To his most blessed lord and father worthy of veneration and fellow priest, old Xantippus, Augustine sends greetings in the Lord.
1. I greet Your Excellency with the devotion that a man of your merits deserves, commending myself very much to your prayers, and I inform Your Wisdom that a certain Abundantius had been ordained a presbyter in the village (fundus) Strabonia, which belongs to our diocese. Since he was not living the life of the servants of God, he had begun to have a reputation that was not good. I was very worried about that, but, nonetheless, did not believe anything rashly. When, however, I clearly became more worried, I made an effort to see if I could somehow attain some certain evidence of his evil way of life. And I first found out that he embezzled the money of a certain villager that was entrusted to him for religious purposes and that he could provide no credible account of it. Then he was proved guilty and confessed that on the fast day of Lord's birth, on which the church of Gippi, like all the rest, fasted, he remained in the same village after he had said farewell to his colleague, the presbyter of Gippi, a little before noon, as if he were about to set out for his own church. And without any cleric with him, he ate dinner and supper at the house of a certain woman of ill repute and stayed the night in the same house. In the inn of this woman a certain cleric of ours from Hippo had stayed and was removed from his position for this reason.
And since Abundantius knew this perfectly well, he could not deny it. For what he denied, I left to God’s judgment, while I pronounced judgment on what he was not permitted to conceal. I feared to entrust a church to him, especially one situated amid the rabidness of the heretics who go about barking. He asked me to give him a letter for the presbyter of the village (fundus) of Armemano in the territory of Bulla from where he had come to us and to explain his situation. In that way the presbyter would not think something worse of him, and he might live there, if possible, a better life without the office of the presbyterate. I did so, moved by compassion. It was necessary, however, that I made this known, especially to Your Wisdom, for fear that he might surprise you by some deception.
2. I, however, heard his case when it was one hundred days before Easter Sunday, which was going to fall on the sixth of April. On account of the council I have taken care to make this known to Your Reverence, and I did not conceal this from him, but faithfully disclosed to him what the council decided, namely that, if he neglects to pursue his case within a year, but later perhaps thinks he has a case worth pursuing, no one would thereafter hear his plea. But, most blessed lord and father worthy of veneration, if we think that these proofs of bad conduct on the part of clerics, especially when they begin to have a reputation that is not good, have to be punished only in the way in which the council had decreed, we begin to be forced to desire to know what cannot be known and either to condemn what is uncertain or to pass over what is truly unknown. I certainly thought that a presbyter should be removed from the office of the presbyterate who on
a day of fast on which the church of the same place also fasted, after saying goodbye to his colleague, a priest of the same place, dared to stay and to have both dinner and supper in the house of a woman of ill repute, without being accompanied by a cleric, and to sleep in the same house, for I was afraid to entrust to him thereafter a church of God. But if the judges of the church think otherwise, since the council decided that the case of a presbyter is to be settled by six bishops, let a bishop who is willing entrust to him a church entrusted to his care. I am afraid, I admit, to entrust any people to such priests, especially when no good reputation comes to their defense in order that they might be forgiven this. Otherwise, if something more harmful occurs, I would be sick at heart and blame myself.
(trans. R. Teske 2001: 255-256, slightly modified)