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2. Disqualifications and qualifications for Ordination

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER VIII. Of Ordination

2. Disqualifications and qualifications for Ordination

The strictest precaution was exercised by the church to guard against the introduction of unworthy or unsuitable persons into the ministry. Several classes of persons were accordingly excluded from ordination, such as the following.

  1. Women. This rule was in conformity with the apostolical precept, 1 Cor. 14:34, 35, 1 Tim. 2:11 seq. The appointment of deaconesses was no exception to this rule. They were not appointed to bear rule, or to teach, but to perform certain offices which, from a due sense of decency and propriety were restricted to their own sex.* They were ordained with the usual formalities in the early periods of the church, but the custom was afterwards discontinued. 
  2. Catechumens. To this rule there were a few exceptions as in the case of Ambrose, Nectarius, etc., but in general it was observed with great strictness.
  3. Neophytes, novices; men who were deficient in age, or knowledge, or christian experience, 1 Tim. 3:6.
  4. Energumens; including all who were subject to severe mental or bodily infirmities.
  5. Penitents; all who for any offence had fallen under the censure of the church, even though they had been fully restored to the privileges of its fellowship and communion.
  6. Apostates. All who lived a vicious life after baptism. Offences committed previously were not alleged as a disqualification. 
  7. All who were devoted to theatrical pursuits, or any occupations which disqualified them from receiving baptism. 
  8. Slaves, and freedmen who were still under some obligation to their former masters. This restriction was made not by reason of their humble condition, but because such persons could not be supposed to act with the freedom and independence which became the ministerial office.
  9. Soldiers and military men of every description / for reasons substantially the same as those which are mentioned in the preceding article.
  10. Lawyers and civilians. Men bearing civil offices, or in anyway entangled with the affairs of state, were incapacitated for the sacred office.
    Cavendum ab his est (says Innocent I.), propter tribulationem quod saepe de his ecclesiae provenit. The power of Rome at times overruled this regulation, but the church uniformly sought to separate herself wholly from all connection with the state. 
  11. All who were maimed, especially eunuchs. Non injirmitatem (says Ambrose), sed firmitatem; non victos, sed victores, postulat ecclesia. To this rule there were exceptions.
  12. Persons who had contracted a second marriage. This rule is based on an erroneous interpretation of 1 Tim. 3:2, and Tit. 1:6. To these views of the church may be traced the ancient sentiments respecting the celibacy of the clergy, which prevailed as early as the fourth century, and in the twelfth required of them the vow of celibacy in the Roman Catholic church.
  13. Those who had received baptism upon their beds in extreme sickness, or under any urgent necessity when they might be suspected of having acted not voluntarily, but by constraint. 
  14. They who had been baptized by heretics. An exception, however, was made in favor of the Novatians and Donatists.
  15. Persons who had been guilty of simoniacal conduct, i.e. of using bribery or any unfair means of obtaining ordination. This species of iniquity, the buying and selling of appointments to spiritual offices, and the obtaining of them by any unfair and dishonorable means, was severely censured by the church. The penalty was deposition from office, both on the part of him who was invested with holy orders, and of those who had assisted in his ordination. The laws of Justinian also required the candidate elect to make oath that he had neither given nor promised, nor would hereafter give, any reward directly or indirectly as a remuneration for aiding in his appointment. 

The exceptions above mentioned are comprised in the following lines:

  • Aleo; senator; miles; caupo; aulicns; erro
  • Mercator; lanius; pincerna: tabellio; tutor,
  • Curator; sponsor; conductor; conciliator; pronexeta
  • Patronus causae; procurator ve forensis;
  • In causa judex civili; vel capital),
  • Clericus esse nequit, nisi Canones transgrediantur.

Besides the foregoing negative rules, there were others of a positive character prescribing the requisite qualifications for ordinations.

  1. The candidate was required to he of a certain age. The rules by which this canonical age was determined were undoubtedly derived from the Jewish rituals. The deacons were required to be of equal age with the levites – twenty-five years. The canonical age of presbyters and bishops was the same as that of the priests of the Jews – thirty years. The Apostolical Constitutions prescribe fifty years as the canonical age of a bishop. This was afterwards reduced to thirty. In some instances, persons may have been introduced into the ministry at an age still earlier. Both Siricius and Zosimus required thirty years for a deacon, thirty-five for a presbyter, and forty-five for a bishop. 

