Favor Shown The Church By Consta
Neither on his conversion nor on his attainment of the sole rule of the
Empire did Constantine establish the Church as the one official religion
of the State. The ruler himself professed the Christian religion and
neither abolished the former religion of the State nor disestablished it.
But he granted to his own religion favors similar to those enjoyed by the
heathen religious systems (a-d), though these privileges were only for
the Catholic Church, and not for heretics (e); and he passed such laws
as would make it possible for Christians to carry out their religious
practices, e.g., that Christians should not be compelled to sacrifice
when the laws prescribed sacrifices (f), that Sunday be observed (g),
and that celibacy might be practised (h).
Additional source material: Eusebius, Vita Constantini (PNF,
ser. II, vol. I), II, 24-42. 46; IV, 18-28. Sozomen, Hist. Ec.
(PNF, ser. II, vol. II), I, 9.
(a) Constantine, Ep. ad Caecilianum, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., X, 6.
The probable date of this epistle is A. D. 313, though there is
uncertainty. Text in Kirch, nn. 323 f.
Constantine Augustus to Caecilianus, Bishop of Carthage. Since it is our
pleasure that something should be granted in all the provinces, namely,
Africa and Numidia and Mauritania, to certain ministers of the legitimate
and most holy Catholic religion, to defray their expenses, I have given
written instructions to Ursus, the illustrious finance minister of Africa,
and have directed him to make provision to pay to thy firmness three
thousand folles.(95) Do thou, therefore, when thou hast received the above
sum of money, command that it be distributed among all those mentioned
above, according to the brief sent unto thee by Hosius. But if thou
shouldest find that anything is wanting for the fulfilment of this my
purpose in regard to all of them, thou shalt demand without hesitation
from Heracleides, our treasurer, whatever thou findest to be necessary.
For I commanded him, when he was present, that if thy firmness should ask
him for any money, he should see to it that it be paid without any delay.
And since I have learned that some men of unsettled mind wish to turn the
people from the most holy and Catholic Church by a certain method of
shameful corruption, do thou know that I gave command to Anulinus, the
proconsul, and also to Patricius, vicar of the prefects, when they were
present, that they should give proper attention not only to other matters,
but also, above all, to this, and that they should not overlook such a
thing when it happened. Wherefore if thou shouldest see any such men
continuing in this madness, do thou without delay go to the
above-mentioned judges and report the matter to them; that they may
correct them as I commanded them when they were present. The divinity of
the great God preserve thee many years.
(b) Constantine, Ep. ad Anulinum, in Eusebius, Hist. Ec., X, 7.
The following epistle, of the same year as the preceding to
Caecilianus, is the basis of exemptions of the clergy from public
duties. The extension of these exemptions was made by the decree
of 319, given below. Text in Kirch, n. 325.
Greeting to thee, our most esteemed Anulinus. Since it appears from many
circumstances that when that religion is despised in which is preserved
the chief reverence for the most celestial Power, great dangers are
brought upon public affairs; but that when legally adopted and observed it
affords most signal prosperity to the Roman name and remarkable felicity
to all the affairs of men, through the divine beneficence, it seemed good
to me, most esteemed Anulinus, that those men who give their services with
due sanctity and with constant observance of this law to the worship of
the divine religion should receive recompense for their labors. Wherefore
it is my will that those within the province intrusted to thee, in the
Catholic Church over which Caecilianus presides, who give their services to
this holy religion, and who are commonly called clergymen, be entirely
exempted from all public duties, that by any error or sacrilegious
negligence they may not be drawn away from the service due to the Deity,
but may devote themselves without any hindrance to their own law. For it
seems that when they show greatest reverence to the Deity the greatest
benefits accrue to the State. Farewell, our most esteemed and beloved
(c) Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 2, 2; A. D. 319.
By the following law the exemption of the clergy from public
burdens was made universal. As many availed themselves of the
clerical immunities to escape their burdens as curiales, a law was
soon afterward passed limiting access to the ministry to those in
humbler social position. V. supra, § 58 f.
Those who in divine worship perform the services of religion--that is,
those who are called clergy--are altogether exempt from public obligations,
so that they may not be called away from their sacred duties by the
sacrilegious malice of certain persons.
(d) Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 2, 4; A. D. 321.
The Church is hereby permitted to receive legacies. This was a
recognition of its corporate character in the law, and indirectly
its act of incorporation.
Every one has permission to leave when he is dying whatsoever goods he
wishes to the most holy Catholic Church.
(e) Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 5, 1; A. D. 326.
Privileges were granted only to the clergy of the Catholic or
great Church as distinguished from heretics and schismatics. The
State was, accordingly, forced by its exemptions and privileges
granted the Church to take up a position as to heresy and schism.
See for Constantine's policy toward heresy, Eusebius, Vita
Constantini, III. 64 ff. (PNF, ser. II, vol. I.)
Privileges which have been bestowed in consideration of religion ought to
be of advantage only to those who observe the Catholic law. It is our will
that heathen and schismatics be not only without the privileges but bound
by, and subject to, various political burdens.
(f) Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 2, 5; A. D. 323.
This and the following laws were passed to enable the Christians
to escape from disadvantages in the carrying out of their
religion. This law, that Christians should not be compelled to
sacrifice, was enacted just before the final encounter with
Because we have heard that ecclesiastics and others belonging to the
Catholic religion are compelled by men of different religions to celebrate
the sacrifices of the lustrum, we, by this decree, do ordain that if any
one believes that those who observe the most sacred law ought to be
compelled to take part in the rites of a strange superstition, let him, if
his condition permits, be beaten with staves, but if his rank exempts him
from such rigor, let him endure the condemnation of a very heavy fine,
which shall fall to the State.
(g) Codex Justinianus; III, 12, 3; A. D. 321. Cf. Kirch, n. 748.
Sunday is to be observed.
For the Justinian Code see below, § 94, Introduction.
All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable
Day of the Sun. Country people, however, may freely attend to the
cultivation of the fields, because it frequently happens that no other
days are better adapted for planting the grain in the furrows or the vines
in trenches. So that the advantage given by heavenly providence may not
for the occasion of a short time perish.
(h) Codex Theodosianus. VIII, 16, 1. Cf. Kirch, n. 750.
Celibacy was favored by the Church. By the Lex Julia et Papia
Poppea it had been forbidden under a fine and loss of rights
under wills. Childless marriages also rendered the parties liable
Those who are held as celibates by the ancient law are freed from the
threatened terrors of the laws, and let them so live as if by the compact
of marriage they were among the number of married men, and let all have an
equal standing as to taking what each one deserves. Neither let any one be
held childless; and let them not suffer the penalties set for this. The
same thing we hold regarding women, and freely to all we loose from their
necks the commands which the law placed upon them as a certain yoke. But
there is no application of this benefit to husbands and wives as regards
each other, whose deceitful wiles are often scarcely restrained by the
appointed rigor of the law, but let the pristine authority of the law
continue between such persons.
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