Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 191
Canon 9 of the Council of Hippo (North Africa, AD 393), preserved in the "Breviarium Hipponense" (AD 397) deals with bishops and clerics who prefer civil to ecclesiastical courts.
Canon 9
a) Sane quisquis episcopus seu clericorum, cum in ecclesia ei fuerit crimen institutum uel ciuilis causa fuerit commota, relicto ecclesiastico iudicio publicis iudiciis purgari uoluerit, etiamsi pro illo fuerit prolata sententia, in locum suum non restituatur [locum suum amittat], hoc in criminali. In ciuili uero perdat quod euicit, si locum suum obtinere maluerit.
(ed. Munier 1974: 36)
Canon 9
a) If there was a criminal or civil case brought in the church against a bishop or a cleric, and he preferred to abandon the ecclesiastical justice and transfer it to public courts, he should not be restored to his office [he should lose his office] even if he obtained a favourable sentence. This concerns a criminal case. If this is a civil case, and he wants to retain his office, he will forfeit what he has won.
(trans. S. Adamiak)


This canon gives us interesting information about the clergy that preferred civil to ecclesiastical justice. The council is strongly opposed to it, and threatens the clerics (including bishops) who do it in criminal cases with demotion, even if they are proven innocent. If they win something in a civil case, they have to renounce it if they are to retain their office. There are two textual traditions, evenly distributed, one of which ("in locum suum non restituatur") seems to suggest that the cleric was suspended from his office when a criminal case was pursued against him.
The second part of the canon, not cited here, stresses that going to secular judgement means disrespecting the Church as such; the authority of Paul (1 Cor 6,1-8) is invoked to strengthen this opinion.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Carthage
  • Hippo Regius

About the source:

Title: Breuiarium Hipponense
Origin: Carthage (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The bishops of Byzacena arrived too early for the African plenary council at Carthage in AD 397. Since they had to leave the city before the actual beginning of the proceedings Aurelius of Carthage charged them with editing the decisions of the Council of Hippo of AD 393. The document drafted in this way and accepted on 13 August 397 was called the "Breviarium Hipponense", and it was included later in the Canons in causa Apiarii from AD 419, Registri Ecclesiae Carthaginensis Excerpta, Breviarium of Ferrandus and Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua.
C. Munier ed., Concilia Africae a. 345-a. 525, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 149, Turnhoult 1974, 23-53.  


Described by a title - Clericus
    Public law - Ecclesiastical
      Public law - Secular
        Further ecclesiastical career - Lay status
          Administration of justice - Demotion
            Administration of justice - Suspension
              Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER191,