Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 710
Abundantius, a presbyter in one of the villages of the diocese of Hippo Regius (North Africa), breaks the fast on Christmas Eve and spends a night in the house of the female inn-keeper. He confessed his guilt and was deposed by his bishop, Augustine, who now grants him a recommendation letter to the presbyter of the village where he wants to settle, and admits that Abundantius may appeal to the council of six bishops. Account of Augustine, Letter 65, AD 401/402.
Letter 65
Domino beatissimo et uenerabiliter suscipiendo patri et consacerdoti seni Xanthippo Augustinus in Domino salutem.
1. Officio debito meritis tuis salutans dignationem tuam tuisque me orationibus ualde commendans insinuo prudentiae tuae Abundantium quendam in fundo Strabonianensi pertinente ad curam nostram ordinatum fuisse presbyterum. Qui cum non ambularet uias seruorum Dei, non bonam famam habere coeperat. Qua ego conterritus non tamen temere aliquid credens sed plane sollicitior factus operam dedi, si quo modo possem ad aliqua malae conuersationis eius certa indicia peruenire. Ac primo comperi eum pecuniam cuiusdam rusticani diuino apud se commendato interuertisse, ita ut nullam inde posset probabilem reddere rationem. Deinde conuictus atque confessus est die ieiunii natalis Domini, quo etiam Gippitana ecclesia sicut ceterae ieiunabant, cum tamquam perrecturus ad ecclesiam suam uale fecisset collegae suo presbytero Gippitano, hora ferme quinta, et cum secum nullum clericum haberet, in eodem fundo restitisse et apud quandam malae famae mulierem et prandisse et cenasse et in eadem domo mansisse. In huius autem hospitio iam quidam clericus noster Hipponiensis remotus erat; et hoc quia iste optime nouerat, negare non potuit, nam quae negauit, Deo dimisi iudicans, quae occultare permissus non est. Timui ei committere ecclesiam praesertim inter haereticorum circumlatrantium rabiem constitutam. et cum me rogaret, ut ad presbyterum fundi Armenianensis in campo Bullensi, unde ad nos deuenerat, causa eius insinuata litteras darem, ne quid de illo atrocius suspicaretur, ut illic uiuat, si fieri potest, sine officio presbyterii correctior, misericordia commotus feci. Haec autem me praecipue prudentiae tuae intimare oportebat, ne aliqua tibi fallacia subreperet.
2. Audiui autem causam eius, cum centum dies essent ad Dominicum paschae, qui futurus est VIII Id. Aprilis. Hoc propter concilium insinuare curaui uenerabilitati tuae, quod etiam ipsi non celaui, sed ei fideliter, quid institutum esset, aperui. Et si intra annum causam suam, si forte sibi aliquid agendum putat, agere neglexerit, deinceps eius uocem nemo audiat. Nos autem, domine beatissime et uenerabiliter suscipiende pater, si haec indicia malae conuersationis clericorum, maxime cum fama non bona eos coeperit comitari, non putauerimus nisi eo modo uindicanda, quo in concilio constitutum est, incipimus cogi ea, quae sciri non possunt, uelle discutere et aut incerta damnare aut uere incognita praeterire. Ego certe presbyterum, ut qui die ieiunii, quo eiusdem loci etiam ecclesia ieiunabat, uale faciens collegae suo eiusdem loci presbytero apud famosam mulierem nullum secum clericum habens remanere et prandere et cenare ausus est et in una domo dormire, remouendum ab officio presbyterii arbitratus sum timens ei deinceps ecclesiam dei committere. Quod si forte iudicibus ecclesiasticis aliud uidetur, quia sex episcopis causam presbyteri terminare concilio statutum est, committat illi, qui uult, ecclesiam suae curae commissam; ego talibus, fateor, quamlibet plebem committere timeo, praesertim quos nulla bona fama defendit, ut hoc eis possit ignosci, ne, si quid perniciosius eruperit, languens inputem mihi.
(ed. Goldbacher 1898: 232-234)
Letter 65
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)


When Augustine writes about one year as the possible time of appeal for the clerics, he refers to Canon 79 of the Council of Carthage 401 AD [310]. The rule that a presbyter should be judged by six bishops was established by the Council of Carthage 345/348 AD [129].
Abundantius is going to settle in a village in Numidia, so he is provided by Augustine with a recommendation letter to the presbyter of the village (not the bishop of Bulla Regia, in whose diocese Armemano was); Augustine, however, informs the primate of Numidia about his action.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Hippo Regius
  • Strabonia
  • Gippi
  • Bulla Regia
  • Armemano

About the source:

Author: Augustine of Hippo
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Hippo Regius (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The letters of Augustine of Hippo cover a wide range of topics: Holy Scripture, dogma and liturgy, philosophy, religious practice and everyday life. They range from full-scale theological treatises to small notes asking someone for a favour. The preserved corpus includes 308 letters, 252 written by Augustine, 49 that others sent to him and seven exchanged between third parties. 29 letters have been discovered only in the 20th century and edited in 1981 by Johannes Divjak; they are distinguished by the asterisk (*) after their number.
The preserved letters of Augustine extend over the period from his stay at Cassiciacum in 386 to his death in Hippo in 430.
A. Goldbacher ed., S. Augustini Hipponiensis Episcopi Epistulae, Pars 2, Ep. 31-123, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 34/2,  Prague-Vienna-Leipzig 1898.
Saint Augustine, Letters 1-99, trans. R. Teske, New York 2001.


Food/Clothes/Housing - Food and drink
Travel and change of residence
    Functions within the Church - Rural presbyter
    Functions within the Church - Wandering presbyter/Without office
    Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
    Ecclesiastical administration - Administering Church property
    Public law - Ecclesiastical
    Relation with - Another presbyter
    Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
    Relation with - Heretic/Schismatic
    Administration of justice - Ecclesiastical
    Administration of justice - Demotion
      Equal prerogatives of presbyters and bishops
        Devotion - Fasting
        Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER710,