Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 132
The Council of Carthage (North Africa, AD 390) requires all bishops, presbyters and deacons to maintain chastity.
Canon 2
Vt castitas a leuitis et sacerdotibus custodiatur.
Epigonius episcopus Bullensium Regionum dixit: cum praeterito concilio de continentia et castitate tractaretur, gradus isti tres qui constrictione quadam castitatis per consecrationem annexi sunt, episcopus inquam, presbyter et diaconus, tractatu pleniori, ut pudicitiam custodiant, doceantur.
Geneclius episcopus dixit: ut superius dictum est, decet sacros antistites ac dei sacerdotes necnon et leuitas uel qui sacramentis diuinis inseruiunt, continentes esse in omnibus, quo possint simpliciter quod a domino postulant impetrare, ut quod apostoli docuerunt et ipsa seruauit antiquitas nos quoque custodiamus.
Ab uniuersis episcopis dictum est: omnibus placet ut episcopus, presbyter et diaconus, pudicitiae custodes, etiam ab uxoribus se abstineant ut in omnibus et ab omnibus pudicitia custodiatur qui altario inseruiunt.
(ed. Munier 1974: 12-13)
Canon 2
Let levites and priests maintain chastity.
Epigonius, bishop of Bulla Regia, said: since the previous council was dealing with continence and chastity, these three grades which are certainly joined by the consecration with the obligation of chastity, namely bishop, presbyter and deacon, should be more thoroughly instructed to maintain modesty.
Bishop  Geneclius said: as it has been said before, holy pontiffs and the priests of God and levites and those who serve the divine mysteries should be continent in everything, so that they may obtain more easily from the Lord what they ask for. The Apostles taught it this way and so it was also observed by the ancient tradition, by which we also abide.
And all bishops said: we all agree that bishops, presbyters and deacons, the guardians of modesty, should refrain even from their wives so that chastity is maintained in everything and by all who serve the altars.
(trans. S. Adamiak)


It is clear that the term "sacerdotes" from the second sentence refers to presbyters, whereas "antistites" refers to bishops. The ordination to all three higher grades is described as "consecratio". The canon clearly favours clerical continence, describing it as having been established by the Apostles and tradition. The reasons seem to be twofold: firstly, the canon refers to "serving the altars" as the argument for maintaining chastity; it is believed that God will more willingly accept the prayers of chaste people. Secondly, it reminds the clerics that they are "guardians of chastity", meaning probably that they have a role in propagating it as an ideal of Christian life, and therefore must maintain it themselves.
The canon talks about "sacraments" but the reference to the "altars" makes us think that it refers specifically to the Eucharist.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Carthage

About the source:

Title: Council of Carthage 390, Concilium Carthaginense a. 390, Concilium Carthaginis Africae secundum
Origin: Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The plenary council of Catholic bishops of Africa gathered in Carthage in AD 390. It was chaired by the bishop of Carthage, Geneclius, but his archdeacon and successor, Aurelius, was also present. It was the first of a long series of African councils of the late 4th and early 5th centuries.
Ch. Munier ed., Concilia Africae a. 345-a. 525, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 149, Turnhoult 1974.


Family life - Marriage
    Family life - Permanent relationship before ordination
      Sexual life - Sexual abstinence
        Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
          Described by a title - Sacerdos/ἱερεύς
            Act of ordination
              Ritual activity - Eucharist
                Ritual activity - Presiding at prayer
                  Relation with - Wife
                    Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER132,