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Title: Studies in the Sardican Canons
Author: Hess, Hamilton
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1955
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The Canons framed by the Council of Sardica in 343 have their historical background in the conflict between the Arian and the Nicene parties subsequent to the deposition of Eustathius of Antioch in about 328. Soon after the Council of Nicaea the controversy which had arisen from the teachings of the presbyter Arius of Alexandria was extended from a primarily doctrinal issue to include the divers factors of personal animosity, imperial politics and regional loyalty. For the Christian Church the fourth century was an age of organizational development and constitutional transition, and it was unfortunately beyond her capability to deal effectively with the abuses of jurisdiction and order to which these factors led. Although the Council of Sardica failed in its purpose to settle the personal and doctrinal differences between the Nicene and Arian parties, the Orthodox delegation issued what was at the same time a formal protest against injustice and a common agreement upon certain corrective principles. This declaration which is embodied in the Sardican Canons, while closely related to the legislation of previous councils, is unusual in two respects: one with regard to its singleness of purpose and the other with regard to its form and manner of publication. The concentration of the Sardican Canons upon jurisdictional problems affecting the episcopate and their transcendence of local or temporary limitations is unparalleled in any other series of conciliar legislation from the same period. Indeed, the legislative acts of the Sardican Synod are essentially an attempt to provide a constitutional framework for the episcopate. Thus, canons 1 and 2 condemn unauthorized and ambitious translations for personal or party gain, and canons 3a, 14 and 15 forbid visits by one bishop to the city of another in order to prevent situations from arising which might lead to this abuse. The latter two and canon 21, however, allow certain reasons for which visits may be made and specify their permissible length of duration. Canons 16, 18 and 19 are designed to preserve the integrity of the bishop's jurisdiction over his own clergy. Canon 5 provides for the consecration of bishops in a province which has been left shepherdless; canon 6 directs that bishops shall not be appointed for churches too small to be needful of them; and canon 13 forbids the hasty ordination of candidates for the episcopate, presbyterate or diaconate whose worthiness has not been proven. Canons 3c, 4, and 7 grant to a bishop deposed from his office the right to appeal his case to the Roman bishop who, if such appeal is made, shall appoint judges for a court of review and if he so chooses be personally represented by his presbyters. Canon 17 grants a similar right of appeal to presbyters and deacons. Finally, canons 8-12 restrict the causes of petitions which bishops may make to the imperial court, and define the way in which lawful petitions may be made. It may be acknowledged that the judgement of the bishops at Sardica was not impartial, and that their own motives and methods were not above reproach. It is, however, made evident from the Encyclical and other letters of the synod, and by the earlier letter of Pope Julius to the leaders of the Arian faction, that these acts of the Sardican Synod were primarily occasioned by the policy and actions of the Eusebian party in its endeavour to gain control of the important sees of the East through translations, depositions, and the exploitation of imperial favour.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Council of Serdica (343) ; Bishops (Canon law)