidently, were binding on bishops taking part in or represented at the assembly. Their signature to the acts represented their pledge see Council of Carthage of 345, in fine; from that moment any breaches were liable to punishment. The African councils threatened excommunication to those who broke their laws; the Arles synodal letter 314 directs everyone to observe its decisions; the councils of Gangra and Laodicea threaten with excommunication those who do not observe the canons. Despite the absence of a well-delineated theory of representation, the principle of ecclesiastical authority was well observed. From this period also dates a certain solution to the problem of canons disagreeing among themselves, in both doctrinal and disciplinary matters. St. Augustine proposed to apply two criteria: 1 a hierarchy of councils”a general council takes precedence over a local one; and 2 time”a more recent decision can annul an earlier one Bapt. 2, 4,5 and 2, 3,4. For its part, the papacy based the authority of a council on its communion with the see of Rome Gelasius, Ep. 26, 2 and 6. In actual fact, the authority of canons depended on their reception on the part of the Christian communities themselves and their inclusion in canonical collections.
The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553 Liverpool … holidaymapq


ACTS AND CANONS, CONCILIAR

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