    The age at which our Lord entered upon his ministry is frequently alleged as a reason for requiring the same age in a presbyter and bishop. That was usually the lowest canonical age. Children were sometimes appointed readers. The age of subdeacons, acolyths, and other inferior officers, was established at different times, at fifteen, eighteen, twenty, and twenty-five years.

  2. They were subject to a strict examination previous to ordination. This examination related to their faith, their morals, and their worldly condition. They were especially subjected to the severest scrutiny in regard to the first particular. It was the duty of the bishop and subordinate officers of the clergy to conduct, for the most part, the examination; but it was held in public, and the people also took a part in it. No one would be duly ordained without the concurrence of the people in this examination, and the united approbation both of them and the bishop. Cyprian also insists upon the concurrence of the people in the selection of a pastor, and offers as a reason, the consideration that they were more familiarly acquainted with the life and conversation of the candidate. The names of the candidates were published, in order that they might be subjected to a severer canvass by the people. By a law of Justinian, the candidate was required to give a written statement of his religious faith, in his own handwriting, and to take a solemn oath against simony. 

    The extracts in the margin show how carefully the church observed the apostolic injunction to lay hands suddenly on no man. 

  3. No person could regularly he appointed to the higher offices of the church without having passed through the subordinate grades. To this rule there were frequent exceptions, but the principle was strenuously maintained, in order that no one should assume the ministerial office until he had, in this way, become practically familiar with the whole system of ecclesiastical discipline and polity. 
  4. Every one was to he ordained to some special charge. This was supposed to be the apostolical rule. Acts 14:33, Tit. 1:5, 1 Pet. 5:2. Exceptions sometimes occurred, though very rarely, and always against the decided sentiments of the church. Non-resident clergy who are in this way removed from the watch and discipline of the church, receive no favor from the ancient canons, and early ecclesiastical writers.*
  5. Every minister was required to remain in the diocese over which he was ordained; and no one could, at the same time, be invested with more than one office. Plurality of livings were unknown to the ancient church.
  6. A clerical tonsure was made requisite about the 5th or 6th century. No mention is made of it before the fourth, and it is first spoken of with decided disapprobation. 

Constitut. Apost. lib. iii.c. 9: Tertul. De Praescript haer. De Bapt. c. 17: Epiphan. Haer. 79. n. 4. 69. n. 2.

Constit. Apost. lib. viii. c. 19: Cone. Chalcedon. c. 15: Trullan. c. 14, 40: Sozomen, li.e. lil). viii. c. 9.

Cone. Araus. c.26: Epaon. c. 21: Aurel. Ii.e. 18.

Canon Apost. c. 61: Cone. Neoeaesar. c. 8, 9: Nieen. c. 2: Illiberit. c. 30: Origen Contr. Cels. lib. iii. p. 142.

Cone. Ancyr. c. 11.

Ep. xxiii. c. 6. conip. Ep. iv. c. 3. ii. c. 2: Thomassin, part ii. lib. c. 66: Ambros. Ep. 29: Codex Theodos. lib. xii. tit. i.

CoBcil. Neocaesar. c. 12.

Innoeent I. Ep. xxii. c. 4: Cone. Ilüberit. c. 51: Cone. Nieen. e. 8: Cod. Canon. Afiic. c. 48. al.47: 58. al. 57.
(No tag #8 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

Novel. 123. c. 1: 137. c. 2: Canon Apost. c. 25: Theodoret, h. e. lib. i. c. 4: Cone. Chalcedon, e. 2: Binghatn, book iv. c. 3. sec. xiv: Sehrokh's chr. kirchengesch. Th. 32. S. 580.

Euseb. h. e. lib. vi. c. 30: Ambros. Ep. 60: Theodoret, h. e, lib. ii. c. 26: Socrat. h. e. lib. ii.e. 5: Hemniari, Rheim. Vit. Remig.

Ep. 30: Slricius, Ep. 30:

Cone. Neocaesar. e. 11: Agath. c. 17: Tolet. iv. c. 19: Arelat. iv. c. 1.

