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Fourth Ecumenical Council

04 Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon 451ad

Emperors.--Marcian and Pulcheria (in the east).

  Valentinian III. (in the west).

  Pope.--Leo I.

Canon I.

  We have judged it right that the canons of the Holy Fathers made in
  every synod even until now, should remain in force.

Canon II.

  If any Bishop should ordain for money, and put to sale a grace which
  cannot be sold, and for money ordain a bishop, or chorepiscopus, or
  presbyters, or deacons, or any other of those who are counted among the
  clergy; or if through lust of gain he should nominate for money a
  steward, or advocate, or prosmonarius, or any one whatever who is on
  the roll of the Church, let him who is convicted of this forfeit his
  own rank; and let him who is ordained be nothing profited by the
  purchased ordination or promotion; but let him be removed from the
  dignity or charge he has obtained for money.  And if any one should be
  found negotiating such shameful and unlawful transactions, let him
  also, if he is a clergyman, be deposed from his rank, and if he is a
  layman or monk, let him be anathematized.

Canon III.

  It has come to [the knowledge of] the holy Synod that certain of those
  who are enrolled among the clergy have, through lust of gain, become
  hirers of other men's possessions, and make contracts pertaining to
  secular affairs, lightly esteeming the service of God, and slip into
  the houses of secular persons, whose property they undertake through
  covetousness to manage.  Wherefore the great and holy Synod decrees
  that henceforth no bishop, clergyman, nor monk shall hire possessions,
  or engage in business, or occupy himself in worldly engagements, unless
  he shall be called by the law to the guardianship of minors, from which
  there is no escape; or unless the bishop of the city shall commit to
  him the care of ecclesiastical business, or of unprovided orphans or
  widows and of persons who stand especially in need of the Church's
  help, through the fear of God.  And if any one shall hereafter
  transgress these decrees, he shall be subjected to ecclesiastical

Canon IV.

  Let those who truly and sincerely lead the monastic life be counted
  worthy of becoming honour; but, forasmuch as certain persons using the
  pretext of monasticism bring confusion both upon the churches and into
  political affairs by going about promiscuously in the cities, and at
  the same time seeking to establish Monasteries for themselves; it is
  decreed that no one anywhere build or found a monastery or oratory
  contrary to the will of the bishop of the city; and that the monks in
  every city and district shall be subject to the bishop, and embrace a
  quiet course of life, and give themselves only to fasting and prayer,
  remaining permanently in the places in which they were set apart; and
  they shall meddle neither in ecclesiastical nor in secular affairs, nor
  leave their own monasteries to take part in such; unless, indeed, they
  should at any time through urgent necessity be appointed thereto by the
  bishop of the city.  And no slave shall be received into any monastery
  to become a monk against the will of his master.  And if any one shall
  transgress this our judgment, we have decreed that he shall be
  excommunicated, that the name of God be not blasphemed.  But the bishop
  of the city must make the needful provision for the monasteries.

Canon V.

  Concerning bishops or clergymen who go about from city to city, it is
  decreed that the canons enacted by the Holy Fathers shall still retain
  their force.

Canon VI.

  Neither presbyter, deacon, nor any of the ecclesiastical order shall be
  ordained at large, nor unless the person ordained is particularly
  appointed to a church in a city or village, or to a martyry, or to a
  monastery.  And if any have been ordained without a charge, the holy
  Synod decrees, to the reproach of the ordainer, that such an ordination
  shall be inoperative, and that such shall nowhere be suffered to

Canon VII.

  We have decreed that those who have once been enrolled among the
  clergy, or have been made monks, shall accept neither a military charge
  nor any secular dignity; and if they shall presume to do so and not
  repent in such wise as to turn again to that which they had first
  chosen for the love of God, they shall be anathematized.

Canon VIII.

  Let the clergy of the poor-houses, monasteries, and martyries remain
  under the authority of the bishops in every city according to the
  tradition of the holy Fathers; and let no one arrogantly cast off the
  rule of his own bishop; and if any shall contravene this canon in any
  way whatever, and will not be subject to their own bishop, if they be
  clergy, let them be subjected to canonical censure, and if they be
  monks or laymen, let them be excommunicated.

Canon IX.

  If any Clergyman have a matter against another clergyman, he shall not
  forsake his bishop and run to secular courts; but let him first lay
  open the matter before his own Bishop, or let the matter be submitted
  to any person whom each of the parties may, with the Bishop's consent,
  select.  And if any one shall contravene these decrees, let him be
  subjected to canonical penalties.  And if a clergyman have a complaint
  against his own or any other bishop, let it be decided by the synod of
  the province.  And if a bishop or clergyman should have a difference
  with the metropolitan of the province, let him have recourse to the
  Exarch of the Diocese, or to the throne of the Imperial City of
  Constantinople, and there let it be tried.

Canon X.

