St SIRICIUS 384-398

 

The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff *

[From the epistle (1) “Directa ad decessorem” to Himerius, Bishop of Terracina, Feb. 10, 385]

 

87 . . . To your inquiry we do not deny a legal reply, because we, upon whom greater zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent than upon the whole body, out of consideration for our office do not have the liberty to dissimulate, nor to remain silent. We carry the weight of all who are burdened; nay rather the blessed apostle PETER bears these in us, who, as we trust, protects us in all matters of his administration, and guards his heirs.

 

The Baptism of Heretics *

[From the same letter to Himerius]

 

88 (1, 1) And so on the first page of your letter you have indicated that very many baptized by the impious Arians are hastening to the Catholic faith and that certain of our brothers wish to baptize these same ones again. This is not allowed since the Apostle forbids it to be done [cf. Eph. 4:5; Heb. 6:4 ff. (?)] and the canons oppose it, and after the cessation of the Council of Ariminum general decrees * sent to the provinces by my predecessor LIBERIUS of venerable memory prohibit it. These together with the Novatians and other heretics we join to the company of the Catholics through the sole invocation of the sevenfold Spirit by the imposition of a bishop’s hands, just as it was determined in the Synod, which, too, the whole East and West observe. It is proper that you also do not deviate from this course henceforth, if you do not wish to be separated from our company by synodal decision .*

 

Christian Marriage *

[From the same epistle to Himerius]

 

88a (4, 5) But you have inquired concerning the marriage veil, whether one can receive in matrimony a girl betrothed to another. Let this not be done. We prohibit it in every way, because, if that blessing which the priest gives to the bride is violated by any transgression, it is like a kind of sacrilege among the faithful.

 

88* (5, 6) The relapses into passions tobe forgiven finally before death, see Kch. n. 657.

 

The Celibacy of the Clergy*

[From the same epistle to Himerius]

 

89 (7, 8 ff.) Let us come now to the most sacred orders of the clergy, which we find so abused and so disorderly throughout your provinces to the injury of venerable religion, that we ought to say in the words of Jeremias:Who will water to my head, or a fountain of tears to my eyes? and I will weep for this people day and night( Jer. 9:1). . . . For we have learned that very many priests and levites of Christ, after long periods of their consecration, have begotten offspring from their wives as well as by shameful intercourse, and that they defend their crime by this excuse, that in the Old Testament it is read that the faculty of procreating was given to the priests and the ministers.

 

Whoever that follower of sensual desires is let him tell me now: . . . Why does [the Lord] forewarn those to whom the holies of holies were to be entrusted saying: Be ye holy, because I your Lord God am holy [ Lev. 20:7;1 Pet. 1:16]? Why also were the priests ordered to dwell in the temple at a distance from their homes in the year of their turn? Evidently for this reason that they might not be able to practise carnal intercourse with their wives, so that shining with purity of conscience they might offer an acceptable gift to God. . . .

 

Therefore also the Lord Jesus, when He had enlightened us by His coming, testifies in the Gospel, that he came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it[ Matt. 5:17]. And so He has wished the beauty of the Church, whose spouse He is, to radiate with the splendor of chastity, so that on the day of judgment, when He will have come again, He may be able to find her without spot or wrinkle [Eph. 5:27] as He instituted her through His Apostle. All priests and levites are bound by the indissoluble law of these sanctions, so that from the day of our ordination, we give up both our hearts and our bodies to continence and chastity, provided only that through all things we may please our God in these sacrifices which we daily offer. “But those who are in the flesh,” as the vessel of election says, “cannot please God”[ Rom. 8:8 ].

 

But those, who contend with an excuse for the forbidden privilege, so as to assert that this has been granted to them by the Old Law, should know that by the authority of the Apostolic See they have been cast out of every ecclesiastical office, which they have used unworthily, nor can they ever touch the sacred mysteries, of which they themselves have deprived themselves so long as they give heed to impure desires. And because existing examples warn us to be on our guard for the future should any bishop, priest, or deacon be found such, which henceforth we do not want) let him now understand that every approach to indulgence is barred through us, because it is necessary that the wounds which are not susceptible to the healing of warm lotions be cut out with a knife.

 

The Ordinations of Monks *

[From the same epistle to Himerius]

 

90 (13) We both desire and will that monks also, whom however the austerity of their manners and the holy disposition of their lives and faith commend, be added to the offices of the clergy. . . [cf. n. 1580].

 

The Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary *

[From epistle (9) “Accepi litteras vestras” to Anysius, Bishop of Thessalonica, 392]

 

91 (3) Surely, we cannot deny that regarding the sons of Mary the statement is justly censured, and your holiness has rightly abhorred it, that from the same virginal womb, from which according to the flesh Christ was born, another offspring was brought forth. For neither would the Lord Jesus have chosen to be born of a virgin, if he had judged she would be so incontinent, that with the seed of human copulation she would pollute that generative chamber of the Lord’s body, that palace of the eternal King. For he who imputes this, imputes nothing other than the falsehood of the Jews, who say that he could not have been born of a virgin. For, if they accept this authority from the priests, that Mary seems to have brought forth many children, they strive to sweep away the truth of faith with greater zeal.