Basil M. Ep. 54: Cone. Nie. c. 2, 6, 10: Cone. Ilüberit. c. 76: Neo-caesar. c. 9: Ep. 68. al. 67. comp. Ep. 24: Cave, Prim. Christ, p. 253 seq.: Martene, De Antiq. vit. part ii. p. 295.

Lampridius, vit. Alex. Sever, e.45.

Nov. Constit. 137. e. 2.

Cone. Braear. ii.e. 20.

Ut ex laico ad gradum sacerdotii ante nemo veniat, nisi prius in officio lectorati vel subdiaconati disciplinam ecclesiasticam discat, et sic per singulos gradus ad sacerdotium veniat. Cone. Braear. 2, A. D. 563, c. 20. Varia habendu est ordinatio quae, nee loco fundata est nee auctoritate munita. Leo. M. Ep. 32 ad Rustic, c. 1.

Paulinus, Ep. 4. ad Sever.: Sozomen, h. e. lib. vi.e. 34: Theodoret. hist, vel' c. 3: Jerom, Ep. 61. ad Pamraach: Ep. 110: Schrbckh's K. Gesch. Th. ii. S. 36: Binterini Denkwiirdigk. der Kathol. Kirche. I. book ii. Th. S. 378–386.
(No tag #18 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

Optat. Milev. De Schism. Donat. lib. ii. c. 22: Hieron. Ezech. c. 44.

*Cone. Laodic. can. 3. Conveniens non est, nee ratio, nee disciplina patitur, ut temere vel leviter ordinetur, ant Episcopus, aut Presbyter, aut Diaconus, qui Neophytus est. . . . Sed hi, quorum per longum tenipurs examinata sit vita, et merita fuerint comprobata. Cone. Sardic. c. 10; Conf. Gregor. M. Epist. lib. iv. ep. 50; lib. vii, ep. 3; Justin. Nov.6,c. 1; Nov. 137, c. 1; Cone. Paris. A. D. 829, can 5.

Puto nee majestati divinae (says Cyprian), nec evangelicae disciplinae congruere, ut pudor et honor eeclesiae tam turpe et infami contagione foedetur.

Nullus clericus ordineter non jnobatvs vd episcoporum examine, vel populi testimonio. Cone. Carthage, III. c. 2:2.

Qui episcopus ordinatus est, antea examinetur: si natura sit prudens, si docilis, si moribus temporatus, si vita castus, si sobrius, si semper suis negotiis vacafts, [al. caveus], si humilis, si affabilis, si misericors, si literatus, si in lege Domini instructus, si in Scripturarum sensibus caulus, si in dogmatibus ecclesiasticis exercitatus, et ante omnia, si tidei documenta verbis simplicibus afFerat [asserat]. Quaerendumetiam ab eo; si novi vel veleris Testamenti, id est legis et prophetarum et apostolorum, unum eundemque credat auctorem et Deum; si Diabolus non per conditionem sed per arbitrium factus sit mains. Cone. Carth. iv. c. 1. – Quando episcopus ordinationes lacere disponit, omnes, qui ad sacrum ministerium accedere volunt,feria quarta ante ipsam ordinationem evocandisunt ad civitatem, unacum archipresbyteris, qui eos repraesentare debent. Et tunc episcopus a latere suo eligere debet sacerdotes et alios prudentes viros, gnaros divinae legis, exercitatos in ecclesiasticis sanctionibus, qui ordinandorum vitam, genus, patriam, aetatem, institutionem, locum ubi educati sunt, si sint bene literati, si instructi in lege Domini, diligenter investigent, ante omnia si fidem catholicam firmiter teneant, et verbis simplicibus asserere queant. Ipsi autem, quibus hoc committitur, cavere debent, ne aut favoris gratia, aut cujuscunque muneris cupiditate illecti a vero devient, et indignum et minus idoneum ad sacros gradus suscipiendos episcopi manibus applicent. Cone. Nannetense, A. D. 658. can. 11. Presbyterum ordinari non debet ante legitimum tempus, hoc est, ante xxx aetatis annum; sed priusquam ad presbyteratus consecrationera accedat, maneat in episcopio discendi gratia officium suum tam diu, donee possint et mores et actus ejus animadverti; et tunc, si dignus fuerit, ad sacerdotium promoveatur. Conc. Turon. 3, A. D. 813, c. 12.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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