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Home > Fathers of the Church > Registrum Epistolarum (Gregory the Great) > Book XII, Letter 28

Book XII, Letter 28

To Columbus, Bishop of Numidia .

Gregory to Columbus, etc.

Inasmuch as it has long been known to us how your Fraternity is distinguished for priestly gravity and ecclesiastical zeal, we have seen sufficient reason for your taking part in the cognizance of things that require rebuke, lest, if they should be put off through connivance, every one should suppose that what he is able to do is allowed him. Now after what manner our brother Paulinus, bishop of the city of Tegessis is alleged by his clerics and by those who are constituted in sacred orders, to have been excessive towards them in corporal correction, you need not to be told, seeing that, before this complaint reached us, the matter, as we have learned from their statement, had already been made known to you. And, since superiors ought not to have the right of punishing their subordinates savagely, we have taken care to write to Victor our brother and fellow bishop, who holds the primacy among you , that, together with your Fraternity, or with others our brethren and fellow bishops whom you may think fit to call in, he may take cognizance of and thoroughly investigate the case between our aforesaid brother priest and his clergy. And let your Love so give the matter your close and careful attention, that the things that have been reported to us may not pass without a hearing, lest discord should be fomented in the Church, whence it ought by all means to be banished. And, if indeed the complaint of his clergy against him is well founded, so take cognizance of his fault, which he has scorned of his own accord to correct, with the force of our ecclesiastical decision that he may both feel for the present what a grave offense he has committed, and may learn for the future that he cannot do more than it is lawful for him to do. Above all things, then, we exhort you that you study ardently to exercise the zeal which we know you to have for the sake of God.

And, inasmuch as our said brother Paulinus is said to confer ecclesiastical orders through simoniacal heresy, which is a thing awful to hear of, let it be your care, along with the aforesaid primate or others, to enquire thoroughly into this also with all diligence. And, if it should be found to be so (which God forbid), effort must be made and action taken that both he who has not feared to accept and he who has not feared to give a bribe may be smitten by a sentence of canonical punishment, to the end that their correction may avail as a reproof to many. And, before this deadly root acquires strength and slays many more, let it be condemned by the decision of the whole council, so that no one may ever dare to accept or to give anything for any order whatever, nor any be promoted for favour, but all for merit, lest both ecclesiastical order be confounded, and probity of life be held in contempt, if one that is unworthy should receive the reward of merit.

Further we have given orders to Hilarus our Chartularius that, if the case should require it, he refuse not to take part in your enquiry.

If, therefore, it should be necessary, inform him by letter that you wish him to come to you, to the end that by treating the matter together with him you may better determine what ought to be ordained. In the month of March, Indiction 5. [N.B. This date is absent from several Codices.]

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Source. Translated by James Barmby. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1898.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360212028.htm>.

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