  It shall not be lawful for a clergyman to be at the same time enrolled
  in the churches of two cities, that is, in the church in which he was
  at first ordained, and in another to which, because it is greater, he
  has removed from lust of empty honour.  And those who do so shall be
  returned to their own church in which they were originally ordained,
  and there only shall they minister.  But if any one has heretofore been
  removed from one church to another, he shall not intermeddle with the
  affairs of his former church, nor with the martyries, almshouses, and
  hostels belonging to it.  And if, after the decree of this great and
  ecumenical Synod, any shall dare to do any of these things now
  forbidden, the synod decrees that he shall be degraded from his rank.

Canon XI.

  We have decreed that the poor and those needing assistance shall
  travel, after examination, with letters merely pacifical from the
  church, and not with letters commendatory, inasmuch as letters
  commendatory ought to be given only to persons who are open to

Canon XII.

  It has come to our knowledge that certain persons, contrary to the laws
  of the Church, having had recourse to secular powers, have by means of
  imperial rescripts divided one Province into two, so that there are
  consequently two metropolitans in one province; therefore the holy
  Synod has decreed that for the future no such thing shall be attempted
  by a bishop, since he who shall undertake it shall be degraded from his
  rank.  But the cities which have already been honoured by means of
  imperial letters with the name of metropolis, and the bishops in charge
  of them, shall take the bare title, all metropolitan rights being
  preserved to the true Metropolis.

Canon XIII.

  Strange and unknown clergymen without letters commendatory from their
  own Bishop, are absolutely prohibited from officiating in another city.

Canon XIV.

  Since in certain provinces it is permitted to the readers and singers
  to marry, the holy Synod has decreed that it shall not be lawful for
  any of them to take a wife that is heterodox.  But those who have
  already begotten children of such a marriage, if they have already had
  their children baptized among the heretics, must bring them into the
  communion of the Catholic Church; but if they have not had them
  baptized, they may not hereafter baptize them among heretics, nor give
  them in marriage to a heretic, or a Jew, or a heathen, unless the
  person marrying the orthodox child shall promise to come over to the
  orthodox faith.  And if any one shall transgress this decree of the
  holy synod, let him be subjected to canonical censure.

Canon XV.

  A woman shall not receive the laying on of hands as a deaconess under
  forty years of age, and then only after searching examination.  And if,
  after she has had hands laid on her and has continued for a time to
  minister, she shall despise the grace of God and give herself in
  marriage, she shall be anathematized and the man united to her.

Canon XVI.

  It is not lawful for a virgin who has dedicated herself to the Lord
  God, nor for monks, to marry; and if they are found to have done this,
  let them be excommunicated.  But we decree that in every place the
  bishop shall have the power of indulgence towards them.

Canon XVII.

  Outlying or rural parishes shall in every province remain subject to
  the bishops who now have jurisdiction over them, particularly if the
  bishops have peaceably and continuously governed them for the space of
  thirty years.  But if within thirty years there has been, or is, any
  dispute concerning them, it is lawful for those who hold themselves
  aggrieved to bring their cause before the synod of the province.  And
  if any one be wronged by his metropolitan, let the matter be decided by
  the exarch of the diocese or by the throne of Constantinople, as
  aforesaid.  And if any city has been, or shall hereafter be newly
  erected by imperial authority, let the order of the ecclesiastical
  parishes follow the political and municipal example.

Canon XVIII.

  The crime of conspiracy or banding together is utterly prohibited even
  by the secular law, and much more ought it to be forbidden in the
  Church of God.  Therefore, if any, whether clergymen or monks, should
  be detected in conspiring or banding together, or hatching plots
  against their bishops or fellow-clergy, they shall by all means be
  deposed from their own rank.

Canon XIX.

  Whereas it has come to our ears that in the provinces the Canonical
  Synods of Bishops are not held, and that on this account many
  ecclesiastical matters which need reformation are neglected; therefore,
  according to the canons of the holy Fathers, the holy Synod decrees
  that the bishops of every province shall twice in the year assemble
  together where the bishop of the Metropolis shall approve, and shall
  then settle whatever matters may have arisen.  And bishops, who do not
  attend, but remain in their own cities, though they are in good health
  and free from any unavoidable and necessary business, shall receive a
  brotherly admonition.

Canon XX.

  It shall not be lawful, as we have already decreed, for clergymen
  officiating in one church to be appointed to the church of another
  city, but they shall cleave to that in which they were first thought
  worthy to minister; those, however, being excepted, who have been
  driven by necessity from their own country, and have therefore removed
  to another church.  And if, after this decree, any bishop shall receive
  a clergyman belonging to another bishop, it is decreed that both the
  received and the receiver shall be excommunicated until such time as
  the clergyman who has removed shall have returned to his own church.

Canon XXI.

  Clergymen and laymen bringing charges against bishops or clergymen are
  not to be received loosely and without examination, as accusers, but
  their own character shall first be investigated.

Canon XXII.

  It is not lawful for clergymen, after the death of their bishop, to
  seize what belongs to him, as has been forbidden also by the ancient
  canons; and those who do so shall be in danger of degradation from
  their own rank.

Canon XXIII.

  It has come to the hearing of the holy Synod that certain clergymen and
  monks, having no authority from their own bishop, and sometimes,
  indeed, while under sentence of excommunication by him, betake
  themselves to the imperial Constantinople, and remain there for a long
  time, raising disturbances and troubling the ecclesiastical state, and
  turning men's houses upside down.  Therefore the holy Synod has
  determined that such persons be first notified by the Advocate of the
  most holy Church of Constantinople to depart from the imperial city;
  and if they shall shamelessly continue in the same practices, that they
  shall be expelled by the same Advocate even against their will, and
  return to their own places.

Canon XXIV.

  Monasteries, which have once been consecrated with the consent of the
  bishop, shall remain monasteries for ever, and the property belonging
  to them shall be preserved, and they shall never again become secular
  dwellings.  And they who shall permit this to be done shall be liable
  to ecclesiastical penalties.

Canon XXV.

  Forasmuch as certain of the metropolitans, as we have heard, neglect
  the flocks committed to them, and delay the ordinations of bishops the
  holy Synod has decided that the ordinations of bishops shall take place
  within three months, unless an inevitable necessity should some time
  require the term of delay to be prolonged.  And if he shall not do
  this, he shall be liable to ecclesiastical penalties, and the income of
  the widowed church shall be kept safe by the steward of the same

Canon XXVI.

  Forasmuch as we have heard that in certain churches the bishops managed
  the church-business without stewards, it has seemed good that every
  church having a bishop shall have also a steward from among its own
  clergy, who shall manage the church business under the sanction of his
  own bishop; that so the administration of the church may not be without
  a witness; and that thus the goods of the church may not be squandered,
  nor reproach be brought upon the priesthood; and if he [i.e., the
  Bishop] will not do this, he shall be subjected to the divine canons.

Canon XXVII.

  The holy Synod has decreed that those who forcibly carry off women
  under pretence of marriage, and the aiders or abettors of such
  ravishers, shall be degraded if clergymen, and if laymen be


  Following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and
  acknowledging the canon, which has been just read, of the One Hundred
  and Fifty Bishops beloved-of-God (who assembled in the imperial city of
  Constantinople, which is New Rome, in the time of the Emperor
  Theodosius of happy memory), we also do enact and decree the same
  things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of
  Constantinople, which is New Rome.  For the Fathers rightly granted
  privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city.
  And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the
  same consideration, gave equal privileges (isa presbeia) to the most
  holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured
  with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with
  the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be
  magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that, in the Pontic,
  the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such
  bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians,
  should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy
  Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses,
  together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial
  bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has
  been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be
  ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper
  elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to

Canon XXIX.

  It is sacrilege to degrade a bishop to the rank of a presbyter; but, if
  they are for just cause removed from episcopal functions, neither ought
  they to have the position of a Presbyter; and if they have been
  displaced without any charge, they shall be restored to their episcopal

  And Anatolius, the most reverend Archbishop of Constantinople, said:
  If those who are alleged to have been removed from the episcopal
  dignity to the order of presbyter, have indeed been condemned for any
  sufficient causes, clearly they are not worthy of the honour of a
  presbyter.  But if they have been forced down into the lower rank
  without just cause, they are worthy, if they appear guiltless, to
  receive again both the dignity and priesthood of the Episcopate.

  And all the most reverend Bishops cried out:

  The judgment of the Fathers is right.  We all say the same.  The
  Fathers have righteously decided.  Let the sentence of the Archbishops

  And the most magnificent and glorious judges said:

  Let the pleasure of the Holy Synod be established for all time.

Canon XXX.

  Since the most religious bishops of Egypt have postponed for the
  present their subscription to the letter of the most holy Archbishop
  Leo, not because they oppose the Catholic Faith, but because they
  declare that it is the custom in the Egyptian diocese to do no such
  thing without the consent and order of their Archbishop, and ask to be
  excused until the ordination of the new bishop of the metropolis of
  Alexandria, it has seemed to us reasonable and kind that this
  concession should be made to them, they remaining in their official
  habit in the imperial city until the Archbishop of the Metropolis of
  Alexandria shall have been ordained.

  And the most religious Bishop Paschasinus, representative of the
  Apostolic throne for Rome [298] ], said:

  If your authority suggests and commands that any indulgence be shewn to
  them, let them give securities that they will not depart from this city
  until the city of Alexandria receives a Bishop.

  And the most magnificent and glorious judges, and the whole Senate,

  Let the sentence of the most holy Paschasinus be confirmed.

  And therefore let them [i.e., the most religious Bishops of the
  Egyptians] remain in their official habit, either giving securities, if
  they can, or being bound by the obligation of an oath.

(Gleaned from: